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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 1037

Mr GROOM(10.19) —The comments I make are not intended to reflect at all on Mr Justice Stewart. However, I am concerned about the standing of the judiciary in Australia at present. I think the Murphy affair has had a very bad effect on the standing of the judiciary in Australia at the moment.

Mr Lionel Bowen —What has this to do with clause 5?

Mr GROOM —I believe that it is very relevant to clause 5.

Mr Lionel Bowen —Come on; you are just prostituting the position here for your own gain.

Mr GROOM —If the honourable member hears what I have to say he will understand the point I am making. We are concerned here with a person who does not have a purely judicial function. As a start, he is involved as an official; he is involved as an investigator and he is involved to some extent in assessing evidence that is before him. We do not need a judge to do that sort of work and the person concerned does not have to be entitled a judge. I think to a large extent in this country in recent times judges have been involved in matters which have reflected very badly on the standing of the judiciary.

I believe that it is appropriate at this time to look very carefully at the role of judges in this country. I think it is wrong to look, for example, at the Cross report and the role of Mr Justice Cross in that report. I am not arguing whether he was right or wrong or whether Mr Justice Murphy is right or wrong, but the chief justices of the various supreme courts should consider very carefully whether judges of those courts should be involved in these inquiries.

Times change and politics change and in this day and age judges have to be very wary about the role they play. Over the years, of course, judges have played a very important role in inquiring into particular issues of public importance in various countries-in this country, in Britain and in other countries. We now find that when judges become involved they are subject to attacks, rightly or wrongly, from both sides of the political fence. I am not playing politics. To some extent perhaps we have lost our sense of fairness in these matters.

Mr Lionel Bowen —I think we have. You persecute people, using a house of parliament to do it.

Mr GROOM —Okay, the honourable member makes that point. Both sides have lost their sense of fairness. Should judges become involved in this kind of issue? I think that is a particularly important question. I do not see that creating a fictional title of 'Mr Justice' in this case is appropriate. I take this opportunity of saying to those involved in deciding whether judges should be involved in particular inquiries that they should be very wary about placing judges in this kind of position because I think that it is reflecting very badly on the standing of judges in this country at present.

Question put:

That the clause be agreed to.