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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2283


Senator DURACK(8.47) —Clearly the Minister does not know any- thing about this matter. He has made no attempt to answer my questions, nor does the officer advising him seem to be able to provide him with any answers that he can either understand or convey to me. The fact of the matter is that I asked a series of questions, none of which has been answered by the Minister. In relation to Mr Justice Muirhead, I asked whether his appointment was temporary or for an indefinite period. That was my specific question. I have been given some answers which talk about natural arrangements, which is totally irrelevant. It might well be justified for Mr Justice Muirhead to be appointed to Perth; I am not making any criticism of that. I am simply asking whether this portends a different policy, and specifically I am asking whether it is a temporary or permanent matter. That was all I asked, and I got some cock and bull answer about it being natural arrangements. It is really a pathetic effort.

In relation to Mr Justice Jackson's appointment, I got the answer that judges often sit in other States. Of course judges sit in other States; we know that and we know that it is a national court. I was asking whether it will be normal policy in the future for a member of the profession, in this case from Queensland, to be appointed to the Federal Court of Australia to be based in another State, namely, New South Wales. I want to know whether the two events that have occurred in the last month-namely, the appointment of Mr Justice Muirhead from Darwin to Perth and the appointment of Mr Justice Jackson from Queensland to Sydney-indicate a new policy. That is what I am asking. I am not criticising anything; I am simply asking whether or not that is a new policy.

In relation to cross-vesting, I know about the matter because I have worked on it for years. I was at the Constitutional Convention and I know that the Government has accepted the policy. I do not need to be told anything that has been happening about that. I want to know whether the Government has changed its policy in relation to the size of the Federal Court or whether the Government will confine the Federal Court to a specialist role and thereby seek, under the new policy of cross-vesting, to build up again and try to restore the status and jurisdictions of the State courts. The answers I have just been given to each of those three questions are totally beside the point. They simply do not answer the questions. I am giving the Minister one more chance to answer them. If I cannot get better answers I will move, as I did previously, to postpone the consideration of these estimates until we can get somebody at the table who can answer them.