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Thursday, 18 June 1903

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - As this clause involves 'the denning of the functions of the High Court, i*u was calculated to call forth the opinion of the legal talent in this Chamber. In the course of the debate which has taken place upon this measure,' some very able and instructive addresses have been delivered from both sides. The Attorney-General gave us a very able.exposition of its principles, and his position was forcibly supported by the honorable and learned member for Indi and the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. Equally able speeches were made against the Bill by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella, whilst the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne lias delivered addresses both for and against the Bill. But the speech which appealed to me most was that delivered by the honorable member for North Sydney. It contained a good deal of hard-headed, Scotch common sense. Before committing themselves to the proposals of the Government, honorable members would do well to carefully peruse that address. There is no doubt that provision is made in the Constitution for the establishment of a High Court, and other tribunals of a more or less judicial character. But Federation has been in existence for more than two years, and until now the Government have never betrayed undue anxiety to carry that provision into effect, and I fail to see that the Constitution has suffered irreparable damage in the absence of these legal ma,chinery measures. Personally, I do not think there is an}' urgent need for the establishment of a High Court, and in my judgment it would be wise to defer its creation until such a tribunal becomes absolutely necessary. If we commit the Commonwealth to the establishment of a Court of this character, we cannot expect it to do anything like justice to the people, unless we are prepared to sanction the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. Matters have proceeded & c 2 satisfactorily enough in the absence of this tribunal, and the public have not exhibited any strong anxiety for its creation. In view of the wide difference of opinion .which exists, both in this Chamber and outside of it, the Government would be acting wisely in withdrawing the measure and allowing honorable members .to deal with more urgent legislation. When the need becomes apparent, I shall be quite prepared to sanction the establishment of a High Court, but I shall want to see such a tribunal erected as will reflect credit upon the Commonwealth. I cannot, however, go all the way with the Government in their desire to establish a Court that will practically run counter to the States Courts, and duplicate the work in that respect. I think that the honorable member for North Sydney stated the position accurately when he declared that we must not lose sight of the fact that in our Federal legislation we are dealing . with the same people as are affected by State legislation. We are not providing for an entirely new order of affairs. I should like to see the High Court, when it is created, work as far as possible in harmony with the States Courts. Indeed, I think it should be supplementary to those courts, and form a court of appeal from their decisions. I do not hold with those who believe that there must necessarily be antagonism between the States and the Federal judicial systems, and that the Judges of the States Courts, in dealing with Federal matters, would regard them from a parochial stand-point. I believe that they are quite competent to deal with such matters. I am in favour of making the High Court so completely a part of the States Courts that I am averse to conferring upon that tribunal the original jurisdiction proposed under this Bill. I believe that the best talent upon the States Courts should be drawn on from the outset to constitute the High Court. In that way we should bring the Federal and the States Courts into harmony, and the greater the harmony that exists the better it will be for the people. We must not forget that the States have established and maintained at considerable cost the courts which are already in existence. The Federal Government, in my opinion, should use those courts in the way I have indicated. No injustice could result to the Commonwealth from the adoption of such a procedure. On the contrary, if we clothe the States Courts with Federal jurisdiction, to enable them to deal with all Federal matters, we shall effect great savings. If afterwards our experience shows that there is sufficient work to warrant the creation of a High Court as a court of appeal, we can enact the necessary legislation, thus providing for our needs as the}7 arise. We must always remember that the cost of the Federal, as well as the State administration, is borne by the one people. I have in my hand a return prepared by Senator Zeal which shows the amount of money that is annually expended by the various States upon their judiciaries. From this document I find that the salaries of the Judges throughout the Commonwealth total £66,900 ; the expenses in connexion with them, £35,989. The District Court Judges draw £22,000; the law officers, £11S,431 ; the sheriffs, £51,062 ; the Masters in Equity, £16,342; the Stipendiary Magistrates, £63,920 ; whilst the petty sessions cost £128,024; miscellaneous expenditure is responsible for £68,638 ; making a total of £571,306. That amount does not include the cost of providing police protection, but "simply covers the courts of justice and the paraphernalia immediately connected therewith. That total is disdistributed over the States 'as follows : - New South Wales, £255,994 ; Victoria, £135,701 ; Queensland, £75,906 ; South Australia, £27,840; Western Australia, £57,142; and Tasmania, £18,723. Senator Zeal compares this expenditure with that which takes place in the sister Commonwealth of Canada. He says chat, compared with Canada, the extravagance of this Commonwealth is remarkable. In the Dominion the annual cost of the judiciary and police combined is £474,221, or £97,0S5 less than the cost of the judiciary of the Commonwealth.

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