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Thursday, 25 June 1903

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I am in the fortunate position occupied by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, inasmuch as I could accept the amendment without personal sacrifice. But I should I hesitate a long time before asking the Committee to agree to such a proposal. In the first place it is a reflection upon the whole Parliament, as well as upon some of the foremost lawyers of Australia. A proposal similar in many respects was defeated in the Convention.

Mr Poynton - By a small majority.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not remember the majorities in the Convention.

Mr Higgins - It was carried first, and afterwards rejected.

Mr DEAKIN - I know that it was finally rejected, as conveying an entirely unnecessary imputation upon those who would constitute this Parliament. The amendment is also a reflection upon our system of government. These are Executive appointments of the highest responsibility for which a Ministry would be certain to be called to account, unless its choice had fallen upon men so eminently qualified that their nomination gave satisfaction to the profession, was approved by the public, and gave evidence of full consideration of the interests of the Commonwealth. While much might be said in support of the proposal, a great deal more could be urged against it if it were desirable to discuss the question in Parliament. In opposing it, members would be placed in the awkward position of appearing to study their personal interests, when, in effect, there are no such selfish interests. I doubt if there are as many as a dozen members of the legal profession in both Houses of this Parliament whose experience qualifies them to aspire to a seat on the Bench either of a State Court or of the High Court. On the other hand, if we passed the amendment the public might be expected to think that we were performing an act of great self-sacrifice, whereas we should be doing nothing of the kind, inasmuch as there are at least 100 members who have not the possibility of appointment. To agree to the honorable and learned member's proposal would be to place another barrier in the way of the absolutely free choice which, in the interests of the Commonwealth, should be loft to the Executive.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Postponed clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Postponed clause 7 -

A Justice of the High Court shall not be capable of accepting or holding any other office or place of profit within the Commonwealth, except any such office as is granted to him under the King's sign-manual or by the authority of the Lords of the Admiralty of the United Kingdom in matters of prize, or as is conferred upon him by law, and the acceptance or holding of any other such office or place shall be deemed an avoidance of his office of Justice of the High Court and his office and commission shall be thereby superseded.

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