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Thursday, 25 September 1958


Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to alter the present provisions in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act for carrying on the work of that court during the absence of the judge. The present need for the amendment arises from the fact that the judge of the court, on medical advice, is taking a few months' leave of absence.

As the act reads at present - sub-section (2.) of section 8 - it authorizes the Governor-General, in the event of any absence of the judge, to appoint as an acting judge any of the judges of the following courts, namely, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Commonwealth Industrial Court, or the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, to hold office of course only during the absence of the regular judge.

The rigidity of the provisions of the Constitution in regard to courts exercising judicial powers has been demonstrated in many cases and, as the authorities now stand, it may perhaps be doubtful whether a valid provision can be made for the temporary appointment of an acting judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to hold office only during the absence of the regular judge, even if the person so appointed already holds an appointment for life as the judge of another court created by this Parliament.

It would not be fair to any other judge who was prepared to undertake the duties of the judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court during the absence of the regular judge to leave the statutory position in such a state that there could be any doubt whatsoever as to the validity of the acting appointment.

It is proposed, therefore, to amend the act by providing that the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory shall consist of one regular judge and one or more additional judges, the additional judges to be persons who already hold commissions as judges of other courts created by the Parliament. Instead of being given temporary acting appointments to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, the additional judges will be given commissions for life as judges of that court also. No additional remuneration, of course, will be paid.

The bill provides that the jurisdiction of the court is to be exercised by one judge only, as at present. It is contemplated, of course, that the regular judge will normally exercise the jurisdiction of the court. In effect, the bill leaves it to the good sense of the judges themselves, when additional judges are appointed, to make the necessary arrangements as to the judge who is to exercise the jurisdiction of the court from time to time.

The rest of the bill contains merely machinery provisions into which I do not think it is necessary to go. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.







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