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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3259

Mr Lionel Bowen asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 14 May 1980:

(   1 ) Did he state on 29 April 1 980 in the House that in relation to judges, the decision as to whether a conflict of interest situation arises is one for the individual to make.

(2)   If so, is he able to indicate which legal authorities are (a) consistent with and (b) contrary to this view.

(3)   Is he further able to indicate on what occasions during the last 10 years Justices of the High Court have (a) disqualified themselves or (b) made a declaration of interest where interests held by them may conflict with the adjudication of matters before them.

(4)   Does his statement of 29 April preclude the possibility of any kind of declaration of interest by Federal judges in a register of interests available to the public.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(   1 ) What I said in the House on 29 April 1 980 on this matter is set in Hansard. I was dealing with suggestions that had been made concerning the propriety of the Chief Justice of Australia sitting as a member of a Full Court of the High Court of Australia in certain appeals to that Court. In such a case it is clearly a matter for the judge to make a decision on the question whether he should sit. In other circumstances it will still be a matter for the judge to make that decision in the first instance, but a remedy may be available to a dissatisfied litigant either by way of appeal from the order ultimately made in the proceedings or by making application to a superior court for the issue of a prerogative writ.

(2)   I am advised that the most recent decision consistent with this view is the decision of the Court of Appeal of the

Supreme Court of New South Wales in Barton v Walker, decided on 28 November 1979. The High Court of Australia refused special leave to appeal from that decision on 21 February 1980. My advisers are not aware of any legal authority which, when properly understood, is inconsistent with the view I have expressed.

(3)   The information sought is not available to me.

(4)   As indicated in my statement to the House on 29 April 1980, the Committee of Inquiry concerning Public Duty and Private Interest concluded that there was no discernible need for any extension of existing rules relating to conflict of interest situations and members of the judiciary. In line with the recommendations of that Committee, the Government has indicated (Hansard, 22 November 1979, page 3374; 21 May 1980, page 3026) in relation to other categories of officeholders that it does not propose to adopt the approach of having a general register of interests.

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