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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) .- I would not second Senator Higgs' amendment, because I wish .to see the Bill carried with an amendment that can be made in Committee.

Senator Higgs - The honorable senator has more confidence in the Government than I have.

Senator O'KEEFE - I have not the slightest doubt that, quite irrespective of what is being done regarding another important position in the Commonwealth, the Judges selected will be chosen from the Australian bar.

Senator McGregor - Is the honorable senator giving us that assurance?

Senator O'KEEFE - I am not, but I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind. But a case for the appointment of two additional Judges has not, in my view, been made out. In Committee, therefore, I intend to move that one additional Justice be appointed, instead of two. We are told that an enormous amount of work is before the High Court, and that litigants have to wait longer than they should be required to do. But I have heard the opinion expressed by legal gentlemen that the Judges of the High Court might do something to discourage so many appeals being made from States Courts.

Senator Pulsford - Is it their duty to do so?

Senator Lt Col Gould - How could they do it? ^Senator O'KEEFE. - They may not be able to do it. Reading the correspondence that has passed between the Chief Justice and the AttorneyGeneral, it appears to me that the strongest feature of the case for appointing two additional Judges is that the Judge who has to do the conciliation and arbitration work has not yet been able to devote his attention to it, and that if we still limit the number of Judges to three he will not be able to undertake that work at all. If that be the strongest reason that can be given, why need more than one additional Judge be appointed at the present juncture? It may be urged by legal senators that it would be rather awkward to have four Judges, because there should be a majority decision when the Justices are not unanimous. But that consideration may be left out of the question. If we appoint an .additional Judge, three Judges can still adjudicate in appeal cases, while the time of the extra Judge is occupied with other business. In addition to that, the additional Judge will be able to relieve the other Judges from the strain of their work. We are tol'd that there is danger of some of the Judges breaking down from stress of work. If an additional Judge were appointed there would always be one Judge in reserve to form a member of the Full Court. It is being urged in every State of Australia, and I think, in this case, with some show of reason, that there is a. disposition to pile up expenditure. Those who advocate the appointment of two additional Judges will say, "Let the States reduce the expenditure on their Supreme Courts- If litigants choose to take their cases to the High Court the expenditure connected with the States Courts can be cut down." But how can that be done? Judicial appointments are made for life, and unless a Judge in one of the States is verging on the age when he will be entitled to a pension, and will be inclined to retire, the State "Government cannot decrease expenditure in this direction. If in the High Court we have four Judges instead of three, the next Parliament will still have the power to pass a measure enabling a fifth Judge to be appointed if that is thought to be necessary. What is to prevent a further amending Bill being passed twelve months hence if it is found that four Judges cannot cope with the work?

Senator Higgs - That can be done also if it is found that the imported Judge is not competent.

Senator O'KEEFE - I have no fear of an imported Judge being appointed. If I had had a shadow of doubt on that point. I should have seconded Senator Higgs' amendment. It would be an outrage on common sense, and a serious reflection on the acumen and ability of Australian lawyers1 to appoint an outsider. I have not circulated an amendment, because I was not aware that the Bill was to be proceeded with to-night. I submit, however, that the cry that is being raised - very often on flimsy grounds - that there is1 a disposition to pile up expenditure unnecessarily affords a strong reason why we should not appoint two extra Judges. T have looked into the question with some care, and have come to the conclusion that in another place an excellent case was made out for appointing only one additional Judge. In Committee I shall submit an amendment to that effect, and trust that I shall receive sufficient support to carry it.

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