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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I compliment Senator de Largie on the very ingenious speech which he has made in favour of the clause as it stands. But I have heard nothing to convince me that the views which I expressed somewhat hurriedly before are wrong. I agree with those who have contended that the salary of this officer should come under annual review. Indirectly, I have gained considerable knowledge of his duties and his capabilities. The amount of the salary is not a matter which we should consider in this connexion. From what I have heard. I believe that Mr. Stewart is fully worth the proposed salary in comparison with other officers who receive anything like that remuneration. I believe that his qualifications are of the highest description. I consider that he possesses the judicial faculty, and has judicial functions to fulfil, to a certain extent, though not to such an extent as have some other officers.

Senator St Ledger - He has no judicial functions to discharge.

Senator RAE - He has semi- judicial duties.

Senator St Ledger - No ; if he had, he would not be called a Registrar.

Senator Millen - You might say the same thing about a policeman.

Senator RAE - Yes; but to a lesser extent. It is very difficult, I admit, to draw the line where judicial functions cease and other functions begin.

Senator Millen - Take the case of a police magistrate, whose salary appears on the annual Estimates.

Senator RAE - A police magistrate is supposed to exercise judicial functions. I have taken occasion to severely criticise, and I have heard others criticise, the administration of justice by police and other magistrates. I am very sorry indeed that sometimes we cannot have a slap at some of the Judges. I do not believe in making anybody sacrosanct, or beyond criticism. My idea is that even though a person might perhaps be actuated by personal or party feeling, and sometimes slash into the occupant of a high position, the common sense of the vast majority who are not personally interested will always be on the side of doing justice, and not inflicting a grievous disability upon anybody. Nevertheless, their actions should be subject to criticism. I am sorry that we cannot criticise a Judge when he does wrong. I do not believe in elevating any person into a position of, as it were, omnipotence. I think that we spoil men when we put them above criticism. It may be argued that we can criticise public officers whose salaries are not the subject of annual appropriation by bringing in Bills to amend the Acts under which they hold their appointments. But that is such an elaborate and complicated method of proceeding that it is practically impossible for private members to bring the conduct of such officers before Parliament in an effective way, unless, of course, the officers have committed a serious dereliction of duty, when the Government would have to take action. In the nature of things, Mr. Stewart will not hold the office of Industrial Registrar for all time. Suppose that the party on the other side were in power, and that some person were appointed to this office who, in our opinion, was not fulfilling his duties in a judicial manner, what could we do with him?

Senator Lynch - Sack him.

Senator St Ledger - You could not unless you repealed the Act.

Senator RAE - The Government of the day might favour the officer, but, in our opinion, he might be grossly partial. In that case, what position could we take up? We should be told by the Government that we created the office by Act of Parliament, that they were going to stand by the Act, and that we had no power to alter it. I like to legislate, not for a day, but on principles which, although the legislation may not stand, will last. I cannot vote for this clause.

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