Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 20 July 1906

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) .- It is very difficult for laymen to deal with this question from the stand-point from which it is viewed by lawyers. The AttorneyGeneral, in moving the second reading of. the Bill, explained the need for it very ably, showing that, from the point of view of the legal profession, it is desirable to increase the number of Justices on the High Court Bench.

Mr Isaacs - I spoke on behalf, not of the legal profession, but of the whole community.

Mr WILSON - I admit that the honorable and learned gentleman put the case as, in his view, it affects the public at large. Mv feeling is we must do our utmost tolimit the Commonwealth expenditure. Whilst economy should go hand in hand with efficiency, there are occasions when we can be economical without injuring the public interest, or doing injustice to those whom we employ. Seeing that we are nearing the close of the last session of the present Parliament, and that an appeal must shortly be madeto the electors, I think' that the determination of this question might he left to the new Parliament. I do not agree with the Attorney-General that there is need for great haste, and therefore shall oppose the second reading. If the Bill gets intoCommittee, however. I shall try to pro-vide for the appointment of only one. instead of two Justices. In making appointments of this kind, we should always aim- at obtaining the best men available. I deprecate the method which has prevailed in the States, and- has been, followed by us, of appointing lawyers to the bench, because .thev are in active politics. Of course, if those who are in active politics are the best men obtainable, the fact that they are politicians should not be a bar to their appointment, but, before appointing them, we should make absolutely certain that there are not better men outside the sphere of politics.

Mr Mauger - The honorable member would not appoint to the High Court a Judge of a State Court?

Mr WILSON - I see no reason for not doing so, if such a man were available, and were the best man obtainable. The Judges of the Supreme Courts of the States are men. of experience, and have had an opportunity to gain the confidence of the public.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Chief Justice of Australia was a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State.

Mr WILSON - Yes; but the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the first High Court Bench were exceptional. The public expected that one of the results of Federation would be to decrease the cost of administration, but, unfortunately, the reverse has happened, so that many people are now dissatisfied. I think that, as the Supreme Court Benches of the States are full, a great deal of the work now done by the High Court might be referred to them. Many of the cases that have been referred to the High Court have been appeals from single Judges of the States Courts. Whilst it may be admitted that under present conditions litigants can obtain a final decision by a short cut, there is no doubt that in nine cases out of ten an appeal from a single Judge to the Full Court of the State would be sufficient, and proceedings would not have to be carried any further.

Mr Isaacs - The experience in New South Wales shows exactly the contrary. The appeals come from the State P'ull Court to the High Court.

Mr WILSON - The Attorney-General misapprehends my contention. I say that if appeals were first made to the Full Courts of the States, in nine cases out of ten matters would not be carried any further.

Mr Isaacs - The Constitution provides for appeals such as are now made.

Mr WILSON - I am perfectly aware of that, but I am arguing that the present system results in increasing the work of the High Court, and that appeals' from a single Judge of a State Court should be discouraged.

Mr Isaacs - How could that be done?

Mr WILSON - There are plenty of means of doing so. I would even go sofar as to amend the law in that direction.

Mr Isaacs - We should have to amend' the Constitution.

Mr WILSON - Weil, let us do so. We should not go on increasing the cost of the administration of justice.

Mr Mauger - As a matter of fact, under the present arrangements the cost of the administration of justice is decreased.

Mr Isaacs - Hear, hear; very much.

Mr WILSON - If we appointed two new Justices to the High Court we should increase the cost of the administration of justice so far as the High Court is concerned. In addition to paying the salaries of the Justices, we should have to pay. their associates, and. also to provide for extra travelling expenses, and, altogether, the additional outlay would probably amount to .£7,000 or £8,000 per annum.

Mr Isaacs - The extra expenditure will not reach £7,000 we shall enable the States to economize to a mucin greater extent.

Mr WILSON - But the trouble is that whilst we are placing in the hands of the States opportunities for exercising economy, savings are not being effected.

Mr Wilkinson - That is the fault of the St q. tes

Mr WILSON - No doubt, abut before we go on increasing our expenditure some, understanding should be arrived at between the Commonwealth and States authorities that economies will be effected'.

Mr Isaacs - We could not possibly do that.

Mr WILSON - The present case is on all fours with that of the proposed appointment of a High Commissioner. We have the right to appoint a High Commissioner, but before we do so we should approach the States, and ascertain whether in the event of our making an appointment thev could not reduce the expenses which thev now incur in respect to their representation in London. I have read the reports placed upon the table bv the AttorneyGeneral, and it seems- to me that the statements of the Justices and the Principal Registrar are full of probabilities.

Mr Isaacs - They are full of experience, too.

Mr WILSON - We are told that the Judges have dealt with so many cases and that they have performed a great deal of hard work, (hat there are so many cases listed, and that so many are likely to stand over as remanets We know full well that every State Supreme Court has remanets :ir the end of the term. The AttorneyGeneral may argue that it will be more difficult for the High Court than for a Stale Court to overtake remanets, but there is no doubt that it can be done. At the inception of. the High Court there was a great rush of work, particularly in the appellate jurisdiction.

Mr Isaacs - The appellate work commenced very gently, but has been increasing very much. It is still increasing.

Mr WILSON - The work of the Court in its original jurisdiction will no doubt glow considerably, but I feel that the time is not ripe for the appointment of anyfurther Justices. I intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill, because I think that we should study economy and refrain from strengthening the Bench until a consultation has been held between the legal authorities of the States and the Commonwealth, with a view to rendering the administration of justice as a whole less costly to the people.

Suggest corrections