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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - If Senator Givens had given the matter more consideration/ he would have known that there are the best of reasons why the Registrar of the Arbitration Court should not be subject to the control of any party in Parliament. We have adopted the principle of putting our Judges beyond the control of Parliament, and the principal duties performed by this officer are essentially of ' a judicial character. Party feeling should have no influence in the fixing of the salary paid him. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act he has duties to perform which are as much of a judicial character as those performed by Mr. Justice Higgins himself. He is called upon, for instance, to decide whether the rules of an association are in accordance with the Act. On this decision their registration, and the question of whether they shall be given the advantages of the Act or not may depend. He is given full power, to say whether a union shall, or shall not, be registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

Senator Stewart - Is there no appeal from him?

Senator DE LARGIE - I think so.

Senator Givens - His opinion in the matter is not a decision. It is a mere say-so. The "decision is left to the Judge.

Senator DE LARGIE - The honorable senator might just as well contend that the opinion of the President of the Court is not a decision because it may be appealed from to the High Court. We claim that the position of this officer is partly judicial.

Senator Millen - Why should the Registrar of this Court be considered a judicial officer any more than the Registrar of any other Court?

Senator DE LARGIE - Because he has the settlement of questions which are not dealt with by the Registrars of other Courts. Party feeling cannot be dissociated from industrial legislation of this kind, since we have Capital and Labour contending against each other in the Arbitration Court.- In the circumstances, we should not permit the salary of this officer to be increased or reduced at the will of a party Government. If we left the question open, we should commit a very grave error of judgment. It is only right and proper that the salary of this officer should be fixed in the Bill just as the salaries of the Judges of the High Court have been fixed. It is well known that the work of the Arbitration Court has been increasing, arid it has increased so rapidly as to require that an increment should be given to the gentleman who performs the work of this office. I have no doubt that the Government took all these points into consideration when they fixed the salary of the position at the amount which is mentioned in the Bill. I expect that they satisfied themselves on the point as to whether the salary was commensurate with the increase of the duties of the office.

Senator Givens - It is not a question of the amount, but a question of whether it ought to be made a statutory obligation on the Commonwealth.

Senator DE LARGIE - I think that the salary should be appropriated in the measure seeing that the office is one of a semijudicial nature.

Senator Millen - Do you think that any Government, or any party would, for party reasons, play battledore and shuttlecock with the salary of any officer?

Senator DE LARGIE - Party spirit may be quite strong enough, at any time when it has been found that the officer has been deciding in favour of one side or the other, to recognise his merits accordingly. \Ve should not leave the door open for such a possibility to arise. I think that the Government are doing right in submitting this clause.

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