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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1471

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - The Opposition proposes to move an amendment to clause 41. As it stands clause 41 amends section 98 of the Act. Section 98 simply states:

There shall be a federal court to be known as the Commonwealth Industrial Court, which-

(a)   shall consist of a Chief Judge and not more than 7 other Judges; and

(b)   shall be a Superior Court of Record.

The amendments which are proposed by clause 41 substitute for the word 'Commonwealth' the word 'Australian' so that hereafter the Court shall be known as the Australian Industrial Court. The Opposition makes no point of that, but it would be grateful if the Government would explain why we have to have the word changed in circumstances where we do not feel that nationalism is greatly advanced and where confusion is bound to occur because it has been known as the Commonwealth Industrial Court for so long. But leaving that aside, the substantive amendment seeks to remove the limitation on the number of members of the Court from not more than 7 other judges after the appointment of a chief judge and to substitute the words:

Such number of other Judges as are appointed from time to time.

In short, instead of the Court being limited to, in total. 8 members, it will be a court of unlimited membership. The Opposition believes that the amendment in this area is unnecessary and I therefore move:

Omit paragraph ( b).

That will mean simply that the Court will consist of a chief judge and not more than 7 other judges. The Opposition believes that the amendment proposed by the Government is unnecessary because it is a court with limited jurisdiction and functions and it is certainly not overworked. I have had on notice for a long time a question seeking details as to the sitting times of the judges of this Court over the past 3 years. I have an anticipation of what that information will reveal. I know that in earlier years when I had a ministerial responsibility which comprehended a responsibility for these judges, the number of days and hours upon which they were engaged in matters in the industrial jurisdiction would have been the envy, I would think, of every Australian. Whilst the judges do have other commitments from time to time, such as the obligation to sit in the Northern Territory Supreme Court or the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, relatively little of their time is occupied in those jurisdictions.

I regret that there has been no indication by the Government as to why this provision should be increased. One would believe that if there were merit in increasing the provision one could and should be given details of the enormous sitting hours and burdens under which these judges labour, or an indication of an increased jurisdiction which necessitates an increase in the number of judges. If that sort of information is available we would welcome hearing it. But, as I say, the Opposition's view has been based upon an assessment that this clause proposed by the Government is unnecessary, having regard to the limited workload which the judges have. Indeed, it seems inconsistent that while it is proposed to increase the number of judges of the Court, other provisions in this Bill propose an increase in the single judge jurisdiction of the Court. Whereas in some matters hitherto 3 judges had to sit, hereafter only one judge will have to sit. I feel that these are quite significant matters. I think that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has a general indication of why the Opposition is moving this amendment.

Senator Cavanagh - I know why the honourable senator is moving every amendment, but it is not to his credit.

Senator GREENWOOD - I thought that the Minister and I were getting along famously and reasonably expeditiously in the course of the debate. I am sorry that an untoward comment might disturb the harmony which has hitherto prevailed. But I invite him, if he would, to deal with the substance and to give express reasons why it is proposed to amend this section. We would be grateful for any information which he could give us.

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