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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1472

Senator LITTLE (Victoria) - In an attempt to restore the harmony which has not as yet disappeared and which I hope will not disappear, I point out that we have different ideas in relation to this clause. We are not in favour of the amendment and, Mr Temporary Chairman, I seek your guidance. I think that at this stage it would be necessary for me to give notice of a further amendment. Would that be the case?

Senator Greenwood - The honourable senator has regard to what happened yesterday, I imagine.

Senator LITTLE - No. Is that the circumstance? At any rate, I give notice at this point of a further amendment which I understand can now be distributed. It has been given to the clerks. We do not share the view that there may be no necessity for this amendment. In the area of industrial relations enormous sums of money can be lost and industries can be held up, sometimes for long periods, once a dispute has really started. Perhaps this could be avoided in the early stages if there were immediate access to the facilities of arbitration. The judges in this jurisdiction are not necessarily young men. Because of the very nature of the experience which is required of them, they are usually not so young as perhaps they themselves would like to be. They are subject to the usual limitations of the flesh, particularly as the years begin to pass, and it is not always possible for all judges to be available. We believe that the expense involved in having more judges would be as nothing when compared with the industrial harmony which could be achieved. If it is felt that there is a shortage of judges which in some way is likely to delay and cause further irritation and aggravation of industrial disputations, that situation should be remedied. The cost in itself is virtually nothing when compared with the cost of a major industrial dispute which may develop if there is an insufficiency of arbitration available.

We do not agree with the points made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) that we base our consideration on the sitting hours of judges, any more than one with a sense and a knowledge of the functions of Parliament and the responsibilities of its members would consider only the sitting hours of members of parliament. One cannot take the sitting hours of judges and try to extract from the result the amount of work that they actually do. It could very well be that a judge will spend days considering the evidence in a case which took one day to submit in the court. He would compare the evidence with previous records and judgments and, of course, when he had arrived at a conclusion which, in his wisdom, was based on the evidence placed before him and which he thought was a fair and reasonable conclusion to the dispute, he would devote himself to writing a judgment and the justification for that judgment.

I think it would be unfair even to bother to research the sitting hours of judges, any more than we should try to assess the responsibility or value of lawyers when we pay the bill for a divorce court hearing on the basis of the number of moments, sometimes, that the lawyer appeared in court in the course of the hearing of the case. We do not accept that reasoning because we know that there is prejudice in the community, to which I must say that I am sometimes weak enough to subscribe, that lawyers are always astonishingly overpaid. Perhaps I feel that because I do not happen to be a lawyer. I would not in any way try to define, without more expertise than I possess, their responsibilities. I say this in regard to judges also.

As a copy of the amendment of which 1 gave notice has probably been distributed by now, I inform the House that our proposition is to omit from the paragraph (a) the words 'seven other Judges' and to substitute the words 'nine other Judges' in lieu thereof. We feel that it would be a mistake for the Parliament to give an unrestricted power to the Minister to be able to appoint judges at will or to meet circumstances. It is abdicating too much to the responsibility of the Minister. We believe that at this point of time perhaps it can be shown that, because of the new Government itself, there is a need for more Arbitration Court judges. It is for the Government to answer whether or not it is its policy that brings about this requirement. I point out that there does seem to have been an upsurge of industrial disputes that have occurred at great cost to the nation during the last 10 months or so. Be that as it may, if it is the will and the wish of the Government that it should obtain the industrial harmony that we all seek by the appointment of several judges, we feel that that course should be open to it. We do not feel that it should have a completely open door to appoint as many as it will. But at least there should be an extension of the appointments that it can make at the moment. We believe that the addition of 2 judges, at least in the immediate future, should meet the requirements. Of course, it is always open to the Government if it finds that it has too many or too few judges after experiencing the effect of the amendment we will offer, to come back to the Parliament and make the necessary adjustments in the legislation itself. I give notice that at the appropriate time I will move the amendment which has been circulated in my name.

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