Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017: Committee Stage (Resumed)
I have listened to the Minister’s response and Senator McDowell’s comments. It is very helpful to hear from Senator McDowell of the practice whereby the Attorney General has given the tap on the shoulder to potential applicants. In other words, direct approaches are being made, albeit in this rather informal and unstructured way.
The Minister spoke about seeking to create a new, more transparent and open process, which is important. Our amendments seek to do that. They seek to create a more formal and structured way of enabling the commission to invite applications rather than simply an informal tap-on-the-shoulder approach. It is better to have that structured approach. As I said earlier, those who are under-represented will typically be more reluctant to apply for positions. That goes for any career, any office, running for politics and so on. It is well established that in areas such as politics, women are under-represented. Women, in particular, need encouragement as they are often less likely to put themselves forward for promotion or for candidacy in politics than are men. There is merit, therefore, in having a formal system whereby the commission can directly invite applications, particularly if these amendments are read in the context of our amendments Nos. 86, 87, 92 and 93, which seek to ensure gender balance in the Judiciary will always be a factor for consideration.
We are not trying to preserve any sort of system that could be accused of cronyism or anything, but rather to formalise a system whereby the commission can invite particular persons to apply and thereby give encouragement to persons who might not otherwise think of applying or might not think they would be eligible candidates.It is something that one could anticipate that the commission might stretch its own powers, under section 38, to do if that were provided. I think we need to provide for that much more explicitly.