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Friday, 23 November 1979
Page: 2926


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Senator ARCHER (Tasmania) - I take this opportunity to bring to the attention of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) the facts concerning a legal action wrongly initiated against a club on King Island in Bass Strait. The club concerned, namely, the King Island Soldiers and Citizens Club, which has been incorporated under the name King Island Club Incorporated, was sued in error by Scott Bonnar Ltd of Adelaide for non-payment for a grass mower.

In 1978 the manager of the club, Mr Bill Anthony, was served with a summons issued out of a South Australian court claiming the price of the mower. When the local policeman served the summons Mr Anthony told him that his club had not purchased a mower and that it was not a debt incurred by that club. He told the policeman that the debt may have been incurred by one of a number of other clubs on the island. The policeman then apparently made some inquiries before returning the summons to the solicitors concerned and advised that a distinct and separate club- the Golf and Bowling Club- had been involved in the purchase of the mower concerned. Despite the advice of the policeman, the summons was again forwarded to the King Island police station with instructions to serve on Mr Anthony, as public officer of the King Island Club Incorporated. This was done according to instructions.

Although King Island has a population of 3,000 it has no resident solicitor. It was necessary for Mr Anthony to send the summons to Messrs Shields, Heritage, Stackhouse and Martin, solicitors, of Launceston with instructions to take the appropriate action to defend the summons. That firm then had to instruct an Adelaide firm of solicitors to act as agents to defend the action. The club's defence was successful but costs of only $9 were awarded against Scott Bonnar. A bill of $2 1 7.30 was received from the club 's solicitors for services rendered by the Launceston and Adelaide firms.

So here we have the incredible position of a totally innocent, non-profit making soldiers and citizens club having to pay out $2 17.30 to prove that it had been wrongly sued. I am told the club has also been listed in the Dunn and Broadstreet gazette as a defaulting purchaser. I have not checked that personally. My colleague the honourable member for Braddon and Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom), at the request of the club, brought the facts of the case to the attention of Mr Rapson, General Manager and Director of Scott Bonnar, but all he received from Mr Rapson were rude and offensive replies. Obviously Mr Rapson had not bothered to check the facts of the case and refused to accept that the company had acted irresponsibly or, in fact, had done anything wrong.

I seek to incorporate in Hansard, relevant correspondence for the information of honourable senators, including a letter dated 17 January 1979 from the Secretary-Manager of the club, Mr Anthony; letters dated 9 February 1979, 9 April 1979 and 9 June 1979 from the honourable member for Braddon; and letters dated 28 March 1979 and 28 June 1979 from Scott Bonnar Ltd.

There are two matters which deserve the attention of the Senate. Firstly, it seems wrong that an innocent party can be mistakenly named as a defendant, incur costs of $2 1 7.30 to prove its innocence, and then have absolutely no redress of any kind. I ask the Attorney-General to give careful consideration to that issue to see whether something can be done to overcome it. Secondly, I believe it is important for the Senate to be made aware of the poor attitude of Scott Bonnar Ltd, which in this case caused the problem through its neglect or carelessness and surprisingly is not prepared to express any regret or concern at the action it has taken. I seek leave to incorporate the correspondence.


Senator Cavanagh -Mr President,in view of your appeal today, why should we clutter up Hansard with correspondence between a club and a commercial firm on a matter that has nothing to do with this House. It is a State matter.


Senator ARCHER - I sought the approval of the Opposition Whip and obtained it. I have shown the correspondence to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and obtained his approval.

Leave granted.

The letters read as follows-

KING ISLAND CLUB INC.

Netherby Road, Currie 17 January 1979

Mr RayGroom, M.H.R., 75 Wilson Street, Burnie, Tasmana 7320

Dear Sir,

Some 18 months ago, Scott Bonner of Adelaide served a summons on this Club for non payment for a grass mower.

When the Police served the summons I advised that it was not a debt incurred by this club, but in fact should have been served on the golf and bowling club.

I am advised by the police that they returned the summons and advised that the summons should be addressed to the golf and bowling club.

The summons was returned to the King Island police with instructions to serve upon W. Anthony, Public Officer of the King Island Club. This was done.

At no stage did this club ever purchase or contemplate the purchase of a mower.

I forwarded the summons to Shields, Heritage, Stackhouse and Martin, and instructed them to sort the problem out.

I believed we were listed in Dunn and Bradstreet which is not the best form of advertising in business.

Instructions were forwarded to an Adelaide solicitor to act on our behalf.

We have now received an account from Shields, Heritage, Stackhouse and Martin for $217.30 for costs. They have explained that costs were not awarded against Scott Bonner and there is nothing that can be done to recover this money.

My Committee have requested me to write and solicit your aid in this matter. It seems ridiculous that we be forced to pay money for goods and services that were never authorised or required.

Regards,

W.   ANTHONY

Office of Ray Groom, M.P.

Member for Braddon

Minister for Housing and Construction 9 February 1979

Dear Mr Rapson,

I am writing to you in my capacity as the Federal member for Braddon with a special plea on behalf of a constituent body the King Island Club Incorporated.

I am advised that your solicitors recently issued a summons in error naming the King Island Club as the defendant in an action to recover the cost of a mower. The manager of the club, Mr Anthony explained to the policeman serving the summons that it was a mistake and that it was probably another club on the island. The policeman apparently checked with your solicitors and was told he must proceed to serve the summons on Mr Anthony as the authorised officer of the King Island Club Incorporated. This was done. The Club instructed solicitors to defend the summons and the action was later dismissed. The action apparently should have been against a quite distinct and separate organisation on the island.

The King Island Club Incorporated, a non profitmaking ritizens'club now has to pay a bill of $217.30 for legal costs. Their solicitors say that only $9 costs were awarded against Scott Bonnar in the Adelaide court.

I am told the club had also been listed in the Dunn and Bradstreet Gazette as a defaulting purchaser.

It seems very unfortunate that a club like this should become involved in the action initiated by your company and incur considerable expense to prove their innocence. Your solicitor's error was apparently the cause of the problem and the expense.

I would be most grateful if you could look into this matter.

Thanking you.

Yours sincerely,

RAY GROOM Member for Braddon

Mr S.Rapson, Managing Director, Scott Bonnar Pty Ltd, Holland Street, Thebarton503l

Minister for Housing and Construction 9 April 1979

Dear Mr. Rapson,

I refer to the reply signed by Miss Lyall of your company to my letter of the 9th February.

I wrote what I considered to be a courteous letter pointing out to you the problems confronting an aggrieved constituent who had been wrongly sued by your company's agent.

The reply I received was plainly offensive and does no credit to the good reputation of your company.

Yours sincerely,

R.   J. GROOM

Mr. S.Rapson, Managing Directo , Scott Bonnar Pty. Ltd., Holland Street, Thebarton.503 1 9 June 1979

Dear Mr Rapson,

I refer to your letter to me of 28th June.

I find your letter to be quite unsatisfactory in its content and tone. You have made little effort to understand the points I have been putting to you.

The simple fact is that the King Island Club Incorporated, which is a non profit making soldiers and citizens club, has never purchased any equipment from your Company. Your Company wrongly and carelessly instituted proceedings against this Club. King Island has a population of some 3,000 people and several clubs. My enquiries reveal that another club, the King Island Golf and Bowling Club, a quite separate and distinct organisation, did purchase a mower from King Island Dairy Products Ltd. That Company was paid the price of the mower.

Your Company has obviously sued the wrong Club and has caused it to incur a debt of $2 17.30. As I said in my earlier letter, I find it surprising that your Company would not at least express its regret at the action it has taken.

A Senate colleague intends raising the case in the Federal Parliament during the forthcoming Budget Session.

Yours sincerely,

R.   J. GROOM

Mr. Rapson,Managing Director, Scott Bonnar Limited, 33 to 47 Holland Street, Thebarton. S.A. 5031 28th March, 1979

Mr. R.Groom, M.P.,

P.O. Box 7 12, Burnie,Tas., 7320

Dear Sir,

Reference is hereby made to your letter to Mr. S. Rapson concerning legal fees incurred by the King Island Club Incorporated.

In your letter, received by us on the 9th February, 1979, you state that you were advised that a summons was "recently" issued against the Club. We have checked with our solicitors and wish to advise that the summons was not issued "recently" but some time in the first half of 1977. Upon the discovery that a different club was involved the proceedings were transferred against three named individuals from the other club which was not incorporated.

Our solicitors advise that the proceedings against the King Island Club Inc. were quite short and did not involve any costs. The proceedings against the three individuals were, however, of more substance and involved some argument at Court. The legal costs of $217.30 against which we were ordered to pay $9.00 were the result of the second action and not, we repeat, not in respect of the King Island Club Inc.

The question of costs was argued at length before a Magistrate in the Local Court of Adelaide and he found that we were only legally liable to pay $9.00 and not the vastly larger sum claimed by the three defendants.

In view of the above information, and the substantial losses already incurred by us through the failure of legal action to recover the debt, we wish to advise that we intend to stand by the Court's decision and will not therefore be making any voluntary payments of additional legal expenses to the King Island Club Inc. or anyone else.

Yours faithfully,

SCOTT BONNAR LIMITED

C.   LYALL (Miss)

CREDIT MANAGER-Head Office

SCOTT BONNAR LIMITED

28th June, 1979

Mr R.Groom M.H.R., 75 Wilson Street, Burnie Tas. 7320

Dear Mr Groom,

With reference to your letter of 21st June regarding the situation with the King Island Club.

Since receiving your letter I have checked back through correspondence and there would seem to be a misunderstanding as to the true situation on King Island. You have made no mention of the fact that we have supplied in excess of $5,000 worth of equipment to which we have received no payment at all.

On checking with our solicitors they assure me there was no cost to be incurred by the King Island Club at all as the initial hearing was quite short and they were not involved in any costs. There were costs amounting to $217.30 allocated by the court to the 3 representatives of the Club that were involved with the proceedings and as the Court ruled that they were to pay this amount it is surprising that you are suggesting the decision of the Court should be reversed and that we be asked to pay this amount.

In reviewing all correspondence it was indicated to me that there was little intention of ever paying for this equipment and while you believe the Club may well have been disadvantaged through the proceedings the fact still remains that they are in possession and still operating over $5,000 worth of this Company's equipment to which we have received no payment at all.

Yours sincerely,

SCOTT BONNAR LIMITED

(S. M. Rapson

General Manager/Director







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