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Thursday, 13 October 1955

Mr Osborne e asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -

1.   Is it considered that citizens of Papua and New Guinea should be entitled to assert and protect their rights as citizens against the Crown by action in the law courts ?

2.   Is it a fact that the Supreme Court of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea has no authority to entertain the suit of a citizen against the Commonwealth?

3.   Did counsel for the Commonwealth, at the hearing of a suit recently brought against the Commonwealth in the High Court by J.L. Chipper and Company Limited, a company incorporated in the Territory, argue that the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the suit, and was the case thereupon settled to a less advantage to the plaintiff than if the suit had proceeded and been won by the plaintiff?

4.   If the answers are in the affirmative, will the AttorneyGeneral institute legislation to correct this anomaly?

Sir ERIC HARRISON (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Attorney General has supplied the following answers to the honorable member's questions : -

The High Court action to which the honorable member refers, and which was brought by J. L. Chipper & Company Limited against the Commonwealth, comprised both claims by the company and counter-claims by the Commonwealth. When it came before Taylor J., candour required the Commonwealth to point out that, in the present state of the authorities, there was some doubt whether or not the High Court had jurisdiction in the matter. The honorable member will appreciate the fact that consent of the parties cannot confer jurisdiction. Having heard the evidence, Taylor -A stated that the case was beset with many difficult questions on both sides, and that the matter appeared to him to be one which ought to be settled if it were at all possible. He offered to discuss the matter with counsel in chambers, and advantage was taken of this offer. The matter was subsequently settled by consent, but I do not think the doubts as to the court's jurisdiction had any influence on the settlement. The questions of law and policy raised by the honorable member's questions are at present under consideration.

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