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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - This amendment is the result of several years' experience of the working of this particular aspect of the act. If, in point of fact, we had found that magistrates were behaving in the manner which the honorable gentleman has indicated, there may have been no necessity to move along these lines. But it has been quite clear from our examination of the various cases which have arisen and the way they have been dealt with, that the general approach of different magistrates, not to cases of the same type but to the problem of penalty, varies very considerably. Although some magistrates consider cases in which the same set of circumstances, broadly speaking, are involved, the penalties that they impose are very different. Surely, then, it is very much fairer for this Parliament to give some indication of what it regards as the minimum penalty which should apply. We believe that that is the more justified because there is ample opportunity in the procedures which we adopt for any man to cover himself against accident or misadventure. Following the passage of this amendment, that provision will be given even greater prominence on the document that goes out and he will be told that if he has not heard from the department within a certain time after he has posted his registration form, he has to contact the department again.

With those safeguards we say that in every case of which we can conceive, it will the man who is defaulting in his obligation who will be coming before the magistrate or will at least have a charge preferred against him and the charge will still have to be proved. If the honorable member were aware of the problem of tracing defaulters and the necessity for having people measure up to their obligations, I think he would concede the fairness of this provision.

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