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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) .- I was about to say what the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has just said. I did not hear him say that this was a question of cost. It was quite the contrary. He said that if a person wishes to avoid trial by jury, he ought to be entitled to do so. This deals with a different sub-section. Sub-section (2.) gives the right to a magistrate, if he thinks it fit upon the request of the prosecutor. Of course, the magistrates must be considered in the light of the magistracy as a whole. I think it fair to say, as the Attorney-General did, that the magistracy has a high reputation. When an application is made, the magistrate has upon him a duty to consider the matter and to reach a decision as to whether he thinks it fit. If a person were charged with a breach of the provision dealing with secrets and the actual paper on which the secret was written had a value of 3d. or less, the magistrate would not regard this as an offence relating to property of a value of less than £50. The magistrate would regard this as an offence relating to a secret. I have no doubt whatever that the magistrate having considered the matter, and, having come to that conclusion, would decide, as he ought to do, in the exercise of his judicial function. I feel that sub-section (2.) ought to remain. I feel that what the Opposition suggests is to convert the exception to the general. Sub-section (2.) must remain because of the wide range of the act as a whole. I therefore oppose the proposal by the Opposition to delete it.

I know that when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggested that the accused should always have the choice of trial by jury, he was referring to some of the offences included in the amending bill, but to say, as a general statement, that the accused should always have the choice of trial by jury is not a real proposition. For example, if we take the argument reductio ad absurdum, a person who is picked up on Thursday night and charged with drunkenness in the police court on Friday morning could elect to have a trial by jury. That is obviously absurd. I know the honorable member for East Sydney did not intend anything like this consequence to flow from what he said. I know that he was referring only to a narrow section, but, considering the act as a whole, I think that sub-section (2.) should remain.

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