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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- I move -

That the proposed new clause be amended by omitting from sub-section (4.), " or seventyeight, or sub-section (2.) or (5.) of section seventy-nine of this Act ", and inserting " thirtytwo, thirty-three, thirty-seven, fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty, sixty-nine or seventy-eight, or subsection (2.) or (5.) of section seventy-nine, or section eighty-six of this Act or an attempt to commit any offence against the foregoing sections ".

Sir Garfield Barwick - This is in substance the amendment which has just been thrown out.

Mr WHITLAM - The Attorney-General says that this is in substance the amendment which has just been thrown out, but that is not so, Sir. There are many more offences which are declared indictable in the act than are mentioned in the amendment to the Attorney-General's amendment that I have just moved. We have taken this method of illustrating the inadequacies of the Crimes Act as it will be left by the Attorney-General's amendment, and we have directed attention to offences all of which are serious in their nature and which, if tried by jury, and if the accused is convicted by a jury, can attract severe penalties indeed. I referred to most of them in my remarks in support of the Opposition's previous amendment. But let me deal in greater detail with the first three of them.

Section 32 refers to judicial corruption, and conviction under it attracts a maximum sentence of imprisonment for ten years. Section 33 refers to official corruption and deals with persons such as judges who are sitting as royal commissioners. Conviction under this section also attracts a maximum penalty of imprisonment for ten years. Section 37 refers to corruption of witnesses, and conviction here attracts a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years. These are three clear cases where the value of the property concerned is of the essence of the offence, because each of those offences is committed if a judge, or a judge not acting judicially, or a Commonwealth officer, or a witness, corruptly -

.   . receives, or obtains, or agrees or attempts to receive or obtain, any property . . .

And so on. If that property is worth £50 or less the accused person can be tried summarily if the prosecution asks for that course to be taken, and if the magistrate thinks fit. It is true that in those circumstances the magistrate can impose a sentence of imprisonment for a maximum of only one year and/ or a fine to a maximum of £100; but the consequences, Sir, of even a fine of £5 or imprisonment for one day can be catastrophic, because the judge, the judicial officer or the Commonwealth officer is obviously deprived of his appointment or his office and his whole reputation can be ruined. This can occur to him against his will. We have made it quite plain in the last hour that we do not object to a person's having the benefit of a summary trial for any of those offences if he desires it, and consents to that course; but what we do object to is a person's being tried for one of those serious offences, which we say are indictable, by a magistrate, if the offence relates to property worth £50 or less. The property worth £50 or less is not the big thing at stake when one is determining issues of judicial or official corruption, or the corruption of witnesses.

I think that these three sections show very clearly that this act is out of date. In 1926 property worth £50 was equivalent to property now worth £150 or £200. Even so, I would not think it would have been justified at that time - and still less is it justified now - to have summary trial of persons accused of such serious crimes.

The other crimes in the sections which I have listed concern coinage. Two of those offences can attract penalties of imprisonment for ten years and three of them penalties of imprisonment for seven years. Section 69 refers to the making of special paper, and this of course relates to bank notes and bonds. An offence under this section can attract a penalty of imprisonment for four years.

The final point is this: Section 86 deals with conspiracy and it can attract a penalty of three years' imprisonment. All these are serious crimes. The names themselves are enough to damn a man in his profession and in the community. Corruption, counterfeiting and conspiracy cannot be lightly dismissed but a person can be convicted of any of them if an offence relates to property worth £50 or less. He may be so convicted if the prosecution seeks that course and the magistrate thinks fit.

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