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Thursday, 17 November 1960


Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta) (Attorney-General) .- The Opposition has got itself into an amusing position. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) got up and criticized the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). He said he is in great doubt and does not know where to go and that he would like somebody to take his hand and help him but, generally speaking, he does not like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's proposition. When I pointed out where he was going and that he was trying to take away the rights of the individual the Deputy Leader of the Opposition retreated and said, " If the Attorney-General thinks our amendment goes too far, will he please draw us another one, not so bad as his but better than ours? " I do not misrepresent him, because that is precisely what he said. He said, " You know the Attorney-General copied ours. We gave out ours on Tuesday and he produced his on Thursday." When I put the two propositions together like that, it is terribly silly.

The fact of the matter is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the other members of the Labour Party did not know where they were going and that they were proposing to take away fundamental rights. It is not to the point to say that these offences are serious. They are serious in relation to individuals. If somebody - a Commonwealth officer - takes a bribe in order to keep me locked up for the night, that is pretty personal to me and I ought to be able to do something about it. The Labour Party did not see where it was going and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, in a vague way, " If my amendment is too wide, please cut it down for me, Mr. Attorney-General ". All this business about copying is so childish. " You copied mine ", or " I have copied yours "; I will have none of that. When I made my second-reading speech I was of the view - and I still am - that you would not find one of these serious offences which affect property of a value of less than £50. That is very important, because unless proposed new section 12a (2.) is used, none of these offences could be tried summarily without the consent of the accused. The significance of that is that whereas a private citizen might be able to commence the committal proceedings, he could not indict a person. He could carry it beyond the committal stage. The Attorney-General must come into it at that point. What I said in my second-reading speech was correct. I said that it must be borne in mind that unless you can find an offence which only affects a value of £50 - I was then, and still am, of the opinion that you would not - the Attorney-General does stand between the indictment of a citizen and the private prosecutor who would want to set the law in motion.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made great play of this. I do not want to make a great point of it because pedantic accuracy at any given stage is not a virtue which I claim. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is so much more accurate than I am most times! I move -

That the question be now put.







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