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Wednesday, 30 March 1966


Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) . - I second the amendment and support it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has covered fully the various aspects referred to specifically in his amendment. I propose to deal with another and more general aspect regarding the administration of justice, and it is applicable to every court in this land whether it be a court of a Territory, a State court or the High Court itself. I refer to the fact that in a genera] sense the requirements of modern life have had less impact on the administration of justice than on any other profession or on any other form of public activity. We in this nation lag badly behind in a general sense most of the other member nations of the British Commonwealth. In certain respects our courts, their atmosphere and the approach of the legal profession are redolent more of the days of Dickens than of this year of grace 1966. I feel that there is a strong case for the modernisation of the system of pleading, the general assessment of evidence and the defining of issues. The system of law vacations that is indulged in is utterly inconsonant with the tempo of modern life. 1 would be the last to attack the dignity or the accuracy of our courts. I share the pride of members of the legal profession in the wonderful standards of the British traditions of the administration of justice. But today we are in a new era. We are in the jet age, the age of technology- and the age of motor vehicles in particular. I note with considerable concern the way in which court lists are cluttered up with the hearing of motor car accident cases. Courts are being used in the main for the assessment of the measure of damages that will be awarded to a person whose rights are acknowledged. I think, too, that there is a strong case to be made out for legal assistance to be given to the lower income groups in our society. I have in mind particularly the system of the Public Solicitor as operating under statute in New South Wales. This is capable of application to the courts of the Australian Capital Territory and to the High Court also. Legal assistance is not given indiscriminately, but a qualified solicitor is available and his services are free. He appears before the appropriate court as an officer of the court on behalf of people whose income or whose assets are below a certain fixed figure. The means test that is applied in New South Wales is of the order of £19 for the income of the particular applicant and £3 a week for each of his dependants.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the Bill.


Mr CONNOR - 1 atn doing so most specifically, Sir, because this is intimately associated with the general practice of the legal profession. The question is: What measure of justice is available to the man with the shallow purse or with no assets at all and who as a citizen has a definite right to assert his freedom of person and who can suffer just as much as anybody in the community? Let us take, for instance, the question of the interference with a man's normal right to the use of his home. The noise nuisance of jet aircraft is a matter that no-one has really litigated in this country. Some poor unfortunate whose home has been affected may not be prepared to be involved in complex and costly litigation. He is placed in an impossible position. The working man notoriously believes that he ventures into litigation at his peril and that he is entering into a jungle from which he might emerge but in which he will probably be badly battered. It must be recognised that up to date the laws of the Commonwealth have failed to give appropriate relief to such persons. The matter should be seriously considered by the Government.







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