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Friday, 30 April 1915

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) .- I move-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

This is another of the emergency measures. Its object is to confer upon the High Court original jurisdiction to try indictable offences against the Commonwealth. At present the High Court has not such jurisdiction. Under the conditions obtaining at the present time, it is most desirable that indictable offences should be brought directly before the High Court in contradistinction to the procedure now followed in such cases. At present such cases are brought before the various States Courts, and the procedure is at times unduly prolonged. Cases have already arisen which it was most desirable should be dealt with promptly and without undue expense. Clause 3 of this Bill confers upon the Attorney-General the power to file an indictment in the High Court or a State Criminal Court without examination or commitment for trial. This power is not novel in Australian criminal procedure, as most, if not all, of the State AttorneysGeneral possess a similar power under the State criminal codes. The power is one which is used only upon rare occasions, and in the majority of cases only when it is desirable that charges for indictable offences should be tried expeditiously, and the delay arising from the preliminary examination in a summary court overcome. It is intended that the Bill shall operate only during the period that the war lasts and for six months after the conclusion of peace. The change that is proposed, therefore, will operate only during that limited time. The reason for the proposed change is that the Commonwealth may be able to take direct action in cases whore the AttorneyGeneral considers that it is necessary and desirable to do so in the interests of justice. As the Bill was first circulated to honorable senators, it did not contain a provision limiting its operation in the way I have stated.

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