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Friday, 30 April 1915

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) . - I do not realize exactly the position which Senator Keating is taking up. This is a Bill to amend the Judiciary Act in order to allow matters of Admiralty or maritime jurisdiction to go to the High Court directly. If it was confined to matters arising out of the war, I would have no objection to make; but it applies absolutely to all cases of maritime jurisdiction. If the owner of a ship fails, and is not able to pay the wages of the crew, it means that the men will have to go right to the High Court to get a lien on the ship. A number of similar instances could be cited. I can quite understand Senator Keating being in favour of such cases going to the High Court.

Senator Keating - This Bill does not provide for anything of the kind.

Senator Russell - Do you think that the Attorney-General would sanction a thing like that?

Senator GUTHRIE - I do not know what the Attorney-General means. If Senator Keating were engaged in a case he would not ask, " What did the AttorneyGeneral mean when he introduced the Bill?" but he would ask, "What does the Act mean?" Clause 2 deals with " all matters of Admiralty or maritime jurisdiction."

Senator Keating - That is, matters coming within the Imperial Act known as the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 1890.

Senator GUTHRIE - At the present time our local Courts - the District Court and the Supreme Court - have that jurisdiction, but now it is proposed to take it away.

Senator Keating - No. This is not exclusive jurisdiction, but concurrent jurisdiction.

Senator GUTHRIE - In the cases I have suggested, can they still use the old form of procedure in a local Court?

Senator Keating - They can.

Senator Russell - Unless the AttorneyGeneral forbids it.

Senator GUTHRIE - In a previous debate to-day I mentioned that a retired stipendiary magistrate has taken three months to make up his mind on a case, and the Minister said that he had not yet received his report. Are we going to be humbugged like that under this measure? I can quite understand a professional gentleman wanting cases to be taken to the High Court, but I wish to see the matter dealt with fairly and quickly.

Senator Keating - That is why we want clause 3 of this Bill.

Senator Needham - It will send a man to the High Court at once.

Senator GUTHRIE - Yes, but at what expense? At the present time, if a primâfacie case is made out, the crew of a ship can be paid their wages, or the ship can be condemned before a magisstrate at practically no expense; but, if the crew have to wait till the High Court visits Western Australia, which happens once a year-

Senator FINDLEY (VICTORIA) - Have you not been assured that the Bill docs not take away the existing powers?

Senator GUTHRIE - If the Government assure me that the Bill does not give exclusive jurisdiction to the High Court, I will be content, but I understand that it refers to all matters, whether connected with the war or not.

Senator Gardiner - I can assure the honorable senator that these are additional powers to give the High Court jurisdiction where it is not enjoyed now. I . also assure him, so far asone member of the Government can speak for the whole, that there will be no attempt to take the ordinary business out of the usual course.

Senator GUTHRIE - That is all very nice, but will the Government provide in the Bill that it shall be limited to matters arising out of the war?

Senator Gardiner - I can assure the honorable senator that the Bill is introduced to deal with urgent and necessary cases, and not with cases of the character to which he has referred.

Senator GUTHRIE - It covers more than that. It covers the whole question of Admiralty or maritime jurisdiction. If the Minister will consent to limitclause 2 to cases arising out of the war I shall be satisfied.

Senator Gardiner - If I were the AttorneyGeneral I might be able to give the honorable senator the assurance he asks, but I cannot do so upon hypothetical cases.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2 -

Section 30 of the principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom all words from and including the words "original jurisdiction in all matters," and inserting in their stead the words " original jurisdiction -

(a)   in all mutters arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation;

(b)   in all matters of Admiralty or maritime jurisdiction; and

(c)   in trials of indictable offences against the laws of the Commonwealth.

Section proposed to be amended -

30.   In addition to the matters in which original jurisdiction is conferred on the High Court by the Constitution the High Court shall have original jurisdiction in all matters -

(a)   arising under the Constitution or involvingits interrelation, and

(b)   of Admiralty or maritime jurisdiction."

Amendment (by Senator Guthrie) proposed

That after the word "matters," in paragraph (b), the words " arising out of the war " bo inserted.

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