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Thursday, 3 March 1927

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) (Minister for Home and Territories) [3.46]. - Honorable senators need have no alarm at the position created by the ordinance. Those who profess to see in it an insidious attack upon the rights of citizens, and the beginning of a reactionary policy, cannot have given very close consideration to the subject. For a proper understanding of the matter, it is necessary to bear in mind that there is, as yet, no separate judiciary machinery established in the Federal Capital Territory, and that, for the time being, certain laws of the State of New South Wales continue to apply to tho Territory and to bc administered by the authorities of that State as if the Territory were still a part of New South Wales. When the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth in 1911 it was obviously more convenient to continue the operation of the existing State laws, as far as practicable, than to set out a self-contained code of legislation for the Territory. That was provided for. in the Seat of Government Administration Act of 1910, which also provided that, with respect to any such law, the GovernorGeneral might, by ordinance, declare that it should, while the ordinance remained in force, but subject to the provisions of the ordinance, have effect in the Territory, and continue to be administered by the authorities of the State as if the Territory continued to form part of the State. The Provisional Government Ordinance 1911 was made under the authority of that act, and provided, inter alia, that any law of the State, not being a law imposing duties on the estates of deceased persons, should continue to be administered in the way provided in the act. The ordinance to which Senator Grant now takes exception is an amendment of the Provisional Government Ordinance. Prior to the making of this amending ordinance, the existing State law applicable to the Territory permitted either party in a civil action in the District Court to apply for the case to be heard before a jury; but the machinery available did not permit of the empanelling of a jury other than one composed of persons resident in the State, but not resident in the Territory. The interpretation of the New South Wales law by the Commonwealth legal authorities in this respect was that all persons resident in the jurors' district fixed by the New South Wales Jury Act 1901, which immediately before the date of the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth included the Territory or any portion of the Territory, were qualified and liable to serve as jurors in civil cases. The Jury Act of 1901 was, however, repealed by the Jury Act 1912, section 8 of which altered the method of determining jury districts. It was thought that any jury summoned would be summoned from a district different from that provided by the 1901 Act. Consequently, it would appear that a jury so summoned would not be summoned in accordance with the law in the Territory, and would not be competent to try cases in the Territory. One of the principal reasons for the amending ordinance was the obvious objection to civil cases relating to matters arising within the Territory being tried before juries composed of persons not resident in the Territory. The population of the Territory will for some years consist largely of public servants and other persons having an interest in work connected with the activities of the Government. Commonwealth public servants are exempt from serving on juries; and in the event of the necessary machinery being set up, and of litigants freely exercising the right to apply for juries, it would not be wise to have juries composed of persons who, though not technically public servants, were employed by the Commonwealth. The rest of the community would be limited in numbers, and considerable inconvenience would be experienced by members of the commercial community who might be frequently called upon for duty. The amendment which has been made is simply a practical, common-sense way of dealing with the temporary difficulty that has arisen. The ordinance relates only to civil actions, and then only to such civil actions as are heard in a District Court. When, in the near future, a separate judiciary for the Territory has been established, the whole position will be reviewed. In the meantime, I ask honorable senators to reject the motion for the disallowance of the ordinance.

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