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Thursday, 7 November 1935

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Sampson (TASMANIA) - It is competent for Senator Collings to move that the words be left out. The amendment is in order.

Senator BRENNAN - I accept your ruling, and I wish to make it clear that it was not my intention to attempt to deprive Senator Collings of his opportunity to indicate his objection to the clause in the form which he has chosen to adopt. With regard to the issue that has been raised in the discussion - I refer to the tyranny which it has been suggested may be exercised under section 9 as amended by this clause - I call attention to the fact that on the 27th September, 1934, an instruction in connexion with this matter was issued to the Deputy Directors of Posts and Telegraphs in all States, in the following memorandum : -

While the enforcing of the penal provisions of the act and regulations in this matter is an unpleasant function, the department cannot avoid its obligations. The duties of inspecting officers, however, should be performed in sucha way as to protect the department from any suggestion of injustice or harshness. For this reason, great care should be exercised in the selection of Wireless Licence Inspectors, so that they may be depended upon to represent the department satisfactorily.

After a report has been made by a Wireless Licence Inspector, indicating clearly the existence of an unlicensed broadcast receiver, the normal practice will he to proceed against the person concerned by a summons and to enforce the penalty subsequently inflicted by the magistrate. There doubtless will he occasional cases where circumstances may justify the Deputy Director in waiving a prosecution. In all such cases action should be taken, of course, to ensure that the offence is not continued.

It will be recognized that these are drastic powers, consequently they should beused sparingly, in cases where the procedure is justified or where there is no alternative. If, for instance, a person who is suspected of using an unlicensed receiver refuses admission to the inspector, a search warrant should be obtained without delay in order that the set may be inspected before its removal. In this connexion, it is important to bear in mind that it is not essential to seize the receiver when a search warrant is issued. The primary object in obtaining a warrant is to gain entry with a view to securing evidence for a prosecution in the usual manner.

There will be occasions, however, when the seizure of a receiver will be justified, as for example: -

(a)   in the case of a person who refuses to give satisfactory answers to questions relating to an unlicensed receiver in his possession;

(b)   in a case where it is considered that a dealer who installed (and still owns) the unlicensed receiver should he punished, and there is not sufficient evidence to proceed against him on summons.

In some cases where equipment is seized, the offence may be such that the department will not be fully justified in ultimately retaining the receiver. That being so, the procedure in bringing it before the court should be such as to permit of discretion being exercised in the matter. ...

When on application for condemnation is contemplated, all parties concerned should be served with a notice, as per example a, in the same manner as a summons, a copy, with a sworn statement as to service, being lodged with the court. The same length of time should be allowed between service and appearance, as in the case of a summons. A draft order for condemnation, as per exampleb. should be prepared in readiness for the signature of the magistrate in each case.

I have read only a portion of the memorandum. It is all in the direction of counselling great care and moderation in these proceedings.

During the discussion the seizure of wireless receiving sets for non-payment of licence-fees has been criticized by the Opposition, and this after Senator Brown gave notice of a question as to the number of such seizures which have taken place. Upon this phase the memorandum is informative -

When it is borne in mind that, whilst there are nearly 750,000 licensed listeners and that there have been 10.344 convictions of unlicensed listeners, there have only been 29 seizures (21 under the Wireless Telegraphy Act and eight underthe Crimes Act), it will be readily agreed that the powers have been used sparingly. . . Twenty-one of the 29 sets which have been seized have been returned to the owners - in some cases on payment of departmental expenses. Thus, with 10,344 convictions, we have only retained eight receivers.

That is a complete answer to the fears so frequently expressed during the debate that if the powers now possessed by a constable are extended to a Commonwealth officer they may be used with harshness or severity.

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