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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Senator FRASER (Western Australia) (Minister for External Territories) . - I understood Senator Spicer to say that he had made a written application to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in regard to these regulations, and had outlined certain proposals. I suggest to the honorable senator that before the Attorney-General refused such a request, he would make a thorough examination of the suggestions put before him. However, apparently Senator Spicer is not satisfied with that because he has sought a ventilation of the matter in this chamber.

Senator Spicer - The AttorneyGeneral did not reply to my letter.

Senator FRASER - Undoubtedly the honorable gentleman considered the matter and in his wisdom declined to accept Senator Spicer's suggestion. Unlike Senator Spicer, the Attorney-General apparently was quite definite in his opinion. That was not so with the honorable senator because first of all he suggested the application of the House of Commons determination of 1917 to meet the position. It was found, however, that during this war that course had not been even suggested by the British Government. In fact, there is no similar provision in the United Kingdom at all. The Attorney-General has set. the matter out quite clearly here, and there can be no doubt as to his qualifications for doing so. A difference of opinion is not uncommon among legal men. The only difference here is in regard to the right of appeal. Senator Spicer will admit that many cases have gone from the lower courts of this country through the Supreme Courts, the High Court, and even to the Privy Council, involving vast expenditure on legal fees although the amounts in dispute might have been very small. The prospect of meeting such costs very often deters an applicant. despite his conviction as to his legal right. In this case, rather than face such a prospect, an applicant might be prepared to lose his £200. That is not equity or justice. Consequently the Government believes that when a decision has been given by a judge or magistrate, there should be only a right of appeal for a re-hearing of the case. If anomalies occur, or if misstatements are made in evidence, and a rehearing is granted, does that not constitute an appeal? I suppose that Senator Spicer would say that that would be an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. I am surprised at the arguments of honorable senators opposite, and particularly those of the Leader of the Opposition, who apparently only required the Government to reconsider its decision. Senator Spicer, who submitted the motion, admitted that he had made certain representations to the Attorney-General to have the regulations amended before they were promulgated. He made those suggestions as from one legal man to the another. But the Attorney-General decided to adhere to his draft of the regulations, which has received the endorsement of the Government. The Government is not prepared at this stage to consider any alteration of the existing provisions.

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