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Wednesday, 14 October 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works and Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research) . - Taking the matters raised by Senator McClelland, I shall deal first with those raised at the end of his speech. The reason for the increase in the salaries of officers in the patents, trade marks and designs section is that the Department was 50 examiners under strength last year and an active drive was instituted to try to recruit people for this very important work and to stop arrears from piling up. That drive is still going on. It has resulted in a great increase in the number of people who can perform this work and in a great shortening of the waiting time for people who wish to have applications for patents properly examined.

In regard to transcripts, the AttorneyGeneral's Department does not intend to provide transcripts as requested by Senator McClelland. I do not know what the answer will be, but he might care to ask the question again when the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service are being considered. In regard to the question of long service leave for casual employees, I am informed that agreement that that would be done was reached a year ago.

Senator McClelland - Agreement was reached?

Senator GORTON - That is what I am informed. As far as sound recording in the Reporting Branch is concerned, the courts in which it is at present installed are the High Court and the court at Canberra. The next extension of it will be to the Court at Darwin.

The matter of legal costs which Senator McClelland raised comes only minutely into the running of the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral's Department, but there is provision regarding legal action when a man is under a charge. A person committed for a criminal offence either in a State court or a Commonwealth court, can apply for legal aid under section 69 of the Judiciary Act, and if the judge certifies that he is entitled to legal aid, he receives it.

Senator Ormonde - Would that apply to divorce cases, too?

Senator GORTON - Not unless the pcrcon concerned had murdered his wife. Then, of course, he would not want a divorce.

Senator McClelland - That provision applies only to criminal proceedings?

Senator GORTON - Not necessarily. Senator McClelland, Senator Cant and Senator Cohen raised the matter of reform of the bankruptcy law and the provision of a new law. All I can say to them is that it is an extremely difficult, protracted and complex matter to get this Bill into a form which will suit the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), the Government and all the people who are vitally concerned with it.

Following receipt of the report of the Bankruptcy Law Review Committee the report, together with a draft bill which accompanied it, was circulated to all interested organisations, and bodies, so it is not quite true to say that nothing has been done since the Government received the report. The Government has received hundreds of submissions and suggestions relating to the Committee's recommendations and the proposals contained in the draft bill. According to the document that I have - the statements in it were true when it was prepared - those submissions and suggestions have all been considered by the Attorney-General, who is preparing a report for submission to Cabinet. When Cabinet has considered the report any necessary modifications will have to be made to the draft bill before it is presented to the Parliament. I repeat that those statements were correct when they were written, but a day or two ago the Government received another six tightly spaced foolscap pages of submissions, so the matter will be delayed a little further. That is the point which consideration of the bankruptcy law has reached. I know that the Attorney-General had hoped very much to be able to introduce the new bill during this sessional period but I so not know now whether he will be able to do so. The copyright law is in much the same position. All I can say is that it is receiving active consideration by the Attorney-General.

The matter of restrictive trade practices was raised by more than one honorable senator. I think it was Senator Cohen who described the proposed legislation as law reform. I do not think that it is law reform; I think it is new law. The proposed legislation cannot be regarded in the same way as one regards the bankruptcy or copyright laws. The new bill will be introduced into the Parliament as soon as the practical and technical difficulties associated with its construction are resolved. The Attorney-General has been at pains to explain that the drafting of legislation of such a complex kind as this brings with it the need for a multitude of small decisions that have to be taken step by step. Different parts of the proposals are inter-dependent, and when one decision is taken it necessarily involves looking at previous decisions to see whether they remain valid. The process must be carried out in the context of continuing representations by members of the public and by interested parties, in response to the Government's invitation to them to examine the published proposals and to furnish it with their reaction.

As the Attorney-General has pointed out previously, a representation very often is made dealing with some particular aspect of a proposal which affects the person making the representation. That aspect must be looked at in its true orientation and relation to the proposals as a whole. Honorable senators can be sure that the Government intends to introduce the legislation at the earliest possible opportunity. Cabinet has been discussing it almost weekly in an endeavour to bring it to the point at which it can be presented to the Parliament.

Senator Cohenalso referred to the report of the Constitutional Review Committee and asked what the Government proposed to do about it. Although the Government may receive advice from a committee such as this, it ls under no obligation to accept that advice. Nor is it under any obligation to say that it will never accept that advice. I think I can say to the honorable senator that it is extremely unlikely that Senator McKenna's Bills will be debated during this sessional period, but I point out that it is not true to say that nothing has been dona in this field because the Government is moving towards implementing one of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. I refer to Commonwealth control of civil aviation. I remind honorable senators of Senator Cohen's description of the report as being interesting, distinguished for the attention given to careful proposals which were advanced and commendable for the work done by the members of all parties who carried out their duties in a competent manner. Commonwealth control of civil aviation is one of the recommendations contained in the report to which Senator Cohen referred in such glowing terms. If I understand correctly, Senator Cohen will endeavour tomorrow to oppose and frustrate the Government's attempt to implement that recommendation.

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