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Wednesday, 12 May 1965

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) .- I move-

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill is designed to replace the Jury Exemption Act 1905-1950. Like the present Act, the Bill is concerned with the exemption of designated persons from jury service in the States and in Commonwealth Territories. The present Act has but two operative provisions. Section 2 exempts from jury service the Governor-General, the members of the Federal Executive Council, Justices of the High Court and of other Courts created by the Parliament, senators and the members of the House of Representatives and employees of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. Also exempted are officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. The exemption conferred by section 2 standing by itself would be a total exemption, lt is qualified however by section 3 in the case of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. Section 3 provides that, as to jury service in any Territory forming part of the Commonwealth, these officers are liable to perform jury service unless they are specifically exempted by regulations. Section 3 was introduced into the Act in 1932 and was made necessary by reason of the fact that at that time public servants constituted a very large percentage of the total population in some Territories - in the case of the Australian Capital Territory, for example, nine out of ten potential jurors were public servants.

In the States, the position of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service under the Jury Exemption Act has remained unchanged since 1905. They have continued to be wholly exempted as a class, regardless of the nature of the duties that they may perform. This will change under the present Bill, the main purpose of which is to make provision in relation to jury service in the States by officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Bill does this by applying in the several States the same system as is now applied to jury service by officers of the Commonwealth Public Service in the Territories - that is, officers will be liable to serve on State juries unless they are exempted by regulations made pursuant to this Bill.

There is a history of CommonwealthState negotiations behind this proposed alteration to the jury exemption law. In recent years, three States, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania, made the majority of the officers of their Public Services liable to perform jury service. Previously there had been a total exemption similar to that accorded to Commonwealth public servants under the Commonwealth Act. The change had regard to the increased number of persons in Government employment and consequently greater extent of the exemption accorded than when the jury exemption legislation was first enacted. The three States then requested to Commonwealth to make the majority of officers of its Public Service also available for jury service in those States.

The request was made in the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General and the question was also extensively discussed between the Common wealth and State Public Service Boards with the object of securing uniformity. It has not been possible to achieve uniformity and the other three States - New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia - presently retain their system of total or substantial exemption. After full consultation with the Commonwealth Public Service Board the Government has decided on legislation which will enable to Commonwealth to vary the exemption in those three States that have made the bulk of their own public servants available for jury service. The Bill does this by abolishing the present unqualified exemption but providing for exemption of specified public servants or classes of public servants by regulations. In that way the Commonwealth will be able also to continue to apply a system of wide exemption in the other three States that, for the present at any rate, are continuing to give such exemption to their own public servants.

The Bill also adds to the categories of Commonwealth personnel to whom the jury exemption legislation will apply. Commonwealth police officers will be exempted, just as their State counterparts are exempted by State legislation. Next there are the members of Commonwealth statutory bodies. No members of Commonwealth statutory corporations, boards or commissions are exempted, or can be exempted, under the Jury Exemption Act at present, because the expression " officers of the Public Service of the Commonwealth" as used in the Act refers only to permanent officers of the Public Service. While it is not necessary that all members of all Commonwealth statutory corporations, boards, or commissions should be exempted from jury service, the Government takes the view that all members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Tariff Board should be so exempted. The Bill gives power to make regulations to exempt in other appropriate cases; for instance, in relation to such bodies as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Under the Bill it will be possible to exempt also specified employees or classes of employees of Commonwealth statutory corporations, boards or commissions. Under the present Act, there is no such power of exemption although all employees of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner are exempted by the Act itself.

The present Bill will have the effect also of bringing within the area covered by the Jury Exemption Act the exemption presently provided for members of the Forces by section 43 of the Defence Act. That section exempts from jury service anywhere in Australia or in its Territories all members of the Permanent Naval Forces, the Naval Emergency Reserve Forces, the Active Permanent Military Forces, the Regular Army Emergency Reserve, the Permanent Air Force, the Air Force Emergency Force, and, while called out for continuous service, members of the Regular Army Reserve and of the citizen forces. It is desirable that the Jury Exemption Act should deal comprehensively with the matter of exemption provided by Commonwealth law in relation to Commonwealth personnel. This Bill includes, therefore, provisions exempting members of the armed forces from jury service. In the Bill, the various branches of the armed forces I have just mentioned are covered by the composite term " defence force " which, under the provisions of the Defence Act, the Naval Defence Act and the Air Force Act, includes all naval, military and air forces of the Commonwealth. The term " citizen forces " which, along with the Regular Army Reserve, requires continuous service for the exemption provisions of the Bill to apply to it, is defined in the Defence Act as including the Citizen Naval Forces, the Citizen Military Forces and the Citizen Air Force. Section 43 of the Defence Act will be repealed by another Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.

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