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Tuesday, 18 April 1961

Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) . 1 endorse the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and his comments on this bill, but I want to direct the attention of the House to the lack of facilities in the Northern Territory for trial by j ury , except in the trial of capital offences. That, of course, is something which this bill does not seek to rectify or even mention in any shape or form. I believe the Northern Territory is the only part of Australia where this provision is lacking. I think it is a normal provision in every State of Australia and also in the jurisdiction of the Australian Capital Territory. The people of the Northern Territory are being denied one of the basic concepts of British justice when they are refused trial by jury. There may have been some valid reason for the withdrawal of this provision from the legislation years ago when the population of the Northern Territory did not enable an adequate panel of jurors to be empanelled; but whatever reasons existed at that time, surely there is no reason to-day why an adequate panel of jurors cannot be empanelled to cater for all the requirements that they might be called upon to fulfil.

I direct the attention of the House to this fact, and I protest at the lack of these facilities in the Northern Territory. I ask the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) whether by way of amendment of the bill before the House he will make this provision or, alternatively, he will instruct the Crown Law officers in Darwin to make the necessary amendment in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, if that is a body competent to deal with the matters I have just raised. We have laboured for long enough in the absence of such a provision, and the people of the Northern Territory feel that they should, at this stage, be placed on a comparable basis with the rest of the people of Australia.

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