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Thursday, 13 May 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - When the Committee adjourned last night it was considering clause 19 of this Bill which reads, in part -

Sections 80b to 80i (inclusive) of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is inserted in their stead: - 80b.- (1.) (3.) If, in contravention of sub-section (1.) of this section, a service decoration is sold, supplied or offered or displayed for sale or supply on behalf of, or at the place of business of a person, it is not a defence for that person to prove thatthe sale, supply or offer or display for sale or supply was without his authority or contrary to his instructions.

Sub-section 3 of proposed new section 80b had attracted a good deal of notice. At the commencement of the debate on this Bill 1 tried to make clear the Government's approach to the sale or disposal of military decorations and similar things. I had said that this particular activity had unfortunately developed about it a number of undesirable practices; that on occasions it had been carried on by people who, to say the least, were not of the highest commercial standing and repute; that it was generally an activity which was unsatisfactory; that dissatisfaction had been expressed by a number of members of the community, and that over a long period returned soldiers' organisations and the like had made approaches to the Government to ensure that any undesirable practice, or the possibility of any undesirable practice, in the disposal or sale of military decorations should be eradicated.

We, as a government, took the view that, having particular regard to experiences with which we were familiar, this was a reasonable request. I made it quite plain at the commencement of the debate that the Government, in order to go to the limit, if I may so put it, in ensuring the suppression of these undesirable practices was prepared to legislate in a way which was not common inasmuch as the proprietor of a business or of premises at which this kind of activity occurred would be held to be responsible for the actions of his. staff. I made it quite plain that the Government, in accepting this view, had been impressed by the very special character of medals and awards that were issued to particular persons by Royal warrant from the Sovereign herself.

I could not think of any examples when we were here last night and indeed my overnight thoughts have not revealed very many examples of this kind of liability being thrown upon employers. Although I do not compare it with the sale of medals except insofar as the employer continues to bear liability, I recall that under the licensing Acts of the various States the proprietor of a business is held to be completely responsible for the conduct of his staff either in his presence or in his absence. Although I was not aware of this myself, I have been told that under New South Wales legislation the same sort of liability devolves upon shopkeepers in respect of such things as the sale of goods in prohibited hours.

Senator Murphy - That law will not remain in existence.

Senator PALTRIDGE - Whether or not that is so is of no importance. I am saying that it is on the statute book now. So it does seem that a number of legislatures have thought from time to time that it was desirable to place this sort of liability upon a proprietor. For my own part I still hold the view that in respect of this particular matter it is not going too far to place this liability upon the proprietor of a business where decorations are sold.

However, members of Parliament, including Ministers, have to be realists. Despite what I have said and despite the special plea that I made in respect of the kind of operation that is in question, I regret that the course of the debate last night did not support the proposition that was advanced by the Government to the extent necessary to ensure that it would be carried. For that reason, and after consultation with my officers, I move -

Leave out sub-section (3.) of proposed section 80b and insert the folowing sub-section - " (3.) A person on whose behalf or at whose place of businesss a service decoration is sold, supplied or offered or displayed for sale or supply iri contravention of sub-section (1.) of this section is, unless he proves that the sale, supply, offer or display was contrary to his instructions, guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding Fifty pounds.".

That covers the particular situation referred to last night where a proprietor, having given instructions that certain things should not take place, is placed in the position where his employees contravene those instructions.

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