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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) . - I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment, for it is in conformity with my policy for the last twenty years. In my action against Sir Malcolm McEacharn, I had one experience of receiving legal advice that should not have been followed. Owing to legal technicalities, the Court officials would not accept my money, and I arranged with my solicitor that I would tender the money personally, if need be, planking it down on the counter and telling the official to go to Hades. Just as Gronlund, in hisCo-operative Commonwealth, referred to Switzerland as an example of the efficacy of the referendum, initiative and recall, so he referred to Denmark for an illustration of simplicity in law. Many years ago, when Mr. Justice Higgins, as a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, secured the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the simplification of the law, I introduced to him a Danish gentleman, who gave valuable evidence as to the procedure in Denmark. Briefly, it is this : If citizen A wishes to sue citizen B, he cannot do it directly, as is allowed under the laws of most other countries. He must first appear before a magistrate, a pacificator, who is sworn to make peace between citizen and citizen. The parties may meet before him at a table, and smoke and chat. Citizen A may claim £20 from citizen B; the latter says he owes only £15. The pacificator says he thinks B is in the right, and advises A to accept the offer of £15. If A refuses, he pays about1s. 3d. for a process of law, and he and B appear before the pacificator in his magisterial capacity. The parties may call witnesses, but no lawyersmay appear in the court. The magistrate writes down his decision, and the reason upon which it is based; obviously, it generally follows the suggestion he made at the informal conference. If the unsuccessful litigant is still dissatisfied, he carries the case to a higher court, in which both parties can be represented by counsel. But no fresh evidence can be adduced, and the lawyer can only argue on the written decision of the magistrate. In my opinion, and that of Gronlund,the legal system of Denmark is the simplest in the world. I have in my possession a document which to me is worth more than its weight in diamonds. A Mr. Christisen, who had been a police official in Australia for some years, and whose father had been the greatest medal maker in the world, succeeded to his father's estate, and went to Denmark to wind it up. Against his own inclination, he was persuaded by his solicitor to go to law. The letter I hold in my possession was sent to Mr. Christisen by his solicitor, and stated that the High Court of Den mark had penalized him with costs, but after consultation with his colleague, he had decided to pay all the costs, so that Mr. Christisen would be involved in no expense whatever. Mr. Christisen explained to me that as the High Court had held the advice of the solicitors to be wrong, they, as honorable men, had decided to pay the costs. When I tell honorable members that the writer of that letter three years later became Attorney-General of Denmark, they will recognise that he was a light in his profession. Whilst I loathe and detest the legal profession, there are many men amongst it whom I love and esteem, and I often find that my friendly feelings towards them are in conflict with my conscience. I was speaking recently with one of the few religious men whom I call friends, and, using a concordance to the Bible, he convinced me that all I might say of lawyers would be mild in comparison with what the good Old Book says of them. If any honorable member who desires material with which to slate the legal profession, I refer him to the Bible'. The legal profession has too much power. If I were only one of two of the same mind, I should vote for the amendment. Two Judges of the Supreme Court and another Judge have said that the law should be altered to enable that unfortunate man, the Reverend Mr. Ronald, to secure justice; and we cannot get it done, in spite of the fact that, in Mr. Ronald's case, every witness for the plaintiff, with the exception of Sir George Fuller, who is now a member of the New South Wales Parliament, was sentenced for perjury and conspiracy. How can any one respect the law when such things as that can occur? One cannot blame the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) for standing up for his crowd; but I may mention that the great Sumner, one of the greatest jurists that America ever produced, said that for the betrayal of a cause or a country you have not far to go; you can find one ready-made in any lawyer you meet. If the Committee will not agree to the amendment, I hope still to live to have an opportunity of voting for a similar amendment on a later occasion.

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