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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Mr CLAREY (Bendigo) .- I am rather concerned about clause 21, in view of the remarks made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in his second-reading speech. Clause 21 proposes the alteration of section 48 of the Principal Act by omitting the words " Penalty: Fifty pounds ", and inserting in their stead the words " Penalty: Not less than Ten pounds or more than Fifty pounds ". In addition, the clause proposes bae making of certain provisions for a defence on a prosecution for failure to register.

The Minister, in giving reasons for the making of this amendment, pointed out that in certain courts of summary jurisdiction, apparently, the magistrate, after hearing the case put forward by a trainee prosecuted for failure to register, imposed only a small fine, and that in order to ensure that bigger fines were imposed it was proposed to make the penalty not less than £10. I disagree with the making of any amendment to increase the penalty merely because in some cases the magistrate has not imposed a fine which either the Minister or his officers feel should be imposed.

A person who is charged with failure to register has to place his case before a court, and in doing so he gives reasons why he did not register on the due date. The magistrate, after hearing those reasons, decides that a certain fine will meet the case. It may be that the reason why the trainee did not register is, in the belief of the magistrate, a reasonable one and because of that he is not prepared to impose a stiff penalty.

I think that magistrates, in discharging their duties under the National Service Act, have been, in the main, reasonable and fair, and I cannot see any just reason in the fact that some small fines have been imposed for making the minimum penalty £10. The provision which already exists in the act is a reasonable one. The penalty provided is £50, which means that the magistrate may impose that penalty, or a penalty less than that. The Minister should not say that the penalty should be increased because the fines have been too small. To me that is not a valid reason for the proposed amendment.

Clause 21 (2.) provides three reasons as a defence to a prosecution for failure to register. Some of these include provisions which, in normal circumstances, would never be complied with by a national service trainee. For instance, paragraph (c) provides a defence if he proves that, within 35 days after the date of delivering the registration form, he notifies, by writing under his hand posted by registered post to the registrar at the National Service Registration Office, that he had not received a certificate of registration. A trainee could very easily notify the National Service Registration Office by post that he had not received the call-up notice which he expected, but it is not a defence unless the letter is registered. That will be imposing upon the trainee a technical condition that, in my opinion, is not fair. I see no reason for this proposed amendment. I think that the magistrates have imposed penalties which they believe suited the particular cases. It may well be that a person has sent along a notification of registration which has been mislaid, lt may not have been received at the registration office.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I do not wish to interrupt, but are you aware that in the notice that goes out there is reference to the fact that if the youths have not heard from the office within a certain date they are to communicate with it. There is a safeguard if a man genuinely has attempted to send in his notice and feels it has gone astray.

Mr CLAREY - Even so, there are instances where persons who have not received a notice have been prosecuted. Upon the circumstances being explained, the magistrate has said, " In these circumstances I do not think the trainee is to blame, but there has been a breach of the law, and I will fine him a nominal amount ". It is now suggested that even when a reasonable case is presented a person will not get away with a light fine, as the minimum fine is to be £10. I think that it is unnecessary. I suggest that the existing penalty of £50 meets all cases and allows a magistrate to exercise the discretion which he is entitled to exercise in such a case.

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