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Tuesday, 7 December 1965

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- I do not think the Attorney-General answered the questions that were raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I was interested to hear the honorable member pour his tirade on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I thought this was the Attorney-General's Bill. I would like to find out what this Bill is all about; whether the Government means business or whether the Bill is just a series of words, figments and fantasies, or whatever other terms that the honorable member for Moreton may have used. I want to know whether we are to sit here and talk about this Bill at this stage, only to discover in the end that it has no teeth in it.

The honorable member for Moreton has raised the matter of appeals on questions of fact. The Attorney-General has said that appeals cannot be made on questions of fact because such questions should be determined not by a panel of lawyers but by a panel of laymen. Under the previous clause, as I read it, questions of the public interest are to be determined by laymen. That might be exactly what the Attorney-General meant when he spoke on this clause a few minutes ago. I gathered that he was saying that a question of the public interest is one not for lawyers but for laymen. It seems to me that, in respect of clause 63 (1.) (b), one of the reasons for providing for appeals relates to questions of the public interest. I agree with the people who say that the public interest is such an indeterminate matter that it ought not to be handed over to anybody else to review and that we ought to be more specific in relation to it.

Now let me reply to the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) and his tirade against his spiritual colleague, one might say, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). I will be interested to see whether the honorable member for Evans supports the Opposition in its attempt to have matters discussed and considered continuously and properly in this chamber. Earlier this year we discussed two very important and fundamental pieces of legislation - amendments to the Defence Act and amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act - and members of the Opposition were gagged on clause after clause. My memory may be faulty on this matter but I do not recall a single instance in which the honorable member for Evans assisted us or voted with us against the gag.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I suggest to the honorable member for Wills that these remarks have nothing to do with the matter now before the Committee.

Mr BRYANT - I realise that, Mr. Chairman; but I claim the right to speak from this side of the Committee in answer to the accusations that have been levelled against us.

I want the Attorney-General to explain, in terms simple enough for the honorable member for Evans and me - we are both laymen in these matters - exactly why he is so dogmatic in rejecting any suggestion that appeals should be allowed on questions of fact. I would like him to explain also the contradiction that appears to me to exist between the words that he used a few minutes ago and the words of the previous clause. Although I have sat here for a good while and tried to get the drift of the debate, it seems to me that we are cluttering up the Bill with so many restrictions and inhibitions that in the end it will have no teeth at all. We may as well go home and mow the lawns as expect anything really positive from this or from the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) who is interjecting.

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