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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4099

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) I refer to clause 10 which reads: (1.) The following amounts may be recovered by the Commonwealth as' debts due to the Commonwealth: -

(a)   levy and provisional levy that is due and' payable;

(b)   an amount payable by way of penalty under the last preceding section. (2.) In proceedings for the recovery of an amount referred to in the last preceding subsection, an averment or statement in the complaint, claim or declaration of the plaintiff is evidence of the matter so averred or stated.

I move:

Omit sub-clause (2.).

Clause 10 is concerned with the amount to be recovered by the Commonwealth Government as debts due to the Commonwealth. Members of the Opposition regard sub-clause (2) as most iniquitous. We have always opposed provisions" of this nature and will continue to do so. The sub-clause simply means that any person who is delegated with the responsibility under the' Act can make a statement which, in the complaint, can be taken as evidence of the matter averred. We believe that this is contrary to the rules of justice and should not be tolerated in respect of any primary industry. We recognise that a similar provision is included in most stabilisation Bills and that it relates to the collection of penalties and the recovery of debts or moneys. Members of the Opposition believe that the principle is wrong and that the words 'an averment or statement in the complaint, claim or declaration of the plaintiff , is evidence of the matter so averred or stated' are contrary to justice. Mr Chairman, I ask leave to move a second amendment...

THE CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Dr PATTERSON - I refer now to clause 14 which reads: (1.) A person shall not-

(a)   fail or neglect duly to furnish a return or information that he is required under this Act or' the regulations to furnish; or

(b)   furnish', in pursuance of this Act or the regulations, a return or information that is false or misleading, in a material par ticular.

Penalty: Two hundred dollars. (2.) A prosecution for an offence against this section may- be commenced at. any time within three years after the commission of the offence. I move:

Omit 'three years', insert 'twelve months'.

The Opposition has always opposed this type of provision and will continue to do so. Members of the Opposition believe that a prosecution for an offence under this provision should be commenced within 12 months and not 3 years. Previously the period was 5 years but, as 1 have suggested previously, because the Senate objected to this period the Government compromised and reduced it to 3 years. But even with respect to criminal law, proceedings are commenced within 12 months. We believe that no primary producer should have the threat of prosecution hanging over his head for. a period of up to 3 years. If an offence has been committed it is the Commonwealth's responsibility to commence proceedings without delay to prove the case or to enable the person prosecuted the opportunity to disprove it. Such action should commence within 12 months. If the Commonwealth cannot begin the prosecution within 12 months, the prosecution should be dropped.

It is all very well to say that some producers will deliberately try to flout the law. I do not say this. I believe we should give every producer credit for being an honest person until he is proved to be otherwise. For that reason I say that the responsibility for proving a case lies with the Commonwealth and it is only right that any man charged with committing an offence should have the opportunity to prove his innocence within 12 months and not, as this clause proposes, within a maximum period of 3 years. I take the point that in most cases the Commonwealth would attempt to bring a case before the court within 12 months. On the other hand, if it is good enough to require under the criminal code that proceedings for an offence be proceeded with within 12 months, I think it is good enough for this type of proceeding to commence within that time. For that reason the Opposition is opposed in every sense of the word to these particular clauses.

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