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Friday, 3 November 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - My belief has always been that it should be the object of all law to make it easy to do fight and difficult to do wrong. On this occasion I believe the Opposition are right, and in order to encourage them to be right more often, I shall vote with them. I fail to understand why the Government should stick so tenaciously to this provision. I call this bureaucratic tyranny run mad. It is proposed that in any prosecution in any Court of summary jurisdiction in respect of any contravention of any of the regulations instituted by any officer or any person acting under his direction, the averment is to be considered proof, in the absence of proof to the contrary. This is one of the most all-embracing provisions to enable the official to tyrannize over the elector that I ever saw.

Senator Findley - Where does the tyranny come in?

Senator RAE - I am absolutely astounded that any Government should introduce such a tyrannical provision in any Bill. Far as this Government does occasionally lapse from the principles of Democracy, I never thought they would go so far as to introduce a provision of this kind. If they will not consent to postpone the consideration of this proposed new section in order that they may think the matter over calmly and submit a more modified provision, I trust the Committee will knock it out. I decline altogether to blindly follow my party when I think they are doing wrong.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is how we treated the honorable senator last night.

Senator RAE - Never mind how I was treated. I am thinking of how the electors are going to suffer under this provision. I have had some little experience of some of our Courts of summary jurisdiction, and I have yet to learn that those in. Victoria are superior to those in New South Wales. Every magistrate and every official charged with a prosecution is" looking for a conviction anyhow, and here the Government are proposing to place the electors at the mercy of people who are more or less tyrants. A man is to be charged with an alleged contravention of the law - for it will only be alleged until it is proved - and he is to be considered guilty if he happens to be unable to get into Court in time to answer the charge. It is a poor Cockney kind of proposal which might be expected from an individual who has never been beyond the precincts of a big city, and knows nothing at ail of the conditions of our country districts. It might suit people from the purlieus of Sydney and Melbourne, who can bump up against officials and all the paraphernalia of civilization at any time.

Senator Findley - If it becomes law there will be more convictions under it in the cities than in the country districts.

Senator RAE - People in the cities have greater facilities for avoiding the officers of the law, and are more practised in dodging them. The Minister will be making a terrible mistake in pressing this proposal upon the Committee. I hope that the Government will recognise that obstinacy is not firmness, and that it is not wise to stick to every letter and clause of a Bill drawn up by draftsmen who desire to have the law vindicated on every possible opportunity. Honorable senators on both sides have spoken of the great respect which all should have for the law. I never had very much respect for law myself, because I have recognised that nearly all laws are due to the efforts of privileged persons to secure or to confer privileges on a minority that does not in any way deserve them. Laws which put power into the hands of bureaucratic tyranny tend to submerge the Democracy, and the efforts of real Democrats should be to put a stopper on that kind of thing instead of to promote it. We should have as few laws as possible, and they should be so clear as to be easily understood. We should not instil into the minds of electors a hatred of the law by putting them at the mercy of any person who chooses to bring a prosecution against them for an alleged offence whirh, even though it may have been committed, is a purely parliamentary or politically-manufactured crime.

Senator Needham - Why have any laws at all?

Senator RAE - 'Really I do not know.. I did not start making laws. No one ever heard me advocate the establishment of any laws.

Senator Needham - What is the honorable senator here for?

Senator RAE - Primarily to try to repeal all the bad laws I possibly can.

Senator Henderson - Twenty years ago the honorable- senator said the same thing.

Senator RAE - That shows my consistency. The way to prevent people from breaking the law is to have as few laws as possible, and to see that they are in accordance with the moral law. Every law we pass should be in strict accordance with the moral law, and should assist people to do right, and make it more and more difficult to do wrong.

Senator Findley - That is what this Bill is for.

Senator RAE - It is not. It is pure trash and humbug to elevate this provision to such an ideal height. Every Minister who introduces a Bill is, in the case of minor clauses, largely in the hands of his draftsman, who attempts to carry out the ideas submitted to him, but when he finds that the objections to a provision of this kind are based upon genuine grounds, he should not persist with it. It is not right that in his absence a man against whom a prosecution has been instituted should have the burden imposed upon him of proving his innocence of an offence which no reasonable man would elevate to the importance of a crime. .If this is supposed to be the way to establish Democracy, I am full of it.

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