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Wednesday, 24 September 1902

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I thoroughly indorse the remarks of the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and I trust that the Government will see its way to introduce a Bill conferring jurisdiction in all cases arising under Commonwealth laws upon the Supreme Courts of the States. Section 71 of the Constitution says that -

The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Supreme Court, to be called the High Court of Australia, and in such other federal courts as the Parliament creates, and in such other courts as it invests with federal jurisdiction.

Clearly that section empowers us to confer jurisdiction upon the Supreme Courts of the States, and under the Customs Act we allow actions to be brought by the Commonwealth in the police courts. Sections 75 and 76 of the Constitution deal with the original jurisdiction and additional

Original jurisdiction of the High Court, and in section 77 it is provided : -

With respect to any of the matters mentioned in the last two sections, the Parliament may make laws (I.) Denning the jurisdiction of any federal court other than the High Court : (H.) Defining the extent to which the jurisdiction of any federal court shall be exclusive of that which belongs to or is vested in the courts of the States : (HI.) Investing any court of a State with federal jurisdiction.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Perhaps the Bill is intended to do that.

Mr CONROY - No. The AttorneyGeneral has told us that he does not propose to give this power to the States courts. But it must be remembered that no new body of citizens was created by the establishment of federation. The citizens of the Commonwealth are the same people as the citizens of the States. If we do not invest the States courts with jurisdiction in regard to cases which will perpetually arise, we shall have to establish not only an appellate High Court, but federal courts exercising jurisdiction similar to that exercised by district courts, and instead of providing appointments for four or five lawyers, we shall have to create positions of one kind and another for 400 or 500 persons, because we shall require federal district courts, circuit courts, and an appellate court. If we do that, there will be an outcry on the part of the people. The remedy against such extravagance is to invest the States courts with jurisdiction. The Ministry seem to welcome the opportunity to show that difficulties now exist in the way of citizens proceeding against the Commonwealth, in order to strengthen the case for the establishment of a Federal High Court, but the existence of these difficulties really strengthens the case for the investment of the State courts with federal jurisdiction. If necessary we' can afterwards create a federal appellate court, but there is already in existence the Privy Council, to which appeal can be made where there is dissatisfaction with the judgments of the Supreme Courts. I shall strongly oppose the creation of a large number of legal offices. In my opinion, if the States courts are not invested with federal jurisdiction, the Commonwealth will be involved in an expenditure of £150,000 or £250,000 a year for the maintenance of federal courts. I do not think that that would be right. In America there are federal, district, and ' circuit courts, as well as a Federal High. Court, and if we do not invest the State courts with federal jurisdiction, we must establish similar courts here. If we were dealing with an entirely different body of citizens we might establish such courts for them, but every citizen of the Commonwealth is a citizen of some one of theStates.

Mr Page - This is a bogy of the honorable and learned member's own creation.

Mr CONROY - I assure the honorable member it is not. In this particular caseof Hannah against Drake, the facts were these :. A cabman was standing in Elizabethstreet with his horse and cab, and while repairs were being effected to one of the telegraph lines, the wire was cut and fell across, an electric wire, and also on to the cabhorse. An electrical connexion was established, the horse was struck dead, and the cabman was thrown off his cab and seriously injured, and he has no remedy whatever.

Mr Page - This Bill is intended to give him a remedy.

Mr CONROY - Does not the honorable member see that hundreds of other cases may arise in a hundred other forms 1 I asked the Attorney-General whether it was intended to invest the State courts with federal jurisdiction, and he said " No."

Mr Deakin - I said no such thing.

Mr CONROY - Then I shall ask the honorable gentleman directly whether it is his intention to pass a Bill to confer federal jurisdiction upon the State courts.

Mr DEAKIN (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) (Attorney-General) - So far as providing remedies against the Crown is concerned, yes.

Mr CONROY - The honorable gentleman proposes, the Bill for one purpose only.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Could not the honorable and learned member deal with this upon the second reading of the Bill ?

Mr CONROY - It might be dealt with upon the second reading of the Bill, but the difficulty then may be that we shall not be able to amend the Bill in the direction desired. I can assurehonorable members that,, unless we confer federal jurisdiction upon the State courts, this Bill will mean largely increased expense to the people of Australia, and it will mean the appointment to offices of a great many lawyers. At the time the Constitution, was framed the members of the Convention saw' the difficulty, and that is borne out by the fact that section 71 of the Constitution enables Parliament to invest the 'State courts with jurisdiction, and it is therefore clear that we have an easy way out of the difficulty. I remember also that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, Sir John Quick, in his work upon the Commonwealth Constitution, pointed outthat probably for the first two or three years it would be found advantageous for the Commonwealth to confer this jurisdiction upon the State courts, in view, first of the saving of expense, and also in view of the experience which will be gained ; two very sound reasons for adopting the course suggested. I would ask the Attorney-General to adopt the suggestion, and confer federal jurisdiction upon the State courts for at least the next six months. By the time Parliament next meets we should know whether the arrangement works well or ill, and if it has been found to workbadly we can alter it. Ministers in this Bill propose to deal with one case instead of grasping the matter as a whole.. I ask every member of the committee interested in keeping down the expenses of the Government to press upon Ministers the course suggested by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo and other members of this House.

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