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Friday, 3 October 1902

Mr CROUCH (Corio) - In regard to the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I would point out that in the Property Acquisition Act we have already accepted the principle laid down by him. Section 50 provides -

For the purposes of this Act the Commonwealth shall be deemed to be a corporation sole by the name o£ "The Commonwealth of Australia," with power to purchase, take, and hold land, and all legal proceedings by or against the Commonwealth in respect of any matter under this Act may be instituted by or against the Commonwealth in that name.

For the sake of uniformity I would urge that the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne should be adopted. I think the Attorney-General in quired by way of interjection who would accept service of processes and so forth if the Commonwealth were allowed to be sued as a corporation. Even that is provided for in the Property Acquisition Act.

Mr Deakin - But not under the amendments of which notice has been given.

Mr CROUCH - With very slight amendment, sub-section (2), section 50, of the Property Acquisition Act would meet the case. It sets forth that -

All acts, matters, and things which may be done or suffered by the Commonwealth under this Act in connexion with the making and execution of agreements, and the payment of purchase money, compensation, and costs may be done or suffered by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Commonwealth.

In reading the American law reports one cannot fail to notice the simplicity which is associated with the right to sue in the name of the Commonwealth. Differences of opinion have frequently arisen as to who should be sued under the Victorian Crown Remedies Act, and the system of requiring a nominal defendant to be appointed gives rise to many difficulties. If we provide that the Commonwealth itself shall be sued we shall save litigants much trouble.

Mr Reid - It is much better that we should keep in line with the procedure in the States courts. This is a special measure.

Mr CROUCH - I think we should secure uniformity in our laws when we have an opportunity to do so, and as a large part of our litigation must arise in connexion with land, and as the Commonwealth as a corporation is a party in such cases, why not in all cases?

Mr Reid - There can be no uniformity in this matter. Each State has its own laws, and every action will be governed, not by uniform laws, but by the laws of the State in which the cause of action arises. This is only a temporary measure.

Mr CROUCH - There is an AttorneyGeneral in each of the States, and in order to make a distinction between the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth and those of the States, it would be far better to provide that the Commonwealth of Australia should be sued. After hearing the arguments which have been urged by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, I hope that the Attorney-General will adopt his proposal.

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