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Thursday, 18 June 1903

Mr A PATERSON (Capricornia) - I do not intend to prolong the agony by indulging in a second reading speech under cover of this clause. Upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill, after a fair fight, we have been handsomely beaten, and we have taken our gruel like men. I strongly object, however, to taking another dose of gruel, and that is the position which 1 occupy at present. Oliver Wendell Holmes says it is a special virtue in a sporting man when he is in luck to crow gently, and when he is beaten to own up, pay up, and shut up. Fortunately, we have another chance upon the present occasion. The Government have successfully " bullocked " through the second reading of the Bill, and now find themselves in an "angel" of a fix to provide work for the Judges. .What is the expedient which they propose to adopt in this connexion It is nothing more or less than an attempt to divert the legal business of the country from its natural channels to the High Court. They wish to dam back the current of litigation until it rises to the altitude of the High Court. I think that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne showed very clearly the absurdity of passing the doors of the States Courts in order to take litigation to the higher Court. I am thoroughly of his opinion that it is a stupid thing to do. I cannot see any object in adopting that expedient, unless it be to provide new billets and new officials under the Government. If the Government intend to force litigants into the High Court, why do they not go a step further and issue coupons to all suitors before that tribunal entitling them to a pound of tea weekly, for the term of their natural lives. The proposal is utterly ridiculous. Merchants and business people do not usually adopt such practices, nor do large corporations. Can honorable members imagine the Harbor Trust saying to the people that they have found the straight cut to Port Philip which has been made at an enormous expense is of very little use to them and that they proposed to construct a new canal by way of Bacchus Marsh or Warrenheip to the Bav. Such a proposal would resemble the methods of the Government in connexion with this Bill. It is altogether beyond a joke. As the Government carried the second reading of the Bill simply upon the contention that the establishment of the High Court was mandatory under the Constitution - a contention with which I thoroughly agreed -I do not think that we ought to give them one ounce more than the Constitution directs. What does the Constitution say? Section 75 refers to five matters upon which the High Court is to have original jurisdiction. It says -

The High Court shall have original jurisdiction, &c.

That is mandatory. But in section 76 the words used are -

TheParliament may make laws, &c.

Those words are optional. The same remark is applicable to sections 77 and 78. All these provisions show that it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to confer original jurisdiction upon the High Court in the five matters mentioned in section 75, but in no others. Surely it is absurd to talk of investing the High Court with further power before it has even been constituted. Honorable members will recollect a scene in the "Merchant of Venice," in which Portia says -

Then take thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh ;

But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed

One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods

Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate

Unto the State of Venice.

That is exactly the position which I assume in regard to this matter.I would concede to the Government all that is mandatory under the Constitution, but not a pennyweight more.

Mr Wilks - Does the honorable member mean to insinuate that the Government are Shylocks?

Mr A PATERSON - No ; and I have the highest respect for Jews. I think they are the noblest race God ever made. Honorable members have recently heard a good deal about that mysterious modern disease which has troubled all the world, called appendicitis. It cannot be cured by medicine. It can be removed only by the knife - by cutting the appendix off. I regard this clause as the appendix of the Bill, and will not be satisfied until it is removed. Under this provision we have to find some work for the Judges. We cannot pay them high salaries for doing nothing, and as a way out of the difficulty I would recommend that we form the High Court into a Court of Arches. A Court of Arches is used for the purpose of debating spiritual causes. It may be said that we have no established church, and that no ecclesiastical disputes will arise, but I am sure that the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister are ingenious enough to find something to connect cases under, say, Customs administration with spiritual causes. Some mention has been made of the opposition to this clause having been prompted by party motives. I am quite sure that the Attorney-General will acquit me of being influenced in this matter by any such motives. My vote upon the measure will be cast in the direction which I conceive to be best in the public interest, and no blandishments will affect me. I simply desire to see justice done.

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