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Tuesday, 21 June 1904

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) (Minister of External Affairs) . - There are certain arguments in favour of paying costs which seem to be worth considering'; but I think that they must be. set aside in consideration of those very much greater advantages which can be, and are now. obtained under a similar provision in the New South Wales and ' other Acts. I have no doubt that if lawyers are excluded from the Court, persons will spring up who will be .skilled more or less in this business, and capable of discussing matters likely to be brought before the Court. Supposing that a body of men residing at a long distance from the Court should desire to be represented by an agent. Money is a consideration to a small union of employes or employers. I would remind the right honorable member for Swan that perhaps this proposal will be as advantageous to employers as to employes, because very often a union is collectively very rich. ' An organization with which I am connected possesses .£3,000 or £4,000 - not a very large sum, but still ample to bear the costs of any litigation. An employer may be a man, and I believe in very many cases is a man, with perhaps only £100 or £200 at his back. If a union were to pile up the costs, multiply the number of witnesses, and thus, protract litigation, it could, of course, practically smash such a man. But the proposal cuts both ways.

Mr McCay - Surely this- wise Court would see what was being done.

Mr HUGHES - The Court will see a number of things, but it may not see everything.

Mr McCay - It is being required to see pretty nearly everything.

Mr HUGHES - The President of the Court will be a gentleman educated in a certain environment, and blind to the imperfections of a legal system which regards costs as one of the first laws of nature. I do not mean to say that no regard is paid by the ordinary Courts to this question, or that it will not be fairly regarded by the Arbitration Court, but I fail to see that any one has suffered injustice under the New South Wales practice. Whenever a penalty has been imposed for a flagrant or deliberate breach of an award, the party injured has received such a proportion of it as practically to enable him to defray his expenses. If there were inspec-tors, half of the work of the unions would be done by them, but it would be impossible to appoint, under this Bill, inspectors who would have competent jurisdiction throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, the various unions of employers and employes will have to look after these matters themselves, and where they are forced to prosecute they should not be put to unnecessary expense or trouble.

Mr. GLYNN(Angas). - I do not care very much whether the words do or do not remain in the clause. What I object to is the exclusion of lawyers or agents. I have, however, a' compromise to offer. In South Australia we have a Local Court procedure, as distinct from the Supreme Court procedure, and somewhat analogous to the District Court procedure in New South Wales. This provides a distinct limitation of costs. Where lawyers' fees in a Supreme Court action may run into hundreds of pounds, no costs are allowed under the Local Court procedure where the interest involved is less than £5, whereas, if it be more that ; £5, and not exceeding , £20, the costs allowed are only £1 ; £6 2s. is allowed where the amount does not exceed £30 ; and so the costs increase, according to scale, until a maximum of about£17 is allowed. Moreover, there are no refreshers, except sometimes counsel's fees, no matter how long the proceedings may be dragged on. I can see the objection to allowing full Supreme Court costs in proceedings under this Bill. If that were done, and the case lasted a fortnight or three weeks, it would be very hard to compel the defeated party to pay all costs, since some of the parties concerned might n6t have been parties to the original dispute, but might have been made parties by order of the Court. Under the Bill as it stands, unless there were some proscription in the rules, imposing a limitation, full Supreme Court costs would be recoverable ; but I suggest that power should be given to make rules providing for a strict limitation of costs similar to' that which I have described.

Mr. HUGHES(West Sydney- Minister of External. Affairs). - If the amendment which the Government intend to impose to exclude counsel and solicitors is defeated, we shall be willing to recommit this clause, in order to consider some such suggestion for the establishment of a scale of costs according to a schedule as that made by the honorable and learned member.

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