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Thursday, 6 May 1915

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I move -

That this Bill bc now read a second time.

We passed two measures last week, amending the Judiciary and High Court Procedure Acts, and it has since been found necessary, for the purposes of the Commonwealth, to also amend section 86 of the Crimes Act, so that conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth will also be an offence against the laws of the Commonwealth. The House must accept my assurance that the matter is one of urgency, that the Bill does not alter the substantive law, that it does not create an offence in respect to an act done which would not have been, and which was not, an offence when the act was done, but merely creates a Commonwealth Court before which the offence can be tried. The Bill simply gives effect to the alteration in the law made last week. It takes away from no man a right that he now enjoys so far as creating a new offence is concerned. It does give to the Commonwealth the right to take the matter before another tribunal, namely, the High Court, instead of, but not to the exclusion of, a State Court. I give the House that assurance, and make the positive, statement that the retrospective action of the measure does not create an offence where no offence punishable by State law existed. The punishment for an offence will not be affected by the change in the tribunal. The same kind of tribunal - that is trial by jury - and the panel from which the jury is drawn will be exactly the same if we take any proceedings under the measure - will be the same as for the State Court. Whether proceedings will be taken is not certain, but it is most important that the measure should pass without delay.

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