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Thursday, 19 May 1960

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Bowden - Only with the consent of the officer.

Mr WILSON - I am interested to hear your remark, Mr. Chairman; but clause 22, which amends section 56 of the principal act says -

Section fifty-six of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - An officer who-

Then paragraph (2) says -

Where a person is guilty of misconduct, the Commission may fine the officer a sum not exceeding twenty pounds.

There is no word there about the consent of the officer. Apparently, Sir, the head of the department or the commission simply has to say that the officer has committed an offence and he can then be told that he has been fined £20, or £2, as the case may be. He may have had no opportunity to be heard or to put his case and may not even have received details of the offence with which he is charged. I suppose I will be told by the Minister that the commission will of course follow the normal practices of the courts of law. But if it is going to follow the normal practice of the courts of law, why should not the courts of law deal with a man if he has committed an offence? So, I ask the Minister to abandon this clause and not get away from those great bulwarks of democracy which have enabled us to be one of the freest countries in the world.

Mr Ward - Why not abolish it altogether?

Mr WILSON - Abolish the fine of £20?

Mr Ward - Yes.

Mr WILSON - That is a point of view. I would have thought that even the honorable member would agree that when offences are committed some authority should have power to impose an appropriate penalty and there should be no disagreement in the committee in that regard. 1 contend that it should not be a bureaucrat or a civil servant, or the man's boss, who imposes a fine, but the courts of law which have for hundreds of years in Great Britain and for a very long time in this country upheld and maintained the freedom and liberty of the people of Australia.

I wish now to pass to clause 23, which deals with appeals from decisions of the committee after offences are alleged to have been committed. There we find that the appeal is to the disciplinary board. Why should not an appeal to the court be allowed? Why do we have to have this disciplinary board - a new body presumably and one which may sit in secrecy? In secrecy there is no justice. The appeal should be to the ordinary courts of the land.

I will deal next with clause 25. I notice here that the only persons who are entitled to receive television licences are companies. I cannot see why a private individual, or a partnership, should not be eligible to conduct a television station if the board is satisfied that a person or firm is competent to undertake that obligation. I therefore ask the Minister either to amend the clause at this stage or to give consideration to it before it reaches another place.

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