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Thursday, 4 April 1968


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Hunter is getting a little wide of the context of the Bill.


Mr JAMES - With great respect, Mr Speaker, during your absence the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin)-


Mr SPEAKER - I am not responsible for what went on during my absence. The honourable member is getting a little wide of the Bill at this stage.


Mr JAMES - Mr Speaker, if I may bring it in this way, let me say that an appeal to the Privy Council is far too costly for any Australian, wealthy or poor. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) gives $10,600 as the cost of taking a case before the Privy Council. This reminds me of the story of the lawyer and the oyster. I suppose most honourable members recall it. Two bosom pals who had gone through kindergarten, primary school, high school and university together were walking down a street in London one day, and one drew the attention of the other to a big, juicy oyster on the footpath. Just before the second man stepped over it, his mate said: Look what you are stepping over,' and picked it up. The other said: 'Give it to me'. His friend answered: 'No; I picked it up. It is mine'. The other said: 'You would have stepped over it had it not been for me.' They then noticed a lawyer approaching, and one said: 'Here is a lawyer coming. Will you accept his decision as final and binding?' The other replied: 'Yes'. The two mates explained the case to the lawyer who said: 'All right; my decision is final and binding. Give me the oyster.' He took out his pen-knife, opened the oyster, ate it and gave the two mates one half of the shell each. They exclaimed: 'You have eaten the oyster'. The lawyer said: That is my fee for deciding the case'. This is the kind of thing that is going on.

There are perhaps lawyers who sacrifice substantial incomes to come into this Parliament, but not all of them will have a chance to become Attorney-General. I believe in the expedition of justice. As I said before, I believe we are over-legalised. I believe that many of our judges should be treated as race horses are. Judges go stale through living among musty law books, and they should be put out in green grass to spell now and again. Of course, the Privy Council consists of old fuddyduddy judges who just do not know the conditions-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will not reflect upon the judiciary.


Mr JAMES - They do not understand Australian conditions as Australians do Mr Speaker, and the Privy Council should not be called upon to decide matters that affect this country. These matters should be decided by Australians. I generally respect the judiciary and the magistrates, but from time to time I am unable to understand why some decisions are taken. Quite recently in the Wallsend Court of Petty Sessions a solicitor was prosecuted for failing to vote in the Senate election. When he appeared in court he had another solicitor defending him. His defence was that he forgot to vote; he had no other defence. He was acquitted.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that he is getting very wide of the contents of the Bill.


Mr JAMES - May I crave your indulgence for a few more moments, Mr Speaker? You know now what the defence will be if any of my constituents are prosecuted for failing to vote. I do not believe that there should be one law for one person and a different law for another person. I do not believe that there should be a law for the rich and a law for the poor. Really I do not think that there is, but I believe that more elasticity is shown in the case of privileged people than in the case of those who are not so privileged.

I again applaud the Attorney-Genera! and express the hope that during his term of office he will do his level best to reduce legal costs in Australia, which are far too exorbitant. From day to day we see decent citizens paying too much for legal costs or being exploited by unscrupulous lawyers.







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