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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1687

Mr BROWN (Diamond Valley) - The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) in the course of his very interesting remarks referred to a principle, of law, namely, that there should not be one law for the rich and another for the poor. I entirely agree with that principle. I recall making substantial losses when undertaking, with considerable willingness and enthusiasm, quite a number of legal aid briefs, quite often in the divorce and matrimonial causes jurisdictions. This is still done at least in the State sphere and I think that, although one can draw attention to exorbitant legal expenses on occasions, one should also on those same occasions draw attention to those barristers and solicitors who do an enormous amount of legal work in all the capital cities in Australia for very small fees or in many cases no fees at all. I think one should always bear that in mind.

Mr James - Who does?

Mr BROWN - A large number of barristers and solicitors. I want to make some remarks about that same principle to which the honourable member for Hunter drew attention, namely, that there should not be one law for the rich and one for the poor. To put it in different words, the law should apply to all without favour to one section of the community or another and without exempting one section of the community or another from its operation. This is the basic principle of law. Indeed it would be hard to find a more basic principle of any judicial system than that the law should apply to all. This Government supports that principle and in the administration of the Attorney-General's Department and the structure of courts and generally the structure of law within this Commonwealth this is a principle which is adhered to and put into practise.

Mr Kelly - That is not questioned.

Mr BROWN - No. I did not think that it would be questioned until I had occasion to read the Labor Party platform containing the proposals which Labor would put into practice if it formed a government. I think it is wise when we are considering this principle to look at what the alternative is, and the alternative is contained in chapter XIV of the Australian Labor Party's platform. It reads:

It is proposed that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and Regulations be amended to provide for -

(g)   the immunity of unions from action for tort in respect of torts alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of a trade union in contemplation of furtherance of a trade dispute.

I think it is well that we should draw attention - and I see from the reaction of some members of the Opposition that they may have been surprised that such an extraordinary provision should be contained in their own platform - to that proposal. At present, the law of torts - that is, civil wrongs - applies throughout the length and breadth of the land. It applies to all people. People who are injured may go to the courts and seek some redress. Now, one exception - and it is a notable exception - is proposed to the law by the Labor Party, and that is in the case of trade unions. It is said that trade unions should not be subject to the law and that if a tort is committed by trade union members then the people responsible for it should not have to indemnify those whom they have harmed in the course of breaking the law of torts.

Mr McLeay - What type of laws?

Mr BROWN - The honourable member for Boothby asks what type of laws are involved, and this is very appropriate. For instance there is the law relating to assault and battery. This is covered by the law of torts with respect to damaging private property. To take the honourable member's interjection a little further and to give an example, I ask the honourable member and other honourable members to imagine a building site where work is in progress and some trade union officials decide to visit that site - I use the word 'visit* in the euphemistic sense - to see what is in progress on the building site. In the course of their visit they attack and beat up any other people who happen to be on the site; they destroy property which belongs to private citizens and of course trespass may be committed and property may be damaged.

This gives rise to all sorts of legal consequences, only some of which would be the rights of those who have been injured both in their persons and in their property to seek redress under the normal law of torts applying throughout the country. But of course if the proposal of the Labor Party were implemented - if it became legislation and part of the law of the land - the torts law would not apply. In other words there would be an exemption in only one case and that is the case of trade unions. What I suggest to the Committee is that this is a very flagrant proposed departure from a very basic principle of law and the administration of justice.

The second of these 2 principles to which I wish to refer is another basic principle, and that is that those people occupying judicial and semi-judicial positions should hold those positions free from the threat or the fear of a threat by the government for the time being that they might beremoved or not reappointed. In other words, that a judge who is occupying a position in any court should be free to act impartially, should be free from the threat or fear that he might be removed by a government or not reappointed if his appointment were for a short time. It is for that reason that when appointments are made, for instance to the High Court, those appointments are forlife; or, when appointments are made to the Supreme Court of Victoria, the judge is appointed until the gentleman reaches a certain age whichI think is 72 years. What is proposed by the Opposition as an alternative to this is contained again in chapter XIV, section 2 (b), of the platform. I will read the exact words. Referring to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it reads: lt is proposed that the Act be amended to provide for -

(b)   fixed term appointments for members of the Commission and conciliators;

In other words, it is proposed by the Labor Party that the people who occupy the Arbitration Commission bench and the conciliators should be appointed for a fixed term and that then their appointment should be subject to approval, one way or the other, by the government in office for the time being.

Dr Klugman - Would the honourable member table that document?

Mr BROWN - I will table the document, certainly.

Mr Hurford - Give us a look at the cover of it.

Mr BROWN - It contains your platform.

Dr Klugman - What year was it?

Mr BROWN - The Opposition members who are interjecting are so shocked to hear such an outrageous suggestion as this one that they now doubt that I am reading from their platform.

Mr Hurford - Read the cover.

Mr BROWN - I am reading from a document headed 'Platform of the Australian Labor Party'. It was printed and published in June of this year, after the Launceston conference.

Mr Hurford - Where?

Mr BROWN - In Melbourne. There is in this publication a photograph of a gentleman whom I believe is the leader of honourable members opposite or, at least, one of their leaders. Lest it be thought that I am putting an ungracious interpretation on this clause of the Labor Party's platform let me read what was said on the occasion it was introduced into its platform by the gentleman who was responsible, namely the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is the shadow Minister for Labour and National Service, that is if a Labor government would have that portfolio, but certainly the shadow Minister for Labour. I will quote from the Melbourne Age' of 24th June 1971, the time of the Launceston Conference, when this was inserted. He said: lt is time members of the Commission were told that if they act in ways contrary to the best interests of the working people they may not be reappointed.

In other words, they will not be impartial; they will have to do what they are told and if they do not do what a Labor government tells them to do they may not be reappointed. That is a substantial departure from the very basic principle of the administration of justice.

Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.

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