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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Senator BEST (Victoria) . - I have dealt with the amendment in its original form, and I now intend to add only a .few remarks in regard to Senator Symon's last comment on the present form of his proposal. I have already endeavoured to show that this clause cannot possibly have any retrospective meaning, because "or is" makes it clear that an offence can only commence on the passing of the Bill, and the words " with intent" imply something done in the future. " Intent" cannot relate to any prior act, but must necessarily refer to the future. Senator Symon contends that if the words " or is" are permitted to remain, there will be the possibility of an innocent man being attacked immediately.

Senator O'Keefe - That possibility always exists.

Senator BEST - As a matter of fact, every one of us is liable at any moment to have an information sworn against us for an act of which we may be absolutely and! completely innocent. It appears to be contended, however, that under the Bill there is some special facility - a facility which H cannot quite comprehend - for some rival in trade or a member of the public to prosecute an innocent ' individual'.. That could only be done by an unfair or improper conspiracy with the AttorneyGeneral, because before a proceeding of that kind could be taken, his consent must be obtained in accordance with clause 14. My honorable friend has suggested that an Attorney-General might be so utterly wanting in a knowledge of his duty to the public and to justice, as, upon the passing of the measure, to go so far as to authorize a prosecution against an individual.

Senator Guthrie - He would have to do it if a prima facie case were made out.

Senator BEST - Does my honorable friend think for a moment that if, on the day the Act came into operation, -he were to tell the Attorney-General that a man was a member of a combination, the AttorneyGeneral would be so oblivious of his duty to the public as not to give that man warning to clear out of the combination as rapidly as possible, or else to take the consequences ?

Senator Staniforth Smith - What harm would it do to leave out the words "or is"?

Senator BEST - The object of the Bill is to make it an offence for a man to be a member of a combination formed for the purpose of doing injury to an Australian industry. That is the class of combination which we are seeking to punish. Ever since last session, a warning has been given to persons engaged in such combinations, that not much longer would they be permitted to be members thereof. The terms of the Bill are generally well known. One provision is that if a man is a member of a combination formed with intent to do injury to Australian industry, he must clear out of it at once. The measure can only apply to something which is in futuro. because it will operate from the time when it is assented to. Under clause 1.4, a prosecution for an offence created bv the Act must be initiated by the AttorneyGeneral, or by some person authorized by him. Consequently, the dire consequences to which my honorable friend referred could not ensue. If a person went to the AttorneyGeneral immediately after the Act was brought into operation, and expressed a desire that a prosecution should be commenced against a man, the AttorneyGeneral would at once reply, " We must give the man reasonable time in which to retire from the combination, and if he should fail to do so, then I shall authorize a prosecution." The Attorney-General would have to be a party to each prosecution, and if he did wrong he would be responsible to Parliament.

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