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Friday, 13 July 1906

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) .- I do not think that the amendment would go quite far enough. In paragraph d, of subclause 2 of clause 14, it is provided that competition shall be deemed1 unfair -

If the imported goods have been purchased abroad, by or for the importer from the manu facturer or some person acting for or in combination with him or accounting to him, at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of , production where produced or market price where purchased.

It is clear that that might happen in only one or two isolated cases. A man might import certain goods, and a Justice of the High Court might make an order which would affect the whole of that class of goods. In other words, because one man chose to act unfairly by importing certain commodities, a prohibition might be imposed upon the whole of that particular class of goods. Surely that cannot be the intention of Ministers.

Mr Higgins - But clause 18 is the operative clause, and no harm can be done if we define unfair competition.

Mr CONROY - As the clause stands, I hold that it is not sufficient. Even if the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne be right, I still say that it should not be within the power of any single Justice to make an order from which there can be no appeal whatever. Perhaps the Attorney-General will now see the force of allowing an appeal from the decision of a Justice upon a matter of fact, as well as upon a question of law. If such extraordinary powers are to be vested in a single Justice, it is highly desirable that we should permit of an appeal being made to the Full Court. Upon .questions of law there can be an, appeal in any case.

Mr Isaacs - No.

Mr CONROY - Under the Constitution Act an appeal is allowed upon questions of law. Having regard to the decision of the Privy Council the other day, in the case of an appeal from the High Cou'-t, I say that we cannot prohibit appeals upon points of law under certain circumstances. Clearly, we ought to vest in the High Court the power to decide whether or not one of its Justices has acted properly. I do not think that the addition of the words " all limitations of any kind whatsoever " is sufficient, and the Attorney-General ought to recognise that. It would be very much better to make an alteration in the direction I have suggested. It ought not to be within the power of a single Justice to prohibit the importation of any particular class of goods.

Mr Isaacs - That power is not contained in this clause.

Mr CONROY - Will the AttorneyGeneral agree to permit of ari appeal being made to the High Court in cases where the determination of a single Justice absolutely prohibits the importation of a certain class of 'goods?

Mr Isaacs - Personally, I would object, but the matter is one for the Minister to decide.

Sir William Lyne - It is a legal point, and I am content to leave it to the AttorneyGeneral.

Mr Isaacs - Appeals would prove very expensive, and it would be against' the interests of business men to have the matter hung up so long.

Mr CONROY - The penalty provided is a very severe one. Not merely are the goods which form the subject of the proceedings under the Act to be forfeited, but all other consignments which may have been ordered by a number of individuals prior to the initiation of those proceedings. Under the Customs Act of 1901 there is no power to revoke that prohibition.

Mr Isaacs - The power is contained in a subsequent section.

Mr CONROY - The Executive may at a subsequent period revoke it.

Mr Isaacs - - -They may do so immediately if they choose.

Mr CONROY - But the damage will have been done in the meantime. The forfeiture clauses of the Customs Act operate immediately, and there is no power vested in the Minister to restore the goods to their original owner. The forfeiture is absolute, and cannot be revoked.

Mr Isaacs - We have already stated that we cannot agree to the honorable and learned member's suggestion.

Mr CONROY - Surely the matter is too important to be lightly brushed aside in that way. We have established a High Court for the purpose of determining all appeals, and yet it is now proposed lo take away from it the right to hear them. To mv mind, that is casting a stigma upon the tribunal in question. If we prevent the High Court from hearing these appeals it is only necessary to go a step further, and to deprive it of some of its original jurisdiction, to enable three Justices to be more than equal to all (he work that will come before it. If Ave are to take away from importers the right of appeal, as is sought to be done bv the Government, I cannot support the appointment of any additional Justices to the Hi-h Court Bench.

Mr Frazer - Does the honorable and learned member favour taking away the original jurisdiction of the High Court?

Mr CONROY - In certain cases, I do absolutely. I would have cases decided in the most inexpensive way possible. If the Attorney-General maintains that a single Justice can determine these matters, why should we appoint more Justices? If the powers of appeal to the High Court are to be swept away, I cannot support the appointment of any additional Justices for many years to come. Under the Bill it is proposed to vest extraordinary powers in a single Justice, and to allow no appeal from his decision upon matters of fact.

Mr Isaacs - - -Upon matters of fact only.

Mr CONROY - Under the Constitution Act there is an appeal from his decision upon matters of law. We are putting it in the power of the Justice to declare that all goods- and not merely the particular consignment in question - shall be absolutely prohibited and come under the Customs Act of 1901. On referring to that Act, we find that it contains pro1 visions relating to prohibited goods which' involve absolute forfeiture. In these circumstances there should be an appeal to the High Court before any one Justice could take it upon himself to declare goods absolutely forfeited.

Mr Mahon - Does not the honorable and learned member think that, as a Justice is permitted to deal with questions affecting the life and liberty of a man, he might be allowed to deal with these matters ?

Mr CONROY - In criminal cases the Justice has the assistance of a jury, and there is always an appeal to the Full Court on questions of law. Parliament is asked to give away so much of its rights in this regard that the determination of the matter should not be left to the idiosyncrasies of a Justice.

Mr Mahon - He might be a freetrader.

Mr CONROY - And he might be_ a protectionist. We have nothing to do with a Justice's likes or dislikes; but, since we are giving up our right to determine these important matters, we should insist upon the High Court itself dealing with them.

Amendment of the amendment agreed to.

Amendment (by Mr. Higgins) agreed to-

That the amendment be further amended by the insertion after the word " restrictions," line 14, of the words "or limitations."

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