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Tuesday, 17 July 1906

Mr WILSON (Corangamite) .- I have listened very carefully to the arguments in what may be described as the case of Wentworth v. Hume, and it seems to me. that the Attorney-General has conclusively proved the case for the plaintiff, namely, the honorable member for Wentworth. He pointed out that an importer who was proved to be guilty of an offence under clause 4 would be liable to a penalty not exceeding £500, and he admitted that clause 11aa provided that any offence committed by a person who had previously been convicted should be punishable, on conviction, by a penalty not exceeding £500, or bv imprisonment for any term not exceeding^ one year, or both. He, therefore, made it clear that an importer who became an offender within the meaning, of clause 4 could commit a second offence, and be liable to fine or imprisonment, or both. He conceded, further, that under clause 21 no man could repeat the offence specified in that clause.

Mr Isaacs - The claim made by the honorable member for Wentworth was that imprisonment should be provided for in the case of a first offence.

Mr WILSON - And I maintain that the Attorney-General has proved the case for the honorable member for Wentworth. It would be impossible for a man to offend a second time under clause 21, because the Minister would not listen to him, and I contend that where a man commits an offence that is tantamount to perjury, bv wilfully making a false statement, which may lead to a serious interference with the business of some persons in Australia, he should be severely punished. It is proposed that such an offender shall be liable to a fine of only £100, and to be mulct in costs. Suppose, however, that those who are interested in making a complaint put forward a man of good address, who can speak well - and there are many such in Melbourne - to lay their case before the Comptroller-General, and that action is taken upon his representation. Suppose, further, that it is afterwards ' found out* that a false statement has been made, and that the offender is fined £100. He has not a penny to bless himself with, and he can neither pay the fine nor any costs that may be awarded against him. In such a case, the law would absolutely fail to accomplish its object. A gross injustice might be perpetrated, and the offender escape scathless. Any person who is guilty of an offence under clause 21 should be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding twelve months. In order that there may be no misconception, I think that we should make it clear that clause 4 would apply equally to the importer and the manufacturer. If the Attorney-General will agree to the reconsideration of clause 21, I shall move for the recommittal of clause 4, so that we may provide that persons committing an offence under that pro vision shall be subject to a penalty of ^500, or a term of imprisonment.

Mr Isaacs - The Committee were entirely against adopting that course.

Mr Conroy - The cases are entirely different.

Mr WILSON - lt is all very well for the honorable and learned member to argue for one side, but I believe in meting out equal treatment to both sides. Any man who commits an offence under clause 4 cannot be innocent, because it must be proved that he has acted with intent. Let us do even-handed justice to all parties. I have endeavoured to look at this matter in a judicial manner. I have weighed the arguments carefully, and I think that the Attorney-General has established the justice of the claim made bv the honorable member for Wentworth.

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