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Wednesday, 6 December 1911

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) .- The whole object of the amendment is to protect the Commonwealth against civil proceedings for the consequences of negligence of Commonwealth officers. If, however, an officer were guilty of gross negligence which caused loss of life, the Commonwealth itself would deal with him. If Senator Symon thinks that there is a shadow of doubt I have no objection to accepting the amendment which he has suggested to insert the word "civil"; but at the same time I do not think the amendment necessary.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [3.11]. - I am glad that the Minister has accepted my suggestion. I think that the clause as it stands would protect an officer from all proceedings. The principal point that I had in view has been met by the Minister's acquiescence, and I now move-

That the following words be added, " but that after the word ' other,' in new clause 8b, line1, the word 'civil'" be inserted.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [3.13].- The clause, even as proposed to be amended, would protect a Commonwealth officer, who had been criminally negligent, from anycivil proceedings, although it might be that through his criminal negligence great loss of life and of property had occurred. While it may be perfectly right that the Commonwealth should be freed from any liability, still it must be evident that it would be unjust that a man through whose criminal neglect loss of property and life occurred should be exempt from any punishment unless he could be dealt with criminally. A man guilty of negligence should be made to accept the responsibility of his conduct.

Senator Guthrie - A man getting £50 a year?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Yes, if he was criminally negligent. Under certain circumstances a man may be careless, but not criminally negligent, and his carelessness may bring about loss of life. I do not think that this Parliament should protect a man who has been guilty of serious malfeasance of that character. The question may be asked : What is the good of having a civil remedy against an officer who is in receipt of, perhaps, only ^50 a year? But another officer who is guilty of criminal negligence as the result of which life is sacrificed, may have accumulated property. Ought he to be protected ?

Senator Guthrie - What property can a lighthouse-keeper acquire ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - That is scarcely the point. It is coming it too strong to suggest that because a man is poor he should be exempted from the liability which would attach to him if he were rich. The amendment, I admit, will make a great improvement in the clause, but I desire to improve it still further. I submit that this Bill ought not tb shield an individual who is guilty of negligence which leads to loss of life and property. Senator Guthrie has suggested that in such circumstances an officer should be civilly liable to the extent of .£100.

Senator Guthrie - No. I said that most unjustly that penalty has been made to attach to pilots.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I protest against any provision which will relieve an officer of the Commonwealth, who is guilty of negligence, from any civil proceeding. If he is guilty of culpable negligence, why should he be protected ?

Senator St Ledger - The Government have power to dismiss him.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Senator Symon has raised a doubt as to that. It would be better to have the matter made perfectly clear. Unless the Minister is prepared to go further in tha direction which I suggest, I shall deem it my duty to propose another amendment.

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