Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 15 August 1912

Senator McGREGOR (South AustraliaVicePresident of the Executive Council) . - If Senator Sayers will refer to proposed new section 6g, he will see that it provides for the payment of a witness's expenses. This question has already been raised with respect to the tendering of travelling expenses to witnesses who may live at some distance, and the AttorneyGeneral has given an emphatic promise that, in the regulations which will be made under that provision, the matter will be taken into consideration, and no witness will be required to come from any distance without these expenses being tendered. I may point out to the honorable senator that if expenses were not tendered to a man in Brisbane, it would be a reasonable excuse for his failing to attend here, and he could not be punished. If honorable senators will refer to proposed section 6g they will see that the question of expenses will be dealt with by regulation, and where no regulation exists, the Chairman of the Commission may authorize the payment of such sum as he deems reasonable. It is only by means of a regulation that it can be decided what are " reasonable expenses," and a scale will be framed which will suit every circumstance. I think it will be seen that, unless we put a very long schedule in the Bill, we could not provide for every contingency such as Senator Sayers has indicated. I know that he is taking this action because he does not desire that any person in the Commonwealth shall be put to inconvenience, or run the risk of being arrested or punished for a thing which he really could not help. I can assure honorable senators that that promise, having been given by the Attorney-General, it will be faithfully carried out.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [4.25].- Under this proposed new section the only condition which has to be fulfilled before a warrant can be issued, is to satisfy the President or Chairman of a Commission, by statutory declaration, of the service of the summons. No provision is made in regard to the tender of expenses. Turning to the clause under which the expenses may be prescribed, I find the following words -

Any witness appearing before a Royal Commission shall be paid a reasonable sum for the expenses of his attendance in accordance with the prescribed scale.

So that he will not be entitled to the payment of any expenses until he appears before the Commission. I need scarcely point out that a regulation cannot override the Statute. But we may overcome the difficulty by declaring in this proposed section that " the President or Chairman may, on proof by statutory declaration of the service of the summons, and of the tender of reasonable expenses, as prescribed, issue a warrant for his apprehension." Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council accept that amendment?

Senator McGregor - No. I have given the assurance of the Attorney-General, and that satisfied honorable members in another place.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Under the provision as it stands, the President or Chairman of the Commission will need no evidence whatever of the tender of expenses to justify him in issuing his warrant for the apprehension of a witness. Whilst a regulation may be made, as suggested by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, it cannot override the Statute, and if the President or Chairman of a Royal Commission issues a warrant for the apprehension of a witness who has been duly summoned, and that witness be brought before the Court, he will have no right of action for illegal arrest, because he has not had any expenses tendered to him.

Senator McGregor - No Chairman of a Royal Commission ever asked a witness to travel a long distance without first tendering him his expenses.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am merely speaking of the position as a matter of dry law, and of the interpretation which I am convinced would be placed on the Statute by the High Court.

Suggest corrections