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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50

Federal Council Interpretation Bill

Federal Council Interpretation Bill.

On the motion of Mr. Berry, the President left the chair, and the Council resolved itself into committee on the Federal Council Interpretation Bill.

Clause 1 was read and passed.

On clause 2, "Interpretation of Terms."

Mr. Griffith would like to see the term "Australasian Colonies" more clearly defined. Instead of saying that the term should include any British colonies which might be hereafter created out of the territories now forming the colonies, or elsewhere in Australasia, it would be better to adopt the words of the Imperial Act, and say that the term should include any colonies formed within Her Majesty's possessions in Australasia."

The amendment was agreed to.

In reference to the definition of the word justice, Mr Griffith proposed that the term should mean a justice of the peace of the colony in respect of which the term is used.

The President thought the context in the case would show what meaning the term would have, without the necessity of making the amendment. It would save the words "justice of the peace" being put into the body of every bill.

Mr. Griffith pointed out that the question would be what colony was it intended the justice should belong to.

Mr. Berry: Of all.

Mr. Griffith said there were few of those justices, and he did not know any of them. By adopting his amendment they would be able to shorten the language used in Acts a great deal more.

Mr. Berry: Supposing it is to be done in all the other colonies?

Mr. Griffith thought it was a question what was meant. Was it meant that a justice of the peace of Tasmania might act for Fiji, or vice versa. There were two interpretations that could be put upon the words, but his amendment would set the matter at rest.

Mr. Berry thought if they were so full in their interpretations of this clause they would have to do the same to all the others. "Land" might mean land referred to in any particular colony, instead of the general terms throughout the entire statute, It was intended that anything done by a justice in any one of the federal colonies could be done by a justice in another. It would scarcely be meditated that a justice of the peace in one colony could do something that a justice in another could not do. If anything can be done by a justice in Victoria, it can also be done in Tasmania by a justice within his own jurisdiction.

Mr. Griffith: That's exactly what I want to say.

Mr. Berry: It goes without saying. You did not wish to confer powers on one justice without conferring them upon another.

Mr. Griffith: My amendment will provide for that.

Mr. Berry said that the functions imposed on a justice in one jurisdiction would be imposed on a justice in another. The object of the interpretation was simply to make the meaning clear.

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Mr. Dodds thought there would be some advantages in Mr. Berry's suggestion, but Mr. Griffith's amendment would make it clearer in the case of the law having an application to half a dozen colonies. It was clear the term "justice" would be used in application to the whole, and it appeared to him to make clear what was intended the word would be used in respect of the colony in which the law would have application. If the law had application to more than one, the words would have equal application. There was no harm in the introduction of the words, as they would put the meaning of the clause beyond doubt, and that was the advantage contended for by the hon. member for Queensland. It would also do away with the introduction of words in many places where they were not necessary.

Mr. Griffith pointed out that, supposing for the purposes of an Act, it said that an affidavit could be sworn before any justice, what justice did that mean? Would it mean any justice of any of the colonies in which the Act was in force, or a justice of the peace of the colony in which the affidavit to be sworn would be used?

The President: In the colony of which he was a justice of the peace.

Mr. Griffith said to one man the expression might appear to mean one thing, while to the Supreme Court it might appear to moan something altogether different. He proposed by his amendment to define what it did mean.

Mr. Griffith moved the addition of the words "of the colony with respect to which the term is used."

Question put and passed.

Mr. Dodds suggested that instead of the interpretations given in the bill of the terms land and property, they should follow recent English legislation, and adopt the language of the Conveyancing Law Property Act. Such definition might not be in accord with that given in some of the local Acts, but as any law passed by the Federal Council would supersede the laws of the local legislatures it would be just as well to accept it.

Mr. Griffith took the same view. The Act referred to was introduced lately into the English Parliament by Lord Cairns, and it was very carefully drawn. The definition was, therefore, the best they were likely to get.

Mr. Service suggested that there would be a difficulty in adopting language which would only apply to Acts of the Federal Council, and could not apply to Acts of the local legislatures in which the old language was used. In instances where cases might be brought before the same Court in one day, under the different Acts, a considerable element of confusion would be introduced.

Mr. Dodds said he took it that the hon. member's argument could not prevail, and for this reason. The definition of land and property was not in force throughout the colonies at the present moment, so that by having a general definition like this introduced, they would gain something.

Mr. Service withdrew his objection. It there were uniformity throughout the colony, he could see that it would be different.

Mr. Dodds moved the substitution of the following definitions for those in the bill:—

In this Act—

Property, unless a contrary intention appears, includes real and personal property, and any estate and interest in any property real or personal, and any debt and anything in action, and any other right and interest.

Land, unless a contrary intention appears, includes the land of any tenure, and tenements and hereditaments corporeal or incorporeal, and houses and buildings, also an undivided share in land.

Question put and passed.

Clauses 3, 4, and 5 passed as printed.

On clause 6—"Time of commencement of "—

Mr. Griffith said the subject was already provided for by the 20th section of the Act under which they were met. As to the latter part of the clause, which dealt with a matter of evidence, the bill had nothing to do with it. It would be better to omit the clause, the subject being sufficiently provided for already.

Clause put and negatived.

Clause 7—"Mode of citing Acts"—was amended, on the motion of Mr. Griffith, by the omission of the following words r—"If such former Act was made before the seventh year of the reign of King Henry the Seventh to cite the year of the King's reign in which it was made, and where there are more statutes than one in the same year the statute, and where there are more chapters than one the chapter, and if such former Act was made after the fourth year of the reign of King Henry the Seventh," and other verbal alterations.

Mr. Service said he was very glad to see that the hon. member from Queensland had seen his way to strike out those words. To a layman they seemed not only absurd, but something almost impossible to comprehend. That was the opinion in his mind on first reading them over, and the reason why he did not ask his hon. colleague to strike them out was because he understood they were identical with the words of a similar Act brought by Lord Brougham into the Imperial Parliament. Even lawyers themselves did not seem quite able to reconcile the apparent peculiarity of describing certain Acts made before the seventh year of Henry the Seventh, and those made after the fourth year of the same King's reign. That was a peculiarity which, he was informed, lawyers themselves did not understand. He was glad to find that the words had been struck out.

Clause, as amended, put and passed.

Clauses 8 to 12 inclusive passed as printed.

On clause 13—"Acts to be numbered consecutively,"

Mr. Griffith pointed out that to number the Acts consecutively would only lead to confusion, and said it would be far better to adhere to the general system of mentioning the year of the reign in which the Act was passed.

Clause put and negatived.

Title read and agreed to.

The Council resumed; the bill was reported with amendments, and it was ordered that the report be taken into consideration tomorrow.