Opinion Number. 1098

Subject

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE DISMISSAL OF EMPLOYEE WHO GAVE EVIDENCE BEFORE SECTIONAL COMMITTEE: WHETHER AN OFFENCE

Key Legislation

COMMONWEALTH PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE ACT 1913, ss. 26, 28, 29, 30

Date
Client
The Secretary, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works

The Secretary to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works has requested advice as to the powers of the Committee in a case where a person who has given evidence before a Sectional Committee has been dismissed from his employment by his employer on account of the evidence so given.

Section 26 of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914 provides as follows:

Whoever uses, causes, inflicts, or procures any violence, punishment, damage, loss, or disadvantage to any person for or on account of his having appeared as a witness before the Committee or a Sectional Committee, or for or on account of any evidence lawfully given by him before the Committee or a Sectional Committee, shall be guilty of an offence.

In my opinion the dismissal of an employee on account of evidence lawfully given by him before a Sectional Committee is a causing of a disadvantage to that employee, and is, therefore, an offence against section 26. Sections 28, 29 and 30 of the Act provide as follows:

  1. Offences against this Act, not declared to be indictable offences, shall be triable on indictment or by a court of summary jurisdiction.
  2. (1) Proceedings for offences against this Act shall be instituted only by the Attorney-General or by his direction.
  3. (2) The Attorney-General or person acting under his direction may in respect of any offence other than an offence declared to be an indictable offence institute proceedings for the summary conviction of the accused or for his commitment for trial on indictment as the Attorney-General thinks fit.

  4. A person convicted of an offence against this Act shall, if no higher penalty is provided, be punishable as follows:
  1. If convicted on indictment, by imprisonment not exceeding one year or by a penalty not exceeding Two hundred pounds;
  2. If convicted by a court of summary jurisdiction, by imprisonment not exceeding six months or by a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds.

If, therefore, the Committee think that any such offence has been committed, the proper course is for the Committee to refer the matter to the Prime Minister's Department for the necessary action.

[Vol. 17, p. 414]