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Tuesday, 9 April 1946

Mr SPEAKER - Although I am not a lawyer, I am the custodian of the rights and privileges of this House. As a doubt has been raised by a legal member of the Government, who, in my opinion, was entitled to suggest that, so that no technical legal point might at some, subsequent date destroy either the legislation of this Parliament or, conceivably, the verdict of the people, I consider that 1 should so direct the business of this House as to overcome any uncertainty in the matter. For that reason I took such action as would enable me to affirm that the second reading of the bill was agreed to by the requisite majority.

Dr Evatt - This point was raised several years, ago. I then ascertained that it was the view of the Crown Law authorities, based on an opinion originally given, I believe, by Sir Robert Garran, that it would be wiser to ascertain the agreement of an absolute majority in respect of both the. second and third readings of bills providing for an alteration of the Constitution. I must state frankly that my own personal opinion leans in the direction of that expressed by Mr. Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), namely, that there can be only one passing of a bill. The practice which successive Attorneys-General have acted upon is to ask for a division of the House on both the second and third readings unless some point is taken that on the motion for the second-reading the general principles of a bill, were explored and that on the motion for the third reading the subject-matter of the bill was dealt -with in a slightly different way. I much prefer that the practice adopted previously be not altered on this occasion. The taking of the divisions would not very much delay the passage of the bill. ' .

Mr Harrison - If the requisite majority carried a motion for the second reading of a bill and on the third reading the requisite majority was not obtained, that would complicate the position.

Dr Evatt - In that event both Mr. Speaker and I would put the matter to a. tribunal for decision. I recognize the force of the point made by the honorable member for Wentworth. Subject to the acquiescence of the Leader of the- Opposition I believe that we should not depart from established practice on this occasion. As a matter of- fact, 1 am so pleased at the majority in favour of the second reading of the bill, that I am expecting an even greater majority to support the third reading.

Question put -

That thebill be nowread a third time.

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