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Thursday, 12 May 1921


Senator BENNY (South Australia) . - I disagree' with Senator Gardiner and Senator Elliott. 'I think we have to look at this matter from the stand-point of constitutional rights, and consider the constitutional position of the Minister. We have to recognise that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is a Minister of State, and from time immemorial, according to the common law of England, Ministers have had judicial discretion in refusing to produce public documents in a Court of justice if they consider such a course advisable. The Minister has courteously handed me Halsbury's Laws of England, which states - <

State papers and official documents and. thecommunications between Governments and officers are privileged' from disclosure.

That is a well-established principle under the common law of England, and has existed from time immemorial. We are merely safeguarding a principle which has been handed down to us by our forefathers.


Senator Elliott - Does not this enlarge it?


Senator BENNY - No. I understand that this clause is not for the protection of the Minister, but for his officers, and to prevent them disclosing documents without his knowledge. We have had the same experience in South Australia in connexion with our Boards of Health, where the Secretary of a big Department has refused, on the same grounds, to disclose information or evidence to a Court of justice, and surely in connexion with the Defence Department we should see that the right of the Minister is safeguarded. I trust the Committee will support the clause.







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