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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- The tabling of a motion such as that now under consideration recalls to my mind with much pleasure the fact that I opposed a.6 initio - as the lawyers say - the granting of these dictatorial powers. I confess, however, that when I opposed the bill, which then ran the gauntlet of the ordinary processes of the. two Houses of this Parliament, I had no idea that the time would ever come when, in a practical way, the exercise of the complete dictatorship, the complete fascism, would be, in fact, put into operation.

I notice that this regulation emanated from the Attorney-General's Department, and that it bears the name of the Attorney-General. I can only assume that, in taking this power for himself, the honorable gentleman thought that it would be wisely exercised, because he is a wise man, temperately exercised because bc is a temperate men, and exercised with sound judgment because he has been a judge. The very fact that he is already beyond the seas in the early stages of the operation of the regulation affords a complete illustration of the danger of that line of argument. An Executive Council, which is necessary for the promulgation of a regulation, consists only of the Governor-General and two members at least of the Ministry. Therefore, in practice, these regulations not only are despotic in their nature, but also set up a group of despots, a group of dictators, who may invade life and personal liberty, and attack at their discretion property, either real or personal. For any Minister may with one other Minister and the Governor-General promulgate a regulation. The little explanation given by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) just before dinner, served to illustrate the danger arising from the fact that this instruction, emanating from the Minister, may be given either orally or in writing. The Minister told us that evidently the person who had been given authority in connexion with action under a similar regulation either exceeded his authority or acted without authority - a question that we are left to decide for ourselves.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has moved for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of calling attention to the dangers of these regulations. I must confess that his attack upon them was very mild, much more mild than \ myself would have liked to make it. I am sure that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) did not mean to do me an injustice - he was looking across the chamber at the time - when he said that a motion for disallowance would not be assured of a seconder.

Mr Archie Cameron - The honorable member was silent when that remark was made.

Mr BRENNAN - I say now, loudly enough for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the world to hear me, that if it were my last act in public life, I would oppose these regulations on a vote of this House being taken, and whenever I had the opportunity to do so. I have never, in any set of circumstances, consented to the Executive being given the right to use such despotic powers; and when they are put in this concrete form - from which we must judge that the Executive intends to exercise these despotic powers - naturally I shall be heard in opposition to such a course. No warrant is required by this subordinate person to whom the

Minister gives authority. He may go into a place of business, he may go into a private house, and order a person to carry out his wishes ; to do a-thing which, on conscientious grounds, the person ordered may have the most ample excuses for not doing. I say nothing about the violation of property - I leave it to my honorable friends opposite to defend property. But these regulations permit an invasion of the homes of the working class ; they permit saying to this one, " Come ", and to that one, "Go. You must not attempt to argue about it. I have authority. I do not produce it, and I do not remember the precise terms of it. It is only for me to tell you to do this, and you must do it ". There is nothing whatever in the whole gamut of what may be done in the dictatorship countries that we are fighting, which could not be done under these regulations. And there is an invitation to do it! It is the perfect expression of totalitarianism ! Any Minister of the Crown may exercise, in his own way and in his own time, the powers of a dictatorship for all practical purposes.

These are not the only regulations to which I object; there are others. Whenever I consider that they should be opposed, I shall oppose them. They have never been discussed at any meeting of the Labour party. They are absolutely foreign and hostile to the whole of the theory, origin, genesis, history and tradition of the Labour movement, and I find myself under no obligation whatever to violate, as I should, my pledge to my electors, by supporting such a proposition.

There are many ways in which these particular regulations could be so amended as to make them reasonable. The first and most obvious way is that the Minister of the Crown who takes responsibility for invading the home of, and enslaving, any person, shall at least put his name in plain terms to a plain and obvious direction, and that the person exercising his authority shall be known and named and shall bear his warrant in his hand when he ventures into the home or the place of business of another in order to enslave him and direct him in the way in which he shall go. I am opposed to the regulations, and shall support any motion for their disallowance.

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