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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If honorable members opposite can point to one ofmy actions as a Minister which was not in accordance with the law of the land, Ishallrewardthemverysuitably. EverythingthatIdidwasinaccordance with the law, and most of it was statute law. In many instances, the law had come into effect years before the outbreak of war and certainly long before I became a member of this House. Whereas any suggestion of a charge of that description does not apply to me, it might apply to some honorable members opposite if theyweregiventheopportunitytoexercise certain powers.

Atthepresenttime,wehavearight toexpectasenseofresponsibilityonthe partofthe Executive towards the Parliament. Every honorable member is responsible to his constituents, and some constituents ask awkward 'questions. The Executive should be responsible to this Parliament;butthereisanunfortunate tendencyon the partof Ministers tosurround themselveswith too many assistants and committees. When I was a Minister, it was my practice to do the job myself. That is thebestmethod. I didnot want tobe surrounded by acrowd of assistants, becausemost ofmy time would have been occupiedin keeping track of them instead of attending to my administrative duties. I have a strong suspicion that Ministers spend toomuch time in looking after theirbatmen and various committees, instead of reaching decisions in their departments. Afterall, theseregulations have onlyone purpose, namely, to absolve Ministers of State fromthe responsibility of making decisionsthemselves.Thereisnoother reason for delegating authority. If it isto be a purely administrative act, every Minister controls a department; the departments are in being; they are functioning; andthey can execute any instructionsthatthe Minister issues to them. [Extensionoftimegranted.] The Prime Minister raised the matter of theestablishmentandtheextensionof martiallawinAustralia.

Mr Curtin - Idid not raisethat subject, but I dealt with it.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON -What- evermaybesaidabout martial law, I regard it as one of the most just systems of trialin existence. The prosecutoris obliged to putthe case, as he knows it, both for and against the accused.That system does notprevailinthe civil courts, where a prosecutor puts the side of the case that detrimentallyaffects the accused. A judge-advocate in a court martial would not dare to present only one side of the case. If martial law be introduced in Australia, it will not give effect to these regulations. Martial law is conducted in accordance with wellknown principles. Before he is charged the accusedknowsthatacertainact constitutes a breach of military regulations and is therefore a crime. He also knows the penalty and he can ascertain, if he so wishes, the methods under whichhe will be tried. But under these regulations, the Lord alone knows what oral instruction mightbe given, in certain circumstances.

Mr.Curtin. - No punishment maybe inflictedunder these regulations except as the result of a conviction by a court. The penaltiesare prescribed in the act.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON -That makesthe position evenmore strange. If theGovernment introduces a system underwhich men may be tried and convicted under civil law because they fail toobeyanoral instruction, the Prune Minister will have a very rosytime indeed. Of the two, itwouldbe far better forhim to allow rate to attendthe next caucus meeting, than to look forward to a few trials of that description.

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