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Thursday, 19 November 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I am sorry the Minister has departed from the well-mapped-out procedure that he indicated his intention of following when submitting the Bill last week. I understood him then to say that he would deprecate the introduction of extraneous matter into the measure. It was obviously never contemplated by the Government, when the Bill was drafted, to introduce anything of this nature, and it was absolutely necessary, before so important a proposal was discussed in Committee, that a motion instructing the Committee to consider it should be carried in the first place. The Government would have, followed a far better course if they had allowed the subject to be dealt with quite separately from this measure, and entirely upon its merits. Apart from the fact that it is extraneous to the general principles and object of the Bill, it is a subject of great importance in itself. Certain persons who are opposed to our system of compulsory training may base their opposition to it upon the apprehension that the Citizen Forces may be trained to take part in suppressing industrial disputes, and many who in any circumstances are opposed, for a variety of reasons, to compulsory training for defence, may adduce that fear as a justification for their attitude, although it is not the main reason or the real ground for their opposition. I think, therefore, that it would have been far better to take this matter into consideration on a motion such as was put on the notice-paper in previous sessions by ex-Senator Rae, or in a separate measure. It touches a very vital part of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States. It i3 provided in section 119 of the charter under which we act that " the Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion, and, on the application of the Executive Government of the State, against domestic violence." What is meant by "domestic violence"? The phrase will have its own interpretation as used in the Constitution. Nothing that we can do in an Act of Parliament can give an interpretation to any term in the Constitution for the purposes of the Constitution. There is, I think, no definition clause in the Constitution. It was assumed, in its drafting, that all the words used in it would be so clear and lucid that no interpretation clause was necessary; but there is an interpreting authority, as Senator Bakhap reminds me.

Senator de Largie - How would you interpret "domestic violence"?

Senator KEATING - That will be the question. This Parliament cannot interpret it. If we attempt to say that violence arising out of an industrial dispute shall not he domestic violence for the purposes of the Constitution, as Senator Stewart, in effect, asks us to say, we are simply beating the air. A mere assertion of 'that nature in an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament will have no effect whatever. " Domestic violence " will still be interpreted as if this Act did not exist, should occasion arise for its interpretation. For that reason I regret that the Government have acquiesced in the amendment, more especially as Senator Pearce indicated that it was his wish, and the wish of the Government, that no extraneous matter should be introduced into the Bill. This proposal not only brings the general principles of the main Act into the discussion, but also gives occasion for a very far-reaching and almost interminable debate upon the Constitution itself. The Minister has followed, perhaps, the easier, but, I think, the weaker, course in this regard. This measure is undoubtedly required, and it is desirable that it should be passed in the main with as reasonable speed as possible; but if the Committee proceeded to discuss this amendment to the extent that its importance demands, the passage of the Bill would be considerably embarrassed. As the Minister has said that the Government will accept the amendment, I realize that argument as to the wisdom of their action is, to a great extent, useless, seeing how strongly they are supported here; but I still think they have taken an entirely wrong course. This matter should have been discussed " on its own," and free from other considerations. In that way the decision of Parliament would have been registered in circumstances that would insure to the people that it was arrived at after the most mature and careful consideration, uninfluenced and unhampered by any plea for the expeditious passage of other amendments of the defence law.

Senator DELARGIE (Western Aus with Senator Heating's declaration that Parliament cannot interpret its powers or functions under' the Constitution. As legislators, we continually have to interpret the Constitution. We cannot legislate unless we do. Parliament must he prepared at times to take the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution. As concerns the question of saying what domestic violence is, we may well attempt to straighten things out and define them for ourselves. We have had many sad lessons in the past as to the use to which the Defence Forces have been put. They have been used at times for utterly wrong purposes.

Senator Bakhap - In what instances,?

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