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Friday, 21 May 1915

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I recognise the force of Senator Milieu's contention; but I am satisfied that the Bill will effectively cancel all enemy contracts. When the honorable senator refers to sub-clauses 2, 3, and 4, to indicate that there is some doubt as to the effect of sub-clauses 5 and 6, I have to say that there are other interests which have to be considered in connexion with this Bill. Let me take the case of a contract under which one firm supplies something to another firm, and some of the materials required by the first firm to complete their contract have hitherto been obtained from Germany, and cannot be obtained from that country now. It may be necessary to have the power to cancel such a contract as that, because it is impossible for those who have entered into it to carry it out while the war lasts. The sub-clauses to which the honorable senator has referred deal with cases of that kind. I know that we are all equally anxious that no mistake should be made in legislating upon this matter. I ask honorable senators to deliberately consider the wording of sub-clauses 5 and 6.

Senator Bakhap - Do I understand the Minister to say that if a contractor required certain articles of German manufacture to fulfil his contract, he might apply to have it declared an enemy contract, notwithstanding the fact that it was between British subjects ?

Senator GARDINER - His contract might be with a British subject; but he would be unable to secure the materials which have to be obtained from a German source during the continuance of the war.

Senator Bakhap - If he was obliged to secure German materials for the fulfilment of his contract with a British subject, he could apply to have the contract declared an enemy contract?

Senator GARDINER - He might under certain conditions. I recognise that that would be an unusual case; but a company might enter into a contract to supply goods, some parts of which have to be obtained from a German source, and it might, in consequence, be necessary to void such a contract. A person entering into such a contract might in reason apply to have it voided under this Bill. I again direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the Bill distinctly annuls enemy contracts entered into before or during the continuance of the war. The fact that an alteration has been made in the- Bill as originally introduced in the definition of an enemy contract does not affect the cancellation of such contracts, but affects merely the definition of what constitutes an enemy contract. Paragraph a of sub-clause 1 distinctly defines an enemy contract as one to which an enemy subject is a party. It is there stated that an enemy contract is one in which an enemy subject has, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, a material interest. Such contracts stand by themselves. They are contracts which are likely to be for the benefit of the subjects of an enemy.

Senator Bakhap - Would a contract involving enemy material be- an enemy contract, although not made with an enemy ?

Senator GARDINER - Yes, I suppose: it would in that case. . But the point I want to' get at is that in the Bill we aretrying to express, in the clearest language possible, the fact that we want to. haveenemy contracts annulled. If any honorable senator has a suggestion to make the language more distinct, it will be for the Committee to consider it; but, personally, I think confusion will follow. There may be room for doubt as to whether it is wise to give the AttorneyGeneral power to say what is an enemy contract, but it is the best way that we have discovered up to the present of dealing with a difficult problem.

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