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Friday, 21 May 1915

Senator SENIOR (South Australia) . - I have been listening, expecting to get enlightenment from the Minister in charge of the Bill, but I have not been successful. Sub-clauses 5 and 6, which deal with enemy contracts, should come immediately under sub-clause 1. As Senator Millen has pointed out, it will be for the Attorney-General to say whether contracts come under the definitions a, b, or c and, according to the Minister's own showing, the arrangement of the sub-clauses should be in the order I have suggested. Paragraph a states that an enemy contract means any contract to which an enemy subject is a party, and b says that an enemy contract is one in which an enemy subject has, in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, a material interest. Therefore sub-clauses 5 and 6, which specifically refer to enemy contracts, should come in there. The reasoning would then be clear. But we have to take the clause as we find it in the Bill. Every contract is not an enemy contract until the Attorney-General has so declared it to " be, notwithstanding that it may have been made by parties in Australia and parties in an enemy country before the commencement of the war. That is the reading of the clause. Now there is another point. I ask the Minister how this measure will stand with regard to these contracts and international law at the close of the war. We are up against a bigger thing than appears on the surface.

Senator Gardiner - We can only deal' with Australian affairs.

Senator SENIOR - Where Australian interests conflict with the Empire interests or international interests the greater interest will certainly prevail, and we would have to regard this legislation in the light of circumstances that might arise at the termination of the war. I am quite as earnest as the Minister is to protect the interests of this country, but we must not lose sight of the possibilities that are before us. The Minister has said nothing so far to guide the Committee regarding the position between Germany and Australia. I think I am correct in saying that German contracts with Australia are made void by the act of war, but that Australian contracts with Germany are to come under the purview of this Bill before they can be voided. Can the Minister say if that is so ? Before we pass this clause I would like to hear the Minister on this position.

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