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Friday, 21 May 1915

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I am far from satisfied yet that the Bill will be as effective as we hoped it would prove. The Minister has stressed the point again and again that sub-clause 5 makes the purport of this Bill clear. Now the sub-clause says -

Every enemy contract made before the commencement of' the present war is hereby declared to be and to have been null and void as from the commencement of the present war.

Now here is the difficulty. We have the preceding sub-clause giving the AttorneyGeneral the right to say what contracts shall or shall not be annulled, and therefore confusion arises with regard to 5 and 6. If the reading of the Minister in charge of the Bill is correct that these two sub-clauses definitely and clearly cancel every contract made from Germany to Australia or from Australia to Germany, what right has the Attorney-General, and where will he be called upon to say that contracts are null and void ?

Senator Gardiner - Might there not be a dispute between contractors as to whether certain contracts come within the purview of this Bill, and in those circumstances, would not the Attorney-General be called upon to decide?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is possible; but. there is no loophole left for doubt in this clause. I agree with Senator Senior that . sub-clauses 5 and 6 should precede sub-clauses 2, 3, and 4, and if they were so placed, I would be better satisfied with the measure. The Bill does not compel persons interested in contracts to come before the Attorney-General with their case. The Attorney- General is expected to hunt from Dan to Beersheba for any contract in which an enemy subject may be interested.

Senator Millen - And all his hunting would be of no avail unless one party lodged an application.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes ; that is the position. I hope the Minister will put this matter before the Attorney-General and his legal advisers. I do not want the Minister to think that we are attempting to stop the passage of this measure. On the contrary, we are anxious to have it made as effective as possible. We do not want any doubt to exist as to the position of important interests that may be affected by the Bill. We are not passing panic legislation, or doing the thing hurriedly. We are proceeding slowly and deliberately, and we are anxious to have the Bill passed in the best form possible. I ask the Minister to let this matter stand over until he has had a chance to consult the legal authorities, and see if something cannot be done to close up those gaps which appear to exist in the Bill.

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