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Friday, 21 May 1915

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) .- If I had any doubt in the matter, I would not mind postponing it; but let us see what the Bill does. It cancels all contracts.

Senator Millen - That is the point. We think it does not, and I made a fair suggestion to you just now that in the luncheon adjournment you should consult with the legal advisers of the Government.

Senator GARDINER - The Bill cancels all enemy contracts. That is expressed in language that is unmistakable. There may be many doubtful contracts, and there should be some authority to decide whether they are enemy contracts or not. As we have nearly reached the time at which the Senate will suspend its sitting, I will take advantage of the opportunity, as suggested by Senator Millen and Senator Newland, to fortify myself with the opinion of the legal advisers to the Commonwealth.

Sitting suspended from 1 till 2.30 p.m.

Senator GARDINER - I had the opportunity during the lunch-hour of bringing under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral the points raised as to various sub-clauses, and have returned perfectly satisfied, as is the Attorney-General himself, that the Bill as it stands is free from the objections urged against it here. He made it quite clear that under paragraph b he has no discretion in the matter of enemy contracts. . It merely gives him discretion as to what is a material interest in an enemy contract. "With regard to the question raised by Senator Senior, Senator Needham, and Senator Millen, as to whether the Bill definitely cancels enemy contracts if, on the face of it, it is quite clear that it is an enemy contract, immediately the Bill receives the assent of the Governor-General the contract is null and void. Sub-clauses 2, 3, and 4, giving the parties to a contract the right to apply to the AttorneyGeneral as to whether it is an enemy contract or not, have been put in because there may be a dispute in the matter. Honorable senators will therefore see that the Bill definitely cancels all enemy contracts; paragraph b gives the Attorney-General power only to say what is a material interest in the contract, and sub-clauses 2, 3, and 4 appear only in order that the parties to a contract which may or may not be an enemy contract may have a definite, effective, and economical method of settling the doubt.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 and title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment, and passed through its remaining stages.

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