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Thursday, 10 June 1915

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - There is a little matter which I desire to bring before the Committee in connexion with the Attorney-General's Department. I recollect one occasion on which I was deputed by the party with which I am associated to introduce a certain Bill in the Senate. Accordingly, I appealed to the Attorney-General of the day, Sir William Irvine, to permit his draftsman to supply me with certain information. My request met with a straight-out refusal. Subsequently, after the Labour party had assumed office, I desired to move an amendment in a Bill, and as I wished to put it in the best legal phraseology I asked Mr. Garran to frame it for me. He replied that he could not do so until he had obtained the permission of the Attorney-General. Two or three days later I telephoned him and asked if anything had been done in the matter. "Oh, no," he answered; "Mr. Hughes is so busy that I cannot see him." I telephoned him once or twice afterwards, and received the same reply. Consequently, I arrived at the conclusion that, while Sir William Irvine had declined my request straight out, Mr. Hughes was merely evading my application. He did not want to say that he would not permit the draftsman to frame my amendment. Consequently, the draftsman said that he could not see Mr. Hughes.

Senator Needham - Did the honorable senator see Mr. Hughes?

Senator STEWART - I did not, and I did not feel called upon to run after him. I decided that the only course open to me was to draft the amendment myself. I did so; it was accepted by the Committee, and is now embodied in the Statute. What I wish to know is whether honorable senators have any claim whatever on the services of the Attorney- General and his officers, if they desire to introduce a measure into this Chamber? It appears to me that the Attorney-General's Department is one which has been instituted in the interests of the Parliament; but the various AttorneysGeneral seem to imagine that the Department exists merely for the purpose of drafting Bills which the Government desire to translate into law. That impression may or may not be correct, but I think that Parliament ought to have some voice in this matter. It is not often that members of Parliament trouble themselves either to introduce Bills or to seek to effect amendments in them. In the House of Commons, and, I believe, in the Parliaments of other Englishspeaking communities, private members have on many occasions introduced Bills. I think it is only proper that if an honorable senator wishes to submit a measure to this Chamber, or to move an amendment upon a clause in any Bill, the resources of the Attorney-General's office ought to be available to him.

Senator Maughan - Does the honorable senator mean to say that a draftsman is not available? Is not a draftsman provided for that purpose?

Senator STEWART - I have merely given my own experience in this matter.

Senator Maughan - The honorable senator knows that in Queensland a draftsman was always available to members of the Parliament of that State.

Senator STEWART - I think that the services of a draftsman should be available to honorable senators. I bring this matter under the notice of the Government in order that some improvement may be effected.

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