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Thursday, 24 September 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - The next point to which I desire to draw attention is the larger question of whether there is any need to make the alteration contemplated in this bill. I dealt with this aspect of the matter in great detail during my second-reading speech, and I have no desire to recapitulate what I then said. I see, however, no reason why the alteration intended to be effected by this clause should be passed. The law as it stands has operated in Australia for 32 years and is, therefore, presumably, quite sound.

Though I have never been in favour of retrospective legislation I think it is much better than retrospective regulations 'which are not subject to parliamentary criticism but can be promulgated by a department and made to operate retrospectively. Honorable senators are aware that there have been instances of the promulgation of retrospective regulations in the past and it is intended by a later clause to provide that these irregularities shall be regularized. To that I have no objection, so long as it is properly done. We must see that regulations made in the past which were irregular are now put on a legal basis. But I cannot see any reason why we should alter the law laid down quite clearly in the 1904 act that regulations are to operate only from the day on which they become law or from some subsequent date. I therefore move -

That the words " subject to this section." paragraph (6), proposed new section 48 (1), be left out.

The effect of the amendment is to provide that the old rule as to regulations coming into effect only on or after the date they become law shall still exist. No good reason has been given why the law should be altered at all. If the procedure is to be regularized in the future and if we wipe out all the irregularities of the past it would be far better to leave the law as it now stands than to make an alteration which will be subject to new legal rulings. Proposed new section 48(2) provides that the accrued rights of persons are not to be prejudiced and liabilities are not to be imposed. Even if the section refers only to payments it is doubtful whether it does not impose a liability on the taxpayer and the general public and also affect existing rights of the people. I put my amendment to the committee to test the opinion of honorable senators as to whether the old law which operated for 32 years until these departmental inaccuracies took place should not continue to operate. I do not think that deliberate errors actually took place; rather do I believe that the departmental officials failed to devote proper attention to the directions laid down for their guidance. I prefer the law as it now stands.

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