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Thursday, 3 December 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [10.31]. - I assure Senator Duncan-Hughes and honorable senators generally that this clause which was inserted in the Senate has received very close and careful consideration. I took the trouble after the clause had been carried here to draw the attention of the Attorney-General to it. In order to show why it should be accepted, if possible, I told him that it had been carried by a substantial majority. The Attorney-General promised 'to look into it himself personally and he has done so. His conclusion is that he cannot recommend the Government to accept it. Moreover, he would rather drop the bill than allow it to be passed with this amendment which, he considers, would have a misleading effect on the public.

Senator McLeay - I think that it would inspire confidence.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.The honorable senator is welcome to that opinion, but it is one which neither the Attorney-General nor I shares. I appeal to the committee to agree with what the Attorney-General has decided in this matter. I agree with Senator DuncanHughes that the proposed new section that the committee is now discussing is, in some aspects, not very important, but the bill itself is important. It is a consolidation of the Acts Interpretation Acts. I am informed by the Solicitor-General that the Acts Interpretation Acts as they stand to-day present very great difficulty both to the legal profession and those people who have to conduct business under our Commonwealth legislation, and that, if this bill becomes an act of Parliament, it will be of very great assistance to legal, practitioners and commercial men. The Attorney-General was distrustful of the effects of this provision, and he informed me through the SolicitorGeneral that if it were insisted upon he could not conscientiously carry it out. Is it worth while losing the benefits of the consolidation of the Acts Interpretation Acts for the purpose of insisting upon this new section, even if honorable senators do think that it is an improvement of the bill? The Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General are both men of long experience in the law. The SolicitorGeneral has been engaged in the study of Commonwealth legislation for many years, and it is the opinion of both gentlemen that it would be dangerous to have a section of this nature in the act, and they cannot recommend the Government to accept it. I appeal, therefore, to the committee not to insist upon the amendment.

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