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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - The Opposition has suddenly become aware of something that it has never previously observed. It now declares that, those who may exercise ministerial powers under this legislation in future will be prepared to abuse them. No previous Minister has been accused of abusing his powers. This clause will give to the Minister power to make a quick decision in a case of emergency. No Minister would reverse the decision of a court of marine inquiry unless he was quite satisfied that there was ample evidence to justify his action. I am speaking of what any Minister, past, present or future^ would do, irrespective of his party background. A Minister would not be likely to flout the just decision of a court, but in a time of war, when necessity may arise for the quick .review of a situation, particularly one relating to the cancellation of a certificate for a relatively minor offence, some such provision as this should be available. If the matter had to wait for the sitting of a court a delay of two or three months might occur and the country might be robbed of the services of an expert individual for that period.

Senator McBride - Then why have a court of inquiry at all?

Senator AYLETT - The honorable senator must be well aware that courts of inquiry frequently make mistakes. It is necessary to provide an authority to which an appeal may be made. In the circumstances set out in the bill, it is proper that a Minister of the Crown should have this discretion. If he were to exercise it unreasonably, he might commit political suicide. In any case, he would not be likely to reverse the decision of the court without substantial evidence to support such a course. Ministers of the Crown, irrespective of the party to which they may belong, are men of character and integrity and I suggest that they may be given this discretion with safety.

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