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Friday, 30 October 1964


Senator LAUGHT (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I also welcome the Bill and, from my reading of it, I admire the effort of the Government to get a really first class person for this position. I have been very interested in the remarks of Senator Cohen. With the experience he has had at the Victorian Bar, his contribution to the debate was most worthy and useful. At the present time, the offices of Solicitor-General and head of the Attorney-General's Department are combined. As a consequence, no matter how competent the holder of the offices may be, it is not possible for him to fulfil both offices with the dexterity and attention to detail that they require.

There has been an enormous increase in the amount of work carried out by the Attorney-General's Department over recent years. Within the last three or four years there has been work in connection with the matrimonial causes legislation. The drafting of the legislation involved attention to detail to ensure that it would work while it was at the teething stage. I believe that that legislation is working well now, and the permanent head of the Attorney-General's Department can take great credit for that fact. There has been an enormous amount of detail in connection with bankruptcy legislation, and also there have been the efforts of the Commonwealth to evolve legislation in conformity with State legislation. I refer to the proposed company legislation in that regard. So it is apparent to me that this separation of functions is long overdue, and I welcome it.

I also welcome it for another reason. There will now be vast scope for the permanent head to ensure the adequate training of the personnel of his Department. Some may say that that should be comparatively easy, because most of the top jobs in the Attorney-General's Department can be filled by lawyers - practising solicitors who can be recruited from the States. That may well be so in what might be called the advising section of the Department, but there is a section which has to do with parliamentary drafting and the drafting of regulations, agreements and treaties. It is most difficult to recruit from outside persons skilled in such drafting work. It might be possible to recruit some from the drafting sections of the State Attorneys-General, but in doing that the Commonwealth would be denuding the States of experienced and rather precious personnel.

I should like to think that the separation of these offices will give some hope that in the future the permanent head of the Department - who will be left with mainly administrative work - will be able to pay some attention to the training of draftsmen for parliamentary and regulation work. I believe, that these people will have to be trained in the atmosphere of the Commonwealth. As honorable senators will appreciate, there is a jargon used by draftsmen that can be learnt only by being a draftsman. This is very important, because there is a tendency in legislation coming before the Parliament now to leave a wide discretion to persons such as the Commissioner of Taxation. I believe that the tendency to leave a wide discretion in the hands of such dignitaries exists only because draftsmen have not been able to find precise words for the Parliament to put into legislation. This is particularly noticeable at the end of a series of sittings of the Parliament, when there is a rush of legislation. It would be inhuman to expect the present trained staff of the Attorney-General's Department adequately to cope with the requirements of the Parliament at such a time. This is a major problem that will have to be attacked by the Attorney-General's Department. I welcome the fact that this division will provide the opportunity to concentrate on a matter that I regard as being of supreme importance.

I pay a tribute to the work being done by the present Parliamentary Draftsman and his staff, but I think the time has come when the Department should concentrate on providing more adequate training and on making it possible for young men to gain the experience which would enable them to fill positions that cannot be filled by personnel recruited from outside. For this reason - a minor reason, some might say - I welcome the Bill. It will enable the permanent head to concentrate . some of his energies along the lines I have indicated.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee.

The Bill.







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