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Thursday, 1 April 1965

Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) .- I indicate that, although this amendment has come before us at short notice, the Opposition is in general sympathy with the end sought by Senator Wright. The Minister has just stated that if a policy decision concerning classes of lenders were to be challenged it should be challenged not by a Committee of the Parliament but in the Parliament itself. I point out to the Minister that, quite apart from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this Senate, which looks at all regulations, it is competent for any member of the Parliament in either House to initiate a move to disallow a regulation or a portion of a regulation. That would take place not at the instance of or in the precincts of any committee, but in the Parliament in the most open way. If there were a regulation appointing three classes and it was felt in the Parliament that another class might be added, a motion could be moved for disallowance of the regulation so as to draw attention to the need for adding the further class. That is complete and open control by the Parliament.

The advantage of a regulation is that it becomes known in the Parliament There is no provision in sub-clause (1.) whereby the Minister must announce to anybody the classes he has selected. A Minister is discharging a public function; he is not acting in a private capacity. Sub-clause (1.) says -

The Minister may, by instrument in writing, declare a class of persons . . .

He is under no obligation to publish that instrument. He could just convey the information to the Corporation, if he wished, and to the. selected lenders. He is transacting public business and what he does ought to be done in the most public way. Whether it relates to policy or administration, any act of the Government should be published to the Parliament and should be clearly reviewable by the Parliament. There is a procedure for the purpose.

I think the Minister will find himself at variance with one of his colleagues on the principle involved in this matter, because

I find that, as recently as September 1963, the issue we are now debating cropped up in relation to the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill and a number of associated Bills. Using the same kind of argument as I am using now, I and others on both sides of the Senate succeeded in persuading the Minister concerned to accept our view. To quote exactly, he moved in the finish: "Leave out 'such a notice has been published ' and insert ' a conference or mission has been declared by the regulation to be a conference or mission to which this section applies ' ". In other words, he agreed to set aside a mere declaration by a Minister as to what was or was not to be regarded as an international conference and agreed that the Minister should cause a regulation to be made in the matter. There was acceptance of this principle by one Minister of the Crown as recently as September 1963. I suggest that the Minister here is taking an entirely different course. There is a point of principle involved. I would think it possible to persuade the Minister and the Government to follow the example set by Senator Gorton in this matter. The principle is one for which we of the Opposition and some honorable senators on the Government side have contended so often that I thought it might well have been attended to in the drafting of this Bill.

Senator Henty - Contended whilst in Opposition, but not whilst in office.

Senator McKENNA - My memory is not so long as to go back 15 or 16 years and remember all of the things I did or did not do in government. On many occasions since I have been in Opposition I have contended for the principle and I have joined with some members of the Government parties in upholding it. I thought we had advanced to a stage at which we did not argue this matter any more, particularly in view of the gracious acceptance, after some little persuasion, by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), of the principle for which I am contending now. At the same time, I should be happier to see a variation of the form in which the amendment has been presented. If the sub-clause were amended as desired by Senator Wright, it would read -

The Minister may, by regulation, declare a class of persons ...

I do not think it is completely appropriate to phrase the sub-clause in that way. It would not be the Minister who would make the regulation; it would really be the Governor-General in Council. I think that the honorable senator's purpose might be better achieved if the sub-clause read -

The regulation may declare a class of person . . .

That would put it in an unexceptionable form.

Senator Wright - I would adopt that willingly. I shall ask for leave to amend my amendment accordingly. The amendment would then read -

Leave out " The Minister may, by instrument in writing," insert "the regulations may provide".

Senator McKENNA - The Opposition would support the proposal in that form. I suggest that it would involve the Government in not the slightest embarrassment or difficulty. It is almost as easy to go through the mechanics of having a regulation promulgated as it is to sit down and write a letter on the subject under the hand of the Minister. It involves the Government in no administrative difficulty and it does meet the strong view of this Chamber that the Parliament should not be by-passed. I do not suggest that this is being done with deliberation on this occasion. Quite frankly, I think that the matter has not been adverted to. I feel quite certain that had attention been directed to it we would have been dealing with sub-clause (1.) in the amended terms now proposed by Senator Wright.

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