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Wednesday, 28 October 1914

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE (Flinders) . - We all recognise that at a time of war the Executive is entitled to be invested with authority which Parliament would not think of intrusting to it in ordinary times. But before the Bill passes, it is desirable that honorable members should understand fully the immense range of the Executive power which it confers on the Governor-General in Council. Clause 5, especially, deals with particular measures requisite for the maintenance of effective defence and security, such as the prohibiting of aliens from embarking, the preventing of persons from disclosing information, and from communicating with the enemy. With regard to all these things Parliament will be pre pared to give to the Executive the fullest powers required. But I feel a good deal of apprehension about the first part of clause 4. I know what the Government probably desires to attain by it, but the method proposed for giving effect to that intention goes to a length which I think has never been gone before, and the matter ought, therefore, to be considered. The clause says that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations for securing the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth. That provision is absolutely unlimited. It invests the Executive Government of the day with the most complete power to legislate, whether Parliament is or is not sitting, on any matter touching the actions or conduct of any member of the community.

Mr Joseph Cook - Very appropriate in war time.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - It may be necessary to give this power.

Mr Hughes - Is any power given by clause 4 that is not inherent in all Governments? Cannot we do what is provided for by virtue of the power to declare martial law at any time?

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - I do not know what authority the AttorneyGeneral thinks the Government has to declare martial law.

Mr Hughes - We may do anything necessary.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - In time of war Governments do - the late Government did - many things not directly authorized by law.

Mr Carr - The late Government did not put off the elections.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - There are some things which may be done, although unlawful, but there are certain things which cannot be done. If the honorable member saw the distinction, he would be aware that his interjection was meaningLess.

Mr Carr - I do not regard the honorable member as supreme.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - I have not suggested that I should be so regarded.

Mr Fisher - Can the honorable and learned member suggest a better way of conferring a necessary power?

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - I do not profess to have had time to consider the matter. The Bill has been before us for about five minutes only. .1 understand that the Government ask that it be passed as a matter of urgency, and I am therefore prepared to let it go through, but I hope that the House realizes that the first part of clause 4 gives unlimited legislative power.

Mr Fisher - We shall be glad if the honorable and learned member will suggest how the powers that we need can be given with less risk.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - I am not prepared to do that at the present moment. I merely point out that the powers given are enormous. If the Government say that it is essential to have these powers, I, following the Leader of the Opposition, raise no objection.

Mr Hughes - It is not intended to exercise these powers in the way suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - He referred to the supersession of the civil power by the military power. I raise no objection to the Bill. In a case of urgency, responsibility for a measure of this sort must be taken by the Government. I rose merely to direct attention to the enormous scope of the powers conferred, and I ask the Government to take the matter into full consideration.

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