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Wednesday, 16 December 1914

The PRESIDENT - Honorable senators should cease this cross-firing. An honorable senator's speech should not be in the form of a catechism. I ask Senator Keating not to take any notice of the interjections.

Senator KEATING - I did not catechise any honorable senator individually. I asked whether any member of the Senate remembered what was read from the statement. What I point out is that, so far as this measure is concerned, we may, as a legislative body. be held to be very much more bound by the statement read by the Minister than we would be by any discussion of the provisions of the measure by honorable senators, whether informal or prepared. We have had a statement, which I assume has been hurriedly prepared, read by the Minister, and I say that we should hesitate before setting about legislation in this way.

Senator DE LARGIE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - If, as the honorable senator says, the statement was hurriedly prepared, how can he argue that more weight would be attached to it by a Court than to a deliberate and prepared speech ?

Senator KEATING - It is not because of its hurried preparation, but by reason of the fact that, whilst speaking, the Minister, in reply to myself, stated that he was reading from a statement which conveyed the intention of the Bill. Every member of the Senate may be presumed to have heard the statement, and to recognise that it expresses the intention of the Ministry in introducing the Bill. That would be stronger evidence, should the Bill be passed, of the intention of Parliament in passing it than would any discussion of the measure.

Senator O'Keefe - Will not the Bill itself express the intention of Parliament ?

Senator KEATING - The terms of au Act are the foundation of the construction put by a Court upon the intention of the Legislature. Speeches or comments during the course of legislation are not adducible before a Court.

Senator de Largie - Then the Court ignores members of Parliament and their opinions in regard to legislation?

Senator KEATING - No ; the Court does not ignore them, but ignores individual utterances which may or may not have influenced concerted action. But we have gone beyond that tonight, and the Minister has read a statement which may be cited as expressing the intention of the Legislature. I do not say that this is the only occasion on which such a thing has been done, but I direct attention to the danger of adopting such a course in connexion with hurried legislation. There is a memorandum read as to what the Senate is now being asked to enact as a Statute.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator's argument is that if I learned the contents of the statement off by heart, and repeated it as a recitation, it would be all right, but because I read it it is all wrong.

Senator KEATING - Yes, very likely. But the honorable senator can see with me that, with regard to the construction of this measure, nothing would be more easy, more natural, or more correct than to urge upon the consideration of a Court that the unquestioned memorandum which has been read expresses the intention of the measure under consideration at the time.

Senator Needham - But the measure has not yet passed.

Senator KEATING - It may be passed. After the statement has been read the Senate, as one branch of the Legislature, passes the measure, and that may be taken advantage of.

Senator de Largie - Can Senator Keating give an instance where, when a law has been interpreted by a Court-

The PRESIDENT - I ask Senator Keating not to do anything of the kind. The discussion should proceed on the subjectmatter of the Bill, and should not resolve itself into a mere academic discussion upon the interpretation of Statutes by the Courts.

Senator KEATING - I presume that I shall still be in order, apart from raising my protest against hurried legislation upon matters of such importance, in saying, before I sit down, that I not only dissociate myself from responsibility for it, but also from responsibility for the practice of reading to the Senate a memorandum which purports to convey to the Senate what is the intention of the measure submitted to us.

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