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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- I move -

That proposed new section 123p be left out.

Senator Benny - Do you not believe in the Minister having power over his documents?

Senator ELLIOTT - He has the power now,, and I do not agree with any enlargement of it. It has been held that where it is contrary to public policy to produce documents the Minister has ample power to refuse to do so.

Senator PEARCE - This is to prevent an officer producing them without the Minister's consent.

Senator ELLIOTT - I presume the officers are all under the Minister's direction, and he can interfere.

Senator Pearce - Before the Minister can interfere, the damage may be done. There has been one case in which an officer produced in Court a document without the consent of the Minister.

Senator ELLIOTT - That is a matter of internal administration. It should be understood that no officer may produce any such document without the Minister's express consent.

Senator Foster - Can an officer refuse to obey a subpoena of the Court?

Senator ELLIOTT - If the Minister interfered and represented to the Court that the production of a document was contrary to public policy, the Court would accept his assurance right away.

Senator FOSTER - If the clause is passed, it may save the expense of issuing subpoenas.

Senator-Pearce- We have to engage counsel to appear in every case where we are subpoenaed.

Senator ELLIOTT - In every proper case, the Minister ought to appear and obtain the consent of the Court to refuse to produce the document. I am decidedly against enlarging the Minister's . powers in the way proposed. All sorts of questions may arise hereafter, where it may be absolutely essential, in order to establish an officer's character, that he should have the right to ask for the production of .the official records of his conduct.

Senator Cox - It may be the other way round in a good. many, cases.

Senator ELLIOTT - It may; but we ought to stand by the common law on the subject, which has been established by long usage in Great Britain, where, I believe, no such power as we are now asked to give has been taken.

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