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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - In the main, I echo the sentiments expressed by Senator McLeay and Senator Abbott. I did not ask to be appointed to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and I approached this service without enthusiasm. However, when I attended the committee, I found that included in its seven members were two barristers. There are only four barristers in this chamber, so the committee was fortunate to possess at least one-half of the legal strength of this chamber. Senator Duncan-Hughes, in view of his long membership of this Parliament and his eminent qualifications, scholastic and legal, was the inevitable choice 'as chairman. Regulations and ordinances are promulgated by the Government with startling rapidity. No sooner is one dealt with than another comes along, and all must be read carefully to ascertain their meaning. The task of the committee is a difficult one, and I am sure that if the Senate wishes to declare my position on it vacant, I shall welcome relief from an onerous responsibility.. The work of the chairman is ten times that of a private member of the committee. The committee did not present its report with any idea of setting itself above the Senate; its members recognize that the committee is only a subsidiary of this august chamber. They do their work in a humble, but conscientious manner. The seven members of the committee probably compare favorably with any other seven members who might be chosen in the same way.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - The question before the Senate is not the competency of the committee, but the adoption of its third report.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The committee was set an onerous task. The volume of regulations and ordinances with which it deals is considerable, and the responsibility of studying them is great. In one instance, a regulation which was made retrospective for nine years came before it. I heartily support the recommendation of the committee in regard to retrospective legislation.

Another subject with which the committee dealt had reference to the onus of proof under Statutory Rule No. 93 of 1935. The regulation sought, not only to transfer the onus of proof from the Telephone Department to the person doing certain things, but also to make that person guilty of an offence in the absence of proof to the contrary. The committee thought that that regulation went too far. It may be that the Government thought that the end justified the means, but the committee was of the opinion that the means set out in the regulation were not justified, and therefore it reported -

There appears to be no authority in the act enabling the department to so alter the burden of proof. ft could not agree that -

The averment of the prosecutor that the proprietor of the land or building upon or within which an offence is committed by any other person permitted or suffered that person to commit the offence, shall be deemed to have been proved in the absence of proof to the contrary.

In submitting its recommendations the committee merely attempted to do its duty; it did not in any way seek to set itself up as an authority greater than the Senate. I cannot see that there is any reason to attack the committee'3 report or question its competence. The report should be adopted by the Senate and referred to the proper legal authorities in order to ascertain the best means to prevent a recurrence of some of the things which have happened in the past.

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