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Thursday, 24 September 1936

Senator BRENNAN (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - At present the law provides that either House of Parliament shall have power to disallow a regulation within fifteen sitting days of such regulation being tabled. The honorable senator now proposes an amendment under which a majority of either House shall have power to disallow a regulation, at any time. The adoption of the amendment would create uncertainty, which would not be in the public interest. The South Australian committee which has considered this subject recommended that both Houses of Parliament should have the power to disallow regulations at any time. That is vastly different from the proposal of the honorable senator. Both Houses of the Parliament can pass laws. All that the proposal made by the South Australian committee amounts to is that, instead of having to pass a formal bill, if both Houses agree, a regulation may be disallowed. The honorable senator objects that it is difficult to get both chambers to agree to a disallowance. Possibly it is; but if that criticism can be made against the disallowance of a regulation, it can also be applied to every act of Parliament that has been passed. It is necessary to have both Houses of Parliament in agreement before any piece of legislation can be placed on the statute-book. It would be impossible to know from day to day where we stood if one chamber, by an absolute majority, could disallow a regulation which had been in force and had been acted upon for a number of years. It appears to me that if that were done, wide law-making power would be conferred on one branch of the legislature, when the Constitution provides that the law-making power shall be vested in the "King and the two Houses of the Parliament. It is impossible to foretell exactly what its effect would be, but it is obvious that it would produce uncertainty in the law. The Senate ought not to assume or claim too much power of law making. It has its rights as a branch of the legislature, but the taking of power to disallow, at any time, regulations which have been acted upon for years, might lead to the greatestconfusion in the administration of the law. I am sorry that some honorable senators are absent from the chamber at a time whenwe are dealing with matters in respect of which there is exhibited such a division of opinion, and thus deprive themselves of the opportunity of hearing what is being said for and against the proposed amendments, but I ask those senators who are present in the chamber not to agree to give effect to this far-reaching proposal.

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