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Thursday, 24 September 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - Although I have been keenly interested in the clash of legal minds, I have hitherto not taken - much part in this discussion. We .should get down to realities. To me it is deplorable that these matters are decided by senators who are absent from the chamber during the progress of the discussion. When the division bells ring they troop into the chamber and, notwithstanding that they know nothing of the arguments which have been advanced, they decide the issue.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The majority has fluctuated with every division.

Senator COLLINGS - That ie so. My point is that in respect of each division the result has been decided by senators who were absent from the chamber during the- discussion. The charge of nonattendance in the chamber cannot be laid against members of the Opposition, or against those supporters of the Government who have taken a keen interest in the debate. If we go back a few months, and call to mind what took place when this controversy originated, we shall get some idea of the motive behind the antagonism to the making of regulations. The Opposition is divided in its opinion on this subject. My colleague, Senator J. V. MacDonald who differs from me, is a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, and is acquainted with all the discussions which took place there. He has voted as he thinks right ; and to his action I take no exception as, indeed, I have no right to do. In any case, the honorable senator has been present during the whole of the discussion. He would be free to alter his views if sound arguments justifying that course were advanced. An amendment which places no limit on (the period during which a regulation may be upset by a snap division in one House-

Senator Millen - The amendment provides for an absolute majority of the members of the House.

Senator COLLINGS - By a snap division I mean one taken before opportunity is given to understand the implications of any proposed action. It may happen that, under a regulation, payments amounting to thousands of pounds, and covering several years, have been made. If, as the result of a vote of one House that regulation were suddenly defeated, and the Government were required to refund large sums df money a deplorable state of affairs would arise. I realize that a government can introduce legislation to amend any existing legislation; but a government would be foolish indeed were it to take action which would place it in the position _ which I can visualize. Let us imagine that, after & regulation has been in operation for anumber of years, some peculiarly constituted intellect sees a possibility of contesting it successfully, and persuades an absolute majority of the members of one House to his way of thinking. What a position for any government to be -in! And how humiliating to the Senate were action of that nature taken by the other chamber ! I am in a peculiar position in that, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, I occasionally find myself supporting the Government. Senator Leckie told me yesterday that I was one of the Government's most enthusiastic supporters. That may be; for I do not imagine that it is my duty to oppose the Government merely for the sake of opposing it. I believe that behind every one of the amendments submitted this afternoon is an ulterior motive. Even interpreting the motive at its best, I believe that the amendment, if carried would harass any government. Governments must have the power to make regulations. Moreover, the disallowance of regulations should be made as difficult as possible. Regulations are made, not by people with ulterior motives, but by responsible officers of the Crown, who know what they are doing.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Does the honorable senator agree with the regulations made under the Crimes Act?

Senator COLLINGS - If the honorable senator will enlighten me as to what regulations under that act he refers, I shall tell him where I stand regarding them. At the moment we are dealing, not with the Crimes Act, but with an amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act. Mention has been made of the regulations issued during the waterside trouble. The Government of the day, which had been elected by the people of this country, issued certain regulations, in pursuance of the powers vested in it. Another authority upset them as fast as they were made. Irrespective of the final result, the fact remains that responsible government became a farce. At that time I was an ardent supporter of government by regulation, but I was absolutely disgusted to see to what a farce government could be reduced. The trend of the amendments proposed this afternoon is in the same direction. So strongly do I feel on this- subject that I think that any government 'would be wise not to set up committees, and vest them with powers which encourage them to create chaos and confusion. The amendment before the committee is a menace to the Senate as a part of the law-making machinery of this country.

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