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Wednesday, 25 February 1942

Mr McEWEN (Indi) . - I support the adjournment of the House for the reason mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and do not offer any criticism, of the employment of regulations by the Government during the period of the Avar, as I believe that to be the only practical method of government at such a time. I am not under the illusion that the business of government can be carried on during the war by the normal processes of Parliament, with the delays that are inseparable therefrom. The non-receipt of copies of regulations by honorable members has only to be mentioned for corrective action to he taken.

Mr.Curtin. - I do not know how it occurred.

Mr Anthony - The former practice was deliberately altered.

Mr McEWEN - I have no doubt that it was altered. The matter having been mentioned, I believe that it will be corrected.

As the debate has developed along certain lines, I take the opportunity to mention one matter which, to me, is of importance. I refer to the method by which the intention of the Government to deal with certain matters by regulation is made known to the public. With the best will in the world, a government which is compelled to issue regulations of this kind must cause public inconvenience and, in some instances, injustice. With that I do not quarrel; it is an inevitable corollary of the greater injustice of war itself.

Mr.Brennan. - There should be discussions from time to time.

Mr McEWEN - I agree. I have no doubt that, no matterwhat government is in power, opportunity should be provided for discussion. The point I am making is that every endeavour should be made to minimize, as far as possible, the inconvenience inherent in this form of government. The worst effects are produced, in my opinion, by the making of a general announcement, before the regulations themselves are promulgated, that regulations of a certain character are to be issued. Recently, an announcement was made, I think by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), that the Government had decided to bring down, under the National Security Act, regulations for the purpose of limiting business transactions, freezing certain assets, preventing the transfer of property, and mobilizing man-power and national resources. I am prepared to believe that this announcement was made by the Prime Minister for the purpose of letting the public know that the Government was aware of the imminence of the threat to public security, and that it is taking the steps necessary to meet that threat. However, the net results of the announcement, corning as it did before the details of the regulations themselves were known, was to create a doubt in the minds of many people regarding the form which the regulations were likely to take, and more than one person told me that he had drawn money from the savings bank because of a fear that the Government intended to freeze savings bank deposits. The Government will have my support, and, I have no doubt, the support of nearly every other honorable member, in its policy of governing the country by regulation during the period of the war. I have no doubt that it will, in general, use its powers wisely, but I urge that, in future, the regulations he issued first, rather than that they be the subject of public discussion first and issued afterwards.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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