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Wednesday, 16 December 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - The Minister stated, at the conclusion, of his introductory speech, that the Bill contains no principle novel, so far as Acts of a similar kind are concerned, in connexion with estates. I, for one, am prepared to accept his assurance in that re>gard; we are all bound by the limitation of time to accept such an assurance. The Bill has come to us within the last few minutes. There are very few hours left . before the sitting of Parliament, not the. session, will close for the holidays. But, I do remind the Government of the responsibility they are taking in asking one branch of the Legislature to deal with measures as rapidly as we are asked to> deal with this and other measures which will come up hereafter. I dissociate myself from any responsibility for the legislation which will pass in this Parliament if we are going to rise to-night or tomorrow. I have been here in attendance - and other honorable senators have been here in attendance - constantly and consistently. But if we are to be asked to pass measures rapidly, in order to enable the members of both Houses to adjourn, I, for one, say at once - and I think I am only voicing the sentiments of others - that we cannot be expected to be personally responsible for hurried legislationof that character. The Minister was quoting from a statement just now, and I asked him if he was quoting from the Bill. On looking at clause 8, paragraphs 1 to 4, as Senator Millen reminded me after I made the interjection, I found that the Minister was giving us the purport of the clause. It is a well-known principle that a law Court can only take a Statute and read the intention of Parliament as expressed therein. In other words, our debates on these subjects are not, so to speak, cognisable by a law Court.

Senator Mullan - Cannot the Court consider them in the interpretation of an Act?

Senator KEATING - No; Hansard is not considered in the interpretation of an Act. A law Court will take a Statute and say, " What is the expressed intention of Parliament as gathered from its terms?" The Minister, in making a statement of the character he did tonight, has perhaps offered an opportunity to the law Courts to determine what, is the intention outside of the words of the Statute itself. I believe that counsel in a law Court would be perfectly justified in citing the presumably hurriedly prepared statement by a departmental officer quoted by the Minister in moving the second reading of this Bill as an expression of the intention of the measure, and an invitation to the Senate to agree to give legislative expression to the statement by passing the measure.

Senator Mullan - Why should the Court take notice of such a statement, and ignore speeches made on the Bill?

Senator KEATING - For the reason that the statement was prepared.

Senator de Largie - So are speeches prepared.

Senator KEATING - I think not. What I am saying at the present time has not been prepared, and I am satisfied that Senator de Largie has addressed himself to various subjects in this Senate just as the circumstances of the time or the subject seemed in his opinion to warrant his doing so.

Senator de Largie - Then we may discount Senator Keating's utterances on the present occasion, because they have not been prepared.

Senator KEATING - The honorable senator may attach what importance he pleases to them.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator has undervalued them himself.

Senator KEATING - I have not done so. I say that, so far as the intention of the Legislature is to be ascertained by, say, the High Court, the Court will be guided, generally, mainly and almost solely by the terms of the Statute. I asked a question of the Minister, and, after he gave me his reply, a thought occurred to me, which I deem it my duty to bring before the Senate. He said that he was quoting from a statement, and I say that it might be readily urged before a law Court that this Parliament had legislated in the form which this Bill provides after the Minister in charge of the measure had made an uncriticised statement, apart from his speech, expressing the deliberate intention of the Bill.

Senator Findley - Where does the honorable senator's objection come in if the statement merely summarizes the main points of the Bill ?

Senator KEATING - I am not objecting to the statement, and I do not distrust its accuracy.

Senator Findley - Suppose the Court did take the statement into consideration, what then?

Senator KEATING - Does the honorable senator remember what the Minister of Defence read from that statement?

Senator Findley - I do not remember every word of it.

Senator KEATING - Does any honorable senator present remember what the Minister read from the statement ?

Senator Mullan - Why should the Court attach more importance to that statement than to the extemporary speech of the Minister or of any other member of the Senate?

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