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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - I was under the impression that the debate had taken place, for I have a distinct recollection of listening to at least halfadozen speeches on the subject.

Senator Keating - But the amendment was withdrawn on the promise of the Minister that we would have an opportunity of considering the question of these departmental by-laws before the schedule left the Committee.

Senator PEARCE - I know the request was withdrawn, but I do not see how it would be possible to have another debate on the subject at this stage. The Minister has noted the various objections that were raised to the present procedure, and I know he proposes to invite the Tariff Board to consider whether some better procedure cannot be devised by which honorable senators and the public generally may be more fully advised as to the working of the system. I think one suggestion was that something might be done through the Commonwealth Gazette.

Senator Keating - The by-laws have always been published in the Commonwealth Gazette.

Senator PEARCE - Not all of them.

Senator Keating - Yes. Look in any Customs Act and you will see that what I say is correct.

Senator PEARCE - I do not think the Customs by-laws are published in the Commonwealth Gazette, but I know the regulations are.

Senator Keating - By-laws, too, but not the departmental decisions. The sixth explanatory note of the schedule states - "'Departmental by-law' means by-law made by the Minister, and published in the Commonwealth Gazette."

Senator PEARCE - It is impossible, at this stage, to open up a discussion on that subject. Various suggestions, as I have said, were made, and objections taken to the present procedure. These are all recorded in Ilansard', and the Minister proposes to invite the Tariff Board to look at them, and make suggestions as to the adoption of a more satisfactory method.

Senator Keating - He gave us an assurance that before the Bill left this Committee we would have an opportunity of discussing the matter at large.

Senator PEARCE - Then I cannot make a practical possibility out of a practical impossibility. There is an opportunity now, but I do not think any honorable senator would care to inflict a long debate on this suffering Committee. I do not know of any other opportunity than is afforded by the ordinary procedure. Honorable senators may give notice of motion, discuss the matter on a Supply Bill, on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, or move a special adjournment. These are the only opportunities, other than raising the question on this Bill, and I ask honorable senators not to do that. I can give the Committee an assurance that the Minister intends to take the matter into consideration. Whatever representations have been made during the course of the debate will be considered, and due weight giver to them.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Could we raise the point when the Bill comes back to us from another place ?

Senator PEARCE - That is a question which more properly would be submitted to the Chairman; but I think that it could be done provided an item is under consideration in which these words occur. I suggest that honorable senators should leave the matter at this stage, with the assurance that the Government are impressed with the necessity for instituting some better procedure.

Senator Keating - Some honorable senators did not speak upon the question - I was one of them - because of the assurance that a later opportunity would be afforded to them to do so.

Senator PEARCE - That is probably so. All I can say is that the opportunity presents itself now - although I am sure honorable senators will not avail themselves of it - and that other opportunities will be afforded such as I have just indicated.

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