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Friday, 25 September 1936

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [11.25]. - Before the committee votes on this amendment I invite the attention of honorable senators to the serious nature of the change proposed to be made. The bill before the committee is designed to improve our legislation in respect to regulations, and if the commit! ee takes upon itself the responsibility of introducing new vital principles into the bill' the Government will have to consider whether it will go on with it. Honorable senators are quite justified in exercising their undoubted rights to propose drastic amendments, but obviously it becomes the responsibility of the Government to decide whether it is prepared to proceed with legislation thus altered. I suggest to honorable senators, in all seriousness, that the proposal now made is a complete departure from the rule-making machinery of any British parliament, and should not be made light-heartedly, and without full consideration of its effects.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - It was not made light-heartedly.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE. - Some of the amendments which have already been agreed to have been proposed without due sense of where they are leading, as I shall show later in respect of at least one amendment which has been carried. Senator DuncanHughes, in moving his amendment, quoted from a report of a committee which inquired into this subject in South Australia, and seemed to attach considerable value to the opinions of the gentlemen constituting that committee. I remind honorable senators, however, that that committee did not propose what Senator Duncan-Hughes seeks to achieve by this amendment. On the contrary, in suggesting that a regulation should be disallowable at any time, it recommended that that power should be exercised by both Houses of the Parliament, and not merely by either House as Senator Duncan-Hughes has proposed. There may be something to be said for the South Australian suggestion, because the two Houses have legislative power. The proposal now before us, however, is that, though a regulation has been in force for a number of years during which interests may have been built up on the basis of that regulation, a chance majority in one House shall be able to destroy it. I hope honorable senators, before they vote on this amendment, will realize that its effect will be to strike a blow at the stability of the statute. After all, a regulation is part of a statute and should not be capable of amendment or disallowance at any time by a. chance majority of one House. I invite honorable senators to consider the procedure trader which this matter can be dealt with at the present time under the Standing Orders of the Senate. A privilege has been taken by the Senate under its Standing Orders that does not obtain in any Other parliament in the British Empire. When any honorable senator gives notice of a motion to disallow a regulation, that motion takes precedence over all other business on the following sitting day. Honorable senators may be absent in the pursuit of their lawful occasions when notice of motion to disallow a regulation is given, and on the following sitting day a majority of the members of this . Senate may agree to the motion. At present that may be done only within fifteen sitting days; but Senator Duncan-Hughes would remove that limitation by providing that at any time, perhaps after the regulation has been on the statute-book for a number of years and considerable business interests have been built upon it, it may be destroyed. I ask honorable senators, in these circumstances, not to -agree to the amendment. If, however, notwithstanding the serious nature of this amendment, honorable senators decide to support it, the Government will have to consider seriously whether it will go on with the bill. Such a vital departure from the regulationmaking machinery of the legislature should not be made without very good reasons. Can it be said that under the present system the rights of the legislature and its control over regulations are not safeguarded? Consider the important privilege which the Senate possesses. It has the power within fifteen sitting days after a regulation has been tabled to disallow such a regulation. Moreover, the Standing Orders provide that a motion to disallow a regulation shall have precedence over all other business. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has authority to peruse regulations and to report to the Senate; therefore the rights of' Parliament are adequately safeguarded. Almost daily honorable senators receive copies of the regulations made, and within a specified number of sitting days any honorable senator has the opportunity to move that a regulation, which he regards as inimical to the interests of the people be disallowed. This control of the regulation-making power is very effective, but the extension now proposed is fraught with such dangers and will create such instability in law-making that it should not be agreed to. I ask honorable senators not to support the amendment.

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