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Wednesday, 25 August 1937

Senator BRENNAN (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) , - in .reply - I shall endeavour to confine my remarks more to the provisions of the bill than some honorable members who have spoken have done. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that section 50, about which he inquired* is a safeguarding provision. It sets out that legal proceedings which have been commenced may be proceeded with, even though, in respect of future actions the act has been repealed. The provisions mentioned by the honorable gentleman merely apply to the disallowance of a regulation the same rule as now applies to the repeal of a regulation or of a law. That, is entirely beneficial to the average citizen; it imposes no new liability on him.

Senator Duncan-Hughessaid that the power to make regulations should be restricted as far as possible. Even supposing the honorable senator is right, what has that to do with an act which deals with the interpretation of existing laws and regulations?

Senator Duncan-Hughes - A legal officer, may point out mistakes which will prevent a wrong regulation from being issued.

Senator BRENNAN - The only duty, of such an officer is to certify that the proposed regulation comes within the regulation-making power of the act under which it is made. We are asked by Senator Duncan-Hughes to believe that if an officer of the Attorney-General's Department certifies that a regulation is in conformity with the act under which it is framed some new safeguard will be provided. Every proposed regulation is referred to the Attorney-General's Department for drafting.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - We have had the admission that one-half of the regulations promulgated have not been perused by an officer of that department.

Senator BRENNAN - Many of them are merely formal. Although it is somewhat irrelevant, I did not wish to ignore the fact that certain views on this subject were expressed by honorable senators when a similar measure was last before the Senate. I should like -the Senate to realize that, although the Government cannot accept the views put forward by Senator Duncan-Hughes, it has gone as far as it can without providing that some solemn declaration shall be made by an officer of the Attorney-General's Department. The honorable senator complained that no reason was given by the AttorneyGeneral for rejecting the amendment made in this chamber, but the honorable Senator will surely realize that had his proposal been adopted the matter would not have been carried further.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The AttorneyGeneral merely said that my amendment was unacceptable.

Senator BRENNAN - He considered that it did not achieve what it sought to achieve, and therefore was unacceptable.

Senator Grant - That is not an argument against it.

Senator BRENNAN - If, is clear that even an archangel could not persuade Senator Grant to alter his opinion. Senator Duncan-Hughes* who says that he is " a Parliament man " has gone so far as to say that this measure, as amended, is aimed at reducing the powers of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, but the honorable senator is not entitled to make such an inaccurate statement. He knows that I was the chairman of the Regulations and Ordinance Committee before he was appointed to that position, and that I am one of those who view with the gravest alarm the growth of " the new despotism ". But what has that to do with this bill, which provides how acts of Parliament and. the regulations framed under such acts shall be interpreted? Senator Duncan-Hughes read, with a number of impressive pauses, the provisions of an ordinance passed recently concerning the holding of public meetings in the vicinity of this Parliament House. I remind the honorable senator that that is an ordinance and not a regulation. The only way in which laws governing the Federal Capital Territory can be made is by ordinance. Such ordinances are framed by those controlling the Federal Capital Territory.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The ordinance contains a provision for making regulations.

Senator BRENNAN - That is so. There is the power to make regulations.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Over an area of from one square mile to 900 square miles.

Senator BRENNAN - I do not think there is any such provision in the ordinance.

Senator Grant - There was in the first ordinance.

Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce - Not in the first one either.

Senator BRENNAN - -I remind Senator Duncan-Hughes that such regulationmaking power is given by Parliament. That is the first assertion of the powers of Parliament. Moreover, one House of Parliament - it does not require an act of Parliament - can disallow a regulation, and if either House of Parliament does not deal with a regulation within fifteen days of notice of motion to disallow it automatically becomes inoperative. That applies particularly to the House of Representatives, because in the Senate a motion to disallow must take precedence of other business. The honorable senator who directed attention to the law concerning unlawful assemblies, passed by the Federal Parlia ment when it was sitting in Melbourne, apparently overlooked the fact that the similar legislation applies to the Victorian Parliament House in which the Commonwealth Parliament functioned for many years.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Do similar circumstances exist here?

Senator BRENNAN - Because of the conditions prevailing in Canberra, steps were taken to prevent any interference with the work of Parliament. When meetings have been held outside of the doors of Parliament House, a person standing" in the King's Hall could listen to two voices - one within a chamber of this Parliament and another on the steps of Parliament House. The Government considers that this condition of affairs should not be tolerated. Whether the ordinance went further than was necessary is quite beside the question; the work of Parliament should be free from any outside interruption in accordance with the best traditions of parliamentary government. Senator Grant then entered the arena and said that the Government wishes to flout the will of the Senate and * to reduce its power and influence. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who has been a member of this chamber since the inception of federation, has always shown a strong desire to uphold the rights of the Senate.

Senator Grant - Of the Government.

Senator BRENNAN - Has the Leader of the Senate ever shown any desire to reduce the rights of the Senate to a cipher? As for myself, I have even been accused of being a States righter, because I always endeavour to uphold the rights of the Senate so that it may exercise its constitutional powers.

Question resolved in the affirmative

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 -

After section 40 of the principal aat the following headings and sections are inserted: -

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