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Wednesday, 2 April 1941

Senator ABBOTT (New South Wales) . - As Senator Cameron has quoted some remarks of mine in support of his contention, I say quite frankly that I cannot see any reason for altering the opinion which I expressed on that occasion. I shall not take up the time of the committee by traversing the ground which has' just been covered by Senator A. J. McLachlan. I agree with a good deal of what the honorable senator said. It is considerate of Senator Spicer, as a legal man, to devote the enormous amount of time which he has already given, and will give in. the future, to his work as chairman of this committee. I served on the committee when the present honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) was its chairman, and the work which we did in that capacity, at a time when we were not at war, was colossal.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The work then was a mere circumstance compared with what it must be to-day.

Senator ABBOTT - Yes; and whilst the war lasts the Government will be issuing sheaves of regulations. If the Government can see its way clear to afford the assistance to the committee requested in the motion, it seems to me that the proper course to follow would not be merely, as Senator A. J. McLachlan has suggested, for the chairman to consult an assisting legal officer at will, but for all regulations to be referred as a matter of course to that officer who should be obliged to report to the chairman of the committee. ' It would then become the responsibility of the chairman to deal further with the regulations. In that way all matters of this kind would be brought. under the notice of the committee, and a great deal of time and labour would be saved. It is not fair that Senator Spicer, simply because he is a legal man, should be asked to burn the candle at both ends in attending to his work as chairman of the committee. The time will come when the chairman will not be a legal man ; and this job is almost an impossibility for a layman. Undoubtedly, the chairman of the committee needs legal assistance, because anomalies are bound to crop up in respect of regulations. At the same time it is hard, as Senator A. J. McLachlan has pointed out, to place upon an officer of the Attorney-General's Department the onus of overruling the decisions of the Solicitor-General, or some other officer in that department senior to himself. The circumstances of war alters the position a good deal. I support the suggestion that the committee should be enabled to avoid rushing its sittings. When I was a member of it my experience was that so soon as I arrived in Canberra I found a notice in the clubroom informing me of a sitting of the committee, and I never seemed to have sufficient time to attend to my other work. It was a whole-time job. Therefore, arrangements should be made to enable the committee to sit in the capital cities, when the Parliament is not in session, at times convenient to its members.

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