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Wednesday, 2 April 1941

Senator CAMERON (Victoria) . - in reply- The Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) objected to the services of a legal man being paid for by the Government, but in other instances the Government has obtained outside assistance, and no objection has been raised. Because of war exigencies, the Government has found that the work which it has to do is much greater than usual, and outside assistance has been sought and paid for. That is exactly what I am suggesting. I cannot understand the attitude of the Minister in refusing to recommend payment for the assistance which I ask, and, at the same time, raising no objection to paying for outside assistance required by the Government in many other directions. I was surprised to hear him say that there was more important business to consider than the legal aspect of regulations. Personally, I think it is the legal aspect that is one of the things that really matters. A regulation is issued, and we are asked to consider whether it is in conformity with the provisions of the act under which it is formed. Surely that is a legal matter.

Senator Collett - That is not what the Minister said.

Senator CAMERON - It is what I understood him to say. The Minister said that honorable senators have the right to challenge regulations. That is true, but, in the circumstances, it is impossible to do so. As the honorable gentleman will remember., honorable senators in opposition challenged regulation 128, and the matter was fully debated in this chamber. The same regulation was also challenged in the House of Representatives. Quite a number of regulations have been under our consideration, but we have refrained from moving motions for their disallowance in order to see if it were possible to have the regulations modified. For instance, strong objection has been taken to regulation 42a, but we have not yet moved for its disallowance. We may do so at a later date. I mention that matter to show that we are doing all we can to meet the Government in this respect.

Senator Arthur - Did the committee object to regulation 42a?

Senator CAMERON - It has not yet been dealt with by the committee.

Senator Arthur - But it no longer exists.

Senator CAMERON - Regulation 69 is former regulation 42a in an amended form. Senator Spicer suggested that I had impeded the work of the committee.

Senator Spicer - I did not say that. I said that the raising of this subject impeded the work of the committee.

Senator CAMERON - That is a distinction without a difference. I raised the question and, therefore, I think that my construction of the honorable senator's remark is quite correct. If the honorable senator believes that the committee is not acting as it should, it is his duty to say so. The honorable senator also said, in effect, that in my estimation legal men had apparently become popular. It is not a question of popularity; it is one of responsibility.

Regardless of how our opinions differ in some respects, we must admit that a legal man is better qualified than is a layman to deal with these problems. We need an outside person who will accept the responsibility on behalf of the committee. We could confer with him on whatever regulations we considered required clarification.

Senator Keane - The services of a legal man would be required only occasionally.

Senator CAMERON - That is so. I suggest that if the opportunity were given to members of the committee to deal with the regulations as they should be dealt with, then, as has been suggested by greater authorities than myself, members of the committee would become expert in these matters, and would not have to call upon the assistance of a legal man to any great degree. If a regulation be issued under the National Security Act, and members of the committee think that the Government has exceeded its powers, as was done in the case of the regulation which fixed wages, we could direct attention of the Senate to the matter. I disagree with Senator Herbert Hays when he says that, in effect, we should not deal with the regulations framed under the National Security Act. Senator Spicer said that an outside legal man would not be qualified, but, in my opinion, such a person would be just as qualified as any legal man in Parliament. If an opinion were expressed on certain regulations by an outside member of the legal profession, it would be accepted in preference to the opinion of a man who wasa member of one of the political parties in this chamber.

Senator Spicer - My statement was not in relation to legal questions. I said that the outsider would not be competent to deal with political questions.

Senator CAMERON - It is said that outsiders know more of the political game than do those who are closely associated with it. I know quite a number of legal men outside of Parliament who consider themselves more qualified, from the political point of view, to deal with matters, than their learned friends within Parliament.

Senator McLeay - The honorable senator is speaking for himself. iSenator CAMERON.- No. I am speaking for the gentlemen to whom I have referred. They are high in the profession and are looked upon with great respect and esteem. Senator. Spicer also said that I had not objected to any of the regulations. Thatis fairly correct; I did not object when the committee was discussing these regulations. I had quite a number of objections but I wanted the point I am now raising cleared up first. As soon as I get a regulation I read it and file it for reference. I mark regulations or portion of regulations which I think are open to criticism, and a full discussion on those points is usually held at meetings of unionists, trades hall councils, and at Labour conferences. I not only file and mark the regulations, but very frequently I have to obtain additional copies so that they can be distributed and discussed by persons who would not accept my opinion but who wish to read them themselves. Some regulations appear to contravene the principles which are supposed to be the basis of the committee's work. These principles are as follows: -

(a)   Regulations must be in accordance with the statute under which they are made;

(b)   They should not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties;

(c)   They should not unduly make the rights and liberties of citizens dependent upon administrative rather than upon judicial decisions and

(d)   They should be concerned with adminis trative detail and should not amount to substantive legislation, which is more properly a matter of parliamentary enactment.

The regulations are discussed at great length by the unionists, the trades hall councils and others in the light of those principles, a copy of which I have supplied to them. They are also published in newspapers supporting Labour principles. I trust that the Government will see fit to try to meet the requests that have been made on behalf of the committee. I can assure the Minister that, so far as I am capable of judging, each member of the committee wants to do his job in the way that the Government expects him to do it. If the Government will do as I suggest we should not have the complaints concerning . regulations which we have had.

Motion - by leave - withdrawn.

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