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Thursday, 1 April 1965

Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) . - I am obliged to the Minister for addressing his mind to this subject, but I am disappointed that he will not accept the proposed amendment. I do not understand him when he says that this is not the type of thing to come to a committee. I take it that he is referring to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. If that is in his mind, let me remind him that these matters do not necessarily come up in the Parliament through such a committee. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has a limited purpose. It has no authority to determine the merits of a governmental decision. It is not concerned with that. The Committee is concerned to see that a regulation complies with well defined conditions - that it is within constitutional power* that it is within the power conferred by the Act, and that it makes no undue invasion of liberties. Those considerations would not be at issue here. The matter could be raised, with a regulation, without reference to or consideration by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. 1 do not understand the Minister's statement - I think I have heard it twice - to the effect that it is inappropriate that a committee of the Senate or of the Parliament should be reviewing an administrative act of the Government. The matter simply does not arise in that way. We are contending that a regulation is open to challenge by any one senator on the floor of the Senate or by any one member of the House of Representatives on the floor of that place, lt is the only convenient way that a governmental act of that kind can be attacked. I think it would be inappropriate that a difference of opinion between the Opposition and the Government on who shall be approved should be made the subject of a vote of confidence in or a censure motion on the Government. In effect, that would be using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I do not think that would be an appropriate procedure.

A very ready procedure that will achieve two purposes - first, enabling the Minister's act to be promulgated and made known in public, and secondly, enabling it to be reviewed in the Parliament - lies in the proposed amendment now before the Committee. The Minister has met us on one leg of the proposition. One leg of our complaint - that the governmental act is not made public - is met by the Minister's willingness to include the words " published in the ' Gazette ' ", but that is a relatively unimportant leg in the view that we put. A question of principle is involved - that of using a regulation, which is made public and is reviewable by Parliament, as compared with producing a document which the Minister himself writes and which is not per se reviewable in the Parliament.

We have been over this ground many times today and on many prior occasions. The Government met us as recently as September 1963 in the context that I have put. I hope that the Minister, if he does not feel free, without consultation with the Minister he represents, to give an affirmative answer now, will consider postponing the clause until he has considered it further or has had the opportunity to consult with his colleague. If he wants to do that, we will agree very readily to give him that opportunity.

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