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Wednesday, 1 October 1902

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I am quite sure that the honorable member for Coolgardie realizes that it is neither possible nor desirable for the Law officer of the Commonwealth for the time being to take either a liberal or a narrow view of any issue that may be submitted to him. His duty compels him to decide it according to the wellestablished principles of legal and constitutional interpretation. In this case the officers concerned indicate, in one of the paragraphs which the honorable member has just read, that they have failed to apprehend what appears to me - and I think wouldappear to most members of the legal profession - to be the guiding principle of this case. They say that if Parliament had not intended this Act to be retrospective, it would have expressed that intention in clear and unmistakable terms. That, however, is not necessary. The rule observed in the construction of statutes is that no Act is to be read as being retrospective in its operation unless it contains express provision to that effect. In the absence of such a provision, the legal presumption is always against retrospective effect. That has been the governing consideration in the interpretation of the Act referred to. As the honorable member for Coolgardie knows, the late Mr. George Leake, Premier and Attorney-General of Western Australia, expressed an opinion similar to that formed by me, although I was not aware of it until after I had expressed my own view.

Mr Mahon - What Mr. Burt said was that it was never intended that the Act should be other than retrospective.

Mr DEAKIN -Mr. Burt'sview, as one of those concerned in "the passing of the Act, of the intentions of Parliament could not affect his or any other lawyer's opinion as to the legal meaning of the measure.

Mr Mahon - It was surely never contemplated that all the officers whoheld positions in the public service at the time the Act was passed should, at the end of six years, become simultaneously entitled to leave of absence.

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