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Friday, 3 November 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I must ask the Committee to assist me in opposing this amendment. I have already pointed out that experience shows, in connexion with nearly every Act, and more particularly in respect to an Act providing for censuses, statistics, elections, and other comprehensive and national works of that character, that it is only when the officers charged with the duty of carrying out a particular work are brought into direct contact with it that they realize and appreciate the whole of the difficulties of the situation. As a consequence, in most Acts dealing with matters of the kind, when they are brought into force a large number of supplemental regulations have invariably to be provided ; right up to the very commencement of the work. Reference has been made to the case of the Income Tax Acts, and it has been pointed out that the income tax schedules are included in those Acts. That is perfectly correct, but that stands on a different plane from 'this Bill. Apart altogether from the provisions contained in the schedules to Income Tax Acts there is invariably given to the Minister administering them ample power to give effect by regulation to the principle contained in the Acts. We have wisely provided as a general principle that all regulations framed tinder any Act of this Parliament shall be tabled in both Houses, and may be disapproved of by either House. I think that is a. sufficient safeguard when it is recognised that a lot of the work which will have to be done under the Bill can only be provided for by supplemental regulations, the necessity of which only experience and almost direct contact with the work would .reveal. I think it is desirable that we should have this power, as provided in the Bill. It would be impossible under the amendment to have any supplemental regulations or any regulations whatever born of experience of direct contact with the work to be performed. Parliament might not be sitting when they were framed, and if it were sitting it would necessitate considerable delay to have to secure parliamentary approval of them. In such circumstances the officers charged with the administration of the law would say, " We have a set -of regulations which have been approved bv Parliament, but they were drawn twelve months ago, and at that time we did not know this and that, and now that we have come to do this census work we begin to realize some of the difficulties of it. We realize that for particular localities in Australia we must appoint a particular class of officers, that their work is totally different from that which other officers will be called upon to perform, that the oath of secrecy, which has been prescribed by the regulations approved by Parliament will not meet their case." What are they to do? Under this amendment they would have to frame fresh regulations, and ask Parliament to meet to approve of them. That would be absolutely impracticable, as Senator Pulsford must see. The regulations framed under this Bill as it stands must be tabled in both Houses of Parliament, and if either House within fifteen sitting days thereafter disapproves of them such regulations shall thereupon cease to have effect. If this Bill is passed as it stands, regulations under it will be framed not immediately before the census is taken, but as soon as possible after the passing of the Bill. In the circumstances honorable senators must see that even if they are not disapproved of, within the fifteen days after they had been tabled in both Houses, it will still be competent for Parliament to express an opinion upon them in such a way as to secure their alteration or modification, where that is shown to be desirable long before they are brought info operation. Surely that should be sufficient for Senator Pulsford, when he must realize the difficulties which would arise if his amendment were agreed to. With regard to the taking of the census in 1911, it will not be contended for a moment that we shall wait until 1910 to frame regulations under this Bill. There can be no doubt that the main body of regulations under the Bill will be framed as early as possible, and if they are not disapproved within fifteen days after they are tabled in both Houses of Parliament there will still be ample time for any member of Parliament who believes that any or all of them are not in consonance with the spirit of the Act, or wishes of Parliament, to direct attention to the fact, in other ways than that provided for by the Acts Interpretation Act. If his objections are strong enough to secure the support of a sufficient number of the members of either House, it is obvious that he will be in a position to make a protest which cannot be ignored ; and to secure such a modification of the regulations as will meet the desires of Parliament before they are brought into actual effect in 1911. I ask the honorable senator not to press his amendment.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales). - It appears to me that the only ground of real objection to the amendment which has been suggested by the Minister is that there may at times be some necessity for the issue of certain supplemental regulations. The amendment refers to the householder's schedule, and to the oaths of secrecy, and it will be admitted that no supplemental arrangements in respect of them will be necessary. The Minister might agree to that part of the amendment. Then with regard to the regulations, I am not unwilling to add the words " unless supplemental," after the word "regulations."

Senator Keating - That would be very dangerous.

Senator PULSFORD - It is odd, after the remarks he has just made, that the Minister should say that that would be dangerous.

Senator Keating - I am viewing the suggestion from the honorable senator's stand-point. I should trust any Government.

Senator PULSFORD - I do not trust any Government any further than I am obliged to. If honorable senators are anxious with regard to supplemental regulations, I am willing to amend the amendment by inserting the word "supplemental." Would Senator Keating like to have that word inserted ?

Senator Keating - Then we should have to define "supplemental," and that could only be governed by the circumstances of every case.

Senator PULSFORD - I do not see that the word is required. But the condition which I propose is, I think, clearly desirable, . and I also think that Parliament ought to retain some real control over the schedule, the collectors, and the regulations under which the census will be taken. Considering that the census will not be taken until five years from now, there is no ground for the statement of the Minister as to the difficulties in the way.

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