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Wednesday, 7 May 1930

Regulation Under Transport Workers Act: Delay in Placing Before Parliament.

Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -

That the Senate tlo now adjourn.

Senator SirGEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [9.52]. - I desire to bring before the notice of the Senate another instance of the Government legislating behind the back of Parliament. This Go vernment has shown, to a contemptuous degree, a defiance of Parliament. It has absolutely ignored the will of Parliament as expressed in the various acts on our statute-book. Almost at its inception it gave illustrations of that attitude to Parliament by its administration of the Defence Act. That act provides for compulsory military training, but the Government suspended the training of our youths without asking Parliament to amend that law. Next we had the spectacle of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Penton) taking upon himself to promise all sorts of tariff alterations, and ultimately bringing down a schedule of some 300 items, without consulting the Tariff Board in regard to them. Then there was a further instance of disregard of, Parliament when a whole host of tariff prohibitions were enforced, none of which apparently will ever come before Parliament for comment. It is presumably the intention of the Government to continue these prohibitions without parliamentary authority, although one would think that, in a vital matter of this kind, the earliest opportunity would have been sought to obtain parliamentary approval of the action taken. Later we had under notice the ordinance for the appointment of the Federal Capital Advisory Council, in which matter I drew attention to the procedure that had been followed. It will be remembered that the presentation of the ordinance was delayed until the very day on which the Senate was to rise for the Easter adjournment. The ordinance was laid on the table at the last moment, apparently to prevent Parliament from expressing its views concerning it. We have also had our attention drawn to the Government's decision with respect to preference to returned soldiers. In that case instructions entirely foreign to the requirements of the Public Service Act were issued behind the back of Parliament.

The latest instance of the Government's flouting of the will of Parliament is its action in regard to the Transport Workers Act. A number of statements of a most inflammatory character have been made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) regarding the intentions of the

Government. I have in my hand a copy of Statutory Rule No. 38, issued on the 9th April, 1930, and signed by His Excellency the Governor-General and the Attorney-General. The regulation makes an alteration of the picking-up places and the times for picking up transport workers. This matter is now the subject of an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The decision was made under a Commonwealth law, and. therefore, has the same effect as a law of this Parliament. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that to-day is the 7th of May, and that on Friday next, 30 days will have elapsed since the promulgation of the regulation in the Commonwealth Gazette. Here, again, we have an instance of the Government deliberately withholding an important regulation for weeks when it might have been placed before Parliament for, consideration. It has been withheld, apparently, until the very last minute, when it must be laid on the table if it is to have any force and effect. I bring this matter forward in order to" direct the attention of the Senate, and, I hope, of the country, to the fact, that this Government has again shown a contemptuous disregard of Parliament and of the law. By its latest action the Government has practically defied Parliament. One would think that on a matter such as this, concerning which there is strong difference of opinion, and where an arbitration law, made after due consideration, is to be vitally altered, the Government would have taken the earliest opportunity of bringing before Parliament notice of its intention by laying the regulation on the table. But 28 days have elapsed, and only to-day I accidentally happened to become possessed of a copy of the Statutory Rule to which I have drawn attention. Otherwise members of Parliament would have no information concerning it other than may be gleaned from the press. I suppose that the intention was to delay the tabling of the regulation until Friday next, the Government thus availing itself of the full period of 30 days. It is well that Parliament and the country should know that this is the way in which the present Government proposes to act in legislative matters of this kind.

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