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Thursday, 14 May 1931

Senator DALY (South Australia) . - I now find myself in the position of being able to support the motion for the adoption of the report. When last this matter was under discussion we differed, I think, only as to whether the activities of the proposed standing committees should include the consideration of external affairs. "Now that the select committee has recommended the appointment of committees that will consider only such matters as reports, ordinances and regulations, I see no objection to the motion. I would, however, like to correct an impression that might be created in the minds of honorable senators by the remarks of Senator Colebatch. Apparently, the honorable senator was under the impression that, prior to the amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act, if a regulation was not tabled within a period of 30 days from the date of its making, it ceased to operate.

Senator Colebatch - I made no such suggestion.

Senator DALY - I understood the honorable senator to say that if a regulation were not tabled within a certain time certain legal consequences would follow.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - Not at all.

Senator DALY - Under the act, if regulations are not tabled either because Parliament is not in session, or through some act of negligence on the part of the Government, such regulations, nevertheless, have full legal effect.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - That is so.

Senator DALY - The amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act to which the honorable senator referred, imposed on the Government an obligation to table regulations within fifteen sitting days from the date of their making.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - Instead of thirty days.

Senator DALY - I think the honorable senator does not appreciate the point which I am endeavouring to make. The previous Government gave this matter careful consideration and, acting on the best legal advice available, prepared a bill, notice of which was given in another place to overcome the difficulty. When this Government came into office it took up the measure. As Leader of the Senate I was able to assure honorable senators that it was a purely machinery bill, and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who was acquainted with its provisions, was in a position to advise his colleagues that the measure was not a contentious one.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - No one at that time contemplated that it would be used to withhold regulations from the Senate.

Senator DALY - If the honorable senator interprets the action of the Government in connexion with regulations dealing with waterside workers, as an intention to withhold regulations from the Senate, I remind him that, under the original law, it was competent for the Government to withhold the regulations.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - For 30 days only.

Senator DALY - Even if regulations were not tabled within 30 days they would still have legal force. It was to get over this difficulty that the bill to amend the Acts Interpretation Act was passed. As Leader of the Senate, I conferred with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, and, in another place, the AttorneyGeneral consulted the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). Both Houses were assured that there was no desire on the part of the Government to shirk its duty, and that the measure should be passed. In some respects the Commonwealth Constitution is unique. I know of no constitution which gives to the parliament greater control over the executive than' is vested in this Parliament. I entirely disagree with Sir Arthur Robinson, whose views were quoted just now by Senator Colebatch. Bearing in mind the intricacies of our Constitution, the laws passed by this Parliament are remarkable for their clarity. I agree with Senator Colebatch that we should have a standing, committee of the Senate to study regulations that are laid on the table from time to time. It is better to make it some men's job instead of allowing it to be no man's job. The proposed committee could give careful study to the many questions that would come before it and give valuable advice to the Senate. On more than one occasion we have had evidence of the need for such a committee. Under the Northern Australia Act; for example, certain regulations were made affecting the interests of quite a number of people. The party that I have the honour to represent has nothing to hide, nor does it seek to gain any advantage by the making of regulations. All that it desires is to operate to the fullest extent the powers that are vested in it under the Constitution. Every regulation that it has made has been tabled. But for the premature action of the Opposition, it would have tabled the regulations dealing with waterside workers. Therefore, I see no reason why any objection should be raised to this proposal ; and I hope that the motion will be carried.

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