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Wednesday, 4 June 1969

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) (Leader of the Opposition) - I support what Senator Poyser has said. This is a matter of very great importance. I think it is fair to say that the arguments for the proposed amendment are really irresistible. I am being fair to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) when 1 say that he has not been able to advance any justification for clause 8 as it stands and for a departure from the general law of the Commonwealth. I sense that the feeling of the Committee is that the clause should be amended. We adopt a very wrong attitude if we say that we should let the Bill go through all stages, otherwise other legislation might be affected. This is not the right attitude. It is for the Government to deal with the situation if it does arise.

If Government supporters concede, as they should, that the amendment ought to be made, there are a number of ways in which the Government could proceed. It is proposed that the legislation shall operate from 1st July. If the Government does not want to recall the House of Representatives to deal with this legislation as amended it could be considered in August yet still made to operate from 1st July. The date of operation of the measure could be made retrospective. Alternatively, the Goverment could bring in an amendment to deal with the specific matters, If the will of the Committee is expressed on these matters and the Minister says that the Government will accept it, we could soon find a formula to deal with the situation. We could say that we would accept the Minister's assurance and bring in an amendment to clear the matter up and the legislation could be passed in its present form. We could bring In an amendment to alter the clause along the lines suggested. That is one way in which we could reasonably deal with the matter.

But if the Government will not take that course I do not think it is right for the Committee to pass bad legislation or for the Government to suggest that as the Bill has been brought in right at the end of the' sessional period we should pass this bad legislation touching on the rights of the people. These matters should bc looked at. There has been discussion before about matters of this kind. I hope that Bills will not be brought in on any future occasion without some attention being paid to the question of rights. Attention in this case is paid merely to matters of administrative convenience. In the absence of such an offer from the Government I ask that the Committee pass the amendment.

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