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Wednesday, 12 October 1910

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - Most of the noise made this afternoon by honorable senators opposite is intended to make it clear that, because the Government have a following in this Chamber, they are in a position to bring down' regulations which that following must support, irrespective of whether the regulations are right or wrong. That is entirely opposed to my notions of the duties of a Government. This is the first time I have been given to understand that a Government can bring down a set of regulations which must be regarded as sacred, which' must not be touched, and which they themselves regard as vital. Take the case of the Navigation Bill, which is before the Senate. Presumably its provisions have undergone a great deal of Executive criticism. Its clauses represent a list of Cabinet decisions. But when each clause comes under our review every honorable senator is free to vote yea or nay upon it.

Senator Sayers - Does the honorable senator say that the Navigation Bill came before this Chamber after it had been passed by the Executive?

Senator LYNCH - After it had been approved by the Cabinet. In my view, a Bill and its clauses are superior at any time to regulations. To attempt to elevate a set of regulations to the same plane as that which is occupied' by a Bill is ridiculous.

Senator Givens - Regulations are far stronger than is a Bill. A Bill is nothing until it becomes an Act.

Senator LYNCH - We all recognise that the clauses of the Navigation Bill, which had met with Cabinet approval before being submitted to us, have since undergone a very great change. It would be extraordinary if we were told by the Government that these regulations would be treated by them as vital to their existence. I am sure that the Ministry do not expect their supporters to follow them blindly upon a mere matter of regulations. At any rate, I shall exercise my independence in respect to every one of those regulations.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [3.13].- From the tone of the debate it seems rather a pity that the Government did not see their way to allow the Senate to debate the motion of which notice was given by the Honorary Minister last week. Had that course been followed we should have been afforded an opportunity to express our opinions upon questions to which we are strongly antagonistic, and it would also have enabled the Government to ascertain the feeling of the Senate. Instead, it is now proposed that the whole of the questions to be placed on the census papers shall be embodied in regulations, and we are told that it will be competent for any honorable senator to discuss those regulations on a specific motion. That statement is quite true, so far as it goes. But as has already been pointed out by Senator Sayers, Government business already monopolizes the whole of our time, so that we may really have no chance of dissenting from any particular regulation. I think that the Ministry ought to afford us such an opportunity.

Senator Pearce - I gave a definite assurance to-day that we will do that.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I assumed that the Government would do so. I also wish to point out that the Acts Interpretation Act of 1904 provides that -

Where an Act confers power to make regulations, all regulations made accordingly shall, unless the contrary intention appears -

(a)   be notified in the Gazelle;

(b)   take effect from the date of notification, or from a later date specified in the regulations ;

(c)   be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days of the making thereof, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament.

But if either House of the Parliament passes a resolution of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after such regulations have been laid before such House disallowing any regulation such regulation shall thereupon cease to have effect.

Senator Givens - There is no provision in that Act for amending regulations.

Senator Pearce - The forms of the Senate allow that to be done.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I was going on to point out that we have the right to disallow a regulation.

Senator Pearce - You can give a reason for the disallowance.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - In this case, for instance, the Senate can disallow a regulation because it contains certain questions which are objectionable, and then I assume that the course for the Ministry to take would be to submit another regulation embodying the questions which have been approved. It is rather a pity, I think, that the Senate has not had an opportunity of debating the census questions as was promised. On Wednesday last a promise to that effect was made by Senator McGregor, and subsequently Senator Findley gave notice of a specific motion which was supposed to take the place of the promise that the questions should be discussed at an early date. That variation has, no doubt, created the feeling that the Senate had not been treated fairly. I trust that Ministers, now that they have ascertained its feeling, will lose no time in submitting regulations in order that they may be dealt with as promptly and effectively as possible, and not hold them over until such a late period that there will not be ample time to discuss any objectionable features of them.

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