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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I do not desire to discuss what may be termed the purpose of the Bill. It seems to me to be a desirable measure, but I did expect the Minister to state why it is proposed to create a new class of officers. In addition to those who have hitherto been authorized to take these declarations, it is proposed to create an official called a Commissioner for Declarations. I expected to hear from theMinister a reason for this departure from the law in the States. It appears to me to be extremely undesirable to have so many officials of different designations entitled to perform the same duty. As regards declarations, I should think that it would be far better to have a simple commissioner, or allow any man to take them. This measure will multiply the titles or the positions to such an extent that a person will hardly know where he is. At present, the ordinary members of the public hardly know whether they should go to a Commissioner for Affidavits or to a justice of the peace to make these declarations. We should simplify these matters ; and, personally, I do. not know why we should maintain this system of having commissionersfor the taking of affidavits . The penalty for a false declaration is the same whether it be taken before a Commissioner for Affidavits or a magistrate ; the only difference I think being that, if a man makes a declaration before a Commissioner for Affidavits, he has to pay a fee, whilst if he makes it before an ordinary justice of the peace he has to pay nothing. I think a man should be allowed to make a declaration before any magistrate.

Senator McGregor - So he will be.

Senator MILLEN - - Then why retain the Commissioner for Affidavits and also provide for the creation of a Commissioner for Declarations?

Senator McGregor - For greater public convenience.

Senator MILLEN - There will be no greater public convenience secured by multiplying the designations of the officials employed for this purpose. Let the honorable senator, if he pleases, multiply the officials under one designation. We _provide for the taking of declarations by a police magistrate, a special magistrate, a justice of the peace, and a Commissioner for Affidavits ; and, under this Bill, in addition to these five classes of officials, it is proposed to create a sixth. I say that the public convenience would be met equally by adding to the number of officials under the existing five designations, without increasing the number under a fresh designation.

Senator Vardon - Does this mean the appointment of a new officer?

Senator MILLEN - It means the appointment of as many new officers as the Government please. If this is to be tor greater public convenience; it is clear that the Government contemplate the appointment, not of a single new officer, but of battalions of new officers. I long ago arrived at the conclusion that, in order to meet the convenience of the public, we should provide that declarations may be made before any magistrate, or, if honorable senators please, before any Government official. The person taking a declaration is merely a witness to the fact that it has been made; and the only reason why declarations are not made before ordinary members of the public is that it may be possible to trace those before whom they have been made, should it be necessary to secure their testimony. But for that, any one would serve as a witness to a declaration. That being so, I urge that it is not desirable to create the proposed new class of officers, as it will probably only add to the confusion that already exists.

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