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Thursday, 5 October 1911

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - It is sometimes a great advantage to the Senate to have members of the legal profession devoting themselves to the criticism of measures of this kind. Very often they assist in the elucidation of questions such as that which has been raised by Senator St. Ledger. However, I do not think that the honorable senator need be alarmed in the slightest degree. I am very much obliged to Senator Keating for the explanation which he gave in connexion with this question. The Government have no idea of doing anything which would jeopardize the reputation of any person, and, consequently, we do not pro pose to make these declarations evidence in any Court. That is quite clear from the text of the Bill. But it is within the power of the Courts to use their discretion, and to take whatever action they may think proper in reference to such declarations. Personally, I think it is very desirable that the Court should be vested with that discretion. I know that Senator St. Ledger has no desire that criminals should escape justice. Although the Government do not wish to make the declaration of any criminal, evidence against him in the future, yet they think it is right that our Judges should have power to call for such declaration if, in their opinion, he would in its absence be likely to go scot-free. Consequently, I think that every provision has been made for the general protection of the public. Senator St. Ledger may rest secure in the belief that the Government have no intention to perpetrate any irregularity. The responsibility of calling for any statutory declaration will rest with the Courts, and the honorable senator, I know, has every confidence in the Judges of Australia. With respect to the point raised by Senator Keating as to Acts, Ordinances and statutory regulations, he will doubtless recollect that when the Acts Interpretation Act was under consideration the question of Ordinances was not involved. Consequently no provision was made in that Act regarding them. So far as I am aware, the only Acts in which provision is made for Ordinances are the Seat of Government Act, the Northern Territory Act, and the Papua Act. Those Ordinances are Commonwealth Ordinances, and it is only Commonwealth Ordinances which have any standing under legislation of this kind.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 (Form of statutory declaration).

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