Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 2 November 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) - - I do not propose to reiterate what Senator Keating has said, because I suppose that more discussion has taken place in the Senate over the use of " may " and "shall " than over any other words used in Acts of Parliament. Senator Keating has, however, submitted an unanswerable argument by pointing out that throughout the principal Act " may " is used wherever the Crown or Parliament is referred to. It is a well understood rule of interpretation in the Law Courts - and it is one which appeals to the common sense of a layman - that where certain words are used throughout an Act of Parliament the same thing is intended to be conveyed by the Legislature. But when the Legislature uses two words it is assumed that different meanings are attached to them. In this case, if two words are to be used, it will be assumed that Parliament meant different meanings to be conveyed. The Minister tells us that he knows what his colleague'sintentions are. But it seems undesirable to create ambiguity. I also direct attention to another cause of confusion. Cardsare at present being distributed to electors for the purpose of enrolling them upon the roll, which is being compiled under the existing Act. After this Bill passes it isintended that the elector shall make a further application for enrolment upon another card. That will be the first compulsory enrolment. But the clause goes on to provide that once an elector has made hisapplication, and been enrolled, he need not bother any further, no matter how many subsequent proclamations are issued - unless, of course, he removes his place of residence. An elector has to make one claim for enrolment, and one only. But, in thisinstance, electors, having filled up the cards that are at present being distributed, will be required, by Act of Parliament, to fill up other cards six months later, irĀ» pursuance of a proclamation. I am certain that a great deal of confusion will arise from electors believing that the cardswhich are being filled up at present are the cards which' they are required to fill up in accordance with the compulsory enrolment provisions. The trouble has arisen through the Electoral Branch, of the Home Affairs Department having initiated the card system without having legislative authority for it. This trouble is going to grow. Therewill be thousands of electors who, having made the one application on the card system; will consider that that is sufficient.

Senator St Ledger - That is the very impression I had with regard to my card.

Senator MILLEN - It is a most natural impression for an elector to have. He is told that he has to make an application for enrolment on a card supplied for the purpose. Thousands of electors will believe that the cards they have recently filled up are those which have to be filled' up under the compulsory enrolment system. I am certain that there will be a great deal of .confusion, and much undeserved discredit will be thrown upon the system. The trouble has arisen, as I have said, because the Department has pushed1 the card system into use ahead of legislation.. The result will be that electors who have filled in cards - for which, according to my reading of the Bill, there has been no legal warrant - will believe that that is sufficient, and will not fill in cards issued as the result of a proclamation under this, clause.

Senator Findley - How can they be required to fill in cards later on, if they have already filled in cards, and their names are on the roll?

Senator MILLEN - Because, in filling in the cards which they have already dealt with, they have not been complying with an obligation under the proclamation to be issued under this clause. Let the Minister read the Bill. If it does not mean what it plainly says, my argument cannot be sustained; but if it does, the position will be as I have described it. The proclamation provided for in the clause must be made after, and not before, the passing of this Bill. We cannot pass this Bill into law to-morrow, and rely for the establishment of the compulsory system of enrolment upon a proclamation made six months ago.

Senator McGregor - It can be stated in the proclamation that those who have already sent in cards for enrolment will be all right.

Senator MILLEN - That is to say, that, although the Bill lays down specifically what is to be done, the Government intend to do what they please.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator would not have people doing work that is quite unnecessary?

Senator MILLEN - Then why legislate to say that quite unnecessary work shall be done? As soon as the Bill is passed, and the Act brought into force, the Department must carry out the provisions of the proposed new section32a, and no enrolment prior to the passing of this measure will meet the demand of that section. When we provide that an elector who has once enrolled his name need not make application for enrolment again, he may be pardoned if he confuses the card which the Government are asking him to sign to-day with the card which he will be asked to sign later on under this Bill.

Senator Findley - He will not make another application, because his name will be already on the roll.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister does not understand my point.

Senator Findley - I do understand it.

Senator MILLEN - Then the honorable senator will only be creating trouble if he dismisses my objection in that way. I can quite understand that Ministers may say that, as they are in control of the Departments, they will act as they please.

Senator Findley - I do not mean that.

Senator MILLEN - Then the obligation will be upon them to see that the provisions of the Act are carried out. Under this proposed new section, an obligation will be laid upon electors to do something after a proclamation issues, and that must refer to the proclamation which it will be necessary to issue after the passing of this measure to bring this provision of the law into effect. We must issue a new proclamation, or these compulsory provisions will not become operative. We have no power to compel any person to become enrolleduntil that proclamation has been issued. Having, by the issue of the proclamation, assumed the power to compel people to enroll, they must do so; and, no matter how many applications for enrolment may have been sent in by electors before the issue of a proclamation under this proposed new section, the obligation to apply to be enrolled will still be upon them under the provision now under review.

Suggest corrections