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Wednesday, 8 November 1911

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - The Minister seemed to doubt my statement, but apparently he is not acquainted with the difficulties experienced in western Queensland. I have been miles away from places where I could get a pen and* ink. What is really the difference between a statutory declaration and an attested statement? A justice of the peace does not know whether a man who wishes to make a statutory declaration is about to tell the truth or not. He simply requires the person to swear that, to the best of his knowledge and belief, the statements contained in the document are correct, and witnesses; his signature. It is the duty of a man on every occasion to make a truthful statement, whether it is made before an ordinary witness or a justice of the peace. If a man is determined to commit perjury, it will make no difference to him whether his statement is made before a justice of the peace or an ordinary citizen. I do not see that "any great benefit is to be derived from requiring a man to go before a magistrate, because the latter will witness a signature to a document as a mere matter of form, and certify to the fact that the signatory has declared on oath the contents of the document to be true.

Senator Guthrie - A justice of the peace does more than that.

Senator SAYERS - No; I have witnessed the signatures to hundreds of statutory declarations.

Senator Guthrie - He has also to swear that the statement is true.

Senator SAYERS - I have never done so, nor do I think that any justice of the peace has ever been called upon to do so. It is not the justice of the peace, but the man to whom he administers the oath, who lis responsible for the truth of a statutory declaration. We want to protect, not the men in the towns, because they can protect themselves, but the thousands upon thousands of persons who live in the bush of Queensland and elsewhere. If the Government intend to carry out this measure, which I doubt very much, they will have thousands of prosecutions, especially during the first few years of its operations, until persons have learned what it means. Thousands of persons will not dream of being fined. They will not imagine that the Government intend to press compliance with the law. Of late years a bad practice has sprung up. A large portion of a measure is often left to be supplied by regulations. Under this measure we are to have regulations prescribing this thing, that thing, and the other thing, but they may depart entirely from the intention of Parliament. The Minister knows that in the course of time neither he nor the present officers will be in charge of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department. The less we have of departmental legislation the better. We are not sent here to be ruled by the Departments, but to make the laws of the country, and certainly we are not doing our duty. No regulations should be allowed to have the same effect as the provisions of an Act. Originally regulations were only intended to cover details which had been overlooked by Parliament. Year after year we are called upon to pass a skeleton Bill, and leave its administration to be provided for by departmental regulations. The same Minister is not always at the head of a Department. Recently we have had a change of Ministers, and before a year has expired we may have other changes.

Senator Guthrie - Parliament can disallow any regulation.

Senator SAYERS - It seldom does. Unless an honorable senator studies every regulation which is issued, some regulation slips through of which he is not aware. The floor of the chamber is the place for the making of our laws, and the Departments are the places for administering them. But more and more is Parliament losing control of the Departments. The Minister agrees with me, I feel sure, that the Act should specify every offence, and hot leave offences to be prescribed by the Department.

Senator Guthrie - Parliament can disapprove.

Senator SAYERS - Yes; but it is much easier for Parliament to keep a grip of things than, having lost it, to take it back. How many regulations have been issued during the last six months which many honorable senators have not seen by reasonof their absence?

Senator Givens - Even if they had been here, they could not have read all the regulations, because there were so many.

Senator SAYERS - No one will attempt to read a batch of regulations. What we ought to do is to meet the case of the men settled in many parts of northern Queensland, and, I believe, in the central and western parts also, who often experience a difficulty in obtaining even pen and ink. Of course, if a man is in a camp, he can get a pen and ink, and a person to witness his signature ; and if either the Government or the Court disbelieve him, further proof can be called for. In connexion with this matter of compulsory enrolment, a man should be afforded a chance to make a statement before proceedings are taken against him. It may not be convenient for him to travel 40 or 50 miles to find a justice of the peace. Surely a man living out on the Percy or the Cloncurry should be allowed a chance, if notified, of furnishing a statement by post. 1 hope that the Minister will see his wayto meet us in this matter. Otherwise, many a man will be punished simply because he will sooner risk the infliction of a fine than lose two or three days to travel to a Court.

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