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Thursday, 15 October 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Aus tralia) (Minister for Defence) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

In my statement in June dealing with the Australian defence review, amongst other matters, I announced two measures which I said would be the subject of legislation in the next session of Parliament. These measures were the establishment of volunteer emergency reserve forces and the provision for the calling up of citizen and reserve forces to the extent necessary to meet the requirements of all three Services in circumstances short of general war. I propose that this second reading speech should cover the three Bills whose purpose is to amend existing legislation to enable these measures to be put into effect in the three Services. I shall introduce the other two Bills later on in the morning. Certain other important amendments are also included.

The review in June was carried out against the background of instability in South-East Asia which shows no indication of improvement today nor in the foreseeable future. This is the area of direct strategic importance to Australia. Our treaty commitments and our vital interests demand that we should be in a position to commit troops at short notice and that we are prepared to make greater contributions than at present should the strategic situation demand it. With these considerations in mind the Government decided to establish a volunteer emergency reserve in each of the three Services. These forces will be fully trained, medically fit, and available for posting for operational service within a few days of the need arising. They will provide a ready means of supplementing field force units, increasing our cold war military capability and providing reinforcements in the initial stages of hostilities short of general war.

At the same time as the decision was made to form the Emergency Reserves, the Government decided also that there was a need to have regard to the circumstances of today when situations involving hostilities of a limited nature are more likely than general war. The citizen forces are only available under current defence legislation for call up in a time of war, as defined in the Defence Act, that is, when there is an attack or threatened attack on Australia or its Territories. It is necessary to provide for the more likely situations when hostilities occur which, although not posing an immediate direct threat of attack on Australia, could develop to the stage where Australia's security could be gravely jeopardised. Under those circumstances, which are short of a time of war as defined in the Defence Act, it was decided that the citizen forces should be available to meet and maintain Australia's military effort. These circumstances could arise with little warning.

The Bills will provide and define a clear progression in which members of the various parts of the defence force will become available for full time continuous service. First, the permanent forces of each Service will be available at all times. Secondly, if the defence situation requires it the GovernorGeneral may, by order, call out the Emergency Reserves of each Service. Thirdly, if the military situation deteriorates the Governor-General may then by proclamation declare a time of defence emergency. The effect of such a declaration is that, as well as continuing the liability of members of the permanent forces and Emergency Reserves to render continuous full time service for an indefinite period and enabling the Minister to call out the Regular Army Reserve, it also enables the GovernorGeneral by proclamation to call out the citizen forces. If this grave step has to be taken the Governor-General is obliged to report the reason for so doing to the Parliament.

The term " time of defence emergency " is defined in the Defence Bill. The particular circumstances giving rise to the proclamation of such a state could be of a varied nature all of which, however, would be so serious as to require a full explanation at the time of the proclamation. Should it be necessary to declare a state of war then the whole nation would be mobilised - by conscription.

I turn now to the specific provisions of the Bills. Clauses are included in each of the Bills to formally constitute the Emergency Reserves as part of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. The service to be rendered by these Reserves is set out in detail and provides that members of the Reserves may be called out for full time service by the Governor-General when he considers it desirable to do so. The Emergency Reserves may be required to serve for periods up to a maximum of 12 months at one time followed by equal periods during which members will return to civil life. In time of war or in time of defence emergency, however, they may be required to serve beyond 12 months; indeed at such times they will be required to serve until such emergencies no longer exist.

Members of the Emergency Reserves make themselves available for call up for full time service at short notice and at any time. As civilians, they therefore assume a serious and what could be a most demanding obligation. For this reason, members will receive a special bounty of £100 for the first year of service rising by £25 each year to £175 for the fourth and subsequent years, together with a gratuity of £55 for each call up for full time duty. Provisions for these payments will be made in the regulations.

An important part of the Defence Bill which will apply to the three Services is that part which deals with the safeguarding of the civil employment rights of members of the Reserves and Citizen Forces. It is most important that those men who voluntarily join those Forces should not be prejudiced or penalised in their employment because of the liabilities which they undertake in connection with their service or because of their absence from their civil occupation while performing full time service. Any such action on the part of an employer will constitute an offence. This should not, of course, be taken as a reflection upon employers generally, for the Government believes that with few exceptions the proposals will have the support of employers themselves and of their associations.

Subject to some qualifications, a member of the Reserves and Citizen Forces will be entitled, upon his return from a period of Defence service, to resume his employment with his former employer, or to be reinstated in employment with that employer's successor if the employer has gone out of business. He will be protected from dismissal, except for legitimate causes, for a period after returning to his civil employment equal to the period which he has just spent on Defence service.

The qualifications of these rights are that the member, unless under a contract of apprenticeship, must have been employed by the employer for at least 30 days immediately prior to commencing a period of full time service and that he must present himself to his former employer, or that employer's successor, for work within a reasonable period. The Bill also provides that a member who resumes his civil employment, provided that he remains in the employment for a period equal to that of his absence on full time service, will have the period of absence counted as time worked in employment for the purpose of computing rights to some entitlements such as leave and, where applicable, superannuation and pension funds. The provisions of the Bill in relation to the protection of civil employment rights are modelled upon those which operated during the last war and, since then, in relation to National Service Training.

Under existing law members of the Navy and the Air Force are obliged to serve within Australia or outside Australia whenever required to do so, but members of the military forces are only required to render overseas service if they volunteer to do so. Under the Defence Bill members of the military forces who volunteer for enlistment in those forces may be required to serve either within or beyond Australia. In practice, this brings no change in the conditions of service of the regular military forces because no person is enlisted in those forces unless he volunteers for overseas service. So far as the Citizen Military Forces are concerned, no person is accepted for service in those forces unless he volunteers to serve overseas in time of war. Under the new conditions of service that will apply to members of the Citizen Military Forces, they may be required to serve overseas in a time of defence emergency as well as in a time of war. When persons are accepted for enlistment in the Regular Army Emergency

Reserve, they will be required to serve overseas as well as in Australia.

It will be seen, therefore, that the conditions governing the service of members of the Citizen Military Forces will be considerably changed in relation to overseas service. In addition, the conditions of service applicable to Citizen Forces of the three Services will be changed because at present the Governor-General can call out the Citizen Forces only in time of war whereas under these Bills he may call them out in a time of defence emergency as well as in a time of war.

Members, therefore, should be given a statutory right to resign or to obtain their discharge if they are unwilling to serve under the changed conditions. Provisions to this effect are contained in each of the Bills and these provisions are consistent with the principle that the Defence Force shall be kept up by voluntary enlistment.

I pay a tribute to the members of the citizen forces who devote many leisure hours in training and developing their talents and skills so that should the need arise they can take their place effectively in the defence of Australia. They have declared their willingness to serve overseas in time of war and I have every confidence that they will be just as willing in time of defence emergency. When persons who do not volunteer are required to render service in the Citizen Military Forces - and here I refer, for example, to persons who are called up compulsorily in time of war - they are not required to serve overseas unless they undertake voluntarily to do so. However, once a person has given such a voluntary undertaking to serve overseas he is bound by that undertaking during the currency of that service.

Provision is also made in the legislation removing the statutory right of discharge in cases when a member's term of engagement terminates in time of defence emergency, as well as in time of war as at present provided, and, in the case of the permanent forces, at a time when the Emergency Reserves are called out. It should be clearly understood that although members do not have a statutory right to discharge during these times there is no bar to their being discharged if the circumstances of any particular case justify it.

I will refer now to two measures which will afford greater flexibility in the management of our military forces especially should greater numbers be called upon in circumstances of the call up of the Emergency Reserves or in time of defence emergency. Firstly, a commanding officer was authorised in 1903 when dealing summarily with a soldier, sailor or airman to fine him £5. In those days this was a substantial penalty having regard to rates of pay at that time. Today a fine of £5 is so inadequate for the more serious breaches of discipline that commanding officers in the Army have found it necessary to remand soldiers for trial by court martial when they have felt their own summary powers were inadequate. This problem has not confronted commanding officers in the Navy or Air Force because they have much greater powers of summary punishment. It has therefore been considered desirable to meet some of the difficulties facing an Army commanding officer by increasing the fine which he may award from £5 to £20. This increase in fine should enable a commanding officer to reserve only serious cases for trial by court martial. Safeguards of the right to elect for trial by court martial will ensure that the increased powers will not be exercised harshly. In addition every summary award made by a commanding officer is reviewed by superior military authority who may quash or reduce the award.

Secondly, the present provisions of the Defence Act provide that when Australian troops are serving with the United Kingdom Forces outside Australia they are subject to the disciplinary provisions of the United Kingdom Army Act. The Defence Bill amends the relevant section to provide in essence that whenever Australian troops re serving outside Australia they are subject to the United Kingdom Army Act. It is inappropriate nowadays to restrict the application of the United Kingdom Army Act to circumstances when our forces are serving with the United Kingdom forces because it is very probable with our South East Asia Treaty Organisation commitments that our forces could be serving with American forces or those of S.E.A.T.O. countries. It is essential that our troops be subject to the Army Act as distinct from the peace time military code of discipline when they are serving outside Australia because it is the Army Act that gives courts martial power to try civil offences. Where the troops of one country are serving in another friendly country, the almost universal practice has developed whereby the Government of that friendly country concludes a status of forces agreement with the country sending the troops. Under such agreements, courts martial deal with servicemen who commit offences against members or in relation to the property of members of their own force, and the courts of that friendly country only try servicemen of a visiting force for offences against or in relation to their own citizens. lt is basic to such arrangements that courts martial have jurisdiction to try civil offences and this is the primary reason for widening the application of the Army Act to our military forces wherever serving overseas. It is not necessary to include any provision in the Naval Defence Bill or the Air Force Bill to this effect because the United Kingdom legislation applies, by reference, to those forces at all times whether they are within or outside Australia.

In making provision in the Bills for the constitution of the Emergency Reserves and to define the liability for service of members of those reserves, the opportunity was taken to provide uniform legislation for the three Services which spelt out in greater detail than at present not only the constitution of the various parts that make up each of the three Services but also to define the liability for service of members of each of those parts. The occasion has also been used to make certain necessary and urgent amendments to existing legislation. The first and probably the most important of these related to the resignation of officers.

The Government has taken the first oportunity to give effect to observations by the High Court that the Statutes should indicate more precisely .the circumstances in which an officer may reasonably expect to have his tender of resignation accepted or rejected. The High Court was unanimous in the judgment that the Crown retains the right to accept or to decline to accept an officer's resignation. There is no intention to alter this basic law. However provision is now made ti show quite clearly the type of circumstances that must exist before a Service board would be entitled to refuse a resignation. The new provisions recognise the practice whereby the appropriate Service board makes a recommendation as to whether a resignation be accepted or refused and in cases where it is clear that a resignation should be refused the power to refuse is vested in the Service board without the necessity for the resignation to go forward to the Executive Council. In any other case the resignation will be forwarded to the Minister for transmission to the Governor-General and it may fairly be implied that in normal circumstances such a tender of resignation would be accepted. Provision is made however that if the Minister considers that an officer's resignation should not be accepted unless he complies with certain conditions, the officer's resignation would not be submitted to the Governor-General for acceptance until the officer has complied with the conditions.

There are a number of officers on whom considerable amounts of public money have been expended in furthering their education. I refer to the cost of putting officers through the naval and military colleges and the R.A.A.F. Academy, the training of undergraduates at universities for appointment as medical and dental officers and the post graduate courses which are made available to officers with the necssary potential. In many instances if an officer who has received these educational benefits wishes to resign, his resignation will be rejected unless he has given in return a predetermined period of service. There will be instances however where it is impracticable or inequitable to require an officer to continue to serve but in which it would be appropriate to grant him his release only if he reimburses the Commonwealth in whole or in part for the funds expended on him.

I refer now to another amendment which it is considered appropriate to deal with on this occasion. The present Defence Act provides for the establishment of a military college. There is no statutory authority for the Officer Cadet School at Portsea nor for the Austraiian Staff College at Queenscliff. The present Act also confines the admission of students to the Royal Military College to British subjects. The opportunity has therefore been taken to widen the eligibility of entry to the Royal Military College, in particular to allow soldiers of the Pacific Islands Regiment to enter that College. Pacific Islanders born in Papua are British subjects but those born in New Guinea are not. It is necessary therefore to remove this discriminatory bar. In addition, persons who are not British subjects but are members of the forces of friendly nations will be eligible for admission as students. Not only will the Defence Bill achieve this, but it will provide the necessity statutory authority for the setting up and government of other military instructional institutions in addition to the Royal Military College.

As it is well known, the phrase " in time of war " appears in many of the sections of the present Acts. It was necessary therefore to consider which of the sections should be amended to include reference to a " time of defence emergency." Amongst these sections were provisions in the Defence Act and the Naval Act relating to the passing of prescribed examinations for appointment and promotion of officers and for exemption from such examinations in time of war. These sections have been unworkable because it has been found impractable to prescribe detailed examinations. Accordingly, these sections have been repealed and replaced by a provision which authorises the Governor-General to appoint and promote officers subject to such conditions, qualifications and requirements as are provided for in the regulations. The GovernorGeneral's power to delegate his authority to appoint and promote officers has also been provided for in the circumstances of today.

In respect of the Navy, opportunity is being taken to rectify the matter of the application by the Naval Defence Act of the United Kingdom Naval Discipline Act and the Queen's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions to the Naval forces. This British legislation contains the disciplinary code of the Navy. The Queen's Regulations also contain regulations on such matters as rank and command and boards of inquiry, to the extent that these matters are not dealt with in regulations made under the Naval Defence Act. The application of the United Kingdom legislation is subject to two important deficiencies. In the first place, it applies to the United Kingdom legislation for the time being in force. This is objectionable on legal grounds, since the legislation as applied may be and is amended at any time by the British authorities without reference to this Parliament, which accordingly lacks adequate control over the legislation. Amendments to the United Kingdom legislation are commonly in force for some time before the amendments are received in Australia. Consequently it is impossible to be certain at any time that a particular provision under which action is being taken has not, in fact, been amended or repealed.

The second deficiency arises from the application of the United Kingdom legislation " to the Naval Forces ". This raised problems where members of the military and air forces serve in Her Majesty's Australian ships, and in respect of certain other matters relating to the naval forces. These deficiencies are being removed by applying the British legislation in force on the date of commencement of the Naval Defence Act 1964 and otherwise amending the relevant section. Although the Naval Defence Act and the Air Force Act apply to the naval and air forces respectively wherever they may be, their application in the Territories in respect of matters incidental to those forces is not always easy to determine. This is particularly important, for example, in the case of the Papua and New Guinea division of the naval forces. Appropriate provisions are being included in both these Acts to clarify this aspect by specifying that the Acts extend to every Territory of the Commonwealth.

The Defence Act and the Naval Defence Act contain a number of provisions that have been superseded by later Acts such as the Defence (Visiting Forces) Act 1963. The relevant sections are being repealed. Opportunity has been taken also to clarify and to bring up to date some aspects of the present legislation which are not of substance and therefore need not be adverted to in detail here. I commend the bill to honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.

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