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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) (7:15 AM) . - I am glad to know that it is fully realized by honorable members on both sides that the Bill recently presented for discussion in this Chamber was objectionable by reason of its incorporation of the Army Act. The Government having promised us a Bill which would be free from that objectionable characteristic, I do not suppose it would in a devious way impose a measure upon us which would be a repetition of .the Bill which was so objectionable to honorable members on both sides. The Bill, in one of its provisions, clearly adopts the Defence Act in globo, with the exception of Part 15 of the Act. The Minister referred to section 54a of the Defence Act of 1903-18, which reads - 54a. (1) Members of the Military Forces, whether on war service or not -

(a)   serving with Imperial Forces outside Australia; or

(6)   on their way from Australia for the purpose of so serving; or

(c)   ontheir way back to Australia after so serving or after war service, shall be deemed to be on war service and shall be subject to the Army Act as if they were part of His Majesty's Regular Land Forces, with such modifications and adaptations as are prescribed.

I think I understand the Minister's' point that the reference to the Military Forces excludes the Air Force.

Mr Bowden - The Naval Discipline Act is referred to concerning . the Naval Force.

Mr BRENNAN - That may be so. That would meet the objection of the honorable member for Warringah that the Military Force included the Air Force. I take it that that is the view of the Government.

Mr Bowden - That is so.

Mr BRENNAN - One wonders why we adopt this Act in globo, since, even assuming that the Military Forces do not include the Air Force, it puts us to the necessity of examining every section of the Defence Act to see how far this Bill - is really affected by it. The simplest way to meet the objection is to make the position clear, either by an affirmative amendment or by dropping the clause, and I suggest that it would be better to delete the clause altogether. As already stated by the Minister, the object is merely to place the separate existence of the Air Force on a legal basis. Coupled with that statement was the promise that we were later to have a detailed Bill for discussion, but I should have thought it sufficient to establish the Air Force without incorporating in this measure our .own Defence Act, since it is a very long Act, and we do not know how far-reaching the Bill may be. I suggest to the Minister that we should drop the clause until we know the precise meaning of the Bill. I am not quite sure that our suspicions of this Bill are not well founded. I am somewhat mystified as to why we have adopted the Defence Act, carefully excluding the unimportant part at the end of the Act relating to military colleges, and embodying everything else. If the position is not clarified it will become necessary, of course, to examine this Bill in detail side by side with the Defence Act. It has been suggested that the objection might be met later by a provision to this effect : -

That notwithstanding anything contained in this section the Imperial Act, called the Army Act, and any Acts amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force, shall not apply to the Air Force.

On the face of it, that appears to be sufficient.

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