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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) (7:37 AM) .Subclause 3 empowers the GovernorGeneral to make any regulation his advisers may recommend under the Defence Act. That Act was passed in war time and contains about 150 sections. This , Committee is again asked to legislate by reference. Laws were passed in war . time which should not be repeated in time of peace. Surely a Bill could have been drafted which would have stated in its own clauses all that the Government desires done.

Mr Bowden - Yes, but that would have extended the Bill to about eighty or ninety clauses.

Mr SCULLIN - We are asked to take the word of the Government as to what this sub-clause means. Is anybody so foolish as to think that an Air Force can be established by a Bill of three clauses? The original Air Force Bill which was withdrawn contained over \100 clauses. It is clear, therefore, that it is necessary to embody the provisions of the Defence Act, some of which would be eliminated if the House had a chance of voting on them to-day. How can there be parliamentary control under a sub-clause such as this? I have read the Air Force Act, which distinctly says that any amendment of the Army Act automatically applies to the Air Force Act; and under this clause the Defence Act, which embodies the Army Act, may be modified and adapted in such a way as to bring the Australian Air Force under the Imperial Air Force Act.

Mr Bowden - There is no mention of the Imperial Air Force Act in the Defence Act.

Mr SCULLIN - No, but the Air Force Act, like the Defence Act, embodies the Army Act, and I can see nothing to prevent " the Governor-General from making regulations embodying all the provisions of the Army Act. I would state in the Bill all that is considered necessary in connexion with the establishment, organization, and control of the Air Force, and would limit the power of making regulations to certain specified matters.

Mr Groom - We can only adapt and modify the Defence Act, and as the proposed new sub-clause that the Minister has promised to add will exclude the Army Act, there will be no authority to embody any portion of the Imperial Air Force Act.

Mr SCULLIN - It is clear that, under this Bill of three clauses, everything that the Government desires done must be done by regulation, whereas, if the Bill were self-contained the power of regulation would be restricted by the provisions of the statute.

Mr Maxwell - It is proposed merely to adapt the provisions of the Defence Act to the purposes of the Air Force Act.

Mr SCULLIN - But the Act may be adapted in the wrong way.

Mr Maxwell - Has the honorable member in his mind any specific danger?

Mr SCULLIN - It is impossible for any honorable member to have much in his mind at this hour of the morning. It is unfair to ask us to take the responsibility of passing a Bill with three clauses, giving the Government power to establish the Air Force, and make regulations, and modify and adapt the provisions of another Act of 150 sections. All the powers that are necessary for the temporary organization of the Air Force should be stated in the Bill. We should vote against this clause.

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