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Friday, 1 May 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- During the current week, as the result of a resolution passed in the Senate, certain provisions were deleted from the National Security (Conscientious Objectors) Regulations. The effect of their deletion was, in substance, to destroy those regulations, because there is now no provision for the hearing of either an original application by an objector or an appeal by him against the dismissal of such an application. But the whole of the regulations have not been repealed, and so long as they remain unrepealed conscientious objectors will be prevented from taking advantage of the protection afforded by the Defence Act to objectors to combatant service. Section 61 and subsequent sections of that act provide that any person who objects to render combatant service but is willing to render non-combatant service may establish his objection before a court, and shall have the right of appeal against an adverse decision. Those sections of the Defence Act are suspended while the National Security Regulations continue. in force. The regulations continue in force in name, but not in substance, because those of them which enabled a conscientious objector to establish a claim or to appeal if his claim were rejected, are gone. It would appear to be very difficult for the Government to include in the regulations the equivalent of these provisions, by virtue of the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act. But the Government should nevertheless consider the matter, because it is of no use to allow the regulations to remain nominally in force when their whole substance is gone and conscientious objectors are prevented from availing themselves of the provisions of the Defence Act. Some conscientious objectors who have objected to perform combatant service but have been willing to perform non-combatant service have nevertheless been ordered to perform combatant service. So long as these regulations remain in force, such persons cannot avail themselves of the protection afforded by the Defence Act. I hope that the appropriate Minister will consider the whole subject from every point of view; because it is a calamity that regulations which took such a long time to become enacted should have been destroyed in the Senate without a division having been taken on the motion for their disallowance. I am astonished that when these regulations were challenged the motion challenging them, the carrying of which has destroyed them, should have been allowed' to pass on the voices. 1 have received a letter from Golden Mayfair Proprietary Limited, wholesale and retail provision merchants, who have a number of grocery stores in my electorate and serve 4,000 customers a week. The letter was sent to me by express delivery, and informed me that this firm is unable to supply any of its customers with salt. The position seems to be most curious, especially as I understand that a large quantity of salt has been harvested in Geelong. I trust that the appropriate Minister will look into the matter.

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