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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Sir WILFRED KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) . - This clause seeks to repeal section 26 of the principal act, which deals with the call up for service. I presume that this is the right place for me to discuss certain things in that respect which were stated in the Minister's speech, in which he indicated to the House that the method of call up would be by ballot, that the number to be called up would be 12,000, and that those who were not called up, or whose names were not drawn out of the ballot, would have an opportunity to volunteer for service. I understand that the Minister is circulating amendments with regard to one or two of those points. All of those are important principles which should be in the bill because, as the call up for service now stands, the Minister would have the complete say in respect of it. I am not suggesting that I have no confidence in the present Minister but, in politics, the weather changes very rapidly on certain occasions.

Mr Curtin - You are telling us!

Sir WILFRED KENT HUGHES - Yes, it might change to a new form of Liberal government. Ministers come and go, after all. However, I do not see it changing to a Labour government at the moment. Nevertheless, whatever happens, I do not think it is right, in a bill of this nature, for the House to leave important general principles, ┬╗such as the question of the numbers to be called up, the method by which they are selected, namely by ballot, or the question of whether they may or may not volunteer, to the - I was going to say " whim " - of the Minister. I understand that the numbers are to be prescribed by regulation, but there is nothing to say that the Minister must do this or that. Any Minister - it might be myself or anybody else, and I do not want to accuse any individual Minister - could, acting under this legislation, handpick 12,000 men to serve. He could decide to call up 6,000 from Melbourne and 6,000 from Sydney, if you want to go to the reductio ad absurdum.

As far as I can gather, any Minister could select the 12,000, or any number required, since the legislation does not provide for a limit of 12,000, by any method that he desired. He could do so by issue of regulation. 1 would respectfully suggest to the Minister that important principles of this nature should be included in the bill, not in detail, but generally, so that if any future Minister, or even the present Minister, wants to make a radical alteration which, in respect of legislation of this nature, affects most families in Australia, it would have to be done by an amending bill and not merely by regulation. I know that when I was Minister for the Interior there was a great old row one afternoon because I suggested that I should have the power, under the Lands Acquisition Act, to delegate some of my authority to the leading officials of the Department of the Interior. Objection was taken that such delegation should not be allowed. I notice that in this measure similar delegation is to be allowed. I am all in favour of delegation, because a Minister cannot administer an act of this nature, or of the nature of the Lands Acquisition Act, unless he can delegate authority. But the delegation of powers under principles embodied in an act is very different from leaving those principles to be carried out by regulation. I would like to express my gratitude to the Minister for discussions that I had with him previously in this connexion, and I hope that in his reply he will be able to assure the committee that on these very major points of principle - namely, the question of volunteering by those not selected, the maximum number to be selected, and the method by which they will be selected - will be embodied in the measure.

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