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Friday, 8 April 1921

Senator PEARCE(Western Australia-

That this Bill be now read a second time.

As honorable senators are well aware, the war has shown the tremendous power of the aeroplane, both for navaland military purposes. Earlier in the sessionwe dealt with another phase of this subject, having reference to the use of the air for commercial purposes, by the passing of the Air Navigation Act. That measure has been proclaimed, and is now coming into operation. It has become necessary that we should legislate also for the control of Air Forces. As the Air Force will be used for both" the Navy and Army, the constitution ' of the Force must provide for both Services. We are in this respect following the British practice. Whilst upon tho institution of the Air Forces the two Services were separated, the experience of the war showed the necessity for their amalgamation under one . control. In Great Britain the Minister for the Air is really an Under-Secretary under the Minister for War, and the control ofboth Air Forces is under his administration, which makes-provision for ptrsonnel and material for both Navy and Army. Our Air Force will, of course, be< on a very much smaller scale. It has been deemed inadvisable that a new portfolio should be created for itsadministration, and it will, therefore, be under the direction of the Minister for Defence.

In order that the Navy may have a voice in the control and direction of the Air Force, an Air Council has been constituted, of which the Minister for Defence is President. There will be on the Council a naval member nominated by the Minister for the Navy, a military member nominated by the Minister for Defence, two technical members, and, in addition, the Controller of Civil Aviation, who will have control of the civil aviation vote, in order that we may co-ordinate civil aviation in such a way as to enable us to utilize commercial aeroplanes for naval or military purposes should war come. It is hoped by the Government that commercial aviation will develop, and that we shall have in Australia a large number of aeroplanes which, while used in times of peace for commercial purposes, will be readily available for war should war unfortunately happen. It is hoped also that there will be a large number of citizens being trained as aviators in connexion with commercial aviation whose service will be available in the Citizen Forces for naval and military defence. In order that the Air Council, which will control the Naval and Military Air Forces shall be kept in touch with commercial aviation, the Controller of Civil Aviation is given a seat on that Council. The Council has been brought into being under the Defence Act, and also under the Naval Defence Act, but neither of these Acts give complete power to enable Air Forces to be properly brought into being, except as a temporary expedient, and it has therefore become necessary to pass this Bill so that our Air Force may be operating under its own Act. The Air Council will be charged with the duty of carrying out the policy laid down by the Government.

It is necessary also to make provision for an administrative body, and for that purpose we have an Air Board which will administer the Air Force as the Naval Board and Military Board administer the Navy and Army. The Air Board will consist entirely of technical personnel. With the exception of a finance member, its members will all be flying officers. The Government did not desire, nor did they think it advisable, in the interests of economy, that a separate staff of officers and officials should be set up for the administration of the Air Force ; and, therefore, the existing clerical and finance machinery of the Defence Department is being used for its administration. Honorable senators will be glad to learn that in this way we are able to avoid making new clerical or administrative appointments.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does that not mean that the staff of the Defence Department will be overworked in future, or that it has not enough work at present?

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