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Wednesday, 27 April 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have a good deal of sympathy with the remarks that have been made about the wide area over which the Senate is asked to give power to the Air Council and Air Board, respectively.

Senator Pearce - The clause simply gives the power to the Minister to prescribe the duties of the Council and the Board.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, but the Minister will act on the advice of the military authorities.

Senator Pearce - Not necessarily.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am willing to accept the correction for the purposes of my argument, and to say that the Senate is giving the Minister practically full power to control the whole of the matters connected with aviation in Australia, military, naval, and civil, with- the- exception of those dealt with, in particular clauses of the Bill.

Senator Pearce - It does not touch civil aviation at all.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Air defence does, and this is an Air Defence Bill. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Air Board or Air Council, when constituted, from making regulations that will control civil aviation.

Senator Pearce - The Air Board and the Air Council cannot make a single regulation.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister is splitting hairs. The regulations will be placed' before Parliament by the Minister on the advice of the Air Board or Air Council.

Senator PEARCE - Not necessarily. For instance, the Air Council and the Air Board had nothing to do with the drafting of the regulations constituting their functions, because they were not in existence when those regulations were drawn up.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are they in existence now ?

Senator Pearce - Yes.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then they are in existence before we pass this Bill.

Senator Pearce - Yes, they are under the Defence Act, as I explained on the second reading.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill seems to deal with the administration of the Air Forces, but says nothing about aeroplanes, hangars or aerodromes, or the power that will be given over civil aviation. If we give the Air Council and Air Board powers and functions as prescribed hereafter by the Minister, it will be possible, carrying the argument to an absurdity, for the Air Board and Air Council to interfere with the operations of a company formed to develop civil aviation, on the ground that it might interfere with the military or naval defence of Australia.

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator seems to have forgotten that we have already passed an Act to deal with civil aviation.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly, but if I know anything about administration by military and naval authorities, the Minister, if convinced that it would be better for the safety of Australia that civil aviation should be in- terfered with, could interfere with it under the authority of this Bill, and rightly so too. Why cannot the Minister agree to a simple amendment, on the lines of sections in British Acts, to the effect that these bodies shall have such powers and functions as may from time to time be agreed to by Parliament?

Senator PEARCE - Because an amending Bill would be necessary every time we wanted to alter any petty detail.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will 'the Minister indicate the powers and functions of the Air Council and Air Board?

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