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Wednesday, 27 April 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has absolutely failed to convince me that this is a suitable provision to have in the measure. What is to be the function of the Air Council? Is it going to control promotion and maintain discipline in the Air Force? And what is the Air Board going to do? The Minister holds up the fact that it may be necessary to interchange duties amongst the officers as the reason why these functions should not be defined. That is no argument at all. It would be perfectly proper to provide, by means of regulations, for the distribution of duties amongst officers as prescribed, and now that the war is ended it seems to me scandalous to place before the Senate provisions of this nature, and in view of the fact that the regulations to be made may inflict punishment with hard labour for three months.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - .Who inflicts the punishment in the Air Force

Senator ELLIOTT - It is possible that this may be done by the Air Board.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member, as a lawyer, must know that the Air Board could not impose a sentence of three months with hard labour.

Senator ELLIOTT - There is provision that the Air Board shall have such functions and powers as are prescribed.

Senator Pearce - Power to impose punishment is laid down elsewhere. You know that quite well.

Senator ELLIOTT - I do not know it at all. I merely see that regulations may provide for penalties, including imprisonment with hard labour for not more than three months.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is only one way in which you can get hard labour in this country.

Senator ELLIOTT - How?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - As a lawyer, you ought to know that.

Senator ELLIOTT - There is nothing to prevent the Government calling into being a Board with the power of court martial.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am astonished that the honorable senator should make that statement.

Senator ELLIOTT - I do not know what authority there is against it. It seems to me perfectly competent for the Government, under this Bill, to constitute a court martial. The Air Board may or may not have power to convene this court martial. That would depend upon the regulations, I presume. I am not prepared to vote for the clause in its present form. "Senator PRATTEN (New South Wales) [10.12].- May I put this to the Minister? The clause will give to the Air.&Board such powers and functions as may be prescribed, and the Minister says that they willnot be inconsistent with the Act. Does the Minister say that he cannot confer on the Board powers and functions in connexion with Air Defence that are not in the Act!

Senator Pearce - Yes, I do.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And that no regulations or powers can be given to the Air Board about anything connected with Air Defence except what is provided for in the Act?

Senator Pearce -They must he consistent with the Act,

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not dealing with the question of consistency at all, because there is nothing in the Bill about aerodromes, air routes or landing places. What the Minister says is that no power or function can be given the Air Council, or the Air Board, with reference to aerodromes or courses, because they arenot specified in the Act.

Senator Pearce -We cannot give any power inconsistent with the Act.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, regulations inconsistent with the Act will be ultra vires?

Senator Pearce - They would be in excess of the power given by the Act.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But this particular clause gives the Government power to do anything.

Senator Pearce -No; only to distribute the functions amongst the various officers.

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