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Thursday, 5 May 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - So far as I have been able to ascertain from reliable members of the Australian Imperial Force the proposals of the Minister are objectionable. This Parliament will also be placing power in the hands of the House of Commons, which canframe regulations which will automatically become law in the Commonwealth. The Army Act, as pointed out by Senator Elliott, throws aside appeals, and it is unthinkable that this Committee will adopt anything that interferes with the legislative powers of this Parliament. It seems that all military discipline is often largely a contest of officers versus privates, and the officers have to be obeyed.

Senator Duncan - It is very often for the protection of privates against privates.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Very well, perhaps we shall get more light on that phase of the question. The officers' orders have to be obeyed, and they would be just as binding in time of peace as instructions issued when facing the enemy. The military policy of the Commonwealth is in a state of flux. Our international relationships are very indefinite, and the Minister for Defence has intimated to the Committee that if it is their intention not to incorporate the whole of the Act at this juncture, he will bring down in due course two separate military codes - one in connexion with legislation and one in relation to discipline. In view of all the arguments that have been adduced and "-the real position as we find it to-day, that is the best course to follow. I trust that the Committee at this juncture will not embody all the provisions of the British Army Act, which do not conflict with the present Defence legislation relating to- our Citizen Forces in this Bill. That is what is intended, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall want to know a good deal more before I shall be prepared to allow some of these objectionable provisions to pass.

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