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Wednesday, 17 December 1941

Senator COLLINGS - Does the honorable senator think that we have demonstrated that we have been afraid to take power where it was needed?

Senator SPICER - So far the Government has not evidenced any temerity in that direction. All that is suggested is that the Government should have the power to decide whether this or that unit, whether of the Militia or of the Australian Imperial Force should be sent, if necessary, to a particular territory in order to defend Australia. With the hampering legislation winch exists at the moment, all sorts of difficulties may arise.

Senator Courtice - They have not arisen yet.

Senator SPICER - We do not know; but, there are all sorts of possibilities. Suppose we had a Militia unit in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and it became necessary to strengthen the defenders of Dutch New Guinea. As the law stands at present, we could not use the Militia force stationed in the Mandated Territory for that purpose.

Senator Courtice - Such a force could be used if the men volunteered - and undoubtedly they would volunteer.

Senator SPICER - Before they could be utilized it would be necessary to go through all the performance of securing volunteers. That indicates the hampering character of the legislation to which I have referred. One could suggest all sorts of possibilities.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator can manufacture them.

Senator SPICER - I have no desire to manufacture them. As a matter of fact, this plea is put forward, not for the purpose of hampering the Government, but of helping it.

Senator Ashley - The Government does not want help. It will seek further powers when it needs them.

Senator SPICER - That is the point I am making. In order to secure increased powers, the Government would have to summon the Parliament to meet and delay would be inevitable. In all sincerity and without any desire to raise embarrassing questions I contend that it is desirable that the Government should ask the Parliament to grant it this power now to be exercised at its discretion.

Senator Courtice - The honorable senator's suggestion would bring about more trouble than it is worth.

Senator SPICER - It could not bring about any trouble. If this matter were put to the people plainly and fairly, there would not be the least opposition to it. I believe that the Australian community realizes the absolute necessity which now confronts us to defend our own country and the territories around it. I believe that our people are prepared to do anything in order to make our defence completely effective. One way in which that can be done is to give to the Government complete power to direct that men can be used wherever it sees fit to use them. The Government would be wise to take that power. I for one would be perfectly satisfied with its decision as to how that power should be' used.

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