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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - Senator Cormack raised two or three very interesting points. He mentioned references in the Naval Defence Act to the Queen's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions and pointed to the deficiencies. Senator Murphy raised the matter too. Those deficiences are recognised. Indeed, in part - one might more correctly say in small part - the Bill corrects one of the deficiencies. The principal Act provides that the imperial legislation for the time being in force shall be taken up. This could have, and I understand that at times it has, led to a situation where the British legislation referred to has been amended and we have not known about it. The result has been that the British legislation and the Australian legislation have been inconsistent.

The honorable senator also referred to the impossibility of even the most seasoned seaman being able to find his way through the Queen's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions. The fact has been recognised. Ever so gently I tell the honorable senator that I do not think the Navy regulations and orders are any less jungle-like than are the relative Army orders. But the Australian Navy has got together in one volume all the English orders and Queen's Regulations and has indexed them in such a way as to afford some relief. Of course, that does not get to the root of the problem, to which Senator Murphy referred. I indicated earlier that we have the whole of the defence legislation very actively under review and it is hoped that we will be able to introduce legislation that will avoid the need to refer to British legislation or British regulations.

Senator Cormackreferred to the penalty of death for mutiny. Section 98 of the Defence Act provides -

No member of the Defence Forces shall be sentenced to death by any court-martial except for mutiny, desertion to the enemy, or traitorously delivering up to the enemy any garrison, fortress, post, guard, or ship, vessel, or boat, or aircraft, or traitorous correspondence with the enemy; and no sentence of death passed by the court-martial shall be carried into effect until confirmed by the Governor-General.

The honorable senator will observe that mutiny is covered by the section.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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