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Thursday, 6 May 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

In introducing the Defence Bill, I mention that there are three other Bills, the National Service Bill, the Naval Defence Bill and the Air Force Bill which cover related matters. I deal now with the Defence Bill. I will introduce the other three Bills later this morning.

In the last session, Parliament enacted amending national service legislation providing for the introduction of selective national service comprising two years continuous full-time service in the Regular Army Supplement and three years parttime service in the Regular Army Reserve. Complementary legislation is necessary to amend the Defence Act to take national servicemen out of the Citizen Military Forces and to include them in the Regular forces. Consequential amendments to other sections of the Defence Act are also necessary. The inclusion of national servicemen in the Regular Army Supplement and Regular Army Reserve renders them liable for overseas service in accordance with the policy announced when the national service legislation was introduced into the Senate last year.

Under the existing provisions of the Defence Act, persons who are called up under Part IV. of the Act for compulsory service in the Citizen Military Forces in time of war are not required to serve overseas unless they volunteer to do so. This provision was made many years ago when strategic circumstances were quite different from those of today. It imposes a limitation on the military effectiveness of our forces which is completely unacceptable in the light of the range of situations which Australia may have to face simultaneously in wartime. It is essential that in war the defence forces should be available for service in any location required. The Government has examined this position most carefully and has concluded that restriction of wartime service to Australia and its territories should not remain. It is clear that, on military grounds, a liability for overseas service should be mandatory for all persons called up in wartime.

Honorable senators will recall that during the 1939-1945 war special legislation, the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act 1943, was enacted, providing that members of the Citizen Military Forces could be required to serve beyond the limits of Australia in the South West Pacific zone. I would point out that countries with which we are associated in defence arrangements - for example, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand - already impose a comparable obligation. An obligation of this kind exists in most European and Asian countries.

The revised section 50 (c) of the Defence Act accordingly provides that all members of the Military Forces will be required to serve either within or beyond the territorial limits of Australia. The provisions of Part IV of the Defence Act have been extended to apply to service in the Navy and the Air Force as well as the Army and the amendments to the Naval Defence Act and the Air Force Act provide for this. Part IV of the Defence Act is also being amended to remove obsolete provisions dealing with registration, allotment and exemption from compulsory service in time of war. These are being replaced with up to date provisions based on the principles embodied in comparable provisions in the National Service Act.

The Defence Bill also deals with the availability of intoxicating liquor to national servicemen in military establishments. During the former national service training scheme, when trainees were called up at the age of 18, the supply of intoxicating liquor to national servicemen was prohibited. Under the new scheme national servicemen will be at least in their 21st year and will serve continuously for the first two years in Regular Army units where wet canteens are a normal amenity. A ban on serving liquor to national servicemen in an Army canteen, where sale and consumption are strictly supervised, would be unreasonable as other soldiers of the same age group serving with them would not be subject to the ban. In New South Wales and Victoria, the States where the vast majority of national servicemen will be trained, the liquor laws permit men of 18 to buy and consume liquor. The amendment now proposed to the Defence Act will remove the restriction concerning the supply of liquor to national servicemen.

The principles of Part XII of the Defence Act which provide for the protection of the rights of members of the Citizen Forces and Reserves in relation to civil employment are being incorporated in new comprehensive legislation dealing with the re-establishment in civil life of national servicemen and members of the Citizen Forces and Reserves. When this new legislation comes into force Part XII will no longer be necessary and the Bill accordingly provides for its repeal at a date to be fixed.

I refer briefly to other matters which are dealt with in the Defence Bill. The first is the protection of military decorations. The present law contained in the Defence Act relating to military decorations is defective in relation to the control over the manufacture and sale of these items and is difficult to enforce. The amendment to the Defence Act will remedy this situation by giving the Minister for Defence full control over the manufacture and sale of military decorations, and the conditions relating to them. The second matter is the appointment of officers. Section 148 of the Defence Act limits officer appointments in the Australian Regular Army to graduates of the Royal Military College with certain exceptions. In addition to graduates from the Royal Military College the Army requires persons with degrees in both the sciences and arts as well as doctors, dentists, lawyers, school teachers, psychologists and surveyors. Section 148 of the Act is out of date and, in its general intention, conflicts with section 10 as amended last year. The Bill provides for it to be repealed. The third is exemption from jury service. Section 43 of the Act relates to the exemption of members of the Defence Forces from jury service. This matter is covered by a Jury Exemption Bill which has been introduced into Parliament. When this new Bill becomes law section 43 will be unnecessary, and the Bill provides for its repeal at a later date. I commend the Defence Bill to honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.

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