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Wednesday, 12 May 1965


Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) . - There are two aspects of the submission of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) upon which I wish to comment. One relates to a field in which I take some pride in having exercised a special interest - the supremacy of Parliament. I remind the Leader of the Opposition and the Committee of the insistent constitutional conception in British democracies that the executive government is charged, without qualification, to be prepared to defend and direct the defence of the country in time of war. Having placed that responsibility upon the executive, a Parliament would be recreant to its duty to ensure the security of the country were it to deny to the executive all proper authority to that end, because no-one who refused to equip the executive with the requisite authority in complete amplitude could hold it to account.

Therefore I find it completely consonant with all my ideas of proper constitutional procedures that the legislation should require that if Parliament is not sitting at the date of publication of a call-up proclamation, it shall be summoned to meet within 10 days after that date. Any Parliament that would not take appropriate action if the executive had misused its authority to proclaim a call-up, would not be worthy of representing the people of the Commonwealth of Australia. But by the same token, a Parliament which would not confer upon the executive all the authority that it required in the light of the progress of events would be handicapping the executive in the vital matter of defence in a way which could not be justified.

I now proceed to address myself to Senator McKenna-'s reference to proposed new section 61 A (2.). He referred to the provision that an exempted person shall, notwithstanding his exemption, do any act that such a person is required, by or under the regulations, to do. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that that should be confined to three things - registration, presenting himself for service and, 1 think, examination.


Senator McKenna - Establishing his entitlement to exemption.


Senator WRIGHT - That is right. Establishing his entitlement to exemption. I certainly misconstrued the provision if that is its intention. I remind myself that the High Court, when discussing defence power in several cases that have been before it, has said that when war exists the executive has the power of disposal of the freedom of every person and every piece of property in the country to the extent that the national defence requires this to be done. I am speaking entirely impromptu but Senator Cohen no doubt will be good enough to correct me if I am materially wrong. I think the statement to which I have referred was made in the Marcus Clark case when the High Court was considering the post-war capacity of this the Commonwealth Government to create economic regulations by virtue of the defence power. My recollection is that the High Court, dealing with that situation at the time of the Korean campaign, pointed out that in time of war the executive can direct every man and every woman to do this and to do that, and that no man will stand upon his going; he will go at once.


Senator Cormack - The High Court referred to events precedent and antecedent to the war.


Senator WRIGHT - I wish to confine this argument to the circumstances to which this clause is applicable, that is wartime. I do not deny my colleague's interjection, but for clarity I do not wish to apply it to a state of defence emergency or to an antecedent situation. I am talking only about a time of war. In that sense, if the executive has the right to direct persons and to require and acquire property and possessions, aeroplanes, ships and all the other apparatus which is needed for the purpose of our national strength, it seems to me that when this clause says that the regulations may require an exempted person to do any act, the full intention is that he shall do what the regulations require him to do in the national service. He is not merely to present himself for registration and examination. If an exempted person is required to go, say, to a military hospital in southern Queensland and there either tend the garden and grow vegetables or be an orderly or drive a truck around some military camp, it seems to me that he must do that. He is given an exemption only because, having regard to his religious order or some other disability, it is appropriate that he should not be required to engage in combat duty.







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