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Wednesday, 12 May 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - Addressing myself first to proposed section 61a (2.), I say at once that I agree completely with the general proposition put by Senator Wright that in time of war, when the Executive must of necessity bear so much heavy responsibility, it must be accorded powers which in normal times would not even be considered by the Parliament. With that in the back of my mind, I look at the proposed provision, which reads -

A person who, in pursuance of section sixty of this Act. . .

That section deals with proclamations calling upon persons to serve in time of war. New section 60 (I.) reads -

In time of war the Governor-General may, by proclamation, call upon persons specified in the last preceding section to serve in the Defence Force in accordance with this Act for the duration of the time of war. lt seems to me that while three or four particular things to which Senator McKenna referred would be related to such matters as registration, medical examination and claiming of exemption, the tie-up of this clause to section 60 (1.) widens the field to many other matters which have direct reference to the calling up and to the service of a member in time of war, and that could, 1 feel sure, go to such matters as the type of service undertaken and a multitude of other matters which relate to service itself. I believe that this is a perfectly valid power to be exercised in this way in time of war. There is always the very general qualification that the regulations must be in accordance with the Act. 1 agree with the further point made by Senator Wright that in time of war, with the Parliament sitting immediately after proclamation of the war and, no doubt, continuing to sit for lengthy periods, this sort of thing would come under pretty continuous and comprehensive examination. Having said that, however, I say to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that it is not my intention, nor indeed is it the intention of the Government, that any of these powers should be oppressive or harsh. I will undertake to examine the matter and if there appears to be any possibility of this occurring, I shall certainly have another look at it, but at the moment my reaction is that I believe this is a completely valid provision.

The other matter refers to the proposed new section 61c, which relates to nonapplication of the Parliament to certain persons. The " certain persons " referred to in section 61c (f) are - . . aboriginal natives of Australia, as defined by the regulations, other than a class of aboriginal natives are so defined that is specified in regulations.

I know that the Leader of the Opposition recognises that 'this is not in fact an attempt to do other than make provision for the exemption of those members of the Aboriginal race who clearly cannot qualify for service. Taking an extreme case they might, for example, be members of nomadic tribes of the Warburton Ranges, they might be more advanced but still primitive tribal natives, or they might be natives who do not understand English or who do not understand Army administration or the law of the land as it applies to them. They would be provided for, of course, by regulation.

Incidentally, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that Aboriginal natives may volunteer, and he asked whether we had any figures as to the number of them in the Services. Actually, I could not give those figures without a considerable amount of research. The records do not readily distinguish them as Aboriginals. I am sure this would meet with the approval of everyone. But there are Aboriginal natives in the various Services, particularly in the Army. I note the point that the Leader of the Opposition makes about the wording of this section probably giving rise to some offence. I am sure that he recognises that is not the intention. I confess that I am a little troubled about it myself and I undertake to have a look at it - not immediately, as I am under too much pressure. As I said earlier today, there will be a review of this legislation, and this is one of the things at which I shall direct my officers to investigate when this review takes place.

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