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Tuesday, 9 May 1961

Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) (Minister for the Army) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to validate certain payments made to or in respect of members of the Defence Forces and to persons employed in a civil capacity under the Naval Defence Act.

Between the two world wars, rates and conditions of pay and allowances for members of the forces were reasonably stable and were incorporated in regulations. Creation of the post-second war forces and approval of a new pay code which differed substantially from that which applied pre-war, required the making of new regulations. Each of the three services did have regulations made, but for a variety of reasons amending regulations fell behind the frequent changes in rates and conditions of pay and allowances which have occurred over the last decade or so.

Although the regulations did not keep pace with events, all payments to members of the services have been made with the authority of the Government, and the necessary funds have been appropriated by Parliament.

The lack of authority in the form ot regulations for these payments has been a matter of very real concern to the Ministers and departments concerned, and, in an endeavour to remedy the position, regulations were made last year which set out to supply the necessary authority retrospectively in a short and simple form. These regulations were disallowed by the Senate. In brief, the grounds for disallowance were stated to be that the period was so lengthy and the sums involved so large that the payments should be covered by act of parliament rather than by regulation.

The disallowance of regulations by the Senate meant that two steps were necessary to put the position in order. First, action had to be taken to bring up to date any regulations covering pay and allowances which were still behind-hand. Secondly, a bill was necessary to obtain parliamentary authority for the validation of past payments.

On the first point, all the necessary regulations have now been made by the Executive Council. To achieve this in the time available, it has been necessary, I am bound to point out to the House, to depart from the assurances given to both Houses of Parliament, that all regulations will be settled by the Parliamentary Draftsman prior to their submission to the Executive Council. With the agreement of the Attorney-General, the regulations have been drafted by the departments concerned and submitted to the Executive Council by the responsible Ministers. They are now being looked at by the parliamentary draftsman to ensure they are in order, and if they are not, any necessary amendments will he prepared. This departure from the assurances I have mentioned was only authorized by the Attorney-General in view of the special circumstances prevailing, and because compliance with the assurances would have delayed still further the making of the necessary regulations.

The bill now before the House is designed to meet the point of view that validation of past payments should be by act of parliament. The Government has decided to keep the bill to the simplest of terms. It provides that all payments made during the period between 7th August, 1947, and 31st March, 1961, under, or in pursuance of, financial instructions issued by the service departments or boards, shall be deemed to have been lawfully made. I should again mention that these financial instructions all had their origin in, and conformed to, Government approvals for rates and conditions of payments.

The bill has been drafted so as to cover payments made to personnel employed by the Department of the Navy under the Naval Defence Act, as it was found on examination that certain aspects of the regulations covering the pay of these persons were out of date in a similar manner to the regulations governing service pay.

If the bill were to spell out all the details of rates of pay and allowances and their conditions of payment, it would be a long and complicated measure. In the matter of pay alone, there were 26 variations in rates of pay involving all ranks and trade groupings in the services. These were brought about by cost of living adjustments, reviews of the pay code, marginal adjustments and so on, and were frequently associated with changes in allowances. Allowances and other conditions of service include such matters as marriage allowance, deferred pay, increments, specialist qualification pay, furlough and a wide variety of other matters, the rates and conditions of payment of which varied from time to time during the period in question. To include all these in detail would involve literally hundreds of pages of printing.

For the future, directions have been issued by the Government that payments will not be made in advance of the making or amendment, as appropriate, of the necessary regulations. 1 commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.

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