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Thursday, 28 April 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - I am not sure whether it was the honorable senator or Senator Drake-Brockman who, during the second-reading debate, spoke of the necessity for a Judge- Advocate- General. In connexion with that it might be necessary to have a legal corps, so that officers appointed to it would receive their commissions because of their professional,not their military qualifications. Paragraph (a) deals with those who may possess civil professional qualifications such as would be necessary for appointment to a veterinary corps, a medical corps, or similar corps. In appointments to the Army Medical Corps, for instance, a, doctor is given rank at once. He is not required to pass a military examination. These amendments are required te cover this class of cases. In order to understand their effect, honorable senators will do well to peruse the memorandum which I have.had prepared and circulated. Some corps may be of a semi-military character, like the tunnelling or mining units established during the war. Officers appointed to that unit were given rank not because of military qualifications at all. For instance, Professor David, of the Sydney University, was given a commission.

Senator Elliott - That was because of his civil qualification.

Senator PEARCE - One could hardly describe Professor David's qualification as a civil qualification. In like manner, we have the Railways Commissioners as members of the Railway Council, and members of their staffs are given commissions in the railway unit, not because of their military qualifications, but because of their civil or professional knowledge. A civil qualification, I take it, is an occupational term, and so railway officers would be regarded as possessing civil or professional qualifications.

Senator Elliott - Then, would there be any objection to inserting, after the word " professional," the words " other than military " ?

Senator PEARCE - I cannot accept that. I have already stated what the object of the clause is. "We cannot draft the Bill on our feet. I can assure the honorable senator, however, that the legal draftsmen have advised that the amendment conveys, and conveys only, what I have said. I do not wish to add anything to the clause.

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