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Wednesday, 10 April 1946

Dr EVATT (Barton) (AttorneyGeneral and Minister for External Affairs) .- I move-

That the bill bc now read a second time.

The object of the measure is' to bring about the termination of the National Security A.ct. The date which has been selected for its termination is ' the 31st December, 1946. It will be convenient to refer briefly to the history of the enactment of this legislation. The first bill on the subject was introduced by tho Menzies Government in 1939, on the outbreak of war with Germany.

Clause 3 9 of the measure then introduced, and as afterwards assented to, was as follows : -

This Act shall continue in operation during the present state Of war and for a period of six month* thereafter, and no longer.

The expression " the present state of war " used in this section was defined as referring to the state of war then existing between His Majesty the King and Germany during the period commencing on. the Srd September, 1939. It will be seen from this definition that the act was, at that time, limited in its duration to the continuance of a state of war with Germany and six months thereafter. When, in 3940, Italy declared war it was necessary to extend the operation of the act, and the Menzies Government introduced and had passed into law a bill repealing section 19 of the act and inserting in its stead the following section: -

This Act shall continue in operation until ii date to be fixed by Proclamation, and no longer, but in any event not longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war.

At the same time, the definition of "the present' state of war " which had been contained in the original act was omitted. The departmental view of the effect of these changes in the law is that the National Security Act will continue in force until the last of the peace treaties with the countries with which His Majesty has been at war at any time since 1939 has been made and ratified. His Majesty is still at war, not only with Italy and other European countries, including Germany, but also with Japan, as no treaty of peace has been made with those countries. It may well be that the act would continue for many months and even years. The Government, however, does not desire to have the act continued for any such lengthy or indefinite period, and is of opinion that the act and the regulations, rules, orders and by-laws depending on the act should be terminated at the end of the present year.

This does not mean that all the subjects now dealt with by the Commonwealth under the act' will be abandoned after the 31st December next. The Prime Minister has already indicated that it will be essential for some subjects to be dealt with by the Commonwealth under its defence powers, notably -prices and other necessary anti-inflationary and antiprofiteering -measures. Without debating, such matters now, it is obvious to all that unless some such measures are continued by the Commonwealth, the whole fabric of our economic and trading system will be gravely imperilled, with disastrous consequences to all' sections of the community. These, and any other matters over which it may be found necessary to exercise continued supervision, in the national interest, will form the subject of specific legislation to be introduced into the Parliament before the National Security Act terminates on the 31st December next. In other words, as a result of the present bill, parliamentary control over the whole subject will be fully and completely restored.

This, course is similar in principle to the course which was adopted at the close of the 1914-3.8 war. In that war, the principal war legislation, corresponding to the National Security Act of the present war, was styled the War Precautions Act. In that war, hostilities ceased on the 11th November, 191S, and the Peace Treaty with Germany was signed on the 28th June, 1919, and came into force on the 20th January, 1920. The War Precautions Act continued in force until the 2nd December, 1920, but by specific legislation passed in 1919 or 1920 various controls were continued after the expiration of the War Precautions Act. Notable instances of such specific legislation are the following: -

Commercial Activities Act 1919.

Land, Mining, Shares and Shipping Act 1919.

Moratorium Act 1919.

War Precautions Act Repeal Act 1D20.

This last-mentioned act did, despite its title, continue a limited number of regulations in existence such as-

The War Precautions (Coal) Regulations; and

The War Precautions (Companies, Firms and Business) Regulations.

Honorable members will note that clause 2 of the bill deals, not only with the termination of the National Security /Vet, but, also with the termination of regulations, orders, rules and by-laws. The act gives power to mate regulations, and in some cases the regulations give power to make orders, rules and by-laws.

Whilst it may be that the termination of the act as the basic structure would have been sufficient to ensure the repeal of all the subordinate legislation depending on that basic structure, it seems preferable that an express parliamentary declaration of the simultaneous termination of the regulations, orders, rules and by-laws should be included in the bill.

In theUnited Kingdom, a slightly different course of action was taken. The main war-time act was known as the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939. The act was declared to continue in force for one year, with power to His Majesty by order in council, and upon an address from both Houses of the Parliament, to continue the act in force for a further period of twelve months. The period of " one year " mentioned in the original act was in 1940, when Italy entered the war, amended to extend to two years. For some years after that time the United Kingdom act was continued from year to year by successive orders in council.

During last year, legislation was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom extending the original act until the 24th August, 1945, with power to His Majesty by order in council, or an address from both Houses of the Parliament, to continue the act for a further period not exceeding one year. In addition, an act known as the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act 1945 was passed giving power toextend defence regulations for the purpose of maintaining, controlling and regulating supplies and services.

The Government has given consideration to this method of continuing controls through the Executive, but is convinced that it is preferable to terminate the act at the end of this year, leaving it to the Parliament to deal with any specific matters by legislation.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.

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