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Tuesday, 14 May 1957

Sir WILFRED KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) . - I can assure the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) that the bill has not been drawn up to suit my feelings. There are questions on two points that I should like to ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). One concerns sub-section (5.) of section 31 of the act, which provides that any deferment granted for exceptional hardship to parents or dependants may be for a period not exceeding twelve months, subject to such conditions as the court determines. Under the original conditions, when universality applied, that provision for a maximum period of deferment of twelve months is understandable; but, surely, under the proposed scheme, when a person has to go to a court of summary jurisdiction to obtain deferment on the grounds of hardship his deferment should not be limited when only one in five people registered for service will actually be called up. If the case is a real case of exceptional hardship, and exemption has been awarded by a court of summary jurisdiction, the period of exemption should be indefinite.

The other matter I wish to raise seems to point to the fact that the act is being very hastily amended in view of the new conditions existing. Sub-section (7.) of section 31 provides that deferment of liability to serve does not affect the liability of a person to comply with other requirements. That means that he has to notify every change of address in accordance with a previous provision. I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is economic or worth while to keep a change-of-address file for at least 48,000 people who will not be called up in the first instance, and who are not likely to be called up except in a case of emergency - and in case of an emergency the Government would probably scrap the scheme and rely on volunteers, as has happened on other occasions.

So, I ask the Minister whether it would not be better to eliminate in sub-section (5.) the words " for a period not exceeding twelve months "; and whether it would not be better also to avoid keeping a huge army of public servants at work recording changes of addresses of at least 48,000 people who will not be called up. I think it would be ridiculous to keep a large staff working on the maintenance of such an unnecessary file.

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