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Wednesday, 27 April 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - I directed the attention of the Senate when speaking on the second reading to> the fact that this Bill applied the Air Force Act in the same way as the Defence Bill applies the Army Act. But that is not done by this clause. It is done by clause b''-. I shall give an explanation of each clause, and will explain this clause before I sit down, ' but I suggest that, if any member of the Committee wishes to test the question of the application of the Air Force Act to this Bill, he should do so on clause 53. I will undertake when that clause is reached to draw attention to it myself, so that it may not 6lip through without debate. It will be more convenient and much more in accord with our Standing Orders if we debate the question of the application of the Air Force Act on clause 53. and not on this clause. If, then, the sense of the Committee is a'gainst the inclusion of the Air Force Act, it will necessitate a reconsideration of the Bill for the purpose of making consequential amendments.

It will be better to discuss, on the clause referred to, the . principle of whether or not the Air Force Act shall apply-

Senator Gardiner - Would it not be better to postpone this clause?

Senator PEARCE - No, because we should have to postpone so many. The Committee will not be giving up any of its powers if my suggestion be adopted. It is obvious that if we strike out the clause which applies the Air Force Act, all the other clauses will have to be recast. I feel that I should be transgressing our Standing Orders if, on this clause, I dealt with the wisdom or otherwise of applying the Air Force Act. Let me read for the information of the Committee the particular section of the British Air Force Act referred to. Honorable senators will than see that it is very much in consonance with our Defence provisions.

In this Act if not inconsistent with the context, the expression " on active service " as applied to a person subject to this Act, means whenever he is attached to or forms part of a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, or is engaged in war-like operations in a country or place wholly or partly occupied by an enemy, or is in military occupation of any foreign country.

It will be seen therefore that that particular provision would not apply within Australia unless an enemy were in partial occupation and therefore war was going on here. It is obvious that in considering whether the Air Force Act is to be applied or not, we should not be entitled to ramble over the whole field of discussion. That is why I think it would be wise for the Committee to deal with the whole question on clause 53. I have no intention of letting the clause slip through, because I recognise it is debatable. No exception can be taken to the definition of "Active Service."

Senator Elliott - But Senator Pratten was referring to the definition of "Air Force Act" on page 2.

Senator PEARCE - I understood that the honorable senator was dealing with a definition of "Active Service."

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, I thought I was very specific on the point.'

Senator PEARCE - -Well if we strike that out, we shall not be deciding the question whether the Air Force Act shall be applied or not. I am sure Senator Pratten will see that it is not convenient to raise the discussion on this clause.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then why not suspend it?

Senator PEARCE - Because there are so many other clauses referring to the Air Fores Act. Does not Senator Pratten see that if the Committee strikes out clause 53 the Bill Will become a farce unless all the other clauses are recommitted and consequential amendments made? The course I suggest will prove convenient and will safeguard the rights of the Committee. I therefore ask Senator Pratten, and . members of the Committee to agree to the adoption of that procedure. . By so doing they will be conceding nothing and at the same time will be retaining all their rights. The request is reasonable.

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