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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - This may be a little bit informal, but if honorable senators will turn to the memorandum they will see that it is quite clear. This clause amends section 108 of the Act dealing with the powers of the commanding officers, and the amendment is largely one of draftsmanship. Sub-section 1 in the principal Act already includes the power of " dismissal," and the words " or discharge " give no additional power, but use the term " discharge," which is the term more applicable to a soldier. Proposed new sub-section 2 repeats the old sub-section by providing for the right of trial before discharge or reduction, but it limits the right to cases where the discharge or reduction is due to an offence, and not due to such causes as reduction in establishment, or disbandment of a corps, such as the disbandment of the Australian Imperial Force battalions. If the reason for discharge is not for any offence, it is obvious that he cannot be tried. Proposed new sub-section 3 contains amendments consequential on the withdrawing of clause 18 applying to the Army Act in peace time. The sub-section as so. amended applies to war service only. It repeats the provisions of sub-section 3 in the Act, namely, the giving of the powers under the Army Act to a commanding officer to punish offences on war service against the Army Act, but in addition allows those powers to be exercised in respect of offences committed on war service against the Defence Act and regulations. It is to be remembered that every soldier has the right, except in very* minor punishments, of refusing to be punished by his commanding officer, and of being tried by court martial instead. The maximum punishment a commanding officer can give on war service is twentyeight days' detention. Proposed new subsection 4 will prevent a trainee who is bound to train under the Defence Act from being discharged from that obligation by a commanding officer discharging him.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -

That the word's " which may include provision for the punishment of reduction in rank, dismissal or discharge for offences committed by members of the Citizen Forces when nob on war. service", in proposed new sub-section 3 be left out.

That the word's "and shall not award detention to a member of the Citizen Military Forces for an offence committed when not on war service, and that when not on war service a memberof the Citizen Military Forces shall not be required to undergo confinement to barracks except when attending continuous training", in the proviso to proposed new subsection 3 be left out.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 52 (On whose complaint prosecutions may be brought).

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