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Thursday, 7 December 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - In regard to the point which has been raised concerning the length of service, I merely wish to say that the regulations bearing upon it have not yet been framed. I have merely quoted the terms which have been suggested by members of the Naval Board, who are now engaged in drafting regulations. I said that there would probably be two terms - seven years and five years. Those who sign on for seven years will get a slightly higher rate of pay than those who sign on for only five years. But since I moved the second reading of the Bill, I have been informed by an Admiral of the British Navy who happens to be visiting our shores - a brother of Admiral Henderson, the distinguished Admiral who furnished us with a very valuable report - that there are 5,000 men in the British Navy to-day who are under a five years' engagement, and that the tendency of recent years has been to shorten the term of engagement. So that, if our regulations provide for two terms, our practice will accord with that which obtains in the British Navy to-day. When I spoke of a period of six years for training, I had in mind the whole period which will be covered from the time that a lad enters the Naval College. Portion of that time will, of course, be spent on a training cruiser. I would also point out that the danger which had been foreshadowed by Senator E. J. Russell cannot possibly arise. No British officer can take command of our ships unless they are placed under his control by the Commonwealth Government, and the Commonwealth Government will not give him any instructions different from those which were given to him as a British officer.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Are there any circumstances under which a British officer may automatically assume control of our vessels ?

Senator PEARCE - No. If a vessel of our Fleet unit happened to enter a foreign port with a vessel of the British' Navy, it would be the duty of the senior officer, if he happened to be an Australian, to call upon the representative of the foreign Government; but if he happened to be a Britisher, it would be his duty to make the call. Each ship would be quite. independent of the other. I have to thank the Senate for its cordial reception of the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 -

After section forty-four of the principal Act, the following sections are inserted : - " Provided that a sentence of death passed by any court-martial- on any member of the Commonwealth Naval Forces shall be not carried into effect until it has been confirmed by the Governor-General." ....

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