9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Right Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30p.m. and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory - Export of Engineer Vice-
Admiral Sir William Clarkson on wharf and shipping facilities, and on thepossibility of developing ports in the Territory, particularlyat the mouth of the Macarthur River.
Ordered to be printed.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Mineral Oil and Coal Ordinance 1922-23 - Regulations.
Ordinance of 1923-No. 11- Crown Lands (No. 2).
Proposed Reciprocal Agreement
– Iask the Prime Minister, in view of the largely increased area being put under vines in Australia, and the fact that Australia at the present time cannot find a market for the whole of its products, will he lay on the table, at the earliest possible opportunity, the offer of reciprocity madeby the Canadian Government, so that honorable members will be in a position to consider the advantages or disadvantages of the Canadian proposals?
– I am afraid I could not comply with the honorable gentleman’s request at this stage, for the reason that we are still in negotiation with the Canadian Government. As a matter of fact, I sent a cable only this morning to Canada with regard to the matter. Information on the subject of the proposed reciprocal trade agreement will be given to the House at the earliest possible time that that can be done without prejudicing the negotiations that are going on.
– I ask the Prime Ministerwhether he will submit to this House for ratification the sugar proposals which he recently put before the Queensland growers, so as to give me an opportunity of moving an amendment for £27 per ton net for raw sugar, and an embargo onblack-grown sugar for five years instead of two with a view to stabilizing the industry?
-Whenthe negotiations that are still going on as to the exact basis of the arrangement attempted to be arrived at with the Pool formed in Queensland are finalized, the honorable member will have opportunity in this House, on many occasions, to take any action he desires with regard to the matter.
-Will the Prime Ministerbe good enough to present to the House a return showing the number of leases granted in the Northern Territory for the search for oil?
-If the honorable member will give notice of his question I shall look into the matter. I think there should be no difficulty in supplying the information for which he asks.
– In view of the fact that the unfortunate man whom I sent to the hospital was so far gone from exposure that he has since died, I again ask the Prime Minister whether he will permit one of the Commonwealth ships to be used for the accommodation of destitute persons? Even a cargo ship would be a muchbetter place for these unfortunate people than the damp grass of the parks in Sydney and Melbourne.
– I quite understand the motives which prompt the honorable member to raise this question again, but I regret that I cannot comply with his wish. Ipointed out yesterday that there were serious difficulties in the way of assisting these unfortunate people by making a ship available for their accommodation. I again suggest to the honorable member that this is a matter in connexion with which pressure should be brought to bear on the States rather than on Commonwealth authorities.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Battleships and battle-cruisers cost about £7,000,000 each. 2. (a) For purely fighting purposes - a single-seater land plane - £2,500.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Information on these points cannot be furnished until certain proposed re-arrangements of taxation matters have been completed.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following information has been furnished by the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney : -
asked the Minister forWorks and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
2,T he total amount of declared capitalin connexion with assisted immigrants referred to in 1 is as follows: -
The Commonwealth Immigration Office advise that experience has shown that it is quite impracticable to obtain reliable information as to the capital possessed by assisted immigrants, as in some cases, immigrants under-estimate their capital, whilst in others they overestimate it.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Further . inquiries are being made into this matter, and I hope to be in a position to give the honorable member a reply in the course of a few days.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Dr. Spahlinger’s Treatment
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Mr.BRUCE.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will instruct the Tariff Board, under the powers conferred upon it, to compel the manufacturers of reapers and binders and mowers to furnish a return showing (a) the number of these machines which have been manufactured in the Commonwealth; (b) the cost of production of each?
– Any in formation obtained by the Tariff Board under the authority of the Act must necessarily be treated as confidential.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice-
Whether he will lay upon the table of the Librarythe departmental file containing papers relating to the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong?
– The file in question is required for departmental purposes atpresent, but it can be made available for the honorable member’s perusal at Victoria Barracks at any time convenient to him.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiry is toeing made, and the information sought by the honorable member will be furnished as early as possible.
Mr.C. RILEY (for Mr. Nelson) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it his intention to give the House an opportunity this session of discussing the Northern Territory Ordinance No. 7 of 1923, and will he give an undertaking that the Ordinance shall not operate until it has been discussed by the House and approved of?
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will remit the present Tariff charges on slates and timbers used in the construction of homes, thus enabling those homes to be purchased at a much reduced figure as compared with that possible to-day?
– The question of the remission of duty on slates is being inquired into by the Tariff Board. The further question regarding timber will be referred to the Tariff Board for report.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– No communication on the above subject has been received from the South Australian Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he at an early date bring in a Bill, covered by a message from the Crown, to make increase of payment, as proposed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, in reference to invalid and old-age pensions?
– The intentions of the Government will be announced in the forthcoming Budget.
– On the 12th instant I made a statement in the House with regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the lamentable loss of the s.s. Sumatra. The Commission has now been appointed under the provisions of the Royal Commissions Act 1902-1912, and the names of the gentlemen who constitute it are Mr. Justice Cohen, a District Court Judge of the State of New South Wales, Captain John Vine Hall, and Captain Herbert Chudleigh.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from the 17th July, vide page 1175).
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- “ Active Service “ has a meaning corresponding to that of the same words as used in sub-section (1) of section 189 of the Air Force Act defining the expression “on active service.”
.- In this clause “ Active Service “ is given a meaning corresponding with that of the same words as used in sub-section 1 of section 189 of the Air Force Act, defining the expression “on active service.” We find, however, that the Air Force Act referred to is defined as being “ the Imperial Act called the Air Force Act, and any Acts amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force.” By agreeing to this clause, we shall immediately place our air forces under the British Air Force Act, which incorporates the British Army Act.Surely that is not our intention. Very few of us know much about the British Army Act or the British AirForce Act, and I undertake to say that very few members of the British House of Commons are well acquainted with the provisions of either measure. As I mentioned on the second reading, the British Army Act contains 118 sections, and the regulations already framed under it fill a manual of 600 pages. We are solemnly asked to pass this clause without a word of explanation from the Minister (Mr. Bowden) although its effect is to bring our Air Force under the British laws. In preparing legislation for submission to this House, the practice of this Government seems to be to follow slavishly lines already laid down in previous legislation. Merely because the Defence Act provides for many ‘of the things to which I stated my objection when I was speaking on the second reading, they have been repeated in this Bill. The time has gone by for this Parliament to be asked to incorporate in legislation of this character provisions about which’ it knows absolutely nothing, more particularly when the Bill is submitted without sufficient explanation, and honorable members are obliged to ascertain for themselves why such provisions have been proposed.
– The definition of “ ActiveService “ should have stated that the reference was to the British Air Force Act.
– That is the tricky part of this business. Honorable members were not aware that the reference was to the British Air Force Act.
Mr.CHARLTON.- But in order to ascertain that fact one has to turn to a farther definition. The ordinary person reading the definition of “Active Service “ would naturally say that the words “Air Force Act” meant a Commonwealth Air Force Act, whereas this definition really brings our Air Forces under the, Imperial Air Force Act. Surely we can legislate for ourselves without having to rely upon guidance from the British House of Commons. Could we not have a definition of “ Active Service “ on these lines. “ Air Service “ means -
Any service required by orunder this Act to be performed by any member of the Air Force whether on land or sea or in the air.
Why should a reference be made to the Imperial Act? There is no justification for it. I move -
That all the words after “ Active Service “ be omitted, with a view to insertin lieu thereof the following words: - “means service in or with a Force which is engaged in operations against the enemy.”
– Would it meet the honorable gentleman’s view if the Minister agreed to recommit the clause?
– I do not mind what procedure is followed, but I object to the clause being passed in its present form. If the Minister will postpone the clause I shall not press my amendment, but in the absence of action by the Minister I must take the only course possible to ascertain whether the Committee will agree to pass legislation in the dark. It is proposed that members of the Air Force shall be subject to an Imperial Act about , which most members of Parliament know nothing. If we continue to frame Bills in this way the people of Australia will have very little confidence in our legislation. We ought to endeavour to create an Australian sentiment, but we shall not do that by incorporating in this Bill a provision about which we know nothing.
– Even the airmen know nothing about it.
– Nor anybody else. The Minister would be well advised to reconsider the matter. My amendment provides that anybody enlisted under the Act will be available to operate against the enemy, without reference to the Imperial Act.
– The definition “ Active Service “ can only come into operation in time of war.
– Anywhere, if war breaks out.
– What if the war is between France and Germany?
– It must be a war in which Australia is engaged. It is desirable that the definition of “ active service” should be uniform throughout the
Empire Forces that may be operating together in time of war. The clause proposes to make the definition uniform so far as the Australian and Imperial Forces are concerned by incorporating a subsection of the Imperial Air Force Act. The Bill follows as closely as possible the phraseology of the Defence Act. In the Defence Act there is a definition of active service similar to that in the Bill. It says - ‘ Active Service “ has a meaning corresponding to that of the same words as used in subsection 1 of section 189 of the Army Act defining ,the expression “ on active service.”
The definition in the Air Force Act of the words “ on active service “ is similar to that in the Army Act, and it applies to-
A force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, or is engaged ;in warlike operations in a country or place wholly or partly occupied by an enemy, or is in military occupation of any foreign country.
This definition is more complete than that contained in the amendment. I fail to see how any harm can result from keeping the definition of active service uniform throughout the Forces of the Empire.
– I protest, against this slovenly and lazy method of framing legislation for this Parliament. It, no doubt, saves time and trouble to departmental officers, but it must be very unsatisfactory to the Minister. It is certainly unsatisfactory to members of the Opposition. Before the clause is finally passed the Committee should definitely and decisively lay down the rule for future guidance that legislation controlling the Air Force of our Army must be approved by the Australian Parliament. If the definition suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is not satisfactory to the Government, the Minister should undertake to bring down an amendment to meet the case. Having agreed upon a definition, Parliament should incorporate it in a Bill, instead of incorporating British legislation which probably 99 per cent, of the members of this Parliament have never seen. “We desire to make our Air Force attractive, but the pin-pricks which are caused by referring a man to sub-section 4 of section 999 of an Act passed by a Parliament 12,000 miles away, will not do that. The psychology of the people of Great Britain is quite different from that of Australians, and it is abhorrent to us to be controlled by legislation passed by people whose views differ so much from ours.
– What would be the position if the Imperial Government amended section IS 9 of the Imperial Act?
– The whole of our legislation would be thrown out of gear.-
– If the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition were carried, every time British legislation was amended, the Commonwealth Parliament would have to pass an amending Act.
– This .Committee should not agree to such slovenly methods. It should not be necessary to refer honorable members to measures passed by a Parliament 12,000 miles away before they can know what they are being asked to pass. Any amendment to the British Army Act in future will automatically apply to Australia -if we agree to this clause. Are we prepared to do our business in that manner ? It would be totally wrong for us to consent to such a thing. The Minister has given us no adequate explanation of why he is acting in this way. The Government could have incorporated in this Bill the. exact words it desired to bring into operation, and we would not have taken up one-hundredth part of the time in discussing the clause that we shall take up. We do not know from day to day what the British Parliament will do, nor do we know what amendments or alterations it may contemplate in section 189 of the Air Force Act. We should object strenuously to methods such as these, and I feel that honorable members will fight this measure to the last ditch unless the Minister alters the procedure. This practice is totally wrong and sinister. With the assistance available to the Minister, it should be possible for -him to say in black and white what he wants, but this lazy way is adopted so that everything which is incorporated in the 600 pages of legislation and regulation passed by the British Parliament shall be made to apply to Australia. If there is nothing sinister in this proposal, let us have before us exactly what the Government desires to pass, so that we may deliberate upon it. Everything that affects such a serious matter as the control of our Army, Navy, or Air Forces should be carefully considered before Parliament passes it. We should remember that there is a distinct psychological difference between the English and Australian people. The very fact that the greater part of the population of the British Empire is black is a strong reason why legislation passed in the House of Commons should not be made applicable to Australia. I am dealing not only with section 189 of the Air Force Act, but also with the application to Australia of the Army Act. I ask the Minister to agree to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), or, at least, to consent to the postponement of this clause so that it may be redrafted to incorporate the section to which he has referred. Frankly, I do not know what section 189 of the Air Force Act provides. Does the Minister ?
– I have already read it.
– How many members of the Committee know what it is? As the Minister is seeking to make other sections of the British Army Act applicable to Australia, I ask him to make available to each member of the Committee a copy of that measure. The- request is fair. He also desires certain sections of the Air Force Act to be made legal in Australia. Will he provide us with copies of that Act? I have endeavoured to obtain copies of both enactments, stud have failed.
– Forty copies of the Army Act were sent here last time this matter was before us, and not one was taken out.
– The honorable gentleman’s officers must have kept them.
.- The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is perfectly right in his contention. I do not know what section 189 of the Air Force Act provides. I know that the Air Force Act of Great Britain is an excellent one, but I do not know the provisions of its different sections. In any case, we can provide our own definition of the words “ active service “.
– This is a serious matter. A big principle is involved in this clause. It is whether or not we shall apply the provisions of the Air Force Act to Australia.
– It is not (that. We want the full definition, of “ active service “ in the Bill.
– The honorable member for Darling put that view. I ask him if I have correctly interpreted him.
– The Minister has correctly’ interpreted my contention.
– Let us confine ourselves for the time to the clause before us. We had trouble with the Defence Act which we passed in 1903. In that Act the definition of “active service” was - “ Active service “ means service in or with a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, and includes any naval or military service in time of war.
When war time arrives it is desirable to apply common definitions in all the Do- minions in the Empire. It was found to be so in the recent war. For that reason we had to bring down to this House, in 1917, a Bill to amend the Defence Act, and we then made the definition of “ active service “ read as follows : - “Active service” has a meaning corresponding to that of the same words as used in subsection (1) of section one hundred and eightynine of the Army Act defining the expression “on active service”.
– That was in war time.
– It makes no difference to my argument. It became necessary for us to have a uniform definition all through the Empire, and for that reason we amended our Defence Act.
– Why not put the word “ British “ in if it means the British Army Act?
– That can be done in the future. We found that we must have uniformity of definition within the Empire. In order to preserve the continuity of uniformity, we provide here that - “Air Force Act” means the Imperial Act called the “Air Force Act” and any Acts amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force.
So that if at any time the Imperial Parliament thinks fit to alter the definition of “ active service,” our legislation will automatically adopt the alteration.
– The Imperial Parliament will then legislate for us.
– Otherwise, every time an alteration wets made in the Imperial Act it would be necessary for us to come to this Parliament to make a similar alteration in our law. The British Act is available; it is not a secret document.
– Why is it not submitted here? I have not a copy of it.
– I am giving the reason for what is proposed in this Bill. It is intended to avoid the necessity of special legislation every time an alteration is made in the Imperial Act. If honorable members will look at clause 55 they will see that it provides that -
The Air Force shall at all times while on war service, whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth, be subject to the Air Force Act, save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act, and subject to such modifications and adaptations as are prescribed- and so on. The object clearly is that there shall be uniformity in the definitions of “ active service.” In time of war it is obviously desirable that all the Forces of the Empire should be serving under uniform conditions.
– That is a very strong reason for our opposition.
– That is only a matter of the point of view.
– We take the Australian point of view.
– No ; I am putting the Australian point of view.
– The honorable gentleman is an Imperialistic jingo.
– The honorable member has used” a phrase which is quite inapplicable to me. I am dealing with the case of the Forces of the Empire acting in concert in some great national emergency. All that we provide for here is that in time of war our Forces, when abroad on active service, shall be subject to the same conditions as other Forces of the Empire.
.- I remind honorable members that the British Parliament passed an Air Force Act, but in doing so it did not say that it adopted certain provisions of the Army Act. When the British Government introduced their Air Force Bill, they included in it the provisions of the Army Act which they thought should be applicable to the Air Force. The Attorney-General (Mr-. Groom) speaks of the need for uniformity, but that need was even more urgent in the case of different branches of the Imperial Forces, and yet the British Parliament embodied in the Air Force Act the provisions of the Army Act which it in tended should apply to the Air Force. Why cannot we do the same. Let me tell honorable members what the Army Act provides. It says -
In. this Act, if not inconsistent with the context, the expression, “on active service,” as applied to a person subject to military law, means whenever he is attached to or forms part of, a force which is engaged in operations against .the enemy, or is engaged in military operations in a country or place wholly or partly .occupied by an enemy, or is in military occupation of any foreign country.
Why can we not embody in this Bill, if that is desired by the Government, “the actual words of the definition of active service which are to be found in the Army Act. Instead of desiring to make the definition of active service clear and distinct, what is desired by the Government is to make our legislation pro-Imperial. That is what is at the bottom of this method of legislation. The Government propose to make the Bill so complicated that no man in the Service will be able to understand it. They propose to embody whole parts of the Imperial Acts by a simple form of adoption, and, as a result, no man serving in the Defence Forces of Australia can possibly know the laws and regulations to which he is subject. The* provision in the ‘ Army Act further reads -
That must be clear and explicit to every one. That is what is included in the term “ active service.” The British Act further provides -
A force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, or is engaged in military operations in a country or place wholly or partly occupied by an enemy, or is in military occupation of any foreign country.
The Minister showed me sub-section 1 of section 189 of the British Army Act, but that says, “ if not inconsistent with the context,” and what I have been reading is the context. Another part of it provides that -
If at any time during the said period the Governor or general, officer for the time being is of opinion that the necessity continues, he may from time to time’ renew such declaration for another period not exceeding three months, and such renewal shall be published and have effect as the original declaration, and if he is of opinion that the said necessity has ceased, he shall state such opinion, and on the publication in General Orders of such statement, the Forces to which the declaration applies shall cease to be deemed to be on active service.
Every such declaration, renewal of declaration, and statement by the Governor of a colony shall be made by proclamation published in the official gazette of the colony, and and it shall be the duty of every Governor or general officer making a declaration or a re-“ newal of a declaration’ under this section, if he has the means of direct telegraphic communication with a Secretary of State to obtain the previous consent of the Secretary of State to such declaration or renewal, and in any other case to report the same, with the utmost practicable speed to the Secretary of State.
There are pages of this sort of stuff, and it is all part of the definition of “ active service.” If the Government desire that the British definition should be embodied in the Bill they should include in the measure the words in which it is contained in the Army Act.When the need for uniformity is stressed every one knows that should a change in these Acts take place in Great Britain to-morrow we would be given notice of the change by cable, and could make such alterations of our law as appeared to be necessary. The real object of this kind of legislation is to change the military system in this country from an Australian Force governed by Australian laws, and bring it more and more under Imperial legislation, and thus the men joining our Forces will have no knowledge of the laws and regulations under which they will be serving. To be consistent with the Government proposal we might for all practical purposes make this a Bill of one clause reading -
All the men engaged in the Air Force Service of Australia shall be subject to the laws and regulations passed in Great Britain.
That is what this Bill boils down to. On this ground we shall fight one clause of this kind after another. We say that the Government should put clearly and definitely into the Bill the provisions it intends shall apply to our Forces, so that the public and those who offer their ser vices to the people of Australia may be in a position to understand the laws to which they will be subject, and the regulations that can be made under them.
– I agree with the general objection taken to the method of legislation by reference. It is desirable, as a general rule, that our Acts should be so framed that any person affected by an Act should be able to ascertain his rights or duties by reference to that Act alone. There are, however, special circumstances affecting this legislation which suggest that a distinction might very well be drawn. These circumstances are that in time of war it is contemplated that our Air Force will be acting in conjunction with Forces from other portions of the Empire. It is desirable in those circumstances that there should be, not a precise and identical uniformity, but a general uniformity in the method of controlling the Forces upon active service. Honorable members, I think, have scarcely appreciated the fact that the proposed application of the British Air Force Act in this Bill is very limited. It depends on clauses 54 and 55. When these clauses are referred to it is seen that the Bill does not attempt to introduce the Air Force Act generally in Australia as the measure controlling our Forces. The Act is introduced for a limited purpose, and is subject to many restrictions and provisos. Clause 54 is as follows : -
1 ) Members of the Air Force, whether on war service or not-
– What about subclause 2?
This section shall be construed as amplifying and not as restricting any of the other provisions of this Act.
That means that all the other provisions still have full force; but that is a matter to which I should like to give further consideration. So far as the three classes dealt with in clause; 54 are concerned, it does not appear to be unreasonable that members of the Air Force, who are in transit as it were, should be provided for by legislation which will apply to the others with whom they are and with whom they are working. Clause 55 is the same in substance as the corresponding section of the Defence Act. That clause provides -
The Air force shall at all times while on war service whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth be subject to the Air Force Act save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act and subject to such modifications and adaptations as are prescribed, including the imposition of a fine not exceeding Twenty pounds for an offence either in addition to or in substitution for the punishment provided by the Air Force Act, and the increase or reduction of the amount of a fine provided by the Air Force Act:
Provided that the regulations shall not increase the fine for .any offence so that it exceeds Twenty pounds.
The effect of the clause is that, by regulation, any provisions of the Imperial Air Force Act may be excluded. That was done again and again during the war. As many honorable members know, there is a good thick red volume, entitled The Manual of Military Law, with a corresponding naval volume. These contain the whole system of administering Forces on active service. It would be possible to enact a whole code corresponding to the British code which has grown up as the result of experience, but where it diverged from the code under which other troops were serving, great difficulties in administration would arise. It -is quite open to contention that the difficulties under which men then would labour in ascertaining their position would be more serious than is the case under the present system.
– Were our troops during the war fighting under the same conditions as the British troops?
– No; they were fighting generally under the same conditions, but subject to what is referred to in clause 55, and similarly referred to in the Defence Act, as “ modifications and adaptations” made by regulation. The Defence Act itself provides that the Army Act applies only on active service, and it has no application so far as it is inconsistent with the Defence Act or any regulations. Although the general principle of legislation by reference to other Acts, and particularly to Acts passed by another Parliament, is objectionable and wrong in principle, yet there are special circumstances affecting this matter, having regard to the necessity for a clear uniform system on active service, due regard being paid to the preservation of all provisions inconsistent with the Air Force Act, while reserving full power to exclude or modify all sections of that Act by regulation. These considerations distinguish this from other cases of the kind. There have been many amendments and modifications made by regulation, in the Army Act and the Naval Discipline Act. Of course, this method leaves the Government the . power to make regulations, but the regulations are under the control of the House. In case of inconsistency, the Australian Act or regulations prevail.
– The honorable mem- . ber, as a lawyer, knows the difficulty of removing such inconsistencies during war time.
– Yes, but the alternative is to enact something like that system of controlling fighting forces which is to be found in The Manual of Military Law and The Manual of Naval Discipline ; and, if this is what should be done, we ought not to shrink from the task. But there is already an existing code which we can alter, and have altered, just as we choose ; and if an entirely new code were brought in it would have to be of corresponding magnitude to be satisfactory. With a code, on the one hand, that has been interpreted through many years, and our own code on the other, perhaps slightly varying,, honorable members will see how much more difficult it would be for individuals to ascertain their position than it is under the proposal contained in the Bill. While agreeing with the general principle advocated by several honorable members that we ought to legislate directly and not by reference, I still say there are special circumstances in this case, which I have sought to set out, and. which lead me to support the general position of the Government..
.- - I am absolutely opposed to legislating by reference to any Act, or any section of an Act, passed by any other Parliament in the world. If we desire legislation, let it be the legislation of this Parliament. The argument advanced by the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) might well be used in opposition to this clause. He says that a direct provision is not made in the Bill, because the British Parliament might at any time alter the British law, and we should then have to pass fresh legislation. That, I think, is a safeguard that we ought to have. This Parliament should have the right to say whether Australia shall come into line with any legislation passed by the British Parliament. I do not wish to say anything derogatory of the British Parliament, but it is conceivable that it might pass some measure that was entirely repugnant to Australian ideas and sentiments. As has already been said, if we adopt such a method, we might as well “ scrap “ our Defence Act, and simply enact that the defences of this country shall be subject to the legislation of Great Britain. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) says he does not believe in legislation by reference, but he sees some special circumstances in the present case. We have had the benefit of the experience of returned soldiers on this side, who are “game” to tell us what really did happen, and are not attempting to bolster up Imperialistic militarism, into which we seem to be drifting more and more every day. What we have heard shows clearly that a man who goes on active service should know more definitely than he can under the type of legislation before us, the conditions under which he has to work and fight. I remind the honorable member for Kooyong that in the case of another war they will not- be all lawyers who will enlist, and that every soldier will not be able to get legal advice as to the operation of the different Acts under which he is serving. All legislation dealing with the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and soldiering generally should be as. simple as possible, so as to be absolutely clear to those whom it immediately concerns. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) and many honorable members opposite, and also the newspapers, have told us that the world war made Australia a nation. It seems to me, however, that we are approaching rather the Crown colony system. Personally, I do not believe that soldiers should, under any circumstances, be sent abroad from this country to fight. This country can be defended in Australia- a principle that is not accepted by the Government. In any future war, are we going to send men away to be controlled as a cog in the wheel of an Imperial machine, or are they to fight, as in the last war, under our own conditions? If we pass this legislation, we may possibly see the Government reducing the pay of the soldier to the Imperial level. We can only hope that the present Government will not be in power for very long to proceed with their sinister propaganda of imperialism. I shall fight every clause of every Bil] which seeks to embody legislation passed by any other Parliament than this, even by a Parliament of an Australian State. It is an insult to the intelligence and integrity of this National Parliament to say that it should slavishly copy legislation by other Parliaments. I hope that the Committee will realize the seriousness of the step it is asked to take. It is a step that has never before been taken by this Parliament except during war-time, and it is stupidity on the part of the Government to ask honorable members, when times are normal and when there is none of the chaos occasioned by a war, to forgo any of their privileges or regard themselves as a body of children ignorant of what they are passing into law. The Government are admittedly incompetent if they cannot draft an Air Defence Bill without having to incorporate in it provisions taken from legislation enacted in some other country.
.- Although this clause deals with definitions, it strikes at some very fundamental principles of Australian self-government. Any one glancing at the provision as it stands now would say that it was merely a rough-and-ready way of giving a definition without using a lot of words, because by turning up the original Act one could get the ‘ full definition. The explanation afforded by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom), .as I interjected at the time, was really a very strong reason for the opposition which honorable members have displayed towards the definition of “ active service.” Several times the question has been asked - If the definition includes certain things in the British Air Force Act, why are they not inserted in our Bill ? The answer given to honorable members is that the definition has been warded as set out in the clause so that any change effected by legislation in the definition as set out in the British
Act will automatically effect a change in the definition iu our Act. But that is the strongest argument for not doing what is proposed. We might as well surrender our legislative rights on defence matters if we are to pass a measure containing a clause which provides that any change in an Imperial Statute shall automatically apply to a Commonwealth Act.
– Does the honorable member know how the Imperial Act defines “ active service”?
– The definition in the Imperial Act has been read to us, and up to a certain point I can see nothing wrong in it. If the first paragraph were embodied iu our Bill no one could take objection to it, but the Government say that it is necessary to provide for any change in the Imperial definition to apply automatically to our legislation without reference to this Parliament. If honorable members opposite are prepared to tolerate such a proposal they may as well tell their electors that they can no longer legislate on their behalf, because the British House of Commons will be legislating for them.
– The honorable member should not talk in that way. Surely he does not imagine that we do not recognise what our duty is.
– I listened with a great deal of pleasure to the opening sentences of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), in which he said that every Act of Parliament should state on the face of it what it meant, but the honorable member then went on to say that there was a special reason for having the definition worded as it is in the Bill. His special reason for supporting the definition is our reason for opposing it. If there were nothing in this matter but the slovenliness emphasized by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), we could not raise any great objection. We could re-draft the definition so long as the words employed met with our approval. For instance, there may be nothing wrong in the language used in the Imperial definition, but there is something decidedly wrong in the principle that a Commonwealth Act of Parliament should be automatically changed by legislation enacted in another part of the world. A second special reason advanced for tho retention of the definition as printed is that there may be uniformity throughout the Empire in regard to this class of legislation. The Government axe making a fetish of uniformity. Our Defence Act, when framed,was not uniform with the British Army Act, and I hope it never will be. But was there anything lacking in the methods employed by the Australian Imperial Force because of the absence of that uniformity? The Bill has been drafted with the idea that our Air Forces shall be sent abroad to fight. It is a Bill for the air defence of Australia, but in many parts of the measure honorable members will find a repetition of the proposal, the first intimation of which we have in the definition of “ active service “ - that a permanent Air Force shall be built up in Australia which may be sent abroad to fight in other countries without consulting the men in the Force. The Government are asking us to surrender our political independence as well as the independence of Australia. I submit to the Attorney-General that while his explanation was’ clear and explicit, it was the very strongest reason why we should amend the clause.
– While the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) were very much appreciated, they were hardly relevant to the Bill. Wo one would have deprived the honorable member of the great pleasure it afforded him to read the British Army Act, but he read a great deal to which this definition did not apply. The definition refers to one sub-section of a section of the Imperial -Act, but the honorable member quoted a series of subsections.
– I read the context, which was necessary to explain that subsection.
– The context had no connexion with the sub-section. I suggest that the clause be postponed until after the other clauses of the Bill have been considered. Honorable members will then have an opportunity to reconsider the definition of “ active service,” in the light of the discussion that takes place on the other clauses, and in the meantime the Minister will ascertain whether it is possible to adopt the definition suggested and study what effect it may have on the other provisions of the Bill.
.- No time will be saved by a postponement of the clause, because discussion will take place on every clause which contains references to the British Air Force Act. It is my duty to assist in passing legislation on behalf of Australia, and not to accept something which may have been done in Great Britain one hundred years ago. I am not prepared to adopt a provision which may be altered by the British Parliament to-morrow, and thus automatically form part and parcel of the legislation of Australia. No one knows better than does the temporary Chairman (Sir Neville Howse) that there axe things done under the British Army Act and the British Air Force Act which we do not want to see in Australia. During the war an officer who committed an offencewas returned to Australia under the most comfortable conditions. It was not even announced that his services were no longer required. He did not go to gaol. On his way out to Australia the band played while he was having his meals, and they were of the very best. On the other hand, the poor Australian private who committed a similar offence, or even one not so serious, was often subjected to cruel treatment by the British Pommies. He was put in the compound and half starved. He was kicked from pillar to post by cold-footed British Pommies, who had no love for members of the Australian Imperial Forces. The officer who committed a more serious offence did not have his pay stopped. He returned on the boat with other officers. No one knew that he was being returned to Australia because his services were no longer required. He mingled with civilians on his return, and it was not heard that he had committed a most serious crime. Yet we are asked to adopt in this Bill provisions that will perpetuate that condition of affairs. We should not postpone the clause. We should fight the matter out here and now. Otherwise it will crop up again in nearly every other clause. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is seeking to foist the British Air Force Act or the British Army Act on the people of Australia he will be lucky if he gets away to London during next month, because there is sure to be a discussion on every clause of this measure. Those who have had experience of active service will not agree to any proposal to allow the British Parliament to pass legislation to govern Australian soldiers.
.- I cannot quite follow the argument of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was speaking, I suggested that it would be advisable for the Minister to postpone the consideration of this clause with a view to bringing in an amendment which would be acceptable to the Committee. I agree with honorable members opposite that we should not give away any of the privileges of this Parliament. The fact that we have done so in other Acts does not concern me at present. I am sorry that the meaning of the definition is so vague; it should have been made clearer in drafting. The definition should have read - “ Active Service “ has a meaning coresponding to that of the same words as used in subsection (1) of section one hundred and eightynine of the Imperial Air Force Act, or any Acts amending or in substitution of the same for the time being.
Honorable members could have understood that. When I read the clause I wondered whether there was an Australian Air Force Act which I had overlooked. Amendments which we would not care to have in force in Australia might be made in the Imperial Act. We are asking young men to join the Australian Air Force, and we ought to make clear to them the conditions under which they will be required to serve. If war should take place, and other conditions should become necessary, Parliament could take whatever action was needed at the moment. The clause should be postponed. It is ridiculous for members of the Opposition to say that they will not accept the Bill if the clause is postponed. I shall be satisfied if the Minister will give me an assurance that the clause will be recommitted. I shall vote for stating in the Bill clearly and definitely what the conditions of service are. I desire to help the Government, for I believe in our having an efficient system of defence.
;- The Government is trying to include in a Bill submitted to Parliament in peace time provisions which were incorporated in legislation passed in war time, when the country was in a state of panic. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) hit the nail on the head when he said that if this class of legislation is necessary Parliament can pass it when the need arises. It is unfair to bring into force slabs of the Imperial Army Act by including a few words in a definition clause.
– This Parliament does not know what future amendments may be made in the Imperial Act.
– That is so; and sec tion 189 of it may, in the future, become a different section. If two new sections were put in before section 189, that section would become No. 191. If any young man came to me for advice, and said, “ What do you think of my joining the Air Force in Australia,” I would advise him not to join if Parliament passes the Bill in its present form. The public platforms of this country will ring with opposition to any attempt on the part of a majority of the Committee to force Imperial Army legislation upon the people. In the last Parliament we had the spectacle of a noted Brigadier-General, Senator Elliott, opposing the incorporation of clauses of the Army Act in the Defence Bill introduced by the then Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). I was speaking to him the other day, and while he said that the provisions of which he had complained had been somewhat modified, he maintained that there were still many undesirable features in both the Defence and the Air Defence Bills.
– Senator Elliott will fight this Bill when it reaches the Senate.
– I have not the slightest doubt about that. Although Senator Elliott, a legal gentleman who had practical experience at the Front, opposed the adoption of provisions of the Army Act, the Government is now seeking, by subterfuge, to incorporate them in the Bill before the Committee. Senator Elliott is a true Australian, and it is time this Parliament legislated in accordance with Australian . aspirations. What will the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), with his Imperialistic ideas, say when he arrives in Great Britain? Ho will probably say, “ Already, gentlemen, in our Air Defence Act, we have incorporated certain provisions of the Imperial Act with a view to making this class of legislation uniform throughout the Empire.” The Prime Minister, and those who seek to operate with him on these lines, will receive very cold comfort from the delegates from South Africa and Canada. Canada has already said that she intends to provide for the defence of Canada, and that Great Britain will very likely not receive any assistance from her in future wars overseas. I refuse to do anything to strengthen the Prime Minister’s hands if he intends to go to Great Britain to preach that gospel. A peculiar method is adopted in framing amendments of defence legislation. The military officials are first consulted and asked, “ What do you want ? “ They state what they want, and their views are communicated to the legal advisers of the Government, who get to work and state the views of the military men in phraseology which even they fight over and do not understand. There is too much consultation by military, naval, and other experts. I do not want to be unkind, for I know that my statement does not apply to all the man occupying high positions in the military service, but some of them are seeking to obtain legislation which will provide them with remunerative positions and broaden their influence. They want to do things in a larger way than is necessary. The Ministry would be well advised to withdraw the Bill, and remove its undesirable provisions, or to substitute a Bill which will be truly Australian in character.
– I direct attention to the state of the Committee. Such an important Bill as that which is before the Committee merits a better attendance of honorable members. [Quorum formed.]
– It was desirable that attention should be called to the state of the Committee. It is deplorable that when a clause of such importance is under consideration so few members of the other side are in their places. No doubt those who do not think it worth their while to listen to the arguments advanced will attend later, and vote as the Government desires. At all events, it is the duty of those who are prepared to give attention to important matters before the Committee to point out to the country exactly what is involved. The attention of the people should also be directed to the fact that honorable members troop in to form a quorum, and then disappear again. That, however, is their “funeral.” The Government misjudges the temper of the people of Australia when it endeavours to foist this Bill upon Parliament and the country. The people do not want the British Army Act incorporated in Australian defence legislation. When the people voted against the principle of conscription, certain military gentlemen in Australia said that when the next war took place, there would be a uniformity in legislation which would insure that the provisions of the British Army Act, which involve the principle of conscription, would be applied generally, and that Australia would fall into line with the rest of the Empire. That feeling was prevalent at the conclusion of the war, and the clause before us is an effort by the military department to give expression to the feeling. It is an attempt to bring the Australian defence legislation into harmony with the British Army Act.
– During war time.
– In war time Australia fell into line, but there will be a great objection by the people of the Commonwealth to the principle involved in this Bill.
– It makes us a Crown colony.
– We came into line during the war.
– And this does no more than we did during the war.
– Then what is the necessity for bringing this Bill before us in itspresent form ? Wo do not know what might be passed by the British Parliament after this measure is agreed to by us. If the British Parliament made any amendment to the Army Act, it would involve us. What objection can His Minister have to putting everything before us in plain terms?
– It is for that reason that I want to postpone this clause.
– Why not withdraw the Bill, and have it redrafted ? The objectionable featurescould then be eliminated. The Bill binges upon the definition clauses. If we postpone this clause, and pass the remainder of the Bill, we will be in difficulties later on. I do not say the Minister is going about this matter in an, underhand way, but it cer tainly appears as though subterfuge is being adopted. The Minister lays himself open to such a charge. The Government knows well that the Australian people do not understand the provisions of the British Army Act. If it thought otherwise, I am sure we would not have this Bill before us. Not only are the people of Australia ignorant of what the British Army Act means, but members of this Chamber, and even members of the British House of Commons, are at the same disadvantage. What can the man in the street know about it if legislators are unable to obtain such information? However, the responsibility is on the Government. The members of this Chamber are misjudged, and the temper of the people of Australia is misjudged, by the Government if it imagines that consent will be given to the incorporation of the British Army Act in our defence provisions. I listened with interest to the speech by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). I thought he intended to vote against the clause.
– I must again draw attention to the state of the Commitee. This is an important Bill. [Quorum formed.]
– I am pleased that there are members in this Chamber who are watchful to remind certain other members of their duty. It is impossible to give too much publicity to the absence of honorable members when such a subject is under discussion. Some members are so negligent that they will not even heed the quorum bells; others are not even within the precincts of the House.
– There are more members present on this side than on the Opposition side.
– So there should be. The responsibility is that of the Government. We have only one party here, and you have two over there. When we have a Labour Government in power we shall watch the state of the House better than you do.
– The other side of the House needs educating.
– It cannot he pointed out too frequently that some honorable members who absent themselves from debates are not conversant with the clauses under discussion, yet they come into the chamber when the division bells ring, and vote with the Government, whether it is right or wrong. That is not playing the game by the people, whose representatives they are. Some honorable members do not understand the fundamental principles of the subject under discussion, yet they are prepared to vote upon party lines to keep the Government in office. It is regrettable that the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) should have told us before he sat down, that though he spoke in one way, he intended to vote in another. I remind him that the representatives of Kooyong have a reputation for actions of that kind.
– But the man who earned that reputation has disappeared.
– We hope for the sake of Kooyong, and also for the sake of the honorable member, that its representative will soon have a better reputation. He told us that certain things were wrong. The straightforward thing to do is to put them right. The remedy suggested by the Attorney-General is not satisfactory. He knows that if this cunninglydrafted Bill is passed, with the exception of the clause in question, half the battle will be won by the militarists. Surely the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) does not wish to force friendly-disposed honorable members, like the honorable member for Kooyong, to vote in opposition to their speeches. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) made a very telling speech. I almost imagined that he was sitting on this side of the chamber. He has since disappeared. I do not know how he proposes to vote. He also will be placed in an invidious position if the Government forces a vote. We must have a vote, unless the Government will agree to withdraw the Bill temporarily. The people of Australia will not consent to the incorporation of the British Army Act in our Defence Act. The Government should realize this. If it does not do so now, it certainly will do it later on. The people will watch closely how honorable members vote on this clause, and it will not do for them to go outside later and say they voted to keep the Government in power. The principle in this clause is repugnant to Australian sentiment, and the Government may rest assured that honorable members on this side of the chamber will feel it their bounden duty to tell the people exactly what is involved in it. The Government will be well advised to accept the advice we are tendering, for we are not indulging in simply destructive criticism. Our advice is tendered because we believe it is in accord with the wishes of the people.
– I have listened with interest to the speeches this afternoon. I regret that I did not hear the Minister’s explanation of the clause.
– He did not give any.
– I am favorable to the establishment of an Air Force, but it should be an Australian Force. We have had 128 machines given to us by the Imperial Government. They are not yet assembled. If this Bill is passed the work of assembling those machines, and of establishing an Air Force on a sound footing, will be possible. The Minister will make the Air Force very unpopular unless he is careful. On the first line of page 2 of the Bill we have the words - “Air Force” means the Royal Australian Air Force constituted under this Act.
These words immediately follow: - “Air Force Act” means the Imperial Act called the Air Force Act and any Acts amending or in substitution for it and for the time being in force.
It would appear that we ought to ask the British Government to draft a Bill for us to regulate our Air Force. This isan Australian Parliament, and yet it is proposed that the legislation it passes shall be subject to alteration at the whim of the British Parliament. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) has said that the object is to secure uniformity of conditions of service. Does that mean that should our Air Force take part in a European war the members of it will serve under the same conditions as regards salary, discipline, and everything else as members of the British Air Force? Our view is that we should provide fora distinct Australian Air Force, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is to be commended for the action he has taken. If the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) would say that it is the intention of the Government that the Bill should provide for an Australian Air Force, and that he desires that the clause should be postponed in order that ho might submit an amendment to make that perfectly clear, he would save trouble.
No Air Force should be sent overseas from Australia without the consent of this Parliament, and its members should know the conditions under which they will be expected to serve.
– I draw attention to the state of the Committee. This is a very important Bill, and honorable, members should be present to hear the debate.
– I inform the honorable member that, following a ruling given in this chamber, I will not count the Committee, because I consider that sufficient time has not elapsed since the last count, when a quorum of honorable members was present.
– What time has elapsed since the last count?
– Five minut.es. The ruling to which I have referred was that -
Attention having been called by an honorable member to the absence of a quorum, and the bells having been rung, and a quorum having been formed, and attention having been again immediately called, by the same honorable member to the absence of a quorum -
The same honorable member has again called for a quorum in this case -
Mr. Deputy Speaker said that, following the procedure observed .in the House of Commons, he would not again count the House until a reasonable interval of time had elapsed after his previous count of the House. The interval he considered should he a quarter of an hour, as provided for by the Standing Orders in other cases.
– I do not wish to appeal from your decisions, but as you, sir, are new to the Chair, I advise you to bs very careful of the advice you receive in regard to these matters. We will not permit debate to be stifled in this way. We will insist that, in the discussion of’ important questions, at least a quorum of honorable members shall be in their places in this chamber. It is very unsatisfactory that you should rule that when a matter of the greatest importance affecting the Air Force is under discussion honorable members need not be in their places. I can inform you that the ruling upon which you have acted has very seldom been acted upon in this House. That will, no doubt, be news to you, sir, but the fact remains that the ruling has -only been taken advantage of in cases where a deliberate attempt was made to do something which was not in the best interests of legislation. In this case the abject of tha call for a quorum is quite the reverse. We are endeavouring to put before the Committee the reasons why the clause under discussion should not be passed, and honorable members on the other side are conspicuous by their absence. When the bells are rung a little later on for a division they will enter the chamber and vote without knowing what the division is about. It appears to me that you, sir, are prepared to cover up this proceeding. You have a duty to perform as Temporary Chairman of Committees, and when there is no unnecessary interference with the work of the Committee I do not think you are justified in resorting to the ruling you have just read, applying the practice’ in the House of Commons.
– I point out to the honorable member that, the ruling I have quoted is not. a ruling given in the House of Commons. I have quoted it from the Votes and Proceedings of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. It would ill-become me to attempt to stifle criticism by the Committee.
– You should be careful of the advice you take.
– I formed my own opinion that the last, call for a quorum was vexatious, since a reasonable time had not elapsed since the previous call. That is why I gave my ruling.
– What do you, sir, define as a reasonable time?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.A quarter of an hour was laid down as a reasonable time in the ruling to which I have referred. I did not define a reasonable time, but only five minutes had elapsed from the time of the last count when the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) again called for a quorum.
– I sympathize with you, sir. You are a new member, and I do not know how an honorable member new to the House came to be appointed to the position you hold. It would appear that we are likely to be governed by officials in this House. That is the trouble. I strongly object to paid officials of the Commonwealth whispering to the Chairman of Committees and telling him what he ought to do. I do not think that such a ruling as you have now given has been given in this Chamber for many years.
– What is the date of the ruling ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The 22nd July, 1921.
– Because some one gave a ruling which was very probably wrong at the time, we should not now be bound by it. We axe dealing with a very important measure, and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), in calling for a quorum, did mot seek to delay business, but to have honorable members present so that we might convince them that the Government are endeavouring to pass a defective measure. It ill-becomes you, sir, to say that honorable members can carry on the affairs of the country while they are outside of the chamber.
– The Temporary Chairmansaid nothing ofthe sort. The honor able member is not putting the matter fairly.
-That is the effect of the ruling which has been given. There might be only two or three members present, and yet on the ruling which has been given the Temporary Chairman would not count the Committee because a quorum had been called for a few minutes before. You, sir, mentioned that the second call for a quorum was made by the honorable member who had last called attention to the want of a quorum. If that was an objection, I now call attention to the state of the Committee.
– I wish to speak to the point of order.
– There is no point of order. A quorum has been called for, and the bells will be rung. [Quorum formed.]
– I am very glad that honorable members have come in, because we intend to put our amendment to a vote, and they should understand it before they vote upon it. It may be news to some honorable members opposite that the Committee is now dealing with clause 4, on which the Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment which we thought the Government would accept. We take this ‘ measure very seriously, and recognise that the definition clause is the foundation clause of the Bill. Unless it makes it perfectly clear that the Bill provides for a purely
Australian Air Force, our Force, if transferred to any part of Europe in time of trouble,might be brought under the British Air Force Act. If we knew that the British Act would not be altered we would know what that would involve, but we have no guarantee that it will not be altered. We are anxious to assist the Government in the defence of the country, butwe do not desire that our Forces shall serve under British regulations.
– Not even in time of war?
– The honorable member thinks that the Forces of each part of the Empire should serve in time of war under different laws.
– Decidedly. What is the use of our having a Parliament of our own if we cannot make our own laws 1
– Even when our Forces are at war outside our own dominions.
– I hope that it will never be necessary again to send our Forces abroad. No vote of mine will be cast to send them outof this country again.
– Not inany circumstances ?
– No, not in any circumstances. Though I say this, I admit that every man in this country should be prepared to defend it. I hope that the Air Force will assist in its defence.
– How can it do so without going out of the country ?
– It can operate along the coast. I understand that that is the purpose for which the Air Force is formed.
– Yes; but they will go beyond the 3-mile limit.
– Do we not own as much of the Pacific as any other country? If this Air Force is intended for the defence of Australia, why not make it an Australian Force pure and simple, without any guidance from Imperial regulations? I am anxious that) this Air Force shall be a well-organized and contented one, but, according to the report of the Public Accounts Committee,the men are badly treated and badly housed some of them in galvanizediron sheds. The Government has everything to gain by meeting the Opposition on this question; and I remind the Minister in charge (Mr. Bowden) that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and others of his supporters do not regard the clause with favour.
– Why not agree to the postponement of the clause?
– I should not object to a postponement if we had a guarantee from the Government.
– We have promised to consider the whole effect of such an amendment as that proposed.
– I must say I was surprised at the length of this Bill, but I find that it contains whole slabs from the British Act. Surely our Law Department is capable of drafting Bills of our own ?
.- I understand that the Government is willing to postpone the consideration of this clause with a view to considering its effects on the remaining clauses. So far as I can see, this definition has no bearing on the Bill until we reach clause 54, and I suggest that there be a postponement with a view to at once dealing with all clauses up to clause 50. I admit that there are points in the Bill on which I do not feel satisfied; but I am prepared to accept the undertaking given by the Government.
– Do you approve of the definition ?
– At the present time I do not feel disposed to agree to the definition ; but, as I say, . I am prepared to accept the undertaking of the Government.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Deputy Chairman (Sir Neville Howse), who, during your absence, Mr. Bamford, occupied the Chair, refused to ring the bells or count the Committee when I called for a quorum. If I understood him correctly, his reason was that my action was vexatious. I object to the application ofthat term under the circumstances. I hold my own views as to the importance of the Bill now before us. We have reached the stage at which honorable members opposite, unless they are absolutely bound to the Government, and are anti-Australian, must listen to the views expressed, and I desire all honorable members to be present. In a previous Parliament a similar ruling was given, and I have kept all the records, with a view to challenging it at the first opportunity. An opportunity has not arisen, because, unless my memory deceives me, that ruling has never been acted on. In the House of Commons the necessity for a quorum is appreciated to the full, and, according to the records, political prisoners were brought from gaols and sick members from hospitals, to make up the necessary number. I hope the Acting Chairmen will not fritter away the rights of honorable members when a desire is shown to have a properly constituted Committee. Who can say that within a period of fifteen minutes a speech may not be made that will affect the votes of honorable members opposite? I did not act in any vexatious spirit, but simply because I conceived it to be my duty to call attention to the state of the Committee; and I shall continue to do so whenever I think it necessary.
– I do not consider the remarks of thehonorable member as offering any personal explanation. His proper course wouldhave been to challenge the ruling of the Temporary Chairman.
– I think there is some misapprehension as to the degree of influence likely to be exercised on the Bill by the Imperial Defence Act. From the speeches of the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), I take it that, even in war time, definite regulations and provisions laid down in our own Act will take precedence over Imperial regulations - that only on points for which we have not specifically provided will the Imperial provisions apply.
– What clause of the Bill tells you that?
– Ibelieve that if the Minister in charge (Mr. Bowden) would definitely state that this interpretation is correct, it would do a good deal to remove some misapprehension.
.- - I join with other honorable members on this side in opposing this clause. I am willing and anxious to ascertain the opinion of others in a better position than myself to become conversant with the merits of any given question; and it might be interesting to quote a brief extract from a speech delivered in another place by one who is admittedly an authority on the question now under discussion. I refer to Senator Elliott, a soldier of considerable experience and of high reputation. No one on either side of the House doubts that gentleman’s loyalty - a loyalty proved by his services abroad, and by the honours that lie thick upon him. While I was out of Parliament for a time, I was much interested to read a contribution by Senator Elliott to a discussion in another place on a proposal to incorporate the British Army Act in the Australian Defence Act.
– That was for peace time; the Bill before us is for war time.
– I submit that tho question is practically the same in either case. This Bill, if passed as drafted, will make all the members of the Australian Air Defence Force absolutely subject to the British Army Act; and it is to that the members of the Opposition object. I am not permitted to speak of the other branch of this Legislature, except as “another place”. That is part of the Old World procedure that has been adopted here, and it has often struck me, particularly as a senator, how absurd it is to make a fetish of these old traditions. Why cannot we bring the Standing Orders of both Houses in accord with common sense? However, we are under certain parliamentary rules, and must obey them. About eighteen months ago, Senator Elliott, speaking in another place, said -
It has been said that the Army Act is perfect; that it is the embodiment of centuries of experience. It all depends on how you regard this weapon - this perfect Act, as it has been called.
Senator Vardon. This perfect piece of draftmanship
Senator ELLIOTT. I might call it a perfect instrument of torture. If you are in a position of advantage, you can swing it round like a machine gun, and wipe out anybody who is opposed to you. Starting from the ranks myself, I know what it feels like to be the under-dog with another man wielding this instrument of torture over me. My earliest experiences of this Act date from the time when I joined the ranks for the’ South African war. I attained to the dignity of one stripe, and om day was in charge of a gang of men unloading some bags of mealies. We took advantage of the fact that the sergeant-major’s back was turned, and, as the day was hot, we had a “ spell -ho.” Suddenly the sergeant-major, who was an old Imperial soldier, dashed up, called us a loafing lot of blackguards who had never done a day’s work before in our lives, and so on.
Fancy, Australian soldiers being classed as a loafing lot of blackguards who have never done a day’s work !
He made a number of other uncomplimentary remarks which I need not retail here. After the men had gone away I said to him, “ Sergeantmajor, that is not a fair way to talk to these mcn. We came here to fight, and we have been kept for a month feeding mules. I, for one, want to get back to my university course, which I broke off to come over here and help the Empire. Surely they can get niggers to do this work.” The sergeant-major called me to attention, summoned a file of the guard, and had me paraded before the captain charged with “ being insolent to a superior officer,” and stated, “ He is not fit to be a corporal; too much sympathy with the men.”
That is typical, so I understand from conversations with many returned soldiers, of the conduct of many officers of the British Army -
Now if. my captain had been an Imperial Officer, he would have said, “ Sergeant-major, what shall wo give the blighter?”
Senator Cox. ; And yet you have not done so badly under this Army Act. You started as a trooper, and are now’ a general.
Senator ELLIOTT. I must ask honorable senators not to take any notice of Senator Cox, for, although his grey hairs entitle him to respect, the feebleness of his reasoning betokens the early approach of second childhood. I have said that it all depends upon how yon view the regulations of tho British Army Act. I admire my machine gun when it is in its emplacement, so that it can mow the Germans down, but I have a wholly different point of view when tho German has it trained on me. That is how I view the Army Act.
Senator Vardon. But you did not finish your story about the sergeant-major.
Senator ELLIOTT. I was about to say that, hnd I been brought before a British officer, imbued with all the traditions of the British Army and trained under that Act, I would have been reduced to the ranks, and the charge and its sentence would have been a bar to my future career. I might still have been a private. Fortunately, my captain, being a Victorian, and not having been trained under this perfect instrument of torture, looked at the sergeant-major, then looked at me, and said, “ Admonished. Corporal, do not do it again.” I may add that my captain had “ sized “ up that sergeant-major pretty accurately, and watched him closely; with the result that notlong after he got him reduced.
The manner in which the British Army Act is administered reminds me of the scene in the Merchant of Venice in which Shylock demands his pound of flesh under what he regards as a perfect law, but when he discovers that he cannot have his due without- a drop of blood, it is a case of “Oh, dreadful law!” It all dcponds upon the point of view.
I shall not occupy the time of the Committee by reading further extracts from the remarks of Senator Elliott, although one might read the whole of this speech and find a practical lesson in nearly every line of it.
– Would you not recommend the Minister to read the speech?
– If he would read it, and also the speeches of others who, like Senator Elliott, can talk from actual experience in the field, and certainly cannot be charged with having any sympathy for the policy of honorable members of the Opposition, he might be willing to accede to the request made from this side of the chamber. 1 ask him not to view the matter in a party light. The extracts I have read from the speech of a man who stands as high iu the estimation of the people of Australia as does any other man who went to the Front and returned, show that this is not a party question. The utterances of Senator Elliott two years ago agree with those of honorable members who to-day are urging the Minister not to insist on taking a step which will make it possible for Australians to be brought under the provisions of the British Army Act. I am not speaking from a party point of view. I was very reluctant, to express any opinion on the matter, and, not having had practical experience of active service, I am guided by the opinions of those who have had such experience, particularly those whose political views do not coincide with mine. Senator Elliott has given many strong reasons why the Minister should accede to the request made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I oppose, the postponement of the clause, but with other honorable members of the Opposition I am quite prepared to postpone the consideration of the whole Bill until the Minister in charge (Mr. Bowden) is able to’ let us, know what portion of the Imperial Air Force Act it is intended to incorporate in this Bill, and clearly states the definition of “ Active Service.” I am surprised at the attitude adopted £>t/ the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr, Paterson), who, with bland innocence, is prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister that this definition in its present form is not loaded. I did not think that country districts in the present stage of our civilization bred people with such simple minds that they are prepared to accept a Ministerial assurance on a matter of such vital importance as this.
– The honorable member cannot deny that my assumption “was correct.
– I have ever]1 reason to doubt the honorable member’s assumption. Although my military experience was limited, I regard with a considerable amount of dread the possibility that provisions of Imperial military legislation may be applied to Australia in any circumstances whatever. I recall that, during tha war, our Army was largely governed by out own Defence Act,
– It was governed by the British Army Act during the war period.
– The majority of the provisions of the British Army Act did not apply to the members of the Australian Imperial Force. For instance, they were exempt from the death penalty and from field punishment of an atrocious character, which were freely imposed on the Canadian and New Zealand Forces, as well as on the British. I merely refer to these matters in order to indicate that the possibility of applying British Army Acts to Australian Military Forces is a matter of considerable concern to honorable members1. I came to this Parliament not to- buy “ pigs in a poke noi accept Bills which are- not clearly set out, I came, as I thought, to a deliberative assembly, and I appeal to the Minister to recognise that he is submitting his measure to such a body. I ask him not to rush through proposal’s of far-reaching importance, such as are contained in this Bill. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has indicated that he is opposed to the definition of “active service ‘* as contained in the Bill, but accepts a. postponement. After all, the definition is absolutely vital to the measure-. If we do< not agree to it the Bill will need reconsideration and re-drafting. Therefore, I strongly object, to the clause in its present form and to its postponement, and hope that the Committee will reject this definition, and thus compel the Government to redraft, the measure. Should that be done, I trust the
Bill, when next it is submitted to us, will incorporate, for the information of honorable members and the people of Australia, whatever sections of the Imperial Air Force Act it is intended to make applicable to the Australian Air Force, so that the Act when adopted can be truly Australian.
.- I have listened attentively to the reasons put forward in support of the retention of the definition of “ active service,” and m favour of postponing the further consideration of the clause: The Committee is starting very badly when the Minister has to ask for the postponement of a clause which really governs all subsequent clauses, and is practically the foundation of the Bill itself. Therefore, we should come to a decision at this stage; The preponderance of opinion, as expressed during this debate, is in favour of deleting this definition and substituting another. Honorable members recognise that it is a serious matter to contemplate making this new branch of our defence forces subject to everything that is contained in the British Army Act. That Act contains many undesirable features that should certainly not find a place in our legislation.. For instance, the penalty imposed on an officer differs from that which is imposed upon a private. For the same offence, the officer maybe cashiered, whereas the private is imprisoned. The penalty should be the same in both cases. No loophole shouldbe provided by which an officer cam simply be cashiered.. During the war, we had instances of officers who were cashiered being advanced to very prominent positions in the service of this and other countries.
– Even if this definition were agreed to, it would not incorporate in the Bill those provisions of the British. Army Act to which the honorable member takes objection.
– It would do so. The definition of “ active services that which is contained in the Air Force Act, and that Act, which is the Imperial Air Force Act, incorporates the British Army Act.
– At this stage we are merely dealing with a definition.
– But we must look further, afield, and seewhat the definition really covers. That is the objection I raise. The adoption of the clause would mean accepting something of which we know nothing. We cannot understand what the clause means unless we read the definitions right through, and. compare them with certain Australian and Imperial Acts. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) referred to clause 55,. and contended, in view of its provisions, that there was no danger. The clause referred to states - .
The Air Force shall at all times while on war service, whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth, be subject to the Air Force Act, save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act, and subject to such modifications and adaptations asare prescribed, including the imposition of a. fine not exceeding £20 for an offence either in addition to or in substitution for the punishment provided by the Air Force Act, and the increase or reduction of the amount of a fine provided by the Air Force Act :
Provided that the regulations shall not increase the fine for any offence so that it exceeds £20.
The point I particularly wish to emphasize is that the clause applies “at all times while on war service, whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth.” Honorable members must not assume that the clause, if carried, would apply only when the Force was fighting outside Australia. It would apply to the Force inside Australia. Surely this Parliament ought; to control Australian Forces in Australia.
– The clause would apply only to Forces on active service.
– The clause is merely an adaptation of a section of the Defence Act.
– That may be so, but I have much to complain of in the Defence Act. Up to a certain point the Bill is a reproduction of the Defence Act, with modifications to make that Act applicable to the Air Force.
– The Labour party put that provision in the Defence Act..
– We did not put it in the Bill before the Committee.
– The Fisher Government put it in the Defence. Act.
– The Committee is now dealing with proposals for new legislation which should be considered on their merits. I heard the Minister state that the Imperial Act must not be inconsistent with this Bill. Who, in time of war, would decide whether the Australian Act was consistent with the Imperial Act? No one breathing would attempt to prove that it was or was not. The men would be on the battle-field, and would be subject to the pains and penalties imposed by the British Act. The Minister might as well postpone the Bill as postpone the clause. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that there is very little to quibble about in the rest of the Bill. The definition clause covers the whole. Why should we not start by making the foundation sound and then build upon it? Why postpone the vital part of the Bill and proceed with other portions to which there will be very little opposition? To go through the rest of the Bill first, and to try afterwards to fit it in with the definition clause, would be to put the cart before the horse. The amendment provides a satisfactory definition of “ active service.” What can the Committee want more ? I cannot see where the Minister’s reasoning against the amendment applies. The question is not vital to the Government. Defence should be not a party, but a national, question. If honorable members decide that the definition is not satisfactory, and vote for the amendment, they will not jeopardize the position of the Government, notwithstanding that the Minister opposes the amendment. Again and again amendments which have been opposed by the Government have been carried in Committee. In those cases the Government has had to accept the decision of the Committee. It is only on vital questions that the fate of the Government depends.
– Provisions similar to this have been defeated by Government supporters.
– On many occasions. When the Labour Government was in power, amendments which it op. posed were carried, and t had to accept them. The Government in the last Parliament also had some of its proposals rejected in Committee. If the amendment is carried there will be no need for the Government to consider its position and resign. It will merely have to accept the instruction from the Committee that the clause shall be amended. I have taken the trouble to state the position, because I do not want any honor able member to think that the Opposition is endeavouring to take advantage of the Government. It is for the Committee to say whether the clause or the amendment should be agreed to. If honorable members think that the amendment is more in accord with Australian sentiment, they are in duty bound to vote for it.
– Would the honorable member agree to a recommittal of the clause ?
– The difficulty i’s that the clause is the basis of the whole Bill. Why should the clause be postponed because an amendment, which probably meets with the approval of a majority of members of the Committee, has been proposed? If I were in the Minister’s position I would accept the amendment. I see no reason why he should not do so, or why he should place any of his followers in a position of uncertainty by leading them to believe that the clause is vital to the Bill. The amendment, proposes a definition which will be acceptable to every one in the Air Force, and to every reasonable man and woman in Australia. Why should honorable members have to debate it for two or three hours? Members of the Opposition continue to debate it because they want honorable members to realize the true position. I feel sure that some honorable members are under the impression that they will be deserting their party if they vote for the amendment. It is the duty of legislators, when in Committee, to improve a Bill whenever they can do so. The Government may be opposed to the amendment, but it can take no offence if members of the Committee decide, by a majority, that the definition shall b9 altered. The carrying or otherwise of the amendment will affect the future welfare of the Air Force. There may be mcn who would like to join the Air Force, but who would not do so if they knew that they would be subject to the provisions of the Imperial Air Force Act.
– If the clause is carried there will, at least, be difficulty in getting mechanics.
– That will be so. Parliament should endeavour to make the conditions governing the Force as attractive as possible. Australians will not readily submit to an Act of Parlia- ment passed by a Parliament over which they have no control, and in which they have no voice. The regulations issued under the British Act are innumerable; no one knows how many there are, or where they lead to. Yet Parliament is asked to apply them to a new branch of the Australian Defence system. I hope each honorable member will exercise his individual judgment and vote according to his conscience.
– They will not do that.
– I would not say that. I believe there are men on the other
Bide who have opinions of their own, and will act up to them. They are not asked to censure the Government, but to improve the Bill. Did any of them know anything about the Bill before it was introduced? They took no part in drafting it, and now they have an opportunity to express their views. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has given utterance to practically the same views as I hold, but for some reason unknown to me he will not support the amendment.
– I stated my reasons in my speech.
– I cannot understand them. Now is the proper time to improve the Bill. Why should we procrastinate? I have heard many specious arguments in Parliament, chiefly by legal members, who have seen that something was wrong, but have found excuses for not altering it. If the Minister had said that he would accept the amendment the honorable member for Kooyong would have hastened to support him, but because he said he was opposed to it, the honorable member endeavours, against his own view and conscience, to assist the Government out of a difficult position. There should be no need for that. The Minister should not put the Committee in that positon. Its members should all have the utmost freedom. Our object should be to improve legislation. We complain that legislation is unsatisfactory after it passes this Committee. That is not tobe wondered at when members, instead of relying on their individual judgment and paying attention to the debate, simply vote according to party. It should not be possible to say that of this most important matter of defence. It is the most important business wecan deal with. My belief is that aviation will be one of the main arms of defence. I base it on the opinions of men in authority and qualified to speak. Submarines, we are told, will also be effective weapons of the future. We” should place our Air Force on a proper footing, and not attempt to govern it by legislation passed by a Parliament 12,000 miles away. Surely we are able to control our own Forces. That will make them popular. We want what is fair and reasonable. During the war the people of Australia were carried away by the happenings overseas. Unfortunately, there is not much sign of things returning to a normal basis. We must, therefore, provide reasonable defence measures. That is what we should be doing in this Bill.
– Instead of inciting people to war.
– It is essential that our Forces should be controlled by our own Parliament. The Defence service should be made attractive; but we find that many men who served the country during the war, and held high positions in our Army, are disgusted with the present situation.
– Because they do not get enough money.
– Some of them get no money at all. I am not speaking of men on the permanent staff. There are others who would be willing to give their services as instructors and in other directions if the conditions were satisfactory. Legislation of this kind causes discontent. It is not a question of money with the men I have in mind. I suppose not a twentieth nor even one-hundredth of them were on the permanent staff. These men have lost confidence because the Army Act was brought to bear upon them. They are entirely opposed to such methods, and contend that they should have control of the men under their charge, and should havepower to remedy the grievances. To put a clause into this Bill such as we now have under consideration will make the situation worse than ever.
– It is the military johnnies who want it.
– That is so. I believe the older members of the Defence Department are behind it. I can see and feel that. The defence of the country and the conditions of service should be settled by the members of this Parliament. The situation was entirely altered by the war. Pre-war principles are now obsolete. We should be going in a different direction. The trouble is that we are guided by some men who did not go to the war. I do not blame them for that, because they had work to do here. But they are unable to tell from modern experience what should be done, because they were not abroad with the troops. The amendment I have moved is absolutely necessary. We are asked to postpone this clause and to deal with the remainder of the measure. We cannot do that with satisfactory results. The interpretations affect the whole Bill. If we can overcome the obstacles here there are only two or three other clauses which we desire to amend. We must build on a solid foundation. This must be an Australian service, and therefore must be governed by an Act of the Australian Parliament.
– The Minister has promised to bring in a new clause. Do you not think it will be different in spirit ?
– The Minister did not promise to (bring in a new clause. He wants to postpone this clause so that he may make progress with the others.
– The Minister promised to reconsider the clause to see what effect the amendment would have on the remainder of the Bill.
– We cannot deal satisfactorily with the other clauses until we have the definitions settled.
– What the Minister has asked is quite reasonable, and it is the general practice.
– The honorable member and I look at things differently. What he thinks is reasonable I very often consider to be objectionable. No honorable member in the Committee has found fault with my amendment. Endeavours have been made to get around it, and we are told that we can deal with it after we have passed the remainder of the Bill. That is most unsatisfactory. Definitions should be fixed first.
– Why not give the Minister an opportunity to reconsider the matter?
– I have had sufficient experience of Committee work to know that we must begin properly.
– The Bill is built on the definitions.
– That is so.
– In the House of Commons definitions are always dealt with last.
– The Whole trouble with the Minister is that he has the House of Commons in mind, and not this Parliament.
– The House of Commons is a very good guide.
– The House of Commons, like our own Parliament, has its failings.
– And its virtues.
– This Parliament has its virtues also. The proper way for us to proceed is to settle this clause. Honorable members say it is fair that we should postpone it. My reply is that everything hinges on it.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) does not wish the postponement of the clause. Consequently,I suppose we shall have to go to a division. Nevertheless, I assure the Committee that I will consider the effect upon the measure if the definition were inserted instead of the clause as it is drafted. If I find it will be better to insert the definition, I will recommit the clause. The definition of “ active service “ that we wish is “ service with a Force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, or is engaged in warlike operations in a country or place wholly or partially occupied by the enemy, or is in military occupation of any foreign country.” The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition includes only the first portion of that definition. Another thing weighs with me. While we were at war we had a definition of “ active service “ in our Defence Act, but our war experience made it necessary to bring to this House a definition in the terms of the British Army Act. Honorable members have been dealing in general terms with the Army Act and the Air Force Act, but we have before us a very simple proposal. All we desire is to have “ active service “ defined in the same terms as in other parts of the . Empire, including New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa.
– Canada” has not agreed to this definition.
– And will not.
– South Africa has not agreed to it either.
– One honorable member on the other side told us that in the war the Australian Forces were under our Defence Act, while the Forces of Canada, South Africa, and the Imperial Army were under the British Army Act. The Canadian Militia Act places the Army of Canada under the British Army Act in peace as well as in war. So do the Acts of New Zealand and South Africa.
– That is with reference to the Defence Force generally. We are talking of an Air Force, which is a new branch of the Defence Force.
– All I can say is that what is necessary for one branch of the Defence Force is equally necessary for another.
– We do not agree with the honorable gentleman.
– We cannot have one branch of the Defence Force acting under one set of provisions and regulations, and another branch of the same Force acting under different provisions. Previous experience has shown that no danger, such as honorable members opposite fear from the definition proposed, is to be anticipated. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) referred to a speech by Senator Elliott, but what Senator Elliott asked for was adopted in the Defence Act.
– I quoted Senator Elliott’s opposition to having anything whatever to do with the Army Act.
– One honorable member opposite said that the Defence Act and the Air Force Act are on all fours, and another contends that they are two very different Acts. Honorable members cannot have it both ways.
– What about postponing the consideration of the Bill for a week until the Government decide what they can do T
– I was prepared to postpone the clause, but honorable members opposite would not accept that. I can still give honorable members my assurance that I will go into the matter with a view to considering what would be the effect of the inclusion of the definition objected to on the other clauses of the Bill, and, if necessary, will be prepared to recommit the Bill.
.- I join issue with the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) when he says -that the discussion is confined to this definition only. The difficulty is that the definition embodies a spirit that finds expression in other parts of the Bill, and it is against that spirit that honorable members on this side are contending. I am not prepared to allow any other Parliament to pass legislation which will automatically take effect as Australian legislation. If honorable members opposite who are new to this Parliament, are prepared to do that, they are taking their responsibilities too lightly. We did not say to the electors, “ If you return rae to the House of Representatives I pledge myself to stand for legislation which will delegate the legislative powers of the Australian people to the House of Commons.” One honorable member objected to cur frittering away our rights of self-government, and I say that we shall do so if we. approve of the definition under discussion. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has contended that, as compared with British legislation, this measure when passed will be supreme. In support of his contention he quotes clause 55, which provides that-
The Air Force shall at all times, while on war service, within or without the limits of the Commonwealth, be subject to the Air Force Act, save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act.
That upholds the honorable member’s views; but I refer him to sub-clause 3 of clause 59, which provides that -
Nothing- in this section shall affect the powers conferred by the Air Force Act of convening courts martial and confirming the findings and sentences of those courts.
In that most important matter affecting courts martial, the British Act will be supreme. Again, sub-clause 3 of clause 63 provides that -
Nothing in this section or in sections 64, 65 or 68 of this Act shall prevent the application to a member of the Air Force on war service of any provision of the Air Force Act.
I have devoted a couple of hours to-day to reading the Bill now before the Committee, and the impression left om my mind is that in spite of the clause to which the honorable member for Gippsland has referred, the British Act’ will be supreme, and will apply’ to the
Australian Air Force. As an Australian, I will not stand for that kind of thing. I regret that I am forced to vote against this Bill, because in the main 1 like it. I recognise that we must have an air force for the defence of Australia, and it is of all the different systems of defence the one I most favour. But I cannot support the adoption of the provisions of the British Air Force Act in the definition of “active service “ or with respect to courts martial, and I cannot accept the proposal that the Air Force shall be used to deal with internal disturbance. Some honorable members opposite seem to take it for granted that in the future Australian troops will be sent overseas to take part in any war in which the Empire is engaged. I tell honorable members straight that I” do not stand for that, though I am prepared to support an adequate system of defence for this country. I will not accept the argument that if we want to defend Australia our men must fight in Flanders, or some other part of the world. I opposed that argument before, because I did not think it sound. The place to defend Australia in is Australia, or by submarines and air-craft off the coast of Australia. If the Empire found that it had more than it could manage in India, if there were a few more such generals as Dyer using machine guns to slaughter the natives, an act which was a disgrace to the nation to which we belong, I should oppose any proposal to send Australians to India to prevent the people of that country obtaining the right of self-government. I do not make any bones about the matter. I say plainly where I stand, and am prepared to take the consequences, whatever they may be. We are invited to believe that if our Air Force is sent to other parts of the world, it will be for the /purpose of the defence of Australia. If honorable members could read translations of what appeared in 1914-15 in the German, French, Russian and Austrian papers, they would find that it was claimed that every one of those nations . was carrying on a war of defence. There never yet was a war ‘ that was not regarded as a war of defence by the people engaged in it. I am opposed to the introduction of any measure to place in the hands of British Imperialists a means of using Australian troops in any other part of the world for Imperial purposes. If this clause were agreed to as it stands, and Australian troops were sent abroad to take part in a war, what would ultimately happen would be that, in spite of the contention of the honorable member for Gippsland, our Forces would be brought entirely under the operation of British Acts. I am not prepared to agree to that. I do not desire that any men should be sent from Australia to take part in war, bub “if they are sent I believe that they should go abroad as Australians, under Australian regulations, and should not be brought under the provisions of the Army Act. As members of an Australian Parliament, we can do the job we were sent here to do, and it will be to our shame if we do not do it.
– I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) will not persist in the extraordinary attitude of stubborn silence which he has taken up in connexion with this matter. When we have Australian Ministers and members of Parliament with the House of Commons mind and outlook, we are confronted with a very difficult position. I was convinced, when the Minister spoke last, that his offer to postpone this clause was only camouflage. The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) said that if the clause were postponed we might go into the matter later on, and he then commenced immediately to defend the clause as it stands as strongly as possible. Then the Minister for Defence devoted two minutes to asking for a postponement, and eight minutes to showing why the clause should be adopted. We on this side are earnest in our desire to help the Minister and’ the Government with the measure. Certain clauses, of course, are obnoxious to us, and we shall fight them as far as we may under our more or less restrictive Standing Orders. We have shown that other clauses require amendment; but up to the present time there has not been even an attempt to reply to our criticisms, although the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Defence have each spoken three times. Principles dear to us on this side are involved. We hold that if the Government desire to pass legislation they should present it to the Committee for acceptance, and not, with sinister intent, depend on other legislatures to ‘pass it for us. .Ti’ ever a specious case was put forward it. was that presented by the AttorneyGeneral to-day. He said that the object of the clause was that, when the British Act was amended, our Act should automatically be also amended. Of all absurd arguments that is about the most absurd I ever heard; and this utter nonsense is placed before us by a man holding a responsible position. “What has this Parliament done in the past, and what has it to do in the future? Is it to go out of existence after this Bill is passed, or is it to continue? In all its history this Parliament has never been’ so circumstanced that it could not be called together, and if it should prove necessary for Parliament to meet in order to amend our law on the lines of the British Act, let it meet. The Government ought to take the responsibility of its’ own legislation. If we on this side were antagonistic to the Bill I could understand the Government adopting its present pig-headed and stupid attitude. I cannot conceive that the incorporation of the British Act is a dear principle with the Government. Legislation governing the operations of our troops should not be passed by any other legislature than an Australian legislature; anything else would be contrary to Australian psychology and sentiment. We could admire a Government which straightforwardly presented legislation to Parliament with a desire that it be passed, but we cannot admire a Government which,, apparently lacking in initiative, and in fear that what it desires may be “ too hot “ for Parliament, shelters itself behind an Imperial Act. The position taken up by the two Ministers is not that which would have been favoured by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) had he been in charge of the measure. I do* not say that by way of reflection on the AttorneyGeneral or the Minister for Defence, both of whom I believe to be mistaken in their stubbornness. But if that stubbornness is continued one can only come to the conclusion that their attitude is a sinister one. According to the Bill” “ active service “ has a meaning corresponding to that of the same words used in section 1.89 of the Air Force Act.
– It entangles us with the Imperial Act?
– It does. There is no copy of that Act available to honorable members, but even if there were that does not affect the vital principle - at least I hope it is vital to the majority of honorable members - that no legislation shall apply to our Forces unless it has passed this Committee. That is a fair proposition. Ministers ask for a postponement with a view to considering the position, and then immediately hotly defend the clause in question. One can only come to the conclusion that the Government is bound to put this measure through as it stands. If their promises to reconsider the clause are specious, we can only compare their action with a trick which, to my knowledge, has been played in this Chamber four times in tho past seven years. I should be loth to think that the Attorney-General or the Minister for Defence was capable of “ putting up a joke “ of that character. But if they persist in their present attitude we can only conclude that their motive is sinister, and must fight them.
. – I hardly think that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is justified in assuming that the object of the Government is sinister.
– It is either sinister or silly; I do not know which.
– The- honorable member, from his experience in Parliament, must know that Bills are drafted in consultation with the heads of Departments, and when proposed legislation is of an intricate character, and involvesdrastic alterations, such consultation is most . desirable. I may say that I am opposed to the clause as it stands; indeed, I am prepared to vote against the Bill on the. third reading unless some amendment is made. My desire now, however, is to deal with the other portions of the Bill, and to that end I am quite prepared to support the postponement of this clause, rather than have it recommitted. Clause 55 and subsequent clauses will, I believe, also have to be postponed. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has declared himself as strongly opposed to any troops being sent out of Australia, but I did not hear him say that he is any way opposed to British warships protecting our coasts. That honorable member is in favour of the Bill with certain amendments, and I take it that, generally speaking, the members of the Opposition desire that there shall be an Air Force worthy of Australia. If that be so, it is possible that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden), after consultation with his departmental officers, may be able to accept the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), or he may submit a slightly different amendment that will not, at any rate, commit us, as this clause commits us, not only to the present Air Force Act, but to any amendments of that Act in the future. This Parliament ought to make its own laws. I may say that I have always believed in conscription in timet of war, and will doubtless continue to believe in it; but I wish the Bill to he proceeded with, and, therefore,, favour a postponement of the clause.. If,, after the postponement, the Minister says that the Government is pledged to the measure as it now stands, then we shall be prepared to fight it. We have the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that every proposed piece of legislation shall appear on the notice-paper, and we need have no fear of any measures being sprung upon us. I shall vote with honorable members opposite if, after consideration, the Minister assures us that he cannot accept any amendment.
.- The attitude of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) and certain members of the Government is quite unreasonable. I desire to analyze the position, so that honorable members may see how just is the claim made by the Opposition. The Minister is prepared to postpone the clause in order that, after consultation with the heads of his Department, he may come to a matured decision regarding its merits or demerits. Does the Minister for Defence not see that the whole of our work on subsequent clauses may be entirely upset by an alteration of this definition. That might necessitate a recommittal of the Bill in order to revise work we had already- done. I’ could understand the attitude of the Government if there were no other work ready for the House to do, but the businesssheet is loaded with matters that are awaiting our consideration. We are justified in. asking, the Minister to report progress so that he might further consider the definition clause, and make a definite statement regarding the opinion of the Government about the principle, we have been discussing this afternoon. Every clause in the. Bill is in some way affected by the definitions, and until the Committee has come to a. decision upon them it will be futile to attempt to deal with its subsequent provisions. I emphatically disapprove of this Parliament being asked to slavishly copy Imperial legislation. I had reason to, object strenuously to certain legislation introduced into this House during the last Parliament. On that occasion we were not allowed to suggest an amendment; an enactment of the Imperial1 Parliament was placed before us, and we were told to swallow it holus-bolus. Such slavish subservience to the Imperial Parliament deprives us of those rights of selfgevernnaemfe of which we so loudly boast.. Honorable members have expressed nervousness as to the consequences that may follow the adoption of clause. 4. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who has a legal mind, rightly said that these definitions will entangle the Australian Air Force with the provisions of the Imperial Army Act. That is the reason for our objection, to them. Surely the amended wording suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is wide enough to meet all emergencies. When the Government are so reluctant to yield on this point one is forced to the conclusion that they have something in mind, in regard to the future use of this legislation, which. they have not. disclosed.
– What is the use of making such a suggestion in connexion wi th the discussion of a big principle like this?
– The attitude of the Minister justifies that suggestion. I say to. those members who are not prepared to express their own opinions, but slavishly follow the lead of the Minister, that if: the Government honestly desired to meet the. wishes of the Committee they would consent: to progress being reported. If that were done honorable members opposite would have time to make themselves familiar with this Bill, for it is evident that if they knew much about what is proposed they would not allow this definition to pass without a protests Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I (hope the Minister is now in a more reasonable frame of mind than he was earlier in the day, and that he will see the wisdom of accepting the advice givenby members of the Opposition. As he desires time (to reconsider the clause, he should move to report progress, and proceed with another item of legislation. As there is some doubt about the advisability of. passing, the clause as drafted, the request that progress should be reported is reasonable. It is impossible to postpone this clause until the rest of the Bill has been passed. To do that would result in a maze of entanglement. Much time will be wasted if the Minister persists in his attitude. As. he has. admitted the desirability of postponing the clause, he should also realize the importance, logic, reasonableness, and common sense, of postponing the Bill until he understands, it a little better. Members of the Opposition must voice their protests against the action of the Minister in proceeding with the Bill. His action is inadvisable. The Minister (Mr. Bowden), when speaking this afternoon, endeavoured to console himself by saying that Senator Elliott, who had objected strongly to the inclusion of provisions of the Army Act in the Australian Defence Act, would now find the provisions of the Bill reasonably acceptable. I believe that many features of it will still prove unacceptable. On page 8092 of the Hansard report of the 5th May, 1921, Senator Elliott expressed his, opinion concerning a proposal to incorporate the provisions of the British Army Actin the Australian Defence Act.
– He was referring to times of peace.
– His reference has also a relation to ibis experiences during the war.
– He was opposing the Army Act being applied in time of peace.
Mr.MAKIN.- I ask the honorable member to refresh his memory by referring to Hansard, when he will, no doubt, have a clearer recollection of what the honorable senator desired. On that occasion, Senator Elliott said -
In fact, it may be said that the British Army is excellent in spite of the Army Act, rather than because of it.. However excellent that Act may conceivablybe, as applied to men with the training and early associations of the British Army, I am convinced that it would utterly break down if efforts were made to enforce it in respect of our own troops. Half the time, during the war, we would have had mutinies if the senior officers of the Australian Imperial Force had not been constantly watering down the severe provisions of the Army Act.
I agree with the honorable senator,, and I say that it would be a shame and a travesty upon all the democratic principlesthat the Commonwealth professes to hold if a clause which contained any feature of the objection able sections in the British Army Act were allowed to pass without challenge. Perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will advise the Minister to agree to report progress.
– There is nohope of that:
– That remark shows the stupidity of those who control the affairs of this country. It is unfortunatethat the Government’s following is so docile and quiet that members are not prepared to utter their protests against such an undemocratic proposal as is contained in the Bill. The Minister has suggested that the Committee should start at the back cover of the Bill and proceed to the front.
– The Ministerhas offered to reconsider the whole clause.
– It is quite evident that, in spite of allthe explanations that have been made, even the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) does not understand the request of the Opposition, nor has he “ seen the light.” I shall endeavour to enlighten him. If the Committee postpones consideration of the definition clause,but agrees to certain other clauses, it may find itself in direct conflict with the final decision of the Minister. We should lay our foundation before attempting tobuild the superstructure. There are other items of legislation awaiting the attention of Parliament. The Government says that it has many other urgent Bills to bring forward. There is no reasonable excuse, therefore, for not accepting the suggestion made from this side. It is clear to all sane men, to all men who have a desire to follow the correct course, and to do that which is in keeping with common sense, that the Minister should accept the suggestion. But no! The suggestion was made by the Opposition, and that is the end of it. Honorable members opposite speak of the strong partisan views held by members of the Opposition, but no one is more stubborn, and no section ofthe Committee is more stupid, than they are when a proposal by the Government is in question. This clause is undesirable, and unacceptable, because it obliges us to abide by regulations which may be made, and doubtless will be made, by the Imperial authorities. If we agree to it, we shall automatically be bound by those regulations. The situation is unthinkable. We should be ruled only by our own legislation and regulations, and not by whatever the administrators of the British Army Act choose to bring into force. No Government with a desire to retain its self-respect and good name would consent to the position we are asked to accept. Other Dominions of the British Empire are not prepared to adopt the provisions now before us. A strong stand on the matter is being taken by Canada at this moment. Canada will not allow the Imperial authorities to ride roughshod over her. General Smuts, in South Africa, will also be careful to safeguard his people against any encroachments on their liberty through the British Army Act. The attitude of our Government merits the strongest protest. Members of this side of the House intend to be masters of their own business, but it is evident that the Government is prepared to hand over its responsible powers to some authority away from our shores. We should be unworthy of our position if we permitted such a delegation of our powers of self-government to any authority which may bring confusion and dissatisfaction into, and impair the efficiency of, the agencies under review.
.- The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) have referred to certain statements made by Senator Elliott in another place when the Defence Bill was under consideration in 1921. They read copious extracts from the honorable senator’s speech, and attempted to prove that he, a man of great military experience, who served Australia during the war with credit to himself and his country, had opposed the inclusion of this clause in the Defence Bill when it was before the Senate. When that gentleman was speaking, he was dealing with an amendment to clause 18. Senator Pearce, who was in charge of the Bill, moved to amend section 55 of the principal Act by inserting after the words “ war service,” the words “or on duty.” In explaining the effect of the proposed alteration, Senator Pearce said - “ I should like to say that the Bill is in no sense a party measure. The Government recognise that there is room for two opinions as to the wisdom or otherwise of applying the Army Act in peace time to our Defence Forces. Therefore, the Government can take no exception if the majority of the Committee is against them on this question. Personally,I shall not cavil at such a decision. I say this all the more readily because,as I told honorable senators on a previous occasion, I myself, at first expressed doubtas to the wisdom of this provision, but I have been con verted to the other view by what I regard as sound arguments in its favour.
– That does not explain away the provision I read.
– The question before the Committee was whether or not the words “or on duty” should be added to the Defence Act to make the provisions of that Act cover members of the Citizen Forces undergoing training in this country, as well as men fighting in time of war. Later on, Senator Pratten moved as an amendment, that the words “ or on duty “ in paragraph a of clause 18 be left out. In speaking to his proposal, he said: “The amendment I now move will, in effect, prevent the application of the British Army Act to our Citizen Forces in time of peace.” Senator Elliott was speaking to the amendment moved by Senator Pratten when he made the remarks that have been quoted.
– What difference does that make?
– Senator Elliott was opposing the proposition that the provisions of the Imperial Army Act should be applicable to members of the Citizen Forces in Australia who were undergoing training. In his speech he described the effect the Army Act would have on members of the Citizen Forces, but it is not fair that honorable members should attempt to place a meaning upon the senator’s words which he did not intend.
– All honorable members will agree that in time of war it is highly desirable that all sections of the community should cooperate in defending the country. It is also desirable that the Act enabling all the forces of the community to be set in motion to resist the enemy should have behind it the goodwill of all the people. The remarks that have been made from this side of the Committee on this clause have been prompted by our firm opinion that to give effect to the Government proposal will be against the development of that spirit. We are prepared to go as far as the Government wish iti many directions, but we are. not prepared to agree to this clause. I am sorry honorable members on the other side cannot meet our wish that further consideration of “ the Bill shall be postponed, so that we may have a conference ou the matter. I can see no reasonable objection to that course. There is no immediate need for hurry. I suppose the Government does not anticipate another war before the Prime Minister reaches the Old Country. It has been suggested that we should agree to the other clauses of the Bill, and postpone consideration of “this one. Honorable members opposite profess that they fail to see that this will place us in any great difficulty. At least they will agree that we should know something of the foundation, upon which the Bill rests. No person would attempt to build a house without first laying the foundation. Yet honorable members desire us to construct this Bill without first deciding on the definitions which should be the basis of the measure. The trouble is caused by the attempt to define in the Bill the term “ war service’’” or “ active service,” for the terms seem to be interchangeable. We must know what “ active service “’ means before we can give our assent to clauses in which this term is used. To agree to the measure without determining this point would put us in a false position. We might pass clauses tentatively in expectation of arriving at an agreement on definitions with the other side. If no agreement could be reached we should then be at a great disadvantage. The difference between us and honorable members on the other side may be small, but, on the other hand, it may be most important. It is essential, to my mind,, that whatever the difference may be we should settle it at this stage. We object on principle to legislating in the way that has been suggested to us. This Parliament should govern Australia, but we are asked to pass over our powers to some other body, and agree to what it does. It is possible that no great harm might come from doing this; .but all historic experience shows that the only proper way to proceed is according to some principle, and that for a selfgoverning community the only acceptable principle is that its own Legislature shall be responsible for its legislation. That is a principle from which we cannot depart without the express consent of the people we represent. I put it to honorable members opposite that they will be shirking their duty if they pass something about which they know little or nothing. Many honorable members on this side do not know the context of the Army. Act, and I confess that I have not had the opportunity to read it. I object to the Opposition being placed in the position of having to oppose something when they do not know what they are really opposing. There is no reason why the Government should not have put the words of the Army Act into this Bill if they had “chosen to do so, instead of legislating by reference, as the honorable member for Kooyong very aptly said. There was an obvious and easy course for the Government to pursue, but they have preferred to take the devious course of legislating by reference. Our objection to this would not be so great if the reference was to something we knew all about. But the reference in this case is to something that is unknown, undetermined, and problematical. It is contemplated that certain modifications and amendments in the meaning of “active service” or “ war service” may be made in the Old Country, and such modifications as are made will be determined by events in the Old Country. What those events may be we do not know. But honorable members opposite are aware of the growth in the Old Country of the counterpart of the party represented by honorable members on this side. Such modifications of the definition of these terms as may be made are at present entirely in the air, and I see no reason why we should be asked to assent to them unless it be’ that we are dealing with an “ Air “ Bill.- The course which the Government ask us totake on this clause is a course which we shall be asked to take throughout the consideration of this measure. Subclause ‘3 of clause 63 provides that -
Nothing in this section or in sections 64, 65, or 68 of this Act shall prevent the application to a member of the Air Force on war service of any provision of the Air Force Act. which is the Imperial Act. When we look at clause 65 we find that it deals with contempt of a court martial and the punishment to be prescribed for that offence. Clauses 65 and 68 also deal with courts martial and the penalties which may be imposed upon persons who refuse to obey the summons or the verdict of a court martial. The rigour of provisions of this kind is largely determined by the people for whom they are prescribed. It was the experience of the late war that the particularly rigorous provisions which were often applied to the soldiers of other nations were unnecessary in the case of Australian soldiers. The discipline which might be enforced on conscript soldiers was not applicable to the Australian soldier, who was much more self- disciplined than were the soldiers of other countries.
– Because he was a volunteer.
– That is so. It was, no doubt, because such rigorous discipline was unnecessary with him that he was a volunteer, and refused to be a conscript. We say that the legislators of this Parliament should determine these things and not the members of the House of Commons. It is amazing that honorable members opposite should profess their incompetence to draft a definition of “ active service “ or “ war service “ comprehensive enough to leave no loopholes. Speaking generally, I do not think the Australian soldier was good at taking points. In many of the difficulties in which he found himself, points were taken against him. Honorable members opposite put forward a plea for uniformity. They have no initiative, no confidence, and will have nothing but drab uniformity, although they can give no reason for it. If they desired uniformity, why did not the Government take the definition of “active service” out of the Army Act and embody it in this Bill? If they had done that, we would know what we are asked to vote upon.
– Does the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition touch the principle of the future control of the Air Force ? It seems to me that it does not.
– I think the honorable member will find that the amendment submitted from this side would meet every likely emergency. We hope that many things which occurred during the last war will not occur in any future war, and we certainly hope that any alteration of the Defence Act under which Australian soldiers will be asked to serve will be an alteration made by the Parliament in this country. I am satisfied that many honorable members on the opposite side do not approve of many things which during the war were done by the Government under the authority of the War Precautions Act, and not by the authority of this Parliament.
– Does the amendment touch the question whether the members of the Air Force will be subject to the King’s Regulations?
– The amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition reads - “ Active service “ means service in or with a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy.
I think that is quite sufficient. I know that in war time when hostilities are concluded the troops are still treated for a time as being on active service. That is one of the tilings to which I object. I say that when hostilities have ceased and the troops have not yet arrived home, the rigorous discipline which might be justified in war time and in the danger zone is no longer necessary. Many mistakes were made in treating Australian soldiers during the last war, when they were not in the danger zone, with the rigour with which they would have been treated if they had been in the danger zone. It is strange that honorable members opposite should have so little confidence in their own competence, and should at the same time have such amazing confidence in a body of men sitting 13,000 or 14,000 miles away. They have absolute confidence in the ‘House of Commons, though the Labour party may any day in the future be in control in that House. There are many things in the present Imperial Act to which our people would not assent. What is there in the amendment to object to ? Honorable members opposite do not tell us. As I said before, they have such confidence in people on the other side of the world, and so little confidence in Australian legislation, that they contend that we must slavishly follow the British definition ‘and any subsequent amendments that may be made in it. That is a strange position fox honorable members to voluntarily assume. The proposal of the Government is the first step away from a principle which has guided us. in the past, and must guide us in the future. We must be masters in our own house. What is the good of the right of self-government unless we use it ? The British Empire in times past has been torn asunder over this very principle, around which the selfgoverning proposals have weaved a strong sentiment. If the Government can tell the people of Australia, on whom they must depend for recruits, that it has not itself framed the Act under which they must live, and move and have their war existence, there will not be the same response that would follow if the Government could produce an Act agreed to, not only by members of one side, but by members on both sides of the Parliament of Australia. We on this side, if the Government will meet us, are quite prepared to do everything possible to make this Bill a success. The onus and responsibility now rests on the Government and its supporters of deciding whether they will pass a. measure acceptable to the whole of the people, or whether they will fly in the face of public sentiment and refuse to legislate for Australia, leaving that business to people 12,000 or 13,000 miles away.
– During the dinner adjournment I have been able to consult the officers of the Defence Department, and also the Crown Law officers. The only reason, apparently, for the interpretation clause in its present form, was that it might at all times be uniform.
– Uniform with what?
– Uniform throughout the Empire. There is no objection to the interpretation clause proposed, but honorable members must remember that in case of war these interpretation clauses will always be subject to alteration - that we may be called on from time to time to alter them in unison with the English Act. However, the House seems to be of opinion that that is the preferable course-. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is prepared to withdraw his amendment I am prepared to move the excision of the interpretation of “ Active Service “ with a view to inserting the following: -
For the purposes of this Act any person subject to this Act shall be deemed to be on active service whenever he is attached to or forms part of a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy or is engaged in warlike operations in any country or place wholly or partly occupied by the enemy, or in military occupation of any foreign country.
We thus adopt the suggestion made by honorable members, and, instead of having a reference to an Imperial Act, propose to incorporate what I have read in the Bill. Honorable members seem to object to thewords “ in military occupation of any foreign country,” but I remind them that the force in Rabaul after the Germans had surrendered was in military occupation of a foreign country, and in such circumstances the term “Active service” would apply. It is necessary that a broad definition should be made in order that we may cover the possibilities of a time of war. As I have said, I am quite willing to incorporate the words I have read in the Bill, and thus remove any objection to a reference to the definition in the Imperial Air Force Act. The definition I suggest will remain until we ourselves alter it.
– I should like to know what is meant by “warlike operations” in a country or place which is partly occupied by the enemy, or in “military occupation” of any foreign country. Does “ military occupation” mean something more than being engaged in operations against the enemy?
– Warlike operations may have ceased, as in Rabaul.
– It means war service, anyhow; but what does “war service” mean? The honorable member for Barton (Mr. E. McDonald) says that “ active service “ means “ war service,” and this was contradicted by some one. The definition clause says that “war service” means active service, any air service in time of war.
– In time of war we had to extend the definition in our Defence Act.
– Let me now turn to the question of uniformity, and remind honorable members that, during the war, there was no uniformity, active operations being carried on in the field of battle without it. In many directions the regulations of the British Army were one thing, and the regulations of the Australian Army were another. It will be remembered that, in the early part of the war, our soldiers were subjected to the English Army regulations, and protests were raised against some field punishments, particularly that of “ crucifixion,” being applied to Australian soldiers. Tom Barker, when he could not be reached by the law, was deported, but the publicity given to the punishments inflicted on the field raised such a clamour on the part of the Australian people that at last Mr. Lloyd George announced in the House of Commons that, in response to the representations of the Australian Government, the punishment of “ crucifixion” would cease in the case of Australian soldiers. Then again, there was no uniformity in the infliction of the death penalty. When I was at the Front Field-Marshal Haig, speaking to the members of the press mission, said, “ Gentlemen, can you not see how important it is to apply the death penalty to Australian soldiers; look at this diagram showing the gradual rise in offences by them, andsay whether, if a few were shot, it would not diminish the number of desertions.” I then told the Marshal that no Government in Australia dare allow the death penalty to be imposed on Australians. The journalists present thought that my remark was an impertinence, but I found an ally in Dr Springthorpe, of Melbourne, who was then in Paris on his way to the Front to treat nervous diseases, and was told of the incident. Dr. Springthorpe said that what I had said was quite right, and he instanced many eases, of which I shall give one. A man who had been “ over the top “ dozens of times in Gallipoli and France, and had won the Victoria Cross, had his heart fail him on one occasion. Dr. Springthorpe told the journalists that, under the English Act that man would have been shot. As it is he is. to-day an honoured citizen here. I mention all this to show that the fighting went on without any uniformity of regulations. Who laments the fact that the laws and regulations of this country were more humane than those applied to the English soldiers? What man in supreme com mand on the field regrets that no power was given to him, perhaps in a moment of passion, or prejudice, to inflict the death penalty? What is proposed by the Bill is not merely an Australian law for operations in Australia, but laws and regulations made by another Government, and changeable from day to day by military authorities outside. No man serving out of this country in New Guinea, or any of the Mandated Territories, will know anything of the regulations by which he is governed; and to this we object.
– The honorable member will admit that the British Government are bringing their regulations into conformity with ours.
– That is all the more reason why we should adhere to our own laws and regulations in the hope that, as Australia set the Old Country an example in the last war, it will be able to do the same in the next. The fundamental principle for which we are contending is that Australian soldiers shall be subject wholly and solely to laws and regulations made in Australia. If there is anything good in a British Act, or any other, embody it in our own law. In some instances that has been done in this Bill. When the Government have some secret object in view, they merely adopt the British legislation in wholesale fashion by reference, but when they want to do something on their own and prove their originality, they pirate a section of the English Act. This Bill includes patches that have been taken, word for word, from the British Army Act, but there is no marginal note “ sneaked from the British Army Act.” Some of the clauses are the most marvellous pieces of piracy that we have ever seen originated. Then how bogus is the argument that there must be uniformity. It is provided that “ The Air Force shall at all times while on war service, whether within or without the limits of the Commonwealth, be subject to the Air Force Act,” and, in another clause, “ Nothing in this section shall affect the powers conferred by the Air Force Act of convening courts martial and confirming the findings and sentences of those courts.” Under clause 71 a man may be sentenced to death, and, if he is on service outside Australia, he may be executed without delay or confirmation of the sentence by any authority other than the court martial. Under the existing law no soldier, whether serving inside or outside the Commonwealth, can be executed unless the sentence of the court martial is confirmed by the GovernorGeneral. That confirmation involves delay and consideration. Furthermore, the accused person is entitled to receive within six months of the court’s decision a copy of the evidence against him. .The Government have embodied some of those provisions in this Bill, but they have made slight alterations, with the result that they ask us to enact that a man may be condemned to death and shot, and at any time within six months later he may get a copy of the evidence against him. Under the existing law the soldier could not be disposed of in a peremptory manner. Under the amended provision he may be summarily shot,, but still be entitled to a copy of the evidence ! In the British Army Act there are three pages of offences. A soldier may be convicted of every imaginable crime - if he steals something, or if somebody else steals something and gives it to him; if ho gets drunk or if he does not get drunk, he is still subject, one way or another, to some penalty. Finally, it is provided that if the soldier is accused of having done something or said something, and is not found guilty under the Air Force Act, he may be found guilty under the Naval Defence Act. If he is not guilty under either the Air Force Act or the Naval Defence Act, he may be guilty under the Defence Act. If he is not guilty under any of those three, he may be tried under the Naval Discipline Act. [f that prosecution fails, he may be tried under the Army Act, or any Act which is applicable. In other words, if he cannot, be found guilty under any one of fiveActs, try him under a sixth ! That is the sort of legislation to which we object. The definition suggested, by the Leader of the Opposition is quite clear and sufficient for all purposes; therefore we will not accept the additions which the Minister has offered. If what we propose is agreed to, and it will not meet the requirements of the next war, we can easily change it, for there is hardly a Statute that cannot be extended by means of regulations. The law was never made that could not, in time of war, be adapted to the circumstances of the moment. In view of what happened in the last war, the circumstances at the present time, and the outlook for the future, the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition is reasonable and sufficient.
.- I desire to- associate myself with the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition against a provision which is tantamount to subordinating Australian legislation to the British Army Act and regulations. The Minister (Mr. Bowden) has promised to embody in the Bill the definition in the Imperial Act, but I do not think that definition is as applicable to Australia at is the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. In devising new defence legislation we cannot make it too Australian; the more Australian we make it the better will be the results from its operation. Our protest applies not only to the definition which is the subject of the amendment, but alSO to other definitions and clauses throughout the Bill. This is a good measure, and so far as it may be for the benefit of Australia, we on this side of the Chamber will support it. But I am sure that the people of Australia will support us in our fight against some of the defects that have been pointed out. I cannot see any need for the Australian Parliament to be constantly leaning on the Old Country. As a nation we are now capable of doing for ourselves, and doing so effectively and efficiently, as has been proved wherever we have been put to the test. This Bill requires entire redrafting so far as it seeks to incorporate the British Air Force Act. The Air Force Act is defined as meaning the Imperial Air Force Act. It is well to consider what the application of the Imperial Statute to Australians means in the way of penalties. The British Army Act did not have any great bearing upon Australia’s military operations during the last war in regard to the recruiting, training, and despatching of men overseas, but it had a very close application to the men in the field. Senator Elliott’s testimony in regard to the effect of the British Army Act upon the private soldier has been quoted. The honorable senator was at one time a ranker, and he has related the tyranny with which he was treated by a sergeant-major in South Africa. I think that when he spoke in another place he was influenced more by his viewpoint as a soldier than as an officer. Of the Army Act he said, as reported in
Hansard of the 5th May, 1921, page 8093-
I will give an instance of the extremity to which the stupid system of discipline was put during the war, under the Army Act. I hope to have the opportunity of describing thi3 illustration, since I was ruled out of order when I endeavoured to do so at an earlier stage. An effort was sought to compel every Australian officer and man to salute a motor cnr whenever it passed with a flag on it, no matter whether there was anybody in the car or not. It had to he presumed that the car contained a general. I raised my voice in emphatic protest. It was a shame and a travesty to enforce this absurd regulation, for example, on troops who had just come out of the line, covered in mud and blood, and dazed with lack of sleep and the strain of it all.
Senator Duncan. They were required to salute the flag, and not the car.
Senator ELLIOTT. I have no objection to that. I protested against the infliction of this form of discipline, and not against the recognition of the flag.
Senator Duncan. The Union Jack is not a bad flag to salute.
Senator ELLIOTT. I agree; but I objected to this pin-pricking and harassing of our warbedraggled and weary men. Nothing could have been more irritating or hurtful to our soldiers, particularly when coming straight out from the front lines, and I objected against the infliction of what was really nothing more than a petty form of punishment. Eventually I got my own way.
Previously in the debate he said -
In fact, it may be said that the British Army U excellent in spite of the Army Act, rather than because of it. However excellent that Act may conceivably be, as applied to men with the training and early associations of the British Army, I am convinced that it would utterly break down if efforts were made to enforce it in respect of our own troops. Half the time, during the war, we would have had mutinies if the senior officers of the Australian Imperial Force bad not been constantly watering down the severe provisions of the Army Act.
Senator Elliott says that if we apply the Army Act to Australian soldiers as it is applied to the British “ Tommy,” we shall goon have mutiny among them. Perhaps the Minister will not believe that, so I propose to give him another instance from my own experience. When I was first drafted to the line I was taken with five other”) in a 6.S. waggon, and arrived at Bussy, behind Dehors, where there was an ammunition dump. Some “ Tommy “ batteries and brigades were conducting a sports function, and at that time of the year the twilight lasted until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. We arrived at the place where the sports were being held, and while we sat in the waggon we saw a large mob of “ Aussies,” belonging to the 5th Division Pioneers, coming from the direction of the canal. It was obvious that something unusual was happening. They went over to a gun wheel upon which a “ Tommy “ was extended, and released him. Afterwards we inquired what became of the “ Tommy,”’ and we learned that the British officer called out his men to stop the “ Aussies,” who told him, however, that if he persisted they would dump him iu the Somme. He did not carry out his intention. That man was taken away from the line the next day, i understand, and that was the end of strapping the “Tommy” to the gun wheel. That was my first night’s experience in the front line, and it supports the contention of Senator Elliott that if we try to impose these conditions upon the Australian soldier there will be trouble.
– And in that case we shall deserve trouble.
– I believe it. The Australian has been trained to look after himself, and to regard this country as his own. As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has said, our system of self-government is a travesty if we cannot draft an Air Force Bill of our own without incorporating the Air Force Act in it. The Air Force Act will apply, not so much to the management of our Air Force as to the disciplining - or tyrannizing over - of our soldiers. Are we going to have an Australian Air Defence Act, or, as the honorable member foi Bourke (Mr. Anstey) says, “pirate” the English Act? Clause 76 says -
Nothing in this section applies to the offences of mutiny, desertion, or fraudulent enlistment, or to an offence committed outside Australia against section 17, sub-section (4) or (5) of section 18, sub-section (2) of section 23, section 25, section 20, sub-section (5) of section 30, or section 41 of the Air Force Act, or to an indictable offence against this Act or the Defence Act committed outside Australia.
What do all those clauses mean ? They are in the Imperial Air Force Act. How will an “ Aussie “ manage to swallow them ? Before he is enlisted, will he be told what all these clauses mean ? He may be caught for playing “two-up.” What is proposed would break the back of the Australian Army. There are other clauses beside the one under consideration in which the Air Force Act is mentioned, and in which equally sinister and pernicious proposals are made. Clause 55, for instance, says -
The Air Force shall at all times while ‘on war service whether within ot without the limits of the Commonwealth be subject to the Air Force Act save so far as it is inconsistent with this Act, and subject to such modifications and adaptations as are prescribed, including the imposition of a line not exceeding £20 for an offence either in addition to or in substitution for the punishment provided by the Air Force Act, and the increase or reduction of the amount of a fine provided by the Air Force Act:
Provided that the regulations shall not increase the fine for any offence so that it exceeds £20.
The penalties are all provided by the Air Force Act, which may be altered from time to time in Great Britain. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has said that the psychology of the Australian people is different from that of the English people, and every one will admit that the Austraiian psychology is something to be proud of. If any attempt is made to interfere with it, the duty of honorable members is to take early action to prevent it. In the present instance, the Opposition has taken early action on the first clause in the Bill. There is no doubt that the definition clause is the foundation of the Bill, and determines what the superstructure shall be. Upon the foundation rests the whole. I hope the Minister will be wise in his day and generation, and will realize’ that the Opposition, although it comprises only a minority of the Committee, has sensed the feelings of a great majority of the electors. This was exemplified by the conscription vote, which was taken when an attempt was made to force militarism upon the people. We claim that we are voicing the opinion of the great majority of the people when we refuse to support proposals which are aggressive or offensive to another nation. Although we approve of providing for the defence of this country, we have no desire to offer offence. Australians are a peaceful people, and have developed along peaceful lines since responsible government was granted to them. We have never been forced to take the part of the Empire in any struggle where Great Britain thought her supremacy was challenged. In the Soudan campaign, although Australia was only a small community - but still a “ far flung portion of the Empire “ to which soma people grandiloquently referred - New South Wales sent a contingent to assist the British Forces. Later, in the Boer War, Australia did not hesitate to send herquota to the assistance of the Mothar Country; and when the Great War came it was on a voluntary basis that we participated in it. I hope Australia will maintain that attitude for all time, and will enunciate a sort of Australian Monroe doctrine, by which we shall refuse to be dragged into every turmoil that may be created by people who do not understand Australia. We shall do our job when we are forced to do it, and I do not think any one can say that, in all the spheres of activity in communal «r national life, Australia has not risen to heights that have done her credit. I believe that air defence is the best for the protection of Australia. I will support the Bill if the clauses which are repugnant to the Australian people are eliminated. We do not want to foster the “ kill or be killed “ spirit which some honorable members desire to inculcate. It is- that spirit which leads people to buy -toy guns and bayonets for children to play with. W© need educating beyond that. If this Bill is passed in a proper form it will mark a new era in life. I am prepared to assist in passing it with the proviso I have stated. The Minister seems bound by the old traditional view that we must fall into line with the Mother Country. This Government, like some others, seems to stand in -awe of the Mother Country. That should not prevent us from taking a san© view. The amendment by the Leader of the Opposition will not tie us hard and -fast to the obsolete methods of the past which were criticised by General Elliott, The Government would lose nothing in prestige, dignity, or power if it accepted the amendment and made it possible for us to pass the Bill unanimously. I will not say the Minister is pig-headed or stubborn, but I ask him not to persist in the tenacious resistance he has shown to this amendment. We intend to stand by our convictions, and to endeavour to carry through a measure which will be worthy of the men who are prepared to put their time, efforts, and energy into our Air Force.
.- As a result of our tight this afternoon we have gained an important improvement in the Bill. I assure the Government that our opposition has not been with a view to obstruct the passage of the Bill. The fact that the Minister has given way to some extent proves the value of tho determined stand wo have made. The original proposal was that the definition of “ active service “ in this clause should depend upon the British Parliament. Naturally we objected to that. Now the Minister has stated that he will agree to embody in this clause the definition which is at present in the Imperial Defence Act. The amendment the honorable member for Hunter has proposed is that “ active service “ shall mean “ a Force which is engaged in operations against the enemy.” That is a common-sense definition, and is adequate. What more can any one want ? The Government wants added to the definition the words “ or is in military occupation of any foreign country.” We are considering the establishment of an Air Force for the defence of Australia. If any more than that is contemplated by the Government in this Bill it is an effort to get something by subterfuge. What does the Government mean by “ any foreign country?” The Minister misled the Committee on this matter. Probably he did it innocently. He told us that “ any foreign country “ would include New Guinea.
– I did not say that; what I said was that in the late war New Guinea was a foreign country.
– Then the Minister was indulging in camouflage. I pin the Minister down by this question - Does he contemplate in this Act sending our Forces outside of this country ?
– That might be a better thing to do than to keep them here.
– If that is the proposal it should be put before us in a straightforward way. Such a thing has never been contemplated in any previous Defence Act. In no previous measure has it been suggested that members of the Permanent Forces shall be sent willy-nilly outside of Australia without asking them whether they were prepared to go or not.
– This does not do that.
– It does; it contemplates sending our Forces to foreign countries.
– -If you read this clause in conjunction with clause 50 yon will see the significance of it. Clause 50 reads -
Subject to tho last preceding section, members of the Air Force may be required to serve for training in any Air Service, either in or beyond the limits of the Commonwealth.
Air Service includes “Active Service.”
– The same as it does in the Navy.
– The Navy is a very different service from that contemplated in this Bill.
– This service may bc attached to the Navy.
– If a man joins the Air Service and war breaks out in any country - Turkey, Greece, or anywhere else - he will be liable .to be sent abroad to fight, irrespective of his wishes. Without enlistment for foreign service a man could be sent thousands of miles overseas to fight. ‘»
– And why not? The best form of defence is attack, sometimes.
– If that is the intention of the Government it should be stated in the Bill in clear and unmistakable terms. Persons who enlist in the Air Force should know beforehand that they may be required to go abroad to fight. This is another form of conscription, and the principle of conscription has been rejected by the people of Australia. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) believes in conscription.
– And I am not ashamed to say so.
– The honorable member should be ashamed to say so. If it is the intention to institute a form of conscription by this measure, the Government should be honest enough to say so. It would be an outrage if persons who joined’ the Air Force were sent to a foreign country for the purpose of aggressive warfare without them understanding at the time of enlistment that they ‘ were liable to be sent. It seems from what we have heard that this is the intention. The honorable member for Perth has certainly made it clear that he is supporting the Government on this Bill because it includes a provision to send men to foreign countries. We will test the clause on that question. If such a thing is not contemplated, I submit that the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition, which defines “Active Service,” is adequate and complete. It means that our Force may be engaged in operations against the enemy.
– Does it mean anywhere?
– Do you intend it to mean anywhere?
– We do not. Its meaning is limited by the meaning of “ war.” We intend that it shall be applied only for the defence of Australia. In this Bill “ War “ means exactly what it does in our Defence Act. The definition is - “ War “ means any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack, or apprehended attack, on the Commonwealth, or any territory, by an enemy or armed force.
That definition does not contemplate sending our Forces to occupy foreign countries. The proposal now submitted by the Government certainly does mean that. We must recollect also that the definition of “Air Service” means any service required, whether on land, or sea, or in the air. Thus, members of the Air Force may be required to assist in any service abroad. I ask honorable members toponder this proposition. If what I have suggested is correct, the position should be before us in a straightforward manner, and we should not be approached by this insidious method. This shows us that we need to watch every word that comes before us. I contend that it was the duty of the Minister to draw the attention of the Committee to the distinction between his definition and that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, because all honorable members are not expert in determining the meaning of terms, whereas the Minister has behind him men whose work it is to note distinctions in terms. If we do not watch everyword we shall wake up one morning to find that we have placed a form of conscription on this country for service overseas. Australia has rejected that principle. Whether or not the honorable member for Perth is proud of being a conscriptionist, we have to bear in mind that the majority of our people are entirely against conscription. I wish to make clear the difference between the Government proposal and that submitted from this side. I admit that the Government have swept away our objection that the Bill proposes that we should be ruled by an Act of Parliament from abroad. The difference between the wording of our definition and that of the Government is that ours is adequate as a definition of active service as applied to the defence of Australia, and the definition proposed by the Government contemplates the occupation of a foreign country.
– The Government appear to be very desirous of overloading the statute-book in connexion with defence matters. We are to-night considering a Bill containing some ninety-eight clauses dealing with the institution of an Air Force in Australia. What did they do in Canada? I have here the Canadian statute-book for 1918, and I find that by an Act of seven sections, constituting an Air Board, the whole of the Air Forces in Canada, civil, military, and naval, are controlled. That is a splendid example for the Government of Australia. Many of the clauses of this Bill are so involved that even a lawyer desiring to join the Australian Air Force would be in doubt as to the conditions under which he would have to serve. The Canadian Act is described as “ An Act to authorize the appointment of an Air Board for the control of aeronautics.”
– That is a civil Act.
– The honorable gentleman is mistaken. I have here reports of the Air Board for 1919 and 1920, and they show the scope of the responsibilities of the Board. In the report of the Canadian Air Board for 1920 I find the statement that the Board exists for three purposes -
The Board is made up of the Controller of Civil Aviation, the Director of Flying Operations, the Inspector-General, and two advisory members, Captain Hose and Dr. Deville. There is a chairman and vice-chairman, administrative service for civil aviation and civil Government operations, and the Canadian Air Force. Then there is complete departmental organization, including medical service, intelligence ‘branch, technical branch, equipment branch, accounts branch, records and correspondence. This shows that the air forces of Canada for civil and defence purposes are under the control of the Air Board, which is not made np wholly and solely of military or flying experts. There are civilians on the Board, and in almost every province of the Dominion there are what are known as Canadian Air Force Associations that give advice from time to time. In Canada there is an objection to entangle- ment with British Army Acts or even under conditions laid down by the International Convention. I find the following statement in the report of the Air Board : -
The International Convention for Air Navigation agreed upon by the representatives of the powers on the International Commission on Aerial Navigation constituted as a subcommission of .the Peace Conference in Paris, has been the subject of study during the year. A reservation to article 5 of the Convention, reserving Canada’s r’ight to make reciprocal arrangements with the United States of America for the regulation of international flying in the event of that country not becoming a party to the Convention, has been proposed.
– I call attention to the. state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.)
– The Canadian Air Board, taking the cue from the generally expressed opinion in Canada, has reserved to itself the right to make certain regulations for the government of the air forces, whether for defence or civil purposes, which are somewhat at variance from what tho International Convention agreed to. The Opposition are not carrying on obstruction to this measure, but aro endeavouring to outline what they consider the true Australian sentiment, which should find expression in the establishment of our Air Force. Mr. Mann. - Does the honorable member suggest that the Canadian Air Force would not be allowed to cross the American border if necessary?
– No; the Air Board has made special provision for that, although the United States of America is regarded from a Canadian national point of view as a foreign country and a country outside the British Empire. Honorable members will have noticed what may be regarded from an Imperialistic point of view the serious departure made by Canada recently in carrying out negotiations direct with the Government- of the United States of America without calling in the services of the British Ambassador at Washington. The Canadians are evidently going to get rid of a lot of the red tape by which they have been bound for many years. So in regard to’ the regulation of their air forces, although the International Convention has not been signed by the United States of America, they have formulated a regulation under which they can co-operate with the Government of that country.
– The honorable member did not understand my question. Assuming that Canada and America were at war, could not a Canadian airplane cross the American border in defence of Canada ?
– I suppose that the Air Board would use its judgment in such a matter.
– Does the honorable member agree that that would be a proper thing to do?
– There are not 13,000 miles of ocean between Canada and the United States of America. The situation of the two countries resembles that of Victoria and New South Wales, the River Murray dividing those States. So far as defence is concerned, there is so much in common between the United States of America and Canada, that Canada, although a portion of the British Empire, has determined to associate herself with the United States of America in connexion with her own defence. In the Pacific to-day, although we may call America a foreign country, Australia is undoubtedly safer because the people of the United States of America are in the humour they are in now in so far as their relations with this country are concerned. The Canadian Air Board further reports -
It is anticipated that the Convention will te ratified with the reservation on article 5 mentioned above .on the understanding that the technical points raised will be dealt with by the Commission After ratification.
These reports have been in my hands for some time. I have been supplying myself with information on the subject of air operations, and I waited upon the representative of the Canadian Dominion, who wa3 good enough to supply me with tha latest information he had concerning the
Air Board in Canada. To show that the report from which I have quoted is a Government document, I find that it bears the imprint, “ Printed, at Ottawa by A. T. Ackland, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty.” At page 13 of the report, and under the heading of “Canadian Air Force Association,”’ I find the following: -
The Canadian Air Force Association was established for the purpose of keeping touch with officers and airmen at times when they arenot on duty or under training.
Except in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, there is in each province a branch of which the LieutenantGovernoris Honorary President; and for each such branch there is an Executive Committee, consisting of seven members, who serve normally for two years. Four of them representing the Canadian Air Force are elected,, and three are nominated by the LieutenantGovernor.
The report states that there are executive committees in Alberta,. British Columbia, Manitoba, the maritime provinces, Ontario,, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. The whole administration seems to me a very simple way of maintaining most admirable services. Practically all the returned airmen in Canada are enlisted. The Canadian Act is a small one of seven sections, oneof which gives power to constitute both civil and military aviation.
– What has all this to do with the amendment?
– The complaint: from this side is that clause 4, by reference, embodies certain sections of the British Army Act, and the interpretation clause governs the other clauses.
– The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition does not deal with the incorporation of the British Act.
– If we are on the wrong track, perhaps the honorable member, as in the past, will put us right; but I submit that this Bill of many clauses creates a huge machine that, in’ my opinion, is not at all essential. Honorable members on this side suggest, not the postponement of the clause, but the postponement of the Bill, which really hangs on the interpretation clause.
– I have met the Opposition on the interpretation clause.
– The honorable gentleman rejects the few simple words suggestedon this side - words that mean something- and suggests the use of ambiguous language that may mean almost anything. The real meaning is the introduction of some form of conscription for the Air Force. After ail, simple forms of laws and regulations are always a greater success than lengthy and complex measures. The authorized establishment of the Canadian Air Force is limited to 1,340 officers and 3,905 airmen; towards completing the establishment, 1,281 officers and 1,350 airmen have sent in their names; 505 officers and 1,166 airmen have been trained ; but the actual strength of the Air Forces - that is to say, the number of officers and airmen who, being on duty or under training, are on the pay roll at Ottawa and Borden - is 54 officers and 239 airmen, a total of 293.
– I desire to draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The Canadian system seems to be as effective as it is simple. For instance, too much time is not devoted to what may be termed the military side, and it is surprising how the Dominion and the Provincial Governments have co-operated in carrying out most valuable work. Under the Air Board, preliminary survey work by photography and forest protection are conducted, with the result of saving large sums of money to the Canadian people. The report of the Board indicates that a preliminary survey, which by the ordinary means would occupy from seven to eight months, can. be completed by aeroplanes, with the aid of photography, in a few days. It requires little imagination to conceive the saving thus effected. I should like to see aviation, both civil and military, under one main Board. . This to a certain extent is accomplished in Australia, but not so much as in Canada,’ where, while the defence side is successfully administered, the civil side is advancing by leaps and bounds.- I suggest that the Government should withdraw this Bill, and, following the example of the Canadian Government, introduce a short measure appointing a Board to control the whole business. If the Government present a Bill stripped of obnoxious clauses, it will receive unanimous support. The Bill before us holds out little hope of some of the best airmen in Australia associating themselves with the Air Force under the conditions laid down. There is a good deal in common between the aspirations of the Australian and the Canadian people. Canada may be in a somewhat safer position than is Australia, but Canada is far ahead of us in the matter of aviation on both the civil and the defence sides, and if we follow their example we shall do well for this country.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– It is just as well that we should know exactly what the amendment suggested by the Minister (Mr. Bowden) means. However his meaning may be camouflaged, the debate must turn upon the question of conscription or no conscription.
-The Minister may say what he likes, but there the fact is.
– Where does the question of conscription arise?
– No doubt the honorable member has read the suggested amendment, and I think he is a little perturbed about it.
– I believe in conscription.
– Then the honorable member must be in agreement with the amendment, which speaks of Forces engaged in a country or place wholly or partly occupied by an enemy, or in military occupation of any foreign country. That, it will be admitted, involves sending troops from this country to some foreign country. In his brief remarks the Minister for Defence said that the words may mean one of our Territories. Territory is defined as “a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, and includes a Territory governed by the Commonwealth under a mandate.” If the Minister’s proposed amended definition of “ active service “ is really intended to apply only to such Territories, why should not that be made clear in the Bill? But the Government believe in conscription, and they wish to make sure that, if the occasion arises, they will be able to conscript the manhood of the nation for service abroad.
– This definition does not involve conscription.
– The honorable member believes in conscription, and he must take the consequences of his belief. We on this side of the chamber do not see eye to eye with him on that subject, nor do the people of the Commonwealth, who, by an overwhelming majority, rejected the conscription of men for service outside Australia.
– Should not. members of the Air Force be sent out of Australia if they enlist for that service?
– Clause 50 can have no other meaning than the compulsory sending of troops out of this country. The Minister has not been frank in this regard. If active service outside the Commonwealth is intended to mean only the sending of troops for the protection of the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth, there can be no objection on the part of the Government, to making that intention plain.
– The clause can only apply to men who volunteer for this service.
– That is not so. Clause 50 says that members of the Air Force may be required for training or any air service “ either in or beyond the limits of the Commonwealth.”
– The same clause is in the Naval Defence Act, and we do not conscript men for the Navy.
– If the Minister would amend the wording to make it clear that service beyond the’ Commonwealth refers only to service in the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth, the definition would be clear. Of course, the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and Perth (Mr. Mann), who believe in conscription, will supportthe definition which the Government have suggested. But at the time when conscription was a burning question in the Commonwealth all the Country party’s organizations of which I have knowledge said that they had nothing to do with the conscription issue, and many of them said that they were opposed to compulsion. If honorable members sitting in the corner support the Government to-night, they will not be able to put up the plea that was raised by the Country party during the conscription referendum campaigns. They then threw the responsibility upon the Nationalist Government.
– What Country party was in existence, in 1915 ?
– The then existing Country party organizations said that they were not in favour of conscription. Now honorable members in the corner must share the responsibility for the Government’s sins of omission and commission, and the country will require an explanation of their attitude. If the Minister’s amendment be agreed to, members of the Air Service may be compulsorily sent out of the Commonwealth on active service, and the members of the Country party will no longer be able to disclaim responsibility. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who is a prominent member of the Country party, and a believer in conscription, has been very busy this evening in attempting to help the Government out of a difficulty. That attitude on the part of the honorable member is not new. He and the other members of his party were quite prepared to support the former Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) last year when he expressed readiness to send men out of Australia to participate in a threatened war in the Near East.
– And would do so again.
– Hear, hear !
– It is now known that Mr. Lloyd-George, Mr. Winston Churchill, and two other members of the British Cabinet had, without consulting their colleagues, adopted a certain attitude towards Turkey, and had sent a cablegram to ascertain the attitude of the Australian Prime Minister, who replied that Australia would send troops. We have had previous experience of that sort of secret diplomacy.
– The British Ministers knew the spirit of Australia.
– On that occasion honorable members opposite declared that Australia would stand by the Mother Country, right or wrong.
-I do not think anybody said that.
– That is what Mr. Fisher said in 1913.
– He said nothing of the kind. When the crisis in the Near East was past, it was realized that Britain was wise in not sending troops, and that the people of the Empire had nearly been the victims of secret diplomacy once again. Lord Loreburn, a previous Solicitor-General and Lord Chancellor, declared on that occasion -
There can be no doubt that the firm stand taken by the Labour party saved this country from a ruinous and interminable war.
That remark was made when discussing the sending of Australian troops to the Near East. Lord Loreburn pointed out that Australia had not fallen into the trap; although the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth had desired to send troops to the Near East, he had been opposed by the Labour party. Yet the honorable member for Swan, and others of his party, were ready to support the then Prime Minister in the action he proposed to take at the instigation of four members of the Imperial Cabinet, who were acting on their own responsibility. The honorable member for Perth says that the late Prime Minister acted rightly. Will he persist in that view in the light of the statement made by Lord Loreburn ? The British people made known in no uncertain way at the elections that they were absolutely opposed to their country being plunged into another war before it had even started to recover from the previous world-wide conflict. This goes to show that certain honorable gentlemen opposite - it is, perhaps, a hard thing to say - are thirsting for war. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), who spoke in the House the other day, referred to what takes place on the Sydney Domain, and one might have concluded that he saw no objection to the use of the Air Force to prevent free speech. If he did not mean that, what was his purpose in mentioning the Domain? His speech showed that honorable gentlemen opposite, instead of being tired of war, are prepared to say with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that they believe in conscription. The majority of the people’ of Australia are against the honorable member for Swan, but I admit that he is entitled, to his opinion. When we on this side raise our voices against a proposal which is dangerous and pernicious, we believe that we are doing what the majority of people of Australia expect of us. The members of the Country party will no longer be able to say that they do not share in the responsibility of the attempt made by a previous Government to introduce conscription. Anything in the nature of conscripting men for service overseas is repugnant to the people of this country, and I have no hesitation in saying that if this clause passes, the people, when they get their opportunity, will ask some pointed and pertinent questions regarding the share of responsibility which honorable members are prepared to accept in connexion with it. Honorable members opposite cannot escape from being ranged up on one side or the other. They must cast their votes for or against conscription. The people will read the clause in its literal sense, and not as honorable gentlemen opposite interpret it.
. -1 rise to support theBill in the main. The speech of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is misleading. I cannot see where the word “ conscription “ is used or implied in the Bill, the provisions of which are no nearer to conscription than the conditions under which 400,000 Australian soldiers fought to defend Australia in the recent Great War. The Bill will give men -the opportunity to join the Air Force voluntarily. They will know exactly what their duties are. They will know that they must fight to defend Australia within Australia, or in any part of the world. Our soldiers who enlisted in the Great War knew, when they volunteered, that they would have to go overseas. That was not conscription. It is well-known that the people of this country refused to indorse the policy of conscription, but that has nothing to do with the clause under consideration. The Opposition, in that campaign, made good up to a certain point. I admit that. When the Minister said that he would consent to the Australian soldiers fighting either in Australia or abroad under the Australian law, his remarks had no relation to conscription. He practically said, as other honorable members have said, that Australia is the most democratic country in the world. Austra lian men have their own peculiar Australian ideas. We differ from most other people, and we are justly entitled, whether we fight 13,000 or 15,000 miles away, to do so under Australian laws as far as possible. In war men do things they would not do in time of peace. The Australian soldier is free to approach his superior officer in a way not permitted to other soldiers. This practice is characteristic of the Australians, and, that being so, he might propose on the field of battle, or in a foreign port, to do something irregular. He might, as chief of a deputation, approach the captain of a ship to ask that certain things should be done, and through a misunderstanding he might be courtmartialed. But if the Australian law applied to him, and if Australian officers had the right to try him, we could be sure that justice would be done. Members of the Opposition, having obtained what they asked for in regard to Australian conditions-
– Is the honorable member making a declaration on behalf of the Government?
– No. I am making a declaration on behalf of the Australian people as a whole. Having obtained what they asked for in one particular, the Opposition has now brought forward a camouflage under the name of “ conscription.”
– Will the honorable member read clause 50 ?
– I will. It statesSubject to the last preceding section mem bers of the Air Force may be required to serve for training in any air service either within or beyond the limits of the Commonwealth.
Those are exactly the same conditions as Australian soldiers enlisted under during the recent war.
– The honorable member tried to conscript them.
– Whether one is a conscriptionist or not, it cannot be said that an honorable member who votes against -the amendment votes for conscription. It is proposed to ask men to enlist voluntarily in the Air Force, and to tell them, before they enlist, as the soldiers who enlisted in the Great War were told, that they may have to go to any part of the world to defend the Empire. Honorable members have spoken of defending Australia within Australia. I love Australia as much as any one, but it may have to bo defended outside Australia. It was fortunate, in the recent conflict, that Australia was defended outside Australia. If she had been in the same position as some countries that wore wrecked by the war, she would not bo enjoying the privileges she possesses to-day. We have to thank God that the war did not take place in Australia. It was fought, nevertheless, in defence of Australia, as well as of the Empire. Thank God, Australia is an inseparable part of the Empire, and that in defending Australia we defend the Empire. The people of Australia need to recognise that they are part of the great British Empire. This Bill does not
Bay that men shall be compulsorily sent on active service outside of Australia. I refuse to be charged with having voted on a principle which is not involved in the clause. I am glad the Minister has agreed to some alterations. The introduction of the subject of conscription into this debate by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is to be deprecated. The Bill does not touch that question. I hope neither the House nor the country will take any notice of what has been said on that topic.
– I believe the honorable member who has just resumed his seat was, like myself, very pleased when the effort to introduce conscription into Australia was defeated. If he thought clause 50 meant the introduction of conscription in any form, he would vote against both it and. the Bill. The honorable member said the Air Service would be voluntary, and that those who entered it would know exactly what they were doing. Our complaint is that no man can know what he is doing in entering this service, unless he carries a big book around with him and consults a lawyer every five minutes. The men who enter the service will prefer to trust their own Government, and their own people, rather than rely on what the British Parliament may do. If an Australian Government made a regulation repugnant to the Defence Act, the remedy would be in the hands of the people; but we would have no redress if the British Parliament took an action of which we disapproved. I have been amazed at the attitude of the Government throughout this debate. Early in the afternoon, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) argued strenuously that we should retain the clause in the Bill. As the debate developed they became aware of the feeling of the Committee, shifted ground, and promised to postpone consideration of the clause if we would deal with the other clauses. We could not intelligently do that, for it is necessary to know the definition of various terms before we can determine to agree or disagree with the various clauses. The AttorneyGeneral amazed the Committee by asking it to agree to the postponement of the clause so that the Minister for Defence could investigate what would be the effect of the proposed amendment on the Bill. At the same time, he asked us to proceed with the consideration of other clauses. Clear indications were given early in the discussion that some honorable members on the other side were against the Government. Now the Government seem satisfied that its supporters will come to heel and support the clause. If we consent to legislate on the principle which prompted the drafting of the clause as it appears in the Bill, we will militate against the efficiency of our National Parliament. I hope we have not. reached the position that opposition to a clause in any Bill will be made a vital matter by the Government. Our constitutional power was gained through great fighting, and we should not give up our independence. To agree to bind the Australian people by legislation passed in another part of the world is certainly sacrificing our freedom. I understand the clause in the Bill provides that the British Army Act shall apply not only to our Forces which may be fighting abroad, but also to men on active service in Australia. The greatest dangerI fear from this effort to bring about uniformity in the defence affairs of the various . Dominions is that other countries may believe that the British Empire is uniting in a policy ofaggression. If they come to that conclusion they also will prepare for war.
.- If the Government will agree to postpone the debate cm this clause, the Opposition will consent to go as far as clause 27 tonight.
Clauses 5 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding section, persons who have been engaged on activeservice abroad may be appointed or promoted on such conditions as are prescribed.
Amendment (by Mr. Bowden) agreed to -
That the word “ abroad “ be omitted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 27 agreed to.
Works at Canberra.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I understand that men are being put off works at Canberra. The Government would appear to be merely playing with this House if men already at Canberra are to be sent away because there is no work for them. I have been informed that six bricklayers employed at Canberra have been given notice that their services are to be dispensed with. The Government should not allow men to be discharged at Canberra if there is work for them to do, and I hope that the Prime Minister will make some statement on the subject.
– Work is continuing very actively at Canberra. I have no knowledge of any circumstances which would require that six bricklayers or, indeed, any number of men, should be put off. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister forWorks and Railways (Mr. Stewart), and will supply the honorable member with the information I obtain.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m..
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230718_reps_9_103/>.