When the debate was adjourned last night I was dealing with certain matters that were mentioned by the Minister in reply to my motion. The Minister paid me a very high compliment when he said that I would be satisfied with no Defence Bill except one that I had introduced and prepared myself. I accept that as an exceptionally high compliment from the Minister because, human nature being what it is, we all think that we can do things best. If it were simply a matter of who drafted or prepared the Bill the House would not have much trouble in regard to it. It is because the principle involved in it is of such tremendous importance that I considered it necessary to examine it in all its implications. I can fairly say that the defence made by the Minister for his proposals did not in any way weaken the very strong case that I made in favour of my proposal.
The Minister has introduced a section which has the effect of authorising and empowering the Minister to deal with all matters relating to the pay of officers and soldiers of the Defence Forces. It enables the Minister to make the law that deals with deductions, forfeitures and penal deductions and, having made the law, to interpret it and to decide the law on his own interpretation. When the Minister makes regulations, as in this case, which are made by him with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, the general position is that in case of any doubt in regard to interpretation the Minister is the final arbiter as to what the regulations mean. The Act of 1923 specifically laid down the occasions and circumstances in which pay might be forfeited or deducted. There is no such limitation in the Minister's amendment.
If this new section becomes law the Minister may make any regulations he wishes dealing with forfeitures and penal deductions. That is clear from the terms of an amendment that the Minister himself proposes as a result of objections that I made to this new idea in the Special Committee. He says in this new amendment that he will make regulations dealing with the forfeiture of pay in the case of desertion or absence without leave, in the case of custody, imprisonment or detention, in the case of absence from duty on account of a disease or disability arising out of the commission of any offence, and in respect of a new item called unclaimed amounts. In the same amendment he also proposes that the regulations that he will make in regard to deductions from pay will apply only to articles or services provided——