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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro) . - I join with others in criticising the Defence_ Department, because there is great need for it. The Department has drifted and drifted, and yet nothing has been done. One of the main contentions before the war was that, as a rule, the gentlemen running the Defence Department were notgood commercial men, and, consequently, became rather extravagant in their methods. In my opinion, the same system ruled during the' war; but the conflict in which we were engaged was so terrible, and the issues were so great, that it was impossible to criticise harshly the people who were fighting for us. Therefore, although we knew that horrible mistakes were being made, commercially and financially, we were all prepared to submit to them, and thank God that the men who were fighting for us did not also make terrible mistakes. The valorous deeds of those men at the Front excused all the blunders made by 'those, who. were running the Department financially. But now the war is over we are entitled to apply some little criticism in regard to the way in which the affairs of the Department have been administered. We cannot ignore the fact that there is grave dissatisfaction throughout the country on the part of both the public and the permanent soldiers. During the war we promised to do everything for the soldiers. What have we done ? It is true that in respect, of repatriation we have treated "them as well as we can afford to do*. But -to-day there are men in the permanent forces who are not receiving a living. wage, When we established Duntroon College, one of our proudest boasts was that we were creating a democratic college, which would be open to the poor man's son as well as to the rich man's son. At that time there were three or four cadets applying for every vacancy; to-day there is not an average of one cadet for every two vacancies. That fact demonstrates that the people are commencing to realize that poor men cannot afford to send their sons into the Defence Forces because the Government are not paying a living wage. As a matter of fact, the salaries paid to the permanent men are lower than in any other military service in the Empire. A comparison between the salaries paid to the permanent men in the Australian Army and those paid in the Canadian, Indian, New Zealand, and British Armies would show the Commonwealth to disadvantage. That is a sure method of creat-ing in Australia a military clique, for it will place the control of the Defence Forces entirely in the hands of those who have means independent of their Government pay. The war has proved that such ai policy is a mistake; it has shown that .all the brains are not possessed by the moneyed classes. The poor man's son did well at the war and he is entitled to consideration. There is a feeling amongst certain people, in the community against paying the Defence Force well, but I maintain that unless we have a well-paid and well-satisfied military force we cannot expect to live in peace and security.

Mr Burchell - We have to train staff officers.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - That is so, and General Sir Ian Hamilton and others have declared that the Duntroon men were worth their weight in gold at the Front; their casualty list proves their dauntless courage.

Mr Tudor - Are not most of them leaving the,Department to-day?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - No, because it is held -by the Department that they contracted to remain in the Department for twelve years, and that a state of war with Austria and Turkey still exists, and that, therefore, they cannot resign unless something is done. As soon as the embargo is removed, the majority of these men will resign, because they are not being paid a living wage.' I make an appeal on behalf of the non-commissioned officers particularly. Some of them have given from fifteen to twenty years' service, including four or five years of war service, and they are paid £4 a week, upon which they are expected. to maintain themselves, their wives and families. It is a scandal that the Government should be paying them less than is considered a living wage for civilians. I am surprised that the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) tolerates this condition of affairs for one day. As a soldier he fought with these men, and they not only respect him, but have the deepest affection for him. They say that those in authority have " sold him a pup." Knowing him as I do, I am certain that when he is convinced that they have " sold him a pup," he will make them sorry for their action. I asked him a question in the House a few days ago concerning non-commissioned officers at Duntroon who are not being paid a living wage, and I quoted concrete facts. 'The answer I received - and my little experience tells me whence it came - was that the information I sought was not available at that time; a fortnight has elapsed, and, apparently, the authorities have not yet been able to ascertain whether some of the men at Duntroon are being paid less than a living wage. We were promised that these men would receive an increase in salary; they have not had one for years, although the cost of living has increased so much that they are hard put to it to struggle through at all.

Mr Tudor - Some of them say that their salaries have been decreased.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Some of them are receiving less to-day than they were before the alleged increase was ganted. When I first mentioned this matter in the House, the Department promptly gave the men a bonus, and it later issued a regulation to the effect that those who did not like the new rate of pay could take the old rate. That regulation indicates the character of the alleged increase ; if it were genuine, the men would certainly not think of taking the old rate. It is unfortunate that the Defence Department cannot tell us what some of the men are being paid to-day. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that many of them are being paid less to-day than before the so-called increase was paid, and in 'the case of some of them it is not enough to keep body and soul together. Of course, this remark does not apply to men who have other means. I am surprised that the Defence

Department did not realize that the fairest way to give increases was, not in large sums per annum to the salaries of higher-paid officers, but to give a percentage increase all round to officers and men. Unfortunately, we cannot find out who is responsible ' for this increase, and I invite the Minister to enlighten the Committee ou that question. It is' said that some of the leading officers in the Defence Department disclaim any responsibility for the new system. The Minister could tell the Committee of good men who have been in the service for ten and fifteen years, and now hold the high rank of Major, but who are hardly getting a living wage. That should not be so; there should be contentment in the Defence Department. Ninety per cent, of the permanent soldiers and officers are returned soldiers, and surely to God we ought to pay them a living wage, if nothing more. Is the Royal Duntroon College, the graduates of which received such high commendation from Generals Birdwood and Hamilton, and others, and who rendered such splendid service during the war, to be made the preserve of the sons of the rich ? Men of means can afford to send their sons there to learn the military profession, but that profession will be beyond the reach of the poor man's- son. That is the reason why to-day there are not sufficient cadets for the positions that are vacant. This Committee ought to be told who is responsible for the new rate of pay, which means hardship to a great number of men in the lower grades. Some of the men in the higher positions have received increases, although I assert that many of them are insufficiently paid. I have an interesting comparative list of salaries, and I shall take another opportunity of placing it before honorable members and the public. For the time being, I ask the Assistant Minister to disprove my assertion that under the new arrangement many officers and men who are doing the bulk of the work, as the men in the lower grades generally do, are suffering a reduction of pay instead of being given an increase. These men are moved from place to place, and they cannot make permanent homes for themselves. I am hopeful that the Assistant Minister will rectify this grievance, because he is not a sham soldier; he has the welfare of the soldiers at heart, and they, in turn, have the utmost confidence in him. I urge him not to besmirch his high reputation, at the commencement of his Ministerial career, by sponsoring this scandalous arrangement. If. as I understand, a sum of £20.000 or £30,000 is being absorbed in increases of salaries, where is the money going 1 Is it fair to give all the increases to the higher-paid officers ? Some of them have been given increases equal to £2 or £3 a week and others have had their salaries raised by hundreds of pounds. I have every confidence that the Assistant Minister will do the right thing; but I urge him not to allow himself to be bamboozled by the men who have evolved this scheme. Let him look into the matter thoroughly, especially as to the starting of increases at proper times. If £30,000 is being made available for increases, why not distribute it on a percentage basis? I remember the Assistant Minister saying, before he went to the war, that the permanent soldier ought to be able to look forward to a superannuation to provide for his future. Now is the time to carry out that idea. I believe that this scheme of increases was framed on the basis of a superannuation fund. The increases might be considered reasonable if the soldiers knew that they were to get also a generous scheme of superannuation. Why has the superannuation proposal been dropped ? Have the Government decided that it shall not be part of their policy, and that the returned soldiers in the permanent Forces are not to have any provision made for their old age? If the people were consulted, they would declare that they desired the soldiers to be paid fairly, and that provision should be made for their old age.' Of course, they would have to contribute something to their superannuation, as all others have to do. I do not attack the higher-paid officers as a class, because many of them are, in my opinion, underpaid, and their splendid services during the. war entitle them to every consideration. But it is unfair that those officers should receive substantial increases while those drawing much less pay should have their salaries reduced, or be given no consideration. I appeal to the Minister who in this chamber represents the Minister for Defence to apply his own practical knowledge to the administration, and not let it be governed by theorists. The worst thing that could happen in regard to military men would be the creation in their minds of a feeling of dissatisfaction with their treatment. Soldiers cannot strike for better conditions as carpenters or bricklayers or other artisans can. Therefore, we must insist that they must be treated fairly and well. No man with a grain of common sense would send his son at the present time to Duntroon College unless he could provide him with an income, because at the present rate of pay a young officer after he has passed his examinations can hardly pay for what is necessary to maintain his position. In the Old Country it is the practice of rich men to put their sons into the Army, but here we should draw on' all classes for our officers. Some of the brightest boys that went from the College to the war were the sons of poor men. I appeal to the Assistant Minister »ot to destroy the splendid confidence which he has generally inspired. Nothing could be better than that the men in the lower grades of the Service should feel that in their Minister they have an officer possessing practical knowledge, who is determined that justice shall be done to them. I know that a man who is only newly in charge of a big Department is at a disadvantage, but I appeal to the Minister not to allow himself to be bamboozled, but to look into matters for himself, so that right may be done. If he does this, he will deserve the thanks of the soldiers, and will give the country what it needs - a satisfied Defence Force. Our soldiers have proved themselves to ha the best in the world, and we should see- that they are not dissatisfied. It is the: present permanent men who will be the nucleus of any army that we may raise, should there be trouble in the future. The Minister should let us know who is responsible for the terrible misfire in regard to the raising of soldiers' pay. All sorts of rumours are going round, and many names are mentioned, but I shall not repeat either. It is not fair to blame an officer in this chamber, because he cannot defend himself here, and his " Minister can speak only in general terms. My criticism is not based on ' personal ' grounds. Most of the youngsters with whom I am acquainted are able to battle along,' and' are plug-

Mr. Austin Chapman.ging away, hoping for better things, without which many must go under. But I know that there is dissatisfaction, and 1. trust that the Minister, whose intentions are good, will translate them into deeds for the benefit of the men and of the country.

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