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Wednesday, 9 September 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) . - -At the request of the Melbourne subbranch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) several complaints that certain members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces, and some nurses who have served in Australia are not being treated always in accordance with the requirements of equity and justice. Section 2 of paragraph 218 of Australian Imperial Force Standing Orders, issued on the 31st December, 1940, provided -

Soldiers discharged from abroad, if not in possession of plain clothes at the time of discharge, will receive an issue of plain clothes.

An amendment, serial No. 7, dat:c November, 1941, provided -

(a)   If a soldier upon discharge is in necessitous circumstances and is unable to provide himself with a suit of plain clothes he may be provided with a suit. lt has been ruled by an Army authority that "necessitous circumstances" applies only to men who, on their discharge, have less than £20 on their pay-books. Many men who have had long service in the front lines are complaining bitterly that, with clothes at their present prices, they have little left of their savings after they have purchased one suit and certain other garments. In fact, of course, men need two suits. The interpretation being given to the military order is particularly hard on married men. It has been pointed out to me that men who returned from active service earlier in the war were issued with a suit, whereas men who are now returning from long service, are being penalized because if they have a little more than £20 on their books they are denied an issue of clothing. A man with £25 on his book is in a worse position, than a man with a little less than £20 if he has to go and buy a suit of clothes. The amendment to the Standing Order was made while some of the men to whom it is being applied were on active service overseas.

The Minister for the Army has stated that members of the Australian Military Forces who 'have served at battle stations in Australia are now regarded as being in the same position as men who have served overseas with the Australian Imperial Force. Concerning the issue of clothing this is not so. A member of the Australian Imperial Force who has returned from overseas has the right when discharged to retain one serviceable uniform and articles such as underclothing, socks and so on which have been issued to him, but the man who returns home after service at a battle station in Australia has on being discharged to return his uniform and all his underclothing except one shirt, one pair of underpants and the socks which he is wearing. An amount of £20 would not go far to provide clothes for a man who has to refit himself to return to civil life. I feel sure that these circumstances cannot be known to the Minister for the Army, otherwise he would have taken steps to rectify the position. The men are very bitter, and no doubt will spread their complaint among the other men who are still serving. Both Australian Imperial Force and Australian Military Forces men have looked upon their deferred pay as something to carry them over until they resume civil occupations. It must be pointed out that, in many instances, they have been discharged as medically unfit, and in a good many cases, however willing they may be, some time will elapse before they are well enough to work. The matter of deferred pay is of considerable importance, both in the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces. Men of the Australian Imperial Force enlisting for home service having a break of a few days between enlistments will have to serve for a period of six months before they become eligible to receive deferred pay on the second enlistment. I draw attention to a statement made by one returned Australian Imperial Force man now serving with the Australian Military Forces. He returned from overseas on the 24th August, 1941, was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on. the 22nd September, 1941, enlisted at the Melbourne Town Hall for home service on the 23rd September, 1941, was passed fit for home service and told to report to Royal Park in the morning of the 24th September, 1941, and was sworn in on that date. He claims that he is entitled to be credited with continuous service, which would entitle him to deferred pay as from the 7th December, 1941; but the pay office claims that he is not entitled to continuous service as he was sworn in on the 24th September, 1941, thereby losing a day. He maintains that he enlisted on the 23rd September, 1941, and that it was impossible to enlist sooner, as he was a member of the Australian Imperial Force until 23.59 hours on the 22nd September, 1941. Why he waa not sent straight to Royal Park on the 23rd September, he cannot say. He points out: "My Mobilization Form 1 shows my enlistment as 23rd September, 1941, and attestation paper as 24th September, 1941 ". In other words, if he loses a few hours before his discharge from the Australian Imperial Force and his enlistment in the Australian Military Forces he loses six months' deferred pay. With regard to deferred pay for nurses, the position is that after embarkation nurses receive deferred pay, and if they return to Australia continue to draw it - until the end of their service. Nurses who serve in Australia do not receive deferred pay, although all members of the Australian Imperial Force and Australian Military Forces do. There is- thus an unfortunate discrimination between nurses and male members of the forces, and I ask the Minister to rectify that anomaly also. That concludes the list of matter I present on behalf of the Returned Soldiers Association subbranch.

On the 9th December, 1940, the Minister for the Army, when Deputy Leader of the Opposition, brought to the notice of the House a complaint concerning a court-martial of Leading Aircraftman Percival Reed. He asked the then Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) -

Is the Minister for Air aware that Leading Aircraftman Percival Reed was courtmartialled at the Woolloomooloo recruiting depot of the Royal Australian Air Force last week for having written a letter to the Attorney-General, and that he has since been discharged from the Royal Australian Air Force ?

The then Minister for Air said that he knew nothing about the matter until he had read of it in a newspaper. He promised later to ascertain whether it was necessary for ministerial approval to be obtained for the holding of a courtmartial. I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army to that inquiry made by him when the Labour party was in opposition, because I now desire him to give consideration to general routine orders issued by General Sir Thomas Blarney on the 19-th June last, and containing instructions concerning complaints by members of the forces. On page 5 of those orders, the following appears : -

1.   The attention of all ranks will be directed to A.M.R. & 0. 293(1), which provides as follows: -

Officers and soldiers are forbidden to use any method of obtaining redress of real or supposed grievances other than those prescribed by the A.M.R. or authorized by these orders.

Anonymous complaints and complaints through the press are forbidden.

2.   The use of outside influence is forbidden by A.M.R. & 0. 307(1) which provides -

The use of outside influence to support complaints or applications for personal advantages, or in any matter affecting the position of an officer or soldier, is contrary to discipline. The only proper course for an officer or soldier is to apply through his Commanding Officer or to complain in accordance with the A.M.R. and these orders. Any attempt to obtain favorable consideration of requests or grievances by other means is forbidden.

3.   The provisions of Division 1 of Part IV. of the A.M.R. & 0. will be explained to all formed units on parade at least once in every three months, and to all members in training depots once every month. The consequences of failing to observe the provisions of that division will he made clear.

4.   All complaints or applications of the nature described in paragraph 2 above received at any head-quarters through unauthorized channel* will be forwarded to the unit concerned, with a direction that the member will be paraded and informed of the Unit Order on this matter and that any further failure to observe its provisions will be dealt with as an offence.

5.   This G.R.O. will be published in all unit R.O.s.

The Minister for the Army, when Deputy Leader of the Opposition, apparently thought that no serving member of the forces should be court-martialled or dealt with for an offence against the regulations by writing to members of Parliament, but, since the promulgation of these orders, some members of the forces have been paraded before their commanding officers, cautioned and insulted. Others have been told definitely what these gentlemen think of politicians in general and of the Minister for the Army in particular. I have no intention to regale the House with some of the delightful and delicate compliments served up by these people. But I consider that the regulation, as promulgated, should be amended. Members of the forces should be allowed reasonable access to members of Parliament for rectification of their grievances. If many officers in the Army do not think much of members of Parliament, there is at least one member of Parliament, and that is the Minister for the Army, who ought to be able to ensure that his will is carried out. Some broken down motor car salesmen and ex-insurance agents, who now sport military officers' uniforms, and are duly impressed with their own importance, are telling the rank and file of the

Army their opinions about everything; but they are really doing the Army a grave disservice, as far as its morale is concerned, when they speak as they do to those paraded before them. Many instances could be cited of their abuse of authority and of the threats they offer to the men under their command. They are determined to frighten the members of the rank and file against approaching members of Parliament at all. In my opinion, the Minister should consider the amendment of the regulation immediately.

I now draw the attention of the Minister to articles published in the Sydney Daily Mirror of the 6th and 7th August last. The first article is headed " D.C.M. on Charge of Desertion ", and the story is as follows: -

Private Norman Richards, 46, winner of the D.C.M., M.M. and Croix de Guerre, pleading not guilty to a charge of desertion, told a district court martial to-day that he had served five years in the last war with the Second Battalion of the King's Royal Rifles. " I served from the 8th August, 1914, until 1919 ", he told the court.

Richards said that when he arrived home on leave on the 5th July, his wife was very ill. Later, doctors found she had tuberculosis and sent her to Waterfall Sanatorium.

He said he had to look after his three children, aged eight, four and two. " We have no relations in this country ", Richards said.

The youngest child was suffering from infantile paralysis at the time, another developed ear trouble and the third contracted scarlet fever, he added.

He had asked another soldier on leave with him to send a wire to his unit requesting an extension of leave, but he had no reply.

Richards was ordered to be released from custody and to return to his unit immediately. Sentence will be promulgated later.

I do not know, when I read stuff like that, whether we are in Germany or in Australia. It is obvious that much time is being wasted by holding courts martial to inquire into charges of this kind. Such cases should be dealt with reasonably and sympathetically by an officer, without subjecting the person concerned to the indignity of a court martial. Moreover, the announcement that sentence will be promulgated later carries with it the suggestion of a. stigma. The second case is reported as follows: -

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