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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr CALWELL - That is not so; some of thom had only three weeks' training.

Mr FORDE - The honorable member is doubtless referring to the length of time for which the men had been in training before they were sent to the operational stations. I am not seeking to justify the sending of such young men to operational stations before they have received adequate training. By now all the men have had more than three months' training, and they have also had unit association and knowledge of the locality in which they are operating. When certain cases were brought under my notice early in January, I ordered that an instruction be issued that no more untrained young men under twenty years of age should be sent to' operational stations.

I might add that the Royal Australian Air Force accepts young men for service at eighteen years of age. The Navy accepts them at a minimum age of seventeen years and may despatch them to sea before they reach eighteen years of age. In the first Australian Imperial Force the age group 18 to 20 years constituted 20 per cent, of the total personnel embarked for service, and equalled nearly 39 per cent, of the total population of that age group.

It is necessary to bear in mind, also, that any part of Australia may become an operational area at any moment and units must be used in any area irrespective of their district of origin. Consideration is being given to the practicability of a suggestion to relieve any inadequately trained members of the Australian Military Forces between eighteen and nineteen years of age who are now at Darwin and Port Moresby. The Government may be relied upon to treat the whole matter most sympathetically.

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