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Friday, 1 May 1942

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for the Army) . - The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has referred to the withdrawal of the grey background of colour patches from certain men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. This was not done as the result of political interference, ae insinuated, but evidently is the result of a decision reached at military headquarters. I shall make an inquiry regarding the matter and furnish the honorable member with a reply.

Regarding the call-up of young men on farms in Queensland, and the dire hardship of some of the elderly parents who are left to work their farms unaided, I have the greatest sympathy for the people on the land to whom the honorable member for Wide Ray (Mr. Bernard Corser) has referred, because many persons in similar circumstances are to be found in my own electorate. This is not an easy problem to solve. The Government is faced with the necessity for meeting the wishes of its military advisers, who have asked for a gradual increase of the Army necessary to defend Australia, and a great demand has been made upon the manpower required for munitions and other industries, including those manufacturing foodstuffs for the fighting forces. As stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) today, the whole subject is receiving close attention, and I hope that it will be brought before the War Cabinet early next week. A committee of experts has been investigating it, and it is to he considered by a special committee of the Cabinet. We are most anxious to meet the demands of the primary producers, who are doing very important work in providing foodstuffs for our forces. However, it is impossible to give an assurance that we shall be able to meet the demands of the services and the munitions factories, and also allow men out of camp to carry on these various undertakings. Already, during the harvest season, 27,000 men were exempt from military service to enable the harvest to be gathered. In addition, others were released for the harvesting of salt. It is very difficult for the Government to meet all these demands, but it is doing its best.

The protest of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) regarding what he calls the unnecessary expenditure of £42,000 on the erection of new abattoirs at Canberra will be referred to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). I am not myself familiar with the position, but I have no doubt that the Minister for the Interior has considered the report of the Public Works Committee, and that he will give due consideration to the honorable member's protest.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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