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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Mr FRANCIS - Last Friday, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I directed the attention of the Minister for the Army to the existence of grave disaffection among members of the 17th Field Regiment in Queensland - an artillery unit - as the result of the issue to them of colour patches from which the grey background, which is the distinguishing mark of the Australian Imperial Force, had been removed.

Mr Forde - Had members of that unit served abroad?

Mr FRANCIS - I made it clear last Friday that the men had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for service in Australia or abroad, but the exigencies of the war position required them to remain in Australia for the time being. That decision was made by the Minister for the Army, because he, acting on the advice of the General Officer Commanding, is responsible to Parliament for the dispersion of the troops. I believe that the members of this unit did not go overseas, but they were wearing the grey colour patches. They have now been ordered to remove them. In my opinion, that order is quite improper, because these men are members of the Australian Imperial Force. On Friday the Minister gave me an assurance that he would inquire into the matter and inform me of the result as parly as possible. Has the Minister yet had an opportunity to examine my representations and, if so, is he in a position to make a statement to the House?

Mr FORDE - The honorable member stated on Friday that' he believed that the order to the men to remove the Australian Imperial Force colour patches was given as the result of a political instruction.

Mr Francis - It was represented to me as such.

Mr FORDE - I assure the honorable member that the instruction was issued, not by the Government or myself, but by the Army authorities.

Mr Francis - With the approval of the Minister?

Mr FORDE - I understand that the members of the unit had not been despatched overseas, although they had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for service at home or abroad. The whole matter is being given sympathetic consideration, and I hope to furnish to the honorable member a full reply to-morrow.

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