Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 16 September 1942

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) . - I do not think that this House could discuss a more serious matter than one involving criticism of the administration of the Royal Australian Air Force, and, for that matter, the Army, merely because an honorable member of this House is suffering as the result of indiscipline. If Aircraftman Falstein has been harshly treated, the circumstances in which he is placed are no different from those of hundreds of others who have had to take their medicine in the different forces. "Whether the sentence be harsh or not, if he cannot take his medicine he ought not to be in the Royal Australian Air Force, and I rather think that he should be discharged and should return to his duty in this Parliament. If that be the wish of his friends here, it would be the worst thing that could happen, to him at this juncture. His colleagues have raised this issue on his behalf, regardless of the effect upon the discipline of the Army and the Air Force. Because he happens to be a friend of theirs, his case is ventilated. I have not heard anybody ventilate other cases that must have occurred, of individuals who considered that they had been harshly treated. It is somewhat ludicrous, and a reflection upon our attitude towards Australia's present danger, that we should be grieving because Aircraftman Falstein has been sentenced to 28 days' detention, seeing that thousands of our men are in extreme peril in New Guinea.

Mr Rosevear - What difference does that make?

Mr ANTHONY - It is upon the discipline of the Air Force that we are relying in a very large measure in our efforts to hold this country. If that discipline bo impaired in order to do a service to a Labour member, evil will he done. I do not desire to pass judgment upon the merits of the case, because I have not studied the evidence; but a properly constituted tribunal has given its judgment, and that judgment ought to .be respected not only by the Government but also by every body who has any connexion with the administration of - the Air Force. Whether or not Aircraftman Falstein was hardly done by, is another matter. We frequently read in the newspapers of verdicts by magistrates or judges with which there is disagreement, sometimes on account of their severity and at other times because of their leniency; yet they are the pronouncements of properly constituted tribunals and their - judgments have to be respected. The Air Force, to the greatest degree of all the services, requires the most rigid discipline. At an earlier stage - not so much of late, I am glad to believe - when there was some degree of suspicion that the discipline in the Royal Australian Air Force was not so rigid as was necessary, aeroplanes and lives were lost because of the casual acceptance of their responsibility by a number of its members. Many persons came to the conclusion that young men were losing their lives and wrecking their aircraft because air force discipline needed tightening up.

Mr Rosevear - There was never any proof of that.

Mr ANTHONY - I believe that it was tightened up. It is now acknowledged that the Royal Australian Air Force is the best air force in the world. This is the result of the stern discipline that is imposed in it. Nobody will challenge the statement that our airmen in Libya, over the North Sea, over Germany, and in every other sphere in which they have been called upon to fight, have demonstrated qualities, gained as the result of the training they have received in the Royal Australian Air Force, which makes them second to no other airmen in the world.

Mr Calwell - That is unquestioned.

Mr ANTHONY - If it be unquestioned, as the honorable member says, why interfere with what has produced men of that calibre?

Mr Calwell - This is political.

Suggest corrections