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Thursday, 17 September 1942

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for the Army) . - I listened to the request by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) for permission for the relatives of Australian soldiers killed in action to have their remains removed from the battle area so that they might be buried in other parts of Australia.I appreciate the feelings of the relatives in such circumstances, and their natural desire to have the remains taken to the districts in which the homes of the deceased were situated. If the request were acceded to, however, real transport difficulties would arise. It is easy to understand that if military operations occurred in certain parts of Australia, hundreds of members of the fighting services might be killed, and a major transport problem would be presented if it were necessary to carry the bodies to various parts of Australia. That fact caused a certain decision to be made by the Army authorities, in order to discourage the transport of the bodies of deceased personnel on the railways or by other means. How ever, the honorable member has made out a good case, which will be sympathetically considered, and a reply will be furnished to him within a few days.

The honorable member for Melbourne remarked that certain members of the AustralianWomen's Army Service had been appointed to positions in the District Finance Office in Melbourne, following the transfer of certain sergeants and corporals, whose names he mentioned, to labour units. I am not conversant with the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall order an investigation of the matter.

Mr Calwell - Will the Minister keep those men in their ranks, or give them their discharge, so that they may engage in civil occupations at award rates?

Mr FORDE - I have been much impressed by the case presented by the honorable member, but I shall not commit myself on the matter to-night, as I desire to make inquiries regarding it. I know that the honorable member gets a lot of information given to him inside and outside this Parliament, and he usually gives us the benefit of that information on the motion for the adjournment of the House, very often at a much later hour than it is to-night.

Mr Calwell - I shall have a secret session with the Minister afterwards.

Mr FORDE - The honorable member customarily, after keeping us back here for three-quarters of an hour every night, comes to my office after the adjournment and says, " There are a couple of other things which I overlooked and I shall tell them to you now ". I shall be pleased to give consideration to the representations made by the honorable gentleman and furnish a reply within a few days.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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