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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 917

In pursuance of the powers vested in me, I, Noel Medway Loutit, D.S.O., an authorized person duly appointed under the said regulations in respect of so much of the Northern Territory of Australia as now lies within the No.11 Line of Communications Sub-Area, do hereby order that -

This notice has been erected in camps not only in the Northern Territory, but also in Queensland. It continues -

1.   Every employee employed in roadconstruction work in the said sub-area do forthwith resume and continue to work in accordance with the terms of his employment.

There is no complaint with regard to that paragraph -

2.   Any suspension of any such employee from his said work be cancelled forthwith.

3.   On the failure of such employee to resume or continue his said work as aforesaid to the satisfaction of the person for the time being in charge of the said road construction in the said sub-area, such employee shall forthwith be dismissed from his said employment.

That means that any man with whom the engineer in charge if the job is not satisfied can be dismissed -

4.   Upon such employee being dismissed as aforesaid, he shall forthwith submit himself for medical examination for inclusion in the Australian Military Forces.

That is the paragraph to which most exception is taken by the men. It means that, irrespective of a man's age, his commitments and personal responsibilies or the state of his health, he must report forthwith for service in the Australian Military Forces. It might compel a man who is working in Northern Queensland to report at Banka Banka in the Northern Territory. Many of these men are drovers by occupation. Rather than remain idle, they patriotically offered their services for this job -

5.   In the event of any such employee being found to he physically fit for service in the Australian Military Forces, he shall forthwith be included therein.

6.   In the event of any such employee being found not to be physically fit for service in the Australian Military Forces, he shall leave the said sub-area forthwith.

A man who is living in Camooweal, or Mount Isa in Queensland, and who has taken a job on this particular work, and is subsequently found by the engineer in charge of the job to be unsatisfactory, must report at Banka Banka. It is only natural that petty differences will occur on jobs of this kind. It may happen that the engineer may, for no good reason, take a dislike to a man.Where men are thrown together under such conditions for considerable periods, friction is almost certain to occur. Under this order, the engineer can vent his personal feelings against any man on the job, and force him immediately to leave the area where he has resided for years, and has his home and family. All that the men ask is that they should not be drafted for military service, except under conditions similar to those applied to all other Australians. The notice was posted up in three camps - Shipp's, Thorley's and Beatty's. A further notice read -

In connexion with the order recently signed and posted up by the officer commanding the 11th L.O.C. Area, the extent of this area has been defined by proclamation in the Commonwealth Gazette as including the whole length of this road.

The order applies to all camps and to all sections of work on the road between Mr and Tennants Creek.

Instructions have been given that In the event of any employee being dismissed, he is to be given transport in the next convoy travelling west, to resport to the officer in charge at Banka Banka for medical examination in accordance with the order of Colonel Loutit. The head-quarters of the 11th L.O.C. Area is at Alice Springs, and any necessary action in accordance with clauses 5 and6 of the order will be taken from that centre.

Nothing in this order affects the ordinary rights of employees to approach the engineer in charge of the section with complaints or requests, which will continue to be treated in accordance with conditions on the job.

We all know what happens when irritable bosses are approached by their employees with requests or complaints. The power that a boss has in normal times is multiplied in the case of this boss who, under the terms of the order, if he takes a dislike to an employee, can force him either into the Army or out of the area. Most of the men on the job are drovers who took the employment only on condition that they had the right to leave when droving was available. There is already a drought in the west, and should it intensify drovers will be needed. The order deprives these men of their citizen rights. The president and an organizer of the Australian Workers Union are now investigating complaints about conditions on this job. My correspondent has described this order in terms to which objection would be taken by you, Mr. Chairman, if I were to read his letters. In one passage he asks -

Has a main roads engineer the right or authority to order per medium of a memorandum which cannot be refuted by them, or by word of mouth which can be denied, any man or men to report to a military officer at any camp for the purpose of being absorbed into the Australian Military Forces?

Judging by his correspondence there is a great deal of dissatisfaction, although the men wish to co-operate with the military a u th orit i es.

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