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Tuesday, 9 April 1946

Mr DRAKEFORD (MaribymongMinister for Air and Minister foi) (Civil Aviation) . - by leave - Honorable members may recall that towards the end of February, the Prime Minister announced through the press the intention to effect the retirement of certain Royal Australian Air Force officers in the older age ranges. I take this opportunity to outline briefly the circumstances associated with the decision to effect such retirements and to give the names of the Air Force personnel being retired, and details of the special scheme of compensation, as approved by the Government, to apply to those personnel.

In time of war, two main factors operate to make such retirements unavoidable in the interest of the future wellbeing of the force. One such factor is that, with the tremendous expansion of the force in war-time corresponding increases in establishments, both in ranks and numbers, take place, and promotions made against those war establishments cannot possibly be maintained in full upon reversion to peace conditions.

The second factor is that, during hostilities, unprecedented opportunities are presented to younger and junior officers to gain experience and seniority which not only qualify them to hold the. senior appointments, but also render it imperative to provide continued opportunities for the acceptance by them of commensurate responsibilities. Failure to recognize this factor- or to give effect to it. would inevitably lead to a form of stagnation in the force when initiative, vigour and enthusiasm, based upon recent war experience and developments, must be regarded as being of paramount, importance. I believe that honorable members, generally, will agree that this latter factor applies, with special significance, to an air force, having regard to the rapid and important developments in aerial warfare, strategy, and tactics, developments in aircraft types and performances generally, and the varying roles in which they are required to function.

It is, perhaps, not inopportune to draw attention to the fact that the retirement of numbers of senior officers is not confined to Australia, and that the operation of the same factors I have already mentioned has resulted in similar action being taken in other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, as honorable members will have noticed by recent press reports. Many of those officers achieved world fame during the war and a big percentage of them are of approximately the same ages as the senior members to be retired from the Royal Australian Air Force, though some are younger.

It would be quite out of place and embarrassing, both to the service and to the officers concerned, to enter upon a discussion of personal details. I need only state that, in approving of thoseretirements, the Government has been actuated by. service and policy, as distinct from personal, considerations. A number of retirements is also being effected of officers who have reached the prescribed maximum retiring ages of their respective ranks, but the factors to which I have already referred have been the basic consideration influencing the action taken in relation toboth categories.

I assure honorable members that the Government fully appreciates the valuable services rendered to the country by those officers and I take this opportunity of expressing in Parliament our gratitude for, and appreciation of, the high standard of their work in the various important posts they have filled in both peace and war. It was by reason of their excellent services that the Government, as recently announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), has made provision for, and payment to, those officers of compensation on what it considers to be a fair and reasonable basis. I shall refer to this later.

The Royal Australian Air Force officers being retired before reaching the age of retirement prescribed for their subsequent substantive ranks are: - Air Marshal R. Williams, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., Air Vice-Marshal S. J. Goble, C.B.E., D.S.O., D.S.C., Air Vice-Marshal W. D. Rostock, C.B., O.B.E., Air Commodore W. H. Anderson, C.B.E., D.F.C., Air Commodore F. H. McNamara, V.C,. C.B., C.B.E., Air Commodore A. T. Cole, C. B.E., D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C., Air Commodore F. W. F. Lukis, C.B.E., Air Commodore R. J. Brownell,C.B.E., M.C., M.M., Air Commodore J. H. Summers, O.B.E., and Group Captain J. Waters.

The officers to be retired on account of having reached the prescribed ages for retirement are - Air Vice-Marshal H. Wrigley, O.B.E., D.F.C., A.F.C., Air Commodore H. F. De La Rue, C.B.E., D. F.C., Air Commodore A. W. Murphy, D.F.C., A.F.C., Group Captain C. C. Eaton, O.B.E., A.F.C., and Group Captain J. F. S. Murray, M.B.E., M.C.

The special scheme of compensation approved by the Government, may be summarized as follows: -

(a)   Accumulated Permanent Air Force deferred pay, including Permanent Air Force deferred pay for any period of long service leave due.

(b)   An additional amount to bring (a) up to the sum set out in the following scale: - Wing Commander, £4,000 ; Group Captain, £5,000 ; Air Commodore, £5,500 ; Air Vice-Marshal, £6,000. The amount payable will be determined according to the officer's substantive rank, and the sum of any deferred pay paid on the officer becoming a contributor to the Superannuation Fund will be deducted from the above amounts.

(c)   Half-pay up to a maximum of two years, but not beyond the date of retirement applicable to the officer's substantive rank. Halfpay will be at half the rates of active and deferred pay and dependants and living out allowances payable under Air Force (War Financial) Regulations. No credit will be allowed in respect of Permanent, Air Force deferred pay during the period of half-pay.

(d)   Pay in lieu of long-service leave due.

(e)   Half-pay and pay in lieu of longservice leave will be calculated at rates prescribed by Air Force (War Financial) Regulations and on the basis of any temporary rank held at date of retirement. In other cases the basis will be the substantive rank.

(f)   Re-establishment leave, war service leave, and other concessions granted to members on demobilisation will be granted in accordance with the entitlement of the officer concerned.

(g)   Where an officer is appointed to another paid position under the Commonwealth during the period covered by the payment of half-pay, the officer will refund or have deducted from his pay an amount equal to the half-pay granted for such portion of the period ofhalf - pay as he is employed by the Commonwealth, provided that the amount to be refunded shall not exceed the amount payable in the new position.

I assure honorable members that, in effecting these retirements, the Government gave full consideration to rank and age of the officers concerned and to the appointments held and experience gained by them, as well as to appointments which will be available in the post-war Air Force, and to the availability of fully qualified and experienced officers to fill those appointments. Finally, I would state that necessary action will be taken to ensure a smooth transition from war to peace conditions insofar as senior officer personnel are concerned, and for appropriately qualified younger officers with extensive war experience and good records to occupy the senior appointments of the Service.

I lay on the table the following paper : -

Retirement of Senior Air Force Officers - Ministerial Statement, and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.

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