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Wednesday, 10 April 1946

Mr MORGAN - Before the House rises for the Easter recess, will the Minister for the Army make a statement regarding the recruiting campaign, and say whether a decision has been reached with regard to a proposal to stop recruiting? Will the Minister take steps to reduce the surplus personnel in the armed forces, and will he say whether the points system of demobilisation has been " frozen " for three months, as members of the forces are being told by some army officers? To my knowledge, men with over 130 points are being retained in the forces, although they are doing only menial work. Will the Minister inquire whether 70 members of Army units stationed at French's Forest were employed recently at Roseville to load shell cases which were sold to a. private firm by the Disposals Commission, and will the men be allowed to return to civil life where jobs are waiting for them ?

Mr FORDE - No decision to discontinue recruiting has been reached. As a matter of fact, recruiting under the voluntary system has been very satisfactory and will be continued. The Govern- ment is confident that it will be able to obtain under the voluntary system of enlistment, all recruits required to provide relief and reinforcements for the garrison troops in the islands, and for the British Commonwealth -Occupation Force in Japan. There are so many facets to the questions, asked by the honorable member that I cannot hope to answer them all to-day, because they apply to details of administration in various areas.

Mr Morgan - What is the total number of .men left in the islands?

Mr FORDE - That involves a discussion of the interim strength of the defence forces of Australia, and tha.t cannot be adequately dealt with in reply to a question. In round figures, however, the number of our troops in the islands to-day is about 25,000, including the Australian members of the force in Japan. These troops have to be serviced and maintained, and the whole of the foodstuffs required for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan is supplied from Australia. Certain services are rendered by the Australian Army to the Royal Australian Air Force, and that also involves additional personnel. The fact that demobilization has been carried on for the last seven months or so, has involved the employment of additional staff in ordnance stores in Australia receiving materials and equipment returned from the mainland and from overseas, and also in the records and pay offices and on echelon duties. I admit that all of these activities are diminishing, and the Government .is taking all possible steps to have the whole of the establishments on the mainland combed. A conference on the matter was held yesterday between representatives of the Army and the Government, and I intend to appoint a special committee to investigate it, in order to ensure that everything possible shall bc done to eliminate surplus personnel in mainland establishments.

The object of the Government is to complete at the earliest possible date the demobilization of all personnel not required in the fighting services.

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