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Friday, 21 June 1946

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) (Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft Production) . - in reply- At question time - to-day, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) asked me a question relating to the report that certain persons associated with the trial of war criminals in Tokyo had either resigned or had threatened to resign. The present trial which is taking place in Tokyo is based upon the indictment of 26 major Japanese war criminals drawn up by an international board of prosecutors appointed by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. This prosecuting section, in which Australia has actively participated, consists of wellknown legal advocates of various countries, and their findings are the result of a prolonged and exhaustive inquiry into the available evidence concerning the war guilt of former leaders of military and political life in Japan. The trial is being held before an international tribunal of distinguished judges in accordance with proper standards of international justice and equity. The indictment of the war criminals was lodged with the international tribunal on the 29th April, and the defendants were arraigned before the court on the 3rd May. A month's adjournment was then granted to enable the preparation of the defence, and the tribunal re-assembled on the 3rd June. I have ho official information concerning the reported resignation of certain of the defence counsel in the trial. However, I have instituted inquiries on this matter, and immediately the information is available the honorable member will be informed.

The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) referred to the cot,ton industry in Australia. I shall bring their remarks to the notice of the Ministers concerned.

The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked that funds held by the Central Wool Committee should be distributed to wool-growers. I shall bring his suggestion to the- notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) with a view to seeing what can be done.

The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked for information about the production of jute in India. An effort will be made to obtain the information which he seeks.

The Government has been very much concerned over the murder of members of the Australian mission which was sent to Java. Everything is being done to ensure that the guilty persons are apprehended, and Judge Kirby was sent to the Netherlands East Indies to make inquiries, and to collect information which would lead to the conviction of the persons responsible for this dastardly act.

The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) can beassured that I shall bring his remarks on the dairying industry to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I shall also have inquiries made regarding the possibility of obtaining earth-shifting machinery as he suggested, and he will be informed of the result of the inquiry.

I appreciate that any one possessing human sympathies must be filled with compassion upon hearing particulars of the case presented this afternoon by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). However, as the honorable member himself pointed out, procedure in these matters is governed by statutory regulations which have been confirmed by the Parliament.Careful consideration must be given to the matter by those responsible for naval discipline. Personally, 1 think that the case mentioned is one which might be further reviewed. I point out, however, that I would not on any account interfere in. time of war with any regulation dealing with discipline. Those who would go absent without leave and desert from their posts when their country is in peril fail gravely in their duty. I recognize that the incident mentioned did not occur during the war, but it is not practicable to make one set of regulations dealing with war-time conditions and another for peace-time conditions. I understand that the position in regard to deferred pay is different in the Navy from that in the other services in that, in the Navy, the deferred pay was incorporated in the actual pay. Actually, there is a graduated scale, and the system of payment is entirely different from deferred pay. The payment is really in the nature of a recognition of good conduct, and is wrongly expressed in the regulations as " deferred pay ". I have indicated to the Naval Board that the designation might well be altered with a view to making it perfectly clear that instead of this payment being regarded as a right it shall in future be known for what it really is - a payment for good conduct.

Mr Rankin - Did the men get deferred pay before the war ?

Mr MAKIN - I understand so; but, as I have had supplied to me two sets of figures which do not appear to agree, I wish to have further information on the subject before giving a definite reply. I shall give further consideration to the matter in order that I may check certain aspects which at the moment are not clear. I repeat that for a man to desert his ship or be absent from it without leave is an extremely serious matter. When a nation is at war such action might render a vessel immobile and endanger the lives of all on board. The naval authorities say that there are fewer such cases in the navy than in the other two fighting services. Men who are giving good service in the navy, would, I think, be perturbed if the present method of payment were altered. They are most jealous of their rights and privileges. But there may be good reasons for compassionate treatment in some cases. As this matter has been brought to my notice at different times by the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Francis), Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), Balaclava (Mr. White), and Indi (Mr. McEwen), I shall certainly give further consideration to it. with a view tomaking an adjustment should it be found that there has been unduly harsh treatment.

Mr McEwen - The naval regulations provide that a seaman may have his misdemeanour expunged from the records if he serves for a further period of five years, three years of which are regarded as good service. Obviously that regulation is designed to apply to permanent naval men, and possibly men who served only for the duration of the war might not qualify under it. The point is however, worthy of consideration.

Mr MAKIN - Certain discretionary powers are vested in the Naval Board, and I shall ask that body to recognize that in some instances they should be exercised to show leniency. Naval regulation 51 (4) provides - (4.) No person who is -

(a)   discharged "Run";

(b)   dismissed from His Majesty's Service with disgrace;

(c)   dismissed from His Majesty's Service;

(d)   discharged from the service as " Services no longer required " or whose services are dispensed with on account of misconduct; or

(e)   discharged at own request whether by voluntary retirement or resignation - shall be entitled to any payment under this regulation.

That regulation has been in existence for about 35 years, but, of course, that does not mean that like the laws of the Medes and Persians, it cannot be altered. The various matters which have been raised on the adjournment will be given careful consideration, and I hope that the result will be satisfactory to the honorable members concerned.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 4.32 p.m.'

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