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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr Harrison n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that valuable equipment is being stolen from Air Force stations throughout Australia because of shortage of ground staff to guard these stations?

2.   Is it a fact that at Tocumwal station the loss of equipment due to shortage of personnel to guard it runs into thousands of pounds?

3.   Will he inform the House of the nature and value of the equipment which has, been stolen from this and other Air Force stations throughout the Commonwealth which are at present undermanned ?

4.   Is it a fact that, because of shortages of men in skilled trades, it became necessary to employ civilian tradesmen on some Air Force stations? 5, Is it a fact that many members of the Australian Interim Air Force have been disturbed by .widespread service rumours that plans for the Interim Force are to be 'scrapped, and that, whereas the force envisages a strength of 20,000 men, enlistments to the end' of last month numbered only about 7,0001

0.   In view of the uncertainty in the minds of these men, can he inform the House of. the Government's plans .for building up air defence!

Mr Drakeford - The 'answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

1.   Notwithstanding the extensive safeguards maintained to prevent thefts, certain quantities of equipment and stores have been stolen from a number of Air Force stations. As the outcome of investigations already made, those losses were not considered to have resulted directly from the shortage of ground staffs available to guard those stations, but were in a large measure the result of collusion between certain members of the Royal Australian Air Force, ex-members, and civiliansEvery "precaution to guard against thefts has been taken by the provision of guards and service police at all Air Force stations. Royal Australian Air Force service police and civil police have actively co-operated in the prevention of thefts and in the recovery of the stolen equipment and stores.

2.   Losses by theft .have occurred at Tocumwal. The considerable area and the widely dispersed lay-out of this station involves great difficulties in the designing of totally effective measures to prevent thefts. The actual value of losses at this station cannot be determined until the result of the stock-takes is known. See also reply .to question No. 1 above.

3.   It will not be possible to determine tho details and values of equipment which have been stolen until final stock-takes are completed. That work is proceeding, and will be finalized as soon as .possible.

4.   No; but, in. accordance with normal procedure, provision is made in station establishments for. the employment of civilian unskilled labour for unskilled work at Air Force stations as and where necessary.

5.   Nothing is known officially of any " widespread service rumours that plans for the Interim Force are -to be scrapped" nor ls there any genuine basis for amy such alleged rumours. Plans for the organization of the Interim Force to meet its commitments (e.g. Royal Australian Air Force component of the British Commonwealth- Occupation Force in Japan, co-operation with Army garrisons in the islands with relevant supporting organizations, maintenance of certain essential units, organization necessary to maintain standards of technique and skill already developed, research, and for the maintenance of essential equipment, training schools, and staffs required for. the collection and disposal of surplus equipment and stores) have been prepared and decision on the total personnel establishment will be taken by the Government in the very near future. Meanwhile, it can be stated that approximately 10,000 members ot the Permanent Air Force and the Citizen Air Force have volunteered to continue service, in the Interim Force and the recruitment of additional numbers required to complete the provisional establishments nas already commenced with satisfactory results.

6.   Decision as to the character, size and' structure of the Permanent Post-war Force (as distinct from the Interim Force referred to in No. 5, which is being formed to cope with current commitments) is quite impracticable until full technical and political fundamental data are available, following on Empire and international discussions which have already taken place and are continuing, as well as having full regard to the decisions and agreements (including peace settlements) which may be arrived at as the result of those discussions. (The United Kingdom and other governments are faced with precisely the same problems insofar as their post-war forces are concerned.) The Commonwealth Government is being kept fully informed of all developments in that connexion and will define its permanent defence policy as soon as it has the full basic data upon which to formulate such policy.

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