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Friday, 26 July 1946

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) . - I recently asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) when the Lake Boga depot of the Royal Australian Air Force would be ready for disposal, 'and he promised to look into the matter and speed it up as much as possible, so that the buildings could be sold. I desire to know what will become of them when the department no longer requires them. 1 have made representations on behalf of the Swan Hill Hospital authorities, who require nurses quarters and ask that the hospital at the Lake Boga depot and some of the other buildings be made available to that institution. A request has also been made that some of the workshops be handed over for the purposes of a scheme contemplated by the Government of Victoria for the decentralization of secondary industries. I am concerned about the provision of homes for exservicemen in the Lake Boga district, who are urgently in need of accommodation. I have a list before me of ex-servicemen in that district whose plight is deplorable. The first man on the list is an orchardist at Tresco. He is a married man with two children, and is living at present in a three-roomed house. He desires to makefurther sleeping accommodation for his family who are at present sleeping with their mother. ' Another case on the list is that of a returned prisoner of war from Germany. He was married while in England, .and his bride has arrived in Australia. At present he is residing with his parents in a four-roomed house, in which his two sisters also live. There are about twenty such cases, and with the permission of the House I shall incorporate the remainder of the details in Hansard. Each of the following paragraphs furnishes particulars of the circumstances of individual ex-servicemen : -

Married with family. Has obtained at present make-shift quarters. Desires to erect his own residence. Is at present working in Tresco district.

Married with boy of thirteen years old. At present renting two-roomed house which he have been given notice to quit.

Is engaged to be married, and cannot obtain house or rooms of any sort.

Married, no family. Living with his parents' until he can obtain house.

Orchardiet at Tresco. Living in hut 24 feet by 12 feet. Married.

Married with one child. Living with fatherinlaw. Could purchase dairy land which has no house.

Married, desires to erect house for his widowed mother, as she has received notice to quit from present residence. Has returned from prisoner of war (Japan).

Married with two children. Has commenced business as boot repairer. Present arrangements inadequate.

Married, one child. At present residing in concrete house' which has been declared by his medical adviser as unsatisfactory for his wife and child owing to dampness. No other place obtainable.

Landowner at Winlaton. Present buildings on his land, not suitable for his needs.

Wishes to purchase one of these huts to erect his own dwelling.

Married with no family. At present residing with his parents.

Dairyfarmer at Fishpoint. Desires to erect his own house in place' of living with his parents.

Single, but is engaged to be married. Could obtain land from his father to erect house on. Present materials for this are unobtainable.

Returned prisoner of war (Germany). Is engaged to be married, and desires to have his own house.

Married withfive children. At present residing with his wife's people. Has use of two rooms and verandah which are inadequate for his family.

Returned soldiers at Lake Boga and the president of the district council, Mr. , S. Taylor, inform me that the buildings are suitable for conversion to living quarters for these men, all, of whom work in the town or district. Some have blocks of land but no dwellings. If they do not get these houses they will be compelled to leave the district, but they prefer to settle there. They should be given absolute preference in the purchase of these dwellings, and should not be required to compete with contractors at a sale. A local contractor is prepared to remove the buildings to their blocks at a cost of £20 each, and that price might even he reduced if a number of the buildings were to be removed. There are more than 21, but these are those of which I have particulars. As these are local men who urgently need dwellings, and the buildings are on the spot, the authorities should give favorable consideration to the application that I make on their behalf.

On several occasions, beginning with the second day on which I had been a member of this House, I have brought to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) the need for the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to men who were captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war for 3½ years. I learned that officers who had been prisoners of war had been paid a field allowance of 3s. a day. The Minister for the Army accepted my statement that that field allowance was paid normally to enable an officer to meet social obligations which members of other ranks had not to meet, and to provide for himself additional food in the mess. In a prisoner-of-war camp, an officer has no social obligations. L'espite that fact, the authorities continued the allowance in respect of officers who were prisoners of war. I have stressed that prisoners of war had to sell many personal belongings in order to obtain the food that they required, and that the brunt of the hardships in Malaya and Singapore was borne by themen of other ranks, the officers having a comparatively easy time. In order to obtain exact information, I asked the Minister for the Army this question -

What percentage of (a) commissioned officers and (b ) other ranks of the 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force, lost their lives in Japanese hands after the fallof Singapore ?

The answer that I received was -

(a)   9.5 officers; (b) 36.6 other ranks.

That is rather a dramatic revelation, which proves to the hilt that the brunt of the hardships was borne by men of other ranks. The Minister at first refused the application for a subsistence allowance, but upon my raising the matter again he decided to reconsider it. I urge him to take into account this new evidence that' the percentage of other ranks who lost their lives was very much higher than that of officers. I know that many ministerial supporters favour the payment of a subsistence allowance to these men! If British justice is to be observed, it should be paid.

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