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Friday, 26 July 1946

Mr DRAKEFORD (MaribyrnongMinister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation) . - in reply - Various matters have been raised by a number of honorable members and I shall bring those which do not concern the departments under my control to the notice of the appropriate Ministers. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) referred to the destruction of cows and the wastage of cream. The honorable member's representations will be referred to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who, I am sure, will investigate the matter thoroughly. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked a question relating to the operation of air services between Australia and the United States of America. Negotiations are being conducted at present and, in the circumstances, I am sure that the right honorable gentleman will appreciate that, at this stage, no disclosure can be made. The negotiations are proceeding smoothly, and I hope that the results will be satisfactory. I point out that, ยป in addition to Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand are concerned with the setting up of this service. Whatever I can do to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement as early as possible will be' done. The right honorable gentleman also referred to dairy herds in the Gympie district of Queensland, and in parts' of New South Wales, and asked that an investigation be made by the Prices Branch. That matter will be brought to the notice of the Minister Sot Trade and Customs. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to applications for permanent service in the Royal Australian Air Force, and said that men had travelled at their own expense to undergo examination but had not been notified of the results of the examinations. There are difficulties associated with this matter which I am sure the honorable member and ex-servicemen generally will appreciate. The strength of the permanent air force has not been determined. A conference is to take place overseas at which Australia's share of Empire defence and various technical matters will be considered. A rapid decision cannot be made. The number of applications for appointment to positions in the higher ranks exceeds the number of such positions which are likely to be filled. It may be, for instance, that only half a dozen squadron leaders or flight lieutenants will be required, and there may be 50 applications for such positions, but not so many for lower ranks. I agree with the honorable member that an early decision is -desirable so that these men may know where they stand. The honorable member's references to property sales will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister. I agree with him that, as far as possible, the exploitation of men desiring homes should be avoided. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) spoke of the claims of people at Lake Boga for a share of buildings previously used as hospitals and workshops to be allotted to them. There seems to be a belief that the army or the Air Force controls such disposals, but that is not so. The service departments notify the Commonwealth Disposals Commission of any surplus materials in their charge, arid thereafter, negotiations for the purchase of these materials must be conducted with the commission. However, governmental bodies such as municipal councils, may make application direct to the Royal Australian Air Force or to the Army, in which event, the service department concerned will notify the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I agree with the honorable member that individuals are also entitled to consideration in these matters, but I point .out that it was to prevent any suggestion of preferential treatment of individuals, or certain sections of the community, that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission was set up. If those who desire to obtain surplus goods would bear in mind that their applications should be made to that body, rather than to the service departments, much correspondence and dissatisfaction would be avoided.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - I thought that the Minister of the service department concerned might make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.

Mr DRAKEFORD - I am most anxious to assist in these matters, as are my colleagues in the Ministry, but if each of the service departments is to make an investigation, the work which has been entrusted to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission will be duplicated and the demobilization of servicemen will be delayed. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) suggested that the parents and relatives of men in the. Air Force were fearful that insufficient maintenance work was being done on aeroplanes in use. I point out there have been 15,000 flights this year, and in only 29 instances was it impossible to complete a flight. That information should dispel the anxiety of parents and relatives. There are occasions, as I know from my own experience, when bad weather causes interruptions out of which arises anxiety, but the figures I have supplied should assure honorable members that every precaution is being taken to ensure the safety of aircraft. I trust that the honorable member will convey this information to those who have spoken to him on the matter, so that they will be in possession of the facts, instead of having to rely upon rumours disseminated by irresponsible persons.

Mr Francis - What about the troops stationed atRabaul?

Mr DRAKEFORD - I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member on that subject to the notice of the Minister for the Army.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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