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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr GULLETT (HENTY, VICTORIA) - Reports have appeared in the press in regard to the inadequacy of the amenities provided for the occupation force in Japan, and I have also received, letters on the subject. The . health and morale of men must inevitably deteriorate when so many of. them are stationed in an eastern country with not much to do. I ask the Minister for the Army whether suitable hospitals have been hired, camps provided, and leave arrangements made for these troops? What is the strength of the personnel engaged in providing amenities for them? How are those personnel employed? Has the amenities branch in Melbourne had staff and equipment ready for some time for embarkation for Japan? What is the reason for the delay in embarking these personnel? When will they leave Australia?

Mr.FORDE (Capricornia - Minister for the Army). - by leave - This matter has been raised by several honorable members, and this morning I read in the press a further statement on the subject in an article by Mr. Massey Stanley. That statement is incorrect, and I have- no doubt whatever that Lieutenant-General Robertson did not make certain statements which have been attributed to him. Massey Stanley, in the article appearing in the Daily Telegraph, is reported to have" stated that ' Lieutenant-General Robertson would ask General MacArthur whether the American forces can temporarily extend the amenities the Australian Government has denied. The Australian Government has not denied amenities to the Australian troops, and as I have already indicated, , it is the policy of the Government to provide amenities and leave facilities for our Australian . troops in Japan to the greatest extent practicable.

Lieutenant-General Robertson, in a recent message to Army and defence headquarters, had stated that he had come to the conclusion -that the only way to provide for British Commonwealth Occupation Force troops in time to enable them to have relief during hot summer and autumn months, was to request the appropriate American authorities to hand over a percentage of United States operated centres for operation by the British Commonwealth Occupation Force on a sterling' basis. Lieutenant-General Robertson had stated that he proposed taking such action. He was clothed with the necessary power to act in the best interest of the troops.

The. Australian troops number 12,600 out of a- total of 37,300 of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, and it is pointed out that a small advance party of Australian troops arrived in February this year, and other troops followed in April, May and June. On the last occasion, when this question was raised, I intimated that Lieutenant-General Robertson had been asked to furnish his recommendations as to any additional amenities or facilities that, in his opinion, should be made available. On the 31st July, a signal was received by the Joint Chiefs of Staffs in Australia from LieutenantGeneral Robertson stating that the fundamental problem in regard to amenities "was to provide civilized surroundings for the occupation troops. It will be appreciated that his responsibilities relate to all troops of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, and not merely the Australian troops.

The signal continued that- the area occupied by these troops did not include any Japanese city where men could find anything approaching western facilities, and he considered the solution of the problem could be found in (a) providing adequate clubs, cinemas, libraries and education facilities in garrison centres; and (b) providing leave centres at attractive resorts outside British Commonwealth Occupation Force areas. He advised that he was submitting detailed recommendations for the provision of adequate clubs, cinemas, library and education facilities, . but these detailed recommendations are still awaited, and will receive urgent attention as soon as they come to hand. In the meantime, the Australian Amenities Service have provided goods to the value of £160,000 for Australian troops, and, in addition- to equipment already forwarded, 200 tons of equipment was now in course of transit to Japan. In addition, the Australian Comforts Fund provided £45,000 for the establishment and conduct of leave centres for Australian troops. Four cafeterias and non-residential club3 for other ranks had already been selected, and the plant and equipment for these was already in Japan. In addition, buildings have been selected at Kyoto and Kobe for the establishment of holiday leave hostels. These will provide accommodation for 250 persons who may spend their leave there free of cost, on a basis similar to that provided for American troops. Another- centre which will provide accommodation for 500 personnel is being, established on Kyushu Island. Two canteen cars are being prepared for attachment to British Commonwealth . Occupation Force troop trains. These are of a buffet type and similar to those already provided by the American Red "Cross for American leave trains. The suggestion in the Daily Telegraph article' that Lieutenant-General Robertson is turning to the United States authorities for the provision of amenities is most misleading. Lieutenant-General Robertson has already advised that the United States authorities, who have been longer in the field and have established facilities, recognized the needs of the British Commonwealth Occupation' Force, and discussions have been proceeding for thcallotment from their resources of accommodation for our troops on leave in areas under the United States Army control. This involves the expenditure of dollars to cover the free accommodation for our leave parties in such areas and hostels, and such expenditure has been authorized by the Government and communicated to Lieutenant - General Robertson.

As already indicated, the Government is doing everything possible to ensure adequate recreational' facilities ' andamenities for our troops in Japan. The problems that have to be surmounted in Japan in providing these facilities are for Lieutenant-General Robertson himself to overcome, and the Government has given him full authority to act in this direction. To the degree that assistance can be rendered from Australia, provision of equipment and supplies has been forwarded in accordance with Lieutenant-General Robertson's requirements.

The joint Chiefs of Staffs in Australia are aware of the desire of the Australian Government, and also of the other governments participating in the British Commonwealth OccupationForce, that full amenities shall be provided for the troops of that force in Japan. Their representatives have recently visited Japan and returned to Australia, and fully realize that the normal scale of provision of amenities has proved inadequate because of the devastation of the countryside and the lack of entertainment facilities available in the area occupied by those troops. They know of the practical difficulties that have to be surmounted and are doing everything possible on behalf of all the participating governments to meet requirements. They have the full authority of the Australian Government, as well as of their own governments to take what action is necessary. The difficultiesto be surmounted are physical and not financial, and everything possible is being done to overcome them. On reading the newspapers, particularly the statements such as those attributed to Mr. J. W. Bavin, president of the Air Force Association, that the story relating to amenities was amost deplorable reflection on the Australian Government and its inefficient administration ", it is evident that frantic efforts are being made by biased and jaundiced political influences to exploit these complaints for party political purposes and to influence the soldiers' vote.

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