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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) clearly showed the defects of this bill, and I very much question the need for it. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said in commencing his second-reading speech -

This is intended to give effect to the undertakings given to the unions and further' to assist in the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen.

I think the honorable member for' Fawkner has shown that the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen does not come into the bill. On the contrary, it excludes them and makes their position more difficult. Therefore, it is on that point principally that I desire to make a few observations.

I say advisedly that many men enlisted, particularly in . the Royal Australian Air Force, who had experience in trades before they entered the service, and who now cannot be considered as tradesmen. At the outbreak of the war, I was commanding officer at the Initial Training School at Somers, in Victoria, where I saw the records of every man who passed into the establishment to be trained for air crew. I noted that large' numbers of the men had been employed in the categories of engineers, metal workers and electricians. Later some of them became pilots, observers and air gunners and achieved high distinction in the service. Because of their determination to serve as air crew they were away from their trades for a number of years. Had they not been able to make the grade as air crew, or had they any physical defects, they would have remained in their trade in the Royal Australian Air Force. I am sure that the Minister will recognize that this bill will do a great injustice to many outstanding young men. I cannot say why he did not think of them when this bill was being drafted. Now that the omission has been brought to his notice, I hope that the scope of the bill will be widened so as to include those who were tradesmen or had some experience in a trade before the outbreak of war. The post-war Air Force is not attractive to these young men. The Government has not yet announced a suitable establishment, but has stated only that there will be an Interim Air Force and personnel may enlist in it for a period of two years. In those circumstances, many former members of the Royal Australian Air Force willdesire to return to the trade or calling to which they belonged before their enlistment. Some worked as bank and insurance clerks, or as business executives. Many of those who distinguished themselves as much as men with the best education were the young men in the mechanic class, who had worked at the bench or forge. Their names became famous in the service, yet this bill will exclude them. I exhort the honorable gentleman to remove this hardship. The bill will create more confusion in industry, but if the Government insists on passing it, the measure should be just.

Let there be preference to those who left the workshop to go into the front line to fight! Preference should not be extended to the man who, whatever his reasons, worked in Australia during the war.

When the honorable member for Fawkner was speaking, I asked what would be the position of British tradesmen who came to Australia as migrants.

Mr Holt - If the migrant had been a tradesman in the services or got his trade experience in the services, he would probably be excluded, just as our own people are.

Mr WHITE - What a prospect at a time when the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is issuing booklets ad lib to advertise Australia and encourage men trained in the building trade to migrate here! This bill will defeat the objects of the Minister for Immigration. I have received the following letter from the Returned. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial Leagueof Australia, exImperial sub-branch : -

Our organization is of the opinion that British ex-service personnel on the whole are getting a rough deal. They have been promised a fair go on paper, but what are the actual facts. These men get little or no consideration when it comes to employment and training because of a clause in an instruction given to rehabilitation officers for their guidance that reads as follows: - "United Kingdom ex-servicemen and women selected as eligible and suitable for training will rank after Australian ex-servicemen and women where there is competition for training vacancies ".

Our members contend that British exservice personnel have been automatically barred from training because by the time that Australian personnel have been absorbed (which at the present rate will take years) our men will have graduated to he useful members of the community per medium of the pick and shovel or as genera] labourers.

This bill will impose an additional hardship upon this class of person. In my opinion, this Parliament is passing too much legislation. Too many authorities are planning other men's lives. Their ideas are put forward to receptive Ministers. I know that the Minister in charge of the bill is steeped in industrial affairs, and I have no doubt that the trade unions instruct him that he must preserve their vested right in industry, and ensure that they shall receive preferential treatment. That is the reverse of the policy of preference to ex-servicemen I invite the honorable gentleman to explain how former members of the services and immigrants will fare under this bill.

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