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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- Most of the men .who will be dealt with by the committees, are ex-servicemen, and will be in the categories of probationer and trainee tradesmen. The acknowledged tradesmen were members of the unions prior to 1940, irrespective of whether or not they were skilled, because at one time the unions accepted almost anybody for membership. Therefore, the ' committees will have a very important duty to discharge, and will .be empowered to determine the future security and happiness of the men concerned. It would be extremely unfair if ex-servicemen were, not represented on them. . I referred earlier to the high standard of the training that was given in the Royal Australian Air Force technical training schools. It has been urged constantly that ex-servicemen should be represented on the committees by nominees of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia. I should like their representative to be men with the qualifications of the Director of Technical Training in the Royal Australian Air Force. He, of course, is not available. The advertisements that are published daily, inviting enlistment in the interim air force, give the whole gamut of musterings in the Royal Australian Air Force. I object to the statement of the ' Minister that men who passed through the Royal Australian Air Force technical training schools received only a smattering of engineering knowledge, and consequently cannot be described as tradesmen.- The young nien who were trained as air crew under the Empire Air Training Scheme commanded squadrons overseas, and. took great risks which no unionist who stayed at home had to take. That applies also to flight engineers, and! to other men in the various, musterings associated with maintenance; they qualified to such high efficiency in some two years, whereas apprenticeship for trade is for five, years. All of these tradesmen are to be ticketed as probationers and trainees, and although they are of such types that they can absorb knowledge- quickly, they are to be placed secondary to nien who- remained on the home front. I am sure that the Minister #for Air (Mr. Drakeford), will agree that the standard of technical training given in the Royal Australian Air Force technical training schools was very high. The question that we have to consider is, whether ex-servicemen should have representatives on the committees. I definitely affirm that they should. I do not intend to accept the Minister's promise that the matter will, be investigated. When earlier legislation was being considered, he made a promise that he did not keep! I have made this extract from the debate that occurred at the time -

I inform the honorable member for Wentwortb (Mr. Harrison) that I am not arguing Hie merits of the amendment.

Sir Frederick Stewart - Will the Minister postpone the clause?

Mr HOLLOWAY - No. I want the committee to complete its consideration of the bill, but I promise to submit the measure to Cabinet when it meets next Tuesday.

Mr Ryan - Cannot Cabinet meet to-night?

Mr HOLLOWAY - No;, some Ministers are occupied in the Senate. I shall present this proposal to Cabinet with the same degree of sympathy as the honorable member for Wentworth has shown. He is aware that the bill will not be implemented for some time!

Mr Archie Cameron - Then why should we hasten to pass it?

Mr HOLLOWAY - I have given my word and I ask honorable members to accept it.

Some honorable members have paid tribute to the Minister's technique. I agree that he has a persuasive manner, and the soft answer which " turneth away wrath ". I wish that I could emulate him. On the other hand, it is rather an oleagenous form of appeasement, which we cannot accept. Unless the statute . contains the provision that we desire, any promise , by the Minister will be useless. The amendment referred to in the debate from which I have quoted was that exservicemen should not have the amount of their pension deducted from 'any unemployment relief to which- -they became' entitled. Although the Minister promised a year ago to secure that concession for them, it has not yet been given. The. honorable gentleman knows that the deduction is still made when exservicemen are without employment. Yet men in any other walk of life who receive payments from a friendly society or any other source do not have the amount deducted from their unemployment relief. Therefore, we must make the position secure by having the' provision incorporated in the bill. The Minister can do that very simply. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has referred to the speed with which legislation is passed through this chamber. The ministerial caucus stamp is placed on a bill, and we are told that' there is to be no amendment of it. This legislation is important to the welfare- of a large number of men. Approximately 40,000 members of the Royal Australian Air Force were technicians.

Mr Bryson - A large number of them are members of the engineering unions to-day.

Mr WHITE - Perhaps they are. But a large number of them will not be admitted to those unions. They are ' labelled probationers and trainees.

Mr Bryson - When they become proficient in their trades, they will be recognized tradesmen.

Mr WHITE - The honorable member for Fawkner has moved for the representation of ex-servicemen on the committees. To deny that measure of justice is to exhibit bias against the exservicemen. I urge the Minister to place that provision in the bill.

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