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Thursday, 29 September 1955

Mr McCOLM (Bowman) .- Mr. Temporary Chairman. [Quorum formed.^The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to the difficulty encountered by some service personnel in obtaining discharges on compassionate grounds, even though they have been in the services for some time. I take it that the honorable member meant that the service departments should grant discharges on compassionate grounds more freely than they do. I think it is very important for any service to protect its interests, particularly when, as to-day, there are greater financial attractions outside the services than inside. After all, a serviceman undertakes to serve for a specific period, on certain conditions which he knows and understands at the time of enlistment. No business could function properly unless it knew with some degree of certainty that it would have men when it required them. We know that some departments of the services, particularly the technical departments, are finding it very difficult to get the man-power that they require.

I have come across quite a number of unfortunate cases. In the great majority of instances, the men have received sym pathetic consideration from the Minister concerned. I know that the discharges were granted when that could be done without placing the services concerned under a great disadvantage. There are some men in key positions who can cause great inconvenience to a service if they leave the job for which they have been trained. We must not forget that it costs a great deal of money to train a man to be a skilled tradesman, nor must we forget that, in a considerable number of cases, the whole cost of the training is borne by the services concerned.

I think that, on the whole, the services act quite fairly in this matter, although, as I have said, I have come across one or two unfortunate cases. There is one about which I am still a little concerned. A man applied on three occasions, I understand, for a discharge from the Royal Australian Navy on compassionate grounds, and on each occasion his application was rejected. I am relating the supposed facts as they were presented to me. On the 10th November of last year, having received notification that his third application for discharge had been rejected, he made the very foolish mistake of " shooting through ". Subsequently, on the 17th November, as the result of a separate application made by his wife, his discharge was granted and his ship was duly notified. That was seven days after, technically speaking or factually speaking, he had deserted. When he heard that his discharge had been granted, he gave himself up.

He had two good conduct badges. He had been in the service for nearly nine years. He had joined in waT-time and had stayed on. One of his good conduct badges was taken away from him, and he was left with one. He was sentenced to 21 days' confinement, which he served. If I remember rightly, the sentence expired on the 5th January and he was discharged on the 6th January.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Will the honorable member, link his remarks with the Estimates that we are discussing?

Mr McCOLM - My remarks are directly relevant to a matter that was raised only a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Port Adelaide.

The position that arose was that the man was told that he had forfeited well over £200 deferred pay, although he still had a good conduct badge and although his discharge papers made no mention of a dishonorable discharge. I understand that, technically speaking, he became a deserter after having been absent from his ship for more than 24 hours. I believe that that rendered him liable to the forfeiture of his deferred pay. But it strikes me as very strange that a man who has one good conduct badge, who has served a sentence of 21 days' confinement and whose discharge has been granted after having been rejected three times, should lose over £200 in deferred pay. I mention this case because it is the type of case to which the honorable member for Port Adelaide referred.

Mr Thompson - - As affecting recruiting.

Mr McCOLM - It has some effect on recruiting.

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