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Tuesday, 9 October 1956

Mr DEAN (Robertson) .- The first thing on which I wish to touch, in a brief discussion of the proposed votes with which we are dealing, refers to the defence personnel who are engaged on several projects within Australia, namely those at Maralinga and Woomera. Whilst I realize that i he main debate on these matters will take place when the committee is considering the proposed vote of the Department of Supply, 1 think that this may be an appropriate time to mention the work being done on those two projects by members of the three defence services.

J was one of those honorable members who had a most interesting opportunity to visit Maralinga and Woomera last week as members of a parliamentary delegation. Apart from the technical interest of the explanations that were given to us, I think my main impression, after having had the opportunity to sort out my ideas, is of the dedication of self that is apparent in all the people engaged in the projects. This applies to the service personnel as well as 10 the scientists who are there. I was impressed by their complete personal identification with, and belief in the importance of, the job they are carrying out at the establishments at Maralinga and Woomera, and by their belief that by doing the best they can in the fields in which they are working they are indeed helping to prevent a war throughout the world. I think that that is the motivating force behind all the work they are doing there. So I am taking the opportunity afforded by this debate to pay tribute to the people who are doing that work in that remote region of Australia.

The second thing that I wish to discuss concerns the three service Ministers - the Minister for the Navy (Senator O'sullivan), the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley). I hope that an opportunity will be given to honorable members to visit the various establishments of the three services and see members of the services engaged in training and at work. In expressing that hope I realize that it is far easier for honorable members to visit Army establishments than it is for them to visit Air Force and naval establishments. But I remind the Ministers concerned that the former Minister for the Navy provided an opportunity for honorable members from both sides of the chamber to witness Operation Shop Window, which the Navy staged in December. 1954. That was a most interesting experience for those who had the opportunity of heinwith the Navy on that occasion, and I think it gave the honorable members concerned a background knowledge that they would not otherwise have had an opportunity to gain. Prior to that honorable members were invited to Fairbairn aerodrome for Operation Potshot, and the knowledge they gained and the demonstrations they saw were once again of great advantage to them. It is possible for honorable members to visit the various Army camps in their own districts, and I suggest that they take an interest in the work of the personnel, especially that of national service trainees undergoing their initial training of three months in camp. This interest would encourage those who take part in these camps, and it would be good for honorable members to see the work and the training.

I should like again to bring to the attention of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) the representations made by a number of honorable members on both sides of the chamber that the pay of civilian personnel assisting in training should not be included in income for taxation purposes. This request has been made to the Treasury on various occasions, but so far as I know it has not yet been acceded to. I think it is necessary for honorable members to support the request, because the personnel concerned give a great deal of their time assisting in training others. Certainly they are paid for it, but, after meeting necessary expenses, they have nothing left out of that pay. Indeed, many of them suffer financial loss. The individual contribution towards Australia's defence made by each of these officers, non-commissioned officers, and men is considerable, and I believe we should encourage them in their work and see to ii that they do not suffer financial loss as a result. Those to whom I refer are the members of the Naval Reserve, Citizen Military Forces, the Citizen Air Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force Active Reserve.

I should like to conclude my remarks by mentioning an entirely domestic matter. I see by the smile on the face of my friend and colleague, the Minister for the Army, who is at the table, that he knows at once that I am about to refer to the need for a new army drill hall at Gosford, in New South Wales. I do not wish to go into the details now. but merely to summarize the position. At the present time responsibility for the central coastal area of New South Wales from the north shore in Sydney northwards rests with the composite 17/ 18th Battalion. Owing to the distribution of the population, B company - or Baker company, in service parlance - which has its head-quarters at Gosford, is considerably over strength. The Minister and his predecessor have helped in the past by obtaining for the company an old staff establishment that was used by the New South Wales Department of Railways, but this is entirely inadequate for a company head-quarters, and even more inadequate for a battalion head-quarters, which we hope the Gosford establishment will become in the very near future. It seems to me as an observer that the number of trainees being drawn from the Gosford area is so great that the 18th Battalion will again become a separate entity, as it was before the 1939-45 war. The action taken to make a head-quarters area available is appreciated, but the establishment provided is totally inadequate. There is no store in which security stores may be kept. As a consequence, on every training night and whenever week-end camps are held, all arms and security stores have to be obtained from the composite battalion's head-quarters at Chatswood, in Sydney. This makes training and administration very difficult. Provision has been made in the Estimates in the last two financial years for the construction of a new drill hall at Gosford, and I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity, now that I have reminded him again, of examining the detailed representations I have made in the past in order to ascertain whether it can now be provided;

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