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Thursday, 11 June 1970

Mr MARTIN (Banks) - I wish to raise a grave issue which, if it is indicative of how young men are treated in the Services, merits full investigation. If the facts that I will mention are indicative of the general situation is it any wonder that there is dissatisfaction in the Services? This is a blatant case of a denial of natural justice. I refer to the case of Aircraftsman Glen Allan Piper who on 21st March 1969 at 17} years of age enlisted and signed on voluntarily for 6 years service in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was so keen to enlist that he even concealed a ruptured spleen that he had as a young lad and with which he is still troubled. His present age is 18£. He is presently serving detention of 28 days at Holsworthy. He is the youngest man in Holsworthy. He is a shade older than my second son.

Let me recount his history. On enlistment he was sent to Point Cook for his initial training as a fireman in the rescue squad. During the course of that training he was hit by the metal section of a fire hose. He was admitted to hospital and was prescribed sleeping tablets by the medical officer. After he was discharged from the hospital he took them and he overslept. He was caught 3 hours late on duty by the Service police. He was charged and sentenced to 3 days confinement to barracks. Subsequently this young lad of 18 years of age went to Williamtown with the rescue squad. Part of his duties involved rescuing or attempting to rescue pilots from crashed planes. On one occasion a pilot tried to eject from a Sabre jet. He was ejected but his parachute did not open and he fell straight into the ground. This young lad of 18 had to pick him up. The pilot was just like a lump of jelly, with every bone in his body broken. What effect must that have had on an 18-year-old?

He applied for discharge in the formal manner on 2 separate occaions. Even at Point Cook he applied for a discharge. This was recommended by his warrant officer but his application for discharge was ripped up in front of him and thrown into the waste paper basket. Further applications for discharge were dealt with in a similar summary fashion. This young lad reached the stage where he could not stand it any more. He was almost broken mentally and physically. He went absent without leave for 7 weeks. He went to his father in New Guinea. His father is a senior officer in the Public Service of New Guinea; he is third in charge of his department. He is a man I know well and respect. After 7 weeks in New Guinea there were family consultations about the boy surrendering and trying to get back on a proper keel in the Services. In my view at that time the lad, psychiatrically, should not have been allowed back, but they went to see a Wing Commander Carter, the resident Royal Australian Air Force officer in New Guinea who told them that in his opinion the boy would be dealt with sympathetically by his commanding officer and not sentenced to Holsworthy. But what happened? The boy surrendered voluntarily at 7 a.m. on 28th May on this advice and on the advice of a padre. He was taken back to Townsville by RAAF plane with 2 flight sergeants of the Service Police. Let me tell honourable members in the boy's own words what happened to him at Townsville. He said:

At the moment I am in gaol. No open arrest like they promised.

This was a reference to Wing Commander Carter's advice. He continued:

I have to sit in this gaol for 3 days. Next time listen to me Dad.

This was the young lad writing to his father. He continued:

I think you have no chance in the world of getting me out of this outfit. So far they have just treated me like a wanted criminal.

He continues - and this shows his state of mind:

They would nol even give me a biro in case I might stab someone, and then they wonder why people get their back up against the RAAF.

I ask the honourable members to pay attention to his next statement. He said:

Last night I hardly got any sleep as they would not turn the light off in the cell all night.

Last Saturday afternoon i interviewed him at Holsworthy and checked this out thoroughly. He asked for the light to be turned off but they gave him the light on treatment similar to the cold water treatment. This was the Townsville incident.

I refer now to his treatment at Williamtown. He arrived at Williamtown on a Friday afternoon. What did they do to him? They locked him in a cell and left him there all night with a minimum of blankets. On Saturday they left him in the cell all day. He had no exercise and was not let out for 5 seconds. On Sunday they let him out for 20 minutes exercise. On Monday he remained in the cell until 3 p.m. when he was marched before the commanding officer of the Williamtown base. Group Captain Meldrum. He was marched in under an escort led by Warrant Officer Stibbard.

This lad had been told that the hearing would not take place until Wednesday but on Monday he was marched in to the commanding officer and found that it was the real thing. He had a five minute hearing and was sentenced to 28 days' detention - the maximum the commanding officer could impose. Legally it is doubtful that an Air Force commanding officer can impose the maximum sentence. In the army 7 days is the maximum sentence a CO. can impose. Later this lad was subjected to further humiliation. While he was away his kit was stolen and after sentence a Warrant Officer Stibbard demanded SIO of the money that had been filched from him when he was first put in the cells. The reason given by Warrant Officer Stibbard was that the money was for three pairs of R.A.A.F. socks and that there were no Service socks on the base. What rot! Further humiliation occurred at the public post office when this lad was ringing his father in New Guinea to tell him that he had been sentenced. He was further humiliated when they made him give them $6 to buy a pair of service boots to wear to Holsworthy.

This lad was keen to enlist in the Air Force, lt is any wonder that now he is keen to get out? I have in front of me a letter from the lad's father who has asked me to do anything I can to get this lad out. This morning I received a telegram from the father, who is in Port Moresby. The telegram reads, 'Advised late Wednesday that Glen was admitted to Ingleburn Military Hospital last Monday.' This lad was admitted to Ingleburn Military Hospital after I saw him on Saturday. Why, 1 do now know. I demand of the Minister that this matter should be fully investigated. The whole facts should hit the light of day. This lad should be examined by a psychiatrist before he is completely ruined. He is almost ruined mentally now. Will this lad have to be broken down completely before anything is done for him? Have we reached such a low ebb? Is that the way our Services should be run? To my mind it is not.

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