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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 545

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I direct my question to the Minister for the Army. Does he recall that during early November 1972 the then Leader of the Opposition and he authorised the Australian Labor Party candidate for the seat of Herbert in Queensland to announce the major policy declaration that an ALP government would station an extra battalion of the Australian Army in Townsville and thus raise the strength of Laverack Barracks to 4 battalions? Will the Minister assure the House that the much publicised promise was not an unworthy election gimmick and that the Government will not in any circumstances renege on the undertaking? Finally, if the Prime Minister and he are men of their word will he inform the House when the transfer of Army personnel to Townsville is likely to eventuate?

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) (Minister for Defence) - The honourable member has drawn attention to a statement which apparently appeared during the last election campaign. As the spokesman for defence at that time, I personally gave no such direction myself.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - That is lovely.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member has asked his question. The Minister should be allowed to answer it.

Mr BARNARD - I made no such statement myself, but what I want to point out to the honourable member is that at the moment a full investigation is being made into the strength and structure of the armed forces in Australia and I hope to be in a position to make a statement about this matter in the very near future. In matters relating to the disposition of the armed forces I believe that some changes should be made.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Such as another battalion for Townsville?

Mr BARNARD - I am not suggesting at this stage there will be any alteration to the size of the force in Townsville. The matter that the honourable member has raised will certainly be considered along with other matters, as I have indicated to the House on another occasion, and a full statement in relation to these matters will be made as soon as possible.

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