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Tuesday, 21 August 1973
Page: 178


Mr KERIN (Macarthur) -I would like to say at the outset that I resent the implications made by the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) that the proposals under this

Bill represented bribes. I think that these implications parallel the insults he has already served on many officers in the armed forces and the insults in his recent speech of 30 May when he implied that the Defence Forces Development Committee was currying favour with the Government. He referred to the members of this Committee as the Secretary of the Department of Defence,2 sailors,1 airman and1 solitary soldier. I am sure that people in the armed Services do not like such insults being poured on them. The honourable member for Barker and all other members of the Opposition still have an ideological commitment to conscription. The honourable member for Barker quoted freely in a previous speech on this matter, now I should like to quote from his speech to the Returned Services League National Congress in Hobart which was held just before the previous Government introduced conscription in 1964. In speaking on the purely military disadvantages of conscription, the honourable member for Barker said:

First, even a scheme which provides for a 2-year period of service does not provide the people we most need, that is, experienced officers, NCOs and specialists. These are the people we are short of now. The deficiency would be even greater if conscription were introduced. Secondly, conscription is wasteful in the sense that you only get about 1 8 months service out of each person you train compared with5.5 years service from most regulars. Thirdly, conscription would have a marked effect on the efficiency and availability of the field force. This is partly because scarce officers and NCOs would be required to train conscripts and partly because of the frequent turnover in the personnel of field force units which contained conscripts. An army composed entirely of long term volunteers is a better one than one based on a mixture of volunteers and conscripts.

That speech was made in 1 964, and of course I concede that any man of substance may change his views in time. My electorate includes many serving members of the armed forces, particularly the Fleet Air Arm and the Army, and it gives me considerable pleasure to be able to commend this Bill to the House. I will not say much by way of explanation of the benefits to be conferred on servicemen because the second reading speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr Barnard) made these clear and straight forward. I do not regard the proposals as being incentives or bribes, as they have been described, so much as a measure of compensation and justice. During the recess I was privileged to engage in a tour of Service establishments with my colleagues on the Government's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. We saw training establishments for the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force, and active bases of the 3 Services. We were impressed by the dedication exhibited by officers and men and, where equipment was up to date, a large measure of job satisfaction. However, I was concerned by some of the problems posed by condi- tions of service, particularlywith regard to amenities such as housing. World War II huts still suffice as buildings in too many establishments and it is obvious that many decisions regarding building programs have been put off for too long. Married men and their wives and children face disadvantages with respect to housing, education and shifting of postings. There is a general backlog in the provision of married quarters at some bases. The disadvantages faced by servicemen and their families are not widely enough appreciated. As a result of the tour, the Committee has raised many matters with the Minister. As the benefits to be made available were already allowed for national servicemen it seems to me that in some ways this Bill merely corrects an anomalous situation. It has certainly been so regarded by many servicemen in my electorate of Macarthur.

In the Minister's second reading speech mention was made of the $1,000 re-engagement bounty. This matter was largely covered by regulation, and there has been some dissension among members of the Navy as the bounty is available to them after 6 years with subsequent re-engagement being for 6 years, whereas the reengagement period for the Army is only 3 years. As the re-engagement bounty is a once only payment, there seems to be no way of avoiding this situation. It is regrettable that there seems to be a higher resignation rate in the Army during peace time owing to a somewhat natural decline in job satisfaction, particularly among professional positions in the Army. One advanced policy enunciated in the Minister's second reading speech concerned war service homes benefits for men who were continuing in service, given that they were committed to serving beyond 3 years initial service.

The establishment of an additional training scheme to be known as the Former Regular Servicemen Vocational Training Scheme will be of benefit to people wishing to re-establish themselves with a greater degree of security. Many serving members at present do not re-enlist because they are concerned about their situation in civilian life if they remain in the Services for too many years. Trainees who will be eligible for these benefits and who commenced training on or after 7 December 1972 will be able to claim the benefits which this scheme will provide.

Part IV of the Defence Re-establishment Act is very wide in its application, and this is desirable as it enables the Minister to make arrangements for post-discharge vocational training where it is considered necessary or desirable for effective re-establishment. I am of the opinion that greater consideration should be given to serving professional officers in specific disciplines, such as engineers, so that they may have easier access to educational institutions for their further education whilst serving.

Although the $6,000 for agricultural loans and $3,000 for business loans will not enable men to buy a farm or business, these loans certainly will be of value in buying into existing operations and, again, could provide some compensationnot a bribe- for any disadvantage servicemen may suffer during their period of service. Provisions in this Bill delete means test provisions for regular servicemen where the Social Services Act 1947-1973 already applies to national servicemen under the existing Defence Re-establishment Act. Although the means test provision of the Social Services Act will still apply to former national servicemen, pursuant to Part V of the Defence Re-establishment Act, it is not considered that this will disadvantage former national servicemen in practice. In the first place, the few persons eligible for benefits under Part V and Part V/A of the Defence Re-establishment Act will almost invariably be eligible for invalid benefits available under other legislation anyway. Secondly, a person would have to have quite substantial means before he would be subject to a means test, and I am advised that no such case has occurred. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.







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