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Tuesday, 16 November 1976

Mr HOLTEN (INDI, VICTORIA) -Mr Hayden went on to say: .

I will adjourn the debate in a moment, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to observe merely that even corporalshave their time.

I cannot quite follow that. I am pleased, as an exmember of the Royal Australian Air Force and having had some association with the women to whom this amendment refers, namely, the members of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service and the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force- who were known, of course, as the WAAFs- to support the amendment. I realise that time is precious and that this Bill is required to be passed tonight. But I want to say a few words along the lines that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) followed when he introduced the Bill on 26 August.

I am pleased to support the amendment that the Minister presented to the House on that occasion. Briefly, the amendment means that former members of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service and the WAAFs will be eligible for assistance under the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans' Residence Act of 1953. It would be fair to say that this amendment is long overdue and is a belated recognition of the very important part played by members of the RAAF Nursing Service and the WAAF. However, I guess it is better late than never. It could be said to be an enlightened recognition of the equality of women in the Services.

I am prompted to reminisce, as did the Minister, but due to the limited time available it will not be possible to reminisce about the 5 years I spent in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. During this time I had contact with members of the nursing service and the WAAF as they performed their duties. I speak from personal experience when I say that these women played a very valuable part during the Second World War and they shared with the servicemen the dangers, the hardships, the long hours, the varying degrees of comfort and fluctuating weather conditions. I can see the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr

Graham) a distinguished former member of the Air Force, nodding in agreement.

In addition, of course, the women shared the food which, for the most part, was prepared and presented by the kitchen staff as well as possible. But I can assure honourable members that it was of a standard which would have caused many complaints to be made, as you would know, Mr Speaker, if served in the dining rooms of this Parliament. I wager that the ex-servicemen in this House will never forget 2 very regular delicacies that were served up by the women in the kitchen, namely M and V, otherwise known as meat and vegetables and goldfish, otherwise known as herrings. They were part of a staple diet that we all enjoyed very much over the years that we spent in the Services.

In conclusion, I say quite seriously that the women to whom this amendment refers played a magnificent part in all the ways I have mentioned. I have not mentioned the care of people wounded in combat or as a result of combat for whom the women of the nursing service were responsible. They played a magnificent part in all the ways I have mentioned and in some ways I have not been able to mention because of the lack of time. They fully deserve to be eligible for assistance under the provisions of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans' Residence Act. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment.

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