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Thursday, 18 November 1976

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) -Tonight I welcome the opportunity to raise with the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), who with characteristic courtesy is in the House as a result of my advising him that I would raise these matters, the rights of serving members of the defence forces to participate in political parties. I understand from the complaints I receive, often from various sources, that with varying degrees of strictness the armed Services discourage members from participation as active members of political parties. My experience locally- that is Ipswich where the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley functions- is that there is no impediment, at least of which I am aware, placed in the way of armed Service personnel. I would hate my query which I am raising to be interpreted as some sort of criticism of the officer in command of that base. Queries come to me frequently, because of my responsibility to speak for the Opposition on defence matters, largely through correspondence. Lately I have been receiving communications from the Canberra city branch of the Australian Labor Party on this issue.

Very shortly, my request to the Minister is: Can he give some sort of an indication as to the position and his thinking about the rights of serving members of the armed Services to have membership and participate actively in political parties. I think it undesirable that any person in a democratic society be denied that basic right. I accept the principle, however, that a distinction must be made between the role of Sergeant Bloggs, Petty Officer Smith, or Flight Sergeant Innes on the one hand and their role as Mr Bloggs, Mr Smith, or Mr Innes on the other hand. Will the Minister be kind enough to consider this matter.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! It being 11 o'clock, the debate is interrupted. Does the Minister wish to extend the debate?

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