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Thursday, 1 July 1937

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for External Affairs) [5.12]. - I move -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

As I promised honorable senators, I submitted the points raised by them during the debate on the Supply Bill to the Ministers responsible, but I have not received replies to all of them. However, I have received a reply from the Acting Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) to representations made by Senator Collett regarding enforced leave taken by members of the permanent Military Forces in 1930 and 1931.. The reply is as follows : -

I have made inquiries into this question, and I find that the introduction of enforced leave without pay for members of the permanent Military Forces in 1930-31 was an immediate consequence of the heavy reduction in the Defence allotment which followed upon the acute difficulty in Government finance which was felt at that time. All the services and branches of the departments were obliged substantially to curtail expenditure, the effects of which were reflected in considerable reductions of personnel strength of all branches. In adopting the system of enforced leave without pay for the Army, the Government of the day acted upon the recommendation of the Military Board which considered that this method was preferable, in the circumstances obtaining at the time, to the alternative of retrenchment, a course which was followed in the Navy andother branches.

Thu Government endorsed the principle that any savings effected in any branch of the department might be applied to the reduction of the period of enforced leave without pay. The procedure dictated by administrative consideration was to make a review of the estimated expenditure at the beginning of each quarter, mid to determine the amount of enforced leave to be taken in the light of the savings in prospect. As a result nf this, ail personnel in receipt of less than £2G0 per annum were exempt from further leave after the second quarter, and enforced leave for everybody was discontinued after the third quarter.

The restriction upon engagement in outside employment by members of the permanent Forces during the period of enforced leave was consistent with the maintenance of their status mid service as members of the Forces, which, of course, was the underlying principle of thi; scheme. lt is a matter for regret that the exigencies nf the financial position in 11)30-31 necessitated such heavy sacrifices by the personnel of thu service, but as the decision of the Government was applied in the manner laid down at thu time, there would not appear to bc any grounds for reviewing it now. If the matter were reopened, far-reaching effects would probably bc also involved in respect of the alternative measures which were taken in the other services and branches to effect reductions in their personnel.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 5.1S p.m. till a day and hour to l>o fixed by the President.

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