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Thursday, 26 June 1941

Senator BRAND (Victoria) .- It is in no spirit" of carping, criticism . tha t I refer to some matters connected with Australia's Avar effort. In. these anxious times criticism is only permissible if an improvement be sought. Many employees at the munition factories near Melbourne are concerned at the slowness- of output from these factories. I do not know whether the cause is the inclination of some employees to ease down, the lack of machine tools or a temporary shortage of essential raw material; it, perhaps, is a combination of all three. It would he ungenerous not to give credit to the responsible Minister, the Director-General of Munitions and his associates for the progress made in the herculean task set them shortly after the outbreak of war. Australia has cause to be proud of them and the "overall" army, but the time has arrived when we should cease patting ourselves on the back for what has been accomplished in the production of war equipment, and cone :n tra te on a "flatout " effort, brushing aside all obstacles to that end. The. Government has the power and should use it ruthlessly.

Many times in this chamber I have advocated a fully equipped army of 400,000 men plus a powerful air force for Australia's defence. The war has now been in progress for 21 months, and the objective has not yet, been reached. Setting aside the protection of the Navy, which has a specific role to fill, I liken the defence of this country to the letter Y. one fork being in the Middle East, the other in the Near East, and the stem, thicker and sturdier, in Australia. I. include in the general term " army " the air force, as it was included in the last war. The air force is as much a part of the land forces as are tanks, armoured cars_ and artillery. Apparently no difficulty exists in the recruiting of personnel for the Royal Australian Air Force. whereas the Army, both at home and overseas, is scarching for men. The reason is not an insufficiency of man-power, because thousands are looking on when a man's job awaits them. The Government must accept share of the blame for the stalemate. In his broadcast speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) forecast an improvement. From time to time Government, spokesmen give the impression that men do not matter, and that equipment and more equipment are paramount. None but a fool would minimize the importance of adequate equipment, but the provision and development of both equipment and men must take place side by side. We were driven from Crete not only because we lacked equipment, but also because of lack of men and air co-operation. In the circumstances, air co-operation was impossible, and before this war is won there will be more occa- 910ns when air protection will not be forthcoming. Superiority of fighting equipment did not drive our splendid troops to the evacuation beaches, it was the constant stream of airborne enemy troops which overwhelmed General Freyberg's men. Numbers of trained and well-equipped men are essential when an important, objective has to be attained or a vital locality held. Brigadier Inglis, who was General Freyberg's right-hand man in the defence of Crete, is now in London hammering that home to the authorities. But are we never to learn the lesson? Amidst all the clamour for war equipment, no emphasis is placed on the necessity to maintain the Australian Imperial Force abroad at full strength. Of what good, is equipment if battalions are so reduced in numbers and so exhausted by doing, double duty that they cannot effectively use that equipment?" Australia must back up the Australian Imperial Force with men as well as with equipment. The diggers of 1941 must not be put in the same position as the diggers of 1918 of looking over a. shoulder and saying, " When will they come, where are they?" The men who brought the German panzer divisions in Greece to a standstill, who sank the Italian cruiser BartolomeoCollconi, who are bringing the Nazi airmen down to earth, and who are defying the Germans to take Tobruk, arc the real defenders of our democracy. Some people in this country who have an anti-British outlook read of the Crete campaign and immediately claimed that it was another Gallipoli in which the British had given the Anzacs the brunt of the work. To such people I point out that during the eight months of the Gallipoli campaign the Australian Imperial Force lost 26,094 men killed and wounded, whilst the British lost 119,696. Those are official figures and may be found on page 4.04, Vol. II. of Dr. C. E. W. Bean's Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18. They should silence some of those croakers whose whisperings are having a prejudicial effect on Australian Imperial Force recruiting. If I were asked for some of the reasons for the stalemate in recruiting for the Australian

Imperial Force, I should say, first, that the constant placing on a pedestal of the " 6ver-a.ll army" whose job, important though it may be, is a sinecure compared with that of the sailors, soldiers, airmen. and merchant seamen overseas, is having an adverse effect. Secondly, crowds of men of military age are employed in the Defence Department and in the Public .Service generally. A ruthless combing out must be undertaken sooner or later. With the situation overseas so desperate, the feelings of no one can be spared. Prospective recruits ask themselves, " Why should I risk my life when these eligible men are in cushy jobs for the duration?" Thirdly, there has been delay on the part of the Government in amending the Commonwealth Public Service Act to extend to returned soldiers preference to cover the present war. The men now serving in the forces are not concerned so much with the rate of pay which they are receiving as with. obtaining an assurance that when they return some permanent occupation will bc open to them. I was pleased to hear from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Collett), who, incidentally, we are all pleased to hear has been given full ministerial rank, that the Repatriation Department has been able to place in employment the majority of soldiers now returning from overseas. ' I should like to know, however, whether those positions are permanent. I am inclined to doubt it. Provision should be made in the Commonwealth Public Service Act to make it obligatory for the Commonwealth Public Service Board to give priority in permanent status to the young men who are now making such heavy sacrifices. No more permanent appointments should be made until the termination of the war, and young men who are now consolidating their positions in Government departments should be told that their appointments are only temporary. Lastly, there is the rate of pay of men in the lower ranks of the services. The men now overseas are serving not so much for the pay as the cause, but eligible recruits are hanging back because the Australian Imperial Force rate of pay has not risen equivalently with the wages in Australia. The soldiers have no unions to plead and fight their cases for them. It is up to the Government to revise the Australian Imperial Force rates of pay. I am the treasurer of a fund known as the Returned Soldiers League War Service Fund and occasionally we have to pay; out £3 or £4 - in one case it was £10 - to the mother or wife of a man who is overseas, in order to make sure that the rent is paid. We should not have to do that. It is no use shutting our eyes to the fact that recruiting has not been satisfactory during the past few months. Perhaps the Prime Minister's broadcast dealing with the desperate situation overseas and the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that operations in the Middle East are of vital importance to Australia's safety, might induce some eligible young men to realize their responsibilities. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to tell me who is the officer at Army head-quarters who has advised the Minister that an exAustralian Imperial. Force officer who is a little more than 50 years of age has no place in Australia's defence scheme. Such an officer might be too old for the Australian Imperial Force or the Militia, but. surely a useful task can be found for him. .Shortly after the outbreak of war, many middle-aged officers and non-commissioned officers were called up ostensibly for the duration of the war. They sold their businesses or arranged for them to bo carried on in their absence, but about a month ago, they were sent polite letters stating that their services were no longer required. They wanted younger men. That ' is a waste of good man-power, and I suggest to the Minister that the capabilities of every applicant should be fully considered. I am not talking now of the misfits or square pegs in round holes. I am talking of capable men whose services should be used to the limit.

I am glad to see that the Minister has called for a report on the conditions of certain garrison units which are scattered all over Australia. Some of them comprise only 10, 20 or perhaps 30 men. They are living under conditions which can hardly be regarded as satisfactory. An unlined hut with a small brazier or oil stove might have been all right on the western front during the last war when nothing could be done about it, but here in Australia, thesemiddle-aged men who are doing a good job and will' be doing it for the duration, of the war, are entitled to the same accommodation as is provided for the Militia or Australian Imperial Force in the bigger camps. I hope that the Ministerwilllookinto that matter and. "tick off" whoever has been responsible for failing to provide better conditions for these men.

There is a rising tide of public opinion in favour of the appointment of a commander-in-chief of Australia's home defence army - a man with the Monash drive and imagination, who could gather together the more orlessisolated commands and divisions, complete their training, and so make them readytotakethe field. He should be provided with a staff thoroughly acquainted with their duties. Divisions and commands are at present under the control of the Military Board. I know the multitudinous nature ofthe duties which fall upon that body. So far, they have done splendid work; but they have not the personal touch so necessary in welding an army into an efficient fighting force. I should say, too, that the Royal Australian Air Force should be brought under the control of this commander-in-chief. We should then be assured of co-operation between the two services should trouble come nearer to our shores. We do not want a repetition of the lack of co-operation' demonstrated in the Middle East. I suggest that the Government recall LieutenantGeneral Sir Thomas Blarney to take up this duty. Hehas first-hand knowledge of modern war technique. His duties as General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East could easily be taken over by either General Mackay or General Lavarack. He has a command which I regard as superfluous at the present time, that of. Deputy CommanderinChief of the forces inthe Middle East. He could be far better employed in gathering together the different sections of a home defence army. The Government should not leave the matter in abeyance until trouble is upon us. There are no declarations of war in these days, and the Government should not. be caught napping. I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) will be disposed to take some little notice of these observations.

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