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Thursday, 26 June 1941

Senator AMOUR (New South. Wales) . - I listened with interest to Senator Brand and I am confident that he at least understands the position. That is understandable in view of the worthy part that he played in the last war. The honorable senator who wanted to know what is wrong with recruiting, suggested as a solution the application of economic conscription to Commonwealth public servants. Apparently the idea is that employees- of the Commonwealth Public Service should be informed that their jobs are only temporary, regardless of the good service they have rendered and are still rendering to the Commonwealth. In other words they are to be marked down for slaughter or their jobs will be taken away from them. Apparently Senator Brand and the Government do not appreciate fully the real cause of the decline in recruiting. If there has been a lag in recruiting the Government is entirely responsible for it. Some years ago in New South Wales there was formed what was known as the New Guard. That body set itself up in the form of a Fascist orNazi organization. Its members believed that Hitler was the only man who could do any good for the world. The head man of the New Guard - the man who made all the bullets fired by Eric Campbell - is now the Director-General of Recruiting, Major-General H. W. Lloyd. The fanatic who wanted to upset constitutional government inNew South Wales ; the man who created a sensation by cutting the ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and was placed in an asylum for his stupidity,De Groote, is now advising the Government in regard to itsmilitary transport system. The workers of Australia remember these people and always will remember them. Theybelieve; as I do, that should Hitler win this war, he would not send Germansheretorun the country, but would- establish a. puppet government consisting of the Lloyds, De Grootes and Campbells in this country. As I said some time ago, the right place for these people is in an internment camp, and not in our military system. Until tlie Government is prepared to remedytlie present state of a iia i rs, the working people cannot be expected to offer their services. We on this side of the chamber arc well aware that there is a lag in recruiting; the Government has admitted it. What else could be expected in view of the fact that our troops in Greece and Crete were not fully equipped? 'We know that they had no equipment for the first six months of their stay in Palestine. They fought the campaign right through Libya to Benghazi with equipment supplied by the British Government, but, in the face of a swift thrust by the Italian and German forces, that territory was lost. Then our forces went to Greece without full equipment. Every man on the . Government side of the chamber knows that.

Senator Collett - What foundation has the honorable senator for that statement ?

Senator AMOUR - The Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) said so, and the newspapers have said so. The point I wish to make is that despite the fact that our soldiers have been fighting with inferior equipment, there has been a hold-up of the supply of material for the manufacture of arms and munitions. There has been a shortage of aluminium for the building of aeroplanes, yet those in charge of our war effort are apparently prepared to allow the Main Roads" Board of New South Wales to pack the edges of its bitumen roads with bauxite, the Ore from which aluminium is produced. No attempt was made by the Government to increase the rate of production of war equipment until pressure was brought to bear upon it. by the Advisory War Council and members of the Labour party in the House of Representatives. It had not built, or even planned to build, a single tank, although the tank is one of the most important items of military equipment required in this war. The Government has fallen down on its job and has failed to direct the war effort in a proper manner, lt, has depended upon Mr. Essington Lewis, Mr. Thorpe and others of their kind to carry on, and they have not done a very good job. I trust, that the newly appointed. Ministers will make prompt decisions and put them into effect so that the welfare of the diggers will be promoted as Senator Brand has requested. In the interests of recruiting the Government should change its attitude towards members of our armed forces. I have here the case of a. man named Dunstan who served in the war of 1914-18. It was brought to my notice by Lieutenant-Colonel F. S. McClean, who was an artillery officer in the last war. The Repatriation Commissioner refused Dunstan's application for a military pension, whereupon he wrote to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Collett). Some time later the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) forwarded to him a letter from Senator Collett, dated the 12th June, 1941, which stated, inter alia -

The tribunal acts quite independently of the commission and was appointed by the Government at the request of returned men themselves for the purpose of finally deciding appeals relating to rejected claims. It is not subject to Ministerial direction, and consequently I cannot interfere with the decision arrived at in the case of Mr. Dunstan.

When Dunstan returned from the war of 1914-18 he was operated upon by Sir Herbert Maitland. Dr. Burton Bradley wrote about Dunstan's case as follows : - lie Dunstan. My contention is that the operation done in 1U19 was performed as a military act; therefore all consequences thereto are bound up with that initial action and the department must admit liability.

Dr. Poate,who has performed major surgical operations on many returned soldiers, made the following statement to Dunstan :-

You should soc the claims officer at the Repatriation Department, explain the circumstances as regards the operation in lilli) and present the copies of X-ray report, also say you have seen mc. They will ask me for a report; then I can substantiate your claim.

Dr. Stormonissued the following certificate: ;

This is to certify that I operated on Mr. E. A. Dunstan on 2nd August, 1940, and found that his illness is due to adhesions resulting from his operation done in 1D19 by Sir Herbert 'Maitland.

At that time Dunstan had returned from abroad, and the operation was performed at the Prince of Wales Military Hospital at Randwick. Because the Repatriation Commission has determined that Dunstan is not entitled to a pension the AttorneyGeneral states that the case is outside of ministerial jurisdiction. The decision should be reviewed because, as LieutenantColonel F. S. McCleanhas said, that sort of treatment, which has been meted out to hundreds of returned soldiers, is detrimental to the Australian Imperial Force recruiting campaign.

SenatorCollett. - Has not the case been reviewed?

Senator AMOUR - No.

Senator Collett - Has not the man appealed ?

Senator AMOUR - No.

SenatorCollett. - He has the right to appeal.

Senator AMOUR - He was informed that his case was outside of ministerial jurisdiction, and that nothing could be clone for him. Thousands of men who returned from, the war of 1914-18 received a very raw deal.

Senator Collett - That is pure exaggeration.

Senator AMOUR - It is not exaggeration: I myself can produce hundreds of such cases, and the number for the whole Commonwealth must total thousands.

Senator Collett - That statement is like the rest of the honorable senator's statements.

Senator AMOUR - TheGovernment's promises to the returned soldiers have not been kept. I have told the honorable gentleman before what the returned soldiers thinks of this Government. I have before me details of the treatment meted out to Sapper James Clarke, No. NX9187, of the 2/1 Field Company, Engineers'. Clarke left Australia as an expert tradesman, in a railway unit. He served abroad for a considerable time and then became sick-. When he entered hospital he was informed that he was no longer an expert, but an ordinary private, and consequently his pay was reduced from 7s. 9d. a day to 5s. 9d. a day, and the Government claimed from him the sum of £14 for amounts overpaid. According to his fieldcard he was then suffering from dyspepsia. When he returned from abroad he was told that he might apply to the Repatriation Department for a war pension. He lodged an application but received' the following reply from the Repatriation Commission : -

With reference to your claim forpayment of awar pension, you are informed thatthe Repatriation Board has fully considered the application but is unable to accept your condition of Gastritis as being, due to or materially aggravated by your war service. You are therefore ineligible to receive medical or pension benefits in respect thereof, but' if you so desire you may appeal against this decision.

That letter was d ated the 4th April, 1941. He considers that the commission has tricked him, because he was physically fit when he enlisted, as he passed all of the searching medical tests-. He went back to the Railways Department in order to secure his former civil position, but theRailways Commissioner said that because he had enlisted without official permission his job was no longer available to him.. Then he went to the Repatriation. Commission, and claimed thatashe had no job he was entitled to receive sustenance for his wife and three children. He was told that he was not entitled to sustenance because he was receiving a pension of £1 a week for his service in the war of 1914.-18. I feel sick when I hear all this prattle about what the Government is doing for returned soldiers. I have here another case relating to A. Middleton, who served with the Army for eight months. He attended an officers' training school, where the study preyed upon his mind to such a degree that he became mentally deranged. The military authorities sent him to Broughton Hall, but they dischargedhim from the Army before they did so. On the 20th, January of this year, Colonel M. W. Logan, commanding officer of the Details Discharge Depot, wrote to his father inthe following terms: -

With reference to your telephone conversation of to-day, it is regretted that it was found necessary to send Private Middleton to the Reception House. Apparently he is suffering from a, nervous breakdown and is not exactly responsible for what ho says according to the Regimental Medical Officer. He is very worried as to what is going to happen to his wife and children and although he asks that his wife be notified, it would probably be better if you could see her and explain the position. The sum of£116s. is due to him for final pay and this will be held by the Paymaster until 'such time as Private Middleton is lit to receive it.

Middleton had submitted himself to all of the medical tests and had been passed as physically fit. He did not become mentally deranged until after he had entered the officers training school. When this occurred our so-called kindly military system discharged him and disclaimed any further responsibility for him. I ask the Minister to review this case. I understand that shortly after he was admitted to the mental hospital Middleton's promotion to the rank of lieutenant was approved. When he was taken to the hospital at Lewisham he mct Dr. Bond, who was one of the three medical- officers who discharged him. Dr. Bond said : " I am sorry, old man. We thought you were malingering. You are a very sick man. I am sorry that action was taken regarding you." Morally, Middleton still belongs to the military system, and his care should be the responsibility of the Government. I trust that his case will be reconsidered and that his wife, who is receiving only__a food allowance from the State Government, will be provided with the compensation to which she is entitled. Sapper Clarke, to. whom I referred earlier, told me that he could bring twenty cases similar to his own to my attention. I said that one case should be sufficient. I assure the Minister that if justice is not given to these men I shall bring many more cases before the attention of this chamber at an early date.

Another injustice affecting members of the Australian Imperial Force was brought to my notice in a letter which I received from a soldier now serving in Palestine. He complains that the Egyptian Government charges ls. each as postage for letters sent by air mail by members of the Australian Imperial Force. The ordinary charge levied on a field post card is 3d., whereas during the war of 1914-18 soldiers were not required to put stamps on field cards. I ask the Government to rectify this position, and I shall be pleased to hear of the steps that it. proposes to take. I shall not deal further with the deficiencies of our war effort at the present time. I shall wait in order to see what actions are taken by the newly appointed Ministers.

I wish to bring to the notice of the Government once again the case of Cap tain Conway, for nothing has yet been done about it. Honorable senators will remember that a select committee of the Senate recommended that an ex gratia payment of £100 should be made to Captain Conway. When the war broke out Captain Conway offered his services at the Victoria Barracks, but he felt, from the treatment that he received, that he was not wanted. He thereupon wrote to the then Minister for the Army (Mr. Street), who replied to the effect that there was no bias against him and that as soon as a suitable position could be found for him he would be appointed to it. No position has been found. Captain Conway has written to each new Minister for the Army, but, so far, without any success. On one occasion Captain Conway and I interviewed the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), and he said that he considered that Conway ought to receive the £100 which the Senate select committee recommended should be paid to him. We know that later Mr. Spender denied that he had made any such statement. Subsequently, Captain Conway wrote to the Acting Prime Minister and requested that the money should be paid to him. He was told to apply to Mr. Spender for payment and he did so, but without result. Seven Ministers have examined Captain Conway's submissions and always the same story has been told. Captain Conway has been treated in a despicable fashion. Certain charges against him, which appeared in his file, were ordered by General Bruche to be erased, but instead of that being done, four copies of a certain letter were put in different places in his file. Only a thin red line was drawn through the blue printing of the parts of the letter to which objection had been taken. Conway was undoubtedly the subject of a gross libel and, in my opinion, is fully entitled to the ex gratia payment recommended to be made to him. When it assumes office the Labour party will see that justice 13 done in this case.

On the 6th June, 1941, Captain Conway wrote the following letter to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) : -

Dear Sir,

At tlie suggestion of the Treasurer, the Hon. A. W. Fadden, the following is forwarded for your information and consideration.

In your recent letters to the Treasurer and the Hon. J. A. Beasley, you attempt to explain with incredible inconsistency and flagrant falsehood, what the Hon. Allan MacDonald described as the contemptible conduct of the Government which refused to accept a verdict of the Senate in my favour, when, as a Minister, a lieutenant-colonel, and a King's. Counsel, you are expected to respect truth and justice.

You informed Senator S. K. Amour, in my presence, that the Government should comply with the decision of the Senate. Youconveyed the impression to the Hon. Allan MacDonald. that it was the Government and not you that refused' to honour the verdict of the Senate; and you tried to convince the Treasurer and Mr. Beasley. that. I had not suffered any injustice by falsely stating, that my grievance was imaginary.

When Minister, for Defence, the Hon.. J. B. Chifley, investigated my complaint) he found that I had been slandered, and directed that the slanderous statements be expunged from the records, and yet you. falsely say that. I did not suffer any injustice. It would be interesting to know what you call injustice?

Later, the Senate investigated the matter,decided that my services had always been very satisfactory, discovered that the slanderous statements had not been expunged, but had been multiplied, illuminated and distributed in the records, and unanimously agreed that I should receive an appeasement of £100, which the Government declined to pay.

In the face of these facts you sabotage truth and justice in order to defeat the Senate, but truth and justice are not so easily defeated) and I draw your attention to. a statement madein the Senate last August by the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. J. S. Col lings, who said, inter alia, " Conway has provedhis case time after time, and at the first opportunity Labour will see that the verdict of the Senate is fully confirmed".

Copies of this letter are being forwarded to the Hon. J. S: Ceilings, J. A. Beasley, A. W. Fadden, S. K. Amour and to Mr. M.Falstein, M.H.R.

It is clear from that letter than Conway feels that he has been treated most unjustly and that he is very incensed thereby. Surely it should be possible to find a position for this man who did meritorious service for the country during the lastwar but was denied the opportunity of going abroad when he was willing to do so. We are now told that he is too old for a job in the Army.

Senator Brandhas also complained on behalf of ex-officers of the Australian Imperial Force who consider that they are being unjustifiably discarded. Because of the attitude that has been adopted by the Department of the Army towards former officers of the Australian ImperialForce, the military camps of New South Wales are to-day seething with discontent. I know of men in those

Gamps who in the last Avar enlisted' as. privates and won their commissionson the field of battle. They are still anxious to go overseas to fight but they are being: told that they are too old for that purpose. They arekeptincampsin Australia. to trainmen.who enlist here.. They havetogowiththe men on route marchesandintobivouacs,with the sky as their roof; for four days and four nights ata times Theysufferall the rigours of the hard training that the men have to undergo, only to find that young " fops "' whohave spent a short period of training: in a military schoolaresent along to take their placesas officers of the forceswhich go overseas.. These young. " fops " flash, along so rapidly that it is hard to see them. I have had many exAustralianImperial Force officers complain to me about the treatment they have received. They have told me : " We pray every night, for the diggers - not for the officers, but the boys who have to goaway under, such officers ". Many of these exAustralian Imperial Force officers are only 42: or 43 years of age, and the experience that they had in the lastwar, would be invaluable to the boyswho are now goingaway, yet they are told that theyaretooold.

I had experience in the lastwar in the 18th Battalion, inwhich there were some old and some young officers, and it. was notvery happy: The colonel, our battalion major and another major, the adjutantandseven of: our lieutenants wore cashiered for cowardice. Such a situation is not desirable. It is unfortunate that some flunkey in the Army should be permitted to make a decision that has- the effect of preventing old soldiers; some ofwhom are majors and sonic captains, from taking the part that they desire to take in the present Avar. I should like toknow the name of the officerwho made this decision.

Itwouldbefarbetter to accept the services of former Australian Imperial Force officers whowanttogoabroad, than to apply economic conscription to theboys of the Public Service,as Senator Brandwould like to do. The exAustralian Imperial Force menwould make good soldiers and they are filled, with the spirit of adventure. Theywould be an acquisition to the Army. I cannot believe that young men who are forced into the Army by a process of economic conscription will ever make good soldiers.

I wish also to make reference to the Home Guard to which Senator Brand referred. The Home Guard is required to look after internees. The internees at the Hay internment camp receive about £1000 a week to which Australia has to contribute £250. These internees are permitted to post letters and parcels of up to 3 lb. free, but the diggers who guard them, for which they receive only a " dollar " a day, are obliged to put stamps on the letters and parcels that they post. Surely the Government could treat the diggers at least as well as it treats the internees.

Some time ago, on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I referred to the supply of blue metal under an Army contract. The Minister for the Army subsequently made a statement to the press to the effect that everything was in order and that there was no need for drastic action. The Minister said that only about 30s. was involved in my complaint. Honorable senators will recollect thatI stated that the orders and the receipts for blue metal were invariably signedby officers on behalf of a Ma jor Sinden. It is significant.thatalthoughtheMinister. said thatthere was my complaints, Major Sinden wasremovedfrom his positionshortlyafter the Minister made his press statement. Ifthere was. nothing in my complaints, why was Major Sinden relieved of his responsibilities? Apparently, at some quiet moment, on a dark -night, he was just pushed out of the way. Naturally, he feels that aninjustice has been done tohim. He was a director of three companies and considers that he had the requisite ability to do the job that was entrusted to him. I contend that all the circumstances of this case show that he was not given a fair deal. If only a sum of 30s. was involved, as stated by the Minister, I do not think Major Sinden should have been "sacked".

Senator Collings(The Leader of the Opposition) sought to learn when the Government intends to prosecute the " big fish ", for profiteering. I believe that something will have to be done in respect of Australian Consolidated Indus tries Limited. The Sydney Morning Herald, of the 16th June, published the following : -

The net profit of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited for the year ended31st March was a record, amounting to £403.595, compared with the previous record, of £351,039 for 1939-40. The ordinary dividend was raised from 7 per cent. to 8 per cent.

I understand that the Government proposes' to take action in connexion with this matter.

I remind the Senate that some time ago I asked a question regarding the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited. The Minister for the Army did not reply for some considerable time, and when he did so he was evasive and made no admissions. He told the Senate that everything was in order. A censure motion was moved in the Parliament of New South Wales, and a royal commission was appointed to vindicate and whitewash the Minister of Justice, Mr. Treatt, who had reduced from £1,400 to £500 the fine imposed on. the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited. The Federal Government then appointed a second royal commission. Yet. when I first raised the matter : the Minister forthe Army saidthateverything was in order. He made the samestatement in regard to the supply of metal. The Government further announced that itintended to arraign the boot manufacturers before the court; but they have not yet been brought before the court. I wonder when action will be taken against those people! Such persons should be arrested and put in gaol like common thieves, and tried immediately. They should be put where they' would not be able to make further profits for the duration of this war. That is what would be done to a man who stole a loaf of bread in order to feed his hungry children. All the racketeers' who are" making a' fortune out of this war are left unmolested, and for that reason the public has no confidence in the Menzies Government, and thereis a lag in recruiting. Senator Brand should make sure of what is the cause of the slackening of munition production in Melbourne, and not leave the inference to be drawn that the employees are responsible. I have evidence which proves that men who are working in munition establishments are just about atthe end of their physical resources. They have very little time off, and in many instances work twelve hours a day. Admittedly, the employees in some industries have not much to do. In fact, most of the munition annexes have had to put. men off, because they have not been able to obtain necessary supplies of raw materials.

It is said that theRoyal Australian Air Force can obtain plenty of recruits. It would obtain a much larger number if those who offered their services and were prepared to proceed overseas in any capacity could be trained as pilots, air observers, air gunners or wireless operators. Many of the men who have enlisted, if without a social background, have been detailed to perform the duties of a messman, or have been ordered' to clean up the huts or do the work of a wharf labourer. They havecertainly been, given a uniform. The ordinary civilian should be allowed todo the work of a wharf labourer at a wharf labourer'srate of wage, and applications should be invited for messmen to dothe work of messmen. There are many men who cannot pass the medical test of physical fitness which would enable them to enterthe Air Force, but have the necessary qualifications for this class ofwork. Boys should not be misled into offering their services. I had occasion to make an appeal to the Government in connexion with the messmen at the Richmond aerodrome, and' I understand that' action was- taken in the matter. It is nauseating to men who are in the Air, Force to have to do this class of work. The Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) should take cognizance of the position, and. effect an alteration at the earliest possible moment. There are plenty ofmen who are- unable, because of physical unfitness, to obtain employment in a war industry, but would be prepared to engage in this occupation. The work should be carried out according to the provisions of the hotel and catering employees award or the miscellaneous workers award. Men who obtain entry into the Air Force are proud of the fact, but they soon lose their pride when they are asked to scrub floors or to do other work of flunkeys in offices. This is wrong. I ask the Minister for

Air to give to those lads who are now required to do this work, an opportunity to show their ability in other directions. I believe that attention to matters of this sort would lead to a better flow of recruits than there has been up to the moment.

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