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Friday, 27 June 1941

Senator CLOTHIER (Western Australia) . - I congratulate the Government upon the appointment of standing and parliamentary committees for the purpose of assisting it in its onerous duties. I am fully aware of the large volume of work now devolving upon both Commonwealth and State Ministers. The committees that have been appointed will be able to carry out important investigations regarding many proposals, and their recommendations should be of great -value to the Government. I 'believe that the right-men have been selected for the work that they will be called .upon to do, and I wish them every success in their new duties. My only criticism is that the committees should have been allowed to select their own chairmen. I suggest that attention be directed to industrial development in the less populous States in order to produce a better industrial and economic balance than now exists between those States and the rest of the Commonwealth. Such an adjustment would be most valuable in time of war. Senator Amour mentioned that there is a shortage of steel in Sydney. I remind him that Western Australia could make up any shortage of steel, copper, bauxite or tantalite.

I intend to express my views frankly regarding preference to returned soldiers. During and after the last war, I paid par.ticular attention of the operation of this principle. I agree that our returned men deserve preference, but I cannot overlook the claims of others who w.ere too young to serve in the last war and of those who were employed in munition factories. The latter should receive a certificate indicating their service in the production of munitions, and this should place them on an equal footing, with returned soldiers, when they seek employment.

Senator Collett - Why?

Senator CLOTHIER - Of what use would the soldiers have been if the workers in the munition factories had not provided the necessary war materials?

Senator Collett - But who paid the bigger penalty

Senator CLOTHIER - The penalty would have been much greater, if no munitions had been produced.

Senator Collett - The honorable senator is on the wrong track.

Senator CLOTHIER - The man who is prevented from going to the war but enters a munition factory is entitled to privileges in time of peace similar to those of returned soldiers. .

Senator -Cooper.- -The munition worker has had an advantage over the -soldier, because he has had a chance to learn a trade during the war.

Senator Collett - I suggest that the honorable senator should make a careful calculation of the advantages enjoyed by munition workers as compared with those of the soldiers.

Senator CLOTHIER - I shall stick to my guns. I know several men in Western Australia who tried to enlist, but were not allowed to d'o so- because they were regarded as key men in certain industries. I. have nothing against the returned soldiers. I have worked hard in their interests, but I am now urging the claims of the men who are prevented from, going to the war.

Rifle clubs in Western Australia are charged for their ammunition at the rate of £2 Od. 8d. a thousand rounds, and also 15 per cent, sales tax. As these men are training for home defence,.! suggest that the ammunition they use should be exempt from sales tax. Every possible encouragement should be given to them.

Aircraft of various descriptions is being manufactured in Australia, but are machines of the lastest types being produced ? If we can build Wirraways, we should be able to produce the latest bombers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated that Britain will require our help in the air, rather than by land or sea, and I hope that the Government will build the best, and not the worst, aircraft.

Senator Cooper - Does the honorable senator contend that the Wirraway is the worst type of machine?

Senator CLOTHIER - It is certainly not the best.

When members of the Defence Forces are being transferred from Western Australia to the eastern States, whether they be airmen, soldiers, sailors or nurses, they are entitled to comfortable travelling facilities On the railways. They should be accommodated in special trains, and brought over in large parties, instead of in small groups. It is rather embarrassing to see officers and noncommissioned officers taking their meals with civilians on the trains, whilst privates have to stand aside. On one occasion, sufficient food could not be provided for soldiers travelling on the transAustralian railway, and special arrangements had to be made for the provision of meals at Rawlinna.

I have before me the case of a bricklayer who enlisted at Northern on the 4th March, 1941. After being in camp for a few months, he was sent to Sydney. Unfortunately, during a period of leave, he had more alcohol than was good for him, and he was struckby amotor car. He was placed in hospital in Newcastle and was subsequently transferred to a hospital in Sydney, where one of his legs was amputated. After a period, he was returned to Western Australia, and he has now been discharged. In his letter to me, he states -

I enlisted in December, 1939, and passed medical test in January, 1940, and went into Nort ham camp the 4 th March; was on the draft to go overseas in May, but was taken offand sent to Sydney to join the Engineers, as I was a bricklayer. From Sydney, I was transferred to Greta camp. On getting weekend leave,I proceeded to Newcastle, where I was injured in an accident, sustaining a frac tured leg which, through negligence, both by the Military and the Hospital Board, the leg hud to be amputated. If the Army had taken notice of my several requests for removal to a military hospital, then it would not have happened; but I was left for twelve weeks in General Hospital, Newcastle, then the Army Medical Officer discovered that I would have to havemyleg amputated, and I was transported to P.O.W. Military Hospital, Randwick, where the operation was performed by Colonel Vickers. After nearly four months longer in hospital, I returned west, and have had another operation since being hack. I still maintain, had the Army done their job, 1 would have still had my leg but instead they left me to be made a mess of in the Newcastle Hospital. On being discharged about six weeks ago, the discharge read:" Owing to misconduct by being absent without leave ", but on producing my leave pass, the discharge was lifted for fourteen days pending the arrival of my medical papers from the eastern States, then I was discharged medically unfit, not occasioned by my own default, and that discharge was waived aside for another month, until I was discharged on the 30th April with the same discharge, and since then I have applied twice for a pension, which was not granted, andI now have to go before a tribunal when next it sits in Perth. Mr. Spender (Minister for the Army) stated that no man was to be discharged until he was as nearfit ashe was on enlistment, yetI am discharged without an artificial limb even, ora job that a limbless man could do.Now, taking all things into consideration, it is not much thanks to a man who volunteeredearly in the war, and not conscripted.

A letter written to him by Major B. G. Rutledge reads as follows: - 18th July 1940.

Your several requests for removal to P.O.W. Hospital, Randwick, have been passed to H.A.R.T.D., and your case has had the" special attention of the Commanding Officer, 2/5 A.C.H., who has also made inquiries into the quality of the medical services being-givenyou at the Newcastle Hospital. Everything in your interest is being done. I sincerely regret that you are having such a bad time as the result of your accident, and trust your condition is not so serious as when, you last wrote.

This man has a wife and five children. He has no work, and has to receive assistance from the Child Welfare Department of Western Australia. That is not right. Because a man has a couple of drinks and is " skittled " by a motor car, he should not he made to suffer beyond what he has already suffered. He was neglected in Newcastle Hospital, with the result that, after three months, he had to be sent to a hospital in Sydney to have a leg amputated. The matter should be immediately rectified.

Another case that I have had submitted to me is that of a man of German descent, 35 years of age, who was born at Southern Gross, in Western Australia. He has a wife and one child. He has been denied entry to the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, or any other defence service. For years he was in the Militia in Western Australia, and when war broke out was detailed to guard duty in connexion with the ordnance at Fremantle, for which, he received efficiency pay amounting to £2 2s. Had he not been a good man, he would not have been given those duties to perform. A month after war broke out he endeavoured to enlist, but his family record showed that his father had not been naturalized, and he was rejected. He asks why he is compelled by law to enrol and vote, and yet is debarred from military service. His father died twenty years ago. I intend to place the whole of the facts, which are contained in correspondence, before the Minister for the Army.

A typical case is that of a soldier from Western Australia, who was killed overseas on or about the 11th February, 1941. He left a widow and one child. The widow received military payments up- to the end of March, when they were discontinued. Up to the 23rd May, when the Repatriation Department was consulted, finality had not been reached in respect of a claim for a pension. Had it not been for the Soldiers' Dependants Organization it is quite" likely that this woman would have been forced to apply for assistance to the . State Charities Department, which is doing wonderful work in Western Australia. The -matter has -since been adjusted.

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