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Friday, 27 June 1941

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) (Leader of the Opposition) - by loane - Although, Mr. President, you stated that you had come to the end of the term of three years for which you were elected President, I would remind you that -the president of a great republic has had, not only one term but also- a second, and' has recently been elected for even a third period as president. I am sure that all of your friends in the Senate would be glad to know that you had not ended, your career as President, but only the first term of three years.

In the House of Representatives, the Minister for Labour and National Ser- vice (Mr, Holt) stated that additional officers of his department are to be located in Melbourne. I do not wish to add to what I said yesterday about the transfer of the Pensions Department from Canberra to Sydney, although I still think that such action is a crime against the National Capital. I understand that more than one-half of the existing staff of the Department of Labour and National Service at present located in Canberra is to be transferred to Melbourne. I believe that some of the members of that staff have purchased houses or aro purchasing them in Canberra. The .department is now undertaking work of great importance which has not previously been given to it, .and I understand that not more than half a dozen of its officers will be left* in Canberra. Will the Leader of the Senate represent to the Cabinet that thu Opposition asks for an assurance that the expanded reconstruction division, which was referred to by the Minister for Labour and rational Service, will not bc an appendage merely to the major department located in Melbourne? If the answer given by the

Government is what I anticipate it will be, it will be entirely unsatisfactory to every member of the Opposition.

I also direct attention to tha subject of granting permission to women to .travel overseas during war-time. It may bo imagined that I am referring only to women who wish to go abroad in connexion with war-time operations. Certain women have received permission to travel abroad since the outbreak of war. In what circumstances is such permission granted, unless it is given to all women who desire to go abroad? With the exception of Lady Blarney, the wives of men serving in the Australian Imperial Force have not be: n allowed to join their husbands. I am not now raising the point that Lady Blainey was allowed' to go overseas, although her return was demanded and she refused to return. I wish to know whether the . ban on the wives of men serving abroad would prevent them from travelling to any part of the world during war-time. The wife of a soldier may desire to go to another country. I wish to know whether the ban applying to soldiers' wives who wish to he near their husbands applies equally to those who wish to go abroad foi- other reasons! It ought to be possible for the wife of a soldier in the Australian Imperial Force to obtain permission to travel abroad, and there should be no ban on her leaving, if the country to which she desires to go is within the British Empire. I have in mind the ease of a person who has been refused permission to take up a position which is waiting for her in India. I can bring that particular case to the notice of the Minister concerned, but I desire to know the general application of tha ban regarding the wives of soldiers who wish to go to another part of the British Empire. If the Leader of the Senate will note these remarks, I shall .be very greatly obliged.

Senator BRAND(Victoria) ["5.30"}. - I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) to the excessive number of exemptions, granted to men called up for three months' militia camp training. It seems to me that a tightening up is necessary in connexion with the reserved occupations. Recently a New South Wales brigade should have gone into camp about 4,000 strong, hut it was 1,000 short owing to exemptions. I wonder how many of these men were Commonwealth and State public servants! I ask the Minister to make inquiries, particularly in respect of public servants stationed in Canberra. Indeed, the whole question of exemptions by the Manpower Committee in each State requires an overhaul.

May I, in this connexion, compliment Senator Armstrong who, although exempt as a member of the Federal Parliament, is voluntarily going into a throe months' camp with the 32-year-old draft. He has shown a patriotic spirit in preparing himself for any eventualities.

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