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Wednesday, 1 October 1941

Senator FOLL (Queensland) (Minister for Information) . - I have a number of answers to questions appearing on to-day's notice-paper, and, with the approval of the Senate, I shall have them incorporated in Hansard. The answers to other questions will be forwarded to honorable senators at the earliest possible date.

With regard to the remarks of Senator Brown, I should like to point out that the censorship of, films does not come under the jurisdiction of my department, but is controlled by the Department of Trade and Customs. Films come under the purview of the censorship branch of the Department of Information only when questions of national security arise. T understand that the film "Love on the Dole " has been rejected by the Commonwealth Censor, as has been pointed out by Senator Brown, but there is an opportunity for an. appeal to be made, and I have no doubt that those who desire to exhibit the film will make an appeal.

Senator Brown - National security is not the reason for the rejection of the film.

Senator FOLL - In that case the matter would not come within the jurisdiction of the Department of Information. It would be entirely a matter for the Department of Trade and Customs.

Some days ago, Senator Sampson stated that a member of the Australian Imperial Force in the Western Desert had asked him to correct publicly a statement made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) that no margarine was being used or had been used by the Army, and that margarine did not appear on the contract list of the Australian Force or lists of supplies from British depot3 to Australian troops serving abroad. This statement appeared in the press on the 30th May last, and on the 6th June, it was amplified by the Minister for the Army who said: "Arrangements made by the Commonwealth Government with the British authorities for food supplies to the Australian Imperial Force do not include any issue of margarine. The actual position is that the Commonwealth Government, through the Military Board, has an arrangement with the British authorities for the daily supply of rations to the Australian Forces abroad. The daily scale of rations is adhered to whenever humanly possible, but the exigencies of modern warfare and the rapid movement associated with it, carried on over extended lines of communication and, in the case of the Middle East, in extreme heat, would frequently place the British supply depots in a most difficult position in respect of the supply of butter to our forces. Only in those cases when it is impossible to obtain butter would our troops be issued with margarine, but it must be understood that this is an emergency measure ". On behalf of the Minister for the Army, I now inform the Senate that the position is that supplies of butter are despatched to the Middle East on every transport which leaves Australia for that destination. These supplies are landed on arrival and handed over to British depots for distribution to Australian troops as required and when practicable. The honorable senator will readily understand that butter can be distributed to the troops only when conditions permit its transportation. Except when troops are located adjacent to suitable storage facilities, butter cannot be supplied to them in the hot weather, as it rapidly becomes unfit for human consumption, and transport difficulties frequently prevent its distribution to troops in the period which would unavoidably elapse between removal from storage and delivery in. the field. Margarine does not become unfit for human consumption under the same conditions, and the practice has been adopted of issuing vitamized margarine where, for reasons already stated, butter cannot be made available. However, butter is issued to the troops whenever it is possible to do so.

I am sure the honorable senator will appreciate that climatic conditions and the exigencies of the service must frequently prevent the distribution of butter to troops in the field, which, in hot weather, must be determined by the distance of the troops from suitable storage and the transportation facilities available. Adverse climatic conditions and transportation difficulties must frequently render delivery of butter to the troops impossible under active service conditions. At present the Department of the Army is, with the assistance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, conducting experiments with concentrated dehydrated butter, and a quantity of this product has been issued to troops in various places to test their reactions to this type of butter. This product retains all the food value of fresh butter and without refrigeration can be stored for long periods without losing its palatability. Should this test prove satisfactory, it is anticipated that our present difficulties will he, to a great extent, overcome and that the necessity to use margarine, on occasions, as a substitute will in future be obviated.

On the 25th September, Senator Sampson asked the following question, upon notice : -

1.   Is it a fact that during the war of 1914-18 the Battalion Commander, two Majors, the Adjutant and seven Subalterns of the 18th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, were cashiered for cowardice?

2.   Is the Minister aware that a statement to the above effect was made in the Senate on 20th June, 1941, toy Senator S. K. Amour?

The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer:-

No officer of the 18th Battalion was cashiered for cowardice, nor was any officer of that battalion charged with that offence.

On the 17th September, Senator Fraser referred to the matter of young men called up for service under the Defence Act being compelled to travel long distances in order to undergo preliminary medical examination, without being recompensed for the possible loss of wages involved, and asked if it were proposed to compensate these young men for time lost in this way.

The Minister for the Army has supplied the following reply: -

It has been the practice to send the Area Staff to centres, in order to enable those in distant places to have a minimum of time involved in reporting, and, wherever possible, not more than a ten miles' journey for each person.Rail or transport warrants are provided, but no provision exists for the pay- ment of compensation for loss of wages or time.

Instructions are being issued to commands, that every effort is to be made at all times to bring examination centres as near as possible to the persons to be called up for service, so that it will not be necessary for these young men to travel any greater distance than can possibly be avoided.

I undertake to bring to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay), the remarks of Senator Aylett concerning aluminium.

In the Parliament of New South Wales last week, Mr. Carlton, in the course of a speech in which he made a charge against Mr. W. J. Smith, Director of Gun Ammunition in the Ministry of Munitions, said that a statement had been secured by a Mr. Ralfe from the Department of Information, and had subsequently been made available to Mr. Smith. I wish to make it perfectly clear that Mr. Carlton is in error, and that his attention has been drawn to the fact. He appears to have confused the Department of Information with the Department of Investigation which is attached to either the Army Department or the Department of the Attorney-General, because no statement of any kind was secured by any one from any officer of the Department of Information, nor has that department attached to it an investigation section. I make this clear injustice to the officers of the department.

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