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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Senator LAMP (Tasmania) - I desire to make an appeal to the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), through his representative in this chamber, to make available to members of the fighting forces facilities to travel between Tasmania and the mainland when on leave. A short time ago seven army men informed me that they could save at least four days of their leave if they were permitted to travel by air instead of being compelled to depend upon the boat service. I was asked to see what could be done in that regard. Unfortunately those seven men made the supreme sacrifice in the battle of Java. I contend that if it is at all possible to provide improved travelling facilities for members of our fighting forces, we should do so. What happens at present in regard to the air services is this : When people travel to or from Tasmania by air on holiday it is whispered to them as soon as they land that they should book for the return trip. The result is that the aeroplanes are always full and a prospective passenger is lucky to get a booking a fortnight ahead. I contend that members of our fighting forces should have precedence over holiday-makers, and I appeal to the Minister to do something, by regulation if necessary, to provide seats for soldiers and airmen travelling to and from Tasmania on leave. Recently a nurse who had to join a hospital ship in Sydney was unable to secure a passage in the aeroplane. She was informed at the airways office in Launceston that the aeroplanes were booked out. I stood down in order to give the nurse a seat, yet the aeroplane contained holiday-makers and others engaged on non-essential travel. Our air services use thousands of gallons of petrol every week, and as petrol is urgently required by our fighting services, the only justification for its use in that way is the provision of a transport service for officials engaged on war work and members of our fighting services. The Government should give every consideration to those many excellent men and women in the various services, and make sure that accommodation is available for them when they require it. That could be done if a certain number of seats were retained until the day before an aeroplane was due to leave, so that last-minute bookings could be made.

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