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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Senator BRAND (Victoria) .- This afternoon, the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, in answering my question as to the future employment of Major-General Bennett, said that the Government had in view an important appointment for him. I asked the question on behalf of a large section of the public, which desires to see more stability in the command of Australia's Army. In other words, they wish spare eligible generals to be allotted to definite commands, with one senior general in supreme command. This officer should be a man with whom General MacArthur can confer regarding offensive operations, and one who would carry out his decisions. With Japan standing at our back door, this matter requires urgent attention.

I now draw attention to whatI consider requires an amendment of our Income Tax Assessment Act. A letter has reached me from a person who was in a good civil position before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force, foregoing a salary of about £9 a week to accept 5s. a day to serve his country. At the end of the financial year, he sent in his income tax return, showing the salary received during the period of the year when he was in civil employment. On receiving his assessment, he was surprised to find that the income tax authorities had added to his taxable income an amount representing his keep for 206 days in camp. It was news to me to learn that the cost of a soldier's daily ration is subject to federal income tax. The act ought to be altered to remove such an imposition.

The Government is to be commended for its action in drastically reviewing the list of occupational exemptions from military service, but what of the exemptions granted on other grounds? I am constantly receiving letters pointing out the laxity with which exemptions are granted. In a letter to me last week, a farmer, who has three sons in the fighting services, strongly condemned the Government for asking him to register for service connected with the war, when four sons of another farmer - each of military age - are exempted from service in the fighting forces. Both fathers are engaged in the same type of farming, with approximately the same acreage. "I am just under 60 years ", he wrote, " and willing to do my share if the Government will make others do their bit. What is the use of the Prime Minister talking of a total war effort if man-power officers issue exemption on the flimsiest excuse ". My correspondent also drew attention to the Postmaster-General's Department giving a mail contract to a physically fit man of military age in preference to a man over the age for military service, hut able to do the work. I agree entirely with what my farmer friend has written. Every exemption must be reviewed, not by the local man-power officer, but by an official specially detailed to . look into doubtful oases.

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