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Wednesday, 29 April 1942

Senator LAMP (Tasmania) .- I wish to bring to the notice of the Government an anomaly which inflicts great hardship upon the wives and families of certain soldiers. The case which I shall cite is that of Private A. J. Challenger, Petrol Company, Australian Army Service Corps, 7 th Division. Private Challenger was a member of a contingent of Australian soldiers which went to England and later returned to the Middle East. I understand that, on the return trip, this soldier committed some minor offence for which he was fined and also imprisoned on the boat. When the boat arrived at Suez, he could not .be found. The payments to his wife were stopped and when the matter was taken up with the Defence Department it was stated that Private Challenger was an absentee and could not be traced. His wife was asked to return his paybook to the military authorities. She has one child and is not in a position to work. 1 believe that there are other cases of a similar character. I suggest .that the defence authorities should make some provision whereby payments to this woman' and to others who are left without support in similar -circumstances could continue until such .time as it is definitely ascertained' whether the soldiers concerned are dead, missing, or deserters. There are many ways in which Private Challenger could have become missing at Suez. I know of several cases in which men have been deliberately absent without leave. Immediately a man is listed as being absent without leave, payments to his wife are stopped. Recently, my attention was drawn to a case of that nature in which a woman with six children was involved. The unfortunate fact is that when a soldier is absent without leave, his wife is penalized, whereas the man himself should be penalized. My suggestion is that payments to the wife should continue, and be deducted from the soldier's pay when he returns to duty. That would have the effect of penalizing the man instead of his wife. I also ask the Government to do something to mitigate the hardship caused in cases such as that of Mrs. Challenger, who has been left with a child to look after and a house to pay for, without receiving any income at all.

Senator Keane - Through no fault of her own.

Senator LAMP - That is so. Something should be done to remove that anomaly.

Many soldiers in Tasmania have asked me why they are not supplied with apples, when hundreds of thousands of bushels of the fruit are going to waste in the orchards. Normally, Tasmania exports about 3,000,000 bushels of Sturmer apples to England annually, but only a small percentage of that quantity will be shipped overseas this year. In many orchards, I have seen the ground literally covered with rotting fruit. My wife and the wife of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) have, on frequent occasions, received orders from the Apple and Pear Board permitting them to go to an orchard and collect apples free of charge for sale on behalf of the Australian Comforts Fund. Hospitals are also supplied with apples free of charge, and there is no reason why military camps should not receive similar treatment. The collection of the fruit would not throw any extra cost upon the services, because both the Army and the Air Force regularly send trucks to country centres in order to buy primary produce for camp supplies. These trucks could be used to pick up apples and distribute them to the camps in the ordinary course of their work. The people of Australia will not stand for this apple and pear racket much longer. God has blessed this country with an abundance of fruit, but it is allowed to go to waste. Something ought to be done to make proper use of this gift of nature! It would not be difficult to supply apples, not only to military camps in Tasmania but also to camps on the mainland, instead of allowing them to go to waste. The apples belong to the Government, and there is nothing to prevent it from doing as I suggest.

I now make a plea on behalf of female employees of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Many of these worthy women are now doing counter work which is usually done by men. They are expected to wear uniforms consisting of navy blue skirts and white blouses, whereas the men are not required to wear uniforms and. can wear their old clothes if they want to do so. The necessity for providing uniforms imposes a hardship upon these women. This regulation should be cancelled, or, at least they should be allowed to wear some other colour in place of navy blue. If the bank wants to be patriotic it could let them wear red, white and blue, but at any rate it should relieve them of the obligation to provide their own uniforms.

On the 25th March, 1942, I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer what' amount had been paid to radiologists in the Southern Command for carrying out X-ray examinations of members of the fighting services since the commencement of hostilities, and to whom that money had been paid? I expected then that an answer would be supplied to me by letter during the parliamentary recess, but so far I have not received one, and I should like the Minister to reply to my question as soon as possible.

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