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Wednesday, 28 October 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - I am very interested in, and very encouraged by, the contributions which have been made in the last few minutes by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Willesee. Senator Cavanagh posed the question - I quote it merely in the broadest terms - that recruitment depends not only on advertising but on something wider than that. He asked me: " What is wrong in the Services? Why are they not more attractive? " To that I reply in passing that in a condition of full employment, such as we have in Australia today, and in a burgeoning economy, the Services stand in competition with industry for recruits. Industry today can and does offer the Australian youth the type of opportunity and career job which seldom, if ever, has been open to him previously. In the past, industry has had only occasional opportunities to offer. In a general way, the Services face up to that problem and recognise it as far as they can. Speaking for the Government in June last, I announced certain improvements in pay and conditions which were designed to indicate to the young men of Australia that here was a career which, in terms of conditions of pay and employment, could stand comparison with industry. I do not want to go over that. It is all set out in the statement which I made on 18th June last. To the extent of my ability, it was in terms which showed the young men of Australia that the Army was not just a job in which they went on bivouacs, slept on the ground and lived out of field kitchens, but was something worthwhile. When Senator Cavanagh says to me: "There is something wrong with the Services," -

Senator Cavanagh - I wanted the Minister to have a look.

Senator PALTRIDGE - Yes, I realise this and I am coming to it. I say to him, as 1 said in an inviting spirit when I expressed myself earlier in respect of advertising: " Tell me what is wrong ". I come to the contribution by Senator Willesee who gave somewhat specific point to the general proposition that Senator Cavanagh had put. Senator Willesee put to me that there should be an improvement in what he described as employer-employee relationship. Will he indicate how? I do not say this agressively. Will he himself go, or will he come with me to any Service establishment that he cares to choose, move around anonymously and unidentified, and indicate to me the deficiencies in employer-employee relationship? I am comparatively new in this job. I should like Senator Willesee to know that I am just as interested in this aspect of it as he is. I have tried to do this. If he can assist me, if he can indicate any area in which there can be an improvement, I shall be genuinely grateful.

In the Australian Services in recent years there has been a continuing drive to build up among the men - the ratings and the privates - an appreciation of their own importance in the Services. If this is falling down - I acknowledge that it may not be important - I shall be grateful if any member of the Senate will indicate to me in practical terms where it is falling down. Occasionally, things flow across my table which indicate an attitude by an officer or a command which is possibly harsh. I assure the Committee that I look very closely at these things. Senator Willesee went on to say that one should look at such matters as the nutritional quality of the food provided to the Services. Yes, let us do just that, because in this area over the past 10 years the Services have directed their efforts particularly to bringing to the highest pitch conditions of diet for the troops. It is a fact that when they go out on exercise or on bivouac - as every old soldier knows - they probably live out of camp kitchens or, worse, prepare their own food and eat it out of dixies. Of course, they do. But I should be very doubtful indeed that, when they are in a standing camp, in terms of nutritional value a better meal is served in Australia than is served to Australian servicemen. I assure Senator Willesee that in terms of nutritional value it stands comparison with the meals for which he pays in our dining room here.

I do not say this in any dogmatic way. If the cabbage is too watery - that is a complaint that servicemen throughout my lifetime have always had - and if, when 20 reinforcements come into a camp late at night, the Irish stew becomes Devonshire pudding, of course there is discontent. But in terms of nutritional value, I say to anyone: Please tell me where the diet falls down, because it is not the intention of any of the Services not to do the right thing by servicemen in this respect. The position is the same with clothing and with uniforms. Senator Willesee mentioned this. It is the subject of a whole field of research. How is a soldier made comfortable in camp and in the field? The Services send out teams of experts to live in the most trying conditions, so that they can produce for the active service soldier the best living conditions that can be made available to him in those circumstances. The experts cannot produce all of the answers. I acknowledge that. But if we all want to make the Services better and happier Services, let us have all the ideas. 1 shall be only too prepared to listen to them and every Minister responsible for a Service will do the same.

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