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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2197

Mr LINDSAY —My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. In view of recent media speculation and public disquiet in north Queensland, will the Minister advise the House of the future of the Townsville based North Queensland Army Band?

Mr SCHOLES —I thank the honourable member for his question and at the same time acknowledge his extraordinary efforts on behalf of the North Queensland Army Band. Knowing that he is as tenacious on other issues of importance to his electorate as he has been on this one, I can assure his constituents that their interests are very well represented indeed. I also acknowledge the strong representation made on behalf of the Band by Senator Reynolds. It is, therefore, all the harder for me now to advise the House that the Army has made an administrative decision to disband the North Queensland Band from 27 January 1984. The Army is under a continuing obligation to the nation to see that its resources are used as effectively as possible for high priority defence tasks. With no foreseeable growth in the manpower levels under which it has operated for a number of years, the Army has recently made a detailed study of its manpower priorities and has found it essential to deploy a number of positions to tasks which occupy a higher defence priority. The annual cost of maintaining the North Queensland Band is close to $1m. This represents a sizable outlay of defence funds which, in large measure, go to support the north Queensland community. The Army decision to disband the North Queensland Band recognises that these manpower and financial resources are now required for tasks which basically are of more importance to the defence of Australia. Community leaders in Townsville have strongly supported the band's retention, although I note that Townsville, unlike most other cities of its size, has not established a municipal band of its own.

I should also point out that there are two other military bands in Townsville which, subject to the usual constraints, will meet civic requirements. Should the occasion warrant it, the 1st Military District Band from Brisbane could be made available. The Army is confident that the people of north Queensland will continue to be served well by military bands. In concluding my answer, I assure the honourable member that I appreciate the valuable service given to the civilian community by the North Queensland Band and I expect that the military bands which are now to take up its functions will exhibit no lesser standard of professionalism. In view of the comments from the other side of the House, I should also say that it is the aim of this Government to spend the defence Budget on the defence of the nation, not on public relations.