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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - I raise a question in regard to the clothing of troops returning from the northern part of Australia. Within the last few days, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) - acting, I believe, on behalf of, the Department of Air - wrote me a letter on the subject. I had had a letter from Mr. R. A. de Garis, protesting against the failure of the Royal Australian Air Force to provide his son with proper winter clothing on the way south. This is not the first occasion on which I have been obliged to raise this matter with different Ministers - not with the Minister for the Navy, because the men on board ship are looked after fairly well - but with both the Minister for the Army and, the Minister for Air. The person concerned in the present instance has written to me in these terms -

I thank you for forwarding me the letter from Mr. Makin. If this satisfies you - well all I can say is that you are a lot easier satis- fied than I am.

The whole text of my original letter was to the effect that men were coming south in tropical uniform without coat or blankets. The natural result is that the health of these men (one unfortunately is my son) is impaired and results in agony to despairing parents and endless expense to the Government.

You know that what I have said has occurred on very many occasions - the answer is not whether it is possible for the troops to avoid it, but the answer is that there is something wrong that it does occur. Are the relative departments policing the return of these men better now than they were before? From the Minister's reply the answer is " No ". In effect he says, " If the men wish to ruin their health we don't care, it's their own fault anyway ".

I reinforce that by reading a sub-leader on the same subject that was published yesterday in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Apparently, the conditions in South Australia about which I have complained are rampant also in New South Wales. The sub-leader is headed " Cold Welcome ", and reads -

Men arrive home from the Islands shivering in jungle shirts and trousers and complaining that no winter uniform was issued.

Out of its great stockpile surely the Army could organize an issue of seasonable kit.

If the men were going into action, the uniforms would be available.

That they are coming home to leave the Army in no way lessens official responsibility for their health and comfort.

The case that I brought under notice on the last occasion concerned the Royal Australian Air Force. As long as eighteen months ago, I raised a similar matter that concerned the Army. Notwithstanding official assurances that the. clothing needed is. available and that everything is proceeding satisfactorily, complaints continue to be made by parents of servicemen in respect of both the Department of the Army and the Department of Air. Apparently, they are also submitted to the press, because there must be some reason for the sub-leader that was published yesterday. The matter is one that ought to be investigated urgently by the two Ministers concerned. Somebody ought to " take the rap " f or the negligence which obviously is occurring. In some instances, i t would not be unfair to state that the negligence has been criminal in character. If I were in the position of either of the Ministers mentioned, I would not be satisfied with the assurance of Some official that everything is all right. The whole of the evidence is to the contrary. It is continuing evidence, and it is high time that the Ministers concerned took a grip of the two departments and shook them into submission to a direction which I believe must have been given, namely that men coming south are to be provided with clothing suitable to the climate to which they are returning.

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