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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr MAKIN -Not in the Navy.

Mr WHITE - I do not care what interpretation the Minister chooses to put forward, it is what I have said. The Navy does not need any praise from any of us. It is an excellent service. But its administration is extremely harsh and illogical on many occasions. It has made its own rules in regard to the points system of demobilization. I brought a case under the notice of the Minister only recently. It was that of a man who had been called up before the war began. He served throughout the war, and was at sea . for practically the whole of the time; yet long after the termination of the war he was told that he had not sufficient points to entitle him. to be discharged. That could not happen in the Army or the Air Force. The official explanation stated that the matter had been referred to the man-power authorities, who had refused to recommend his discharge. This week, I have received another letter dealing' with a similar case. Honorable members have seen correspondence in the press about naval surgeons who: are being held in the Navy because other men haVe not been called np to take their places, or for some other reason. After this man's organization and his. solicitor had taken the matter np with the department,- and had stated the case fairly, this is the curt reply that was received -

The regulations governing payment provide that deferred pay shall not. be payable to a member who deserts from the Royal Australian Navy.

The act- of -desertion in any circumstances is a most serious offence,, and assumes even more gravity if committed while the Empire is at war.

We know that ; but it does not justify the withholding of deferred pay for two years. Other honorable" members have had similar cases submitted to them. There is the case of P. W. Jackson, of Railway-avenue,- Eastwood, New South Wales. I do know the rights or' wrongs of his Case, but it seems to" be much in line with that of this man, who had a good record' from the beginning of the war, with the exception' of the one lapse of absence for three weeks, for which he should pay the full penalty. Very few of those who serve with the Navy would know of the regulation cited. Although it is only a regulation, it has statutory effect. As we all know, regulations are constantly being " churned out " and placed' on the table- in this House, sometimes with retrospective application. This matter should be taken up. Every honorable member who believes' in justice for. the individual will agree that the" fining of a man hundreds of pound's) in addition to imposing the ordinary punishment for his offence, does not make sense and is particularly unfair. The Minister should not be satisfied with the answer that he gave to. me to-day. It would appear to have been drafted by the same hand that drafted the letter to the man himself. It is a stereotyped reply, which infers that a heinous crime had been committed and that this man had deserted, in the face of the. enemy - w'hich he had not. I have tried! and punished many men in the services, but I have always believed that the punishment should fit the crime ; and I think that the Minister- will agree that the imposition of a fine of £100 on a man who brought medical evidence to show that he had not received, proper treatment on his' ship and absented himself for that reason is shabby treatment. I do not deny that the man erred. I suggest that the Minister should reconsider this matter.

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