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Wednesday, 27 October 1971
Page: 2577

Mr WEBB (STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that Western Australian soldiers returning from Vietnam have to pay the difference between the rail and air fare from Sydney to Perth if they want to fly directly home to their families, the amount being about $60? Is it also a fact that it takes at least 3 days by train from Sydney to Perth and that often there is difficulty in getting a booking? Is it also a fact that sergeants and officers of higher rank travel first class while the rank and file travel second class? Is it correct that when inducted into the Army these men travelled by aeroplane from Perth to Melbourne? If so, why cannot arrangements be made to have them flown back to Perth on their return to Australia? Will the Minister arrange for aeroplane travel from Sydney to Perth in future so that Western Australian soldiers will not be disadvantaged, particularly in view of the question asked in this place the other day requesting that these men be brought back home in time for Christmas Day?

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for the Army) - The honourable member will be aware of the policy behind the movement of Army personnel. I have previously answered questions in this House on the question of travel by train and about those who opt to travel by plane, and also the manner in which this is done. The honourable member will also be aware that I have before me representations by himself and others in relation to this matter. As to the latter part of the question, in regard to the return of personnel of the 4th Battalion in particular who some think may be arriving at Townsville and so will be unable to reach Western Australia by Christmas Day, I have directed my Department to ensure so far as possible that all servicemen in Vietnam who are scheduled to return to Australia before Christmas and who live in other than the eastern States be returned by air and that the difficulty mentioned in both the correspondence and in the latter part of the question asked by the honourable member will not be faced. As to whether this is completely practicable I do not know, but I know, prima facie at this stage, that it is highly likely that the disadvantages referred to by the honourable member will not be experienced by those who are to return to Australia before Christmas Day.

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