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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 38

Mr O'KEEFE (PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Army: Is it a fact that the $27m "3rd Training Battalion camp at Singleton, New South Wales, is not being used to anywhere near its capacity? Is this due to compulsory national service being discontinued? Can the Minister inform the House as to the future plans for use of this important establishment which means so much to the Singleton district and to the nation?

Mr BARNARD - This matter is under consideration. In line with the policy of the Government, national service was discontinued. But it may be of interest to honourable members at this stage if I inform them that approximately 30 per cent of national servicemen have elected to remain in the Services until their period of duty has been completed. As a result of the Government's policy in relation to the abolition of national service in Australia, naturally there has been some reduction in the personnel at some camps. Two camps are affected in this way, and Singleton is one. of them. However, I can assure the honourable gentleman that this matter is under consideration. The Government's policy provides for an all-volunteer force in Australia and for maintaining the forces at the level that we believe is adequate and necessary. At this moment an interdepartmental inquiry is taking place to determine what should be the level of personnel in the Australian Army. The report resulting from that inquiry should be available to me very shortly.

About 35,000 servicemen are now in the Army; slightly more than 30,000 of them are members of the regular forces. I think I ought to indicate at this stage that what I said on behalf of this Government, when we were in Opposition, was that we believed a level of 31,000 troops would be necessary for the Regular Army. At present it is about 30,800. We are confident that by June there will be more than 31,000 volunteers in the Army. In those circumstances and depending upon the results of the inquiry which is now taking place to determine the level of the armed forces, consideration will be given to the accommodation that is now available at Singleton. I can assure the honourable gentleman again that as a result of our foreign policy, when the battalion and battery are returned from Singapore, at the end of this year, the accommodation that is now available will be required.

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