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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (1:19 AM) .- What am I to understand by the use of the words " In the first appointment of officers " in the proposed new clause?

Senator Pearce - The time when an officer is first appointed.

Senator GARDINER - I oppose the amendment, on the ground of its injustice. We are considering a Bill which will be the Air Defence Act of Australia for many years to come. There are a great many young men in Australia who were not sufficiently old to have the opportunity of going to the Front during the war, and, in my view, it is an absolute injustice to give a preference to any one against those young men. If it were a question of preference as between two men who had equal opportunities, it should certainly be given to the man who went to the Front. But what is proposed is that a preference shall be given to a man who had the opportunity of going to the Front and went, against men who had no opportunity of going to the Front, but who would have gone if they had had the opportunity. That is an injustice. I am not prepared todo that." I consider the proposal of Senator Elliott from two points of view - justice to thegeneral community and the efficiency of the Air Force. If, of twomen who apply for a position in the Air Force, one is more fitted for the positionthan the other, he should have it. I direct attention to the fact that our Constitution almost compels us in our legislation to see that there shall be no preference given to any one or any section in Australia.

Senator Duncan - The honorable senator believes in preference to unionists?

Senator GARDINER - That is not preference, because all may become unionists. Under this proposal appointments in the Air Force will be closed for a considerable time to come to many who might be highly competent to fill them.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Are there not age limitations to an appointment to the Air Force which will meet the honorable senator's objection ?

Senator Pearce - Yes, there are. The retiring age is 40 years.

Senator GARDINER -If to-day we have 200,000 returned men fit to take these jobs they should have them, but in ten years time we may have another 200,000 men better fitted for the jobs, and we are being asked deliberately to legislate to shut them out.

Senator Benny - No, because the proposed new clause provides for equality of qualification beforepreference is given.

Senator GARDINER - Other things being equal, there is to be preference to returned soldiers, but if the qualifications of applicants are not equal the man best fitted for the job is to get it?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If two applicants are equal, and one is a returned soldier he will get the job.

Senator GARDINER - If that is what is provided- by the proposed new clause my opposition to it is to some - extent disarmed. We have to remember that . what we do here we do for the whole community. No matter what our desire may be, to do the right thing by a section who have done well by us, I think we should do it directly as a reward for their services, and not indirectly in a way which involves injustice to others. If appointments to the Air Force are to be by merit, and an inferior returned soldier is not to displace a superior man who had no opportunity of going to the front, I shall not press my objection to the clause .

Senator Foster - Will the new clause cover Australians who served with the British Forces?

Senator Pearce - Yes.

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