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Thursday, 9 March 1972
Page: 683

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I seek the indulgence of the Senate to raise with he Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) who, in this chamber, represents the Minister for the Army (Mr Kat'.er) an answer which I received today to a question that I placed on the notice paper recently. It concerns he Government's failure to proceed at a reasonable rats towards the establishment of a Citizen Military Forces headquarers at Macksville on the mid nor:h coast of New South Wales. If this is any example of the efficiency of the Army and of the Government's desire to get an effecive Citizen Military Force, all I can say is: God help Australia.

I first made representations to the Minister for the Army on 15 h December 1969 concerning the establishment of a Citizen Military Forces depot at Macksville. After receiving the initial formal acknowledging on 23rd December 1969, on 5th March 1970 the then Minister for the Army, Mr Peacock, wrote to me in these terms:

Consideration of this matter is now complete, and I wish to take this opportunity of advising you that it is proposed to re-locate the Headquarters of A Company 2 RNSWR at Macksville, wilh effect from 20lh April 1970. Action will then proceed to provide a new training Depot in the town.

That was just over 2 years ago. I followed the matter up by asking questions in 1970,. and on 3rd June 1970 I received an answer advising me that at that time the Commonwealth was negotiating for the acquisition of a suitable area of land at Macksville on which the proposed depot, could be constructed, but that at that stage the Minister was unable to forecast pre.cisely when building might commence. On 13th October 1970 the then Minister for the Army advised me that a suitable site had been selected and that the Department of the Interior had arranged for a valuation of the property so that .negotiations for acquisition might proceed. He also said that acquisition was proposed in that financial year, namely 1970-71.

Last week I followed the matter up with another question in which I asked what action had been taken, having regard to the statement to me by the former Minister on 5th March 1970 that the depot would be relocated. I wanted to know what action had been taken to provide a new training depot in Macksville in accordance with the Minister's statement of 5th March. The Minister replied:

Headquarters A Company 2nd Royal New South Wales Regiment was relocated from Kcmpsey to Macksville on 20th April 1970.

A three-acre site was acquired in 1970-71 and the proposal for the reconstruction of a depot was included in the draft design lists 1970-71 and 1971-72. On each occasion, however, financial limitations and the existence of higher priority items prevented construction of the depot.

The Minister went on to say:

The proposal is at present under consideration for inclusion in the draft design list 1972-73.

The last sentence of the Minister's answer to me is a stunner. He said:

If this happens and if construction is authorised in 1973-74, completion of the depot could be expected about the end of 1974.

So, here we have a company of the Citizen Military Forces which has been playing around in an area near Macksville since 1970 and if a few 'ifs' are carried out by the Government the depot might be completed by the end of 1974. How this Government can say that it is interested in getting young men to serve in the CMF when units are being treated like this, frankly is quite beyond me. How the Government can say that it is anxious to solve the unemployment problem in rural areas, when it does not take advantage of this perfect opportunity to take up some of the slack in unemployment, is quite beyond me.

Macksville comes within the employment district of Kempsey, which is about 40 miles from Macksville. The figures indicate that for last month 396 men and 229 women were unemployed in the Kempsey district and there were only 36 unfilled vacancies for men and 24 for women. How the present Minister for the Army, a Country Party Minister, can say quite cavalierly that, if the proposal is included in the draft design list for 1972-73 and if construction is authorised in 1973-74, completion of the depot might be expected by the end of 1974, is again beyond me. Members of the Government parties go around the countryside of New South

Wales saying that they are anxious to take steps to solve the unemployment problem. As my colleague Senator Mulvihill reminds me, the present incumbent of the electorate of Cowper is now an Assistant Minister.

I point out to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army that in the last sentence of the Minister's reply to me there are 2 'ifs' and the phrase 'could be expected'. If the Government thinks it is fooling itself, it might be; but it certainly is not fooling the people of Macksville or the electors of Cowper. If this is any indication of how genuine the Government is in trying to overcome the unemployment problems in rural areas and if this is any indication of how it wants young men to serve in the CMF, just as Mr Frank McGuren won the seat of Cowper in 1961 so will Mr Cronin, the Labor candidate for Cowper, win the seat in 1972. It is this type of answer which, I suggest, will sound the death knell of the Country Party in the area. The people of Macksville are entitled to far better treatment than that which is being accorded to them by this Government. I implore the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to get some positive action for these people, instead of' the nebulous and indefinite answer that; was given to me this morning.

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