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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr THORBY (Calare) (Minister for Defence) (6:34 AM) . - The position in respect of rifle clubs is being reviewed in connexion with the preparation of the Estimates, the object of the Governmentbeing to make these bodies even more effective than they are at present. . I appreciate the work which they have done in the past, and the manner in which they have co-operated with military organizations, but, at the same time, I say, candidly, that they can be improved. For instance, they can work more closely in co-operation with the military authorities throughout the Commonwealth. If it is shown in connexion with the proposals now under consideration that additional clubs can be inaugurated and the total enrolment of the clubs increased, I assure honorable members that any extra money required in this respect will readily bo made available by the Government. I ask these clubs to co-operate with the Government, as I feel sure they will, in its plans to make them more effective than they are to-day.

The statement of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that boys of sixteen years of age are being enlisted in the navy whilst boys from nineteen years to twenty years are being rejected is not correct. Although the honorable member may -be able to quote an individual case in support of his contention, it does not apply generally in respect of the practice which has been adopted by the naval authorities through out Australia in the enrolment of youths for the Navy. In accordance with a similar request made by the Government to private enterprise, I have taken this matter up personally with the Naval Board, and .have asked it to provide openings as much as possible for older youths between the ages of 20 and 25, and I am assured that that is being done to a much greater degree than formerly. This observation, of course, does not apply to enrolments at the Naval College, in respect of which there is a hard and fast rule that hoys must be enrolled before reaching the age of fourteen years in order that their training at the college may be better attended to. In respect of the Navy generally, however, everything possible is being done to engage older lads, and I could cite many instances of this ; but it must be remembered that the ages of those enrolled must cover a certain range.

Mr Holloway - Does that mean that the age of enlistment has been extended?

Mr THORBY - Yes. In reply to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) I poind; out that during the last six months quite a number of concessions, including substantial increases of wages, have been granted to workers in different sections of the Governments munition works. The matter of furlough, however, has not yet been finalized; but it has not been rejected. Up. to the present we have not been able to come to a satisfactory arrangement because the large majority of these men are employed in a temporary capacity. The honorable member is aware that the meaning of temporary employment in this respect has been rather distorted by reason of the fact that hundreds of these men have been kept on over a period of many years.

Mr Curtin - Many similar cases are to be found right throughout the Commonwealth Public Service.

Mr THORBY - I am aware of the difficulties which confront us in that respect/ I assure the honorable member that I shall sympathetically consider the applications of various sections of the employees he has mentioned and shall endeavour to grant their request if not in ' toto, at least in" substantial part. We are doing our utmost to place the munition workers on the most satisfactory footing because we realize that, unless they are contented, we cannot hope to get the best results from them. In this connexion I point out that the employees at Garden Island and also at Cockatoo Island, where they are indirectly attached to the Defence Department because of the nature of their work, are satisfied with the way in which we recently met their requests, many of which, I say candidly, were not unjustified.

Proposed vote agreed to.

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