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Friday, 18 September 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- In the last issue of The Countryman, which is the organ of the Victorian Country party, a statement appears under the heading, " Victorian Budgets Faked, Allegation by M.H.R." I protest against the misrepresentation to which I have been subjected by this journal, both on this occasion and on another occasion. I deny that I specifically attacked the budgets of any Victorian governments in the general remarks which I made several days ago about the manner in which all budgets can be, and are on occasions, faked by the failure of governments to bring in all items of revenue and expenditure, thus presenting a false picture to the country. I merely made general remarks and stressed the fact that die surpluses which the State governments were showing to-day were not their actual surpluses; the actual surpluses were twice as large as those which were disclosed. 1 urged also that the Government should reduce the grants that were to be made to the States under legislation enacted in this chamber recently, in order that it should not have to put further imposts upon the people. However, the managing director of this paper, Mr. A. E. Hocking, has seen fit to misrepresent my statements for the purpose of carrying on his own private vendetta against the Victorian Country party government. I object to my remarks being distorted to serve the interests of an internal quarrel in that party. Mr. Hocking does not like the Victorian Premier, Mr. Dunstan, because on one occasion that gentleman removed Mr. Hocking from membership of the Board "of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. Whether Mr. Dunstan was right in doing that I do not know, but there is no reason why any section of the press in this country - The Countryman - should be permitted to use remarks made by honorable members in the course of debates in this Parliament for the purpose of carrying on private vendettas. Some time ago Mr. Hocking caused a leading article to be written in his paper making an unprovoked attack upon me for something which I did not say, and for something which I did not do. With an ulterior motive that journal, like certain daily papers, ha3 seen fit to attack me again, and I take this earliest opportunity of protesting, and challenging this paper, which is rapidly qualifying for membership of the yellow press, to quote my remarks in controversion of what has been published. I repeat that I did not mention the Victorian budget at all, and I made no comparison of the budget of any Victorian government with that of a New South Wales government, or the government of any other State. My remarks were general, and they were addressed to what I believed to be an important public matter/ namely, the fact that to-day, whilst State governments have swollen surpluses of revenue, the Commonwealth

Government which has the responsibility for financing the war, is at its wit's end to find money. This journal which is supposed to be the official organ of the Victorian Country party is, in actual fact, the official enemy of the Victorian Country party Government. I have no intention of permitting myself to be used by it in internal troubles. Such disputes should be confined to party conferences. It is significant that Mr. Hocking's executive failed to call a conference of the Victorian Country party this year. Presumably he had very good reasons for not wishing to face his members.

I draw the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to a matter of very grave concern to members of the Australian Military Forces, many of them returned soldiers from the last, war, who have been unfairly treated upon discharge. Last June I received a letter from one of my constituents setting out his complaint. I cite this case because I believe that it is not a singular instance, but is indicative of the general condition of affairs in the Army. This is what he said -

I was in Heidelberg Hospital for two weeks and was marched out of the Army after being boarded. I got seven days' sick leave; then I went back to Heidelberg and the same day I was sent to Caulfield race-course, where they gave me a pass until the next day, when they gave me orders to report to my area officer, saying that he would supply me with a suit of clothes when I handed in my uniform. When I got there, I discovered they don't issue clothes. The om er told me it is all done from Caulfield. But at that camp they say they don't issue suits to any one except men from overseas. I have been to every place in Melbourne and I am sick and tired of running about. Nobody seems to have authority to issue me with a suit.

I point out that this man served in the last war. and again offered his services in this war, but being over age, he could not be accepted for active service in the Australian Imperial Force.

The let ter continues -

I have no clothes to wear, and I cannot get a discharge until my uniform is handed in; I am walking about in my uniform. I have no money to buy a suit, and, if I had, I have no coupons as I am in uniform and not entitled to them. My pay and my wife's pay were stopped on the 25th June, so I am going to work on Monday in uniform.

T draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that I hara been waiting since June for a satisfactory reply. On the 14th September this man again wrote to me, as follows : -

I.   have been wondering if yon have received any reply from Mr. Forde with reference to my else. I nm still wearing, khaki to work. 1 have heard no word about my pay book where there is still a few pounds owing to me in it, also nothing about my deferred pay, or the suit of clothes. I know Mr. Forde must be a busy man and have thousands of complaints to contend with, but I do hope he will find time to tell some one to put my case in order.

That seems to indicate that somebody whose responsibility it is to settle this question of whether members of the Australian Military Forces are entitled to suits of civilian clothing upon discharge is either unwilling or unable to make up his mind about the facts. Now that I have mentioned the case in this chamber - presumably there are many others like i t - I hope that the Minister for the Army will see that this man's grievances are rectified, and that soldiers who are discharged after honorable service are entitled to at least a suit of clothing. I understand that the contract price for a suit of civilian clothes for discharged members of the Australian Military Forces is something like £1 13s. Gd. Surely that is not too much to give a soldier when he leaves the service. In any case, when, the soldier to whom I have referred was discharged he did not have any money with which to buy a suit, and obviously he believed that he had a grievance. Bie had no money in his pay book, and he should be under no obligation to purchase his own suit of clothes.

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