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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 915

The CHAIRMAN - I shall name the Minister for Social Services if he persists in interjecting, because it is disorderly, particularly when the Chair is endeavouring to maintain decorum.

Mr Holloway - I am sorry, but the honorable member for Deakin made a most provocative statement.

Mr HUTCHINSON - Nothing detracts from our prestige as a nation so much as the absence of esprit de corps between the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces. If the two armies were amalgamated, the morale of our military forces would receive a valuable stimulus. In the present crisis, we require all the strength that we can muster.

I urge the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) 'to provide country units of the Volunteer Defence Corps with more equipment, a special allowance of petrol coupons and a contribution to assist to defray the cost of the petrol. .Some members of the Volunteer Defence Corps travel considerable distances in order to attend voluntary parades. In the southern part of my electorate, 450 mcn were recently refused recognition as a Volunteer Defence Corps unit. The majority of them are strapping young timber-workers, and have an intimate knowledge of the bush. Recently, the Commander in Chief of the Allied Land Forces in the South West Pacific Area, General Sir Thomas Blainey, stated that it was idle to believe that the majority of lads from the cities could be trained as skilled jungle fighters in a few weeks or months. The time may arrive when the services of these timber-workers will be required to harass and delay .an invader. I hope that that day will never dawn, but I am a pessimist in war to the degree that I believe we should prepare for the worst. If the worst does not happen, so much the better. It is foolish to dampen the enthusiasm of these men. They do not expect much equipment, from the skies. All they desire is to serve their country. They have collected more than £100, made Mills bombs and various weapons, learned how to destroy a bridge, and acquired a knowledge of the tactics used in ambushing hostile troops. Public psychology to-day is different from that of 1914-18, and when volunteers wish to make themselves competent to combat the enemy, their enthusiasm should be encouraged. In this locality, a school for guerilla warfare is situated and I understand that the staff would welcome an opportunity to use this unit in manoeuvres. Being sure that a mistake has been made in declining to recognize these men as a unit of the Volunteer Defence Corps, I urge the Minister to reconsider his decision.

One of the greatest military concentrations in the Commonwealth is located in my electorate, and some of my constituents have been subjected to a good deal of inconvenience as a result of damage done by troops in the 'Seymour district. One wet afternoon, I drove a horse and spring cart through this area, and was amazed at what I saw. Fences were broken, gates were down, sheep were mixed, and motor trucks had been run in here, there and everywhere. What was worse, running water was pouring down the tracks. Erosion had commenced. Some of the settlers had not been advised that their properties would form a part of the area for military manoeuvres.

Mr Morgan - Are there American troops in the district?

Mr HUTCHINSON - Yes. One settler, on .returning to his property after an absence of three days, found that his sheep had been yarded. I saw American motor trucks stacked with box posts for firewood. Despite all this inconvenience, the local landholders showed an excellent spirit. They recognized that certain areas had to be provided for manoeuvres, but they considered that as the training of the troops would benefit Australia as a whole, they should be recompensed for any damage. I understand that in certain instances, the Hirings Administration knows nothing of the movement of troops until their arrival at their destination, with the result, that landholders are not notified in advance of the requirements of the Army. I recognize the necessity for maintaining secrecy when troops are going to an operational theatre, but that is not necessary for training purposes. Much of the trouble could be avoided by organization and common sense.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member's time has expired.

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