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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 930

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) (3:20 AM) . - I desire to call the attention of the Government to the hardship inflicted upon our troops by the recent increase of canteen prices for tobacco and liquor. It is wrong that the men who are fighting for us should have the price of these commodities constantly raised against them, while members of the American Forces, serving in the same areas, are able to buy their liquor and tobacco for about onethird of the price. The effect of the recent increase of prices is that a soldier who smokes twenty cigarettes a day, and drinks a pint of beer, is worse off than he was before the recent increase of his pay by 6d. a day. On a packet of twenty cigarettes, he pays an extra 4d. On a pint of beer, he pays an extra 2d. and on a 2s. seat in a picture show, he pays 7d. tax, which is at the rate of Id. a day. In the American canteens, a packet of twenty cigarettes costs only 6d., whereas the cost of twenty cigarettes to our soldiers is ls. 7d. Members of our Naval forces can buy cigarettes and liquor at prices very much below those which members of the Army and Air Force have to pay. When I was Assistant Minister for Defence some years ago, the Department of the Navy was exempted from payment of excise on tobacco and liquor, so that the men were able to obtain those commodities at a cheaper rate. That concession still obtains in the Navy, and I ask that it be extended to the Army and the Air Force. I do not suggest that men in the Army and Air Force should be permitted to buy large quantities of tobacco and liquor in the camps, because they would then be able to take the goods outside and sell them, but they should be permitted to buy at all canteens and at, the reduced prices sufficient for their own use. Men serving in the Army have to deny themselves a great deal, and they are entitled to this small concession. Soldiers serving in the remote parts of Australia enjoy none of the ordinary amenities of life except liquor and tobacco, and they should be able to obtain these at reasonable prices. Through the- kindness of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), I recently visited units serving in Northern Queensland, where conditions are extremely hard. The men arc living in bush gunyahs in a part of Queensland where the heat and mosquitoes are almost unbearable. Therefore, it is not too much to expect the Government to grant this small concession.

Mr Curtin - I shall look into the matter.

Mr FRANCIS - I accept the Prime Minister's assurance that he will personally inquire whether my request in this matter can be granted.

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