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Wednesday, 19 June 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) . -I bring up a matter concerning naval punishment. I am not an advocate of leniencyto defaulters, to whatever service they may belong. I make that statement, having had a long experience of two of the services. Nevertheless, what has happened inthe Royal Australian Navy in connexion with the cancellation of the deferred pay of men who ha ve been guilty of the offence of what is technically desertion but really would be only absence without leave in the Army or the Air Force, isso harsh that I am quite sure that all servicemen, as well as the members of this Parliament, will be surprised when they 1earn the facts. I have submitted to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) a case whichhas had some publicity. Other honorable members also have written to him in regard to similar cases. It concerns Stoker B. M. Solomon, The letter that I wrote to the Minister was in these terms -

The AustralianLegion of Ex-servicemen have taken up with me the case of ex-Stoker B. M, Solomon, which no doubt you are acquainted with.

That a regulation should exist deducting years of deferred pay from a serviceman in addition to the penalties awarded for his crime will be a surprise to both servicemen and Parliament.

Branding a man as a deserter who would be considered absent without leave in the Army, and in this case discharging him a few weeks before the brand would be erased, so that he is mulcted for such a heavy sum, seems to me quite beyond the bounds of fairness, especially in view of the unusual considerations in thiscase, in that his absence was short, he gave himself up, and his subsequent and previous service appears to have been all that could be desired.

I received to-day from the Minister a reply which stated -

I have investigated this matter and' find that. Mr. Solomon joined the Royal Australian Navy on 4th September, 1939, and deserted from H.M.A.S.Bungaree on 2nd July, 1942.

Desertion is considered a very serious offence in the Royal Australian Navy, and having regard to the grave consequences which may arise if personnel are absent on sailing of a ship, every possible deterrent to such an act is necessary..

Personnel are aware of the conditions under which they enter the Navy; and must accept the consequences of their own acts.

Naval FinancialRegulations provide that no payment of deferred pay shall be made to any person -

(a)   who is discharged "Run".

The letter went on to say -

The discretionary power of the Naval Board to restore the whole or any portion of deferred pay to persons marked "Run" is exercised under the conditions laid downby K.R. & A.I. 589 (4). Removal of " Run " is dependent upon -

(a)   three years' service with continuous "V.G." character within five years of service after recovery;

The three years' service are to be complete calendar years from 1st January.

Here are the facts: This man considered that he was not receiving, proper medical attention on the small ship on which he was serving. He consulted a shore doctor, Immediately he had received treatment, he gave himself up. He was fined a considerable amount of pay, and six months of his leave was stopped. One does not quarrel with that. But the punishment should fit the crime. In addition, the whole of his deferred pay from September, 1939, to July, 1942,. was deducted from what was owing to hint. That is extremely harsh. I do' not know what is the amount of a stoker's deferred pay, but I assume it to be something like 3s. a day. This additional fine would thus amount to hundreds of pounds. This man then gave very good service for nearly three years. Although the blot on his conduct sheet could not be erased, had he served for a few more weeks he would have avoided this additional penalty. But the Navy discharged him before that time had expired, although it has held on to many other persons for unduly long periods. It "shot this man out" a few weeks before his time was up, with the result that he was mulct of his deferred pay;. I point out that deferred pay is not a gratuity, but, as the name implies, is a deduction from the daily rate of- pay of a member, of the services.

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