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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr J R FRASER . - I wish to direct my remarks to the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Bill 1956, and in particular to the definitions in clause 3, because the payment of the benefits depends on the definitions. The definition of " Malayan service " reads -

Malayan service " means, in relation to a member of the Forces, the service of the member, after the commencement of this Act, while -

(a)   a member of, or attached to, a body, unit or detachment of the Naval, Military or Air Forces at a time when it was allotted for duty in Malaya as part of, or in association with, the Australian Contingent, British Commonwealth Far East Strategic Reserve; or

(b)   allotted for duty in Malaya, in connexion with the Far East Strategic Reserve, with any Naval,

Military or Air Forces of a part of the Queen's dominions other than the Commonwealth, but does not include service as a member of the Naval Forces in the complement of a sea-going vessel;

The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) made some reference to that definition, and to the exclusion of naval personnel who are members of the complements of sea-going vessels. I think it is quite clear that the definitions contained in paragraphs (a) and (b) under " Malayan service " cover naval personnel who may be attached to shore establishments in Malaya, or to land forces serving in the area. But I believe the exclusion of ships' complements operates, or could operate, unfairly in respect of members who will be sharing equally the risks taken by members of other forces in these areas. It may be true that, if a naval vessel is simply cruising up and down the coast bombarding shore establishments, or participating in the bombardment of rebel or terrorist areas, the bulk of the ship's complement may not be exposed to the danger that will be attendant on participation in operations on the land, where contact with the enemy is more direct, and where the danger of injury or death is greater. But there is always, of course, the likelihood of an attack developing, either from the air, or from the sea, or of shore batteries replying to the bombardment from the sea. The men engaged on the ships in such circumstances should be eligible for the benefits that are to be provided by this measure.

It may be, also, that the word " complement ", as used by the Parliamentary Draftsman, has a different meaning from that of the word as used in the naval sense. I believe that the Navy's use of the word applies to the whole ship's company, whether members of the company are ashore on patrols or landing parties, or on board, irrespective of the interpretations given in paragraphs (a) and (b). The ship's complement, in the naval sense, means every member of the ship's company while his name remains on the ship's books, and a man's name may remain on the ship's books while he is actually ashore with a landing party, or on patrol taking part, on equal terms, with members of the Army, in a fight. It seems to me that if the provisions of the bill are to be extended to cover Army and Air Force personnel who are not directly combatants as are those who are taking part in actual operations against terrorists, then they should be extended similarly to those members of the Navy. It is true that, so far as I can see, the provisions of the bill extend to members of the medical corps, to personnel at base head-quarters and to others who do not, in the normal course of events, come into contact with an enemy, but who are, of course, subject to any reprisal that may be taken, either by bombardment on land or from the air. I believe that the serving members in the categories I have mentioned should be covered by the bill, and I should like the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to explain to the House when he is replying to the debate, the reason for the specific exclusion of ships' companies or ships' complements from the entitlements which flow from that definition of " Malayan service ". If the facts are as I have outlined, I believe that the Minister should suggest that the measure be amended to include men serving in the sea-going ships of the Navy with the others who are to benefit from the measure. I believe that these men are as entitled to eligibility as the normal noncombatant members of both the Army and the Air Force.

I take it that I am in order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, in referring in this debate to the provisions of the War Service Homes Bill, which is being taken in the group of eight bills?

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence).- No. I take it that this bill is being discussed separately.

Mr J R FRASER - I understood that the second-reading debates were to be concurrent, but that the debates in committee were to be separate. However, if the position is otherwise, that concludes my remarks on the present measure, except that I wish to say that I hope that the Minister will deal, in his reply, with the problem that I have mentioned, because I know that it is causing concern, not only to serving members of the Navy, but also to officials and members of the Ex-Naval Men's Association, whose duty it is to look after the interests of former members of the naval service. It may be that, if those men are not to be covered by the provisions of the Repatriation Act, they will become a charge on that association.

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