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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) .- Before I deal with the point raised by Senator Sandford, I should like to refer to the question raised by Senator Bishop last week as to what would happen in the case of a man who, without having qualifications or training, was called up and who, in the course of his service, did not receive qualifications or training. Senator Bishop pointed out that when such a man was discharged he could not be retrained because he had not previously been trained, and the honorable senator asked whether such a man had a right to request some training on his discharge. Last March, in relation to this point, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) stated that, where necessary or desirable for effective resettlement, a national serviceman would be given post discharge training. This means that if it were considered that training a person without qualifications would be helpful or necessary, he would be entitled to that training; but he would not necessarily get it in all circumstances.

On the point raised by Senator Sandford I can only say, first, that there is no discrimination between members of the regular forces, volunteers and national servicemen.

Senator Sandford - I am not suggesting there is.

Senator GORTON - I did not say the honorable senator suggested that, but the use of the word " discrimination " might have led someone listening to him to think that there was some discrimination. I wanted to make clear that there was not.

Senator Sandford - We are not on the air today.

Senator GORTON__No, but there are some members of the public in the chamber and even some honorable senators who listened to Senator Sandford and heard him make the remark. That is the first point - there is no discrimination between regulars, volunteers and national servicemen. The treatment accorded troops who served Australia in the equivalent of a front line or in a front line has always been different from that accorded those who remained in Australia. Irrespective of whether this is philosophically proper or correct, this has always been the case with Australian servicemen. The proposal now before us is a mere extension of that. Of course, national service trainees will not be serving in separate formations. There will not be regular formations and national service formations. National service trainees will fill gaps in regular formations. There will be no distinction. Members of a formation will be one, whether they are regulars or national service trainees.

The test applied in the case of repatriation benefits will be the same as that which has always been applied to our troops. Did they in fact go abroad and fight in the equivalent of a front line or did they remain at home? I suppose the thinking behind that is that troops serving in the equivalent of a front line or in a front line are far more likely to suffer danger and hardship which may affect them later. The present proposal is a continuation of the policy which has always been in existence in Australia.

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