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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3567

Question No. 498

Senator Reynolds asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 9 November 1983:

(1) Is the Minister for Defence aware of reports emanating from Lavarack Barracks in Townsville indicating that the dismantling of the North Queensland Army Band will commence next week when affected personnel are given leave to commence the transfer procedure.

(2) Does the operation negate the public announcement by the Minister on 2 November 1983, that 27 January 1984 would be the date of dismantling.

(3) Will the Minister request an immediate report on the situation; if so, and in view of the extensive resistance to this decision as evidenced by in excess of 15,000 petitioners and direct approaches from local government authorities, will the Minister undertake to review this decision in the light of the overall cost to the Federal Government of maintaining its military bands in capital cities and the Government's commitment to North Queensland which hosts 100 per cent of Australia's operational deployment force.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) No.

(2) No. The date for the disbandment of the North Queensland Band remains 27 January 1984.

(3) A report was requested and received from the Department of Defence Army Office. It stated that the North Queensland Band would be available to meet all its previously arranged public commitments until 27 January 1984. After that date, the Band's present function in North Queensland will be taken over by unit bands in the area, supplemented when necessary from Brisbane.

In order to do this, the Regimental Band of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment-1RAR will be built up forthwith to the level of competence of the North Queensland Army Band. A bandmaster will be provided and the total strength of the Band will be increased, as will the number of Band Corps members in it. The Pipe Band of the 2nd/4th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment is also to assist.

As 1RAR is part of the Australian Army Operational Deployment Force, it will be necessary for the 1RAR Band to exercise with its battalion from time to time away from Townsville. On such occasions the Band of the 1st Military District in Brisbane, or the 2/4 RAR Band, could be made available to assist in meeting important North Queensland engagements.

These arrangements should prove adequate to meet deserving requests for support .