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Thursday, 27 May 1915

Mr McGRATH (Ballarat) .- Earlier in the debateon theEstimates for the Defence Department I asked ft question concerning the remuneration of non-commissioned officers. Their increments were due about last July, but have not yet been received. The Minister of Tradeand Customs interjects that it is due to the fact thatthe Estimates have not been passed. I desire to know if provision is made in them for increments to non-commissionedofficers; and while the

Assistant Minister is obtaining the desiredinformation I wish to point out that a very great injustice is being done to the men. They are not permitted to volunteer or go to the front, although four of them got away with the First Expedition, and received a.~ commission, in the Imperial Army. . The British authorities recognised the worth of these men, but in Australia the best officers we have are not permitted to enlist to go abroad.. They have no opportunity of getting increases of salary, yet they are told that their services are so valuable that they cannot be spared. If that is so, surely some recognition should be made of their services by an increase of pay. I know some school teachers who are Area Officers. I know one who is getting £400 a year as a school teacher, and £180 a year as an Area Officer for putting in not more than an hour's work each week. All some of them do is to sign the sheets. The" sergeant-majors do all the. work. They are the men upon whom the very, foundation of our defence system rests, a'nd yet the highest salary they can get is £240 a year. Many of them are only getting from £160 to £180. They have no opportunities for promotion. Recently the Minister of Defence gave sixteen senior non-commissioned officers temporary commissions, but he has not filled the sixteen vacancies created, though the rest- of the non-commissioned officers naturally expected that there would be a general lift up as the result. I am glad to see the Minister of Defence is in the House, and I hope he will recognise the good work that is being done by these men who are' training the troops for service abroad. Our soldiers would not have done the good work that they have done at the Dardanelles had it not been for the splendid preliminary services of the sergeant-majors, who are well worthy of an increase of salary. All the vacancies that occur are "filled by militia officers, who, though not connected with the Army, are appointed to positions worth up to £500 a year. Yet the sergeantmajor is practically the instructor of these men. He is forgotten, kept upon a small salary almost without any increase. He is unable to enlist for service abroad,' as many are anxious to do, and hasto stay at home and train the recruits. I .am not going, to argue against that. The Defence Department should be the best judges of what is required - in that: respect; but if the services of -these mem are so valuable, surely we ought to showsome practical recognition, and give them' increases of pay.

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