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Friday, 16 October 1970


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -(Mr Locock)-Order! There is no substance to the point of order.


Mr HAYDEN - Let us proceed to other reports. The Loder Committee's report on transport costs in northern Australia was suppressed. The report of the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry was suppressed for many months and finally buried in haste and without respect by the then Prime

Minister. The report of the Nimmo Committee on medical and hospital costs was held in limbo for many months by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) because of the embarrassing contents of the report, and then it was released only because of public pressure. Quite clearly, if the findings of the proposed committees are embarrassing to the Government, its report will be suppressed or, at the very least, severely truncated by the Government This is clearly apprehended in the statement of the Minister. In his statement he said:

The Government has decided that the proceedings of the inquiry should not be open to the public.

He has no intention of allowing anything that will embarrass the Government, as undoubtedly it would as a result of the quite unjustified treatment of and discrimination against our fighting men, to be released to the public. In any event, he has already prejudged the situation. How can one possibly expect that the men of our fighting services will receive any justice from him when he says that one of the main points of this committee of inquiry will be to investigate pay conditions, and when only yesterday in the House of Representatives he damned the suggestion of the Labor Party that our fighting men were entitled to better pay and conditions than they have at present. The Minister indicated in his statement in the House yesterday that only if we have a pool of unemployed can we attract people to join the defence services.


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -(Mr Locock)- Order! If the Minister claims to have been misrepresented, I point out that a claim of misrepresentation can be made only when the honourable member for Oxley has finished.


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I will make a personal explanation when the honourable member for Oxley is finished, because of gross misrepresentation and the falseness of the allegations.


Mr HAYDEN - Mr Deputy Speaker,you know that this has to be done at the end of a speech, and the Minister is using up my time. He said yesterday in the House that because the United States of America had unemployment it was able to have a voluntary defence service. We do not have a great degree of unemployment, therefore, he says, we cannot have an all volunteer defence service. Does he think that only those people in the gravest financial, social and economic need in the community would stoop to join the Services? I find this obnoxious. I find it offensive. On behalf of the fighting men of Australia I reject it completely. The Minister then went on to say:

If we were a country that sought to buy defence, which is what the Labor Party would do if it wanted any defence, we would have to pay higher salary and wage rates in an attempt to attract people into the armed forces to get the numbers we needed.

He has already prejudged the situation. He is opposed to salary increases. Then he excelled himself by going on to say:

If you could do this -

This is what we are talking about, higher pay and better conditions - it would mean that we would then be insulating the privileged, the better educated -

Mark those words, 'the better educated' - and the wealthy from the obligations of defence and from the obligations of doing something to protect their own country.

The Minister then goes on to say:

It is likely to appeal to the underprivileged and to the worker who is in a less fortunate situation.

So he argues that, if you improve conditions and pay, those people whose intellectual capacity has been developed - the better educated - would be too wise to join the defence forces even then. Why? Why does the Minister believe this? What is wrong with the defence Services under him, that the better educated people would not want to join even with better pay and conditions? If he argues that better pay and conditions will attract only the underprivileged of the community - this statement appears at page 2200 of Hansard - what sort of people does he argue will be attracted now to the defence Services when the pay and conditions are so gravely inadequate and totally unacceptable to the men of the fighting Services? I reject his statement. As I said earlier, I find it offensive. I find it objectionable. It is totally unworthy of the Australian Minister for Defence to regard the men of the fighting Services in this way.

The intransigence of the Conservative Government at Canberra towards the reasonable and long standing claims of the armed services for improved conditions ha; undermined the morale and depleted the ranks of out fighting Services. The lamentable deterioration in re-engagement rates is frankly alarming. In 1963-64 the reengagement rate for the Royal Australian Air Force was 61 per cent. By 1968-69 it has fallen to 57 per cent - this is under the Conservatives; for the Army the fall was even more pronounced, from 60 per cent to 47 per cent; but the Navy's rate collapsed to a perilous level, that is, from 68 per cent, the highest, to 18 per cent, the lowest. In 5 short years Conservative neglect has wrought havoc on the confidence and elan of our serviceman's sense of professional self respect. The downgrading and erosion of the professional status of our armed Services have been caused by long spells of Government unconcern about conditions of pay and provision of reasonable benefits for our servicemen.

The effect of this defenceless neglect by the Conservative Federal Government is dramatically revealed by its failure to meet recruitment targets; its unsuccessful, albeit expensive policy of seeking to pilfer manpower from the ranks of Britain's Services; and the dismayingly high and rapidly increasing resignation rate of commissioned officers below retiring age. In 1969-70 the recruitment target set for Australian defence forces was 2,864. The actual level reached was 758; that is, recruitment was nearly 75 per cent down on the projected goal. The Air Force actually suffered a loss of manpower. The Army gain to personnel strength of 462 men was less than a third of the intake target set. The Navy's extremely modest recruitment target was still 25 per cent down on its enlistment goal. Quite clearly the career prospects in our armed Services no longer attract the interest, confidence and support of young people. This comes about as a result of the inertia of the Conservative Federal Government towards a long overdue policy of improvement in conditions of service. I suspect that this may well be a cover up because of the points I made earlier. For the first half of this year overall recruitment has achieved only one-quarter of the target set. There is patently no abatement, indeed only aggravation of this serious problem. If this clearly apparent and distressing rundown of manpower is not halted and reversed the capacity of our armed Services to maintain their function of a meaningful defence preparedness will be seriously impaired.

Efforts to plug up the cracks in the system by attempted filching of manpower from the British Services have produced nugatory results, but at considerable public expense. This practice was introduced 2½ years ago, and up to the middle of this year fewer than 40 British officers had been enticed from their home Service. As Royal Australian Air Force officer strength alone is more than 440 down on quota, the meaninglessness of the overseas recruitment programme in comparison to need is forcibly illustrated. On the face of it, recent pay increases plus general conditions and benefits for married men seemingly make engagement in the British Services a superior proposition to the rundown in conditions of service in Australia. There is additionally the mass exodus of middle-rank commissioned officers from the Services which has become acute in the past 18 months. These men are resigning their commissions before reaching retiring age, through utter disgust and frustration with the conditions under which they labour and which, in many unhappy respects, affect their families. For them the idealism and dedication of the career officer has been shattered beyond repair.

Between 1965 and 1970 there was nearly a 1,000 per cent increase in resignations of such Army officers below the rank of colonel. There was almost a three-fold increase in RAAF officer resignations for the same period. The trend is accelerating at a startling rate. For the first 6 months of this year, 80 RAAF officers left the Service. The Navy suffered, too, with a resignation rate in 1969-70 over 100 per cent greater than 5 years earlier. The rot is setting in here, too, for officer resignations for the first 6 months of this year, numbering 33, exceed the total for last year already. In a desperate effort to avert critical breakdowns in the operations of the Army this Conservative Government at Canberra has stampeded into pressing more than 100 Citizen Military Forces officers and nearly 80 retired list officers into regular service. This is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and neither Peter nor Paul is satisfied with the result

Major GeneralPaul A. Cullen, President of the CMF Association, is on public record asserting that the CMF aimed at reaching a planned strength of 36,000 last year. It in fact lost strength and fell to 31,000 personnel. Even more startling is his declaration that this organisation should have a strength of 40,000 to 50,000 men to fulfil a meaningful role in our defence arrangements. Depleting the CMF in this way not only undermines a gravely run down area of the services but also fails to plug up the gaps in the regular Services. Additionally, the practice is causing widespread resentment among career officers who find that the truncated training of CMF officers place the CMF officers on the same footing as 4-year trained Duntroon graduates. In some cases the CMF officer ever becomes their superior.

Again, justified and long standing complaints on pay, housing, transfers, retirement and family benefits have impaired many career servicemen's assessment of their chosen profession. It is an inexcusable exploitation of a Royal Australian Air Force pilot's dedication to expect him to bear with the present pay levels when he can earn 2 to 3 times as much with an international airline in a somewhat less onerous job. The Minister for Defence rose to unprecedented heights of arrogant offensiveness when he said of the RAAF claim to have pay rates strike parity with Department of Civil Aviation personnel:

But the DCA people have responsibilities not required by RAAF personnel and that is performing and observing standards of civil aviation flying.

The Minister thus displayed an alarming degree of ignorance concerning the duties demanded of our RAAF pilots. The recent pay increases give little relief. They mean $4 to $5 a week extra to a lieutenant. Out of this contributions to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund will claw off about $1. 50, tax will remain about the same, mess fees and rent will go up by about 15 per cent of the increase. The hapless officer will be fortunate to rescue a dollar out of the increase. What the Government is seemingly incapable of understanding is that top quality, well trained and experienced administrators - the qualities of middle-Tank officers - will not tolerate long a salary of $6,500 for a major, for example, when his skills can command nearly double that rate in civilian life. Officer engineers pay was supposed to be tied to that of a class- 5, engineer in the Commonwealth Public Service in 1964. An Army colonel engineer is now nearly $2,000 behind a class 5 engineer. May 1 have incorporated in Hansard this table?


Mr Killen - May I have a look at it?


Mr HAYDEN - 1 will pass it across, but I he Minister has already had a look at it.


Mr Killen - 1 have not seen this at all. How dare you say that.


Mr HAYDEN - But it will take mors than pay to hold manpower. A service"man pays 15. per cent of 'his salary for Government housing while the Commonwealth Public Service pays only 10 per cent. The Serviceman is most likely to be pushed into unattractive, unsuitable accommodation after a long wait and after his selection by a lucky dip' process. In moving furnishings are damaged and deteriorated. Some, such as floor coverings and curtains, become useless and have to be replaced at considerable expense, m contrast, vastly superior conditions are provided in the United States and the United Kingdom for servicemen.

Again, Australian servicemen are blighted by too frequent postings. This, incidentally, disrupts home life and plays havoc with young children's education and their personality development. The contributory DFRB system as last is being investigated. It should be scrapped and replaced by a non-contributory scheme. Last year the Government's contributions to the scheme were $9.9m but gratuities paid out were only $1.8m. That is, the burden of a noncontributory scheme seems mild and the benefits in terms of satisfaction in the -Services far exceeding the cost. Britain and the United States have non-contributory schemes. Again, there seems to be a case for less civilian control of servicemen and less of their interference. The ratio of civilians in defence departments to servicemen is 73.96 to 100, a glaring lopsidedness. Further, the five man Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee - all members arc public servants - should have high level representation from each of the Services. There needs to be a development of benefit; for servicemen's dependants and for retired servicemen and their dependants along the lines of those available to the United States and British Services. .

A Labor government would promptly act to establish wage justice for our servicemen. It has pledged itself also to: Provide War Service home entitlements to all servicemen after 2 years regular service or 6 years of CMF service; minimise the incidence of postings so as to give more stability to home life; provision of health services from the Repatriation Department to servicemen and their dependants; scholarships to children whose education would be disrupted otherwise by shifts; availability of adequate life assurance and elimination of special loading charges which currently penalise our fighting men: injuries sustained other than on active service would be covered by the Repatriation Act and not the Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act which is less generous; and non-contributory pensions to all exservicemen to replace the present costly, unwieldly and unintelligible DFRB contributory system.

The Labor Party proposes a practical programme of reform aimed at rooting out the grave debilitating defects which now impair and pose a critical threat to the operation of our defence forces. I suspect, however, that the Government intends to do very little, especially as the Minister has prejudged the case for salary increases in his statement in this House, which is frankly offensive to the righting men of Australia

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (MrLucock)Order! The honourable member's time has expired.


Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Mr Deputy Speaker-


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I call the Minister for Defence.


Mr Hayden - Did you allow the incorporation?


Mr Killen - Yes, but I had not seen it. Mr Hayden - You had. Mr Killen- Don't tell fibs.


Mr Hayden - The Minister for Defence had seen it. This is just another little ploy to waste more of my time.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! To clear the point, leave is granted now for the incorporation in Hansard of the document referred to by the honourable member for Oxley.


Mr Hayden - Thank you. The document reads:

EXECUTIVE COMPARISONS (Consolidated)

The table below gives an indication of executive salaries in private industry, the public service and the -army, along with an indication of the number of men controlled by industry and army executives as a base figure. Thus a comparison of different salaries paid to executives with control of equal numbers of men is possible. The Commonwealth Public Service 'equivalent status' is that normally regarded as operative in the defence group of departments.

 


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - I again call the Minister for Defence.







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