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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 2168

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - I always despair when I hear the rather peculiar principles which guide the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) in his political life. On the one hand, rather perplexingly we find that he sees it as a rather grave offence for one to demonstrate openly and publicly one's opposition to a war. On the other hand, he sees virtue embellished and compounded if one is associated clandestinely with some sort of secret organisation dedicated to the promotion of war and to whiteanting and undermining of an ancillary effort of the Liberal Party - his own Party. In fairness to the honourable member for La Trobe, I want to make it clear that he is not really opposed to freedom of speech, although one would not get that impression from listening to him. He is just opposed to one's right to use that freedom.

I make it clear that I believe that SEATO is not worth a damn, and I would not waste much time talking about it as a defence arrangement. If the honourable member for La Trobe wants to debate the matter I suggest that, rather than wasting time here pouring out tremendous volumes of air, he should talk with the people of Pakistan - that country is a signatory to SEATO - who, without canvassing the virtues or otherwise of the issue, have been involved in a major conflict with India in recent times. He might reflect on that. He might care to discuss with the people of Pakistan why he thinks the Treaty is so powerful and he might hear their views on why they think it is worthless. However, I am not wasting time on useless exercises of this kind. One thing I have learned from being a member of the House is that the kind of people who speak regularly during the adjournment debate and who propound and gush forth with great fury and limited research on foreign affairs and witch hunting, are the people who distinguish themselves in their service here by being absent during debates when hard work really counts - debates on subjects such as people's living standards and the future of this country. That is the area in which the absence of contribution by the honourable member for La Trobe is greatly distinctive.

Tonight I wish to speak about some people who really count - young members of the Royal Australian Air Force. I quickly veer away from the useless exercise which we have just heard and which hardly deserves comment. A most unfortunate situation has arisen. Four musterings which exist in the Air Force are virtually dead end positions, by and large, for young men who in the majority of cases - certainly in the majority of musterings - seem to be fairly well skilled and reasonably highly qualified people. These are people in the following musterings: Architectural draftsmen, laboratory technicians, boiler attendants and air photo plotters. In each mustering the top rank that one can reach is corporal. The laboratory technicians, to qualify for their position, need a certificate or diploma from an institute of technology. That is my information. I am quoting hearsay, but the sources are reliable. They must have completed something like 5 years of fairly intensive study at a fairly high level in a rather technical field. These young men - I gather that they are young - are human beings. There are about half a dozen of them in the Air Force. No matter how many there are, some rights of future opportunity should be made available to them. They have no real future in the Air Force because they can go only as far as the rank of corporal. That rank does not attract a particularly high rate of pay. lt is in Grade 6 and the pay is about $13.50 a day. Outside the Service they would probably earn considerably more than that. They certainly would with any comparable degree of experience. On top of that they would not have to face the disadvantages associated with posting turbulance, which is a terribly disruptive influence in any serviceman's life.

There are only a few architectural draftsmen in the Air Force. No matter how many there are, they have rights and they should have opportunities for advancement and some expectation of future promotion in the Air Force. These people need a certificate of drafting from an institute of technology. They too are skilled technical people. In civilian life we would refer to them as middle class or middle income people with some expectation, because of their professionalism, of promotion to higher grades. These people, as is the case with the others, are tied to the rate of pay of corporal for the full period of their career - whether it is 5, 10 or 20 years. There are not many boiler attendants in the Air Force, but they have no future prospects. They too are subjected to posting turbulence and all the attendant disadvantages which flow from this kind of experience. There are between 10 and 12 air photo plotters in the Air Force. They have highly specialised skills for which they are trained. They enter the Air Force with certain prospects held out to them that they can expect promotion, following the successful completion of courses, eventually to the rank of warrant officer.

A number of things have happened in the Air Force, as a result of which the air photo plotters will be lucky ever to break through the barrier and proceed beyond the rank of corporal. This is the point at which they are nailed down now. As a side consideration I might mention that members of the Women's Royal Australian Air Force are able to proceed to the rank of sergeant. Some already hold that rank and I am informed that their course allegedly is not as broad, as intensive nor does it involve as much refresher training as the course of the air photo plotters. The fact that members of the WRAAF can break through to these higher ranks is causing a fair degree of dissatisfaction among these highly skilled professional men.

The sort of work these men do is related to organising and analysing photo reconnaissance material which is brought back to air bases. Essentially their work was to be associated with the F111C reconnaissance aircraft. It seems highly unlikely that the Air Force will obtain the F111C reconnaissance aircraft. Because of the extended hiatus that has occurred between the promise in the early 1960s and the nondelivery in the early 1970s of the Fill aircraft, and seemingly the dropping of the idea of acquiring the F111C aircraft, the men in this area are frozen at the rank of corporal. The Minister may argue that it is merely a matter of their completing a photoint course to move further into the photoint mustering and go on to higher ranks, but the fact is that no courses in photointing have been offered for several years. The courses are undertaken in the United States of America and, until a course is offered, there is absolutely no hope of these men moving beyond the rank of corporal.

All in all one sees a situation which is rather despairing for a number of young men who have joined the Air Force and taken on a highly skilled trade which demands a fair degree of intellectual capacity and which pays fairly well in civilian life. I am suggesting that there should be an immediate inquiry. Admittedly there are probably no more than a couple of score of servicemen involved throughout Australia in these 4 musterings, but they must have rights and incentives and some expec tation of breaking through this barrier of corporal which pays only about $13.50 a day. This is especially necessary when, for instance, a cook's assistant can expect, after passing examinations and so on, to progress to the rank of sergeant cook with a much higher rate of pay than these air photo plotters are receiving, and can go even higher. This is not good enough.

Of course, the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) is not in this House, but I will bring this matter to his attention. I expect that the Minister in charge of the House will do so, in any event. I will ask the Minister for Air to consider ways of breaking this barrier and in the meantime to provide annual increments in pay so that these men will not be disadvantaged in this way, so that the demoralisation apparently setting in can be eliminated and, more importantly, so that there can be a reasonable reward on an annual incremental basis for their professional skill and the valuable contribution they will be making and have been making to the Air Force.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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