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Prime Minister's address to officers and men of HMAS Otama, Honolulu

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Prime Minister

(Inaudible) defence forces in Australia. I have.always thought thought over a long period, the nation's defence forces are very much part of the totality of life, and are very important. There have been many occasions when Australia (inaudible) when the men of the three armed services have been critical to the . survival of Australia's way of life. In the period that lies ahead of us, in the discussions that I have had over the last ten days with the United States and Europe, I believe we are going through a period of greater tension where the role of the defence forces

is going to be increasingly important to the maintenance of the kind of society, that is important to all of us. That means that nations - it also means it looks to a government to give the defence forces the material support and the equipment that are

necessary to enable the men of the armed services to do what is necessary. I would like to thank you all for the contribution that you make and the work that you undertake in support of Australia's defence and in support of the defence forces.

There is one other particular thing that I would like to say - and if there is going to be a question time I daresay you might want to ask me about - I was disturbed to learn this morning that some adjustments to pay and allowances which the Government

accepted six months ago, have not yet begun to be paid. I would like for a moment go back through a little of the history of what has happened in Australia over a long period and the delays which I know have occurred over a long period and what the Government

at the moment is seeking to do to see that those delays, while they have occurred in this instance, will not occur again. I know that the full energy of the Department of Defence is directed to seeing that - while there have been delays on this occasion - there will

not be on future occasions. There always used to be, in my days as Defence Minister, an argument between Defence and Treasury as to what ought to happen: whether allowances were justified, whether pay increases were justified. They used to take a good long while

to consummate. Then, a special inquiry was established out of which came to be a permanent tribunal to examine and advise the Government on adjustments to pay and allowances of sub-mariners and of others in Australia's defence forces. We found, during the course of

the last year, that while that inquiry reported, I think, roughly in April, that there were traditional arguments between Departments about the date of its application and possibly even about whether the report ought to be accepted in full. Now, as a result of that

the Government makes decisions, but just as we accept the result of tribunal's recommendations in other areas, in the Public Service, in industry and all the rest, so too we ought to accept without

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Prime Minister (continued)

argument, the recommendations that would be made in relation to sub-mariners or in relation to other elements of the armed services and that the adjustments ought to be made from the date at which the recommendations are either indicated, or at the date at which the Minister would receive the recommendations. I suspect that members of the Government did not realise that decision, having been made in June or July, when I was visiting an HMAS ship in Honolulu in February the adjustments would not yet have been made. But there has been, as a result of past processes, a very large backlog of regulations that have had to be drawn up which I am

afraid would make some delay inevitable in these circumstances. Now, the Secretary of the Department of Defence is here and I know the Department and Chief of Defence Staff are concerned with these delays. If the regulations are not completed on our return to Australia we will certainly be making sure that they are

consummated as rapidly as possible. I think the changed system the Government adopted last June should make sure there are no further delays on future and subsequent occasions.

In addition to that, I know very well that the tribunal inquiry and report took a very long while to come to its conclusions. We will also be looking at that matter to make sure that on future occasions again, once an inquiry has been commissioned, it is

pursued and completed as rapidly as possible, without delays and without the burdens from other businesses. So, I can only say I regret the delays that have occurred in these matters. The Government is very conscious of them. I am particularly conscious

of the frustrations, as I know Jim Killen, the Defence Minister, is. But when I was Defence Minister on earlier occasions, I can remember also being very much frustrated with the delays which sometimes occurred in these particular matters: delays in relation to the Defence Forces which would not have occurred in relation to other elements of Commonwealth employment. I find that difference

and disparity unacceptable. The Government as a whole and the Defence Minister himself finds it quite unacceptable. It is our objective to see that it does not happen again; not only objective, intention. That is the way it is going to be. I am sorry to devote

too much time, perhaps, to that particular issue, but I suspect that a number of you might have been concerned and wondering why recommendations made to the Government some time ago have not yet flowed through to the people who are meant to be the beneficiaries of that particular decision. .

Having said all that, I am delighted to see you all here.

I hope that you do understand and have an appreciation that the Government - and I am quite sure the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia - have an appreciation and a very real thanks for the task.and the work that all of you are undertaking. I am only too happy to have a chance to meet with you and talk with some of you this morning.