3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I wish to know, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a fact that a married man is employed by the Commonwealth in our Parliamentary Refreshment Room, at the magnificent wage of 35s. a week? If that is so, will you take into consideration the advisability of paying a decent wage? I should like the House to be informed what rates are paid to the other waiters.
– I am not aware that the rate of wage mentioned is being paid to any one in the refreshment room. A minimum rate was settled during the first Parliament. I shall make inquiries, and ascertain what the facts are.
– I have made inquiries, and find that there is employed in connexion with the Parliamentary Refreshment Room a pantryman and assistant waiter, who receive a wage of 35s. a week, and works on the average forty-nine and a half hours per week. The wages paid outside for similar work are from 20s. to 25s. per week, and under the Factories Act the hours of labour are fifty-eight per week. Unlike all other places where such men are employed, there is noSunday work in connexion with the Parliamentary Refreshment Room. This employé leaves the building on Saturday at noon, and is paid for the holidays on which the House does not sit.
– Is he paid during the recess ?
– No; he is a temporary employé Whilst on duty he is provided with meals without, charge. I have obtained the greater part of this information from the association in Melbourne to which most of these men belong, as well as from the Victorian Chief Inspector of Factories. As to the waiters, I find that they are paid£2 2s. per week, and work the statutory hours. Waiters employed at leading hotels are paid 30s. per week, but it must not be forgotten that in such establishments there are additional means of income which are not usual in the Parliamentary Refreshment Room. Our waiters, if they work overtime, are paid 2s. 6d. an hour for the first hour and1s. 6d. for each additional hour. I may add that I have been waited on by one of the employed and assured by him that there is no complaint either in regard to the hours of work or rates of pay.
– The Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill now stands on the notice-paper as the ninth Order of the Day. Is it the intention of’ the Government to proceed further with this measure, and, if so, when?
– It is the intention of the Government to persevere with the measure, but I am unable to say at the present time exactly when its consideration will be resumed.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Adelaide asked a question regarding an examination for positions in the Clerical Division. I have now been furnished with the following reply. -
This examination is only (or persons outside the service, and in such case it is not the Commissioner, but the Public Service Act which fixes the age limit. Persons inside the service are not being allowed to compete at this examination, as the list of officers who have passed for entrance to the Clerical Division has not yet been exhausted - there are some eight or ten who have yet to be found positions. There is no ago limit for members of the General Division being allowed to compete at examinations for transfer to Clerical Division.
– When the High Commissioner Bill was introduced, it was regarded as a non-party measure, members pf all shades of political opinion being in favour of the appointment of a High Commissioner. As the Bill now stands eighth among the Orders of the Day, I should like to know, why its consideration has been deferred. We ought to deal with it as soon as possible.
– Certain amendments were made in the Bill in -the Senate, and these are now being considered by the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department.
Supply of Telephone Instruments - Examinations
– I have been asked certain questions regarding the supply and delivery of 20,000 telephone instruments. It is the desire of the Department that the instrument and battery boxes shall be made of Australian timber, but there is no condition requiring .the supply of timber from any particular State.’ The rates of wages and working conditions paid and observed by the contractors’ must be those recognised in the locality in which the work is being done, and must conform to the terms of the decisions of the Wages Boards orArbitration Court of the State, or, where there is no such authority, to those of that of the neighbouring State.
– Is the honorable member aware that representations have been made on the part of the staff of the General Post Office, Sydney, regard-, ing the examinations for promotion from positions carrying a salary of ,£156 per annum to positions carrying a salary of £162? If so, has he considered those representations ? Have steps been taken to remove the injustice complained of? I understand that it is thought that, under the present arrangement, the members of one section of the service have, by reason of their training, a better chance of competing successfully than those in other sections, and a request has been made that all shall be treated alike.
– Representations have been made on the subject, and have been sent on to the Public Service Commissioner for inquiry, consideration, and report.
– Some time ago I drew the attention of the Minister of External Affairs to the allegation that batches of foreigners - chiefly Italians and ‘ Austrians - were landing in. Western Australia, and proceeding direct ‘from the steamers in which they came to employment in different parts of the State, under circumstances suggesting that they had been brought here under contract. I ask the Minister, who promised to look into the matter, whether an inquiry has been made, and if so, what information he has to give to the House on the subject?
– In accordance with my promise, an inquiry was made, and the report J have received is that the officers of the Department have no evidence that any of the men referred to came to Australia under contract. My predecessor directed the institution of an inquiry in, I think, March last,- with the result that a similar report was returned. TEe instruction to the Departmental officers is to be vigilant in seeing that the Act is not evaded.
– Does the honorable member object to. lay the papers on the table of the Library?
– The honorable member is entitled to see the papers .if he desires to do so.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Bass asked me whether the tenders for ballot-boxes, which have recently been- called for, require the supply of Queensland hoop pine, and prevent the use of Huon pine. I received the same day a letter from the West Coast Timber Company, pointing out that in Tasmania there is a wood in every way as suitable for the purpose as is hoop pine. The company declared that in the past an export duty on this timber has resulted in its not being well known in Victoria. It stated that it was sending a small sample of the wood, and was prepared to send a larger quan- tity if so desired. On Wednesday a representative of the Tasmanian industry waited on the Director- General of Works, and was told that tenders for the supply of Huon pine would be considered, but that as the climatic conditions under which the boxes would be used would be severe, only thoroughly seasoned timber would serve. In view of the representations which have been made to me, I have had the conditions of tender altered, so that any pine, grown in any part of Australia, may, if found suitable, be used.
– Are tenders to be called in every State, and in various parts of each State; and are the ballot-boxes to be made and delivered in one State alone? Those are very important matters, seeing that the supply asked for is so large.
– Tenders will be invited in Australia generally for the construction of ballot-boxes. The boxes are required for use in Queensland, as it is probable that those belonging to the State will not be available at the next election.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs been called to an article in the Newsletter of the 14th instant, in which it is alleged that the Torres Strait Pilot Service is a close preserve, and that Newcastle, Sydney, and Melbourne pilots cannot serve in the waters on the northern coast. If this is so, does the Minister consider the restriction advantageous to the Commonwealth? Will he ascertain whether the complaints which have been made are justified?
– I have seen the article referred to, and, no doubt, the matter will be dealt with when the control of lighthouses, &c, is transferred to the Commonwealth. At present, pilotage is a matter which is dealt with by the States, and I understand that the Torres Strait and the Port Phillip services are close preserves. Presumably, when the Commonwealth takes control this state of things will cease.
Oversea Mail Contract : Time-table - Case of Mr. Quirk - Undergrounding Telephone Wires, Perth - Entries in Telephone List.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When will he be prepared to supply a copy of the proposed time-table for the new Mail Contract, showing day and time of departure from Adelaide and the time of arrival at Fremantle, as promised to him (Mr. Hedges) at a meeting held in his (the Postmaster-General’s) office about two months ago, at which the honorable member for Perth and a representative of the Orient Company were also present?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The contractors have not yet submitted details of a time-table in accordance with the provisions of clause 3 of the Agreement. They have been informed that I have approved of the steamers leaving Adelaide on their homewardbound voyage not later than r p.m. on alternate Fridays, and arriving at Fremantle (weather permitting) at 5 a.m. on alternate Tuesdays.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Following questions previously asked on the subject, can the Postmaster-General yet say when the undergrounding of the telephone wires in Perth will be resumed, and will he take steps to obviate any further cessation of the work until its completion?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The work of undergrounding the telephone wires at Perth will be resumed as soon as the material comes to hand, and steps will be taken to obviate any further cessation of the work approved from the current financial year until its completion.
asked the Post master-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 21st October, vide page 4898) :
.- I move -
That the following proposed new section be inserted : - “ 150. No officer, other than officers of the Cadets, shall be promoted, except probationally, to any rank higher than that of Captain until he has passed, as prescribed, a course of practical and theoretical instruction at the Military Collegeto perfect him in the practice of his own arm of the Forces, and to accustom him to the uses and possibilities of other arms.”
The purpose of this proposednew section is to insure that our militia officers shall have an opportunity tobecome as efficient as possible. It is only by giving them some such means as this of securing efficiency that we can prevent the creation in Australia of a military caste of permanent officers. The whole point is that if we do not make our militia officers as efficient as they can be made we must have them leaning on perhaps the permanent adjutant or instructor attached to each section. ‘ I know of nothing that would lead to a greater want of efficiency, and which would perhaps- be more harmful in its effects than the prin ciple of having a permanent adjutant - the very antithesis of this proposal - doing all the work of a militia regiment. Such an officer is leant upon by all the officers of the regiment, and they lose their initiative and keenness, and never acquire knowledge or experience.
– The permanent adjutant is the darling of the regiment.
– Exactly. The man who . will have to command the regiment in time of war is not in peace the true trainer of the regiment. Under this proposal we shall make all militia field officers truly efficient. In peace they will be capable of directing the education and training of their regiments, just as they will be charged with’ the responsibility of leading them when the crisis comes. This proposal will not involve any important financial consideration, because, on the present war organization, there are only 201 majors on the list, in addition to nineteen majors on the reserve list. It is obvious that the whole of these 201 officers would not have to come up at once. If we had only 200 on the establishment, we should not expect to have more than forty of fifty coming up every year and the difficulty of getting them into some central college should not be, as is suggested, insuperable. Officers of the Permanent or of the Militia Forces who do not wish to be put to the trouble of passing these examinations will immediately resist such a . proposition, but it ought not to be difficult to get a sufficient number of majors to come up for the course proposed. The alternative suggested in some quarters, that of having an instructor or two travelling round the country to instruct the majors, will not bring about that high state of efficiency that would be secured if all were brought together for instruction. If they come together there will be emulation and mutual competition.
– And, having a college, we ought to use it.
– Quite so. If they come together there will also be an interchange of views amongst the various arms, which will show the weakness of their preconceived methods, outside the actual terms of training, practical and theoretical. More important than all, if we can get them to a central college, our training will be practical, as well as theoretical. If we have an instructor going into a country district and saying to a major - “ Come and have a chat with me after dinner,” the instruction will consist largely of cigars, and whisky and soda. It will be purely theoretical. We owe it to the Militia Forces to see that they axe efficiently officered. I have placed these proposals before the Committee purely to enable a sound system to be provided in the Bill, and to indicate to the permanent officers that we intend that our Militia shall be self-reliant and efficient. If a better means can be suggested of achieving my object, I shall jump at the chance to escape the responsibility of moving such an amendment as this. But we must give our militia officers the opportunity of training at such a college as is suggested. If we do not we must rely on the antiquated, harmful, and effete system of permanent adjutants, -or some other system of the kind, that will lessen their self-reliance and weaken their efficiency to such an extent that they will become absolutely incompetent for their command when the time for action arrives.
– I regret that I cannot accept this proposed new section. It will not effect the object which the honorable member has in view.
– What kind of college has the Minister in view?
– A college which, I hope, will be equipped to the fullest possible extent.
– What will be the use of it in the absence of pupils?
– The honorable member might as well ask, “ Why should they have in England a college without pupils?” Is the honorable member aware that only about 100 pass through the Staff College at Home every year. Is he aware that the highest officers in the British Army to-day have not passed through the Staff College?
– I am not.
– They secure in other branches the sort of training we propose shall be given in this college.
– 1 am proposing to give our officers the same opportunity, my only desire being to make the machinery as simple as possible. I am with the honorable member for Wentworth so far as the question of training is concerned ; I differ from him only as to the facilities which should be given to officers to acquire that training. In other words,, the honorable member wants to drag officers from all parts of Australia to one central college, whereas I wish to make the instruction as readily available to them as possible. The honorable member simply caricatures the proposals that I have in contemplation when he says that the instruction, if taken to these officers, will consist largely of whisky and cigars.
– Will the honorable member, say that staff officers are not bound to pass through the Staff College at Home?
– Yes. Perhaps the honorable member is not aware that the Chief of the General Staff at Home to-day has not been through the Staff College yet. Is he aware that the late Chief of Staff at Home did not go through a Staff College ?
– I am.
– The bulk of the officers at Home have never been through a Staff College. What is done there is, and can be, done here. Officers secure the services of coaches to put them through their examination ; but the honorable member for Wentworth insists that officers shall get through their examinations only by going to the college. It is there that I differ from him. I ask for a little elasticity in connexion with this proposed new section, but he desires to make it as rigid as possible.
– How would the honorable member so amend it as to make it work ?
– I should make it rigid in its application to the permanent staffs, and leave the rest to be prescribed as a matter of administration. That is what is done in every other countryThe honorable member for Wentworth is proposing that we should jump ahead of anything that is done in any other part of the Empire, or indeed in the world.
– No, I am adapting the system in England, as far as I understand it, to our local conditions.
– And I tell the honorable gentleman that under the English system only about 100 officers pass through the Staff College every year.
– But the Staff College provides for quite a different education from that which I propose shall be given in our Military College. The Minister wants a Staff College, whereas I desire an educational as well as a Staff College.
– I want both arc educational and a Staff College, but I differ from the honorable member in that I desire to make it easily available to those who are engaged to-day in earning their own livelihood, and are amongst the best officers in Australia. If, as the honorable member proposes, we say that all these officers shall be compelled to go to the one centre to receive instruction, a great many of them will not be able to do so.
– How many attend Professor Foster’s lectures at the Sydney University ?
– A few. The honorable member said that 201 officers would be affected by this proposal; under the new scheme of training there, it would be nearly 700. The honorable member would drag every one of those officers from all parts of Australia - from North Queensland and from Western Australia - to one central college, but that would be impossible.
– Does the honorable member say that my estimate of the figures is wrong ?
– The honorable member’s estimate as to the officers concerned is wrong. The number affected under the present scheme is 280, but under the new scheme of training it will be nearer 700.
– Seven hundred majors ! I spoke of majors, not of officers generally.
– I am speaking, not only of majors, but of all the officers concerned. I have had the figures checked this morning. My honorable friend will achieve his object, and help us to assist him to achieve it, if he does what I suggest. We shall not confine his proposition more than we can help ; we shall bring all we can to thecollege, but some consideration must be given first of all to the convenience of the citizen officers, and, secondiy, to the enormous cost involved. I ask the honorable member to allow for alittie elasticity in the administration ; I say nothing about the standards.
– What would be the cost of taking 200 officers to the college in one year?
– I have not had the figures taken out, but it would be enormous. We should have to pay them an allowance while they were at the college, and also pay their travelling expenses. The honorable member is proposing to make the system so rigid that it will break down. I am sure the honorable member will not get as much efficiency by the method he prescribes as would be obtained by leaving the Department to put a little elasticity into the proposal. That is all I am pleading for. The honorable member last night succeeded in carrying a proposal requiring Administrative and Instructional Staff officers to go to the Military College before they could either be appointed or receive promotion. Quite by oversight, I am sure, he left out all the Royal Australian Artillery and Royal Australian Engineer officers. If any officers ought to be instructed at the college, officers belonging to those arms of the service should.
– I am quite willing to include’ them now, if the honorable member will move in that direction.
– We cannot go back at this stage. I shall endeavour to have the provision amplified in another place to make it include those officers. I want to get as much under this scheme as I can, but I beg the honorable member, in the interests of his own proposal, not to make it too rigid.
– Is the Minister content to make all the permanent men go to the college ?
– That is my suggestion.
– Then, unless this clause is carried, two castes of officers - the permanent and the militia - will be established.
– Not at all. I am afraid the honorable member has not approached the question in the spirit in which it ought to be approached. He asks me if I will consent to something, and the moment I do so, he says that I am all wrong. My proposal would not confine the instruction to permanent officers. We should, in our own interests, . get every man possible to the college, but I would allow some little consideration to the men who need it most, in the interests of their own instruction, in remote parts of Australia. I therefore move -
That after the word “ No,” line 1, the word “permanent” be inserted.
.- It is interesting to note the different attitude adopted by the Minister towards proposals submitted from his own side of the House and amendments put forward from this side.
– I hope I have treated every amendment fairly./
– The Minister cannot point to one amendment moved from this side that has been accepted.
– I accepted one yesterday on this very subject.
– Yes, an amendment of a proposal submitted by a Ministerial supporter, but all amendments submitted from this side for the improvement of the Bill itself in its earlier stages were rejected. I am in agreement with the Minister in resisting the proposal that all officers should go through the Military College before they are promoted above a certain rank.
– Such an enactment would rule out four-fifths of the militia officers.
– That is a most serious statement. I . believe we can get competent officers to carry out the duties in various parts of Australia without their having seen the interior of this, college. Whilst it may be necessary to have a college in order to build up an instructional staff, and a staff of officers to send to various places, the advancement of many good men to positions which attention to duty and ability qualify them to fill would be seriously retarded by enacting that no person should reach a certain rank until he had actually been through the college.
– The number of officers in the regimental establishment of the British Army at present is 11,000, of whom only about 850 have passed through a Staff College.
– This is not a Staff College, as the Minister knows.
– The idea of the honorable member for Wentworth is to make it a. general college.
– That is our idea also.
– If this college is to be established in one particular centre, and attendance is made compulsory, geographical difficulties alone will probably prevent many persons who are entitled to promotion from securing it. I do not feel very happy in having to defend the Government on this occasion, because I believe this Bill will be absolutely ineffective. With or without this provision, it will be unsatisfactory, but I believe that it will , be more unsatisfactory if this clause is inserted in its present form.
.- The amendment proposed by the Minister would not improve the proposed new section. It would simply make this a Staff College.
– The instruction would not be confined to permanent officers.
– I am afraid that it would, but another way out of the difficulty is open to us, if the Minister will agree to the amendment of the proposed new section to make it read in this way -
No officer, other than- officers of the Cadets, shall be promoted, except probationally, to any rank higher than that of Captain, until he has passed, as prescribed, a course of practical and theoretical instruction -
Not “at” the Military College, but- by the members of the staff of the Military College, to perfect him……
That will make the training effective, and meet what the Minister desires.
– I shall be quite satisfied with that.
– I am prepared to accept it.
– Our only object “is to make the college effective, and improve the efficiency of the forces. If the Minister will withdraw his amendment, I shall be prepared to move in the direction I have indicated.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Dr. Wilson) proposed -
That the word “ at “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ by the members of the staff of.”
.- I sympathize with the desire of the honorable member for Wentworth to prevent the creation of a military caste in Australia. I understand that the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite will not compel every officer to attend the college. There may be workers in different States who cannot afford to leave, or risk losing, their employment to attend the college, and it ought to be made clear that so long as they pass the necessary examinations their attendance at the college will not be compulsory. Is the Minister satisfied that that is provided for?
– I have no objection to the provision, as now proposed to be amended. It will simply provide that competent people shall prescribe the standard and require it to be reached, irrespective of place or time.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
– I beg to move -
That the following proposed new section be inserted : - “ 151. No officer shall be promoted above the rank of Major until he has passed as prescribed a course of instruction at the Military- College during which he shall have shown himself fitted to command in the field a force of all arms.”
I suggest that a man who is passing an examination corresponding to that of “Tactical fitness .to command” in the British Service might well have all the library and conveniences of a Military College at his disposal whilst he does it. We have not to-, day in the whole of the Commonwealth Forces a man who has led a force of all arms in the field, and the man .who becomes colonel of a militia regiment may be put in charge of a column. We have in Australia commandants who are supposed to have a knowledge of all arms, and it is no distortion of fact to say, without casting aspersions on them, that none of them has commanded a force of all arms in the field.
– In every case where it is possible we are glad to give our officers that opportunity.
– If there is a raid at some point in Australia, and there is in command there some garrison commander or officer occupying an ornamental position of that kind - say, a gentleman who was rather influential in politics - he might have to lead a force of all arms, although he had only commanded a battalion of Scotch rifles, or had commanded a Militia artillery brigade. I do not suppose it is possible to beat the Government’s whip, but, at any rate, I submit the proposed new section.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the word “at,” line 3, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ by the members of the staff of.”
.- There would not be so much objection to this amendment if we could have some definite assurance from some Minister not yet bom, or not yet in Parliament, that he would see that the officers brought up for this examination in tactics had had opportunities of leading forces of all arms. But suppose the college instructors were sent up to Wagga to examine the fitness of a major, who wanted to become a lieutenantcolonel. What opportunity could such a man have had, in such a place, to acquire fitness for commanding all arms?
– The words proposed to be inserted . would give an opportunity for the officer at Wagga to go to Sydnev to be instructed.
– They might ! If a Minister were to “ prescribe “ that the trainingshould consist of a little instruction during half-hours on Sundays, Parliament would know what was being done ; but we might not know that the examination in tactical fitness was properly conducted. Some Minister in the future may prescribe that these officers shall be examined in their own towns purely in theoretical matters. Any man of ordinary brains could pass -such art examination after cramming for it. What is wanted is more than ordinary brains; it is fitness.
– It appears to me that the language of this proposed new section does not make the meaning very clear. It speaks of an officer passing “a course of instruction.” A man cannot pass a course; he can pass through a course. Does the provision mean that an officer is to pass an examinationbased upon some course of instruction giver* by officers of the Military College? If so, it ‘is not clear.
– I was talking to the Attorney-General about the point raised by the honorable member for Capricornia before the matter was mentioned. The Attorney-General tells me that the language of the proposed new sectionwould cover such an examination as is contemplated. He can think of no better words to meet the purpose.
– The proposed new sectionis nice and vague !
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the following proposed new section be inserted :- “ 152. Sections 149, 150, and 151 shall not disqualify any existing officer of the Commonwealth Military Forces for the rank he holds on the ‘ date on which the Act comes into operation, provided he receives, as prescribed, a certificate of his fitness for the said rank from the Director cf the Military College within twoyears of the establishment of the said College.”
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-. Minister of Defence) [11.19J. - I should like the honorable member for Wentworthto explain what he means by this provision.. Does he mean that if an officer does not obtain the service certificate of fitness, he must step down from his rank ?
.- The. object of this proposal is to enable the Mili- tary College to arrive at some satisfactory, if more rough-and-ready, method of gauging the capacity of officers for their positions, than exists under the preceding clauses, which apply to new applications by officers for their majority in the higher ranks. I do not think it can be denied that the existing officers ought to become, within two’ years at any rate, efficient for the ranks which they are now holding. What is contemplated is not an examination on paper.
– I want to know what is to happen to an officer if he does not get the necessary certificate of fitness ?
– The words of the proposed new section are clear. If an officer does not get the certificate he will be disqualified. He will step down.
– I ought to be frank with my honorable friend, and tell him that the proposed new section, as it stands, does not attain that object.
– If it does not, I am sure the Minister will not object to it. The main objection to a proposal of this kind is the amount of trouble it will stir up amongst a number of majors and colonels, who do not want to prove themselves fit for the positions they occupy.
– That is one of the rank injustices which this proposed new section will do.
– I do not think that any rank injustice- is concerned. We have to face appeals on behalf of men in the Department as against the public efficiency of this great safeguard of the people of Australia.
– ‘This proposal means that an officer will have to show his efficiency, or he will be put out.
– Exactly. If these officers are not efficient, why should they hold their commands? If the Minister cannot accept the proposed new section, I shall call for a division upon it.
– I cannot accept it.
– Very well, then; let us have on paper a division list, which will show who want our militia officers to be efficient, and who do not.
– The proposal before us is simply one that will take rank from men who now have it, and who have earned it honestly. They may be men who, in younger days, passed all the examinations required, but who have grown rusty. Yet, because they cannot get a cer tificate from the Staff College my honorable friend says that they must be dispossessed of their rank, and’ made to step down. I cannot conceive of a more unjust proposal. My honorable friend is setting up an educational standard for the future, and the least he could do would be to let existing officers alone.
– We may have to use our forces before these men retire.
– We shall have to make the best of - the situation if we do.
– That is a nice admission !
– What is there in the admission ? My honorable friend is chopping logic all the time. If war comes to-morrow we shall have to do the best we can ; and we should not be in any better position for having this proposed new section in the Bill. I can conceive of nothing which would strike a heavier blow at that spirit which ought to pervade the forces than would be done if this provision were inserted as it stands. I have never known retrospective legislation of this kind.
– It is not retrospective.
– It is worse than being retrospective. It means that officers must step down unless they get a certificate from the Staff College.
– If they do not prove themselves fit for their positions in two years.
– I quoted one instance last night, and they could be multiplied, of people being left in their positions without being subject to any tests. The honorable, member will not get any nearer to what he wants to do, and will not do any good, by pressing this proposal. I ask him, at least, to consent to leave out the words after the word “operation.” I move -
That the proposed new section be amended by leaving out all the words after the word “ operation.”
.- If any honorable member had asked the Minister of Defence to describe in a few words the state of things that existed .in the early stages of the Civil War in America, he could not have done it in more appropriate words than he has used. When it was urged that General McLellan should be superseded, it was said : “Oh, do not supersede him ; he has done such a lot for the Forces. Do not put Grant and Sherman in command because McLellan is the right man in the right place. It would not be right to put any. one over his head.” That is exactly what the Minister of Defence has been saying. What happened in America? Thousands of valuable lives were lost through McLellan’s bad generalship and lack of tactical ability. Ultimately the United States Government had to supersede him.
– We had a similar case in reference to General Buller in South Africa.
– The same sort of thing occurred in the South African war. The Minister wants to perpetuate it here. Nearly all foreign officers who have seen British troops in the field have admitted that they are the best soldiers in the world, but they have been often sacrificed through incompetent generalship. Our Minister of Defence actually wants to keep incompetent men in positions for which they are not fit. Really, I am ashamed of the Minister ! It would be better for us to pay these men pensions, or retire them on half pay, than to keep them in positions for which they are incompetent. When Buller made a mess of things in South Africa, the Government had to supersede him, although he had influential friends at Court, and had been a great man in his day.
– The honorable member should recollect that the Home Government superseded a staff officer by one who had not passed the staff examination.
– Does the Minister of Defence mean to say that an officer who had not received a proper military education would be likely to be more competent than one who had been through the Staff College course ?
– I should be sorry to say that. I should say that the staff officer, other things being equal, would be more competent.
– That has been my experience. There was not a man on Lord Roberts’ staff in South ‘Africa, with the exception of Colonel Parsons, who had not passed through the Staff College.
– Lord Kitchener had not.
– He was not on the Staff. What we require is a military training college.
– The great need is to give instruction to our officers.
– Yes, and to see that the educated officers get employment. There are officers in the Militia Forces who have never passed examinations.
– I differ from the honorable member for Wentworth only as to method.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is not making captious proposals. His desire is to render the forces more efficient. If the Minister can improve the proposed new section, the Committee will assist him in doing so. The honorable member for Wentworth is on the right track. The Minister should tell us what he means by saying that the proposed new. section is not sufficiently elastic, and how he thinks it should be amended to meet theviews of the Government, and yet carry out the intention of the honorable member for Wentworth.
– My objection to the proposed new section is that it is too elastic. I agree with the Minister that it is not desirable to dismiss competent officers because they can-‘ not now pass examinations. But I fear that this proposal will enable him to retain all the present officers. If one thing is more important than another, it is that our officers shall be efficient. An officer who is not efficient should be retired, no matter what his position may be. But officers who are thoroughly up to their work should be retained without being asked to pass examinations on theoretical subjects, such as it is quite right to ask young officers to pass. Apparently, the Minister intends to keep; his present officers, whether competent or not, since he fears lest even one officer may be shut out.
– That is not so.
– Some of the present officers are incapable, and should be. dismissed. Does the Minister .intend to dismiss them? He must either retain incapable officers, or dismiss some of the present staff. A good reason for dismissing officers would be their inability to pass a simple examination.
– Their inability to obtain a certificate of fitness.
– Yes. We must not dismiss officers who are competent, but there are quite a number who are incapable of properly handling large bodies’ of men. I have known a commanding officer to make the most stupid blunders imaginable. ‘ Through such a blunder I was once kept on duty in South Australia for sixty-five hours continuously. On that occasion even the cooks had been ordered out of the camp. I was on guard duty for twenty-four hours, and, at nightfall, knowing the commanding officer, I told’ the sentries that, while they must be- on’ the alert, and carry out their duties strictly, they should not walk backwards and forwards more than was absolutely necessary, because next day they would probably have to march 15 miles, and take part in a sham fight. That is precisely what happened. I reported to my superior officer that the men were unfit for further work, and, agreeing with me, he reported the matter to his superior. But the commandant ordered that every man should turn out who did not declare himself unfit for duty. On returning I was made regimental sergeant for twenty-four hours, and had to be at my post at every bugle call during that period. One of the colonels having - discovered that a blunder had been .made, ordered the cooks to be sent back. Had this not been done, the men would have been without food. I should be sorry to have such officers in .charge of men in the field.
– So would any one.
– The inefficiency of the officer referred to is apparent.
– I do npt know whether he is still on the active list. We do not wish to deprive officers of their rank, but incapable men should be retired. The officer to whom I have referred was most zealous and anxious to do- his best, but he was unfitted for his position, and had not had the opportunity to educate himself.
– I am going to keep things as they are until I can improve them.
– The proposed new section has been moved in order to help the Minister to improve them. The honorable gentleman would be very sorry iftrouble should arise during his term of office, and he were made responsible for the blunders which would inevitably occur under the present system. I shall vote for the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth, on the understanding that the examination prescribed for the present officers shall not be made too drastic, but shall be sufficient to test their fitness for further active service.
. - I am entirely with the Minister in this matter, and speak from considerable experience with the-
– Fire brigades.
– Yes. Within the last five years it was proposed to test the men pf the brigades by means of examinations, with the result that men whose service showed them to be fully “capable were unable to pass. A similar thing occurred in the Public Service in connexion with the examination for linemen. Good practical men were unable to pass the tests prescribed, by the Public Service Commissioner, which were ridiculed and denounced in the press. They were consequently displaced by others whose theoretical knowledge was greater, but who were not nearly so good. I agree as to the need for testing the knowledge of new officers, but it would be unjust to compel those whose service proves their capacity to submit to examination, and would probably result in trouble. The case referred to by the honorable member for Maranoa had no bearing on the argument. Under certain conditions it may be necessary to change a commanding officer, no matter what his qualifications or experience may be. What is now proposed is to displace men who have been doing good work, if they are unable to pass a certain examination.
– Would the honorable member prefer to serve under a thorough soldier, in whom he had perfect confidence, or under an “ old woman “?
– No doubt the honorable member has known thorough soldiers who have never passed examinations, and “ old women “ who have done so. The possession of college diplomas does not always prove ability. I have known university graduates who were merely educated fools.
– Then what is the use of college training?
– To improve education. But ability, force of character, or fitness for certain positions cannot be guaranteed by the possession of diplomas. We have officers whose qualifications are proved by their experience and capacity.
– The proposed new section will not interfere with them.
– It might do so, and i would prevent that. I hope that the Committee will support the Minister in this matter. Make’ the standard as high as you like for future examinations, but do not try to apply new conditions to men who have proved themselves to be capable. What would happen if it were required that the members of this Parliament should prove their fitness for their positions by submitting to an educational test?
– There would be a good many vacancies.
– Some of the best men iri Parliament might perhaps be compelled to retire. They might possess all the qualificationsnecessary as the result of experience, general knowledge, and education other than that obtained at a’ university, and yet be unable to pass the prescribed standard.
– The honorable member is referring, not to education, but to instruction.
– I say that, after all, the Scriptural test is, in effect, the best - “ Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Men should not be compelled to undergo an examination when they are proving by their work that they are fit for the positions they occupy. ‘ In other words, I hold that this provision should not be retrospective. It should not apply to those- already holding office.
– I do not care to follow the honorable member for Wentworth as a will o’ the wisp of this party. I should prefer rather to follow him as a leader ; but I. think that he has rather more confidence in the proposed ‘ Military College than has’ the Minister of Defence. The honorable, member thinks that it would be quite sufficient to allow ‘ the status of present officers to be left to the judgment of those directing, the college, and I agree with him. The Minister evidently does not. As to what’ the honorable member for Maribyrnong, has said, I do not think that this provision would mean that a statutory examination should be passed by those now in office. All that it proposes is that their qualifications shall be brought under review. If there is anything to be feared from that proposal it is that the college authorities, because of persona] sympathy, may strain the qualities of mercy, and so sacrifice the efficiency of the forces. We must, however, take that risk. We cannot guard against every abuse, but we can adopt the mild expedient of bringing the qualifications of the present officers under the review of those directing the affairs of the college, and in doing so take some steps to guard against incompetence.
.- The Minister of Defence is putting up an excellent fight against what he considers to be a proposed injustice. If he could show that the proposed new section would have the effect he fears, I should certainly support him. But honorable members who consider that the injustice at the present time lies in a different direction from that which the honorable gentleman suggests must support this proposal. From the outset of our consideration of this Bill the cry has gone forth that it is a non-party measure; but as soon as we reach the Committee stage - the stage at which all measures are supposed to be dealt with in a non-party spirit - we find that it is being treated as a distinctly party Bill. In moving the second reading the Minister of Defence cordially invited suggestions, but as soon as a SUEgestion is made in Committee he warmly attacks it.
– If it is a non-party measure I shall expect the honorable member to vote occasionally with me.
– The honorable member will not lead me off the track in that way. He is trying to enfilade’ me. He is seeking in that way to do what he is not prepared to do by open fire.
– The honorable gentleman is pretty good at sniping.
– That is all.
– It is a non-party measure when the honorable member votes with the other side. .
– All that the honorable gentleman can think of is the fighting of political battles. Surely he can for at least ten minutes put aside party political warfare, an3 deal with this measure as it affects the people. We are now endeavouring .to secure an efficient defence force. We have taken steps to secure the efficiency of the rank and file, and we say -now that to complete the scheme we must take care that the officers shall also be efficient. If the honorable member for Wentworth were proposing that certain officers should be removed from their posts, quite irrespective ot their competency, because they could not pass certain examinations, he would not deserve support; but he does not propose anything of the kind. No one would oppose more strongly than I should any proposition for mere theoretical examinations. In my younger days I had an opportunity to pass, and did pass, some, but the mere passing of such examinations or’ the holding of academic degrees does not count for much. Holders of academic degrees, as Carlyle put it, are often little men on long crutches. Some men have practically the whole alphabet at the end of their names, and that is all they have got. As tothe qualifications of military officers, it is proposed only to consider their fitness tolead troops in the field. That is all the honorable member for Wentworth asks.”
Under this proposed new section an officer will have to obtain within two years a certificate of fitness. If a man ‘cannot obtain a certificate pf fitness for practical field work within two years, then the sooner he goes on the reserve list the better. The honorable member for Wentworth does not propose to deprive such men of their Tank ; he simply proposes that they shall be placed on the reserve list. Surely an army is not merely for show purposes, or to enable men to undergo physical drills. Surely there must be some immediate or contingent danger feared when we propose to create an army of 300,000 men ? And by whom shall we be attacked ? By men led by incompetent officers ? No.
– By men who do not work under such a provision as this.
– Great Britain, which, as a rule, is very conservative, has learned admirable lessons in militarism from Continental countries. Continental Europe has set the pace. We have in the history of the South African War an illustration of the necessity for this provision. Many officers displayed great bravery and courage, but they lacked the fitness to lead. In continental Europe military officers ‘have to show absolute fitness for their positions. We are told that the Empire will probably be in danger. In danger of what ? Danger of attack by forces of the very type to which I am now referring. To resist them successfully we must have efficiency on the part of officers as well as of men.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– Then why not accept this proposal ?
– Because it is unnecessary, and would be unjust.
– Unjust to whom? No capable militia officer has anything to fear from this provision.
– A number of the most capable will object to it.
– Officers will not be asked to pass a theoretical examination, except as to their fitness.
– I would ask the honorable member to read the proposed new section.
– The honorable member remarked satirically last night, “ We are a House of experts.” I’ appreciate satire, “but whilst we are not all experts, we are a tody of men who have had some experience of life, who have used their powers of observation, and are capable of drawing deductions from what they see and hear.. We propose to reform our defence system, and when the honorable member for North Sydney says, “We are not experts,” I have no hesitation in replying that we ought to keep away from the man who poses as an expert. My fear, however, it that the Minister will become the toy of experts, who differ amongst themselves from year to year, and are constantly fighting. A few years ago Mr. W. H. Smith, a London bookseller, but a shrewd business man, .who amassed a fortune, had charge of the British Admiralty, and carried out some of the most effective reforms that the Admiralty has ever known. That is my answer to the honorable member for North Sydney’s remark as to honorable members not being experts. If we are to refrain from criticising’ a Bill merely because we are not experts, why should we consider if in Committee? We might just as well take the Bill as ladled out1 to us by the experts, and not trouble to discuss it. The honorable member for Maribyrnong was right in his references to theoretical examinations. He is an ex-field officer - I am not throwing cold water on his fire brigade experiences - and an ex- PostmasterGeneral. No one has ridiculed more than I have done some of the examinations prescribed for candidates for admission to the General Division of the Public Service. Recently candidates for the position of linesmen in the Postmaster-General’s Department were asked to pass a stiff test in dictation, and one of the words they had to spell was “ phantasmagoria.” Had I been asked to spell it, I would have said : “I have put up all the other poles; what sort of a pole is ‘ phantasmagoria ‘ “ ? Many “ useless examinations are passed by men who are never heard of again. The gold medallist - the senior wrangler of his year - is seldom heard of after he leaves the university. I am not very keen on theoretical examinations, but I am in favour of examinations being held to determine an officer’s fitness for the post he occupies. I do not know what the Minister is fighting about. We have had some sad experiences of political officers. I have in mind one who, if examined in strategy, would get 90 per cent, of the possible marks, but if I were to mention his name, scarcely an honorable member would be prepared to follow him even to a luncheon. It can be said with truth regarding a large number of Australian officers that if it were the fashion in Great Britain to wear monocles they would wear them here. They are pure imitators. The Minister in this Bill has undoubtedly set a model before the British world. Then why not perfect it?
– Will the proposed new section perfect it? I think it will spoil it.
– Apparently certain honorable members are so disciplined as politicians that, in considering this Bill, they are averse to anything to which the Minister is averse. It is a healthy sign that we are quarrelling over this matter. The youth of a nation is shown by its love of warfare ; its old age by a love of merchandise and trade. All that the honorable member for Wentworth asks for is fitness.
– Indeed, he asks for a great deal more. He is proposing unjust and irritating restrictions without adding one iota to the effect of his proposals.
– If the Minister can show any irritating or unjust conditions, no member cif the Committee has a right to advocate their adoption, but until the Minister does that I am entitled as an ordinary member to defend this proposal to the best of my ability. Another argument put forward is that of cost; but was that consideration urged regarding the main provisions- of the Bill ? Is defence to be measured by cost ? I do not say that we should waste money, but if we ate to spend ,£1,750,000 on the rank and file, and bring the main body of the Army to a high state of efficiency, surely we shall not refrain for the sake of a few thousand pounds from making the officers -efficient. I admit that Australia has a big bill to face, but surely this measure is not to be passed as a mere placard ? Without saying it offensively, the Minister, to a. great extent, is only the’ phonograph of his central administration.
– That does not happen to be in the slightest degree correct.
– Then if the Minister is not led by anybody, he has evolved the whole of this scheme out of his inner consciousness.
– Let us get through with the business.
– Does the Minister call it business simply to get through something, good, bad, or otherwise, so long as it is got through? The Minister, of course, has as much right to oppose as I have toadvocate ah amendment, but he should give it fair consideration. He has been exceptionally well treated by the House on the present occasion. In connexion with an intricate and complicated measure, affecting the lives of thousands of people, he has. secured the second reading on the voices, and taken it through Committee in less than a week. His measure is leading the British world on the question of defence, and he ought not to resist proposals for its improvement as if they represented organized obstruction on an ordinary party measure. Surely defence is not to be made a party question. As an old friend, I honestly admire the way he has carried his measure through, and the skill he has shown, but I do not appreciate his attitude in twisting round and trying to apply party discipline when amendments are put forward.
– That is a most unjust statement.
– The honorable member should remember that on this measure, as on others, each member is responsible to his constituents. No member can forget that in voting for the Bill he is really placing the whole of the adult male population of Australia under arms, and that that population has a vote. Every honorable member who votes for universal training has a bounden duty to see that efficient officers are provided to take the command of the Citizen Forces. I want no fancy or tricky examinations to be prescribed for officers, but I do want a test of fitness.
Mr. Joseph Cook. Why does the honan able member assume that I have not that just as much at heart as he has?
– Because the Minister is opposing this proposal. Without it, what has he to fall back upon ?
– All that the proposed new section would do would be toinflict an injustice on capable and efficient officers already in the service.
– I have heard objections of that sort ever since I have been in this Chamber. If the Committee refuses toadopt this proposal, what machinery has the Minister at his command to test whether officers are efficient or otherwise? The only machinery existing today for that purpose is the Central Administration. The Minister, therefore, will have to take one of two courses. He must: either constitute himself the censor of existing officers, or take the advice of the
Central Administration regarding them. The Central Administration will not go back upon what they have already done. They have in the past recommended these individuals for their positions. We have had instances in Australia of men holding high commands simply as the result of friendship with the political head, for the time being, of the Defence Department. 1 have heard it said that an officer appointed in Victoria at a very recent date received field rank, not by passing an examination, but through the intervention of a Minister. I am not referring to the present Minister. If the Committee does not adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth, or something similar to it, we shall simply have at work the same machinery as brought that sort of thing about. Regarding the Central Administration as a concrete illustration of a piece of machinery, I assert, without referring to individuals, that they have been guilty, time after time, of allowing men to obtain field rank who were not competent for the position. The weeding out of incompetents is surely not an injustice. I intend to vote’ for this proposal, and, for my own protection, I am giving just and powerful reasons for doing so. 1 do not expect the Minister to accept every amendment moved, but this one will make for an improvement of the forces by insuring competent officers, in whom the rank and file will have confidence.
– And I am opposing it because I think it will do no good.
– The Minister looks at it from one stand-point, and I from another; but I am sure the honorable member for Wentworth has. not taken this step simply to load the Bill, or to have his name associated with it. If any member- puts forward a proposal which can be sustained by argument and reason, no matter on which side of the House he sits, let him get credit for improving the Bill. I suppose if it had not been for the promptings of ambition none of us would have been in the Chamber, and when a man does come here, is he worth a rap unless he tries to move? I cannot stand these petty little jealousies. As I put it yesterday, if you excel others you get their enmity, while if you let others excel you you get their friendship. Human nature in that regard is as active in this Chamber as it is outside, and if we apply the same test to the officers we shall not be. far wrong. There are officers in the ranks of the Militia who excel, and, in proportion as they excel, they excite the enmity of others. It is not the smart man who will be afraid, but the society darling, and the incompetent.
– In supporting the proposed new section I should like to put to the Minister the point that it will be found in operation to be as valuable for the protection of the Administration as of the country itself. Suppose that there is an incompetent officer in our forces. I dare say there are quite a number of honorable members who will agree that we have some incompetents, but I am only putting a supposititious case. How is such an officer to be removed? It is desirable that incompetent men should be weeded out somehow.
– Put them in the firing line.
– Incompetent men manage somehow not to get into the firing line.
– Put them in Parliament.
– That does not get rid of them. We have plenty of colonels and lieutenant-colonels in Parliament now. They are as thick as blackberries. There is no means of getting rid of an incompetent officer if the Director of the Military College is not to be allowed to recommend his dismissal. Is it likely that the Administration which has appointed men to positions would turn round and admit having made mistakes ; or is it likely that the Minister would go out of his way to make personal enemies when, by not interfering, he could retain the friendship of those interested? Suppose, for instance, that it was considered that Colonel Forrest was incompetent.
– He would be in the Scouts.
– Is the honorable member referring to the right honorable doctor?
– I am referring to a gentleman who is, in one of his many capacities, a colonel. What Minister would propose to retire Colonel Forrest from active service?
– He would explode if any Minister did.
– The officer to whom I have referred is likely to be close to the Minister’s ear, and would protest straight away. Many men who have secured high positions in our Military Forces have got them by influence. The influence that put them there will keep them there if the Minister is to be the judge of fitness. It will be a good thing for the Minister himself to be able to say - “ The
Director of our Military College, the man best qualified to judge in these matters, has made a recommendation, and we must throw the responsibility upon him. ‘ ‘ I ask the Minister of Defence in this matter to imitate his own policy in New South Wales. Some years ago, when he served in the Administration led by the right honorable member for East Sydney, it was considered that the Public Service contained a number of incompetent officers. The Minister did not ask that these men should continue to hold their positions until they died or dropped out, nor did he give them two years to qualify. What he did was to appoint a Board of Public Service Commissioners, who occupied a position analogous to that which will be occupied by the Director of the Military College. These Commissioners prescribed examinations for all future appointments. In addition to that, they set to work to ascertain the fitness of old hands. They did not ask these officers to pass a theoretical examination. I remember the time when they came down to. the Lands. Office and examined the officials there. They did not require that the old hands should undergo the same tests as the younger men. But they did require that all officers should show that they were fit for their a positions. Those who could not do so were fired out. The Commissioners did not hesitate to dismiss incompetents. At that time we had no one getting up in Parliament as the Minister has done this morning and expatiating upon the injustice being done to old servants. It was con- sidered essential for the welfare of the country that officers in the Lands offices and in other offices should be retired if found to be incompetent. How much more important is it that in a matter of life and death we should see to it that incompetent officers are retired? This is the only method in which we can secure that end. If the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth be agreed to it will not be necessary for every officer to undergo an examination to show fitness for his position.
– That is not suggested. Mr. HALL. - What will be necessary is this. If the Director of the Military College cannot say that an officer who is doing certain work is competent, he will recommend that that officer shall be retired. If the Director is not fit to exercise such functions he is not fit to be the head of the college. If we want to get rid of incompetent men, we should make provision for that purpose. Of course, if it is desired to allow the state of things that has existed in the past to continue, I can understand the proposed hew section being resisted. But I appeal to those who recognise that we are entering upon a new era in military affairs in Australia, and who wish to insure that we shall get something for our money, not to allow a natural anxiety to avoid doing injustice to old men to induce them to do a very much greater injustice to the country, which looks to this Parliament to provide for it an efficient military system.
.- -I hope that the Minister will remain steadfast in resisting the insertion in the Bill of the words after the word “operation” in the new section moved by the honorable member for Wentworth. I look upon this as an attempt to erect a sort of central executive military establishment-, under the rule of which only a few people in Australia will be able to pass the necessary examinations enabling them to attain to important commands in the military service. I must congratulate the honorable member for Wentworth on securing the support of the Labour party for the establishment of an exclusive Military College. I am astonished at his success.
– The Minister accepted the proposal for the establishment of the college without a division.
– The Minister accepted the proposal with the addition of certain words. ‘As a matter of fact, the Government themselves intended to submit a proposal with the same object. The college would have been established if no amendment had been moved. But, as the amendment has been agreed to, the Minister will have the widest discretion as to the operations of the college and the general administration of it. My objection to the proposed new section now under consideration is that, in order to get rid of incompetent officers, it will be necessary for the Director to prescribe a standard of examination which would have the result of plucking some of the most competent men of the service. ‘It would be for the Director to prescribe the standard of examination which existing officers would have to pass; and we may be sure that he would not adopt a standard inferior to that which would be established at the Military College itself. If the State Parliament some years ago, in legislating as to municipal surveyors, had laid down similar conditions to those now proposed, the result would have been that if the surveyors then in office had not been able to pass prescribed examinations they would have had to be retired ; and similarly, if when a new regulation was inaugurated compelling inspectors of public schools to be degree men, it had been applied to existing officers, the result would have been that some of the most eminent and able of our public school inspectors would have been dismissed. If this proposal is to be accepted at all, I trust that the amendment proposed by the Minister will be agreed to. We surely do not want to get rid of old officers, in order that younger members of the service who have only had a bare theoretical training may supplant them.
– Could not the older officers get certificates of fitness?
– Why should they when they are doing their work capably ?
– The Military College is intended to train officers for the ranks prescribed. The Director would prescribe the standard of examination for existing officers. It is only reasonable to suppose that he would prescribe a standard to be passed by existing officers within a period of two years that would approximate to the standard set in the college itself. The result would probably be that not 5 per cent, of our existing officers would be able to pass. Consequently, in our effort to pluck incompetent officers, we should lose some of the best men in the service.
.- As I understand the proposed new section, its effect will be to provide for the removal of certain officers who are known to be incompetent. If the Minister desires that the Defence Force shall be properly officered, he should welcome this proposal. I cannot see that any injustice will be done by it. If injustice should be done, it will be the fault of the Minister in prescribing too severe an examination. The proposed new section does not require that the present officers shall be put to tests which must spell failure, or asked to pass examinations in theoretical subjects with which it would be impossible for the majority to deal satisfactorily. There is no desire to interfere with the many officers in the Militia Forces who have been doing excellent practical work for years past. The proposed new section really enacts that officers shall ob tain certificates of fitness prescribed by the Minister.
– From the Military Director.
– It is the Minister who will be responsible.
– I think that that is made clear by a definition in the Acts Interpretation Act.
– Perhaps so. The right honorable member will agree with me that regulations must have the approval of the Minister.
– Certainly the approval of a medical practitioner would not do.
– No, though there are one or two officers who, although requiring the sendees of medical practitioners, are still retained on the active list. After the Minister has prescribed what shall be clone, it will be for the Director of the Military College to give certificates.
– That means the reexamination of all the present officers?
– Not necessarily. I would not approve of that. Of course, the Minister could so interpret the provision; but that is not what is intended. I know several officers of standing in the Militia who could not pass an examination, and who are yet well fitted for the positions which they hold, and are giving excellent service. Such officers should not be superseded.
– I am anxious that such officers shall not be superseded.
– The proposed new section should not interfere with them.
– Does the honorable member suggest that different tests should be prescribed for the same officers ?
– If the efficiency of the officers is to be tested, the test must apply to all, and men who are fitted for the work they are doing would refuse to submit themselves to it.
– The nature of the test must be determined by the Minister. It may be as simple as he likes to make it.
– It would not be fair to ask a. field officer to submit to a simple elementary test, and if a test were simple, incompetent men could pass it. A test to be of use should determine the fitness of those to whom it was applied. Otherwise it would be worth nothing.
– I do not suggest that the same test should be applied to second lieutenants and to majors, b’lt there are officers holding the rank of major who could not pass the simplest test.
– A simple test might be passed by officers who were really incompetent.
– To allow incompetent officers to hold positions to the exclusion of better men is disheartening to those who possess ability. The Minister will be well advised if he accepts the proposal. Even though the Director of the Military College might be unfair or unjust, which is almost inconceivable, the certificate to be given must be prescribed by the Minister. Undoubtedly the Minister should welcome the giving of power to remove manifestly incompetent officers. Let me mention an instance of what happens under the present system. A certain officer was raised to the rank of major, although it was known to the authorities that he was not fit for the position. Later, when the command of an infantry regiment became vacant, he applied for and obtained it, although there was eligible a. competent officer who had seen active service. The incompetent man was made provisionally a lieutenantcolonel, and . held command for two years, during whichperiod he seldom or never exercised his regiment, because he knew that he was incompetent to do so, and, although directed on several occasions to present himself for examination to prove his fitness for the rankwhich. he held, he evaded doing so. The authorities knew that he was dodging the examination, and yet they allowed him to retain nominal control of the regiment for two years. At the end of that time, as he could no longer put off the examination, he applied to be retired with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and his request was granted. Now he struts about, a veritable jackdaw, in peacock’s feathers. The fact that for two years he had charge of a regiment was not creditable to the authorities. We desire to prevent that sort of thing in the future. Let me give another recent occurrence. The senior captain of an infantry regiment was unable to pass the examination for major, failing several times. Younger men passed it with credit, but the officer commanding refused to sanction their promotion. After two years of struggling, one of them was side-tracked. This was done to keep the position open for a favourite who could not qualify for it.
– The Minister of the day declined to do his duty in that case.
– That is so. Without a provision of this kind the Defence
Force may be subject to all manner of influences, and officers may be promoted improperly. If I thought that the provision would interfere unjustly with our militia officers, or deprive capable men of their positions because of their inability to pass highly technical and theoretical examinations, I would oppose it ; but it does not dp so.
– I strongly approve of the proposal for the establishment of a Military College, but it seems to me that the provision with which we are now dealing goes too far. Those who have passed examinations in early life know that it would be almost impossible for them to do so again in middle age.
– I only propose that the officers shall be asked to prove their fitness.
– Examinations on technical and scientific questions are very useful when men are entering a servicelike this, but I doubt whether even Lord Roberts could at the present time pass an examination for the rank of major.
– Were he in our service, he. would be given a certificate of fitness.
– By whom? By the Minister. Such certificates can be given without a provision of this kind. I do not think that honorable members are more capable than the heads of the Department to determine the fitness of our officers. If there are officers who are unfit, they should be retired ; but it would be unfair to ask excellent men to pass technical examinations.. Did any of Napoleon’s marshals do so? We know that many of them were taken from the ranks. The Boer officers, who kept the British Army at bay for a long time, were not men who had passed technical examinations.
– They proved their fitness for their positions. Our officers should be given an opportunity to do the same, though not in the same way.
– Who is to determine the fitness of officers? The very men at the head of the Department now, who are keeping them in their present positions. If they think that they are incompetent they should retire them, and if they are favouring them now, they will favour them in the future. This proposed new section will not meet the position. If we have competent men at the head of the Department now, they must be able to judge of the fitness of their subordinates for the positions they ‘hold ; and if we have not a staff able to determine the competency of those below them, this proposal must be ineffective. We cannot make a soldier by Act of Parliament, and we cannot by Act of Parliament make an officer unless we. have at the head of affairs the right man. Although I supported last night the proposal for the establishment of a Military College, I am not in favour of that institution being used to squeeze out of the service men who may be good practical soldiers, although unable to pass a highly technical examination.
– The Minister ought to accept the proposed new section. When speaking a few minutes ago I cited a case which, to my mind, showed the absolute necessity for inserting in the Bill such a provision as this. I propose now to give an even stronger illustration of its urgency. Some years ago we had in one of the States a commandant who suffered so severely from a certain complaint that it was impossible for him to cross a horse, and medical men said that he would never be able to ride again. That officer, however, was promoted to the position of State Commandant of Queensland, where he received a higher salary to perform duties which he could not possibly carry out. He died soon afterwards. I was certainly sorry for him. He had seen service in South Africa, and I was willing that he should obtain all the recompense that the Commonwealth could give him. A Labour Ministry was in power at the time, but the then Minister of Defence did not know the true position regarding this officer until I brought all the facts before him. This officer was physically incapable of pei forming any of his duties, yet he was promoted to one of the most important commands in the Commonwealth. Later on he was superseded by an officer who was well able to do the work expected of him. He could readily have passed a very stringent theoretical examination, but was unfit to do practical work. I could cite twenty or thirty other cases in support of the position I take up, but think it unnecessary to do so. It is not my desire that any man who has done good service should be deprived of his rank, and no man would be under this provision because of his inability to prove his fitness. He would retain his rank, but would be placed on the retired list.
.- I think that the honorable member for Balaclava has completely misunderstood the posi tion. He appeared to imagine that under this proposed new section - and, in view of the repeated interjections of the Minister, he had every justification for believing that it was capable of the interpretation that he placed upon it - officers of high rank were going to be asked to pass an examination in theory as well as in practice, such as will: be passed in future by younger officers graduating for the position of field officers. No such proposal is made by me. This provision is most explicit. It simply declares that whosoever cannot prove, to the satisfaction of a man selected by the Minister himself, according to methods prescribed by the Minister, his fitness for the position he holds should not continue to hold it. The Minister says that my proposal will cause injustice. Injustice to whom? Injustice to a number of officers who, I presume, cannot prove their fitness.
– It would not be unjust in their case.
– If we are not going to do “ an injustice “ to them, then we must be proposing to do an injustice to the country that expects us to be true to our oaths and to see that the country’s forces are efficient, and that what we pass shall be carried out.
– Unless this is carried we shall do an injustice to competent officers.
– Yes. Why should a competent man have his spirit, ambition, and enterprise stamped out of him by the fact that some gentleman who has influence and who, perhaps, can appeal to the pity of a Minister, is allowed to remain over him? Does not the Minister know that a gentleman occupying one of the highest positions in our military service was able to have corrected the decision of a Minister of Defence some four years ago, and to have that decision corrected, not on grounds submitted by his expert officers, but as the result of pressure brought to bear by leaders of parties in this House? The Minister knows the case to which I refer. I am not at liberty to say more, but the incident shows that some such provision as this is necessary in the interests of the Minister of Defence himself. It shows that without some such provision as this the Minister will be in the same position as he is in to-day - at constant war with his conscience on the one hand, and with his humanity on the other.
– The honorable member does riot think that would trouble the Minister, does he?
– As my honorable friends are aware, I have a high opinion of the Minister, but I think that on this occasion he has been completely swayed by the judgment of persons associated with him.
– I cannot understand his position.
– Nor can I. My desire is Ho strengthen the position of the Minister and to improve the whole situation. One of the greatest disappointments I have experienced during the consideration of this measure has relation to the attitude taken up by members of the Ministerial party in considering these proposals. None can say that they have any party complexion. Members of the Labour party cannot accuse me of being very closely allied with them on the subjects which ordinarily divide the House, and the Ministry cannot accuse me of wanting to be more closely associated with my friends opposite. But after the Minister of Defence replied yesterday to the speech which I made in introducing these proposals, we had an appeal to party instincts and party discipline by the honorable member for North Sydney. That appeal was followed up, not on the floor of the House, but in the lobbies and elsewhere, by methods which resulted in a number of honorable members voting with the Government, although they had formerly expressed their entire approval of the proposed new sections moved by me.
– I am not sure that the honorable member will be allowed to do this again.
– I shall retain the right which I am sure, the better men throughout all sections of the House will hold : the right to vote, on all questions affecting the safety of the people, in accordance with my conscience and my belief of what my public duty requires. I am not going to be swayed for a moment on matters of this kind by any false conceptions of party duty. There is nothing more lowering to the position of an honorable member than to feel that he is bound to vote-
– What has this to do with the matter ?
– The honorable member must not debate that question.
– The Minister realizes that it is not fair for me to discuss the question of party. I did not discuss party obligations until they were forced upon me by honorable members whoare supporting him on this occasion. The honorable gentleman tells us that this provision will not be operative. If he objects to it on that ground, I should like him to consult with his officers during the luncheon adjournment, and ascertain if some countersuggestion cannot be made that will attain the object we have in view..
– I do not want the proposed new section to be operative.
– Is that why the honorable member desires to strike out the last few lines?
– I repeat that I do not wish it to be operative.
– The honorable member complained at first that it would not be operative.
– I considered it my duty to tell the honorable member what I thought ; but it seems that I have done wrong.
– The honorable member has done no wrong in that regard.
– Let us divide before we go to lunch,
– When the honorable member is most anxious that the Committee should divide,” it is generally most in the interests of the public that a little delay should take place.
Sitting suspended from i to 2.15 p.m.
.- I feel very strongly against any proposal which would compel officers in the service to undergo any technical examination. I remember a very eminent Chief Justice of New South Wales - Sir James Martin - saying once from’ the Bench, after a very brilliant career, both at Bar and Bench, that if he were asked to undergo the preliminary examinations for admission to the Bar, he was sure he would be plucked. On the other hand I do feel that it should be possible for the Minister to prescribe a kind of test which would not be a technical test of that kind at all, but bear upon the ability of an officer to perform his practical duties in the field. I believe the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth is so framed as to enable the Minister to convert the examination into a practical one, and to avoid the injustice of submitting officers to a technical test. Having that belief, I must ‘ support it. The public are to be asked to make a very great sacrifice - the call upon them will amount to an enormous sum every year - and if there is a service that should be efficient it is the military service. If there are men who should be efficient they are the officers in command of that service. If we ever come to the practical test of warfare, the lives of the men will be at the mercy of ‘ the competency of the officers. I am sure we are all at one upon that point.
– But why make this provision retrospective?
– In the supreme necessity of having no officer in command, even in the humblest position, who is not thoroughly competent, this new departure will fail unless it is a new departure from the letter A. to the letter Z of our military system. We start this new force with a large number of officers of whom I wish to speak with the utmost respect, and who have shown patriotism in the most practical way by years of service, and it would be a cruel injustice to them to test them as to their efficiency as you would test a beginner. If I thought this proposal would inflict that injustice upon the officers in the service I should say that it ought to be scouted.
– And yet there is no other way of carrying out this proposal.
– Will the officers not die out gradually?
– Is that a proper way of regarding a matter of such urgent importance to the people? I have the greatestadmiration for my honorable friend, who will never die out. I believe he is more, efficient now than he ever was in his life, and if these officers were only like him, an examination of any kind would be an insult. This is the first opportunity I have had of publicly congratulating my honorable friend the Minister of Defence upon the magnificent way in which he has introduced this Bill, and I again congratulate the Committee upon the way in which it has endeavoured to make the Bill even better than it was when introduced. If we can possibly finish it this afternoon, I think we should all endeavour to do so. Consequently, I shall say no more, except that it is possible for the Minister, under the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth to make the test one which would not be unfair or unjust, but would redound to the advantage of competent officers. If there are left in the service a few who have ceased to be competent, the discredit of their inefficiency is spread over the whole service, and therefore, in the interests of the service and of the officers themselves, this proposal should be agreed to. I am confident that if it is passed in any form which the Minister upon consideration will agree to, it will be possible to submit all our officers to a fair test which will redound to the advantage of those who are competent, while removing from this new system, in the case of those who are incompetent, what I regard as its most serious danger of failure.
.- The objections to this proposal have been based on. a charge of injustice or unfairness to officers who are long past the stage for passing theoretical examinations.
– I do not oppose it on that ground at all.
– Other speakers have based their objections on the ground of unfairr ness and injustice to officers now in the service, in asking them to pass a theoretical examination.
– The objection was rather to the loss of the best officers.
– Yes, on the ground that it would be unfair to ask them to undergo a theoretical examination. I agree with the right honorable member for East Sydney that in many walks of life there are exceedingly competent men at the “top of the tree who could not pass such theoretical examinations as they passed when they first entered their professions, but the wording of this provision shows that the honorable member for Wentworth had no such idea in his mind. In proposed new sections 150 and 151 he requires certain officers to pass a course of practical and theoretical instruction ; but all he provides in this amendment is that those provisions shall not apply to any existing officer, so long as he receives, as prescribed, a certificate of fitness for his rank. He says nothing here about passing a theoretical and practical examination, and, as the right honorable member for East Sydney says, there could be prescribed under this provision conditions which would do no injustice or unfairness to any officer now in the service.
– Will the honorable member sketch what he thinks would be a fair test?
– Any fears on that ground could be removed by inserting after the word “ fitness “ the words “ in practical work.”
– I am prepared to accept that amendment.
– It would not meet my objection, because I hold that it is wrong to make the provision retrospective.
– It is not wrong to provide that the officers in charge of the Australian Forces shall be competent to obtain a certificate of fitness in practical work. We are beginning practically a new Defence Force, and its weakness, if it has any, will lie in having incompetent officers. It is altogether wrong to keep in the force, and put in charge of new men, officers who could not obtain from the Director of any Military College a certificate of fitness in practical work in the field. Any Director could see at once from their method of handling troops in the field whether they were worthy of a certificate of fitness or not. The amendment which I suggest would prevent the infliction of injustice and remove the fear of some honorable members that existing officers would be called upon to pass a theoretical examination.
.- I should be afraid if this proposal were adopted that it would be regarded in the Military Forces as a kind of want of confidence motion in the existing officers. If there is any body of men that I admire it is those officers, especially those from civilian walks of life, who have given up a great deal of their time to military duties. To pass such a proposal as this would be virtually to pass a motion of censure on them. Who is this new-fangled Director of the Military College to be? Does the honorable member for Wentworth aspire to the position ? If he took it I should have the utmost confidence in him, but we cannot tell who the Director is to be. To adopt this proposal is the right way to destroy discipline. It practically means saying that there are. officers in high places in the military service who have no business to be there.
– The honorable member knows that to be true; does he not ?
– I do not. I do not listen to every tale I hear in the streets. I hear plenty of tales about honorable members opposite, but I do not listen to them. Why should it be assumed that this new-fangled Director of the Military College will be better than all the Ministers that we have had in charge of the Department, or why should it be supposed that the officers under him, just because we are passing a new Act, will be more competent than the men who’ have voluntarily borne the heat and burden of the day ? We should think very seriously before we take such a drastic step. I have always a great dislike to throwing mud at anybody, and to pass such a provision as this would be distinctly throwing mud at the officers who have produced what we must admit to be a fairly efficient force, when we consider the disadvantages under which they have laboured for years. We ought not to destroy discipline altogether by casting discredit, as this proposed new section would do, upon the very efficient officers whom we now have in the service.
.- I . thoroughly concur in the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland. It makes the intention of the proposed new section all the clearer and takes away the last shred of excuse from those who are opposing it.
– Not at all.
– I do not suppose that I could ever take the last shred of excuse from the honorable member, but the objections to the proposal seem to be based on the argument that it is not right to call upon officers who have served for a considerable time to pass an examination. T .have protested ali through that that is not suggested. What is suggested is that they shall be granted a certificate of their fitness in practical work for their present positions. I trust that the suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland will assist the Committee in arriving at a speedy conclusion.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney said that we ought to begin from A to Z in connexion with the new forces, but my complaint about the proposal’ of the honorable member for Wentworth is that he wants to begin at Z and go back to A. He wishes to begin with officers who have served their country well, who are and have’ been efficient for many years, against whom there is not a tittle of complaint or a breath of cavil, and who are secure in their ranks.
– And who can therefore easily obtain a certificate of their fitness.
– I am not in favour of submitting such men to any test whatever. If I did I should expect to receive some of their resignations. I should not consent to humiliate efficient commanders who have proved their fitness for many years. My honorable friend talks about weeding out those who are unfit.
There must be other means than this found to achieve that end.
– What means will the honorable member find? Political influence? That seems to be the only alternative.
– The honorable member has made quite enough imputations during yesterday and to-day. He has told me that I am in the grip of my officers, and all that sort of thing. We must not ruck all our officers up, the fit and the unfit, and subject them all to the same test. There is no need for it. It must be remembered that we are dealing with a citizen force. It would be a degradation to ask citizens who have been performing patriotic services for nearly a lifetime to submit themselves to tests of efficiency.
– Has not the country the right to know that they are efficient?
– The country has a right to require that we shall do the best we can for the Military Forces. I propose to do that. The Bill will give me the necessary power. As I have already stated, I propose to institute a Military College, which will enable a higher standard of education to be insisted on, but I ask the Committee not to make this legislation retrospective. Similar legislation, requiring the registration of colliery managers, midwives, and other persons, has not been made retro spective.
– Was not the Public Service Act for which a Government of which the honorable member was a Minister was responsible retrospective ?
– That was nota measure like this. It provided for the better administration of a service from whose members the State had a right to expect full value for money paid in pursuance of a purely financial agreement.
– The case is the same now.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we pay full value for the work done by our Citizen Forces?
– We do not get full value very often.
– I am sorry to hear aspersions on men who Have proved their fitness and capacity, and who . give service worth many times what we pay for it. It is proposed to ask men who have risen to the various ranks to again submit themselves to tests of efficiency. A test, to be effective, will have to be substantial ; it must be a test which will rule out the inefficient.
– I suggest a test in practical work.
– That means the re-examination of officers who have already qualified by passing an examination.
– There are a number who have not done so.
– I do not propose to submit all my officers to a test in order to get rid of one or two who may be unfit.
– The Minister does not know much about his Department if he thinks that only one or two of his officers are unfit.
– I should be convinced by what has been stated during the debate that I know nothing about the Department.
– We have mentioned specific cases.
– The honorable member spoke of an officer who is dead. I . hope that the Committee will shortly divide on the proposal, because it has been under discussion for nearly two days, and nothing fresh can be said for or against it.
– The Minister should tell us how he proposes to insure that his officers are fit.
– I do not know that I am obliged to tell the honorable member everything that I intend to do. I do not pretend to know what I am going to do in regard to every question of administration. The honorable member must not expect me to submit to be catechised in this way. I shall take what steps I can to secure the fullest efficiency.
– If the Minister contends that he has a better method than that proposed, he is bound to tell us what it is.
– It seems to me that more has been read into this provision than it contains. The success or failure of our legislation will depend on our commissioned and noncommissioned officers. No one desires to speak harshly of them. For years they have got very little thanks and less pay for the enormous amount of work which they have done. But means must be provided for getting rid of the unfit, and I think that the. proposed new section provides a good way of doing so. Our service, like other services, is bound to contain a certain number of failures, and it is proposed to hand over the responsibility of determining what officers are unfit to a thoroughly competent authority. If there is one thing that we must avoid, it is political influence. This provision will remove the slightest suspicion of anything of the kind, and will prove a haven of refuge to future Ministers. We may have Defence Ministers who will not be capable of determining fairly what officers are unfit, and, indeed, nothing can be worse than to leave it to the Minister for the time being to determine on conflicting evidence the fitness or unfitness of an officer. The Director of the proposed Military College will be above reproach, and the officers could look to him for justice.
– He might propose a test which none of the present officers could pass.
– Then he would not be fit for his position. The great majority of our officers will not thank those who suggest that they are afraid to submit themselves to tests. There are many who would gladly welcome an opportunity to do so. We are attempting to thoroughly reform our defence system, and should not shirk responsibility at the outset.
– There is no shirking of responsibility. But some honorable members wish to provide in the Bill for what should be a matter of administration.
– The determination of the fitness of officers should not be left to the Minister.
– It is not suggested that it should.
– Without a provision of this kind, the determination will have to be practically that of the Minister, on the advice of his officers, and that might create considerable ill-feeling, and disturb the harmony of the Department. The Minister regards the provision too seriously. I think that it will work beneficially, and remove from his shoulders a responsibility which I am sure he does not wish to bear, and which some Ministers would be unable to bear.
– When certain Departments of the Public Service were transferred to the Commonwealth, those in the service were allowed to retain all the rights and privileges which they possessed under State administration. Are pur military officers to be differently treated ? There have been officers who have been unfit, and I have brought such cases under the notice of Ministers; but it would be an insult to many worthy men to ask them all to go up for examination again, as if they were so many school boys. Many of them, almost before the honorable member for Wentworth was born, were doing work which showed that they were fit for their positions.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth proposes to do a desirable thing in a wrong way. He proposes to make the Director of the Military College the absolute authority as to the fitness of our officers. Who will this Director be, that he alone should say that certain officers, are capable, and certain are not capable ?
– I assume that he will be the best specialist that Australia can get.
– Probably; but I refuse to give such a power to any individual, without review or appeal. Those who are the proper persons to determine the capacity of the officers are the heads of the Defence Department, the military men who, under the new system, will have the responsibility of recommending that officers be retained in, or retired from-, the service. To require proof of fitness for practical work might tie the hands of the Minister too much. An officer must have other qualifications besides that.
– The Director might not be the best judge.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Gippsland complicates the position. We are beginning a new system, and if our legislation is not perfect, we can improve it later on, but we should start on fair lines. The honorable member for Wentworth has obtained recognition of the principle which1 he has asked the Committee to adopt, and may be content to allow it to be developed, if necessary, by future Parliaments. He should not try, at this stage, to make us commit ourselves to a hard-and-fast rule. No doubt there are incompetent men in the service, and they should be removed.
-How would the honorable member provide for that?
– That is an unreasonable question to ask. There are undesirable men in every walk of life, and when the Bill is passed, those charged with its administration will do their duty by getting rid of them. But we should not impose an unfair obligation upon men who, in the past, have done good service, and against whom not a word of complaint has been heard.
.- I propose now to formally move the insertion of the words “in practical work” after the word “ fitness.”
– There is already an amendment before the Chair, and, as it would block that of the honorable member, even if it were negatived, I suggest to the Minister that he should, in the first case, move only the omission of the word “provided.” If that is carried, he can move the remainder of the amendment.
– I am opposed to the whole provision, but I do not wish to prevent an honorable member from trying to perfect it. If the Committee votes against my amendment, I shall gladly accept that of’ the honorable member for Gippsland. I hope that the Committee will agree with me that this provision is unnecessary and unjust. I move, in accordance with your suggestion, Mr. Chairman -
That the proposed new section be amended by leaving out the word “ provided.”
Question - That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed new section - put. The Committee divided.
Question resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the proposed new section be amended by leaving out the words “ he receives as prescribed a certificate of his fitness for the said rank from the Director of the Military College within two years of the establishment of the said College.”
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed new section - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
.- The last division was obviously an unfair one, but I suppose it is of no use to protest.
Honorable Members. - Why unfair?
– Because the casting vote of the Chairman in the previous division was given in order to allow the matter to come up for further consideration. Advantage was taken of that decision, to get some honorable members to stand out by pairing them with absent members - perhaps a perfectly legitimate thing to do in ordinary circumstances, but it was unfair in this case, after the way in which the previous division was declared against us.
– I gave the honorable member everything he asked for.
– I do not wish to make any further trouble about it. The Govern ment have contrived by various methods to get the numbers, and I would now suggest that the proposed new section, as amended, be rejected. That would be a more honest and straightforward way of admitting that the Government do not intend to insure efficiency amongst the officers of our Military Forces.
– I repudiate the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth as absolutely incorrect and uncalled for. It was a scandalous thing to say.
– I must ask the Minister of Defence to withdraw the word “ scandalous.”
.- I wish to explain that nothing that I said against the Minister was intended as a personal reflection upon himself. Every honorable member will realize the truth of every statement that I made.
Question - That the proposed new section, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the following proposed new section be inserted : - “ 153. Militia officers,, who have passed the prescribed course at the Military College, shall take seniority over other officers of similar rank in the Commonwealth Militia Forces who have not passed the said course.”
.- Will this provision, if carried, place young officers who have just passed an examination at the Military College over the heads of senior officers who have already had long service ?
– No; it says “other officers of similar rank.”
.- The Committee is entitled to know the view of the Minister regarding this proposal. We adopted this morning, with an amendment, a. proposed new section, allowing officers who could not attend the college to obtain certificates without the necessity of enrolling themselves at the college as students. Will not this proposal have the effect of doing an injustice to such officers, who may be stationed in distant parts of the Commonwealth, by giving those who are able to attend the college seniority over them ?
– The proposed new section needs amending consequentially on the previous decision of the Committee.
– If it is to be amended in that direction, I am inclined to support it.
.- I suggest that the proposed new section be amended by leaving out the words “ prescribed course at the Military College,” and inserting in lieu thereof the . words “ prescribed Military College course.”
– There is no need for this proposal, as a. previous provision, carried at the instance of the honorable member, lays it down that no officer shall be promoted unless he has passed the prescribed course.
– But this provision would make a man who has passed the course senior to others in the same rank.
– That is so.
– I do not know that I should approve of that. . A young fellow might pass a splendid book examination, and go over the heads of infinitely better officers.
– He would have to pass a practical as well as a theoretical test. .
– The form in which the last proposed new section was carried renders this one absolutely necessary. The Committee agreed to it. in the following form -
Sections 149, 150, and 151 shall not disqualify any existing officer of the Commonwealth Military Forces for the rank he holds on the date on which the Act comes into operation.
That is now in the Bill, and, therefore, we have provided that all the incompetents must be retained. The Bill now enacts that no incompetent officer can be dismissed. This proves that honorable members who supported the Minister in the last two divisions did not know what they were voting for. Whether an officer is incompetent or otherwise, no one will dare to interfere with the rank that he holds.
– That would not insure his retention in the forces.
– It would, unless some other reason than incompetency was shown for his dismissal.
– Then so far as this Bill is concerned, the English language has no meaning. The Minister has announced that a new standard is to be set up equal to that of the Imperial Army, and that our organization is to be assimilated in every way to that of other parts of the Empire. If that is to be so, surely the chief officers of our forces ought to be those who have passed the latest and highest examinations. If we sent some of our present officers to take part in brigade operations with the Imperial Army, the Imperial officers would very soon reject them. While I have no objection to their staying in the forces in the ranks that they hold so long as they are competent, we ought to give seniority to more competent officers, if we have them, and this proposed new section provides that that shall be done. It is essentially fair that merit should bring a man to the top. I should like to have Lord Kitchener’s view on this matter.
– There is nothing in the provision which we have just inserted in the Bill - which I should have liked to see rejected - requiring the retention of incompetent officers. Officers are to be retained’ because they have proved their fitness by practical work. They are not to be required to pass examinations at the Military College. But, under this provision, officers who might not have shown their fitness by practical work, although they had passed examinations, would be given seniority. I do not think that that is desirable.
.- I am very sorry that on this occasion I cannot follow my honorable friend, who, I think, has rendered valuable service in connexion with the Bill. The effect of the provision might be that a very old and efficient officer who had shown his fitness by practical work might be superseded by a brilliant young student who had passed his technical examinations, but who did not possess the experience which the other had gained from long service.
– All that we wish to say is that when there is a vacancy the best-qualified officer shall be promoted to it. The man who has passed an examination is to be preferred to the man who has not.
– The passing of an examination is to confer seniority, apart from any question of promotion.
– The man who is plucky enough to submit himself to examination, and able to pass the test, should be given seniority over those who do not do so. Imperial soldiers have expressed the opinion that we are not making sufficient provision for commissioned and non-commissioned officers. That is the weakness of the scheme. We should offer a premium to officers to study and make themselves efficient. That is done by saying that promotion shall go to those who pass examinations.
– Many men would not go to the Military College.
– If it were provided that only men who had attended the Military College should be given seniority, I would not support the provision ; but what we are asked to enact is that those who have passed the prescribed examinations in any part of Australia shall be given seniority over those who have not done so. Apparently, a set is likely to be made against the proposed Military College; and, unless the Committee take care to preserve it. influences are at work which may do much to nullify our effort to create a suitable training school for commissioned and. non-commissioned officers. The proposal offers incentives to officers to study and improve.
.- No doubt some honorable members are prepared to support the Government against this proposal without really considering it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has correctly stated that we have guaranteed the positions of certain officers, whether they are competent or incompetent. It is expressly stipulated that they shall not be affected by the preceding provisions.
– It is merely provided that they shall continue to hold their present rank.
– Why should a man, who is only a Saturday-afternoon colonel, parading once or twice a year - and there are such officers, even about Melbourne - stand in the way of the promotion of the officer who, by diligent attention to his duties, and hard study, has qualified for promotion, and has shown his capacity to fill the position to the greater advantage of the State? The man who does nothing should not be preferred to the man who improves himself.
– A man should not qualify as the Lord Mayor of Melbourne did last year.
– I believe that that is a case which is open to question. Such officers should not be allowed to stand in the way of the advancement of men of experience and ability, who have made them selves acquainted with the latest developments of military science.
– That is not. provided for.
– The matter is left to the discretion of the Minister ; and the honorable member for Wentworth rightly contends that there should not be such discretion, but that in every case qualified men should be given preference when vacancies occur.
– The matter seems to me of slight importance, because other clauses provide that officers cannot be promoted until they have passed the prescribed courses.
– That does not affect those who already hold positions.
– Does not the proposal offer a premium for improvement?
– It is certainly retrospective legislation.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Ordinances of 1909 -
No. 4 - Customs Duties Amending.
No. 12 - Customs Amendment.
Census ‘ and Statistics Act - Regulation-
Utilization of Information for State purposes - Statutory Rules1909, No. 121.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have again to complain of the delay in issuing statutory rules. This morning I found, in my box a copy of rules which came into operation on the 16th instant’. Unless a member happens to be present when these rules are laid on the table, he generally knows nothing about them until it is too late to have them altered. I suggest to Ministers that they should be circulated, before instead of after they become law, so that members who find anything in them to object to may endeavour to have it rectified. The rules are useless to us after the) become law, except for purposes of reference.
– I hope that the Minister of Defence will consult ‘ with the Prime Minister, with a view to arranging to let honorable members know in advance what business will be taken from day to day. In the past, the notice-paper has been altered a good deal.
– This is an old complaint. It was made when we were. on that side of the chamber 1
– In that case, 1 hope honorable members will give it a sympathetic hearing. Some of the measures now before the House - the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill, the Defence Bill, and the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, for instance - involve very big questions; and honorable members who wish to acquaint themselves with the interests affected, and to intelligently represent their constituents, have to study very hard to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with all the details. Ministers are in a far better position, because they have their responsible officers to prepare statements for them, and all the information they require is at their fingers’ ends. It is trying, however, for a private member, who is endeavouring to faithfully discharge his duties, to have constant alterations of the business-paper, because this causes him to lose the thread of his study at times, and makes it much more difficult to retain a clear comprehension of the subjects’ under discussion. I do not make a party question of this; but I hope that the Ministers Will see the justice of my complaint.
– In regard to the complaint of the honorable member for Cook, it seems to me that the Government have no evidence of the unpreparedness of the Opposition. My experience is that members are too well prepared. However, 1 will consult with the Prime Minister on the subject. On Tuesday we will proceed with the Defence Bill.
– In reply to the question put by the honorable member for Herbert, I may be permitted to say that copies of statutory rules are sent direct to honorable members from the Departments concerned, and that an effort will be made to insure that they shall be received by honorable members in ample time to enable objections to be made, if desired, within the time fixed by the law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091022_reps_3_53/>.