8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 o’clock, and read prayers.
Public Service Arbitration Act.
Mr SPEAKER. - I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a. definite matter of urgentpublic importance, namely, “ The unsatisfactory administration of the Public Service Arbitration Act.”
The number of members rising to support the motion being insufficient,
Question not proposed.
– As the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter), while acting as Speaker, unwittingly misinformed the House concerning the dismissal of Mr. Robert Denholm, who was in charge of the lift, I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, the following questions : - 1.Is it a fact thatRobert Denholm, late liftman at Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms for about three and half years, on leaving in 1913, and before being appointed liftman, received the following certificate of character: -
The Senate, 27th August. 1913. “Mr. R. Denholm hasbeen employed in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms for some sessions past, and has given satisfaction, being reliable in his attendance to duty, and willing and obliging In the discharge thereof.” “ (Sgd.) G. H. Monahan,
Controller, (Refreshment Rooms.”
Is it also a fact that the Auditor-General also wrote to Sir Joseph Cook, the then Leader of this House, denying these statements regarding Denholm’s dismissal?
– The honorable member was good enough to give me a typed copy of the somewhat lengthy questions that he has asked. I have no personal knowledge of the case, Denholm not being an officer of the House of Representatives, but an employee of the Joint Houses. The incidents referred to in the later questions occurred, I think, during the period of my leave of absence through illness. Denholm’s case was dealt with by the Chairmanof the Joint House Committee, the President of the Senate (Hon. T. Givens); and, as I have said, I have no personal knowledge of the facts relating to it; but I shall submit the honorable member’s questions to the President, and ask him if he will be kind enough to supply the information desired. Regarding the matter of the report of 1st July, I shall make inquiries.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Natives - Treatment of Natives in New Guinea - Reports of Flogging or other Maltreatment.
Drawings of Australian Flora and Fauna - Proposed Purchase of Mrs. Ellis Rowan’s Collection.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 214, 215.
– I observe that the Prime Minister is in receipt of reports from Senator Pearce, our delegate to the Washington Conference, and I wish to know if he has given him his views upon the suggestion of President Harding that there shall be an annual conference of the representatives of the nations at Washington. If we are to have a conference at Washington every year, I would like to know whether it is to supplant the conferences of the League of Nations, of which Australia is a member.
– I have not sent to Senator Pearce any cablegrams on the subject, because I have not been officially informed that the suggestion referred to has been made. I must wait until the matter has taken definite shape before venturing to instruct our delegate in regard to it, or to express an opinion as to its probable effect upon the meetings of the League of Nations.
– If we are to get through the business with which we have to deal, it will be necessary for Ministers to cease answering questions ‘ without notice, and therefore I ask honorable members to give notice, from now on, of all questions which they may wish to ask.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Honorable members will be afforded an opportunity of considering the question of Commonwealth insurance as soon as circumstances permit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister forRepatriation, upon notice -
Mr.RODGERS.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Referring to his assurance that inquiries were being made to see if any assistance could be given to the unemployed at Port Darwin, will he say if any definite action in this direction has yet been decided on?
– I would refer the honorable member to my statement in the House last night, to which I may add that a conference between the Minister for “Works andRailways, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and myself has been arranged for this morning. As a result of this conference, I hope that a start will be made with the work almost immediately.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Referring to a reply given by the Prime Minister on 30th November that the steamer Moruya was purchased by the Commonwealth Government from the Illawarra and South Coast Steam Navigation Company on 13th September, 1912, for £10,400, will he be good enough to say - (a) was not the amount received shown in this company’s balance-sheet as £4,000 only; (b) if so, to whom was the difference paid?
– The Department of Home and Territories holds the company’s acknowledgment of the receipt of the Commonwealth Government’s cheque for £10,400, and has no knowledge of the contents of the company’s balance-sheet.
– In response to a request by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), on the 24th ultimo, I undertook to make available the papers connected with the chartering of four interned German sailing ships, to Scott, Fell, and Company. The papers in question have been laid on the Library table.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The objects of this measure are well known ta honorable members. The Constitution under which the Commonwealth is established has been in existence now some twenty years. It was the work of a Convention elected by the people under the only circumstances in which the election of such a Convention was possible at that time. The Constitution is a great work of constructive statesmanship, a great monument of the political self-expression of the people. But time has shown that, like all other human efforts, it falls somewhat short of perfection. The circumstances under which it was conceived and the time when it was horn, are in themselves sufficient to explain its defects. It was modelled avowedly on the American model. The American Constitution was framed 130 years ago. It was 110 years old when the Commonwealth Constitution was framed. The circumstances that existed 130 years ago were absolutely different from those of to-day. It is almost impossible to-day to realize the primitive simplicity of the world as it was then - before the first steam-boat or the first railway - contrasted with the world as we know it to-day. It is obvious that an instrument of government fashioned to meet the circumstances that then existed, and not possessing that elastic quality which enables the Constitution of Great Britain to adjust itself to every movement in every direction, could hardly be suited to the circumstances of Australia to-day. As it was avowedly upon the American model that the” Commonwealth Constitution was framed, and as the only other Constitution to which the framers of it could look for some direction .was that of Canada, which was thirty years old at the time, and is fifty years old now, it w«as inevitable it should fail to meet completely the requirements of a changed and changing world. It was a comparatively rigid instrument, of a kind to which we had never been accustomed, because we had lived till then under a
Constitution as flexible as the mind of man. In whatever direction human progress or change can go, the Constitution known as the British Constitution can follow and fit, as a corselet of silk adjusts itself to the movements of the body. Greatly as the circumstances of Australia twenty years ago differed from those existing 100’ years previously, we may say that during the last twenty years the world has , advanced in a manner which makes thisgeneration sui generis. There has been an extraordinary change in matters social, political, and industrial. The social and political (institutions of 1788 were infinitely less complex than arethose of to-day, and even in 1897, when the Commonwealth Constitution waaoriginally framed, government and legislation were simple as compared with the present time, and development has been along lines which the framers of the Constitution could not forecast.
When we speak, therefore, of thenecessity for the amendment of the Constitution, we are casting no reflection whatever; on that splendid instrument of constructive statesmanship which we oweto the framers of the Constitution. It was impossible for them to foresee in what, direction Australia would develop, or howindustry, commerce, and the economic,, social, and political conditions generally would expand. Neither could they be expected to have shaped the contours of an inelastic instrument to fit the circumstancesof a great , progressive nation everchanging and expanding. So that when we say that the Constitution wantsamending, we say it not by way of reflection at all upon the framers of this instrument, but because society having - changed politically, socially, and industrially, the Constitution must changewith it. It is by this test that all political instruments are to be judged : do they serve the purposes of the people?’ If they do not, they are condemned. If” they do, no matter how far short they fall of the precision which Latin nations, seek for, and insist upon, we crown them with the laurel, and say they are, for ourpurpose, sufficient.
It has been my fortune to put forward’ in this House on very many occasions suggestions for the amendment of the Constitution. There is a general consensus of opinion amongst all but a very narrow section that the Constitution does- ,require amending in certain directions. When we come to ask where it requires amendment, some of us go one road and some another. That is quite natural. But we may take it for granted that there is an overwhelming majority of the people of this country who believe that the Constitution would be better if it were amended in certain particulars. There are many people, I believe a . majority, who are in favour of it being substantially amended. When we come to consider what is meant by substantial .amendment, it is necessary that we should be more precise, because there are some who would tear the instrument across, establish in its stead a centralized government invested with supreme power, and create what is termed a unitary form of government. I am not one of those. I do not believe that all the affairs of a great continent such as this can be directed with advantage from one centre. But what I have always said, and still say, is that the defects of the Constitution arise from its ambiguity and from the uncertainty of the line of demarcation between the subject-matters which have been banded over to the Commonwealth and those that are residual in the States. ‘Two matters may be taken as examples, and probably they are the most striking and important;’ they concern society the most intimately. The one is the subject of trade and com- merce, and the other is that of industry. If honorable members will look upon those two, and, in their minds’ eye, sweep over the vast field covered by trade and commerce and industry, they must be impressed by the fact that within its boundaries is enclosed the greater part of modern human activity. Over that field the National Parliament has practiclly no authority.
The necessity for the amendment of the Constitution is obvious. How far that amendment should go is for honorable members, first, and then for the people, to determine. It was thought when the first Parliament met, and, indeed, when the instrument’ had left the hands of its framers, that it would have “been possible, at any rate, for the !N National Legislature to pass a general companies Haw. The power to do so Was never doubted. I remember the late !Mr.- Deakin introducing such a mea sure into this House. It came with a shock to all concerned to be told that in that wide field of human endeavour the Commonwealth could do practically nothing. Commercial men are of one mind in asserting that there ought fo be a general companies law; but the National Legislature cannot deal with such an enactment. In regard to the control of trade and commerce generally, there is no inherent distinction in that subjectmatter between Intra-‘State and InterState trade. If I were to send the box which reposes on the table before me to Benalla, it would be outside of the ambit of Commonwealth authority. If I were to send it to Wodonga it would still be without our scope. But, if I were to despatch it one mile further - just across the border - its transfer would be clothed in the majesty and the panoply of the great National Parliament. That simple example might be multiplied in respect of countless things affected by trade and commerce ; it affords a demonstration of the illogicality and absurdity of our present position. If we knew exactly where we were the situation would be different. We might be permitted to argue that the National Parliament should have rights consistent with its status ; but, no matter how narrow may be our sphere, we ought at least to be aware of its boundaries. To-day, no man may say what they are. We have no power over industry. We have no power to make one industrial law. If honorable members were asked what is the great question of the time, they would unanimously reply that it is the industrial question. It arises every day. Last night I heard the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) describe the condition of affairs in Tasmania. He put forward one view; another honorable member might assert a different view. But, concerning the importance of the question itself, there could be no difference whatever. Over this vital subject-matter the Commonwealth has no power other than that set out in section 51 of the Constitution, which enables this Legislature to deal with it by way of conciliation and arbitration. When the Constitution was framed, circumstances were very widely different. I know what they were from the stand-point of the unions; and I say, without hesitation, that they have changed fundamentally in twenty years. I remember when it was accepted as gospel among the unions of New South Wales that the sole object for which Victoria existed was to create and vomit out, at critical periods, large numbers of nonunionists. I came to Victoria, having been nurtured in that gentle gospel; and I was horrified to learn from Victorianunionists that their conception of things was that New South Wales, at critical periods, created and vomited out nonunioniststo destroy strikes in Victoria. For good or for evil, all that has gone now, and there is a more rational conception of the unity of industry. It is futile to deplore the altered facts, or to try to put back the hands of the clock. What is true of employees is true, too, of employers. Almost entirely, they have now placed themselves upon a federated basis. The industry of this country, where it is not world-wide in its ramifications, sweeps in its effect over the whole of this continent. The f ramers of the Constitution recognised the need for amendment; the circumstances in which it can be amended are specifically set out. The Constitution provides that when each of the Houses, or one House, twice in the same session or consecutive sessions, have or has passed a certain proposal for amendment, and remitted it to the people, and when a majority of the people voting thereon, and a majority of the States, have approved it, then the proposed amendment shall become law. However, with the exception of one or two trivial amendments, which are more technical than real, every attempt to alter the Constitution after the manner provided therein has failed. It is only fair to say that, although all efforts have failed, the numbers of the people who favoured amendments of a far-reaching characterhave gradually increased. The majority of those who voted against the nationalization of monopolies on the last occasion was very small. On referring to the figures, honorable members will find that there was a very large number of people in favour of the amendment, and that it was defeated by a very small majority.
That brings me to the present position.
A few days ago, when I had the honour to introduce this Bill, criticism arose from many quarters, and it is only fair that I should show exactly who demanded it, and the circumstances under which the Government was pledged to introduce it.
Early in the war the party which I had the honour to lead at that time had decided to submit to the people certain amendments of the Constitution which, for all practical purposes, were the same as had been presented to them at previous referenda. The war, however, was raging, and, as the result of representations made to us by the then Opposition, we decided, after very careful consideration, to accept an offer made to us by the State Premiers, at a Conference specially called for the purpose, that they would hand over temporarily to the Commonwealth the powers as to trade and commerce and industrial matters which we had asked for. That is to say, the Premiers themselves offered to surrender those powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, for a limited period - the period of the war and twelve months thereafter. The Conference came to nothing. We did our part by not submitting our proposals to a referendum, but the States did not do their part. With the single exception of New South Wales, they failed to pass the law which they had agreed to pass. Time went on, and on 26th September, 1919, a further Conference took place. At that Conference I urged that certain powers should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament to enable it to deal with industrial unrest, profiteering, and the high cost of living. Those three things were considered to be the aftermath of war, with which the Commonwealth alone could deal. Sir Walter Lee, the Premier of Tasmania, then said -
I am inclined to think that the time has come when we cannot attempt to deal with this question by any piecemeal effort. Conditions of Australian life, and the conditions of Australia generally, to-day, demand a reconstruction of the Constitution as a whole, and that can only be done by the creation of a Convention assembled to completely and carefully work out the alteration of the Constitution, in order to give to the Commonwealth powers necessary to carry it out, and to give to the States powers, so that they would know just where they are in the matter.
That was the first mention of a Convention, and it came from the Premier of Tasmania. The suggestion was put forward as a result of the position created by the war, when it was admitted on all bands that the States could not deal efficiently with these particular matters. 1 said, in reply to this offer* -
Mr. Lee has put forward a good suggestion - that there should be. a Convention that we can create to distribute powers, and with that I am in hearty accord. The point that I have brought ‘you together to consider is not affected by that. What are we going ta do in the meantime ?
That is to say, until the Convention could be held. On the second day of the Conference, Mr. Lawson, Premier of Victoria, said -
Mr. Peake raised the question that it should be on record what had been definitely decided, and that matters-
Those were the powers which they eventually decided should be given us - are to be referred to Sir ‘Robert Garran, Professor Harrison Moore, and Mr. Jethro Brown, who are going to advise us. I will now state the position -
The limitation of time for three years, or until a duly constituted Convention makes recommendations to the people, and the people indorse the alterations making it an amendment of the Constitution, whichever is shorter.
Such Convention to be called by you .before the 31st December, 1920. In the event of such Convention not having been called before that date, the powers given are to lapse on the 31sfr December, 1920.
I interjected “ That is right.” Mr. Lawson continued -
That is to insure that a Convention will be called.
Accordingly an understanding was arrived at that the Prime Minister should frame his Constitution Alteration Bills with provisions limiting their operation until a properly constituted Convention should be held to revise the Constitution, and its recommendations should be carried into effect. The Convention was to be convened before 31st December, 1920 - failing which the provisions of the Bills should lapse on that date. As is well known to honorable members the Constitution proposals were ‘again defeated at the referendum, and so the Convention was npt called in 1920. But what 1 wish is emphasize is that the idea of the Convention originated at a Premiers’ Conference, and the Government of the Commonwealth, desiring, along with! the State Premiers, that we should have these rights pending the Convention, accepted the condition that failure to call the Convention should determine the powers. Thus, if these powers had been granted to us, they would have lapsed automatically on 31st December, 1920, if we had not, by that’ time, called a Convention. As a matter of fact, the electors did not grant us the powers, and so the Convention was not called.
That brings u9 to the Convention itself. The idea, having been launched, was indorsed in many quarters. The Federal Council of the Australian Natives Association, on November, 1920, resolved:
That the time has arrived when the powers of the Commonwealth should be greatly extended, and that a Convention should be. held.
On several other occasions the Australian Natives Association expressed themselves in favour of holding a Convention. At the annual Conference of the Association, held at Sale in March, 1918, it was resolved -
That this Conference urges the Commonwealth Ministry to take immediate steps to constitute and summon a Convention to consider the alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution, and that delegates to such Convention be directly elected ‘by the people of Australia.
Perhaps I may be permitted to quote from a speech delivered by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) in connexion with the Australian Natives Association, at Camberwell, on 2nd March, 1920. The honorable member said -
One of the causes of industrial unrest in Australia was the inadequacy of the Constitution to enable the Federal Parliament to deal effectively with the subject of arbitration.
The following appeared in the Age of 16th November, 1920 :-
The Convention pledge stands. It ought to be honoured, despite the sage guardians of abuses who, to their own satisfaction, discredit every proposed constitutional amendment with the _ formidable word “ tinkering.” . . . National leadership cannot be dumb and trembling before the petty fears of safety. Public opinion has to be awakened and educated. The issues to be decided require the full play of reason, and free, unhampered discussion, well before the Convention gets to work.
I come now to the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. ‘Earle Page), who, on the 22nd September, 1920, said-
I favour a big Convention - I would suggest five electorates in each State. This would give ninety in all. That this is not too many is seen from the proceedings of the 1897 Convention.
The South Australian House of Assembly passed the following resolution: -
That a Federal Convention, with equal State representation, should he appointed by the electors of each State on a basis of proportional representation, to make recommendations, with a view to revising the Federal Constitution, and that the Government of South Australia be requested to urge this opinion upon the Commonwealth Government, and to confer with other State Governments with a view to their taking similar action.
It should be noted that the South Australian Government wanted equal State representation. That is not proposed in this Bill ; and, while I am quite prepared to debate the matter, I am bound to say that the circumstances of to-day are vastly different from those which prevailed twenty years ago, when, in the very nature of things, equal representation was the only means under which a Convention could be called. The Launceston Telegraph of 21st April, 1920, referred to the proposed Convention in this way -
Mr. Hughes voices the opinion of many Australians when he says that the time has come when the Constitution must be remodelled by men who fully appreciate the changes which twenty years have made necessary. The principal effect of these changes is the firm conviction that an. extension of the Federal Government and Parliament has not only become necessary, but is long overdue.
The Adelaide Advertiser of 22nd November, 1921, contained the following: - labour has not profited by the lesson taught by the rejection of the constitutional referenda in former years. The people are naturally conservative in their dealings with proposals which they do not thoroughly understand, and’ the great advantage of holding a Convention will consist in the opportunity it will afford for full discussion and .popular enlightenment.
Mr. Fihelly, when Acting Premier of Queensland, is reported in the Brisbane Standard of 17 th October, 1920, as having said -
I do not agree with the Premier of Western Australia and the Premier of Tasmania in their contention that the State3 should have equal representation at the proposed Federal Convention. What we should really bend our minds to is the reason, or reasons, for calling the Convention, and then endeavour to erect the best machinery to find a solution of the problems that are to be faced by the Convention.
I submit this pot pourri of information in order to show that there is a general desire for a Convention. It has been recognised that the Constitution should .be amended; but it is clear, from what I have read, that there is a wide differenceof opinion as to the directions in which amendments should be made. When I submitted suggested .amendments to theConstitution in connexion with a temporary surrender of certain powers .by the States in 1919, I spoke of a Convention, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) - whose absence we regret, and who, we are glad to hear, is improving in health - said -
I do not know the meaning of the speechjust delivered by the Prime Minister. AH I gather from it is that at some future date he will bring down a Bill providing for the election of a Convention. Is it to be brought down this session f . .’ . . In my opinion, Australia has outgrown its Constitution, though the amendments which were submitted by theLabour party in 1911 and 1913, when Mr. Hughes was a member of it, were not accepted’. The Constitution needs amending,, however. Mr. Groom, when Attorney-General in a Deakin Government, supplied a memorandum, at the request of the South Africanauthorities, advising the people of South Africa not to adopt, in framing their Constitution,, the principles upon which we have based ours. The present Chief Justice of Victoria, then Mr. Irvine, said once in the House that a proposed amendment of the Constitution was necessary, and that he would have voted for it were it not that the Labour party would have the working of it. I hope that on this occasion we shall prove bigger minded than he was. . . . Speaking as a citizen, and not. as a party man, I say that the sooner the Government bring forward their Bill for thecreation of the proposed Convention, the better. I think we are all agreed that something must be done for the amendment of theConstitution, and. the sooner the matter istackled the better, whether by this House orby a Convention. Any amended Constitution must be submitted to the people for acceptance.
– We say by this House..
– I now come to a statement made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) on the 15 th April, 1920. It reads :-
As I said on a previous Occasion, I consider this the most important .proposal that could come before Parliament at the present time. I was very disappointed, however, by thespeech of the Prime Minister, inasmuch as heindicated no actual time or date when the Bill to create the Convention was likely to comebefore the .House. . . . The Constitution as it stands is admirable in many respects. I-t has faults, but they are the faults of that compromise which was inevitable twenty years ago, owing to the intense feeling of State jealousies and the ambitions of State politicians of that time. Owing to the absence of Queeusland from the final deliberations on the ^Federal Convention, there was inserted that -section which provides for the absolute territorial integrity of the States, and this is re- -sponsible for the fact that at the present time small and gradual amendments do not “ fill the bill,” and a sweeping change is inevitable. . . . This proposal for a Convention is overdue. . . . Various amendments proposed in the Constitution have been defeated, but by very few votes in the aggregate. In some States there were overwhelming majorities against the amendments, and this warped the mind of Australia looking at the matter, because those majorities were thought to bc more overwhelming than they were. But a. revised Constitution coming from a Convention would have a much more favorable chance of being accepted.
I think it is perfectly clear how the idea of a Convention originated, who was responsible for it, and that it received the general commendation of all sorts and conditions of men. I have quoted from the Brisbane Standard, the Launceston Telegraph, and the South Australian Advertiser - ‘three journals representing different phases of public opinion - and all of which are in favour of a Convention. Wo doubt, there may be differences of opinion, but they are all agreed that there should be a Convention.
The honorable member for Cowper stressed one defect, and I have stressed, another; but we are all Agreed that there should be some amendments, and when the suggestion of a Convention was made I thought then, as I do now, that it would perhaps be one of the best ways of educating the people. It has been suggested that there is no necessity to hold such a Convention, because the decisions of such a body must come- before Parliament, and must ultimately be embodied in a Bill which must be submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Quite recently, when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was speaking, he said that he thought a Convention ought not to be held, that it was a waste of public money, and that in any case the House would have to deal with any amendments made before the submission of them to the people. That objection has been emphasized by several ‘ honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable members for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and Darling (Mr. Blakeley), Ant I do not propose to anticipate that objection to +116 measure, because, if the majority of honorable members think that there should be no Convention, they will vote - against the Bill, no matter what its contents may be, and that will be the end of it. So far, I have endeavoured to show how this Bill has been brought about, and that it has had very many friends in “the most unexpected quarters. It is a curious thing about Federation that it gives one very strange bedfellows. When the Convention Bill was before Parliament in New South Wales, I was associated, for the first time in my life, with gentlemen who stood., if any one did in that State, for the ancient regime. I remember that, along with Mr. Knox, Sir George Dibbs, Sir Norm and Maclaurin, and others, I entered into many stout jousts. We fought very well together because we thought that Federation would be bad for New South Wales which, to us, was tha beginning and end of all greatness. At any rate, we have lived - at least I have, some of the others, unfortunately, are dead - to realize that Providence moves in a mysterious way, and that the result has been very different from what we anticipated.
I turn now to the Bill itself. I am somewhat disappointed at the chorus of hostile criticism which has met it. I listened very carefully to hear at least one faint cooing of some affectionate dove, but I heard none, possibly owing to my infirmity. On the other hand, the marsh seemed full of dismal croaking frogs. I do not see why my Bill should be condemned, except for the reason that every v one desired the Convention for a different purpose; some! for the purpose for which I want it, in order that the Commonwealth may get full trade and commerce powers, and powers over industry, and others in. order that they might get that kind of amendment which is possible when the States, and not the people, have representation on a Convention. It will be found that a good deal of the hostility is not to the Bill itself, but to that unquenchable spirit of progress that animates the great body of the people. Those who do not want progress say, although not openly, “ For heaven’s sake, do not let the people get at it.” They claim, first of all, that there should be equal representation of the States at the Convention. I do not agree with1 them. It might have been proper to have equal representation of the States at the beginning, and, as a matter of fact, a Convention could not have been brought about in any other way, but now, surely 1,000,000 people matter more than 100,000, and if this country is a Democracy, surely we must listen to the will of the majority. I can understand the uneasiness displayed by those who imagine that, underlying this proposal for a Convention, is an attempt to destroy those safeguards which are provided by giving the States equal representation in the Senate. All I can say, on behalf of the Government, is that I am not in favour of doing away with equal representation in the Senate, but I can quite readily understand this anxiety on the part of those who fear that such a result may be brought about. The balance of argument is in favour of representation by making due allowance for numbers, but I have done all I could to enable the States to speak directly by assuring them of some representation at the Convention. Some have denounced this Bill because it does not provide equal representation; others denounce it because it proposes to bring into the Convention delegates who have not been directly elected by the people. I am quite willing to let those particular delegates go. They have been provided for as a result of an understanding with the Premiers at the Premiers’ Conference of 1919. There is only one principle for which I stand in this Bill, and that is that the majority of the Convention must be delegates elected by the people. For the rest I do not care. I have no strong opinions one way or the other. So long as the people are to elect a Convention I will be satisfied.
– Does the honorable member’s reference to the “ majority “ mean “ all “ of the delegates.
– -Yes. I have just said that I would be quite willing to strike out the provision for nominated delegates. They are provided for as a result of an understanding with the States that they should have equal representation qua States, and as I had inserted this provision in the Bill it was also necessary for me to counter it by providing also for the direct representation of the Commonwealth at the Convention.
– If you eliminate these provisions, which were inserted as a result of a promise to the State Premiers, will it not make them hostile to the Convention?
– It was a promise which was only to take effect in the event of the Constitution alterations being carried at the referendum. That event has not happened, and, therefore, the promise does not hold. However, I have carried out my promise that the States should have representation at the Convention. Objection is taken to it, and I take no exception to that objection; and if the House says that all the delegates to the Convention must be elected directly by the people, I shall take no exception. It has been said that there will be too many delegates at the Convention, and that the number should be reduced to thirty-six or seventy-two.
– Hear, hear!
– Do honorable members think it was possible for me to select any number, and exclude the possibility of some one else selecting another number? There are so many numbers. If I had said that the number should be seventy-two, others would have said it should be 102, or, perhaps, thirty-six. In the circumstances, I have suggested the number of persons who make up the two Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament, and if it be excessive, well, I say frankly, “Cut it down.” It would satisfy me if there were thirty-six delegates. I have no doubt they would get through the work more quickly than seventy-two, but, of course, six would do it still more rapidly. Australia is a very big country, and we must not forget that diversity of interests” must be taken into consideration. Therefore, there are some practical difficulties in the way. Naturally, six men could dispose of the work more quickly than sixty. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in his brighter moments, suggested ninety-two delegates, but if he prefers the number to be seventy-two, which he mentioned as an afterthought, I would accept that. I think I have covered most of the criticism directed against the measure. There is only one thing for which no provision has been made in the Bill, and that is payment of delegates. Of course, the Convention itself will cost money. As a mere conjecture, I should say that the expense would run into £200,000. I think we may be pretty sure that the cost will not be very much less than that. We should have to conduct an election, and there would be all the paraphernalia required for an election. The Convention would have to be housed somewhere, and it would be necessary to bring the delegates together. I do not urge that the delegates should be paid, but if we are to give the people absolute freedom of choice, and not require them to elect delegates having sufficient private means to enable them to absent themselves from their business affairs for from three to six months, we must pay them. Wherever the Convention might be held, it would be a simple matter for some delegates to attend, and it would be difficult for others; so we must have some scale of fees. I have put the matter as fairly as I can. I have shown that, by general consent, our twenty years’ experience of the Federal Constitution has demonstrated that this magnificent instrument of selfgovernment needs amendment. I have indicated that the people, while they have repeatedly rejected proposed amendments of the Constitution, have rejected some of themby a very slender majority. I have shown how the idea of the Convention arose at the Premiers’ Conference, and I have pointed out that, if this Bill miscarries, this will’ be the third time that arrangements made with the Premiers for amending the Constitution have come to naught. . I have demonstrated that there is only one way in which we can secure an amendment, and that is as provided in the Constitution. The Convention is extra-constitutional. It is not contemplated in the Constitution, but it was from a Convention that the Constitution itself emerged. I have shown plainly, also, that the idea of a Convention has met with golden opinions from all sorts and conditions of men. The Bill, which, unfortunately, has come at a time when the, world is disgruntled, and when men are looking for theHoly Grail, or some panacea, has incurred criticism which it did not deserve. The principle in the Bill on which I stand is representation by the people. If the number of delegates be excessive or insufficient, the House can modify it. I shall exercise my right, of course, along with the other members of the Government, to support only such amendments as we believe in, but, personally, I shall not object to any reduction in the number of delegates. Honorable members will see why the number of 111 was selected. It comprises eighteen delegates from the State and eighteen from the Commonwealth Parliaments. The thirty-six added to the seventy-five to be elected by the people makes up the total of 11].’ If Parliament desires to cut. out the thirtysix representatives of the State and Commonwealth Parliaments, the Bill will then provide for seventy-five delegates, tot be elected by the people. If the House expresses a desire in that direction, I shall not oppose it. I leave the matter to honorable members, assuming that they have familiarized themselves with the details of the measure. In view of my statement of the attitude of the Government, there ought not to be much discussion on the Bill, because the Government are prepared to submit to the House all matters except the question’ of direct representation by the people. Although we have arrived at a late stage of the session, we may well hope to see the Bill passed at an early date.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 30th November, vide page 13448) : -
Department of Defence - Military
Proposed vote, £1,693,000.
– In discussing the General Estimates of the Defence Department, I would like, first of all, to refer to the Works and Buildings Estimates, because these have a considerable bearing on the general Defence Estimates. It was stated in the House yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in answer to a question, that a. decision arrived at by myself and my Department to dispense with the services of some 400 temporary employees had, for the time being, at all events, been suspended. Yesterday I had a conference with the Prime Minister, and explained the exact situation in connexion with those temporary employees. The position was then accurately stated to the House by the Prime Minister The special vote for the payment of the temporary staff was very nearly exhausted, and unless it could be renewed in some way there would be no money with which to pay the temporary employees. That was made quite clear to me by my officers. The executive head of the Department (Mr. Trumble) has the greatest sympathy with these employees, and he would not upon any consideration recommend, if it could be avoided, the dismissal of men, especially returned soldiers, and more particularly married men. He has their welfare at heart just as much as I have.
– Was there still useful work for them to do?
– There is still useful work for them to do.
– Will the Minister state upon what duties they were engaged ?
– I cannot enumerate all ‘ the duties they were performing in the Defence Department throughout the Commonwealth, but they were engaged in storing the large quantity of war material and new equipment that we received from Europe, and others were engaged as cleaners, clerks, typists, &c. I would be only too delighted if some way could be found to avoid dispensing with their services.
– Were they discharged throughout the States, or merely in the big cities?
– They were discharged wherever their services could be dispensed with ; there was no discrimination between the States. From Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, thirty men have to go. I explained the position to the Prime Minister yesterday, and said that if money were made available I would be delighted to retain the services of those men. Every year there has been a special vote for temporary employees and in previous years, when that vote has been exhausted, we have been able, by certifying to the Treasurer that we could save so much money out of the votes for certain works, to arrange with him to have that amount transferred to the fund for temporary employment.
– If this Committee appropriated the amount for works, why should it be transferred to some other item ?
– We cannot accurately gauge the amount that will be required each year for temporary employees. This year we had estimated £40,000, but. we found that the vote was nearly exhausted. We have had to employ more temporary hands than we estimated would be required. Without wishing to rub it into anybody, I assure the Committee that but for the reductions which were made, and which honorable members will admit were drastic, wo could have arranged to save sufficient money on some of the works to augment the’ fund for the payment of temporary employees. But when the Committee had cut down the works proposals by £250,000, I felt that it was impossible to save further sums in those votes for transfer to the temporary employment fund.
– When the Prime Minister agreed to a reduction by £250,000, he mentioned certain specific items on which the reductions would be effected.
– Of course he did, after I and my officers had studied for weeks means of reducing the Estimates. Although we had the greatest difficulty in suggesting the items which should be reduced, we succeeded; but having done that, it was impossible for me to undertake to save further sums for the payment of temporary employees.
– Did not the Minister say that he could save £250,000, because five months of the financial year had expired, and it would be impossible to spend that money ?
– I do not think that alters the fact that after the Committee had reduced the Estimates by £250,000, it was impossible for me to undertake a further saving in order to replenish the vote for temporary employment.
– Could not the Minister leave the Works vote alone, and make a reduction in connexion with citizen training?
– The Committee didnot give me a chance to do that. If the Committee will restore £50,000 to the Works vote, I will undertake to knock £50,000 off the citizen training estimates.
– If the Minister does that, he might as well knock off the whole amount for citizen training.
– It is clear that we cannot please everybody. The Prime Minister, who is temporarily in charge of the Treasury, promised yesterday that £6,000 would be found - where it is coming from I do not know - to keep the temporary employees at work until the 31st December, and then pay them for three weeks’ leave.
– Does the Minister say that £50,000 too much has been estimated for citizen training, and that he can knock that amount off ?
– I do not say that the vote is too much, but I would prefer to do with £50,000 less for citizen training in order to have the Works vote increased by that amount.
– We shall help the Minister to cut down the citizen training vote.
– But the honorable member will not help me to transfer the saving to the Works vote. It was the action of the Committee in reducing theWorks vote that resulted in the discharge of those temporary hands, and the Committee must take the responsibility for what it did.
– The Committee agreed to the Government’s proposals regarding the Works vote.
– A pistol had been held at our heads. The first reduction proposed was £500,000, then £400,000, and, finally, £250,000.
– Did not the Minister agree to the reduction that was made?
– Under very severe pressure. I admit that the question did not go to the vote, if that is what the honorable member means.
– I understood the Minister to say that the reduction of £250,000 would not mean the dismissal of any returned soldiers.
– Honorable members are not pleased with their handiwork now.
– The fact of the matter is that honorable members have had their tails twisted from outside. They do not like it, and they now desire to reverse their decision. With regard to the general Estimates, honorable members will realize that during the war our efforts were concentrated upon equipping and sending men away, and the ordinary peace training was, to a large extent, suspended. That resulted in very considerable savings in general military expenditure. The Committee must know that there werea considerable number of members of the Permanent Forces away from Australia on active service, and that their pay came out of war votes. Their places were not filled in Australia, and therefore the expenditure upon the Permanent Forces was lower than it had been previously. The men who served with the Australian Imperial Force have now returned to their positions, and there is an increased expenditure as a result. We are getting back to a peace footing.It is really only this year that we have got back to any considerable extent to a peace footing. Up to the end of 1920 considerable sums of money were paid out of war votes that must now be paid out of the ordinary Military Estimates. The main division, of course, is that relating to the Permanent Forces, for which £666,951 is provided. That amount represents chiefly the pay of the Permanent Forces, and I want to put before the Committee one or two facts in that connexion. I hope that honorable members will not persist in repeating the parrot cry which has become so nauseating from the other side of the House. The chief offender, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), is not here. He has persisted in calling out loudly, and repeating it like a pet magpie, “ Brass hats ! Brass hats!”
– I know what a steel helmet is, but not a “ Brass hat.”
– The only brass hats I have seen were German helmets which our boys captured as trophies in the field. I do not know why honorable members opposite keep calling out “Brass hats.” I think very fewof them have even seen a brass hat, or had an opportunity of securing such a trophy. The men who got the brass hatswere fighting men, who took the risk of losing their lives in defending the flag and the Empire.
– Why does the Department need three more lieutenant-colonels this year than last year?
– I will explain the Estimates in my own time.
– The Assistant Minuter cannot explain that.
– Why does not the honorable member call them “ Brass hats,” instead of “ LieutenantColonels “ ? Honorable members, and particularly those belonging to the Opposition, are continually saying that the Government are increasing the number of senior officers in the Military Department.
– So they are.
– Shut up! I must ask you, Mr. Chairman, to keep that idiot up there quiet.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for North Sydney (Sir Granville Ryrie)-
– “ The honorable the Assistant Minister,” from you.
– The honorable member for North Sydney is not at present in command of a regiment; and I understand that if a remark made is offensive to an honorable member towhom it is addressed, it is the duty of the speaker to withdraw it. Seeing that the Assistant Minister is not addressing a regiment, I ask that he withdraw the remark.
– I must request the Assistant Minister to withdraw the remark to which objection is taken.
– I withdraw the remark.
– I ask honorable members to cease these interjections. Some of the interjections are so manifestly offensive as to provoke an offensive reply, and to cause general disorder in the Committee. I must insist upon honorable members restraining themselves.
– I wish to point out that the senior officers have not been increased in numbers, and also that their salaries have not been increased. “We have now, in 1921-22, a Lieuten antGeneral as Inspector-General, at £1,500 a year. We had last year a Major-General as InspectorGeneral, at £1,500 a year. There is no increase there. Last year we had one Major-General as Chief of the General Staff, at £1,500 a year; and we have the same this year. We have now a Major-General as Commandant of the Royal Military College, at £1,200 a year; and last year the same position was filled at £1,200 a year. Those are the three highest-salaried positions in the Military Service, and they are costing exactly the same to-day as last year, and practically the same as they have always cost.
– Has the cost gone up since pre-war days?
– We had no Inspector-General just prior to the war. The honorable member might, for a moment, think of his own salary. There has been a little alteration in the purchasing power of the sovereign since prewar days. Regarding the further positions of senior officers, there are four major-generals and nine colonels, making thirteen in all above the rank of lieutenantcolonel. In 1920, there were one major-general, two brigadier-generals, and ten colonels, making a total of thirteen.
I have, I think, given a complete answer to those honorable members who persistently say that we are increasing the number and salaries of the senior officers. In my opinion, this little Defence Force of ours is deserving of some favorable consideration at the hands of this Committee, and of Australia. But for the fact that, in 1914, there was a Citizen Force and a Permanent Force in existence - a little army of well-trained men - it would not have been possible for us to send overseas the magnificent bodies of men that we did.
– The sergeant-majors got no promotion!
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I ask the Minister to address the Chair, and to continue to address the Chair, taking no notice of interjections. I shall be compelled to call on honorable members by name, as being disorderly, if they persist in interjecting.
– I know of scores of men who left Australia, not as sergeant-majors, but as privates, who became senior officers. As a matter of fact, very few sergeant-majors left Australia as such ; at all events, that was so in the case of the Light Horse, with which I was more intimately associated. There was hardly one sergeant-major who did not get commissioned rank in the field.
– What rank do they hold in the Citizen Forces?
– That is a different matter. When the war ended, and the Forces returned to Australia, there were hundreds of such men, and, of course, it was impossible to find positions for all as commissioned officers, especially of high, rank. If the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) is fair, he will realize the impossibility.
– That rule applied only to sergeant-majors.
– However, as I say, our small Defence Force is deserving of favorable consideration, and, but for it, we could not have accomplished what we did during the war, in which, it will be admitted, Australia acquitted herself well. It was owing to the fact that we had a fine Instructional Staff that we were able to send thoroughly efficient men to the Front. But for that fact, the result of the wan might have been very different, for it is universally admitted that the Australian soldiers played a great part. There should be no endeavour to reduce these Estimates by such a sum as would seriously interfere with the training of our Citizen Force. Our aim is to build up a Citizen Army in Australia on a truly Democratic basis. No one is debarred - the son of the humblest may enter that magnificent institution, Duntroon College, obtain a diploma, and become a permanent officer. At that College, any young man may obtain the best education that is given in any part of the world; and I ask that there shall be no such reduction of these Estimates as would interfere with the training of the Citizen Forces.
– Could not the period of the training be reduced?
– That, of course, is a matter for consideration. If the training is seriously interfered with, the results will be most undesirable; and honorable members have seen the complications that have already arisen from the reduction of the “Works Estimates by £250,000. I repeat deliberately that, if honorable members insist on drastically reducing these Estimates, they will seriously interfere with the training of the Citizen Forces of Australia.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– How the pack yelps when the Defence Forces are mentioned! Evidently there are honorable members who do not desire that there should be any military forces in Australia, and for that desire there may be other reasons. Honorable members opposite can put that remark in their *’ pipe and smoke it.” If the training is interfered with, the position of a number of members of the Instructional Staff will be jeopardized ; we cannot keep a staff unless there are men to train: We might as well shut up Duntroon College, and smash the whole Defence Force as interfere with that staff.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Of course, honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear!” but I do not think that those who have a stake in the country - that those honorable members who represent the pioneers and the real men of Australia - approve of smashing our small Defence Force. I remind honorable members that the prospects of the League of Nations and the Washington Conference bear a different complexion to-day from that of a week or two ago. There is not, I think, so much enthusiasm as to the results of the efforts of those bodies. Honorable members opposite, however, seem to think that because there is a League of Nations, and the Washington Conference is meeting, there is no necessity for a Defence Force in Australia. Let us wait and see. If the efforts of the League of Nations and the Washington Conference result in a halt being called in the mad race of armaments throughout the world, then it will be time enough to consider a reduction of our defences. I have said before, and I now reiterate, that if the efforts at the Washington Conference fail, we are nearer trouble than ever. A searchlight will have been thrown on the Pacific problem before the eyes of the world; and, as I say, if the Washington Conference fails, though I hope that it will not, then we in Australia are nearer than ever to trouble. This is not the time to “ scrap ‘ ‘ our Defence Forces; let us wait for the result of the efforts now being made towards permanent peace. I am prepared to leave the matter in the hands of the Committee, asking them seriously to reflect before endeavouring to drastically reduce these Estimates.
.- It is regrettable that honorable members should from time to time be subjected to what Imay term threats from the Minister in charge of the Defence Estimates (Sir Granville Ryrie). We recently came to a decision in regard to the defence system, a decision which was acquiesced in and approved by the Ministry itself.
– That is not the case.
Mr. CHARLTON. From that time on we have been told, on several occasions, that the result of the action that was taken by those who were opposed to a heavy expenditure on defence would be the throwing out off employment of a large number of returned soldiers. I wished to reduce the Defence Estimates by the total amount of the estimated deficit, and I regret that that was not done. After my amendment, which was moved with that object, and a similar amendment moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), had been defeated, Ministers decided at a conference among themselves to reduce the Defence vote considerably, and the Government made the proposal in this Chamber that it should be reduced by £250,000.
– That was not the amount. :
– We were told that the proposed reduction could be made without jeopardizing the safety of Australia.
– Do Ministers now refuse to accept responsibility for what they themselves proposed ? According to the Assistant Minister for Defence, the effect of the reduction will be to throw out of employment a large number of returned men. Surely the Government is npt afraid to accept responsibility for its part in the matter?
– The honorable member knows well that it was the pressure behind Ministers that caused the proposed reduction.
– The Government is constantly attempting to make the public believe that it is no party to what is being done. I admit that what was done was done> as the result of pressure on Ministers, and I say that it is a good thing that pressure was applied to make them reconsider their proposals.
– The honorable member cannot deny that the reduction of the Estimates must mean the throwing of men out of employment.
– No. But I shall not apologize for what I have done as Ministers are apologizing for what they have done. I shall justify my action from the public platform. Parliamentary appropriations cannot be reduced without causing suffering to some one. Any person, who thought otherwise would be an idiot.
– When you moved to reduce the Defence Estimates by £500,000, you knew that it would, throw a lot of men out of work?
– Yes. But I do not attempt to crawl away from my responsibility for what I did, and the Minister also should stand to his guns. He has complained that because Parliament made a reduction, to which the Government had consented, he has had to dismiss a number of men. It is to be regretted that these men had to be dismissed, but, as I have1 said on a previous occasion., I see no reason why a good deal of the money paid on Defence should not be devoted to useful work in the interests of the whole community. Would it not be possible to increase the expenditure of the Department of the Postmaster-General? If that were done, there would be more employment offering, and the men in the Defence Department who are being dismissed might be given work of a kind which would benefit the country. The Government should set about finding means whereby these men could be’ utilized in some employment which would do the country real service.
– But you have just said that your proposal was to reduce the Defence expenditure in order towipe out the anticipated deficit.
– I would wipe out the whole of the Defence expenditure, if possible. Certainly, we should have cut it down by an amount which would balance our accounts for the year. In regard to the expenditure of other Departments, I was not in favour of reductions necessitating the throwing of men out of employment, because in many of these Departments, we should, if possible, increase our expenditure. I havebeen sorry to hear from Ministers excuses for what has been done at their suggestion. The Government should take responsibility for its administration. During the past few weeks, however, the attempt has been made to throw all responsibility on Parliament. In regard to the Convention Bill, for instance, we were told that the only provision that is essential is that for the election of delegates by the people. Everything else is for Parliament to determine. This is not responsible government. Ministers should stand up to their responsibilities. Unless, they do, we cannot have good government. The Assistant Minister for Defence has told us that no increase of -Defence expenditure is proposed. The leading men of every nation of the world hold the opinion tha’t Defence expenditure should not be increased, and should, if possible, be diminished at this juncture, yet we are asked to vote £935,039 more for Defence than was spent last year. Is that right? What is the reason for this proposal? Is it simply to give employment to a large number of men? If the extra expenditure were under the Postal Department, or some other Department, it would give useful results, and would provide work for more temporary hands than are paid with it in the Defence Department, because much of the money is now going to men at the top. The Assistant Minister made it appear that there was no increase of officers’ salaries ; but had I time to deal with these Estimates division by division, I could show that they have been largely increased. Notwithstanding the Assistant Minister’s statement, I find that, whereas- last year we had one majorgeneral, this year we have four, each at £950 per annum. Last year we had two brigadier-generals at £850 each, and there are to be none this year. Last year we had ten colonels, and this year we are to have nine at £800 each. Consequently, there are two brigadier-generals and one colonel less, but three major-generals more, the net result being that three officers have been promoted from positions carrying the salary of £850 or £S00 to a position carrying the salary of £950 per annum. In 1921 there were 290 officers, all told. This year there are 313; an increase of twenty-three. The expenditure in this regard shows an increase of £17,000 over the total of last year. Since there are twenty-three more men employed, and the additional outlay is £17,000, if honorable members care to divide that sum among the twenty-three, they will note that the amount for each is £739. Considering, however, that twenty of the extra twenty-three men are represented by an addition of the number of lieutenants from 147 to 167, each of whom is receiving only £400 per annum, honorable members will perceive that there is a very considerable portion of the £17,000 which must be going somewhere else.
Now, who is getting it? Certainly not the casually employed returned soldiers, nor the officers in the lower ranks. It is going to already highly-paid senior officers. My analysis furnishes plain proof that a great part of the extra money has been paid to men in high places - generals, colonels, and the like.’ These senior officers are receiving rapid promotion, notwithstanding that this is a time when economy must be practised, even though it involves dispensing with the services of temporarily-employed returned soldiers who have been receiving the minimum wage. I intend to test the feeling _ of the Committee upon the question of compulsory training at the proper time. The greater part of the money set down in the Estimates for carrying on the national training scheme could be far better employed in other directions; it could be spent in providing work for the temporary men who are to be dismissed, and, in that direction, it would be far better spent than in training Australians in the art of war.
The Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) referred to certain honorable members who are sanguine of the success of the Washington Conference. He mentioned that some who only a comparatively few days ago had been so hopeful were not now in the same confident frame of mind. Whether the Conference is a success or not, I shall certainly refrain at this stage from throwing; cold water upon its objectives. No public man is justified in speaking disparagingly, ‘or even pessimistically, of the possible outcome. And, whatever may be the result, it will not alter my view regarding the responsibility of this country, and of all the nations, in the direction of bringing about disarmament. Because of what is going on at Washington, or despite the possibility of the Conference not proving successful, are we to put on one side and forget all the lessons of the war ? There are public men in Australia who are not working in the direction of peace. We should do everything possible to bring about better understanding throughout the world. Even if the Conference does not achieve its ob-, jectives,it cannot be said that the movement for disarmament has been proved a failure, or that no eventual good can come of it. The very fact of representative statesmen of almost all the leading nations sitting together amicably around a common table at Washington is, of it- self- and if nothing further developed - significant. And behind all there stands the League of Nations; that is my sheet anchor. The only way to make a success of the League is to assist and encourage, rather than attempt to detract ‘ from, the value of its work. Public men in Australia should be the last to condemn it, and the first to support its firm establishment, and recognise its authority. It should, be the task of the statesmen of the world to focus the attention of all the peoples upon it and its principles, so that the great masses might be trained to the conduct of international affairs without recourse to secret diplomacy. The great trouble with all the nations, Australia included, is that their leaders cannot see beyond their own little spheres. Australia is endeavouring to make local provision against great and sinister eventualities; and, in doing so, she is spending huge sums of money which she cannot afford. Every other nation has been acting similarly; and, in the general fear of, and preparation against, war, hostilities are likely to develop. The view was widely entertained, and the hope was fostered, that, as an outcome of the dreadful lessons of the late war, everything would be done in future to prevent its recurrence. But here are we, as are practically all the other nations, making preparations against further outbreaks in the event of the Washington Conference proving unsuccessful. If the worst should come to the worst, the facts will have to be faced by Australia. We were not prepared before ; but we did our best. Surely we did well. Can we not do so again?
I trust that the Committee will not be led away by the views of the Government. Honorable members have been told that the Government have washed their hands of the matter at issue, and will not accept responsibility for further reduction of Defence expenditure. When honorable members succeeded in cutting down the Defence Estimates the Government immediately condemned them, and held them up to odium, because they said the effect would be to cause the dismissal of a certain number of temporarily o employed returned soldiers.
Do the Government think that honorable members are children? Do they imagine that we were unaware that the outcome .of reducing the Defence Estimates would mean the dismissal of a certain number of men? Such an eventuality is virtually inescapable in the practice of economy. I place the responsibility, however, upon the Government. They could so use public funds as to provide employment sufficient to counterbalance that lost in the Defence Department. I hope that the men who have been threatened with dismissal will be found reasonable and proper employments But there is no justification for the Government endeavouring to force honorable members to go back upon their previous decision. I, at any rate, shall not stultify myself. Since I have announced my ‘advocacy of economy, I am prepared to stand for every vote I have given in that direction; I am ready to justify myself in my constituency and before the country at large. Although the Government have sought to shift their responsibility, I shall not endeavour to do so. Honorable members on this side have done their duty in cutting down the Defence Estimates as far as possible. It is my intention to try to cut them down still further. Probably, if only a third of the sum proposed to be devoted this year to warlike training purposes were turned in the direction of useful public works, adequate employment would be furnished for all those who are now on the verge of losing their jobs.
– I desire to emphasize the observations of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) with regard to the references to the Washington Conference which’ were made this morning by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). I think we ought to deprecate any disparaging allusion to this Conference whilst it is sitting, and especially any such reference on the! part of responsible Ministers. The fact that, according to the press, the Prime Minister of Great Britain is making a special effort to attend the Conference shows that the position must have been clarified by the negotiations and discussions that have taken place, and, having regard to the stage to which the negotiations at the Conference have been advanced, any arguments that were sound three or four weeks ago must be just as sound to-day. I wish, also, to deal with the principle enunciated this morning by the Assistant Minister for Defence, and referred to yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), that the Works and Buildings Estimates which were passed by us recently on the distinct understanding that they were necessary to enable a start to be made with special new works, are used for the purpose of paying temporary employees in various subdivisions. If this is the case, one can well understand the anxiety of the Department to secure the passing of as big a Works vote as possible, so that the actual expenditure on Defence may not appear to be as large as it really is. I protest, also, against the remarks that have been made outside this chamber by the Minister to the effect that the dismissal of a number of temporary hands in the Department was due to the carrying of the amendment for a reduction of the Works Estimates. The Prime Minister gave us a very definite” list of items in the Works Estimates in respect of which he said reductions could be made.
– But he did not give a list in respect of the additional £50,000 by which the Works Estimates were reduced.
– In any event, I invite the right honorable gentleman to point out the items in the Works Estimates which provided for the payment of the temporary employees who have been dismissed. What items in the Works and Buildings Estimates, in respect of which a reduction was made, cover temporary employment? Will the honorable gentleman say that the pay of temporary employees is covered by the items relating to “ Warlike stores, including machine guns “ ; “ Field artillery and engineers - towards cost of providing vehicles, harness equipment and stores “ ; “ Armaments and stores for fixed defences”; “Towards supply of heavy guns and reserve gun ammunition “ ; “ Woollen Cloth Factory” - in respect of which £45,000 was set down for additional machinery and plant - or the items of £18,350 “for machinery and plant for the Small Arms Factory,” or £196,839, “towards cost of machinery and plant for Munition Supply”? Did those items provide for the payment of these temporary employees who have been dismissed? These are typical items in the proposed vote that we reduced. I challenge honorable members to go through the whole) list, and to find in them any reference to the work that these men were actually carrying on. It seems to me that an attempt has been made outside to influence this Committee before the consideration of the general Defence Estimates, and to make honorable members afraid, because of the feeling so created, to do their duty in regard to those Estimates. I protest against such tactics. Then, again, I would point out that the Minister has said that an expenditure of £6,000 would be necessary to employ for another three weeks the 400 returned soldiers whose services have been dispensed with by the Department.
– To keep them going until the end of the year.
– On that basis the expenditure in respect of temporary employees would amount to £90,000 a year. Can the Minister point to any item in the Works and Buildings Estimates or in the whole of the general Defence Estimates providing for such an expenditure on temporary employees?
– I said there was a special vote for temporary employees.
– Then why have these men been provided forunder the Works and Buildings Estimates and summarily dismissed before the consideration of the general Defence Estimates? That is the all-important point. It suggests to me an absolutely unfair attempt to bring departmental pressure to bear on honorable members so that they will not vote for a reduction of these Estimates.
– I do not think the honorable member realizes that the Works and Buildings Estimates necessarily carry with them certain moneys for the payment of temporary employees.
– The items which the Prime Minister deliberately dealt with when he set down what reductions could be made, madeno such provision. Let us consider for a moment the position of the temporary employees who have been summarily dismissed. A deputation of four men, representing these employees, waited on me yesterday, and I learned from them the nature of the work in which they had been engaged. One was employed in connexion with the war gratuity bonds, another was employed in the. Base Records Office, and still another was assisting in the work of sending out notices with respect to war medals. The latter told me that he was dismissed yesterday afternoon, and left behind him a basket about one-fourth full of these notices. An attempt has been made by Ministers to show that the dismissal of these men was due to the reduction in the “Works and Buildings Estimates.
– The honorable member does not understand the position.
– I quite understand it. The honorable gentleman has attempted to create throughout the Commonwealth a feeling that as a result of action taken by the Deputy Leader of the Labour party and myself, as Leader of the Country party, to reduce the Defence Works and Buildings Estimates, certain men employed in the Defence Department have been suddenly thrown out of employment. An attempt has been made to throw upon us the odium for their dismissal before Christmas.
– How many men does the honorable member think would have been thrown out of employment had his original proposal been agreed to? .
– I am not worrying very much at this stage about that question.
– But it is the vital question.
– It is not.
– The vital question is whether or not the work on which they were engaged was necessary.
– Quite so.
– If the honorable member’s original proposal had been carried, thousands of employees would have been thrown out of work before Christmas.
– I have already referred to the items covered by the proposed vote in respect of which we succeeded in making a reduction. I do not think honorable members will soon forget the way in which the Minister threatened an honorable member - with the object of deterring him from taking a certain action - that if the proposed reductions were agreed to, a number of men in his electorate would be at once thrown out of employment. That sort of thing should not be tolerated in this Chamber. The Government rushed the Works and Buildings Estimates through the Committee on the ground that until they were passed certain works which had not been approved by Parliament could not be proceeded with. I told the deputation which waited on me yesterday that we had no desire to see any man out of employment, nor was it necessary that even one man in Australia should be out of work. The greatest cause of unemployment at the present time is the heavy taxation under which the people are labouring, and which is interfering with productive development throughout the Commonwealth. If the Department has been able to dispense with the services of these men, then clearly they must have been engaged on work which could be left over for the time being. They could not have been employed on reproductive work. While men are employed on unproductive work the difficulty of finding employment in productive enterprises is increased, because additional taxation is necessary to keep them so occupied.
As illustrating my point, that there is no reason why any man should be out of work in Australia, I would remind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that the newspapers published in his electorate, as well as in mine, are constantly announcing that shire after shire has been unable to proceed with ordinary contract works in relation to roadmaking, &c, for the reasons that, although tenders have been invited, no response has been received, and no men have applied for work, although high rates of wages have been offering. I mentioned this fact to the deputation. One of them asked, “ What about Canberra?” I pointed out that over £200,000 was at once to be spent there on developmental work which would find employment for many, and would ultimately prove reproductive. One of the men said that his home was in Melbourne, and he did not care about going into the back country. That is the position taken up by many. It is time that the people realized that our country districts offer the best opportunity for the building up of the nation, and we must begin to make the conditions operating in the rural districts such as will attract the workers. The first step in that direction is to make it profitable to handle our primary produce, and to bring it to market. There is no more certain means of destroying all prospect of the workers establishing themselves in country districts than the employment of numbers of men in unnecessary and unproductive work in Government Departments. Instead of being engaged on unproductive work, they should be added to our groups of producers. It is absurd to say that in a country like this, with a population of only 5,500,000, there is no work for our people. There is an abundance of developmental work to be done all over the continent, and an abundance of private employment will be offering if we lift the burden of taxation and create a set of conditions under which it will be profitable to produce. Once we can induce men to leave the cities for the country districts the bogy of unemployment will cease to scare any one.
Coming to the Estimates immediately before us,, we have been told that the total number of senior men is less than it was. I do not know how the differentiation is made.
– I did not say that the number was less. I said it was not increasing.
– A reference to the figures on page after page of these Estimates suggests that the number in both the Central Administration and the Permanent Forces has gradually increased. Then, again, we have been told that the amount to be expended this year is really less than was expended in 1914. Whenever I have attempted to compare presentday expenditure with that of 1913-14, I have been held up to ridicule on the ground that it is absurd to make any comparison with the expenditure of pre-war years. Ministers, however, are prepared to make such comparisons when it suits their purpose. An examination of the Estimates shows that the reason that the proposed expenditure is less than it was in 1913-14 is that in that year there was a large vote for munitions, which does not recur in the Estimates for 1921-22. It is impossible to do away altogether with land defences, but our first line of defence must always be on the sea. As regards land defence, I favour a mere skeleton Force which can be built up quickly when occasion arises. From my own experience of military organization. I am satisfied that there is ample room’ for a complete re-organization of the Department, and for the saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Glancing at the Naval and Military Estimates, what do we find? Take, for instance, the branch relating to my own profession. We find that for a small service like the Naval Medical Force provision is made for a Director-General of Naval Medical Services, and there is also a Director-General for such a small body as the Army Medical Corps. I suppose there will also be a Director-General of Medical Services in connexion with the Air Force. All of these services could be incorporated under one Director-General. If that were’ done, I am sure the efficiency of theservice would be increased enormously. Although certain vessels are out of commission, the total number of medical officers in the Navy is the same as it was previously. We know what was the condition of affairs in 1914, a state of muddle from beginning to end, and I suppose it is still the same. I see no reason why we should continue spending this huge amount on Defence. There are several ways in which it could be cut down with a minimum of loss of employment, and with a minimum of waste of good material. One saving could be effected by avoiding the holding of a training camp this year. In Australia, we have not only the nucleus of an Army, but also between 200,000 and 300,000 men who have fought and are veterans. It seems to be a sheer waste of money also to provide uniforms for Senior Cadets. My experience is that much of this clothing is used by the father or the brother, or some other relative. I have frequently seen some elderly relative wearing a cadet’s overcoat during bad weather.
– I do not think that statement is correct.
– I have seen it repeatedly.
– Many overcoats brought back from the Front have been used in that way.
– Before the war, I frequently saw men at least fifty years of age wearing cadets’ overcoats.
– That is a punishable offence.
– It may be. I do not see why it should not be possible, in the present stateof affairs, to avoid provide clothing for Senior Cadets. In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I shall move later that the present vote be reduced by £200,000.
.- It is all very well to say that the children of parents in affluent circumstances who are being trained in the Citizen Forces should not have uniforms provided for them by the Government, but it would be a great hardship to call upon poorer parents to provide the clothing in which their sons are to be trained. If lads are sent into camp to be trained, either for military purposes or from a physical point of view, their clothing is subject to rough usage. It is practically impossible for the poorer classes, under the present cost of living, to provide uniforms for their boys who are being trained. I am opposed to any proposal to abolish compulsory training for two or three years. When the system was first inaugurated, I was in favour of it, and I have seen nothing to induce me to alter my opinion in regard to it.
– The experience of the war is against the honorable member.
– The experience we have had of war makes the abolition of militarism a popular cry. But no one can accuse me of being a militarist. From what I have heard and seen of happenings during the war, period, my opinion is in the direction of giving the soldier a civil right over military law, and in that regard my conscience is clear. However, I want to point out that had Australia had more men trained as instructors at the outbreak of war, our soldiers would have been more proficient when they left our shores, and it would not have been necessary to submit them to long periods of training overseas. Experience of the war has also taught us that untrained troops lose a great deal in fighting in proportion to the losses sustained by fully-trained men. If we are to train our citizens for the defence of their country, and not necessarily for an aggressive purpose, it will be neces sary for us to have a staff of trained men who are capable of getting full value out of the rank and file. I am pleased to note that the Minister is not using the pruning knife at this time of the year, but irrespective of the time of the year, it is utterly wrong for any Government to keep men employed who are not giving value for the money they are paid. No matter what party is in power, if we are paying money for services which are not performed, our duty as a Parliament is to hold the Minister responsible. I believe that the expenditure on the central administration of this Department could be cut down. The military establishments in the outlying parts of Australia are certainly not over-officered; in fact, many of the officers in charge are actually the men who do the work. The ordnance store at Midland Junction, in Western Australia, is staffed by just as many men as are required to do the work, and they could not do any more than they are doing. It is the duty of the Department concerned not to understaff those who are taking care of establishments where material in which a great deal of Commonwealth money has been invested is stored. The staff should be sufficient not only to do the actual work entailed, but also to keep a careful eye to the asset itself. It has been often admitted in this Chamber that it is a bad policy not to employ a sufficient number of men to look after Government stores. I have no desire to see a big central administration built up, which, if given the opportunity, will surround itself with a wall of alleged necessity, and seek to create a military spirit in this country. My idea in regard to cutting down the expense of the central administration is to fill every position that needs filling at the present time by men who have returned from the war. The Minister for Defence has on his staff some men who have never left Australia, and were never soldiers before the war broke out. I know that there were some men in Australia who were soldiers up to the time the war broke out; but as soon as they saw that there was some military work to be done, they sought jobs elsewhere, and left the Forces. There were others who were not in the Forces before the war, who linked up with the home service of the Australian Imperial Force. My opinion is that such men should be replaced by men who went away from Australia to fight. This would give the Minister the opportunity of retrenching any unnecessary officers, at the same time putting into practice what we all regard as a virtue - the employment of returned soldiers. No party has a monopoly of that policy. The course I am urging will give the Minister an opportunity of sending back to the positions they held before they joined for home service many of those men who are now in the Department, and who are drawing salaries that should be paid to the returned soldiers. I am glad that the Government do not propose to proceed with the proposal for a seventy-day camp. All honorable members are agreed that that is a wise decision.
– The officers did not want the period reduced.
– It is popular to decry officers; but I know that during the war the officers were just as thoughtful of the well-being of their men as the men were of the well-being of their officers. They are not the returned soldiers who decry the officers; they are the men who never left Australia, who never were soldiers, and who were sorry that Australian soldiers took part in the war.
– Brigadier - General Elliott does not say that.
– He had just as much regard for the welfare of his soldiers as had any other officer. Indeed, he was a great deal more thoughtful than are many honorable members in this Chamber.
– What did the honorable member do during the war?
– I did everything that it was possible for a man to do. I certainly did everything I was asked to do, and my services cost this country not a penny. The cheap gibes of honorable members opposite do not disturb me, for I have in my home a memento that compensates me for what I did more than any money could. I was the only politician in Australia to receive a certificate from the returned soldiers - the men who knew what I did for them. When Andrew Fisher was Leader of the Federal Labour party, it was the popular thing for honorable members who supported him to say that they believed in Citizen Forces, and in training the young. There was a difference of opinion, even amongst Labourites, in regard to that policy; but throughout Australia to-day we hear honorable members of that party expressing views the reverse of what they formerly held. Why? Because they have not the courage to resist a policy dictated to them by an authority outside this Parliament.
– Because we have had a taste of militarism.
– Has the honorable member never changed his opinion?
– Yes; but I have never changed my conception of true Labourism.
– The honorable member is a Liberal now.
– Nevertheless, my conception of Labourism has never altered, and but for the fact that some of us were expelled from the Labour party we would be fighting in its ranks to-day. I believe that if we can train and discipline our boys it will not be necessary to spend so much money for the military training and equipment of our grown men should the emergency of war arise. I hope that the Assistant Minister for Defence will continue the policy which he is adopting, and that he will take steps to put out of the Department those men who enlisted for home service only, irrespective of whether they are privates or generals.
– I rise to address myself to the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). The circumstances in which the Government dealt at the outset with the present proposals for economy are well known. In behalf of the Government, I said that we ourselves would make a reduction of £500,000, and that we were sensible of the desirability of making the ledger balance. I said we would take into credit the amount of £835,000 which had been paid to the Commonwealth as a recoup of expenditure incurred in connexion with the Army of Occupation. Those two sums combined would improve the financial position tothe extent of £1,300,000. We did not shut the door on further reductions by the Committee in excess of the £500,000 we had promised; we made it perfectly clear, bath during the discussion on what was in effect a vote of censure, and, subsequently, that we would accept such reductions by the Committee as did not impair vital portions’ of our policy. The honorable member for Cowper today proposes to move that the vote for the Defence Department be reduced by £200,000. The Committee has already agreed to a substantial curtailment of Defence expenditure, for it must not be forgotten that £100,000 has been struck off the Estimates for the Air Services, of which £50,000 might be allocated to Defence and £50,000 to the Navy, and, in addition, there was a substantial reduction in the Works Estimates. It is important to note that the bearing of reductions in the Works Estimates upon the Estimates now before the Committee is obvious and direct, because it was out of the unexpended portion of the money voted for works that the temporary employees were maintained in their positions after the special appropriation for that purpose was exhausted. It was because the amount of £40,000, provided for that purpose in this year’s Estimates, would have been exhausted yesterday, and there had been such a reduction of the Works Estimates as left no sum available for the further payment of temporary employees, that a number of men were to have been dismissed. After -careful, consideration, we decided to take upon ourselves the responsibility of taking out of the Consolidated Revenue £6,000, to enable those men to be paid until the end of the year, and to give the Committee an opportunity, in the meantime, of reviewing its previous decision. If the reduction is persisted in, it must inevitably have the result of throwing those men out of employment, and accentuating that trouble. For that reason I hoped that the* Committee would refrain from insisting upon reductions in excess of those which the Government had indicated they were prepared to accept. The reduction suggested by the honorable member for Cowper is such that it cannot be put into practice without affecting vital .portions of the Government’s policy. I am not going to be put on my defence now in regard to citizen training. We cannot, under cover of a reduction of these Defence Estimates, in effect emasculate and destroy ah Act which was deliberately placed on the statute-book many years ago. I was primarily responsible for introducing the principle of that Act when I was a member of the Labour party; and it was placed on that party’s platform as a direct result of my insistence upon it at Labour Conferences.
Mr. Brennan interjecting,
– The honorable member waa never at a Labour Conference in his life. He occupies a seat in this House, and he gets his living in the Arbitration Court; that is all he has to do with the Labour movement. I worked for the Labour movement for twenty years, and never drew a penny out of it. I am not going to defend now the policy which was inaugurated in this country by the very party which is to-day attacking it. If honorable members wish to strike the compulsory training. law off the statute-book, let them bring in a Bill to deal with it in a comprehensive way; but they cannot do it under cover of a motion to reduce the proposed vote for. the Defence Department. It is quite obvious that we cannot accept this reduction unless we are prepared not merely to reduce the training scheme, but to practically destroy it. I- admit freely that if there shall come from the Washington Conference such a decision as will change the face of the world, and free us from danger of aggression, we must, as sensible men, adjust ourselves to the new conditions. But that has not yet been done, and until it is done it is the duty of the Government to defend this country. My honorable colleague, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), has made it perfectly clear that the reduction suggested is incompatible with that course, and, therefore, we cannot accept it. The amount of reduction that we can accept is £70,000 ; any greater reduction than that we cannot accept. If the House desires at a later stage to remove from the statute-book the provisions for compulsory military training, it can do so. If the Washington Conference should come to a decision which will satisfy us that there is no danger, and the- House thinks that compulsory training can be abolished, that can be done. But the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) said something to which the
Committee should give consideration. In 1902 I pointed out the value of this scheme as a factor in the social rand economic life of thi3 country. It is an education not less valuable than that given to the boys in our schools under the education system of the country. It teaches discipline and order, and gives the boys an opportunity to realize their responsibilities, which are very great. They will mould the destinies of the country in years to come; and while I would strip away every semblance of military system without hesitation if this country was in no danger, I submit that the ‘branch of education given is one which ought to commend itself to honorable members. But this is a matter which this House can determine for itself after proper discussion. Without committing myself or the Government as to what may be done with the Estimates of other Departments, I repeat that the reduction the Government can ‘accept in this case is £70,000, and that reduction, can only be made by pruning the training system in certain directions. Beyond that, we are not prepared to go. We cannot destroy, the training system, and do not intend to try. These wholesale reductions are put forward by different sections of the Committee, ‘and when the inevitable results ‘are produced those who are responsible, instead of saying that they knew what they were doing, contend that the savings can be made without the inevitable consequence. Only yesterday some of those men who have been thrown out of employment came to see me, and I told them that I could help them, but only by giving them money which, the Committee had said the Government must not spend. I do not propose to create any more unemployment; I do not propose to emasculate our defence system; and I do not think that honorable members desire that either should be done. If honorable members can show me where these reductions can be made without impairing the defence of the country in any vital particular, the Government will be happy to meet them.
.- It seems most remarkable that when, for the first time in my experience, we are discussing the Defence Estimates, and propose to take action to limit the expenditure, the Committee should be brow-beaten by the .military class that is dominating Australia to-day. Upto date, that class has ruled, every Minister who has gone to the Defence Department, and it .has no hesitation about “sacking” a few hundred men if they think that by so doing they can intimidate this Parliament. In thefirst place, I am not going to vote to have any item, recommitted simply in order to give employment to somebody if there is not useful work to do. It is not for theDepartment to concern itself with unemployment; it is the duty, the solemn obligation, of the Repatriation Department to look after the returned soldiers. These men were promised that they would be reinstated in civil life; and reinstatement does not consist of a few months’ work at. Victoria Barracks.
– In military life!
– In military life. I am going to vote for the largest reduction to which this Committee can be induced to agree. Many men in my constituency, who work at the Naval Base, may be thrown out of employment if we considerably reduce the Naval Estimates. But I “am so strongly opposed to militarism, .whether represented by the Army or theNavy, that I will not, merely for the sakeof providing employment, give the military class any increased strength in the community. I firmly believe that there are many ways in which money could be saved; but we shall not get the saving at the hands of the military chiefs, who have for so long had a free hand. Prior tothe war, and during the war, they imagined themselves to be the rulers of Australia. It is not many weeks ago sincethey tried to foist a seventy-days’ military training on the country. That idea originated in the minds of the military chiefs, by whom it was passed on to the Minister for Defence. Then, again, it is not leng ago since they sought to inflict on us the British Army Act with all its obnoxious provisions. Thesemilitary chiefs will never voluntarily take any steps towards retrenchment.The Assistant Minister for Defence (SirGran ville Ryrie) knows better than any man here that the military machine is sSconstituted, in regard to expenditure, that if a job requires two men, a party of eight or ten is always sent. Nobody with any experience of the military machine will for the moment deny what I say. These military chiefs will not economize; they are out for expenditure only. In my opinion, there is not much need for expenditure at this particular juncture. If £300,000 was enough last year, I can see no necessity for an increase now. There are, as I say, any number of ways of effecting savings without curtailing the efficiency of the machine.First, why is there such a large number of staff officers as we find at the Victoria Barracks to-day? As a matter of fact, the number has increased this year, and the salaries paid are very large. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) rightly said that in the country centres, where the military training is going on, there is no overstaffing, and we must remember that the real work of the Army is done by the non-commissioned officers. The real training of the Forces wasdone by the instructional staff, who were sent into the camps to do it, though some members of the Citizen Forces got all the credit. No encouragement is given to the saving of money in connexion with the training of the men. The Duntroon College is still going on, and it is well known that in that institution there are none better than were the sergeantmajors during the period of the war. Yet these sergeant-majors have been practically hounded out of the Department since their return. They strived for years to get to the war, but the permanent officials would not permit them to go. Later on. some did go, and gained distinction and promotion in the field; but those who came back as colonels were compelled to resume the rank of sergeantmajor, and are now serving under graduates of the College.
– Supposing that the Defence Department had retained the rank of every man who came back as colonel, there would have been hundreds of them, and the Country party would have had something to say about that.
– There are any number of men at the Barracks to-day who never went on active service.
– We are talking of sergeant-majors who came back colonels.
– The information supplied to me is - . . some permanent officers who took no part in the war actually received pro motion and pay, while the unfortunate ranker, who endured all the hardships and privations of the front line in France, and who rose to senior rank in the field, was, on his return to Australia, stripped of his promotion and forbidden ever to wear his badges of rank gained on active service, and further humiliated by being relegated to his former position and pay of a sergeant-major.
– Do you say that all who came back as colonels, majors, and captains should retain their rank here? That would be impossible.
– What is the Army for? It is for the purpose of training our men; and the men to whom I am referring are well trained, and have demonstrated their ability in the field. The hostility of the permanent officers - who did not go abroad - to the rankers who were promoted at the Front, is hard to credit in a country like Australia; but during the war, Adjutant-General Dodds issued an order that, regardless of ability, sergeant-majors should not rise beyond the rank of a major, and they had to sign all sorts of humiliating documents.
– There is much difference between the sergeant-major and the major.
– But if a man has ability, and demonstrates his courage, and has the confidence of his men, he ought to be eligible for any vacancy that there is for a colonel, or even a general.
– Neither AdjutantGeneral Dodds nor anybody eke could give such an order as that.
– I have this further information -
Shortly after this, an order was issued prohibiting members from Duntroon or the Instructional Staff from obtaining higher rank than that of major … As a comparison, the sergeant-majors had, at the time of the. Armistice, five lieutenant-colonels, numerous majors, and captains, as well as one V.C.
That was prior to the order being issued, but the permanent officers were afraid there would be too many men of distinction; they did not desire these others to come back as competitors, and that is the reason the order was issued.
– Those who went to the Front ought to haveprecedence over those who did not.
– The Minister for Defence would not allow some of the permanent officers to go to the Front, because they were wanted here.
– And the permanent officers who did go had nothing to boast of in their records at the war, and yet they are getting £1,500 per year, plus allowances, while the sergeant-majors, some of whom have been majors-
– There are only two men getting £.1,500 a year.
– They also get allowances and command pay for different jobs - they do not stop at £1,500.
– They do not get command pay.
– They do.
– The honorable member does not understand what the term means.
– They also have allowances’ for travelling, whilst the other men startat £3 8s., rising to £6 per week, though very few get the latter. The Department should have utilized the services of these men, many of whom, when they found themselves degraded, left the Service. The result is a shortage of instructional officers, and, in consequence, the Government have had to open an instructional camp at Liverpool. Nothing else but jealousy of the permanent officials against the noncommissioned officers and rankers has compelled the opening of this second school of training. Further, what necessity is there at the Victoria and other barracks for men strutting about in uniform. They are doing purely administrative work, and no uniform is necessary, especially in view of the fact that the cost of the uniform almost equals the salaries.
– Why do you wish to destroy the attractiveness of the job?
– I do not desire that men labelled as majors, colonels, and generals should take to themselves the credit of winning the war, when probably they never left Australia. In any case, there is no necessity whatever for a uniform for a man engaged in administrative work. The discrepancies between the salaries are, to my mind, most unfair. The Assistant Minister, and every man of the Australian Imperial Force, knows that the real work of the army is done by the non-commissioned officers, and the real work of the training here is done by the sergeant-majors of the instructional staff. We could save a good deal by closing the Duntroon Military College for three years. Each student trained there costs £1,000 per annum, and it is not necessary to continue the training at present. I have a charge to make against the institution for its treatment of one young cadet which, if typical of its methods, makes me think that the sooner the place is closed the better. A young lad named Philpotts went from my constituency, and spent three years and eight months at the College. About two years ago his parents were told that he had not done too well in the examination, but nothing more was said until quite recently when, after an examination in which he had not done badly, quite a number of others being below him, a telegram was sent to his parents, telling them that he had been dismissed. There was no charge against his character, but evidently some influence was at work against him. Nearly four years of his’ life has been wasted. I know that it is not every lad who goes to Duntroon who would make a good officer or instructor, but surely a boy’s deficiencies can be found out within a shorter period than three years and eight months. I drew the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence to this matter, but got no redress, and then appealed to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), with a similar result. I think that the lad was treated most unfairly.
– What object do you think the authorities could have in driving a cadet out of the College?
– I cannot imagine what the object was.
– A Board decides annually whether certain cadets will make efficient officers. If the Board thinks that boys will not make good officers, it tells them that it is better for their own sake, and for that of every one else, to leave the College, and enter upon some other walk of life.
– The Board ought to know sooner a boy’s disqualifications.
– A lad suffers no disability by being at the College, because he gets there, free, the best education obtainable. He could not get a better education at any other College in Australia. I discussed this case with General Legge. The decision of the Board was that the young man would not make an efficient officer, and that he had better leave the service. .
– It seems to me most unfair that a lad should be allowed to spend several years in training for the military profession, only to find himself at the end kicked out without explanation. I trust that the1 Committee will carry the amendment fore-shadowed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) which, I understand, will have priority to an amendment which the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) wishes to move. The object of the Labour party’s amendment is to abolish the military training of our young lads. The Prime Minister told us that if the vote were reduced by more than £70,000, the Government would regard the reduction as equivalent to a resolution of want of confidence. But last year we spent £191,950 on military training, and this year it ia proposed to spend on it .£434,302. Then on- camps of training the expenditure was £69,000 and £150,000 is asked for this year. In my opinion, if the £191,950 was sufficient to pay .for military training last year, it should suffice for this year, and by restricting our expenditure on training to that amount, we should save over £250,000 on the proposed vote. This saving could be effected without displacing any one from his employment. But if we sanction the Government proposals, we shall build up a very strong military machine in this country, and there will be the growth of a military class. The attempt is being made now to inculcate in the minds of our children ideas about militarism and an admiration for the glories of war. There is a section that wants war, and looks to it for promotion. I am one of those who are bitterly opposed to war, and I think the bulk of the people are of my way of thinking. There is no surer way of bringing about war than the inculcation iu the minds of our children of the belief that war is a glorious thing. If we .train the young of this country as it is proposed to train them, and if the peoples of the world allow their children to be conscripted as ours are, meetings like the Washington Conference will have no effect in averting another world tragedy.
– Then it is a pity that the honorable member did not recognise the facts ten years ago.
– We live and learn. The adoption of universal military training was one of the mistakes of the Labour party, of which we have now learned the evils. The military class is everlastingly preaching that the way to prevent war is to prepare for it, but I say that preparations for war bring it about. Every country that has prepared for war has had to fight; it is those countries that have not prepared that have not had to fight. We hear of the glories of peace. Let us take a little risk to procure them.
– Denmark, which was right among the military nations, had hot to fight in the last war.
– We have been told by the Assistant- Minister for Defence that our opposition to military expenditure shows that we do not love this country or the Mother Land, but desire to hand it over to some foreign power. I have heard him say that sort of thing so often that I sometimes think he believes it to be true.
– If you are not desirous of handing the country to a foreign foe, you are, at least, careless about protecting it.
– The honorable member, being a major-general, has a love for the military profession. He likes the military machine, and wishes to strengthen it. We, on this side, desire to limit its powers. I hope that the Committee will vote against expenditure on military training. The Assistant Minister, like every one of us who was at the Front, knows that such training as our lads are given is a mere waste of time and money, and that the training ,in rifle shooting is also a waste.
– No; that is quite wrong.
– When the next battles come to be fought, the opposing armies will be 50 miles apart. In the last war, there were many miles between them. The military training that our lads get teaches them to obey the orders to “ right turn,” “ left turn,” and “ form fours” : but when troops got into the fighting zone, and especially in the trenches, there was no regard paid to matters of that kind. When it came to going over the top, it did not matter whether a soldierput his left foot or his right foot first. Why, then, should we waste money on: military training? If the desire be to improve the physique of our lads, that can be accomplished more cheaply and satisfactorily with a course of gymnastics, which would not fill their minds with the spirit of militarism.
.- I feel that a reduction can be made in this vote of an amount such as the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has suggested. I am not opposed to military training, because I look on military and naval preparations as a kind of national insurance; but the premium paid for this insurance should be in ratio to the risk, and, in the present circumstances of this country, I think it might safely be reduced. A reduction would certainly be very acceptable at the present time. The last war has removed further away the time when the next great conflict may be expected. None of the world’s great nations is, at the present moment, itching to fight. Then, the Washington Conference also lessens the risk. Therefore, I say that we might well reduce our premium. We must maintain some form of defence while other nations are doing so, but we can do it more cheaply than is proposed by the Government. Australia’s defence position to-day is better than it ever was before, not only for the reasons I have given, but also because the last war has left us with a great number of veterans. That in itself is of immense advantage to the country. At the present time we are hard up. It may be objected that to say this is to belittle the country; but our financial position is not discreditable to us, and therefore we have no reason to hide it. The most honorable thing we can do is to reduce our liabilities as quickly as possible. We can reduce these Estimates - by stretching a point here and there - by £200,000. The total amount proposed to be expended is £143,000 more than last year. We should reduce last year’s figures rather than increase them.
With respect to universal military training, my view is that the training period is too long. One never forgets what one learns between the ages of fourteen and twenty. I believe in training, but, without jeopardizing the safety of this country a considerable reduction could be made in the amount proposed for this year. Many people in Australia feel that the system is becoming rather burdensome, and that the military camps are detrimental to the morals of the younger trainees.
– In 1913-14, the year before the war, the vote for universal military training was £723,000.
– The war is over. Its lessons have been learned, and there is a feeling that there should be some relaxation of warlike preparations in view of the peaceful intentions of the nations today. Australia might, at any rate, show her bona fides.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Prime Minister’s offer to accept a reduction of £70,000, coming on top of the other reductions made in respect of the Defence Works Estimates, is fair and adequate?
– The matter of this latest reduction coming on top of others has nothing to do with the facts, Without risking the safety of Australia, £200,000 could be taken from the vote under consideration, and I say that as one who is stillasseen as the Assistant Minister himself upon the defence of this country. Honorable members merely talk “ piffle “ when they say that if we do not arm we will not have to fight.
– A man generally gets into a fight when he is looking for it.
– On the other hand, the man who is the last to look for “ stoush “ can often deal it out best. It is essential for this country to be in a state of preparation. Every young man should be trained how to fight, and even how to use his fists. The most honorable thing we can do is to cut down every possible source of expenditure to the utmost reasonable limit, and so meet our obligations. For that reason I shall support the amendment which has been suggested.
.- With the exception of a few honorable members sitting opposite, whom I do not intend to consider in dealing with this question, for the reason that they consist of only a small minority in this House, and represent the views of only a few people in the whole of Australia, it may be said that this Committee recognises that the first duty of the citizens of any country is to provide for its adequate defence. But when one speaks of adequate defence one must take into consideration a country’s means. The only difference between honorable members upon the question of Australia’s defences is in respect of what we can afford. «
– No ; it is a question of principle, and not of expediency.
– I remind the honorable member that I specifically excluded his views from my consideration only a moment ago. It has been said that it is essential for this Parliament to cut down defence expenditure. I am one of those who supported the plan of keeping our defence expenditure within our means, when, speaking in the course of the general debate upon the Estimates. But it is impossible for honorable members to say to what extent we can curtail expenditure in any Department without affecting its efficiency. Therefore, we must be guided by the Ministerial head. And, in respect of defence, it is most difficult for one who has not had inside knowledge of the particular work of the ‘Department,’ and of what the curtailing of the Estimates will mean, to say to what extent the pruning knife should be used. I am sorry that the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) should have thought it necessary to blame the Committee because a certain amount of unemployment has been created, or is threatened, as an outcome of the reduction of the Estimates in respect of Defence works. At least, the Government should share the blame, if any blame there be. When honorable members were dealing with the Defence Estimates, I asked the Assistant Minister to indicate what would be the effect of the proposed reduction, what curtailment would be necessary in particular branches, - and what he considered to be the absolute minimum of reduction without affecting efficiency. The Government, through the Prime Minister, indicated that they would be prepared to accept a reduction of £200,000. At a later stage, a number of honorable members on this side expressed the desire that the Government should consider the position further, as they thought there was room for still greater reductions - to the extent, indeed, of £50,000. I recall-, also, that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) asked that the Government should reconsider the position. That was done, and, on the following day, the Govern ment announced that they would be prepared to accept a reduction to the extent of £250,000. If honorable members insist upon reductions in the expenditure of Departments, they must surely perceive that it will mean unemployment for somebody. Some individuals must be affected if public money is to be saved. But, at the same time, I agree with those honorable members who have said that it is not economical to employ men in any branch of the Public Service if the work on which they are engaged is not necessary. At school I was taught something about idle hands being those which might be the better for being employed. If the work of employees in certain branches of the Public Service is not essential, those individuals might well be engaged in other directions; while, if money is expended in a Department merely for the sake of keeping employment going, it is obviously being wasted. I repeat that, if economy is to be practised, hardship is fairly sure! to be the portion of some one or other. Yet responsible members of Parliament must face the position; and it is of no use for them to attempt to shirk their responsibility.
With respect to military training, if the reduction suggested by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is agreed to, it will involve, to a considerable extent, at any rate, a curtailment of military training during the ensuing year. Those honorable members who have said that, since the war is over and there is little prospect of Australia being involved in further trouble, we will be taking no risks in holding back military training need to.be reminded that we have been holding it back for some time. Two of the senior quotas of trainees have already been virtually cut out. That is to ‘ say, camp training has been already done away with in respect’ of two quotas for the present year. If there is to be t% further reduction of the vote for military training purposes a third quota must go without training. My view is that we have gone about as far as we ought to go. The Government have been induced to consent to a reduction of £250,000 upon Defence Works Estimates. The Prime Minister has indicated that the Government will be prepared to agree to a reduction of the general Estimates under discussion to the extent of £70,000; and I, at any rate, am satisfied. In my view, all the reduction that can be effected without jeopardizing the efficiency of the training of our Forces has been made. I do not agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and other honorable members who say that no training is necessary and that it is absurd to teach boys “ right and left turn” and so on. The honorable member, if he has any knowledge of military training as carried on to-day, should know that there is very little tuition in that direction. Apart from the physical culture, which is the greater part of thetraining of the younger members of the cadets, their work is of a practical nature. Honorable members with any military experience who have watched the boys on the parade grounds will know that this is so. I am not going to criticise the method of training our lads. I agree with those who say that quite apart from the need for imparting some knowledge of the rifle and of the evolutions that are necessary to the handling of men in the field, it is good for the physique and also for the morals of a boy that he should undergo some training of the kind. I disagree absolutely with certain outside societies which have circularized honorable members, as well as with others who say that it is detrimental to the morals of our youths to send them into camp or to compel them to undergo military training. Those who make such statements must be ignorant of the methods employed in training our youths and the environment of the boys when they are taken into camp. It is far better for the boys to be taken into camp, there to be trained by men and to associate with others of their own age, than to spend their holidays, as many of them do, at the seaside, in our streets, or in many of the forms of amusement that are not objected to today.
– Does the honorable member believe in a seventy days’ camp?
– The Government have announced over and over again that such a policy is not to becarried out. To ask young men to spend seventy days in camp in any one year would be, perhaps, to ask them to devote to military training a longer period than they could very well give to such a purpose. I understand that the idea of the military experts when they first suggested that young men should be required to train for seventy days in one year was to shorten the period of training. It was thought that it would be better for them to do the whole of their training, say, in three years rather than that it should be spread over five years. The idea was that when our youths reached the age of nineteen or twenty years they would be employed in various occupations, and that therefore it was better that they should not be compelled to go to camp and so occupy many weeks which would otherwise be devoted to their ordinary employments.
The only note of criticism I have to offer in regard to the way in which our compulsory training system is carried out is, that I fear that instead of being too severe it is rather inclined to be slack. I am convinced that this slackness is creeping in because of the supposed unpopularity of compulsory military training in Australia to-day. If the system is to be of any use it must be properly carried out, and unless it is popular with the lads and their parents it is going to be a failure. If the agitation against compulsory military training on the part of a small section of the community is to grow–
– It is growing.
– If it is to grow to the extent that the parents are going to resent their boys being taken on to the parade grounds or into camp for instruction, then obviously the boys themselves will go to training ina state of mind which will unfit them to benefit by the instruction given. If compulsory training is going to be unpopular with the boys, and with the greater part of the parents of those boys, then I very much fear that it is not going to be a success. I regret that that feeling is growing, and that any section of the community should be encouraging the boys not only to shirk the training ground, but also to ridicule it during the hours of their parade. If that feeling grows it will not be beneficial.
– I am glad to know that it is not going to be a success.
– I know that honorable members opposite, who are interjecting, are doing their utmost to encourage boys to ridicule and sneer at military training. They are encouraging them in every way possible to “play truant,” if I may so apply an old- school phrase. Those honorable members, however, are responsible Cor their own acts. I hope that while we have such a system as . exists to-day it will be carried out just as a schoolmaster carries on the instruction of his scholars. Just as the teacher insists upon discipline in the school-room, so we must have discipline on the parade ground.
– Why not get out the cat-o’-nine tails?
– Some honorable members in their youth apparently did not have much experience of corporal punishment, otherwise they would give more evidence of the benefit derived from it. I am reminded by the honorable member’s interjection of a story that I heard the other day. The head teacher of a senior school, speaking on the question of corporal punishment, .said that he did not approve of it. He declared that it was absolutely unnecessary, was not beneficial to the youth, and was not helpful in exacting discipline. One of his friends strongly disagreed with that view, and argued that in certain cases corporal punishment was necessary. In reply, the schoolmaster, who had been teaching for many years, quoted an instance where he had been punished very severely for, as he said, “ telling the truth,” and he said that since then he had always been opposed to corporal punishment. “Well,” rejoined his friend, “ There is this to be said for it, that it cured you.” If some honorable members in their young days had had more experience of corporal punishment they would have been cured of some of the so-called sentiment that they profess to-day. However, the interjection made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is beside the mark, as the application of corporal punishment in any circumstances to Australian trainees has never been suggested.
In conclusion, I have to say that, after what has been said by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). I do not feel disposed to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) for a reduction of this vote by £200,000. After all, the Assistant Minister for Defence is responsible for this proposed vote. He has gone into the whole question, and knows that the desire of the Committee is that we should reduce the cost of military training, and should cut down expenditure to the last shilling, compatible with efficiency. In the circumstances, therefore, I . must be prepared to accept his assurance that he can go no further than he has. We must either support him or reconsider the whole question of whether we should have in the future a system of military training in Australia. I think the Prime Minister was quite right when he put to us that aspect of the question. We must either have efficient training or cut it out altogether, and another occasion must be taken by this Committee to decide whether or not we should have military training for the youth of Australia.
.- This question is of interest to every honorable member, but I feel specially called upon to deal with it because of the compliments that were hurled at me -by the gallant and knighted or “ benighted “ honorable gentleman who is in charge of the Defence Estimates. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) applied to me an expression which he has since withdrawn, but which would lead one to think that I was mentally deficient. I would have the honorable gentleman know that I am not so mentally deficient as to have failed to observe the way in which he evaded a question addressed to him. When going through the list of officers he said, first of all, that there had been no increases in the number of higher paid officers in the Service. When I interjected, “ What about the lieutenant-colonels ? How do you explain the provision made for three more lieutenant-colonels this year, as compared with last year? “ the honorable gentleman tried to evade the issue. He did it fairly well, but I have sufficient mentality to note that from that time to this he has not explained why those additional lieutenantcolonels are on the staff to-day. I am hopeful that he will give us an explanation. The only explanation that he can offer is that jobs had to be found for some of the higher placed officials. I rose, in the first place, to draw attention to the way in which the honorable gentleman had endeavoured to bluff the Committee by ignoring this increase in the staff of senior officers, but there are other matters to which I also desire to refer.
It is quite true, as the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) has said, that the Government has set aside the seventy days’ camp proposal. But what is the reason for this change of policy 1 While the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) was speaking I interjected that it was not the wish of the officer class that that proposal should be set aside. The honorable member then turned on me. I repeat that it is not the wish of the officer class, nor was it on their advice that the proposal was turned down. It was not the wish of the Government that it should not be carried out.
– The honorable member has one of his feet on the rail of the bench in front of him. He is displaying more “ hoof “ than brains.
– I am glad to know that, although the honorable member misses the big things, he can at least notice some of the small things. I am not worrying about my foot being on a particular railing - I am worrying rather about the fact that the military class have their feet on the neck of the youth of this country. The proposal for a seventy days’ camp was abandoned first of all because the Labour party said they would’ not have it, and, secondly, because the Country party in New South Wales said that they would not support it. Then many of the churches said, “ We, too, cannot support it.” I am glad to note that the churches have at last taken up the right stand in regard to militarism. Many who followed honorable members opposite in the conscription stunt recognise now that when the Nazarene was on earth He did not say “Fight the sword with the sword.” He said -
I say unto you . . . whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy clonk also . . . Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you; do good to them that
Iia te you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.
I am, of course, merely looking at the matter from the church stand-point. Many claim that sections of the Christian Church were right in advocating conscription, and the meeting of force by force; yet it. has been the claim of all Christian theologians throughout the ages that while Mohammedism won its way by the use of the sword, Christianity succeeded by the gentle forces of love. However, I am glad that the church’ has now ranged itself, not on the side of militarism, but against it. When the Country party Opposed the proposal for a seventy days’ camp, and the Labour party opposed it, and the churches lined up in opposition to it, the Government did as they have done in regard to many lines of these Estimates^ - they gradually fell back. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) indicated that some honorable members of the Opposition were encouraging cadets to play truant. I deny it. I admit that I have told cadets to watch that they do not become part of a great military machine, because I am afraid of the effect upon these young men at the most impressionable period of their lives of coming under the influence of that which makes for militarism. I do not care whether the Labour party was in power or not at the time when this system was brought into force. Why was not the proper thing done? Why were “ kids “ without votes compelled to train? Why were not* men with votes compelled to train? The military caste knew all too well that if they attempted to compel such men to train it would be the end of the system. It is only another illustration of their deep cunning. The charge has also been hurled at the Labour party that it brought compulsorytraining into existence. I admit that this was the case; but the Labour party, with the people of the country behind it, will, in due course, wipe it out. I may be asked, “ Why this change of front?” I used to be foolish enough to think that militarism in Germany, Russia, and France, and, to a slight extent, in Great Britain, was real militarism, and that the Australian form of it was as harmless as a sucking dove; but I have had my eyes opened by what has been done to Australian-born citizens under militarism. I have spoken of this matter before, and honorable members know what I am referring to. Men with no chance of defending themselves, because no charge was openly made against them, have been dragged from their homes and placed in internment camps. In this connexion I shall quote some words from the Sunraysia Daily. When I was speaking on this subject previously some honorable members did not appear to be inclined to accept the evidence I tendered. The evidence I now give is that of a highly respectable resident of Renmark, the Chairman of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, an organization which has for its object the regulation of the prices of dried fruits. I have not a word to say against the Australian Dried Fruits Association. Every one has the same right to organize as they have done; but what I am about to read clearly proves that one man was interned in order to prevent him from selling in the open market - and the military had charge at the time. According to the Sunraysia Daily, of the 26th November, 1920, the Chairman of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, after saying different things about the association, and those who remained outside its ranks, added -
Mildura’s method of dealing with the position was quick and effective. They had the man interned.
Apparently, that was their method of getting rid of opposition; and if under the military system there is only one such case, but it was not the only case; prominent business men in my electorate were also whipped out of the way - it, at least, opens my eyes to the fact that militarism, wherever it is met, is militarism always. It was born in hell, and hell is the only place for it ! I apologize to no one for being opposed to it. I heard the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) say it was piffle to say that if a country did not arm it would not be drawn into a fight. Then let us have some more of such piffle. When the war was in progress, people said, “ Let us arm to the teeth and fight to the last. This shall be the war to end war.”o And, now tha war is over, the same people say, “ We will arm for all we are worth in order to prevent war.” Where is their logic? The argument of honorable members when carried to its logical conclusion is that the more we arm the less chance there will be of our being drawn into a conflict. As a matter of fact, the truth lies in the opposite direction. On two occasions I have heard the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) state that the references to the Japanese menace were largely made in order to create a scare. I do not think that he said it was organized by the officer class, but the impression 1 formed was that such was Iris meaning. The honorable member said that, in his opinion, there was no great danger threatening Australia at the present time, and I hold the same view. The bone of contention in the Pacific, or among the countries bordering on the Pacific, is China and its markets, and if the Washington Conference is a failure, which God forbid, the first fight will not be over Australia, but over the markets of China, and the possibility of exploiting that country Having formed that opinion, I ask myself, “Where does the greatest danger to Australia lie? Will it come within the next three or four years, or twenty years hence?” My opinion is that there is no immediate danger to this country, because the Powers to which I have referred will have sufficient to interest them elsewhere, if they are foolish enough to fall out among themselves. But it is possible that within twenty years Australia may be a bone of contention. Our best defence is to develop our waste places, and to place population there. Can we successfully conduct military defence, air defence, naval defence, and a policy of immigration at the same time? We are not in a financial position to conduct all four successfully. I hold the view that our truest line of defence at the present time is to use the money we have to open up our country with the object of populating our empty spaces, so that later on, when the <wil day comes, we may have sufficient people here to cope with it. Therefore, in retrenching I would cut out the military expenditure first, for many reasons. First of all, because in times_ of industrial stress the Military Forces could be used, as they have been used, and will be used, by the capitalistic classes for their own purposes. I admit that they could also use the Navy to a certain extent, but there are not the same number of men in the Naval Forces as are required in the Military Forces, and, in any case, they would not be likely to be used very far from the seaboard. Another reason I have for cutting out the military expenditure is my fear of the spread of the_ spirit of militarism, which is possible through the influence of the military officers upon the great numbers of our young men who come under them for .training. A third reason is outlined by Lord Fisher in his Memoirs, in which he says -
When Lord Kitchener went to Australia he forgot that Australia was an island. What Australia wants to make it impregnable is not conscription; it wants submarines.
Our first need, according to Lord Fisher, ‘ is not compulsory training, but submarines; and if we have any money to spare after providing for opening up the country for more population, I would prefer to spend it on the Department of the Navy. I shall vote with pleasure to cut down the proposed military expenditure.
.- 1 desire to say a few words with regard to the attempt of this Government to create more jobs for ‘the “ brass hats,” and the different officers who, as a clique, are practically controlling this portion of the Commonwealth. If there is to be any reduction in the number of men engaged in the defence of the Commonwealth, the Government do not start with the higherpaid) officials, but begin right at the bottom.. Every member of this party made it very clear, in voting for a reduction of the Defence Estimates, that if men were to be dismissed those in the higher grades should be sacked first; but the Governmenthave deliberately sacked the lowerpaid workers in the Department in order to prevent, if possible, any further reductions in the Estimates. The Assistant Minister, who, five times a day, threatens members of this party, deliberately put off the “underdogs,” and retained all the “ brass hats,” with their gold braid and buttons. He said that, in order to retrench, the Government had dismissed two brigadier-generals at £800 per annum each. but he immediately created three other positions, carrying salaries of £900 per annum, so that the only difference was to increase. the cost. The Minister read- out a list showing that the expenditure in regard to certain officers was the same this year as it was last year, but he very cleverly omitted to read the list beyond a certain point. It was left te the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to carry the story further.
– I said that there had been no increase in the salaries for senior officers. A full colonel is supposed to be a senior officer.
– The honorable gentleman sought to make the Committee believe that there had been no increases in the salaries for officers, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition showed that there had been increases to the amount of £4,000. We have shown that the Minister and the Government are in the hands of a military clique which is running the Defence Department.
– Does the honorable member think that the Assistant Minister is one of them?
– I think that he puts before the Committee what the “ brass hats “ tell him to submit. He depends implicitly upon them, and they have “ sold him pups.” The honorable gentleman holds a brief for an institution called the Duntroon Military College, one of the outstanding scandals amongst a host of scandals associated with the present Administration.
– The Duntroon graduates were pretty valuable during the war, and over fifty of them lost their lives.
– There are seventyfive students at Duntroon-
– There are eighty.
– And to train and look after them 172 men are employed.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I am quite aware of the figures with which the Assistant Minister attempted to mislead the Committee, but I make the statement that not less than 172 men are employed there to attend to seventy-five students. The cost per student at Duntroon is nearly £900 per annum.
– If the Assistant Minister has not previously noticed that item on his Estimates it might be worth his while to give some study to it. Honorable members of the Opposition desire to know whether the Government will persist in continuing to train these students at such high cost, or whether they will make some other arrangements by which their training will cost not more than £300 or £400 per annum. Not’ only is Duntroon Military College maintained at extremely high cost, but there is the Jervis Bay Naval College, where it costs £1,000 per annum to maintain and train each student When these young men -have been trained at a cost of £5,000 per head for the five years’ course they are put on the labour market. The people of Australia are paying £5,000 per head to train these men in the science of naval warfare, and they will probably find their way into office jobs in the city at 15s. per day. The Australian Navy cannot absorb the graduates of Jervis Bay College, neither can the Australian Army absorb the graduates of Duntroon Military College. It is a scandal that the community should be required to pay these high costs. Even if the two institutions are to be maintained as they are, the cost per student should be, and could be, reduced to probably not more than £400 per annum. If that cannot be done, those responsible for. their administration should be displaced. The battleship Australia is now out of commission. What better Naval College could we have than the Australia, which could be maintained for that purpose at much less than the cost of the Jervis Bay College?
– Order! The honorable member is now dealing with the Estimates for the Navy.
-The Labour party has been twitted in regard to its altered attitude towards defence. I admit that I have altered my opinion. The war showed me and my colleagues that one of the greatest dangers that confronts Australia is militarism. There is a very real risk that those people who desire to retain their military positions will run this country. While there is a cry throughout the civilized world for disarmament and peace, the present Government are proposing increases in defence expenditure in all directions. I hope that the desires of the militarists will be frustrated by the Washington Conference. Whilst the Labour party was responsible for the initiation of the Australian defence policy and the Australian Navy, those who to-day espouse them were then their greatest enemies. « The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) and many of the ‘honorable members opposite fought the Labour party’s defence policy most bitterly. The greatest opposition to it came from the Liberal section of the community, who, to show their appreciation and devotion to the Mother Land, suggested the expenditure of £1,000,000 to purchase a Dreadnought for Great Britain. The Labour party, however, brought the Australian Navy into existence, notwithstanding the .opposition of the Liberal party, members of which, strangely enough, have now reversed their attitude.
– And the honorable member appears to have changed his mind also.
– We members of the Labour party admit that we have changed our opinion, and that’ is largely due to the actions of the present Government. We have seen militarism in all its nakedness, used, not for the defence of Australia, but for the subjection’ of the Government’s ‘ political opponents. Honorable members on this side of the House, because of our political principles, were haled before Courts and fined, and if the Government had had their way Ave would have been interned and gaoled. They were using the military machine to take from the people the freedom they enjoyed prior to the war. That machine ;has been worked overtime, not for the defence of Australia, but for purely political purposes, and it is being used for those purposes to-day. .’Indeed,, there is not one Department controlled by the present Government which is not used for political purposes. The Department of Home and Territories faked a demonstration in the Sydney Domain, and paid for the whisky and motor cars-
– Order! The honorable member is indulging in a general discussion of the Estimates. I ask him to confine his remarks to the Defence Department.
– I know that these remarks are quite out of order, but they are very interesting. At that demonstration, the whisky a,nd cars were supplied by the Commonwealth Government.
– Order !
– The members of the Labour party have altered their opinion in regard to defence. We have learnt a very bitter lesson during the last six years. But other honorable members also have altered their minds, notably the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), who has twitted us regarding our change of attitude. It is said that only fools and dead men do not change their minds. The honorable member does not contend that he has always maintained a fixed mind on all things. At one time he was espousing the principles of the Labour party-
– Order !
– Of course, we have changed our minds in regard to defence, just as many other honorable members have changed their minds in regard to political principles. Some of them can change their minds as quickly as a person might change his shirt, if it pays them to do so.
– If no action is taken by any other honorable member, 1 shall move for the reduction of the item for the Duntroon College, in order that those who are in charge of that institution may be compelled to economize and do their work at half the present cost. I shall make a similar proposal in regard to the Jervis Bay College, a child of the former Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) - another fine institution with £1,000 per year students. I am pretty certain that the Committee will take steps to, at least, see that, if there are not some radical changes in regard to the two Colleges, there is, at least, a great reduction in the expenditure.
.- I am one of the members of this House who, in past years, supported and assisted to carry into effect the present system of training of our young men and the creation of an effective military machine that would stand us in good stead in the time when it was likely to be badly required. I do not lay claim to any special prescience, but it is many years since I saw, or thought I saw, the danger on the horizon that eventually overtook the world. In order to be prepared for that danger, I was prepared to go as far as the resources of the country would permit; but, having adopted the system under which we trained our young men in preparation for that evil day that came and now has gone, I am not sure the time has not arrived when we should reconsider the position. I would be one of the “ fools “ to whom the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has just referred if I had not learned a good deal from my observations during the years that have intervened since we adopted the present system of training. During the war, and since, it has been said to me by those who had the training of our Forces for actual warfare that the young men who had undergone cadet training were the worst class of recruits they handled. Some of my informants even go so far as to say that they would have preferred to have placed in their hands for training for war purposes men who had undergone no previous training; that the cadets were very disappointing material, not as regards their courage, or even their physique, but because their training had been of such a character as to unfit them for the stern military discipline necessary in war. I called the attention of Parliament some years ago to the absurdity of clothing boys of twelve to fourteen years of age in military uniform, and placing them in the hands of drill sergeantsto go through the ordinary recruit drill. I have seen those little fellows dropping exhausted on a hot day in December, in my own electorate, absolutely physically unable to carry out the orders given them. I am very glad to find that my efforts to put an end to that absurd and objectionable state of affairs have resulted in substantial modifications, but I am not sure that the military authorities) have gone far enough. I say now that I do not see anything is gained by training boys under eighteen for military service. In those countries of the world where it is a matter of life and death to effectively train every man able to bear arms, the training, so far as I know, does not start earlier than eighteen years. If such is the position in regard to those countries, I must confess I do not see any advantage in incurring expenditure for training boys in Australia under that age.
– Especially in a hot country.
– I am not much concerned about that, because our young men can stand the climaticconditions here just as well as young men can stand the climatic conditions in other parts of the world. But it is suggested “that physical training could be adopted with advantage in the case of the boys. I am pleased that this idea is gaining ground, but I do not think the present expensive method of achieving the object is one that should be maintained. We can get all the physical training we require without associating it with the military machine; and that is what I suggest to the Committee is the course we ought to adopt for the future. A great deal is being said about the danger that threatens Australia from certain directions. I maintain that this is created largely as a scare, and one for which the Prime Minister and some of his Ministers are largely responsible. It is just as well to talk about these matters quite plainly. When we find even Senator’ Pearce suggesting, in a cable the other day, that Australia is menaced by the coloured races, it is worth considering whether that gentleman’s mission to the Washington Conference is going to be an unqualified success. I wish to know whence this danger threatens us. If it is supposed to come from the direction that is so often suggested - from Japan - may I ask, in all earnestness and sincerity, whether any military or naval preparations we can undertake” are likely to be of .the slightest consequence. We have not the slightest justification for assuming that Japan has designs hostile to Australia. The whole civilized world, including Japan, bo-day stands appalled at the horrors of war, and would, on no account, enter into another such cataclysm for mankind as that from which we have just emerged. I am quite certain that if the opinion of the people of any of those civilized countries carries any weight at all, war has become practically impossible, at least in our generation, which witnessed the horrors ‘of the great conflict just closed. When we find, even apart from the appalling loss of life which the victors, in common with the vanquished, have suffered, that no substantial advantage has been gained by the victors, we have circumstances sufficient to make even those who might have a reasonable prospect of winning a war stand back from the attempt. I suggest, therefore, that at present, and for some year* to come, the policy of Australia is not to prepare for war, but to adopt that line of defence which we are being told from all quarters is the .most effective, and the one absolutely necessary for Australia. During the last few weeks I have observed in my reading that there
I are quite an unusual number of pub-
Heists in various parts of the world, particularly in Great Britain, who are calling our attention to the urgent necessity for the development of an effective immigration policy for Australia. They say that such a policy, and that alone, can save the country. While I listen with pleasure to the “hear, hears” of honorable members opposite, I cannot fail to remind them that the absence of any effective system of immigration into Australia is largely due to the attitude adopted by them. From all quarters, and by men of great eminence and responsibility in the affairs of the world, we are being warned that if we are to save Australia for the white races there is one thing, and one thing only, for us to do. We must set to work seriously to fill up our vacant spaces with our own kith and kin; and I urge the Committee with all the earnestness I can command to put aside for the present any idea of military and naval defence as unnecessary and futile, and devote a large amount of the money so saved to the development of an effective policy of Australian immigration. At the present juncture especially, we shall be failing in our duty to this country, and to posterity, if we do not adopt some such course as I suggest.
– :The outstanding feature of the Estimates before us is that we are asked to spend £352,000 .more than was voted last year. I am pleased that an amendment has been proposed from this side to reduce these Estimates by the extent to which they exceed these of last year. I am at a loss to know why the Leader cf the Corner party (Dr. Earle Page) suggests that they should be reduced by only £200,000, for that would still leave the expenditure for this year £152,000 more than the preceding vote. Such an attitude appears to me .a contradiction of that taken up by the Corner party in regard to the vote of the Treasury. They said they would cut the vote down by the amount by which it exceeded last year’s vote. But they propose to reduce the Defence expenditure by only £200,000, though there are- much stronger reasons for reducing that expenditure than there are for reducing the expenditure of any other Department. They are willing to allow the Defence vote of this year to exceed last year’s expenditure by £152,000. We, on this side, propose to reduce the vote by at least the amount by which it exceeds last year’s expenditure. I hope that the members of the Corner party will support our amendment, and thus show themselves consistent.
On page 124 of the Estimates the amount set down under the head of Permanent Forces is £666,951, whereas the expenditure of last year was £374,058. I take it that this increase is due to the greater cost of the new scheme of divisional training. One of these military gentlemen has been right through the State of New South Wales explaining that scheme. It would be interesting to know how its cost compares with that of the old system. The amount asked for under the head of Permanent Forces is nearly double the amount spent last year.
– The increase is to be accounted for by the fact that the whole of the permanent men have been brought under one head. Previously they were distributed among different branches of the Department. The honorable member will notice that, whereas last year £262,567 was voted for Administrative and Instructional Staffs, nothing is asked for under that heading this year.
– That does not make up the difference. I should like to know what is the estimated cost of the new system of training.
– It will be very little more than that of the old system. The extra amount in this year’s Estimates is largely due to the fact that in the pastfew years money has been spent out of war loans, and we are now getting back to ordinary conditions.
– I am informed by a member of the Defence Department, whose name I am not able to divulge, that much of the increased expenditure is due to the change in the method of training. This gentleman has written me a letter on the subject, and seems to know what he is writing about. Under the new scheme the cost of many branches of theservice, he says, has been doubled. Under the old scheme each State had a commandant, an army quartermastergeneral, and other officers, but under the new system each division will have this set of officers, and, in addition, there will be the State commandants.
– The position of State commandant has been made a minor one. The State commandant will be the base commandant, and the greater part’ of the work hitherto done by the officers filling that position will, in future, be done by the divisional commander.
– Has there been a reduction in the salaries of the State commandants in consequence of this change of work?
– Yes. The office will be filled by a major instead of by a brigadier-general. The position is now one of less importance, and a smaller salary is attached to it. The divisional commanders, with one exception, are only partially-paid men.
– The pay of the officer commanding the first division is £900 a year.
– He is the only permanent officer among the divisional commanders.
– He is paid for his full time. The commanding officer of the second division is to get £300 a year for part of his time, just as the commanding officer of the cavalry division is to get £300 a year for part of his time.
– Three hundred pounds a year is the maximum that will be paid to these officers. They must keep a record of their work, and will be paid only for the actual time which they give to it; but in no case will they receive more than the maximum amount of £300 a year.
– We should have from the Assistant Minister a comparison of the cost of the new system with that of the old. I gather from the Estimates that the cost of our training will be greatly increased by the adoption of the new system. It is proposed to expend on this Department this year £352,281 more than was spent last year.
– The difference between the amount asked for this year and the amount voted last year is only £143,000. That is a fair comparison.
– What we are concerned with is the actual expenditure of last year, and, as I have said we are asked now to vote this year £352,281 more than was spent last year. It is the duty of honorable members to see that the expenditure of the Department is, at least, not greater this year than it- was last year.
The Assistant Minister for Defence indulged in some special pleading to excuse the dismissal of 400 men from the Defence Department. He said, as the Prime Minister also said, that the responsibility must be borne by Parliament, whereas what the Committee did was merely to reduce the proposed vote for new works, and consequently the reduction should not have had the effect of throwing out one temporary hand.
– That has been clearly explained.
– No. The facts have been camouflaged by the Prime Minister and the honorable gentleman. The Committee wished to reduce the Military Works Estimates by £500,000, but the Prime Minister said that the Government could see its way to reduce them only by £200,000, and, later, he gave ground to the extent of another £50,000, making the total reduction £250,000, with which the Assistant Minister for Defence concurred. There was no word said then about the dismissal of temporary hands. The Prime Minister said, “We can reduce this vote by £250,000, because five months of the financial year have already gone.” He did not say that the effect of the reduction would be to throw men out of work, nor did the Assistant Minister for Defence say that. But when the reduction had been made, they did what is always done; they attacked the men who were most helpless, and tried to shift the responsibility from their own shoulders on to those of Parliament.
– I told honorable members that if the Works vote were reduced, we should probably have to close the Small Arms Factory and other works of the kind, but that has been avoided.
– The Minister was told that he need not, and should not, do that; that, instead of dismissing these men, there is much reproductive work upon which they could be engaged in the Postmaster-General’s Department. If the money proposed to be spent upon defence were devoted to necessary works such as post-offices, telegraphs, telephones, and the like, there wouldbe no need to “ sack “ any Government employees. There would be employment rather which would absorb, in addition, large numbers of those who are without employment throughout the country today. If the Assistant Minister had perceived, at the time when the defence works vote was reduced, that the result would mean the dismissal of men, the honest course for him to pursue and for the Government to indorse would have been to tell this House that responsibility for the reductions could not be accepted. Of course, the outcome of that stand might have meant the defeat of the Government; but, rather than sacrifice their jobs, the Government preferred that the returned soldiers should be dismissed, or that any one else in the community should be rendered idle before themselves. If the Assistant Minister had seen that the cutting down of the Defence Estimates would mean putting men out of employment, he should have taken a firm stand and refused to have the vote for his Department interfered with. What actuated the Assistant Minister, and the Ministry as a whole, was that the numbers were against them., and they were not willing to jeopardize their billets. If any one was to be sacrificed, the members of the Ministry were to come last.
– The honorable member admits, then, that it, was himself, together with other honorable members, who brought about the dismissal nf these men.
– J do not. We indicated to the Government how such an unfortunate thing could be prevented.
– But even with these men out, and the Estimates cat down to the extent which they have been, there will still be £242,000 more available to the Department than was spent last year.
– That is a fact, and it furnishes a complete answer to the Minister.
– The honorable member knows that very few men were trained last year, and that we should try to get on with some amount of training this year.
– T hope that the amendment indicated by the De’puty Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will be agreed to, because theamount of money to be spent upon defence should certainly not exceed last year’s sum. If there is justification for cutting down the money to be made available to any branch of the Public Service, it is provided in respect of the Defence Department.
– I am reluctant to accept the statement of the Prime Minister that the matter of citizen training is one which is at the mercy of the Committee. I was one of those who took a very active part in inducing the people to accept the principle of a trained citizen soldiery as against the’ maintenance of a permanent military force. In that campaign the assistance of some of the wisest men in the public life of Australia was enthusiastically given. The people of the Commonwealth accepted the principle of a Citizen Force; and, at more than one election since, they have indorsed their first decision. To challenge the decision of the people in respect of citizen training by any indirect method would ‘be, in effect, to attack the system of democratic government itself. Australia’s defence force has been founded upon the will of the people, indicated through the ballotbox; and the only way in which that system can be reviewed in a democratic community such as this is by recourse to the same procedure; that is to say, by an appeal direct to the people again. Until the Labour party fell under the evil influences which to-day control it, it was the champion of this system which now it seeks to undermine by every effort within its power. It is deplorable that the matter of the defence of this country, which should be the concern of every citizen^, and of every party, and the party placard of none, should be placed in the position in which it is found in this Parliament to-day. What is that position ? One of the most capable Treasurers who has held office in the history of the Commonwealth consulted with the Defence authorities in his desire to cut expenditure to the lowest practicable limits before introducing these Estimates. Honorable members were assured that the Defence Estimates represented the minimum expenditure which could be applied with reasonable hope of securing efficient defence. The Estimates came under the consideration of this House. What happened here? Electors who sent the Country party to the National Legislature did so upon the emphatic assertions of Country party candidates that, in matters of loyalty, upon questions of this country’s defence, they were even as the Nationalists themselves. These gentlemen of the Corner declared from every platform that they differed from the Nationalists only in that they sought to give more consideration than had hitherto been afforded in the National Legislature to the interests of primary producers. Nine out of every ten candidates who bore the impress of the Country party went before the electors either with the direct approval of the Nationalist organizations, or protesting that, upon matters of loyalty and national defence, the country would unquestionably be safe in their hands. Where do those reducers’ representatives stand to-day, however? They have allied themselves with a party which has placed upon its programme thinly disguised proposals that can, only be read to mean one thing, namely, that the more open this country is to attack the better will they be pleased. I refer to a party the members of which deem it to be their duty to the electors who sent them here to make every conceivable attack upon Australia’s defence, and to traduce every man who stands for efficient defence preparations. That is the job, and those are the ideals, of the Labour party to-day. But its members have been unable to carry out their purpose in the National Legislature. They failed to secure the approval of a majority of the electors upon the last occasion of their appeal to the country upon the basis of the policy to which I have just alluded. They failed, indeed, to retain the support which they had previously been accorded. To-day> however, they have found a new ally. By the apostacy of members of the Country party, who when before the electors expressed the same views upon broad measures of defence and of loyalty as were uttered by the Nationalists, the Labour representatives are able to effect their objectives. Only by the assistance of the Country party, I repeat, can they do so.
The attack upon the Estimates which has been launched by the party in the corner represents a ready-made and elementary attempt at economy. No matter whether a thing may be good or bad, desirable or undesirable, extravagant or economical, the Country party demands that there shall be a cutting down, by 10 per cent. That is a means which any neophyte in finance could apply to anything under the sun- Instead of offering any suggestion of guidance or direction concerning what ought to be done, Country party members pour out their empty professions of a desire to defend their country and keep it for the white races, accompanied by repeated attacks upon Ministers who are trying to perform those tasks in practical fashion.
– :¥e offered some constructive criticism.
– I should like to be informed when and where. I have listened to a considerable number of appeals by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) in the direction of a general practice of economy on the Country party’s 10 per cent, basis; but I have not heard one proposition along the lines of constructive policy. Not one practical word have I heard from the honorable member regarding the actual economical conduct of the .business of the country. Really, though, is it to be expected that the most intricate subject of all those that receive attention in Parliament can be so easy of solution that an individual, entering this Legislature from some municipal council in a remote country district, should be able to teach wisdom to men who, for thirty years, have been prominent in the public life of Australia? Honorable members have listened to the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) bringing forward his little schemes; but there has proved to be nothing in them beyond declarations that the country is extravagant. No proof of extravagance is offered concerning any one Department at all. There is nothing but a broad reference to waste and extravagance in all Departments. Such methods indicate the weakness of the Country party’s attack. Its members do not say that the Government are spending money upon such-and-such a thing, and that it ought to be stopped, or that the Government are pouring money out on some specific project which is either wasteful or chimerical. Country members say, rather, and solely, that there must be a 10 per cent, reduction. The whole of their campaign is based upon the assertion that this country is bankrupt, and cannot afford to do that which every other country has to do.
– That is another incorrect statement.
– I shall be glad to hear the honorable member depart from his general policy of 10 per cent, reduction, and point to a particular matter in regard to which my remarks are incorrect. I contend that honorable members are not justified, in the present condition of world affairs, in advocating the relaxation of Australia’s efforts to provide efficient defence. The actions of the Government towards meeting ‘ these criticisms - which have emanated mainly from the Collins-street press - by conceding this, that, and the other thing, are-
– Somewhat pitiable.
– At any rate, regrettable. The Government would have been more wisely directed, and, certainly, they would have given honorable members more confidence in their capacity, if they had said, “ The money comprised in the Estimates is essential for defence purposes.” Had the Government stuck to their guns, had they placed their fate in the hands of honorable members, these little “ten-percenters” might have been compelled to go back to the country, revealed for what they are - allies of the enemies of national defence. The electors would then perceive that the Country party has linked itself with those who now are so disappointed with the results of their creative efforts in years gone by that they desire to kill the defence scheme for which they were originally responsible, to do away with citizen training, and with everything tending to strengthen Australia’s defensive measures.
– We want to deal with the enemy within.
– If that were effectively carried out, the enemy within would soon be the enemy without, and no effort would be required to repel the attacks of enemies of national defence in this Parliament, for the reason that there would be so few of such individuals here that they and their designs would be negligible. We are asked to assume, because a Conference to discuss disarmament is meeting in Washington, that there is no need for Australia to keep her weapons bright. I should be very glad to think that the immediate result of that Conference would be to relieve Australia of any necessity for defence. But the Washington Conference is not over, and while there are grounds for hope that the weight of the burden may be reduced, the necessity for the defence of any of the countries will be just as great after the Washington. Conference as it was before. We may not have to keep so many battleships, we may not have to equip so many soldiers or to provide so many aeroplanes, but that we shall have to provide for the reasonable defence of this country as well as the other countries of the world is the prospect before us.
With regard to citizen defence, if the system is to continue it should be carried on in an efficient manner. One honorable member has had something to say about the change in the method of training our Citizen Force. I have nothing but good to say of the change that has been made; but a comparison of the cost of the system to-day with what it was in the years of the war is entirely false. The comparison must be with those years before the war in which the Citizen Defence Force was at its fullest efficiency. Every one knows that during the war the training of the citizen soldier was practically neglected. Very little was done in the later years of the war to train the young men of Australia, and the comparison, therefore, should be, not with 1917 and 191S, but with 1913 and 1914. If that comparison be made, I venture to say, although I have not the figures before me, that the new system will be found more economical, and it is certainly more efficient, than the system which it replaced. What I want to emphasize with respect to defence, as in regard to every other avenue of .government, is that it is much better to wipe out a system altogether than to give only half support to it. If we are going to be economical we must give £1 where £1 is needed. We cannot hope that by giving 10s. where £1 is required we shall produce anything but disappointment and loss. If we are to have citizen training, and the people have decided over and over again that that is to be the defence, policy of this country, then it is the duty of this Parliament to provide sufficient money to give that system a chance. We should not try to strangle it, but give it such an opportunity to fulfil the object for which it was created that, whether it fail or succeed, it will have had a fair run. To my mind there is no worse form of extravagance than losing the ship for want of the proverbial pint of tar. That policy can bring only failure upon the Government and disappointment to- those who have any hopes that the measures we indorse will be for the benefit of the Commonwealth. .1 am opposed to any reductions in Defence Estimates unless in relation to specific items which can be brought before the Committee in all their aspects, and unless the reduction is made at the suggestion of the responsible Minister. We pay, not too great, but fairly reasonable, salaries to men to devote the whole of their time and ability to the work of designing the Defence system of ‘ the Commonwealth. It is idle for the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) to say, because he served a few years abroad, that he knows more about the defence of this country than do the qualified men whose duty it is to consider it, not from- the aspect of the sergeant-major alone, but from the aspect of every division, of the Forces that are necessary for our defence. We are paying for expert opinion, and so far as the job is the job of an expert we should not interfere with it. We should decide the larger features of defence - it is for us to determine whether we are to maintain a citizen army or not - but having decided that the defence of Australia shall be by a citizen army, as opposed to the old militarist idea, we should give to those who are working and controlling that army a fair chance and sufficient’ money to enable them to carry the scheme to success. I resent the idea that, in dealing with the Estimates of this Department, we can take off 10 per cent, here and 15 per cent, here and 15 per cent, there without working irrevocable evil. For the reasons I have given I shall vote for the Ministerial proposals throughout these Defence Estimates.
.- It appears to me that the question of the attitude that we should adopt with regard to the Defence Estimates should be viewed from a different stand-point from that taken up by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). The honorable member has dealt with it merely from the point of view of the compulsory training system, which he supported in years gone by, and still supports to-day. Without pretending to have any expert knowledge of military or naval defence, it seems to me that, from the point of view of the working men of this country, it is absurd to talk about the defence of Australia without regard to any other country. From what direction is Australia menaced? Is it, as has been hinted, but not openly stated, the Japanese ?
– I do not think we have any need to fear any trouble from that quarter for, at least, the next ten years.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) has also expressed the view that there is no menace from Japan. There is only one other power which could menace the British Empire, and that is the United States of America. No honorable member will say that Australia is menaced from that quarter. Great Britain is in alliance with Japan at the present time; therefore Japan, if she wished to attack Australia, must come into conflict with the might of the British Empire, to say nothing of coming into conflict with the combined might of the British Empire and the United States of America. If the United States of America will not part with any of her possessions, such as the Philippine Islands, lest they might come under the control of the Japanese Empire, then it is quite safe to assume that, irrespective of anything done in this country, any attempt by Japan to interfere with Australia would bring the United States of America, apart altogether from Great Britain, into conflict with her. The economic interests of the United States of America are such that that country could not afford to stand idly by while Japan made an attack upon Australia.
– That statement suggests the writings of Norman Angell.
– The result of the European war has proved him to be a true prophet.
– But he said there would be no war.
– No economist today disputes the deductions drawn in Norman Angell’s works. The honorable member is referring to his work, The Great Illusion, but in a book which he has lately published, The Fruits of Victory, he has demonstrated beyond doubt the correctness of the theory put forward by him, that war does not pay. Everything goes to show that the victors to-day are those who lost the war.
– He said there would be no victors because there would be no war.
– He did not.
– He said that because war did not pay there would be no war.
– That is right; and because the statesmen of the world did not believe in the correctness of his theories, they went to war, thinking that they would thereby further their economic interests. The outcome of the great war has clearly proved the correctness of Norman Angell’s theory. I am reminded by these interjections of an interview, published in the New York Nation, of 12 th October last, with Mr. Darwin P. Kingsley, President of the New York Life Insurance Company and the State Chamber of Commerce, in regard to the position of the Allied and the Central Powers. In this interview we have the statement -
Slowly the truth comes out; it is idle to talk of victors; all mankind lost the war and the peace; if the present policies continue, “ we will all go to hell together.”
– Hear, hear!
– That may be all very well from the honorable* member’s point of view, but it is not from mine. Turning from the question of whether the Allies, from ‘an economic point of view, were the victors or the vanquished in the world-war, and coming back to the defence of the Commonwealth, I urge that the determination of whether it is necessary to expend on defence the amount for which the Government asks depends upon an analysis of the international situation to-day. What is the situation? We cannot talk about the defence of Australia as distinguished from that of the rest of the British Empire. We know that, as the result of the needs of the British Empire during the war, the Dominions have been given a larger voice in the councils of the Empire, more particularly with regard to the shaping of foreign policy. Foreign policy, as every one knows, has a vital bearing on questions of defence. When we come to consider the results of the recent Imperial Conference, at which the British Imperialists were fighting to renew the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and remember the attitude taken up by the Dominion representatives, we can see how the position has been so manipulated that while the AngloJapanese Alliance has Hot actually been abrogated, it has been discredited to such an extent that the British and Japanese Imperialists hope that as a result of the Washington Conference an arrangement will be made whereby the Alliance can still be maintained by Great Britain without its being regarded as being antagonistic to America. The so-called Disarmament Conference from what we gather is nothing more nor less than a similar Conference which took place at Shimonoseki after the Japanese-Chinese war in 1S94, when the Germans, Russians, British, and French robbed Japan of the fruits of her victory. And it would appear to-day that the Washington Conference is merely another diplomatic attempt to rob Japan of the fruits of her victory in the recent war. The economic position of Great Britain, America, and Japan renders it imperative that they should come to some arrangement which will allow them a breathing space to rehabilitate themselves. The only available markets for the output of the factories of Great Britain, America, or Japan are to-day monopolized by Great Britain and Japan. The latter country having secured control in the northern portion of China and in the maritime provinces of Siberia, American interests are endeavouring to drive it out of these particular spheres. It is for this reason and also because Japan, as a result of the war, has come closer to the American mainland through coming into control of certain islands in the Pacific, that an endeavour is being made to arrive at some arrangement which the Americans call the “ Open-door Policy,” but which the interests behind that policy intend to result in the exclusion of the Japanese from the fields they now occupy by the application of superior technical ability and the greater efficiency of American capitalism. Statistics show that the amount of wealth produced by two American workmen is equal to that which is produced at the present time by five British workmen, not because of any lack of efficiency on the part of the British workmen, but because of the greater technical efficiency of the American industrial machine. It is that technical efficiency which will enable the Americans to bridge the distance between America and Eastern Asia, and give American capitalists an advantage over the Japanese capitalists in spite of the closer proximity of the latter to the markets of the East. What was the idea of putting on the agenda-paper of the Conference at Washington the question of Siberia, while at the same time excluding the Russian people from representation, but an obvious intent to come to some arrangement whereby the entry of America into the Chinese arena should be balanced by concessions to Japan in Siberia? Whatever arrangement is come to at the Washington Conference will be bound up in the question of the exploitation of these Eastern Asian countries. Therefore it is absurd for us to talk about the defence of Australia or get wildly excited, as the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) appeared to get, about the question of the training of citizen soldiers, or about wiping a few thousand pounds off the Defence Estimates. It is ludicrous to talk in this way, because Australia cannot stand alone. If there is any menace to Australia, it must come from Japan, but not while that country is allied with Great Britain. The whole question from my point of view seems to be very absurd, apart from the point of view that I am never tired of enunciating here, and which is’ the fundamental attitude of the working class movement; that is, that the workers of Australia, as well as those of Japan and of the United States, are not interested in supporting Budgets introduced for the purpose of piling up armaments or training members of the work-, ing classes to prepare to hurl them at one another’s . throats in future wars for territorial or economic aggrandisement. The interests of the working men and women of all those countries which are likely to be embroiled in. future war, the countries bordering on the Pacific, whether they he Japanese, natives of the United States of America or citizens of the Dominions of the British Empire, lie in getting together and telling those who are in authority, and those interests which are likely to bo benefited by war, that so far as the workers are concerned there will be no war, and that if those interests do bring about war the working men and women will refuse to participate in it. That is the surest remedy against War, not the education of the working men and women of this country in a militaristic atmosphere, telling them that because some other people are piling up armaments they must also engage in the same bankrupting scheme, or that because the markets of the world are monopolized by certain persons, or because another country is suspected of an attempt to rob “us” of some market for “our” goods, they must participate in warmaking schemes in order to secure the interests of those whose purposes are best served by war. The working classes gain nothing by war; they are always the losers. Therefore, the vital question which should engage their interest is not how they can build up armaments or get ready to participate in war should they be attacked, or how they should participate in preparations to attack some one else, but how to get right down to the root cause of war. And if they come to the same conclusion as myself as to what is the root causes of war they will get busy in destroying it - I contend that it is the existing economic order - and substituting another for it. They will join with the working men and women of all other nations, and make an end of the system that causes war. They will enable humanity for the first time to destroy not only those causes of war, but all warmaking machinery. I do not care what motives have induced other people to move to cut down these Defence Estimates; until we get down to the fundamental position, until we recognise wherein lie the interests of the working classes, I for one shall refuse to vote one penny for military expenditure or for providing any means of carrying on a conflict that will necessitate the working men of this country being thrown at the threats of the working men of other countries.
.- At this late hour I do not propose to discuss the general defence question of Aus tralia or many of those issues that the figures before us open up, and to which so many other honorable members have directed their attention. There is, however, one phase of the question that one is justified in emphasizing in passing. The. honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) said that there were many people in Australia coming to the conclusion that part of our training system of the young people of the Commonwealth was a mistake. No truer word has been uttered in this Committee. The honorable member illustrated his argument, which is impressing very many people in Australia, by referring to the fact that the frontier nations of Europe, who for countless generations have imposed and maintained systems of compulsory defence, knowing that it was the only insurance they had against aggression or capture, had seldom, if ever, undertaken to train young people under eighteen years of age.
-They have never done it.
– I have no recollection of any history which contradicts the honorable member’s observation. The mistake we have been making in the past, and perhaps naturally, is that we have been tackling the boy too early.
– Because he did not have a vote.
– No, I do not think it was because of that; and, in any case, I think we can discuss these questions without implying motives. This question is beyond party.
– Is it?
– Yes. The Leader of the Government (Mr. Hughes), when he was Deputy Leader of the Labour party, was a potent, if not the determining., force in the institution of compulsory service.
– He was to blame for the whole thing.
– He may have been; but he represented, as the Deputy Leader of the party, the views of Labour, and the Liberal party in the olden days helped him to accomplish what he desired to bring about. So the position was that members on both sides of the House, and in all parties, were committed, on what they considered to be high grounds of national preservation, to a system of compulsory training. I do not wish to explore this argument fully, but I do believe the people of Australia will came to the conclusion that we should not train young men under eighteen years of age for military service. We might, however; with ease, economy, and success, and by the agreement of the people, do more physical culture in our State schools. When I speak of physical culture I do not mean the training to which the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has referred - “form fours” or “right about turn” or anything of that land. But when we visit State schools we see a large number <;i boys who are insufficiently trained physically. If the Federation desires to prepare material for the defence of Australia, without injuring the morale or offending the convictions of a considerable section of the people, it might well assist the Education Departments of the States in increasing, improving, and intensifying their systems for the physical training of our boys. That, I think, will be all that we need do until those boys reach eighteen years of age, when whatever system of military discipline this Parliament designs to subject them to can be imposed upon them.
– Why eighteen years of age?
– Because that is the age at which other nations begin to train their boys, and it is the age at which, I chink, the physique of young Australia will respond to treatment.
– Would the honorable member give them a vote in order that they might express their opinion on the subject ?
– That is another question and one worthy of consideration. This iis the only phase of the defence problem upon which I desire to express an opinion. I have mentioned these views so that the Assistant Minister, hardy old warrior as he is and intent only on doing the right thing, may consider them, not merely with the “aid of those whom honorable members opposite have been calling “ the brass hats,” but also with the aid of the civil thought that should reside in the Departments of Government, and propound a policy in the near future or later which will meet Australia’s necessities without doing violence to the convictions of her people.
The main object I had in rising was to ask the Assistant Minister ,to reconsider these Estimates. I understand that he has offered to cut £70,000 off the proposed votes for these divisions. The honorable gentleman has apparently forgotten the earlier debates which took place on the Defence Estimates. If he remembered the promise .made by his Leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the acceptance with which those promises met in the Committee, he would go further than he has done. Apart altogether from the original attempt by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) ti> reduce the Estimates for defence works and buildings by £500,000, when the Committee reached the details of those Estimates the Government volunteered, after debate, a reduction of the proposed vote by £200,000. Demur was made by some members of the Committee, including myself, that that promise was £50,000 short of what should be done. The Prime Minister admitted that, and consented to make the reduction £250,000. But he also promised that when we came to the general Defence Estimates another £250,000 would be cut off them., if posisible.
– I do not remember that.
– If the honorable member will refer to proof No. 102 of Hansardhe will find that that is so. At page 12956 the argument there advanced - it’ happened to be myself - was in favour of a total reduction of £500,000. In both branches of the Military Estimates, and when the reduction by £200,000 was first offered by the Government, I said, and I think the Committee accepted my view tacitly, that if the Government could only take £200,000 off the Works Estimates, £300,000 should come off the general Estimates for the Department, but that it would be preferable, probably, to take £250,000 off each. Finally, £250,000 was cut off the Estimates for defence works, and the Prime Minister, in dealing with the matter, said that a further reduction of £250,000 in the general Estimates would be undertaken by the Government itself. He said -
As to the general Military Estimates, we shall endeavour to meet the wishes of honorable members by reducing them by £250,000.
– That is incorrect. He did not say that. The further £250,000 was to make up the reduction of £500,000 promised on the whole of the Estimates.
– Hansard proofs of speeches are sent to Ministers and my experience of the Prime Minister has been that he reads his proofs and that they are carefully checked.
– My experience is that his speech, as printed, is better than the speech as delivered.
– That, perhaps, is not peculiar to the Prime Minister.
– I think the Prime Minister promised a reduction of £250,000 on the general Estimates.
– It is quite clear that the Prime Minister referred to a further reduction of £250,000 in the general Military Estimates.
– No; not on the Defence Estimates alone.
– Let me refer the Assistant Minister to what occurred next day. The words I have quoted were used by the Prime Minister at the close of a debate during which it was suggested that the Government should report progress in order that they might consider the possibility of reducing the Defence Works Estimates by a further £50,000. On the next day the Prime Minister informed the Committee that he could effect that further reduction of £50,000, and he used these words -
Honorable members will recollect that last night, upon the Government having moved to reduce this vote by £200,000, a suggestion was put forward that the amount of the reduction should be £250,000; and, in reply to the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), I made certain observations, which applied not only to these Estimates, but also to the general Estimates, which the Government had suggested reducing by £250,000; and explained that if it were found possible to reduce the Estimates for new works by an additional £50,000, it was not to be taken for granted that a further £50,000 could be added to the £250,000 reduction which the Government proposed to make in the general Estimates of the Department.
That is to say, if the Government reduced the Defence Works Estimates by another £50,000, they would not undertake to reduce the general Estimates for the Defence Department by £300,000. That shows clearly, and the Committee so understood, that a total of £500,000 was to be taken off the Defence Estimates.
– Oh no !
– I hesitate to embarrass the Assistant Minister. I think he is doing very well in an extremely difficult situation, but this Committee accepts the promises of Ministers, and if they are to be repudiated we shall have to take other measures.
– The Prime Minister promised to take £500,000 off the original Estimates.
– That was the original promise, but we have cut much deeper into the bone since then, and I think honorable members even talked of a reduction of the Estimates by £1,000,000 or £1,500,000. It is clear that, in addition to the amount that was being taken off the Defence Works Estimates, a further amount was to be taken off the general Estimates for the Defence Department, and also a substantial reduction in the amount provided for the Department of the Navy. Those of us who were addressing ourselves to the question said that this Committee, at the invitation of the Government, would take its own course in regard to the Navy Estimates, irrespective of what the Department proposed.
– The Prime Minister also said that not more than £500,000 would be taken off the Navy Estimates.
– I do not think he said that. The figures as they stand to-day, without straining the use of any words that were used, are these: We took £250,000 off the Defence Works Estimates. The Assistant Minister subsequently agreed to a reduction of the proposed vote for the air service by £100,000. I regarded that reduction as a partial fulfilment of the promise to take £250,000 off the general Defence Estimates. That means that a reduction of £350,000 of the £500,000 promised has been accomplished. To fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise another £150,000 must be taken off the general Defence Estimates. The Government have offered a reduction of £70,000. I say that amount is £80,000 short of what was promised. I think that a reduction of the £2,600,000 which we estimated to spend on Military Defence by £500,000 was a fair proposition, and, if permitted by the procedure in regard to amendments, I shall feel obliged to move that these general Defence Estimates be reduced by £150,000 in order to complete the total reduction of £500,000 promised by the Government.
As I realize that honorable members desire to decide this matter before the
House adjourns, I shall address myself but briefly to one or two other figures. If one compares the vote last year for the Defence Department with the estimate for this year the difference is only upwards of £143,000; but the proper thing to do at this stage, when we have the microscope on the Department, is to compare the actual expenditure last year with the vote we are asked to pass. Such a comparison reveals an excess of £353,000. Without labouring political views at all, or predicating too confidently the outcome of disarmament thought and movement in this country, I say it is little short of a scandal that the Government should pretend to be in favour of disarmament and at the same time increase the requisitions for one branch of defence by over one-third of a million pounds in one year. With Australia’s envoy in Washington that action cannot be regarded as an earnest of our desire for peace, and I agree, .therefore, with those honorable members of various schools of thought in this Committee who say that whatever may be the future of this country, whatever may be the difficulty of defending and holding it, at least for the present and the immediate future no menace to Australia is conceivable. I do not join with honorable members opposite in scrapping the defence system on land or sea, but we should take a reasonable view of the prospects and probabilities of the near future. Ministers of the Crown try to do that in every branch of their work; that is what they are in office for. Honorable members should share with them that task, and instead of increasing our military or naval Estimates, we should prove our desire for peace and the limitation of armaments by a reduction of Defence expenditure. If we take £150,000 off these Defence Estimates, as I am now suggesting, the balance remaining will still be £103,000 more than we spent last year. Surely, therefore, the reduction I am requesting is not unreasonable, and I hope the Assistant Minister will take that view before this vote is finally dealt with by the Committee.
– - The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) laid stress upon the fact that the Defence Estimates for this year are over £300,000 in excess of the actual expenditure last year. Possibly the honorable member was not’ in the chamber when I made it clear that a great deal of the expenditure on defence last year came out of war votes.
– I know that.
– The honorable member, as an ex-Treasurer, knows very well that that was so, and therefore it was hardly fair to stress the point that the Department is seeking to spend so much more money this year than it spent last year. Although it has been contended that it is ridiculous to compare the conditions of to-day with those in pre-war times, I think such a comparison would be fairer. We find that as compared with £3,634,111 this year, the Estimates in 1913-14 were £3,366,044. It is only fair that we should take into consideration the relative value of money - the value of the sovereign. If we do so, we find, according to the Statistician, that a sum of 22s. 4d. was in the first quarter of 1914 equivalent to 34s. 5d. in the second quarter of 1921. Having regard to these values, if provision had been made on current Estimates in the same proportion as in 1913-14, there would have been required an amount of £5,008,396. The actual value of the amount provided, £3,250,000, as compared with 1913-14 values, is £2,10S,960. The actual value of the amount provided on the Estimates for 1913-14, as compared with 1920-21 values, is £5,051,612. The actual value compared with 1920-21 values of the expenditure for 1913-14, namely, £2,641,321, is £4,070,393. I think honorable members will see that the Estimates for this year have not been unduly inflated, and, as I have said, we cannot compare them with those of last year. The general Estimates have been pruned to the utmost, with regard to our safety from the point of view of defence.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has quoted from Hansard remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in an endeavour to show that the intention of the Government was not only to reduce the Works, Estimates by £250,000, but also to reduce the general Military Estimates by a like amount. At the time referred to I was sitting beside the Prime Minister, and I cannot understand how the remarks quoted by the honorable member for Balaclava came to appear in Hansard.
– The two reports agree, and both cannot be wrong.
– Then 1 do not understand the position at ‘all. I am here as Acting Minister for Defence, in the place of Senator Pearce, and I say, advisedly, that I shall not agree to any reduction over £70,000. The Prime Minister, who is now present, can inform the Committee what he is prepared to do ; but I, as Minister in charge, and responsible for the defences of the country, will do what I think is right. To agree to the proposal of the honorable member for Balaclava would be to seriously interfere with the training of our Forces That training represents the Government policy, and is vital to us; we have to train and endeavour to establish a Citizen Force of 120,000 men, and arm and equip them. If we are not prepared to do that, let us say so ; but, so long as I am in my present position, I shall not do anything that I think will jeopardize the whole of our Defence Forces. That is all I have to say on the matter.
– I understand that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has quoted or referred to statements I made at different times when dealing with proposed reductions of the Estimates. When the amendment of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was under consideration some time ago, before we began to discuss the Estimates now before us, I said that the Government, having considered the whole matter, and having listened to the suggestion that the setting of one section of the House against another would not effect any reduction, ought to take the responsibility of themselves offering to. reduce the Estimates. I said that the Government would make a reduction of £500,000, and that I would take into account the £835,000 that did not appear in the Budget, but which was lying to our credit in London, aud thereby reduce the £2,800,000 deficit by £1,300,000. It is that £500,000 to which the Government is committed, aud for which it is responsible. The Committee had the assurance that the Government* if the Committee itself did not act, would make reductions totalling that amount;, and this governs everything I said subsequently. The honorable member for Balaclava, in quoting or referring to the statement I made on a later occasion - on the 18th November - was under the impression, apparently, that, in addition to that reduction of £500,000, there was tobe a further reduction. The statement 1. made at that time did not refer to any particular departmental Estimates, but referred to a reduction over the whole Estimates. When I was dealing with the Department that is now before us, I said, the Government would make a reduction of £250,000. There was a proposal by the Government to reduce the Estimatesby £200,000, and then there was a proposal made to increase, that” reduction by £50,000, making a total of £250,000. Speaking on that, I said -
Honorable members will recollect that last, night, upon the Government having moved to reduce this vote by £200,000, a suggestion was put forward that the amount of the reduction should be £250,000; and, in reply to theright honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), I made certain observations, which applied not only to these Estimates, but also tothe general Estimates, which the Government had suggested reducing by £250,000; and explained that if it were found possible to reduce the Estimates for new works by an additional £50,000, it was not to be taken “f or granted that a further £50,000 could be added to the £250,000 reduction which the Government proposed to make in the general Estimates of the Department.
The use of that phrase “general Estimates ‘ ‘ has been taken’ by the honorablemember for Balaclava to mean that in addition to the reduction for which the Government was responsible, there was to be a reduction amounting to £250,000- upon the general Estimates.
– No; if the Prime Minister will look at his utterance at the close of the sitting on 17th November, which I quoted in his absence, he will see that in both cases the words are used “ general’ Military Estimates” or “general Estimates of the Department.” There can be no doubt about it.
– What I then said* was -
As to the general Military Estimates, weshall endeavour to meet the wishes of honorable members by reducing them by £250,000; but.it must be distinctly understood that I donot pledge myself, in the event of inability tofurther reduce the vote by £25,000 or £50.000, to reduce the general Military Estimates by £300,000. With my scant knowledge of the details of those Estimates, I do not say that it cannot be done; and if it can be done, it will be done. I propose, therefore, that as soon as possible after we meet to-morrow, a statement shall be made of what we think we can do in the matter of retrenchment.
That is the statement to which reference was made by the honorable member for Balaclava.
– May I say, as the right honorable gentleman was not present when I spoke, that in the three references to further reductions, the words “ general Military Estimates “ are used or, in one case, “ general Estimates of the Department. ‘ ‘
– Perhaps it is unfortunate that I used those terms, but my intention is clear on the face of it. The Government is responsible for an expressed intention to reduce the Estimates by a sum of £500,000, and I asked the Committee to allow the Government to make the reductions where it pleased. But the Committee, attacking the Defence Works Estimates, proposed to reduce them by a certain sum, and the Government accepted responsibility for a reduction by £200,000. Well, whatever was taken off is part of the £500,000. I have said quite plainly that I was not familiar with the details of the Department. As the honorable member for Balaclava knows that is quite common with Ministers, who do not profess to know the details of other Departments; at any rate, I have never so professed, and in the circumstances I could not know anything in this case until I returned; but I had an opportunity, yesterday, of conferring with the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Eyrie) at great length. Honorable members know I am not averse to considering the wishes of honorable members; but the position is so clear, and was put so convincingly to me by the Assistant Minister that the statement I made this afternoon may be regarded as the policy of the Government. I can only repeat what my colleague (Sir Granville Ryrie) has said - that the Government are not prepared to go beyond £70,000, except in the event of the Washington Conference coming to such a decision as to change the whole face of things. When such a position is made known, if it is, we will consider the matter in a new light. That is the position, and I hope the honorable member for Balaclava will acquit me of any intention to deceive the Committee. I set out the position as I saw it, and the total reduction to which the Government is pledged is £500,000. Of that, £80,000 is to come off the naval vote, £100,000 off the air vote, and £250,000 off the Estimates for the Defence Department, and now we are prepared to strike off another £70,000 from the ordinary services, which totals £500,000.
– There is £430,000 to come off the Works Estimates, and this £70,000 will make £500,000.
– It will be seen that the Government in making these reductions are carrying out the pledge given to the Committee.
.- Of course, I acquit the Prime Minister of any intention to mislead the Committee, but, as a member of the Committee who heard one of the statements, and who has read Hansard, as to the other, I say that the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) can bear’ only one interpretation, which was naturally accepted as the real meaning by every honorable member. That is all I have to say about that matter. The closing remarks of the Prime Minister put some members of the Committee in a very awkward position. Without any desire to delay the progress of business, or to embarrass parties concerned in the arrangements made, I must say that I never, for a moment, imagined thatthe £500,000, regarded as a. possible saving by the Government, could not be added to by the Committee.
– I did not say that either. I said that no reduction could be consented to which impaired a vital part of the policy of the Government.
– I know that. But now the right honorable gentleman says, “ We promised to take off half-a-million, but the Committee has been cutting at . the Estimates until it has reduced them by £430,000, and there is only another £70,000 to take off.” That is not the position. Those members of the Committee who desired the spoke-shaving of these Estimates were glad to hear the Prime Minister volunteer, after the resistance of the late Treasurer, a saving of half-a-million, and were still gladder when he said, “ If you can show how we can save still further, we shall accept the reductions.”
– I repeat that.
– We have been showing how further savings can be made.
– I also said that 1 could not agree to reductions affecting a vital part of our policy.
– Personally, I think, as I have repeated half-a-dozen times, that the Committee were showing where savings could be made, and I expected the Government to say now and again, “ that touches a matter of policy; we cannot go with you there.” But now the right honorable gentleman says that all we have been doing is merely what he intended to do.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the Prime Minister, but that is the position as I see it. The Committee accepted his offer of a reduction of £500,000, and accepted also his invitation to assist to reduce the Estimates still further, and it set carefully to work on that job, irrespective of party divisions - because amendments have come from one quarter and another. If this is all love’s labour lost, I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not make the position clear in the first place.
– Why did you not attempt to cut down the Estimates of the other Departments? Why should everything come off the Military Department?
– I intimated thatI thought that £100,000 could be saved in the Department of the Treasury. I understand that there is an agreement to recommit that Department, and if it is recommitted, I shall vote for that reduction.
– I do not mind you. doing that.
– I am answering the Assistant Minister for Defence, who complains that everything we are doing is directed against his Department.
– What you are doing now is directed against that Department.
– I do not wish to prolong the discussion ; but if the Prime Minister will look at the record, and will ransack his memory, he will take a different view from that to which he has just given expression. He did not hear what I beg leave to describe as the temperate argument which I endeavoured to advance to the Minister in charge in support of another reduction of £150,000 in the Defence Estimates. I think that reduction can be made. At any rate, if 1 am given the opportunity, I shall vote for it, and I hope that the Committee will not he impeded in its action by the knowledge that the Government does not approve of the reduction.
.- The sum of £430,000 has been takenoff the Defence Estimates, leaving a balance of £70,000 to make up the reduction of £500,000 which has been proposed. But it is in my recollection that it was when the Military Works Estimates were under discussion that the Prime Minister stated that £500,000 could be taken off. At that time the right honorable gentleman signified his willingness to accept a reduction of £200,000 on Defence, of £130,000 on the Navy, and of £50,000 on Air Services, the three amounts totalling £380,000. If that total be subtracted from £500,000 it leaves a balance of £120,000, and that is the amount which was due to come off the general Defence Estimates. If these Estimates a fortnight ago could be reduced to that extent, I fail to see what difference is made by the fact that this Committee has asked for their reduction by another £50,000, in addition to that of £70,000 now offered by the Government, seeing that the Works Estimates have no relation to the general Defence Estimates.
– Ministers claim that any further reduction of these Estimates will impair the Defence system, but I say to those who talk and howl economy, that this is the one Department on which they can easily and effectively make reductions. Their boss, the Age, has told them to do more for their money; Ashworth, the king of the exploiters, has told them to do more; Knight, the king of low wages, has told them to do more. The sum of £200,000 could be saved on the compulsory training scheme alone. We are training boys now in a manner that is useless. Each military area has an area officer and a sergeant-major. The area officer’s position is an ornamental one.
– The honorable member did not say that when his- party introduced the present Defence system.
– I did not vote for that system, although the Prime Minister threatened to send me back to my masters on one occasion for not doing so. Thousands of pounds could be saved on the training scheme alone. We are now training boys who need not be trained. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) hit the nail on the head. To train and clothe boys under the age of eighteen years is to waste money, as the Assistant Minister for Defence knows. The amount of £434,402 is set down for universal training, and there is another amount of £150,435 for training, and Lord knows what comes out of general contingencies for the same purpose. Then at Duntroon, where the number of cadets is only half what it was, we are- putting up more buildings. In future it will be difficult to get cadets for the Military College, because the inducements to enter the military profession will not he tempting enough. Young fellows will prefer to train for other professions. We might as well wipe out this vote altogether. Reverting to the compulsory training system, I say that we have given it a fair trial. We know that the best period for training is between the ages of eighteen and twentyone. I do not think that compulsory training is needed at all. The old. volunteer system was never encouraged as it should have been. It was treated too parsimoniously. But if you will spend money on training, put an end to all training preceding the period, between eighteen and twenty-one years of age. The Prime Minister many years ago came back from the Old Country imbued with the idea of universal training, but we have now had experience of it, and the Assistant Minister for Defence knows that in the recent war men who had never learned the goose-step were made into good soldiers within a very few weeks. It did not take nearly as long to make soldiers then as had been anticipated. Those who talk about economy have an opportunity to economize here. If they do not do it, they cannot mean what they say. I tell them, as their bosses have told them, that their professions will not mean anything unless they give effect to them.
– As I understand that my amendment interferes with the moving of another amendment, I ask leave to withdraw it.
– The departmental vote is being dealt with in divisions.
Division 61 (Central Administration), £79,791, agreed to.
Division 62 (Royal Military College), £57,029
.- I move -
That the vote be reduced by £1.
I move this amendment as an instruction to immediately reorganize the College, and to reduce the amount that is spent on the training of students there. I have ‘on several occasions criticised the expenditure at Duntroon. It costs about £900 per annum to train a student there; and about £1,000 per annum to train a student at the Naval College at Jervis Bay.
– According to these Estimates tha cost is £790.
– The average for the year is £700.
– But there must be other expenses.
– The honorable member knows that there are other expenses besides those set down in this particular vote. I desire something approaching sanity in the administration of these two Colleges. We have so far been unsuccessful in our endeavours to impress the Government with the need for either cutting out the Colleges altogether, or reducing the staffs and the expenses. I venture to say that not a college in the world of a similar character costs so much per student for training.
Question - That the vote for Duntroon Military College be reduced by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 63 (Munitions Supply Branch), £67,144; division 64(Pay - General), £440; division 65 (Permanent Forces), £666,951; division 66 (Clerical and General Staffs), £68,417; division 67 (Ordnance Branch), £125,044; division 68 (Rifle Range Staff), £10,844; and division 69 (District Accounts Branch), £41,293; agreed to.
Division 70 (Universal Military Train- . ing), £434,302.
.- In pursuance of an announcement which I have already made in respect of the sum proposed to be spent on universal military training for the current financial year, I move -
That the division be left out.
Last year £191,950 was spent upon universal military training. This year more than double that sum is sought to be devoted to the same purpose. There may be some honorable members who are not prepared to authorize the complete cessation of military training. But, in view of the speeches which they have delivered to-day in advocacy of the practice of economy in every direction, they should move - in the event of my amendment being unsuccessful - that the amount proposed to be spent upon universal training be reduced to the equivalent of the sum expended last year. Is the outlay of more really necessary? I devoted my efforts in the direction of the inauguration of universal military training; but, in the light of the lessons learned during the war, I am convinced that the time has arrived when all the money proposed tobe spent upon teaching the arts of warfare should be saved. The war very quickly showed that those Australians who had enlisted without previous training could be rapidly turned into as good and efficient soldiers as those who had received training. Methods of warfare to-day are constantly changing. No one anticipated, in 1914, that the war would have been conducted as it was. Such of our men as had received previous training had to be taught afresh, on the other side of the world, before going to the Front. Australians are very apt, and only a brief period was required to bring our Forces up to a state of modern efficiency.
– They were always mixed with trained men, which made all the difference.
– From all I have learned, such is not the case.
– Responsible officers have declared that they preferred to handle untrained men.
– The honorable member has taken the very words out of my mouth. Those who had been trained had to be taught all over again, just as in the case of raw recruits.
– No; not to the same extent.
– Nothing that was taught in Australia had to be unlearned abroad.
– I have not said anything contrary to that view. Apart from that aspect of the question, are we justified in increasing expenditure on defence at the present juncture? The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and other hon- orable members, have argued that the Defence expenditure should be curtailed. In face of that, are we going to jump from £191,950 to £434,302 of expenditure upon this particular service? If we have been able to carry on for the last few years with a much less expenditure than that proposed, there is no excuse for not cutting down the vote now. I do not desire to leave my views in any doubt. I am against expenditure on defence, and the time has arrived when we can at least cut it down. If the attempts that are being made to bring about a better understanding between the nations of the world do not happily succeed, and if this country finds itself embroiled in war, I feel certain that the Australian people will give a good account of themselves in defending these shores, irrespective of whether they have had any compulsory military training or not. If we are to continue piling up additional expenditure in this direction there will be no hope for this country financing necessary works in the near future. Air services, and such additional defence measures, mean so much more extra expenditure. When the Air Service is established it will not be a question of voting £300,000 or £400,000 a year. The expenditure will grow year by year, and the Department will become a very large one, so that we may be spending, in the near future, £1,000,000, £2,000,000, or even £3,000,000 upon it.
.- I do not wish to give a silent vote on this question. Although I am in favour of universal military training, I think very strong arguments can be advanced in support of commencing the training of our young men at an older age. If the training were begun at eighteen, instead of fourteen, years of age, an expenditure of nearly £126,000, which is set down in the Estimates for the provision of Senior Cadet uniforms, could be saved. Without putting many people out of work, and without seriously interfering with the defence of this country, a saving could be made that would almost approximate to the amount previously suggested. If the amendment is defeated I propose to move another one subsequently.
Mr.FOWLER (Perth) [6.45] want to make my position quite clear. I am not in favour of abolishing all compulsory training, but I do say that it should be postponed to a time when we can spend the money to more advantage than we can at the present juncture.
Question - That the proposed vote be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Questionso resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1, as an instruction to the Government to reduce the whole of the general Defence Estimates by £150,000. Such a reduction would be in keeping with the promise which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made on two separate occasions when dealing with the proposed reduction of the Defence Works and Buildings Estimates, to reduce the Defence Estimates by £500,000. I would urge the right honorable gentleman to adhere to the promise that he gave the Committee.
– On a point of order, I desire to know whether, if this amendment be rejected, I shall be precluded from moving to reduce the proposed vote by £70,000, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise?
– The honorable member for Cowper has moved that the proposed vote be reduced by £1. If that amendment be rejected, then it will be open to the Minister only to move that the vote be reduced by a smaller amount.
– Then, instead of moving that the vote be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to reduce the total Defence Estimates by £150,000, I shall amend my motion so that it will read -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £150,000.
I have a very distinct recollection of the debate, some days ago, on the question of the reduction of the total expenditure on Defence, and it bears out the Hansard report of the promise made by the Prime Minister. The Minister is agreeable to a, reduction of £70,000, and it is ludicrous for any oneto suggest that an additional reduction of £80,000, as proposed by me, would make all the difference between life and death of the whole Defence system. The suggestion we have made is that universal training, should start at a later period than at present.From a health point of view that would be advantageous to our youths, and would result in a saving of more than the £80,000 representing the difference between the reduction proposed by me and that suggested by the Minister. I wish it to be dearly understood that we do not desire that the reduction of £150,000 shall relate solely to the division providing for universal military training. Our desire is that it shall be distributed over the whole Estimates in a way that the departmental officers think is best calculated to avoid any loss of efficiency. The feeling of the Committee is that universal training should start at a later period than it does at the present time.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £150,000 (Dr. Earle Page’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Sir Granville ryrie) agreed to -
That the vote be reduced by £70,000.
Reduced vote, £364,302, agreed to.
Division 71 (Volunteers), £50; division 12 (Training), £150,435; division 73 (Maintenance of Existing Arms and Equipment), £15,085; division 74 (Ammunition), £23,000; division 75 (General Contingencies and Services), £198,286; and division 76 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £50,000, agreed to.
House adjourned at 7.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211201_reps_8_98/>.