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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr MAHONY (Dalley) .- The compulsory training of the youths of Australia is now being done chiefly on Saturday afternoons, and thus great hardship is inflicted upon them and their parents, because they are deprived of the only opportunity in the week for indulging in sport and other recreations, which would benefit them and the community. Every thoughtful person will admit that the development of the sporting instinct should be encouraged as much as possible. What stood our soldiers in such good stead during the war was the training they bald received in the football field, between the cricket wickets, and in following sport generally. This made them alert, mentally and physically, and enabledthem to worthily play their part in the conflict. The object of training our youths is to build up a citizen army for the defence of Australia. But those who have most at stake in this community are the employers and the wealthy classes, and, therefore, they should bear the burden of this training, that is to say, the trainees should be trained on working days, during time that now belongs to their employers. They should not be called on to give up the few hours they have for recreation each week in order that they may be fitted to fight for the moneyed interests of Australia.

Mr Austin Chapman - Is that all that they are being trained for?

Mr MAHONY - That is one of the reasons why they are being trained. Then, again, as the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) has remarked, they are compelled to pay fares on the trams or trains which they have to use to get to the training ground. This is a great injustice to their parents, who, for the most part, in these days, when the cost of living is so high, find it difficult to meet their ordinary obligations.

Mr Hector Lamond - And we are now compelling them to provide boots and clothing.

Mr MAHONY - Yes. Parliament should tell the Defence Department that, if these boys are to be compulsorily trained, they must be provided with clothing and all necessary equipment at the expense of the Government, and must be given a free pass for train and tram, to enable them to attend drill without expense. Furthermore, as I have said, the drills should be held during working hours, in time that now belongs to the employers. But I would draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that the war has shown that with the material we have in Australia soldiers can be made in next to no time; that, given men of a certain physique and a certain standard of intelligence, you can, without months and years of the drudgery of drill, very quickly manufacture efficient soldiers. Men who before enlisting had not had a moment's military training became, within a few months, the best soldiers in the world:

Mr Maxwell - That may be all very well in a protracted war, but suppose that we required soldiers at once?

Mr MAHONY - The war has provided Australia with hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers, who have got their experience, not in the barrack square, but on the actual field of battle, and they are ready to respond at a moment's notice should Australia be attacked by a hostile power. From the defence point of view, the compulsory military training of our youths is a waste of money, and hundreds of thousands of pounds could be saved were it given up. I recommend that suggestion to the consideration of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). Under our present system, military training ceases just when a lad has passed into manhood, and has gained the discretion and dash necessary to make him an effective soldier.

Mr Bowden - A good deal of it is only physical drill.

Mr MAHONY - I have roared with laughter to see a man dressed in a tinselled uniform, barking orders in a loud, barrack-square voice at a crowd of children.

Mr Maxwell - Does the honorable member propose to leave to the men who have already done so much for Australia any future fighting that may have to be done?

Mr MAHONY - Wot at all. I strongly opposed the application to this country of conscription for service overseas. If Australia were attacked, every man capable of bearing arms would immediately respond to the call to defend the country.

Mr Fleming - But the honorable member objects to making our men capable of bearing arms.

Mr MAHONY - The training that I am criticising does not make them capable. This "left turn, quick march," business was discarded by experts years ago.

Mr Fleming - During the war the men who had had previous military training had a big pull over those without it.

Mr Austin Chapman - Of course.

Mr MAHONY - Nothing of the sort. Those who covered themselves with glory, winning Victoria Crosses and other decorations, were men who before the war had had not a moment's military training. The present system is farcical, and a reckless waste of public money, and it is for those who pride themselves on being custodians of the public purse to economize to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds by stopping it.

I wish to tell the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) of what is happening on board the vessels which he controls. Next week certain functions are to take place in Melbourne-

Mr Austin Chapman - Everything is to take place here; there is to be nothing in Sydney..

Mr MAHONY - The Fleet is coming to Port Phillip to take part in the reception of the Prince of Wales, and the Australia, after leaving Sydney, went into Jervis Bay, and spent eight hours there, while the blue-jackets were being taught how to shout, " Hip, hip, Hurrah !" All hands were piped on deck, and a signaller was stationed with a flag in his hand. When he raised it above his head that was the signal for attention; then, as the flag was lowered the men were required! to shout, " Hip !" The flag was raised again, and they repeated the " Hip !" Then it was whirled round and they shouted " Hurrah." They are not allowed to say the good Australian " Hooray." It must be "Hip! Hip! Hurrah." I object to useless waste of money and time in teaching men that sort of thing. This instance must indicate to the Minister that there is a good deal of scope for the exercise of economy in connexion with the administration of the Navy.

I desire the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) to realize that there are other places in Australia than Melbourne.

Mr Tudor - I am certain Sydney is not Australia.

Mr MAHONY - No; but it is a more important part of Australia than any other place I know of. I invite the PostmasterGeneral to go to Sydney, and personally investigate the deplorable condition of affairs in that city. It is useless for him to sit in Melbourne and think that he can know all about the administration of the Department in other States. He must travel. In my own district there are many matters which are crying aloud for attention. The demands for telephones, and the apparent incapacity of the Department to provide .them, are alarming. I believe that if the PostmasterGeneral went to Sydney and enjoyed the balmy atmosphere, and occasional trips on the harbour, he would be a far better man; he would take a broader view, and administer his Department much better. There is need for additional post-office accommodation in many parts about Sydney, but the Deputy PostmasterGeneral says that he has no authority in these matters, and that Ministerial authority must be obtained. And when one interviews the Minister he finds that that gentleman knows nothing about the locality, and has to write to Sydney to get a report.

Mr Jowett - When we had a New South Wales Postmaster-General the honorable member was not satisfied. '

Mr MAHONY - He was more a post than a Minister. The present occupant has not yet indulged - at any rate, not publicly - in. flights of poetic fancy. We have at least in Sydney a public press that realizes that Melbourne- is not Australia, and that the Federal Capital ought to be at Canberra. If we could convert the Age or the Argus to the same point of view, we should be conferring a benefit upon Australia as a whole. I direct the attention, of the Postmaster-General to the crying need of a new post-office at East Balmain.. It is a big industrial centre, but it has only a little dog-kennel office in which all postal business and pension payments are transacted. The revenue obtained from that- little dog kennel compares more than favorably with that obtained' in other centres, but the thousands of pounds contributed to the Treasury by the illventilated and dingy office at East Balmain is utilized for the erection* of palatial offices in Victoria.

Mr Bell - What about the country facilities ?

Mr Hector Lamond - We do not call them facilities in New South Wales.

Mr MAHONY - I am now dealing with the requirements of my own district.

Mr Austin Chapman - The honorable member may get a dog kennel in the metropolitan districts, but we get only a mousetrap in the country.

Mr MAHONY - The honorable member is quite capable of seeing that his electorate gets a fair- deal. Hundreds of people in a congested industrial area are calling out in vain for telephonic communication. Hundreds of doctors, nurses, and other professional people are waiting to be connected with the telephone service.

Mr Austin Chapman - Their outcry is nothing compared with that of those who have the telephone.

Mr MAHONY - I was about to say that not only those who are unable to obtain telephones, but also those who are connected with the system, have a grievance against the Department - the latter because they are unable to get a satisfactory service. I believe that if the Minister came to Sydney and investigated these matters personally, the Postal Department in New South Wales would be better administered. Any business from which the principal is continually absent must suffer.

Mr Austin Chapman - The PostmasterGeneral is too- pious to encourage profane language by installing new telephones.

Mr MAHONY - I was told the other day that the profane language which is' supposed to be used in Sydney to-day by users of the telephone is very mild compared with that which was used when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was Postmaster-General. The present Minister may at least take credit for the fact that conditions in that respect are' better than they were then. I feel sure that the Minister will take my advice to heart, and at the earliest opportunity visit Sydney in order to see that justice is done to the people who are dealing with the Department.

It is high time that some action was taken by this Parliament to establish the Federal Capital at Canberra. .We heard some talk the other day about honouring' contracts that had been entered into. Honorable members have an opportunity of showing that they are prepared to honour the contract that was made between the people of 0 Australia, on the one part, and the people of New South Wales on the other, that the Federal Capital should be established at Canberra. To-day, after twenty years of Federation, Melbourne is still the Seat of Government, and the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra is as far off as ever. There has been a clear breach of faith, and also, I would remind the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), a breach of the contract entered into with the- people qf New South Wales. Those who believe that the terms of a compact 'solemnly entered into should be carried out ought to demand that immediate steps be taken to bring the Capital City into being at Canberra.

Mr Jowett -- Why not make Sydney the Federal Capital ?

Mr MAHONY - Because the contract was that the Capital should be in New South Wales, and not within 100 miles of Sydney. The honorable member's suggestion is a mere device to lure the bird off the bush. The moment we departed from the contract for the establishment of the. Capital at Canberra, we should have Melbourne declared, in the Constitution, to be the Seat of Government for all time. If the Government are not ready to honour this contract, then honorable members must shoulder the responsibility. Honorable members, and especially those who represent New South Wales, ' should be ready to say to the Government, "Unless you honour this contract, you must go out of omeo."

In conclusion, I hope that the Defence Department will avail itself of the opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum by abolishing the com'pulsory military training of the youth of the country. I hope, also, that the PostmasterGeneral will accept the invitation I have extended to him to visit Sydney in order to deal with matters affecting his Department in New South Wales. Finally, if the Government are not prepared to hearken to the cry of the people of New South Wales for the establishment of the Capital at Canberra, I hope that the House will tell them plainly that they must, make room for a Government that will honour the compact.

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