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Tuesday, 19 December 1905


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I intend to support the Bill. I have listened very carefully, and with an open mind, to all the speeches which have been made with a view to showing that this is an unjust measure, but I have not heard one argument which belies the statement made by the Minister. The honorable member for Melbourne has made a big-hearted speech, but it seems to me that he has altogether missed the point.

He does not appear to understand that it is, not necessary to introduce a Bill to provide for compensation to privates. All such cases cam be dealt with by the Executive.


Mr Kelly - These claims could have been similarly dealt with, because the regulations cover them; but the Minister did not care to accept the responsibility.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even if that be the case, there is no harm in submitting a Bill in order that honorable members may have an opportunity of judging whether or not the claims made are just. I trust that the honorable member will be able to give some more logical reason for voting against the Bill.


Mr Kelly - I intend to support the Government.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am pleased to hear it. The debate has revealed a weak spot in the Defenceadministration. I have frequently noticed complaints in the newspapers that just claims have been bandied about between State and Commonwealth because neither authority would acknowledge its responsibility. I have heard of cases without number in which the State Government has met claims bysaying, " The Commonwealth has taken over all military matters, and, therefore, the State is not liable." In respect to the very same claim the Commonwealth has returned the answer, " The matter is one for the State, and the Commonwealth authorities are not responsible.'.' I have long come to the conclusion that the military affairs of this country are managed in such a way that there is little encouragement for men of spirit to enter our service. If the present policy is to be continued, and just obligations are to be ignored by the State on the one hand and by the Commonwealth on the other, very few thinking men will care to enter, or allow their sons to enter our military service. The amount involved in the present case may be small ; but an important principle is at stake. It has been clearly shown that private soldiers have not been receiving the same treatment as officers. I have never been accused of posing as a Democrat, but I yield to no man in my desire to see equal treatment meted out. If it could be demonstrated to me that private soldiers were being placed at a disadvantage as compared with officers, by being accorded different treatment, I should be one of the very first to join with the honorable member for Melbourne in opposing the

Bill. I should like the Minister to go further than he has done. I know how easy it is to say that consideration will be given to this or that matter. Consideration is very cheap, and means nothing. I should like to feel assured that every private soldier will not only "receive consideration butwill be accorded the same treatment as is being extended to officers; and that they will be compensated in proportion to the pay to which they were entitled whilst they were in the service. It is a matter of great gravity that we should not induce men to enter our service and send them forth to do battle for us, and afterwards neglect them because of some paltry squabble of a constitutional character between the Commonwealth and the State. If there is any merit in a claim, and the question is merely as to who should meet it, the Commonwealth Government should ask Parliament to authorize the payment. If the State endeavours to escape from what this Parliament conceives to be its just obligations, we ought to be liberal enough to take upon our shoulders the burden of payment. I should like the Minister to say that he will do his utmost to see that the same treatment is accorded in every case.







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