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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Assistant Minister for Defence) - If so, the honorable member should blame his own party, because they have been insistent on their claim that it was they who originated the system.

Mr Considine - I am quite aware of that.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - Then find fault with your own people.

Mr Considine - I find fault with the manner in which the compulsory training is administered.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - In my opinion, it is absolutely ridiculous to say that there should be no training. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) urges that Australian men can fight just as well without any training - that they are the best fighting men in the world, and do not require training before going into the firing line. I am prepared to admit that there are thousands of splendid men in Australia, who have not had one moment's training, but who, if put into the firing line with a rifle, would be just as effective as other men who have had twenty years' training. At the same time, these men have to be got into the firing line; it is not a mere matter of " right turn " and " left turn," of which the honorable member spoke so much; there is the matter of discipline generally, and the " interior economy," as we call it, of those bodies.

Mr Mahony - How long would it take to give the necessary tuition?

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - A good deal depends on the men themselves. I admit that, in my opinion, it takes a much shorter period to train the average Australian than it does to train any other men in the world.

Mr Tudor - I think the Americans would be just as good.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - I do not say anything about the Americans.

Mr Mahony - Will the Minister indicate what would be the average time required to train a man and fit him for the trenches?

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - It is impossible to say, broadly, how long, for the reason that it depends on how many trained and experienced men there are amongst those whom the recruit joins when he goes into the field. There is always a sprinkling of trained and experienced officers and non-commissioned officers already in the units. But if we were to take 10,000 men who had never heard a word of command, nor had any training - I include all the officers, noncommissioned officers, and men in that number - it would be years before we could evolve a decent force, no matter how intelligent they were. It takes years to make commissioned and noncommissioned officers fit to carry out operations successfully.

Mr Mahony - Are we making commissioned and non-commissioned officers out of compulsory trainees?

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - The graduates at the Duntroon College are boys who have come from all classes of society. They secure their positions at the college as the result of competitive examination, and when they leave they are supposed to be competent to trainthe young men of Australia. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), who spoke about the college yesterday, will bear me out that it is not an institution merely for the sons of the rich. Boys are admitted there as the result of competitive examination and fitness. The honorable member for EdenMonaro has reason to be proud of his two boys who have graduated from Duntroon.

Mr Mahony - The purpose of the college is to fit men who decide to make a life-long profession of military work.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - It is absolutely necessary that we should have men who make this work their profession ; otherwise we should not have competent instructors or officers to train men to take the field. When I first took up military work, I went into camp with some volunteers who were raised in the country. The whole regiment went into camp, and the men knew practically nothing about dis cipline or military work. As a consequence, it was perfectly amazing to hear the noise in that camp, with the shouting of orders and men calling out " Sergeant This " and " Sergeant That." I was acting in command of a brigade, and men used to come to me complaining that they had not received any sugar; others had received a double ration of bread and no tea. There was endless confusion. No one knew what had to be done. The life was worried out of the old instructors. And we had very goodinstructors ; if it had not been for them there would have been pandemonium. However, after successive years in camp, things got very much better. Each annual camp showed an improvement. I wish to show the value of training. When we were in the field we often received an order to be ready in two. hours to shift camp to some other spot. That meant shifting all transport, ambulance, guns, &c, but absolutely no noise was heard. All orders went out through the proper channels - in the first instance from myself to the brigademajor and from him to the staff-captain and quartermasters. The men would move out of camp without the slightest noise and take up their new position, and in a few minutes they would settle down as if they had been there for weeks. It is absolutely impossible to carry out such a movement with untrained men and without discipline. If this condition applies to a couple of thousand men, in the case of 60,000 or 100,000 men absolutely untrained themselves, and without experienced men among them, it would be a rabble, and if it were necessary for such a force to defend the country from an attack or to go anywhere else to fight it would only be to court disaster.

Mr Mahony - Why did not all that happen during the last war?

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - Every man who went to the war was trained to a certain extent.

Mr Mahony - For how long?

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - The First Division of the Australian Imperial Force was trained for months before going away, and in Egypt it was taken to Mena Camp and trained for months again before proceeding to Gallipoli.

Mr Mahony - For months, but not for years.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - The honorable member is not fair in his criticism. These men were not absolutely on their own as untrained men. All the time there was among them a sprinkling of thoroughly trained soldiers, and the instructors were competent instructors. If the honorable member proposes to abolish all compulsory training in Australia - he says that all this " Right " and " Left " business and the shouting of orders is rubbish - he will soon find that all the men who have received some training have disappeared, and that there are no competent instructors alive. The only men available to defend Australia will be green men. No one will know anything about military work. It is absolutely ridiculous to think that we can put men into the field to fight under those conditions.

Mr Mahony - The Minister is sidestepping the question.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - No. It is not so much a question of " Right " and " Left" training. That is certainly part pf the drill, but every nation in the world applies practically the same kind of tanning which we adopt in Australia. I am surprised that any honorable member should say that a scheme which has been productive of so much good, the very excellent system brought into force under the auspices of the greatest soldier that the nation has seen, Lord Kitchener, is not a good one. Apparently honorable members opposite are going back on what they claimed some years ago, -when they urged that they were instrumental in introducing this system, and that it was productive of a great amount of good. Apart altogether from the military aspect, I think compulsory training has been productive of the very greatest amount of good among the youth of Australia. Some years ago there were in Sydney what were known as the Rocks push and the Woolloomoolloo push, a lot of larrikins who had formed themselves into pushes and proved a menace to the community, but a year or two after the introduction of compulsory training they were as fine a lot of lads as one could wish to see. I attended a dinner at the invitation of non-commissioned officers from the area known as the Rocks, and I was amazed at the splendid type of young fellows I saw. I was assured by several people that in the same area previously there had been nothing but a little mob of larrikins, yet after a couple of years of military training they were as keen as mustard on their work. Of course, a great deal depends upon the area officer. They had the services of one who used to encourage them by all sorts of games and competitions. As a matter of fact, they were able to win a big competition. Compulsory training is thus serving a useful purpose among the youth of Australia, and we must continue it unless we are to rely on the men who have been to the war, and have returned. Otherwise we shall have no force here to defend Australia if circumstances arise in which we are called upon to fight a foreign enemy. Who is to say that we shall not be obliged to do so?

Mr Mahony - Does the Minister think that these boys will be able to defend Australia?

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - Is the honorable member foolish enough to imagine that a boy always remains a boy? The time to impart instruction to a nian is when he is a boy. S'ome people hold that it is no longer necessary for Australia to have an effective military force, but I maintain that it is absolutely necessary for us to do everything in our power and within reason to maintain such an effective military force.

Mr Fenton - What does the Minister mean by an effective military force?

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - I cannot say what may be termed an effective military force for Australia, because we do not know what is in front of us. lt may be necessary for us to fight. We are anxious to avoid reference to international matters, but, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) knows, there may be a menace not very far away, and it would be a terrible thing if Australia were attacked by a foreign enemy and we were not able to put up some sort of defence through ceasing to maintain as effective a military force as possible.

Some people would lean on the League of Nations, saying that there is no further need for maintaining a military force and that expenditure on defence is useless. I am in favour of the League of Nations. I believe it may be productive of a great deal of good, and I would give it a trial, but I would not depend on it. I do not . believe it will prevent the resort to force between nations.

Mr Considine - It will probably cause a resort to force between nations.

Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE - I do not know about that; but some years ago legislation was passed in the State Parliaments and in the Federal Parliament for the settlement of industrial disputes - for the prevention of a resort to force by employers and employees. It was even made compulsory that all disputes should be taken to the tribunals which were created under this legislation, and it was said that there could not be any further strikes, because all disputes were by force of law to be taken to the Arbitration Court and dealt with. The facts, however, are that after the introduction of this legislation for the creation of these tribunals there were in a given time 100 per cent, more strikes than had occurred before. If that legislation could not prevent a resort to force between employer and employee, I do not believe the League of Nations - which, in my opinion, is nothing more than a big Arbitration Court to prevent a resort to force between nations - will achieve the desired result. It is foolish to say that all compulsory training is so much rubbish, and is unnecessary, and that men can fight just as well without training. I admit that the untrained man is just as brave as the trained man, and if he can shoot at all is just as good a man with the rifle as the trained man when you get him into' the line ; but there are the matters of discipline, interior economy, and mobility to be considered. Try to move 10,000 men previously untrained from one spot to another, with all their transport, guns, and ambulances, and they would develop into an absolute rabble - they could not be effectively moved. And what applies to 10,000 men applies tenfold to 100,01)0 men. We must have discipline and organization, and we must have men properly trained. It is also essential to maintain the fighting spirit in Australia. I do not believe in the militarism that obtained in Germany or, at all events, Prussia; but it it well that there should be engendered in the youth of Australia and kept alive in the people generally that spirit which will tend towards our effective defence if ever we should be attacked by a foreign foe. There are amongst us those who are and have been pacifists, and there are those who say, now that the war is over, " Poor Germany ; let her up." If I had my way there would be no letting up. On one occasion at the Front one of our Billjims was having a go with a Tommy. After a good rough-and-tumble, the Australian got his opponent down, and then our fellows, with their usual sense of fairness, shouted, "Let him up." "Not much," said the Australian, "I had a hell of a job to get him down." So I say of the Germans; they are down now, and I would keep them down until they show contrition, and make reparation. If I .had knocked a maru down and out in a fair fight, I would be the first to offer to shake hands with him. But if I had fought a wild beast and got my foot on his neck, should I let him up to tear the vitals out of some one else? No; I would keep him down, and absolutely destroy him. Let honorable members mark my words. Germany is only watching and waiting for the day when she can revenge herself. Every shilling she can put aside for the purpose will be so used, though she may have to wait fifty or a hundred years for her opportunity. It behoves- us, therefore, to see that our military strength shall not dwindle away to nothing, and that we shall remain a virile nation. If we abolish compulsory military training, the day may come when we shall rue it, finding ourselves, as a people, absolutely undone for lack of defence.

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