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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr BRENNAN - Why not take them from the kindergarten and give them n bayonet to play with? That would be the age at which they could be taught Christian charity and brotherhood. It might even be wise to take them straight from the cradle.

Mr BELL - I know that some honorable members opposite are totally opposed to any description of compulsory military training, but, perhaps, they would be willing to urge the Government to give a little more "favorable consideration to the young men in .our community who volunteer for training.

Until a few months ago I had command of a lighthorse regiment, and I know of the fine work that such regiments accomplish. The young men who enlist in them are generally from the country districts, and they are keen to do their best. They provide their own horses, and give their time t-< the service willingly, for they know that while they obtain some pleasure from it, they also fit themselves to defend their country. When they enter camp they are paid 8s. a day as wages, and 4s. as an allowance for their horses. The difficulty in practically every district where this lighthorse training is, in vogue is the cost of keeping a horse. The men enjoy their work, but many of them find it a drain upon their resources to keep their horses. Then, again, in these days motor cars and motor cycles have much attraction for them. They cannot afford to keep a horse specially for military training. I have one complaint to make with regard to the use of the inadequate funds provided for defence purposes. Apart from the fact that the men who give their services in a voluntary way are paid very little indeed for the time they spend in training - it is certainly not as much as even the lowest-paid would be earning at home - if a horse is injured no compensation is allowed unless the injury is done on parade and under the eye of an officer. In two cases in my own regiment horses were so seriously injured going to and from parade, and through no fault of the men themselves, that they had to be destroyed. These injuries are just as likely to occur on the road as on the parade ground. I know of horses being injured in camp so seriously as to render them useless for months; but no compensation is 'paid to the owners of horses unless a veterinary officer will certify to the permanent character of the injuries. Unless the injury is so permanent as to make an animal of little further value to the owner, no compensation is paid ? In such circumstances we are not likely to get too many young men enthusiastic enough to buy or breed valuable horses for this particular purpose. The need for horses of a suitable type for our light horse, or cavalry, is referred to by the Inspector-General in his latest report. He suggests that the Government should encourage the breeding of horses by purchasing suitable sta! lions - a little of that is down now - and establishing remount farms; but I suggest that the best way to provide horses to mount our lighthorsemen is to compensate those who provide their own horses, and pay a fair fee for the use of a horse so long as it would be suitable in the event of the lighthorseman being called upon to serve his country. It would not cost very much to do- this.

Honorable' members will, note that I make this suggestion! subject to the horse being in every sense suitable. Some lighthorsemen are mounted om animals; which-, although good enough for training purposes, would Be quite unfit for use on active service.

It is suggested' by the- Leader of the Opposition and others that Australia in time of war can place most reliance on its Air Force. The Air Force is a very important arm of defence, but it is not our first or best means- of defence. If Australia were invaded, and had to fight seriously, it would be- called upon to- do so suddenly,, when there would be very little time for organizing trained forces. The invader, is always read. He does not strike before he is ready.. Australia would need time to prepare, and if we were invaded I am afraid we should have very little time to get ready. But we should have an advantage over every invader if we had the neuclei of trained lighthorse regiments. We have scattered throughout Australia men who could be trained quickly and- made smart soldiers in a little while provided we had sufficient trained officers.' I think it wise, therefore, to encourage this one arm of our forces which would give us- an advantage over every possible invader. We have men who make the very best lighthorsemen. I doubt if any invader could conquer the whole of Australia. He might bomb the capital cities, and make it uncomfortable for the people living in them, but he could not conquer a country of men trained and ready and willing to fight for their homes. I think that the Army Council, if it is still functioning, should take into serious consideration the need for organizing the whole of Australia's manhood and resources. It could be done cheaply. The Commonwealth could be divided into districts, and in each district a senior officer - and there are many of them who would be willing to do the work of organizing for the good of their country - with the assistance of a younger officer, could within twelve months place on a roll every man in the district, not only the able-bodied, but also the men unfit for military service. Data could be collected for recording the qualification of every man for some service in time of need.. These officers could report in what arm of the service each man. could be placed, with advantage; they could say who would belikely to. make the best commanders, and they could arrive at the best way to utilizethose who were not classed as fit for active work in. the field'. They could know what horses,, forage and waggons were availablein their, district. By means of such an organization, a defending force could bemobilized in a fortnight.. A few- strategist contemplating the invasion of Australia, and' knowing that the manhood and theresources of Australia could be- organized so speedily, would think very seriously before- carrying out his- intention. What I suggest has been done elsewhere. It would take me hours to outline the detail's of the scheme, but I throw out the suggestion that, over and above the forces we are training to-day, the whole of themanhood could be -mobilized in a very short space of time. It is most essential that Australia should have arms and ammunitions. We have small arms and munition factories, but I do do not think we have enough of them. An invader would seize our existing factories very quickly and that would be the end of us. I think that equipment should be provided in each centre. I do not mean in the cities alone. I think it is criminal to locate all our army stores in the big cities or in a few centres alone. They should be scattered and placed where the- men who are likely to be called upon to defend the country may be quickly equipped. God forbid that we should ever have to defend this country in Australia. If I had to fight anywhere, I should prefer to fight in the enemy's country. Those who have seen war know what it is to see homes desolated and women and children left behind at the mercy of the invader. I am afraid that those who talk lightly of the question of defending Australia do not know what war means. Every able-bodied man, fit to fight, should have the wherewithal to enable him to defend his country if, unhappily, it should be invaded.

I do not wish the Leader of the Go- .vernment to think that I am criticizing the Minister or the officers responsible for our defence. No more gallant or abler men served the Empire during the war. I have the greatest respect imaginable for Sir "William Glasgow, the Minister for Defence. I served with him. I have seen him go " over the top," and I do not know that there is any other member of this Parliament I should select before him as Minister for Defence. But, because of the feeling in the Commonwealth that our defence is not what it ought to be, I want the Prime Minister to consider it his duty to call together his military advisers and say - " What is the matter with defence? You say that it is not what it should be and. that Australia cannot be defended with the forces we have at present." - That is borne out by the report of the Inspector-General, and many of us who know a little about defence know that what is said is true. - "How can we put matters right?" Even if the only money available is. the £3,000,000 provided on these Estimates, the money should be spent wisely and well and to the best advantage. It is our first duty to see that every man who is willing to fight is properly equipped, should it be necessary for him to defend his home against an invader. I hope that the Prime Minister will take what I have said in the spirit in which it has been uttered and, above all, I hope that our defence experts will not be able to say again, " Although we know the job is not well done, it is not our fault."

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