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Thursday, 10 November 1938


Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), without great enthusiasm and in a detached sort of manner, intimated that two Ministers of the Crown had at a moment's notice dashed off in opposite directions to give a fillip to the Government's policy of recruiting additions to the militia forces. One can only say that their action, in leaving suddenly, and without notice, while the House is still sitting suggests a degree of impetuosity which is not altogether consistent with mature judgment, and is another illustration of the fact that certain members of the Government seem to be in a constant state of competition with each other as to which will make the most recent and distinguished performance to support his claim to leadership in the next Government to be constructed or reconstructed, which presumably will be announced on Wednesday of next week. I should like to have from the Treasurer - although with his lack of enthusiasm and detachment I can hardly expect it - an assurance that the mission of these gentlemen will be entirely dissociated from the obnoxious policy of compulsory military service for the youth of this country.


Mr Casey - It has nothing to do with it.


Mr BRENNAN - I should be glad to hear that since the relegation of the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to a sphere of less potential mischief that policy has been finally dropped by the Government. We gather from published statements of the late lamented Minister for Trade and Customs that he had proposed to tender his resignation to the Government earlier owing to his disagreement with it on matters of defence. However, he continued lingeringly and somewhat regretfully until wounded in a much more sensitive part, namely, his precedence in the Cabinet. At all events, I was hopeful that as he withdrew, or had been withdrawn, from the Cabinet we might take his resignation as an indication that we had heard the last of compulsory military service for the youth of this country.

The introduction of a new Assistant Minister in the subordinate position is not as encouraging as it might be, for there is no reason to hope that that sense of joyousness which comes to him on his re-appointment to the Cabinet in any capacity is likely to overcome the prejudice he had in favour of compulsory military service. There is another matter upon which the Treasurer might have given us some soothing assurance, and that is that there will be no persistence, as a part of this scheme to inspire enthusiasm into the people for army service, with the policy of profit making in the private manufacture of arms. This subject has been dealt with from time to time in this chamber, and I mention it now only because I hope that, incidental to the rapid changes that are taking place in respect of Cabinet construction and re-construction, a change of heart might also be indicated in the matter of profit making out of the manufacture of arms by private firms. I would ask the Treasurer to take a kindly and sympathetic note of my observations in that regard, because I think that if the Government would really disclose, as part of its set policy two things, namely, abstinence from conscription of youth and abstinence from the capitalist policy of trading in -death in the name of profits on the private manufacture of arms, it would be of great assistance to it in its new policy of enlistments which is now proceeding with such unexpected zeal on the part of two Ministers who have set out unexpectedly) in opposite directions this afternoon and are to act under the direction of the mature and experienced Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes). Finally, in order to make the scheme a success - I would like it to be a success, because as every one knows I want this country to be adequately defended, if it should transpire that the war-mongers in the Government and out of it succeed in involving us in a war - the Government, having given us an assurance on the two points I have mentioned, should also give an assurance that troops that are being enlisted shall, in no circumstances, be used for the policy of forwarding of imperial buccaneering in foreign parts.

That also would give a great fillip to the proposed rapid increase of the militia forces to 70,000. My final suggestion - shall be nothing if not helpful to the Minister - is that adequate financial compensation be offered in the form of wages to recruits whom the Government proposes to enlist. That would be half of the battle. As they are intended ultimately to risk their lives and as their work will be of a very onerous character, a wage, sufficiently attractive to induce men with family responsibilities and with an Australian outlook, should be paid. Advertisements to that effect should, metaphorically speaking, be pasted on the moon so that he who runs may read. The blatancy of mere patriotic jingoism cuts very little ice with the young Australian. He has a perfectly sound and healthy sense of his responsibility to his own country, but he is not misled as a rule too readily by profiteering swashbucklers of the kind who are driving this Government on to war as fast as they can.







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