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Friday, 18 November 1938

Consideration resumed from 10th November, 1938 {vide page 1472), on motion by Mr. Casey -

That the first item in the Estimates under Division I - Hie Senate - namely, " Salaries and allowances, £8,210 ", be agreed to.

Mi-. FRANCIS (Moreton) [11.28].- The number of honorable members who rose, with me, to obtain the call from the Chair to continue this discussion indicates the degree of enthusiasm to see the budget debate' 'proceeded with immediately. I regret that so much delay has occurred in connexion with this matter. The budget was introduced on 9lst September last, but practically two months elapsed before the Government was able to make an opportunity for it to be discussed. In modification of such criticism a? may be offered respecting this delay, and of any observations that I may make on the subject, I confess that the international situation that developed, but which we aU hope has been terminated by the Munich . Pact, and the disorganization that has occurred in consequence of other untoward happenings, have undoubtedly contributed to the delay of which I complain. I hope, howover, that in the future the Government will make it possible for honorable members to proceed with the budget debate as soon as possible after the budget has been introduced, for many matters arise in connexion with every budget which honorable members wish to discuss. Delay in this respect does not permit honorable members to take a really effective part in discussing certain aspects of government policy affected by the budget.

The outstanding feature of this budget is that this is the first occasion since the Lyons Government has been in office on which it has been found necessary to increase the burden of taxation on the people in this country. I am sure that, in view of the special international conditions existing to-day, all responsible taxpayers of Australia are ready to cooperate with the Government in endeavouring to secure national security and social betterment. Since the Lyons Government came into office it has reduced taxation by many tens of millions of pounds. The total cumulative effect of taxation remissions made by the Lyons Administration to the 30th June, 1938, may be estimated as follows: -

 

This budget practically subordinates everything to defence. To every reasonable man and woman it must be an uncomfortable thought that, just as Australia is emerging from the depression and seems to be on the way to the enjoyment of a period of prosperity and financial security, we must of necessity submit to fresh taxation imposts which will once again throw us out of our stride. I am afraid we cannot afford to grumble. It is beyond the powers of Parliament to influence the trend of international affairs. The world is definitely heading for an epoch in which armed strength will be the final argument between nations, and we must accordingly arm ourselves to the best of our ability.

In the current financial year Australia will incur a defence expenditure of nearly £.17,000,000, as against £11,000,000 last year and £3,000,000 in 1931-32. These figures may sound very high, in fact staggering, to a peaceful people unaccustomed to the fear of war. Let us compare our defence expenditure with that of Great Britain. Australia expends 3 per cent, of its national income on defence, less than £2 10s. a head of population, whereas Great Britain expends about S per cent, of its total income, or something like £7 a head of population. But, in comparison with the other dominions, Australia's defence expenditure is outstanding. A feature of this defence expenditure is that the proportion that comes from loans is to bc considerably reduced. Whereas, during the last financial year, nearly onehalf of the £11,500,000 expended on defence was borrowed money, this year only £4,000,000 is to be provided out ofloan moneys. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on this sound policy. Australia cannot, at this stage, afford to over-borrow, because of the very large loan conversions about to fall due.

Of this year's expenditure nearly £10,000,000 will be utilized in the building of defence works, ships, and aircraft, and in the manufacture or purchase of equipment, arms, ammunition and stores: The remainder is labelled, " Maintenance expenditure ". Very little expenditure is provided for in this budget for the enlargement of the personnel of our defence forces. The strength of our defence forces has been fixed at 35,000. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has recently announced that an effort is to be made to double that number by raising a volunteer army of 70,000. With this objective I am in accord. Every effort should be made to raise that number with as little delay as possible, but even a volunteer army of that size would be Of little avail if the troops were not more efficient than the present 31,000 trainees, who, it is generally accepted, are only half trained.

How could they be anything but half trained when they have only six days' continuous training in camp, one day of which is taken up in going into camp, the issuing of supplies, stores, &c, and one day in cleaning up camp, returning stores and returning to their homes? Only six other days of training scattered throughout the year are provided to enable them to fit themselves for their job of defending our continent. The volunteers have our wholehearted admiration and regard. We all appreciate the wonderful effort they are making in existing circumstances. I want it to be understood that I criticize not the volunteers but government policy in this respect. With units so highly mechanized as they must be to-day, the period of training to reach efficiency must of necessity take twice as long as it did in pre-war days. Therefore, I believe that greater provision should be made for an increase of the time devoted to training, and that a better system of training should be adopted. The problem is an urgent one. The criticism that I direct to this essentially defence budget is that not enough money is provided for the "adequate training of our men who are to use the intricate mechanized arms and equipment now being purchased. Most of the defence expenditure will be incurred in the purchase of materials and equipment, and very little is to be expended on the personnel who are to use this mechanized equipment, or on the training of that personnel.

The Government should grant increased pay to volunteers and should provide for the payment of efficiency pay which should be granted to trainees each year for three years. Should a trainee be deemed efficient in the discharge of his duties, and have served continuously for three years, he should be granted a further sum by way of deferred pay. To-day, volunteers stay only a short time with their units, with the result that the personnel of our forces is continually changing, making it difficult to advance much beyond recruit training. If voluntary training is to be successful, a special effort must be made to ensure that our trainees have, a right to attend camps of continuous training. It is the best training they get, but, unfortunately, the percentage that is able to attend camp is very low. All trainees want to attend camps, but they are fearful that if they approach their employers for the necessary time off, they will lose their employment. These men should not be exposed to this risk. The Defence Department must tackle this question as one of its most urgent problems concerning man power. If this be not done, and volunteers are not given at least three years' continuous training they cannot be efficient, and the whole expenditure in connexion with the voluntary scheme would be more than futile.

There is ample evidence of a lack of goodwill at defence head-quarters for the ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force. I have always felt that this is so. Of course, by far the majority of my comrades of the Australian- Imperial Force are either so disabled, or so advanced in years, further increased by the rigours of war service, that they could not be considered as available for our first-line defence in time of national emergency. There are, however, many ways in which the services and experience of the ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force could be utilized. Recently, I submitted to the then Minister' for Defence (Mr. Thorby) a plan for the effective utilization of the personnel of the Australian Imperial Force in the time of war. He undertook to put it into operation, but the recent ministerial change precluded him from doing so. I express the hope that the new Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will put the plan into operation at the earliest possible moment. The plan is as follows : - To obtain the fullest co-operation of the returned soldiers, the army, as at present constituted, must have as little to do with the " digger " as possible in his enlistment administration.

From the day mobilization is ordered, no troops other than our militia are available for guard duties on railway bridges, oil depots, wireless stations, gas, water and electric light supplies protection, and for anti-sabotage. Militia cannot possibly mobilize and train intently with practically their whole present strength scattered everywhere on the. duties I have mentioned.

Through the Federal President and the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, of Australia, invitations should be extended to exAustralian Imperial Force and British Imperial ex-service men to volunteer for these home duties, the names being listed in their own sub-branch, or the nearest sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, if they are not members of the league.

Arrangements should be made to allot these ex-service men by platoons to the number required to be enlisted to the nearest militia battalion, keeping exservice men intact.

Issue the men with complete war equipment at the. sub-branch or the drill hall, as found more convenient, the battalion or sub-branch to be responsible for the necessary accounting for such equipment on details as arranged.

Allow the men to meet on their own arranged nights at intervals to be determined, whether at the drill hall or at the sub-branch of the league, as the case may be. If arrangements are made for them to meet at the drill hall, officers and noncommissioned officers should be allowed to have their own mess, or to be honorary members of the officers' or sergeants' mess.

Arrange for payment at militia rates or a lump sum payment for privates, with pro rata payments to non-commissioned officers and officers, subject to efficiency. Give them authority to deal with their own absentees, discharges and fresh enlistments.

At the time of mobilization issue to them from the battalions, with which they are co-operating, full information as to their exact duties. The duties that the militia would normally undertake would be set out in the mobilization orders. ExAustralian Imperial Forde men could then proceed on their duties without further notice immediately mobilization was ordered.

Ex-service men would normally be required to remain on duty after mobilization for a period of up to six or eight weeks, until the militia organization was" smoothly running. The more elderly members of the ex-service organization could continue to remain on guard duties, while others might prefer to join service, units, or to act as instructors or administrators in training battalions or other base units. An important duty in respect of mobilization would thus be discharged very capably without fuss or loss of efficiency to the militia, who will need " every man and every minute ".

An alternative proposal, or one that could be adopted in conjunction with that which I have just mentioned, is that ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force, and of the British Imperial Force, be invited to volunteer for refresher courses in the more modern and mechanized methods of warfare, and after competitive examination be granted provisional commissions in the Commonwealth Military Forces, or provisional appointments as non-commissioned officers. Their services could then be available for training with units of the militia forces, to whom they should be attached as reserves.

As I pointed out earlier, I brought under the notice of the former Minister for Defence the details to which I have just referred, and discussed the matter with him at considerable length. He undertook, wherever possible, to adopt my suggestions. I understand that these proposals meet with the unanimous support of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. I hope that the present Minister for Defence will approve of the scheme, and put it into operation without delay.

There is one other point to which 1 should like to refer. A national registration should be made of our total manpower, and of the resources of our secondary and primary industries, so that the fullest use might be made of them. Men should be used where they can pull the greatest weight. Medical men, engineers, and the like, should not be used in the infantry or light horse as combatant troops if their skill and training could be applied to greater national advantage elsewhere.

During the last war, an extraordinarily large number of women's organizations were raised in Australia, Great Britain and other parts of the world. They were enabled to become thoroughly organized by reason of the fact that the war was of such lengthy duration. I see no reason why similar organizations should not now be established, composed of those who have grown to womanhood since the termination of the war, and are anxious to make their services available for the benefit of the nation, in case any emergency should arise. They could be used in many activities associated with preparations for defence, protection from gas attacks in our cities, and in red cross, ambulance and nursing services.


Mr Brennan - Why not do some really useful work? There is plenty waiting to bo done.







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