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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- There are just one or two things in connexion with defence expenditure to which I should like to direct attention. Although the first is not a very big matter, nevertheless it is important from the point of view of the areas concerned. At the present time we are seeking to double the strength of the militia, and it is of great importance that, when we have the men, they should have proper facilities for training. Man-power itself is not of very great avail unless it is utilized to the best possible advantage, and in this respect I would draw the attention of the Minister, as I did last year, to the lack of rifle ranges, where young men can attain that proficiency in the use of the rifle, so necessary if they are to be of real service should an emergency arise. Lastyear I directed attention to the fact that there are several districts, particularly in the country areas, where young men have little opportunity to fit themselves for the defence of their country, other than to form fours, and do the usual troop formations, and that the important work of becoming accustomed to the use of a rifle and developing a proficiency, in marksmanship is denied to them because of thefailure of the Government to spend the relatively small amount of money necessary for the provision of rifle ranges in those centres. I ask the Minister to give some attention to this matter, in view of the fact that there are, in a number of country districts, very enthusiastic bands of boys and young men anxious to attain proficiency in marksmanship, whose enthusiasm cannot be kept alive if they are denied the opportunity to do so.

I should like to add a word or two to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in respect of the budget papers and the adequate defence of Australia. All honorable members have a great deal of respect for the views advanced by the honorable gentleman, but we also look for a measure of sincerity behind his remarks and his actions in support of his plea that he stands for the adequate defence of Australia. Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have listened very patiently for some clue as to what the Leader of the Opposition means by the words " adequate defence " ; but I have failed yet to find anything which would justify me in thinking that, he had any real concrete plan, other than the provision of aeroplanes. Any reference as to how the man-power is to be provided is carefully avoided. I suggest that the statements of the Leader of the Opposition would carry more weight among members on this side of the chamber - his arguments are listened to very respectfully - if he would indicate just where he stands, instead of employing words the meaning of which we cannot fathom.

Mr Pollard - He is not concerned about influencing the honorable member.

Mr ANTHONY - The honorable member is not concerned about the adequate defence of Australia. The question of the monetary requirements for the adequate defence of Australia is, of course, largely a matter for the experts to determine; but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this committee should have, well in advance of such a paper as has now been presented to it, definite information as to what is . proposed and contemplated. The expenditure of almost £17,000,000 this year is a staggering burden to be suddenly thrust upon the people of Australia. I am of the opinion that probably most, if not all, of the items of defence expenditure can be justified; but no evidence has been placed before us as to why they should be justified, other than the figures compiled by the Defence Department. In this respect we are requested to accept with blind confidence whatever is put in front of us. I welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a committee of this House be created to investigate the Estimates of expenditure to be submitted to Parliament. Should such a committee be appointed, I sincerely hope that the Leader of the Opposition will see fit to discard party political considerations and decide to co-operate with the Government in obtaining an effective control of defence policy. There may be much in the honorable gentleman's contention that the Air Force is the most important arm of Australia's defence. I have an open mind on the subject. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition would be in a better position to decide on the relative importance of the Navy. Army and Air Force if he were in closer touch with the department, and knew the reasons which underlie the recommendations of its experts.

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