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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) . - I wish to add a word or two in support of the appeal that has been made to the Government to provide additional monetary assistance for the purpose of establishing rifle ranges at new centres through the country. For quite a long time strenuous efforts have been made to get the Defence Department to provide a useable rifle range at Alexandra. Now that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) and his colleagues are engaging in a recruiting campaign the Government will see the wisdom of constructing rifle ranges and providing necessary equipment for training of this description in country districts. An enthusiastic public meeting was held at Alexandra some time ago to further the project to establish a rifle range adjacent to the town. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Government will adopt the proposals made at that meeting the recruiting campaign in that district will receive a great impetus, and the local light-horse troop will be strongly reinforced. For at least eighteen months I have been making representations to the Government on this subject., but have met with no success whatever.

Mr Jennings - Similar representations are being made in respect of many districts throughout, the Commonwealth.

Mr HUTCHINSON - The old rifle range near the town is the site desired for the new ranges but the matter has been held up because of the refusal of one land-owner to grant firing rights. In my opinion the objections of this particular landowner are quite unjustified. I have visited the locality, and I cannot believe that any harm would come to stock if firing rights were granted. In my opinion the departmental regulations should be reviewed. At present, if one land-owner refuses firing rights, rifle-range project* can be entirely held up. Land-owners should be obliged to give good reason for refusing firing rights. It seems to me that, under the existing conditions, a change of ownership of certain land might result in the withdrawal of firing rights in which case a difficult situation would have to be faced. I urge the Minister for Defence to give immediate consideration to my request for a review of the departmental decision in respect of the rifle range at Alexandra. An officer of the department visited the town some time ago in connexion with this matter, but he interviewed only the objecting land-owner. He did not make contact in any way with the rifle club. That was a mistake. I ask the Minister to arrange for another visit, to the district by a departmental official, so that the matter may be reconsidered. If such a visit occurs, I hope that those interested in the local rifle club will be given an opportunity to state their case. If nothing can be done in connexion with the existing range, I appeal to the Government to make a new site for a range available. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that recruiting throughout the district will be stimulated if an effective rifle range is made available for use.

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