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Thursday, 24 September 1942


Mr COLES (Henty) (1:15 AM)

Under cover of a discussion of the Estimates for Defence and War Services, we have just heard some amazing statements by members of the Opposition. They have directed a tirade of abuse against the Army, the workers of this country, and Ministers, particularly the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). They declared that the Minister should throw his weight about. Any returned soldier knows that the Minister cannot interfere in the command of an army. If those honorable gentlemen are genuine they will retract every word that they have said to-night in criticism of the commanders of both the Australian and allied forces, and the discipline of our troops. They criticized the fighting quality of our men, suggesting that they lack courage, and are not fighters.


Mr Marwick - Who said that?


Mr COLES - Several honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was one. Such outbursts are actuated by fear, because we have suffered a slight reverse in New Guinea. Those gentlemen cannot take it. In their criticism of the Minister, they have been particularly unfair. They expect him to shoulder responsibility for that reverse. They give no credit whatsover either to. the Minister, or to the command, for what has been done since the war broke out. We have been three years at war. Nothing was done to expand our Army until twelve months after the war broke out. The war was regarded as something that was not dangerous to Australia. Following the fall of Paris and Dunkirk, we took a more serious view, and commenced to enlist some forces. At the end of two years we were not very strong; but we had made progress. However, the criticism voiced to-night is in respect of the progress which has been made during the last twelve months. Not the slightest credit is given for the fact that in that period the Army has been increased threefold. That expansion cannot be achieved without drawing men from somewhere. Obviously, industry must feel the pinch. Any criticism on the ground that such expansion was not foreseen and provided for beforehand is unjust. The workers of this country have also been criticized. Their output has been challenged. The fact is that equipment for the Army has been multiplied tenfold during the last twelve months. That represents a good output. Instead of raising piffling points, and magnifying difficulties to the proportions of national disasters, honorable gentlemen opposite should acclaim the enormous stream of production that is now flowing from our factories, and pay tribute to, not only those who are in charge of that production, but also the Army and those who are transporting it for the defence of this continent, with its 12,000 miles of coast-line, over a transport system that was not designed for such work. This job has been done under appalling conditions; and it has been done well. I,for one, have confidence in our commanders and our men. I do not doubt their courage. I served in the last war, and I have had an opportunity to see the boys who are serving in this war. As soldiers, they are just as good as their fathers were. They are made of the same stuff; and they will not let us down. It is about time that some so-called representatives of the people in this Parliament realized that they will never inspire anything like a proper spirit in the country so long as they keep criticizing everything that is done, particularly our fighting forces, and casting aspersions concerning the courage of our troops. Our soldiers are equal to any in the world. They have been tried and proved. It is easy for young fellows like the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who has never been in the firing line, to talk in that strain. To such gentlemen,I say : " Go and do it." If they did so, they would not make statements such as they have voiced this evening. Our soldiers are fighting under shocking conditions. Honorable members should set an example to the people of Australia. They should be sufficiently patient to wait until the war effort of the Allies is developed sufficiently to enable us to move forward. "We cannot do so to-day, because we lack the requisite transport facilities.

Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [1.22 a.m.]. - I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) a complaint which has been made to me by men engaged on certain work in Northern Australia. They resent very strongly certain action which has been taken by the military authorities in their areas. Colonel Loutit, the commanding officer at Alice Springs, has caused a certain notice to be posted in three camps of men doing certain work in the Camooweal district. Most of these men are typical back-country Australians who are prepared at all times to give a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. This notice reads -







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