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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - Senator St. Ledger intimated that has remarks might be taken as a joke, and certainly a doubt arose in my mind as to whether he was not joking. However, I do not propose to treat his observations jocularly. I take it that the question is not asked for the mere purpose of frittering away time.

Senator St Ledger - Oh, no.

Senator PEARCE - I shall be able to judge better by what follows. I wish_ to intimate that if these questions are being raised for that purpose, the Government intend that progress shall be made to-night".

Senator St LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - Certainly ; but we do not wish to be threatened.

Senator PEARCE - We intend to get on with business. If these questions are asked for some ulterior purpose, we shall know what to do.

Senator St Ledger - If I wanted to do that sort of business, I should do it in a far different fashion.

Senator PEARCE - I propose, therefore, to treat the honorable member's question seriously, and to give an answer to the best of my ability. In each State there is an automobile corps, consisting of persons who place their automobiles at the disposal of the Department, and who are given honorary commissions. These gentlemen,, at much cost to themselves, very often render very considerable service to the Defence Forces, especially when an annual camp of training is held. They do not get militia pay, because they are volunteers, but we give them a mileage payment based on the number of miles which their automobile covered during die course of the camp. The reason why no sum appearsopposite the item relative to the New SouthWales Automobile Corps is that during the two months covered by this Bill no camps will be held in the State, and consequently the automobiles will not be called upon toattend. In the other States a camp of some kind will probably be held, and, consequently, provision has to be made in this Bill. These automobiles are not kept for the amusement or the pleasure of the officers. On the contrary, they render services which we could get in no other way - for instance, when a camp is being held.. Owing to the fact that we have the auto.mobiles at pur services, the umpires whohave to decide on the relative merits of the work done by the commanding officers at a sham fight or anything of that kind, areable to cover enormous distances which they could not do if they had to rely upon horsesor cabs. In that way they are able to render much more effective service. Moreover, in time of war the automobiles will be at our disposal, and will be used by the officers in command of our forces.

Senator Keating - Do they not in manyinstances place the automobiles at the disposal of the Department during the period' of a camp ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. During an> Easter camp in Victoria and also in New South Wales, an automobile was placed at my disposal, and enabled me to see a great deal more than I could have seen in any other way. I, therefore, do not treat theitem in any' sense in a jocular fashion. These gentlemen render a very valuableservice to the Commonwealth, and get very little compensation. The smallness of theamounts which are set down is explained in the way I have indicated. If Senator St. Ledger will turn to the EstimatesinChief he will find -that in the case of New' South Wales a vote of £200 is proposed.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Last year only j£i6 was spent.

Senator PEARCE - Yes. In many cases, 1 believe, that was due to the fact that no claim for payment was made.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Can the Minister tell me how many there are in the corps ? Is it a regularly-formed corps, or have persons simply volunteered?

Senator PEARCE - It is a regularlyconstituted corps. If the honorable senator will give notice of a question for Tuesday he will be supplied with full infor.mation

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I noticed that there was no number opposite to each item.

Senator PEARCE - There are no rank and ii le in the corps ; each member is given an honorary commission as a lieutenant or -a captain. That is why no number appears opposite the items.

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