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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator KEATING - Was the vote last year insufficient ?

Senator Pearce - Yes.

Senator KEATING - Were the details specified in last year's Estimates?

Senator Pearce - Yes.

Senator KEATING - There is also an item of £2,250 re-vote for barracks and buildings for remount section Australian Army Service Corps. Apparently none, of that money was expended last year When is it contemplated to enter upon the buildings required? Another item of £2,837 is for the erection of new buildings at the barracks, Hobart. Apparently none of that was expended. Will the buildings be commenced shortly?"

Senator PEARCE ("Western AustraliaMinister of. Defence) T5-S3]- - A sum of £760 was spent last year on the barracks at Hobart; the work is proceeding. The barracks and buildings for the Army Service Corps are to be at Launceston. The reason for the re-vote in that case is that we did not obtain the land in sufficient time to spend the money last year. But the land has now been acquired, and the buildings are being erected. I promised to make a general statement with regard to drill 'halls, and will do so on the item £80,000 for " Acquisition of sites for and erection of mobilization store buildings, and drill halls." In making provision for the training of Senior Cadets there were many things that we had to learn. We had had no previous experience. It is no doubt an easy thing to say that the Department ought to have foreseen this and that. Many things were not foreseen. One of them was that, with the initiation of compulsory training, and particularly of night drills, a greater number of drill halls would be required. In the winter time particularly discomfort was caused. The demand has become clamant, and there is undoubtedly a real grievance at the back of it. lt became necessary, therefore, to prepare for a much larger expenditure than usual on drill halls during the forthcoming year. At the same time, it is quite obvious that we cannot at once provide all the training areas with drill halls, since the minimum estimate of the cost involved is -£500,000. It is clear that this expenditure must be distributed over a number of years. We therefore decided to ask the Home Affairs Department to prepare a design for a cheap type ot drill hall, that we might spread the money available over the greatest possible area. The Chief of Ordnance and the Adjutant-General on the Military Board have been instructed to collect data to enable us to decide where this money should first be expended. In view of the great area of Australia, and the vast distances to be covered in many training areas, such a report will necessarily take some time to compile. We have been getting the necessary information from Audit Officers and Brigade Majors, with reports from

District Commandants. The officers referred to have been sifting these reports, and will in time submit recommendations as to the halls which should be erected. It is impossible, in the short time at our disposal for inquiry, to indicate where drill halls will be erected during the coming year. All I can say is that they will be erected first in the areas where the greater number of military units and cadets are stationed. Senator Russell, who has referred to the matter, did not quite understand the position of the Department in regard to the voluntary offers of assistance in providing drill halls or land for the purpose which have been made by municipal bodies and others. The attitude of the Department in the matter is this : We quite admit that it is the duty of the Government and the Defence Department to provide drill halls wherever possible, and, so far as money is available for the purpose, we are prepared to do so. At the same time, if any municipal council, or the people of any locality, are prepared to make available for this purpose accommodation in the shape of halls already in' existence, or land on which halls may be erected, we should be churlish, as well as foolish, to refuse such offers of assistance. But we have laid it down that no offer of such co-operation will give any district any advantage over another.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It operates in that way.

Senator PEARCE - That is not the case.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I can give the Minister an illustration. In connexion with the establishment of higher elementary schools in Victoria, wealthy districts that have been able to provide the necessary land are being provided with the schools, whilst poorer districts are unable to secure them.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator did not hear me say that the Chief of Ordnance and the Adjutant-General on the Military Board are now dissecting information supplied to them by. Area Officers as to the number of units in different districts in order to decide where drill halls should be erected, and the most urgent cases will be dealt with first with the money we have available. If voluntary offers are made of drill halls or to provide halls for the Department, we shall not refuse that assistance; but the fact that a particular community offers such assistance in the shan, nf a building or land will not be any inducement to the Department to give that district a drill hall at the expense of a district more entitled to it.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I understood the Minister to say that he would give preference to those who were prepared to help themselves.

Senator PEARCE - I have never said that. What I have said is that, if there is a district where the people are prepared to assist, that will be taken into consideration by the Government in providing drill halls. I think we are justified in taking that course. If a number of districts are prepared to spend, say, £10,000 collectively for this purpose, it is obvious that the money at the disposal of the Government for the purpose will go further.

Senator Fraser - There will not be many such districts.

Senator PEARCE - I am glad to say that there have been a considerable number. I am also glad to be able to say that Senator Russell is not quite correct in his statement that the system will lead to wealthy districts getting drill halls first. It is a singular fact that, in the honorable senator's own State of Victoria, offers of assistance have come from some of the poorest districts. One of the districts that has taken this matter up in the most active fashion is the district of Footscray, and I think no one will say that Footscray is a wealthy suburb of Melbourne. Other suburbs have made similar offers of assistance, and I am hopeful that the movement will spread.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - In some localities in which there is a large proportion of poor people, the municipal authorities will be' comparatively wealthy, owing to the closer settlement of the population.

Senator PEARCE - That may be so. We have offers from municipal authorities, but in the case of Footscray the money is being provided, not by the municipal council, but by an energetic committee of citizens, most of whom are working men, and are probably known to Senator Russell.

Senator Mcdougall - The same thing applies at Waterloo, a suburb of Sydney.

Senator Findley - What about Toorak?

Senator PEARCE - I am sorry to say that, so far, Toorak has lamentably failed to do anything in this matter. The Government welcome this co-operation, as it will enable them to provide a greater number of drill halls. In addition to drill halls, the vote provides for mobilization stores. ' These are a new departure'. Owing to the widespread nature of the de1 fence system under the new organization, it has become necessary to decentralize, and to establish mobilization stores in districts where previously none have been required. These stores will be more costly structures than the drill halls, but, happily, will be very much fewer in number. It is difficult to outline the exact site for these stores, outspeaking generally, they will be established in centres of an important military district. 1 trust that, with this explanation, the Committee will agree to the vote, because the work is urgent.

Senator Millen - Will a mobilization store be used as a drill hall ?

Senator PEARCE - No; it may be attached to a drill hall, or erected on the same piece of land, but" it will be a store in which the war equipment of the district units will be kept. . Mobilization in time of war will take place at these centres, and it is, therefore, desirable that buildings of a permanent character shall be erected foi mobilization stores. They will be separate > altogether from drill halls.

Senator Rae - Can the Minister give the Committee any idea of the average cost of a drill hall ?

Senator PEARCE - I am just going to give that information. I have here a plan of; a first class drill hall, which honorable senators may inspect. If I can secure the co-operation of the Home Affairs Depart; ment, I propose that we shall have three types of drill halls. Number one, the type for which this plan has been prepared, may be erected at a cost, based upon Melbourne prices, of £1,600, with a steel roof - with, a wooden roof the cost would probably be £100 less - and £350 additional is estimated for necessary fencing. This plan will provide for a hall of 150 feet by 50 feet, with a large number of offices and store-rooms. Number two type would be a hall of, say, 100 feet by 30 feet or 40 feet, with a smaller number of offices, and suitable for a district in which a smaller number of units are stationed. Then, in Queensland and Western Australia, I understand that completely enclosed drill halls will not be required. I believe that the practice in Queensland prior to Federa tion was to build drill halls open at one side, with offices attached to them. Such a building could be erected for very much less then a completely enclosed building with' windows and -necessary provision for lighting. I believe that such a building will be' found suitable practically throughout Queensland, the greater part of Western Australia, the northern parts of South Australia, and, probably, also in the western districts of New South Wales. It would be a much cheaper building than the other types referred to, whilst it would give all the facilities required.

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