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Wednesday, 27 May 1914
Page: 1480

Senator MILLEN (New South WalesMinister of Defence) . - I wish to assure the Senate that the last thing that was in my thoughts in agreeing to the proposal to adjourn the debate on the Address-in-Reply was anything in the nature of a reflection on the Senate, still less an insult. I gathered from the action of the Senate itself on more than one occasion during the debate on the Address-in-Reply that it was disinclined in the present state of the businesspaper to sit late, and the Senate having cordially approved of motions coming from the other side to adjourn-

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I did not allow Senator Rae to discuss this matter. Under the Standing Orders the question, " That the debate be now adjourned," is not subject to discussion, and the Minister, like Senator Rae, it appears to me, is trying to evade the rule and to discuss reasons why the motion for the adjournment should have been carried when the matter has already been decided.

Senator MILLEN - I want to disabuse your mind, sir, of a desire to evade your ruling. I did not propose to discuss the action taken by the Senate, but the reflection which was made on me personally of having sought to insult the Senate. However, I shall not pursue that line of argument, except, with your permission, to assure the Senate that that was the last thing in my thoughts. I agree with Senator Pearce as to the important issues which will hinge on the success or otherwise of the effort being made in Papua to discover commercial oil. I shall ascertain from my colleague if he is yet in a position to make a statement as to the results of the investigation being conducted by the expert to whom the honorable senator referred. With regard to the question of Senator Barnes, I cannot say definitely whether the position is entirely as he stated it ; but I do know that on more than one occasion during the last two months there have been fluctuations in employment, and some reports as to broken time. Whenever I have made an inquiry into this matter I have been informed that the situation arose from the fact that the estimates originally adopted for the working of that factory were evidently on too large a scale, and that, as a result of that, the Department has necessarily had to cut the work down. I have laid it down that in the case of every factory the manager shall endeavour to arrive at what one may call a normal staff - that is, a staff which will meet the average requirements of the factory - and, should there come a little rush, there shall be no frantic effort to bring in addi tional hands, with the inevitable result that they will have to be dismissed after a while or the operatives called upon to work partial time. It seems to me better to try to fix what is the average staff required, taking one month with the other, and one year with the other. If that can be adopted, there should be no such thing as a dismissal of hands, except for incompetence or something of that kind; still less should there be any broken time. I have laid that down as a policy to be aimed at. I can only regret if we have not yet reached what, I think honorable senators will agree with me, would represent an ideal set of conditions for public factories.

Senator Barnes - Does the Minister know anything of any shortage of military clothing amongst any of the Forces?

Senator MILLEN - I can assure the honorable senator that, as far as I am informed, his information is without foundation. If the work were there to be done, no one would be asked to work broken time. There is not at the present moment sufficient work to keep everybody in all the Departments fully employed. Some of the Departments are working briskly; but in others there has been a shortage of work, necessitating the partial time to which the honorable senator has referred. A little time ago Senator McDougall brought up a quite pathetic case of a lad, whom he represented as being not as big as a rifle, being fined in a Sydney Court half-a-crown for wearing a military uniform when not on duty.

Senator Guthrie - For wearing a military shirt.

Senator MILLEN - A shirt is part of a military uniform. Honorable senators must recognise that there must be some restriction on boys wearing military uniforms when not on duty. The uniforms are not provided for the boys to wear on their camping or sporting expeditions, but are provided for the purposes for which the boys are enrolled under the Act.

Senator Rae - Does the same thing apply to officers?

Senator MILLEN - Undoubtedly.

Senator Rae - A lot of them sport round in their gold braid and fancy rig.

Senator MILLEN - If the honorable senator thinks that no officer should wear a uniform off duty, he can table a motion to that effect, but I am not now dealing with that question. I do put it to honorable senators that there must be some restriction on the use of uniforms supplied by the country for other than military purposes.

Senator Rae - Should not that apply to officers as well as to boys?

Senator Gardiner - I rise to order. I desire to know whether, in replying, the Minister is entitled to introduce new matter?

The PRESIDENT - Strictly speaking, the Minister of Defence is not in order; but I thought it would be conducive to the business of the Senate to allow him to supply information which was asked for by Senator McDougall.

Senator Millen - I do not wish to give the information if it is offensive to the Senate.

Senator Gardiner - The practice is most offensive.

The PRESIDENT - The Minister of Defence is not really replying to a debate in the ordinary sense of the word, because he did not initiate a debate when he moved the motion formally. On this motion the Minister, in common with every other member of the Senate, has the right to refer to matters which may not be relevant to the question at issue. Therefore I do not propose to restrict the Minister in any way.

Senator MILLEN - I hope that Senator Gardiner will recognise that I was only trying to meet the convenience of a member of his party. It is very difficult for me to judge the temper of the Senate. Whenever I make a special effort to oblige it in any way some one finds fault with me. I assure Senator Gardiner that I do not want to be standing here and giving information. I am not doing this to please myself.

Senator Rae - Ought not the restriction to apply to officers as well as to cadets ?

Senator Guthrie - Suppose that the boy was going to a levee.

Senator MILLEN - If the boy was going to a levee it is a pity that the honorable senator was not at the Court to put that point forward by way of defence. The information given to me is that it was brought under the notice of the military authorities in New South Wales that military uniforms and equipment were being used rather freely by members of the Forces when going on private recreation - camping trips - and that special instructions were therefore issued that the trainees were to be warned that the use, for private purposes, of Government property issued to them for military purposes was a breach of the regulations. The District Military Commandant at Sydney states that all the cadets were warned accordingly on three separate occasions. It was after these warnings had been given that a cadet named R. McQuillan, seventeen years old, was proceeded against by summons. He was too old to be taken to the Children's Court, but he was not, as the newspaper paragraph indicated, taken to the Police Court. He was taken to an intermediate Court, which exists in New South Wales, and which is known as the Industrial Court, and by the magistrate presiding there he was fined 2s. 6d., with 3s. costs. I do not think that there was anything in the nature of a breach of justice in that matter.

Senator Rae - It would be far better economics to put that money into a new shirt for the lad.

Senator MILLEN - I dare say that when Cadet McQuillan hears the sentiment of Senator Rae he will be able to suggest that the honorable senator can carry out his good intention. That is the information I have on this case. May I add to a remark I made at the beginning of the sitting in order to put myself right? I wish to supplement an answer I gave to Senator Findley, who asked me a question or two relative to a Royal Commission about to be appointed to inquire into the operations of trusts and combines. I said that the Commission would be drawn out in general terms. That statement is quite true, but I omitted to mention that the Government had requested Mr. Justice Street to give immediate and first attention to the operations of the alleged Beef Trust, and that he had agreed to meet the wish of the Government in this regard. He left Sydney to-night for the purpose of commencing the inquiry in this city, where he is due to-morrow.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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