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Friday, 29 May 1914


Senator PEARCE - Yes. It is to apply, in the case of New South Wales, to three branches of British nationality, and, in the case of Victoria, to one branch of British nationality, and no provision is made for the same sections of British nationality in any other State. I know it may be said that national units did not exist in other States previously, except that in Adelaide, I believe, there was a company of the Scottish battalion, and I think in Perth too.


Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - I - In South Australia also there was an Irish corps.


Senator PEARCE - These companies had got down below the strength, but still they had existed. No proposal is made to resuscitate them, nor is there under this minute any possibility of their being established unless it is extended by some later action of the Ministry as regards the other sections of the British nationality. No proposal is made for that at all. Various Scottish societies have taken this action of mine as being aimed particularly at them. I have just as much admiration for the Scottish people as I have for any other section of the British race, and fully recognise the glorious part they haveplayed in building up the Empire. I have not a word to say derogatory of them, nor have I any feeling whatever against them. I have nothing but admiration for all the sections of the race that have done so much to add lustre to the British name, but it is quite compatible with holding these views to have a desire to build up in Australiaa strong Australian national sentiment based on Australian tradition and associated with Australian ideals. Those who believe that the proper way to build up the national sentiment is to give promin ence to the branches of the British race from which the various sections in our community have descended must also claim to extend the principle to every State of the Commonwealth, and of every section of the British race. They cannot justify giving permission to depart from the territorial organization of the existing defence scheme to build up an Irish, Scottish, or English regiment in Sydney, and deny the same right to Perth, Brisbane, or Hobart. If it is going to be done it ought to be done thoroughly. If it is going to have a good effect on the Defence Forces, why stop short at a partial application of it in one State only?


Senator Oakes -- If it was proposed in all the capitals would you be in favour of it then ?


Senator PEARCE - I shall show clearly where I stand on the question before I finish. If it is right, the proposed action is incomplete, and the very way in which it has been introduced shows that those who have brought it forward are not themselves thorough believers in their own proposal. The argument that these units did not exist in some of the capitals before has no force, because there is quite sufficient of Scottish, Irish, or English descent to form at least a company, and probably a battalion of each nationality in each of the capitals.


Senator Russell - Have they not tried to do so and been refused per mission?


Senator PEARCE - When Minister, I had applications, not only from the capitals, but from places like the Boulder and Launceston, from people of various nationalities, asking that they should be allowed to form national regiments. The applications were refused at the time because we recognised that the militia system, which was then in existence, was passing. A new system had not yet been drafted, and it was decided to hold the applications over until we had decided on what organization the future system was to be based. I want to lay it down as a cardinal principle that we have adopted Lord Kitchener's method of organization for our Forces, and that method is based on the territorial system. The training area is the king-pin of the whole position - an area for a company, so many areas for a battalion, and so many for a brigade. If we depart from the territorial system, where shall we land ourselves? It is proposed to bring in a new sectional national or racial factor - it is hard to know what is the correct term to use. All the branches of the British race are nations in the racial sense, but not in the political sense unless they have self-government. If we recognise the Scottish, Irish, and English races we must recognise also the Welsh, and probably the Cornish. It has been urged outside that Lord Kitchener gave a tentative approval to this proposal, because he recommended that the old system of giving a territorial designation should be continued. What Lord Kitchener meant was the designation of a territory within Australia. Thus before the new scheme camo into operation we had a regiment in Queensland known as the Kennedy regiment. There were various others throughout the Commonwealth with titles indicating the territorial position they occupied. Lord Kitchener, recognising this, advocated the continuance of these designations, and to-day practically every regiment in Australia, in addition to its number, has a territorial designation, such as the Yarra Borderers, at Richmond, the Launceston regiment, in Tasmania, and so on. Prior to the new scheme there were certain military units known as the English, Scottish, or Irish regiments. On the new scheme being promulgated, numbers of these were permitted to retain their distinctive uniform, but the regiments themselves were absorbed into the new Forces, and given a territorial standing based on area. The members of the old militia, not only in these regiments but in all regiments, did not then necessarily belong to the territorial portions to which the regiment was attached, but, as in all cases their services ran out at the expiry of three years, it meant that in the case of all new persons added to the Forces within three years at the longest, and in the greater number of cases earlier than that, the whole of the regiments would be raised within the territories where they themselves were living, and do their hometraining within those territories. The officers also would live in those territories, and thus Lord Kitchener's ideal would be arrived at. He lays it down very strongly in his report that the home-training should be home-training in reality, near the men's homes, and that the officers should live in the vicinity, thus gaining all the advantages arising from personal knowledge. The proposal to superimpose sectional, racial, or national regiments on the area or territorial system will mean this: We shall have the ordinary regiment raised on the territorial basis. To get the others brought up to strength we shall have to invite applications from trainees scattered over varying areas for admission as recruits. When they are admitted they will probably have to go out of their own area for home-training, hav-. ing to travel to some other district, and the regiment itself will not be allied or associated with any particular area in which the men live.


Senator Guthrie - Does that not apply as between the Military and the Naval Forces?


Senator PEARCE - The compulsory portions of the Naval Forces have a territorial area.


Senator Guthrie - They are confined to the sea coast. Why?


Senator PEARCE - That is not pertinent to the issue. We have applied the territorial system equally to the Naval and Military Forces, and a lad living in Camberwell is not allowed to join a naval militia force. He must train with his area at Camberwell; but a lad living at Williamstown can join the naval reserve there if he wishes.


Senator Millen - That is one of the drawbacks of the system.


Senator PEARCE - At any rate that is the system as now applied. It was not difficult to find a reason for the establishment of sectional or national units before the new scheme came into existence. It was almost impossible under the old voluntary system to keep the militia regiment up to the strength, and all sorts of expedients had to be used to attract men into them. One well-known expedient used in every regular army throughout the world, based on voluntary action, is a showy uniform, or an appeal to some sentiment. So English, Irish, and Scotch regiments were organized on a voluntary basis, in the hope that men who had not previously joined the old militia force would find something in the national character of the regiment to attract them into it.


Senator Rae - So that there is a close connexion between military and millinery.


Senator PEARCE - Any one who has seen the regular regiments in the Old Country will recognise that millinery plays a very prominent part in the recruiting for the regular army. At the Horse

Guards I saw a trooper on a horse, dressed in almost medieval uniform, in which he would never be allowed to go on the field of battle. One prominent feature of it was a metal cuirass, polished and shining like silver, and a helmet with an enormous plume of feathers. There he sat like a rock, and the country people would come and stare at him, thinking what a splendid fellow he was. As soon as a likely-looking man stopped, the recruiting sergeant would be after him, asking him if he would like to look like that. To keep the voluntary system up to strength, you must have recourse to these adventitious aids. At the trooping of the colours during the Coronation week, the military officer who was told off to give me any information that I wanted, told me that the busby that he wore cost him £4 10s. I said, " We clothe a soldier from head to foot in Australia for less than that," and he replied, " I wish to God we could do it in Great Britain." Here is a country, at its wits' ends for money for defence purposes, spending it freely on millinery, because the authorities recognise that these things are necessary to keep the volunteer system up to strength. ,


Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - I - In the British service the officers pay for their own uniforms, some of them costing from £100 to £200.


Senator PEARCE - The soldiers do not buy theirs; and if the officer's busby costs £4 10s., the men's would cost at least half that amount, because I could not see any difference. We departed from the voluntary system with our eyes open, because we recognised that it was a hopeless failure. It was found impossible under that to keep the Forces up to their proper strength. Their nominal strength was 25,000 men, but there were not more than 22,000 efficients in the Commonwealth at any time for five years prior to the abandonment of the voluntary system. We purposely departed from that system, and adopted the system of universal and compulsory military training. Having adopted this latter system with our eyes open, why should we go back, and spend a lot of money on fripperies that are absolutely unnecessary for war ? Let us ask ourselves why our soldiers are supplied with a uniform at all. There is only one reason why men do not go to drill or to war in their ordinary clothes. The reason is that if a man is found with a rifle in his hand in time of war, and without a uniform, he is shot as soon as he is captured. It is forbidden by international law for a man to take up arms unless he has a uniform. In the Franco-German war, irregulars who were not supplied with uniforms were shot as soon as they were captured. This is" the one commonsense reason why soldiers must be supplied with a uniform. As they must have a uniform, it should be one which will attract as little attention as possible, will offer no mark to the enemy, and will, in fact, be as invisible as possible. When I watched the trooping of the colours, I asked the officer who accompanied me whether the regiment to which I have a2 ready referred took with them to war any of the uniform in which I saw them, and he said, " Not a single scrap of it. That is their full dress uniform. . It will never leave England in any circumstances whatsoever, unless it be for some ceremonial purpose in India, or elsewhere in the Empire. We should never dream of sending soldiers to war in that uniform. When the regiment goes to war the men will be dressed in plain khaki from head to heel. Even the buttons on the khaki will be painted over. There will then be no pipe-claying and polishing of buttons. Everything will be painted over, so that the uniform will attract as little attention and will be as invisible as possible." Honorable senators are talking about economy in connexion with our military system.


Senator Russell - So are the electors.


Senator PEARCE - We have at the present time a uniform of which General Hamilton speaks in the highest terms in his report. He describes it as " smart and serviceable." We have to remember that the uniform to be adopted should be one that can be worn with the least discomfort to those who have to wear it in time of war. We have had a description of one national uniform proposed put before us, and I am able to discuss it. I regret that I am unable to discuss the others because we have not yet been told what are to be the uniforms adopted for the Irish and English regiments. We can discuss the uniform proposed for the Scottish regiments, because a proposal in connexion with it has been received from the Military Board, although I understand the Minister of Defence has not yet assented to it. The Military Board has put forward a proposal for a uniform for the Scottish regiments which is contained in a parliamentary paper that was ordered to be printed on the 22nd of this month. Accompanying the proposal is an estimate of the cost, and I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the cost is spread over eight years. The military authorities have had experience of khaki uniforms, but I should like to know where they got their experience of the proposed Scottish uniform. If they are being guided by experience of the uniform previously worn by the Scottish regiments, I have only to say that that which is now proposed, is nothing like the uniform previously worn by those regiments. Honorable senators have, no doubt, often seen the uniform which the Scottish regiments used to wear. The new uniform proposed for Scottish regiments includes a khaki coat, and, I assume, a khaki kilt. The old uniform of the Scottish regiments included a scarlet coat.


Senator Story - And a kilt of many colours.


Senator PEARCE - Yes; a scarlet coat and a kilt of many colours. There is no provision in the proposed new uniform for a scarlet coat. I say that, as the uniform now proposed is not that which was previously worn by Scottish regiments in Australia, there is no guarantee that it will last for eight years, as it is claimed it will".


Senator McDougall - If it is only worn on parade, it will last for twenty years.>


Senator PEARCE - I should like to know whether the proposed new uniform is only to be worn on parade, or whether it is a service kit.


Senator Millen - The uniform referred to is a service uniform.


Senator PEARCE - I thought so, and that is indicated by the fact that no provision is made for a service kit. If it had been intended that it should be considered only a full-dress uniform, it would have been necessary to add to the estimate of cost the, price of another uniform for service purposes. Our Defence Forces exist for one purpose, and that is for war.


Senator Guthrie - No; for show.


Senator PEARCE - They exist absolutely for defence purposes. If that were not so we should wipe them out, and should not spend a half-penny upon them. I ask the Minister of Defence whether he would send a Scottish regiment into war with the proposed new uniform.


Senator McDougall - Yes; and they would lead the way every time.


Senator PEARCE - I assure Senator McDougall that I recognise to the full the very valuable services that the Scottish regiments, and particularly the Highland regiments, have given to the British Empire in every campaign. The honorable senator is probably correct in saying that the Scottish regiments would lead the way.


Senator Long - Away from the field.


Senator PEARCE - I do not share that view, and I know that the honorable senator's interjection was merely jocular. Honorable senators should bear in mind that the uniform described in the parliamentary paper, unless it is to be of khaki, with a khaki kilt, will not be the uniform which the Scottish regiments will use in war. What is my reason for saying that? I refer honorable senators to what happened in South Africa. Did the Scottish regiments wear their full-dress uniform in the South African war ? Is it not a fact that they wore khaki aprons over their kilts.


Senator Millen - They had the kilts.


Senator PEARCE - Yes; but they wore khaki aprons over them. I see no provision in the estimate before me for khaki aprons.


Senator Russell - Would not the quickest way to deal with the matter be to let the Scotchmen have the khaki kilts? The difficulty would be at an end in six months.


Senator Millen - The honorable senator does not know Scotchmen when he talks like that.


Senator PEARCE - -What I am afraid of is that the proposal is not to provide a khaki kilt, but some other kilt which will not be used in war. I am afraid that this uniform will not be used in war, and that we are going to be asked to spend money on a uniform for show. I shall give my vote every time against the expenditure of any money on uniforms for show. If this is not to be a show uniform, it will' be a khaki uniform, and' if the Government ask the Scottish people of Australia to accept a khaki kilt, they will tell them to keep it. They will say that it is not a kilt at all. Every penny we spend on defence should be spent for war purposes. This proposal of the Military Board is put forward in a very cunning way. The cost is spread over eight years, and the assumption is that, while a soldier of the ordinary regiments of the Defence Forces will wear out three uniforms in that time, the Scottish soldier will wear out only one. I am aware of the reputation which our Scotch friends have for economy, but I hardly think they expect that they will be able to attend eight camps for training, in addition to the home training, and then have a presentable appearance in a uniform given to them eight years before. We have to remember that the kilt is the customary dress of the Highlander, but how many Scotch or Irish people in Australia wear kilts? The kilt is said to be a sanitary dress, and is much belauded for health reasons. There is no restriction upon its use here, but we do not find people wearing it as part of their ordinary dress in Australia. The young men who will be put into this uniform have been accustomed to wear trousers, and in nearly every case, underpants inside the trousers. We are going to put them into camp in the middle of winter in kilts.


Senator Millen - We do not put them there; they go there.


Senator PEARCE - I do not care how they get there. The point is that, having worn trousers with underpants all the year round, they are sent into camp for eight days, in the middle of winter, and when it may be raining all the time, without their trousers or underpants.


Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - H - How do they manage in the Highlands of Scotland?


Senator PEARCE - I have just said that they are accustomed to wear kilts there, and never wear breeks or underpants at any time. When Senator Stewart was in Scotland, with his kilt flapping around his legs, the cold blasts of the north never troubled him in the slightest.


Senator Stewart - Not a bit.


Senator PEARCE - But put Senator Stewart into kilts now.


Senator Stewart - I would not wear a khaki kilt.


Senator PEARCE - After years of association with the effeminate Sassenach, and the adoption of his peculiar clothes, the honorable senator would die in a week if he were put into kilts. Viewed in the light of common sense, this proposal is a fantastic one. I shall compare the first cost of the different articles. I take, first, the Australian uniform - one pair of breeches, lis. 9d.; one cap, 2s.; one hat, 6s. 3d.; one pair of putties, 6s. 9d.; one shirt, 10s. ; total, £1 13s. 9d. According to the paper submitted, the proposed Scottish uniform will cover - One cap, 2s. ; one hat, 6s. 3d. j one pair of gaiters, 6d. ; kilts, £1 Ss. 6d. ; hose tops, one pair, 4s. 3d. ; shirt, 10s. ; sporan, 8s. 6d. ; spats, one pair, 3s. 3d. ; or a total of £3 3s. 3d. Let us now look at the system which it is proposed shall be adopted. During the past few weeks, the Military Orders in the metropolitan area have practically been converted into leaflets for the purpose of beating up enthusiasm on this question. Those leaflets have contained appeals to men to come forward and recruit for these national regiments. I have been informed by one brigade-major that in his brigade he has, so far, been successful in securing only twelve recruits.


Senator Millen - It is only fair to say that there has also been a report going round, through the mouths of officers, that they need not bother to get recruits because the Senate was going to knock the system on the head.


Senator PEARCE - I do not know what this Chamber is going to do. I do not know whether the statement of the brigadier in question is correct. But let us suppose that more recruits offer than the establishment will permit. What will happen? Take the case of an Australian who is the son of Irish parents living at Woolloomooloo, and who desires to join the Irish regiment. When all the applications have been received, let us assume that it is found that there are more applicants than the Gazette establishment will allow. What will then happen? Obviously, some will be rejected and others selected. To-day we allow recruiting for the Artillery, the Army Service Corps, and the Medical Corps. Why? We permit it in the case of the Artillery in order that we may get the services of men who are used to mechanical trades. But the question of their nationality or of their ability to pay does not enter into their selection. But who will make the selection for these national regments? Why, the .officers of the regiments. Thus we may have two

Irish -Australians applying for selection. One will be taken, and the other left. In effect, the latter will be told that he is not thought good enough to be a member of the Irish regiment, but that he is good enough for an Australian regiment.


Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - I - It is not a question of being good enough at all.


Senator PEARCE - I, am an Australian before I am an Englishman, and, if there is to be a process of selection, I hold that we should make the flower regiments of this country the Australian regiments.


Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - T - They will all be Australian regiments.


Senator PEARCE - In a sense, that is true enough.


Senator Russell - Suppose that a Scotch boy's application for admission to a Scotch regiment is turned down, will he be allowed to wear a kilt in an Australian regiment ?


Senator PEARCE - No. The mere fact that he has not been selected for the Scottish regiment will prevent him from wearing the national dress, but another applicant who is selected for the Scottish regiment will be allowed to wear it.


Senator McDougall - The honorable senator has just been telling us that we cannot keep up the establishment of these regimen te.


Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator has put words into my mouth which I did not utter. I said that one brigade-major had told me that he had secured only twelve recruits. Such a system as. that under discussion will undoubtedly lead to the establishment of class regiments. Unfortunately, it is a fact that the great majority of our officers, especially officers of the higher rank, have been chosen practically from one class. Owing to the cost of uniforms and to the demands made upon their time, it has, until recently, been practically impossible for a working man tomaintain a position as an officer. In all ranks practically above that of captain, the great majority of our officers have been drawn from one social class. I am glad to say, however, that under the universal training system - under which promotion can be obtained only as the result of competitive examination - a far greater proportion of our officers are working men, and the sons of working men, than was ever the case before. But the selection of men for these national regiments will be in the hands of the senior officers, who have, in the past,, been chosen from one class. Thus we are going to make a distinction-


Senator Oakes - Is not there a distinction when one set of boys is trained in the college grounds while another set is trained at night?


Senator PEARCE - Yes, and the only way to overcome that trouble is to adopt the suggestion of Mr. Fisher, and train the boys in their working hours. Had the referenda proposals been carried, it was our firm intention to bring forward a proposition to that effect. Indeed, we had pledged ourselves to bring forward a Bill, if necessary, to provide for PaY. ment for the period that the lads were absent from work. If the present Ministry will do that, on behalf of my colleagues in this Chamber, I can promise them our support to a man. Before closing, I wish to tell honorable senators that this matter has been discussed by persons other than politicians. During the time that I held office as Minister of Defence, I inaugurated a system under which the commanding officers in each State are brought together once a year for the purpose of making suggestions for the improvement of the organization of our Defence Forces. These State conferences elect delegates to a central conference, which goes carefully through the whole of the recommendations submitted to it, preparatory to making recommendations to the Military Board. I am glad, indeed, that Senator Millen has continued that system. These militia officers' conferences met last year, and discussed this question. They almost unanimously voted against the proposal to re-establish national regiments.


Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - W - Were any officers from the national regiments present at those conferences?


Senator PEARCE - I cannot say. The Australian Natives' Association in this State - an association which has done a great deal to propagate Australian sentiment - at its annual conference at Wangaratta on 24th March last passed a resolution condemning the establishment of these regiments.


Senator Lt Colonel O'loghlin - T - The Australian Natives' Association in Victoria is the only association of that kind" which has done so.


Senator PEARCE - This matter came before me when I was Minister of Defence in various ways. A deputation waited upon me in respect of it, and it was made the subject of a resolution in another place. It has been said that in taking up my present stand I have gone back upon the view which I expressed in reply to that deputation. As a matter of fact, I have done nothing of the sort. At the time the deputation waited upon me the motion submitted in another place had not been dealt with. I told that deputation that if Parliament gave me a direction on this question I was, of course, bound to accept it. At the same time I did not pledge myself to accept a direction from the House of Representatives only. The Military Board has also dealt with the question, and has recommended the establishment of these national regiments, subject to a condition, as has also the Inspector-General. That condition is that the regiments should be established provided that those who join them pledge themselves to be liable for service in any part of the Empire. I refused to sanction that. I took up the position that as these regiments were in existence, and as the militia forces in three years would be totally absorbed by the new citizen forces, I would not do anything to disturb their distinctive dress until by effluxion of time their members retired from our Defence Forces. But I have never given any sanction to making these regiments part of our national defence scheme, which is based on territorial lines. I have moved this motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders because it is only fair, both to the Minister and myself, that the matter should be dealt with before the expiry of the fifteen days from the date on which the regulation was laid on the table of the Senate. I ask honorable senators to deal with this question impartially, and upon its merits. I ask them to remember that we owe a duty to Australia - that of doing all we can to build up an Australian national sentiment. We are the sons of the British race, and we want to fuse all the members of that race in Australia into one. We want to forget the differences that very often divided us in the Old Country.


Senator Oakes - I do not.


Senator PEARCE - I think that we all .do. I want to remember every historic association which will be of value in bringing the different members of our race together, and which can be of service here in helping us to create a sound, healthy, national Australian sentiment. Let us be Australians first, and if we are true to Australia we shall be true to the Empire of which Australia is a part. Our first duty is to Australia, and whether we be Scotch, Irish, or English, if we wish to be Australians in the truest sense of the word we will do everything possible to foster a national sentiment, and we will discourage everything that is calculated to divide Australian sentiment into apartments, be they racial, religious, or social.







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