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Friday, 29 May 1914

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - I regret very much that the Minister of Defence has yielded to the pressure brought to bear upon him by a very small section of the citizens of Australia to introduce into the Citizens' Army sectional differences.

Senator Millen - Seeing that I advocated this system long before I became Minister of Defence, that is not a correct statement to make.

Senator FINDLEY - I have never at any time been wildly enthusiastic in regard to any phase of militarism, but I realize to the full that Australia has declared emphatically in favour of the citizen soldiery that we have established, and that that citizen soldiery appeals to every true Australian. When Senator Oakes said that recently he saw 30,000 cadets marching through the streets of Sydney, and that the sight to him was by no means inspiring - that it was a disappointment to him - one asked himself why, and the honorable senator answered the question by saying it was because the boys all wore the same uniform.

Senator Oakes - No; I said lack of enthusiasm.

Senator FINDLEY - Because there was a lack of enthusiasm due, according to the reasoning of the honorable senator, to the fact that there were not multicoloured uniforms in the procession.

Senator Oakes - Not necessarily that, but there was the fact.

Senator FINDLEY - If there is one thing in connexion with our citizen soldiery that does particularly appeal to me and makes that citizen soldiery inspiring when parading the streets of a capital, it is that they are all dressed alike, and are all subject to the same training and drill.

Senator Senior - A garden would not appeal to me if it was all of one colour.

Senator FINDLEY - Are we to judge of the capacity of our soldiers by the uniforms they wear? According to Senator Oakes, the uniform makes the soldier. Senator Pearce, who had charge of the Defence Department, knows different from that, and so does every other man who gives to the matter any thought at all. What does this proposal mean?

Senator Oakes - Like Senator Senior, I would not like to have a garden of the one colour.

Senator Long - I would, as long as the colour was green.

Senator FINDLEY - I ask the Minister of Defence what does the proposed innovation mean ? Does it mean that if sectional regiments come into existence the cost of the uniforms they will be permitted to wear will be borne by those who are not going to wear them, but who are to contribute, like every other citizen, to the taxation for the defence of Australia ?

Senator Millen - They will be paid for just the same as other uniforms.

Senator FINDLEY - "We are informed that if sectional regiments come "into existence, the cost incidental to them will be borne by the Commonwealth. In the event of an invasion, is it the intention that, in addition to the expenditure for uniforms, the sectional regiments shall not go to war in their gaudy uniforms, but shall be all dressed alike on the battlefield? If that is so, the sectional regiments will have an advantage over others.

Senator Millen - Where?

Senator FINDLEY - Because the men in the sectional regiments will not go to war in kilts.

Senator MILLEN (TASMANIA) - Will they not? They have always done so.

Senator FINDLEY - Then we are encouraging the growth of sectional regiments, and if the Highlanders are to go into the battlefield with vari-coloured uniforms, the Irish, the English, and every other section of the community are to be encouraged to wear national dress if they go into the Defence Forces. What a beautiful army it would be!

Senator Turley - Did we send any Australian soldiers in kilts to South Africa?

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think that we did. I do not believe that many of our soldiers would have returned if they had gone there in that kind of dress.

Senator McDougall - Men in kilts were there all the same ; right in the front fighting line. °

Senator FINDLEY - We ought never to forget that while old systems die hard we have established a new system in Australia, and one that is different from any other system of defence in the world. As all the trainees in our citizen soldiery will be native-born Australians, they ought to dress in accordance with the conditions laid down in regard to uniformity of dress, and irrespective of their position. Whether they be the sons of wealthy parents or of poor parents, they all have to undergo the same course of training and drill. As soon as we make an invidious distinction with regard to sectional regiments, so soon shall we create class distinctions in our citizen soldiery.

Senator Oakes - The English Army ought to have gone to pieces long ago.

Senator Guthrie - Why make any distinction in the ranks?

Senator FINDLEY - I know of no distinction so far as the citizen soldiery are concerned. The Fisher Government opened the doorway to every Australian boy to qualify for the highest position in the citizen soldiery, as well as in the Australian Navy, and the only passport to a position was by competitive examination. But here is a serious proposition by the Minister of Defence to bring into existence sectional regiments, and the boys whose parents happen to be Scotch, and to have a fairly well-lined purse-

Senator Millen - What has the purse to do with the matter?

Senator FINDLEY - It has a good deal to do with the matter, because the cost of the uniform for a national regiment will be much more than the cost of the uniform worn by the majority of the Australian trainees.

Senator Millen - That is not so; and, in any case, the uniform is to be paid for by the Commonwealth.

Senator FINDLEY - Without having, perhaps, the knowledge which the Minister apparently possesses-

Senator Millen - I know what I am proposing to do.

Senator FINDLEY - I say that the regimental costume worn by the average Scotchman is much more expensive than the one worn by the Australian trainees.

Senator Pearce - It costs nearly twice as much.

Senator Millen - The former costs ls. 9d. more than the latter.

Senator Pearce - On your basis of wearing out, which is a guess.

Senator FINDLEY - It does seem absurd to me that, in connexion with the Australian Army, the Minister should give special facilities to the boys of those parents who happen to be better circumstanced than the parents of the poorest boys.

Senator Millen - How can you say that that affects the position when, whatever the cost of the uniform may be, the Commonwealth is going to pay it?

Senator FINDLEY - I want to emphasize this point: that if the uniform is going to cost more-

Senator Millen - But it is not.

Senator FINDLEY - In my opinion it is. Why should a small minority have that advantage over the great majority?

Senator Millen - Why should we pay more for certain uniforms to-day than for others ?

Senator Oakes - In the Continental armies there is always a difference in the uniforms.

Senator FINDLEY - For a moment it is immaterial to me whether the uniform will cost more or less. My opinion is that once the Minister of Defence creates sectional regiments he weakens the citizen soldiery, and if there is anything that an Australian ought to stand for it is the system of defence which puts all Australian boys on the same footing in regard to dress, training, and drill.

Senator Millen - "Why did you not do it, then?

Senator FINDLEY - However, the Minister wants to make a departure from that, and, if he does, I venture to say that instead of strengthening the citizen soldiery, it will immeasurably weaken that soldiery in the course of years.

Senator Oakes - It has not done so in Germany or France.

Senator FINDLEY - I am not concerned with any other country than Australia for the time being. We are not legislating for France, or Germany, or any other Continental country, but in the interests of the Commonwealth. I feel strongly on this matter, and sincerely regret that the Minister of Defence has yielded to pressure, possibly in order to placate a minority who desire this kind of thing. It may or may not mean votes; but, irrespective of whether it means votes in favour of me or against me, I am giving an honest vote on the question. I believe that the Minister's proposal will have a tendency to seriously undermine and weaken our Citizen Defence Forces, and create class distinctions that ought not to be tolerated here.

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