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Wednesday, 18 November 1914

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - This measure, so far as the larger number of its provisions is concerned, has already made two appearances before this Chamber, and, regarding that portion of it, I do not propose to say anything at this juncture. There are certain additions which have been made, and to one or two of them I will address myself. The Bill, as the Minister very correctly stated the other day, is a very innocent and small instalment of the reforms which are necessary, but he hazarded the opinion, in which, I suppose, the Senate generally will concur, that the present is certainly no time to face those reforms, which undoubtedly the Department and the Forces are calling for. But there is one reform to which, seeing that it is dealt with incidentally in the Bill, I would like to impress on the attention of the Minister. I have already referred here to the fact that our organizations and plans, even our rules and regulations, are all designed for the defence of Australia from the attack of a raiding force. Both now and on a previous occasion Australia found that it was not called upon to meet the attack of an enemy approaching our shores, but, in common with the rest of the Empire, our contingents went out to fight in other countries. For an emergency of that kind we have no provision..

There is nothing either in our defence scheme, in the organization* of the Army itself, or in the provision for equipment, which contemplates a possibility of that kind. Yet it does seem to me inevitable that whenever the Empire is at war Australia will desire to take an active share in the war. That" being so, I do suggest that the Minister of Defence should address himself to the question of presenting to us some proposals by which, without maintaining in the time of peace a military force for service abroad, we should, at least, have the organization which would enable that force to be enrolled and sent forward at the earliest possible date. I intend to show later that in this Bill there has been some attempt made to provide for the circumstances which were brought about when we sent an Expeditionary Force abroad. I am sorry to say that the one effort which is being made in that direction seems to cut right across the bedrock of our defence system, but I will refer to that a little later. Before taking the proposals of the Bill as they come, I would like to direct the attention of the Minister to some remarks he made the other day commenting upon a brief speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, and that was the time taken in the despatch of our Expeditionary Force. The Minister expressed the opinion, and it is a very sound one, that it was not advisable to send out ill-trained troops. I understood his argument to be on these lines : that, as our troops to go into the field must be trained, it is advisable to train them thoroughly before we send them abroad. I quite agree that it is necessary to have the troops trained, but let me point out that, if the Minister keeps then here till they are trained, there will still have to be an inevitable delay after they reach Europe. If, for instance, our troops were trained up to the last moment here, there would still have to be further delay when they reached Europe. That arises from the fact that a very large number of our troops are mounted, and even those which are infantry employ a- considerable number of horses, for infantry cannot move without horses. When the horses have completed a journey across the water extending from six weeks to two months, no horse will be in a position to do anything more than crawl . If the Minister refers to his officers, or cares to consult those who have had a very large experience in the shipment of horses to India, he will find that when horses are unshipped in India the practice is to turn them out into a paddock and to allow them to take such exercise as they please. It is not until two or three weeks have gone by in that way that the horses are compelled to take gentle exercise only, and it is possibly six weeks before an attempt is made to work them. Now, a trip to Europe is longer than a trip to India; therefore that delay must inevitably take place. I ask the Minister to ascertain if it is not possible, despite the desire to send our troops as well trained as possible, to reduce the time for which they are kept here, bearing in mind that in England, if that is to be the final destination, it will be necessary to delay matters until the horses can be got into condition, when the men could complete their training. If there is to be six weeks or two months of absence from the battlefield in the training camps at Home- and it does seem to me that period is rendered necessary by a consideration for the horses - we might reasonably make an effort to shorten the period of training here. If that can be done I am sure that the Minister will be the first to agree that the value of Australia's help to the Empire will be considerably augmented by every day's delay we can avoid in sending our troops away.

Senator Pearce - You recognise that lighthorsemen, for the six weeks when the horses are not available, can get no training as lighthorsemen.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister knows perfectly well that a great portion of the training of lighthorsemen is infantry training, and that the horses -are used merely as a means of locomotion. Mounted riflemen are not cavalry, but merely infantry, who are mounted for the purpose of greater mobility. Now I turn to some of the proposals in the Bill. The first proposal to which I wish to direct attention is that which deals with the area, within which residents are liable to training. I see that the radius is 5 miles. I ask the Minister to consider whether that is not too long a distance to compel a boy to go to receive his training. . If a boy is outside the 5-miles limit he is exempt, but if he is living at a distance of 4- miles and 7-8ths he is liable to go to the nearest training centre. I think that the

Minister, if lie looks into this provision, will find that it represents, in a large number of cases, a very great hardship indeed.

Senator Pearce - The provision says " shall not exceed 5 miles." In some areas we can make the distance 3 or 2 miles.

Senator MILLEN - At the same time the liability is on a resident within 5 miles to go in for 'training.

Senator Pearce - No; it all depends upon the area which is subsequently proclaimed.

Senator MILLEN - I am not saying that every boy will have to travel 5 miles. The Bill exempts from training boys who are more than 5 miles away from a training centre. Therefore it makes it obligatory for every boy within the 5 -miles radius to go into training.

Senator Pearce - No.

Senator MILLEN - It makes every boy liable to training. Cases, not of 5 miles, but of 3 miles, came under my notice. I venture to say that the provision represents a very great hardship in the case of boys, who, after working all day, have to go home, get a wash and take a meal, and then to travel 3 miles to a training centre. I am speaking now as a firm believer in the system, and as one who wants to remove causes of friction, believing that its ultimate success will rest -entirely on the goodwill with which it is received by the people. Every year is bringing into the ranks of those who will make or unmake the system the boys who have passed through the course.

Senator Pearce - I was proposing to limit that to 3 miles, and it was pointed out to me that in the regulations we -could do that, whereas-

Senator MILLEN - The Minister will find, if he makes an inquiry, that there have been complaints from parents whose circumstances were such as I have related. Until we can extend our Instructional Staff, and until the population increases sufficiently to enable us to have a larger number of corps, it seems to me that the distance provided by the Defence Act to-day is excessive, and as such represents a hardship on a very considerable number of our lads. There is a somewhat bigger evil still. I do not know whether the Minister's attention has been drawn to the fact, but in shaping the areas when the system was first launched, and with the very natural desire to follow the rail ways for the purpose of transport, areas were included which were so far apart that, when the lads passed from the Cadets into the Citizen Forces, they went into camp without having been trained. The Minister has only to look over the records of the Liverpool camp incident to find ample confirmation of my statement. Along the north-western railway in New South Wales - that is the line which runs from Sydney to Narrabri and Moree - there is an area which includes quite a number of towns. In one town it was found, for various reasons, that only eight lads were liable for enrolment; in another town, thirteen lads ; and, in another town, twenty lads. These lads were scattered along miles of railway in order to make one regiment. The boys were not trained, because the limited number of instructors could not cover that extensive area. The boys had no chance of being put together ; they did not know their officers, nor did the officers know the boys. It was no wonder, therefore, that, when the lads got to camp, they, instead of being familiar with elementary training, were simply a raw mob, through no fault of their own. Here, again, I am not criticising, because I can quite understand that these areas were first designed, to a large extent, on paper. I am only directing attention to experience which ought to enable us, by readjusting the areas, to avoid the evil to which I have referred. There ought to be some limit. We ought to lay it down as a principle that we will not include within an area to which compulsory training applies any centre not sufficiently populous to give such a number of boys as would justify us in having a proper instructional officer there, or an officer to visit them at least with sufficient frequency. That is not the case to-day, and I trust that, now the Minister is on the matter of exemptions, he will look into it as early as possible. When I left office the initial steps had been taken to ascertain how far the areas might be revised. I hope the Minister will see the matter is not lost sight of, because it is putting the boys to considerable inconvenience, and doing no good to the Forces. The Minister, like myself, has been brought face to face with the constant and pressing difficulty of granting exemptions from the legal obligations imposed by the Defence Act. We have laid it down that everybody is liable to service, but no provision is made for granting exemptions other than those set out in the Act. I am sure the Minister, as I did, must have come across numberless instances where to compel boys to discharge their legal obligation would be, not only a hardship, but would possibly deprive them of their means of livelihood. We have no provision in the law to meet cases of that kind. I have already told the Senate that I had broken the law, and granted exemptions. There is no legal power to do so.

Senator Long - That will be used in evidence against you.

Senator MILLEN - I am not at all frightened, because, if the cases were brought forward, there is not a man here who would not approve of exemptions being granted in the circumstances. It would be more correct to say, not that I broke the law, but that I refrained from enforcing it in certain cases. The Minister now comes forward with a proposal to legalize what has been done. The Bill leaves each case to be dealt with by the Minister upon its merits. I do not know whether Senator Pearce is looking for trouble, but the clause seems likely to open the flood-gates of trouble for him. I know nothing more undesirable or unfortunate for the Minister than to have representations made to him asking him to say that in this, that, or the other particular case he shall exempt a boy from his legal obligations. It would have been better to make an effort to put in the Act itself the circumstances and conditions which would entitle a boy to ask for exemption.

Senator Long - I hope they will be exempted from solitary confinement.

Senator MILLEN - I was never responsible for imposing it. I think the Minister stated the matter very fairly here the other day.

Senator Pearce - You were responsible for it in the same way that I was charged with being responsible for it - that a lad was put in solitary confinement while you were in office.

Senator MILLEN - And while the honorable senator was in office.

Senator Pearce - Yes.

Senator MILLEN - And he was put there under a regulation which it happened to be the Minister's luck to sign.

Senator Pearce - -No: he was not.

Senator MILLEN - Well. I did not sign it.

Senator Long - Was it only an accident that you did not sign it?

Senator MILLEN - It is very probable that, when the regulations were brought forward, whoever was in office would have signed them.

Senator Pearce - The fortress regulations under which the boy was put in solitary confinement were probably signed by the first Minister of Defence. This was a purely fortress regulation, which was never intended to apply to Senior Cadets.

Senator MILLEN - At any rate, the Senior Cadets got the benefit of it. With regard to the proposal to throw on the Minister the responsibility of saying whether a boy shall or shall not carry out his obligations under the Defence Act, I know the difficulty, but still suggest that it would be better, not only for the Minister, but for those who may follow him, to give some indication of the class of cases where Parliament would approve of exemptions being granted.

Senator Ferricks - I think it would be impossible to set them out.

Senator MILLEN - In spite of that very confident interjection from an experienced parliamentarian, I refuse to believe that the brains of the Defence Department, plus the brains of the Law Department, cannot devise some provision which would enable Parliament toexpress its approval of the terms on which exemptions are to be granted.

Senator Pearce - Take the son of a widow. The son of one widow may easily be able to carry out his training without hardship, but to the son of another it might be a real hardship.

Senator MILLEN - But there is no reason to say that the son of a widow should escape. The principle which guided me when in office was that, where the training, when carried out, would so interfere with the boy's occupation as to destroy or reduce his means of livelihood, there was a sound reason to grant exemption; but; merely to say that a boy must be exempted because he is the son of a widow would be ridiculous, as the widow might be a millionairess. So far as one can judge the sentiment of the people of this country, there is no desire on their part to enforce the military obligations to the extent of destroying a boy's means of livelihood. That should be the test. If a boy can discharge his duty under the Act without impairing his means of livelihood, he should be called upon to do so ; but, immediately it interferes with his means of livelihood, there is a reasonable ground for relaxing the obligation. It will be extremely difficult for the Minister, or any one else in his chair, to take on himself the responsibility of saying what boy shall or shall not be allowed to go free. It will depend, in that case, not altogether on the merits, but a good deal on the force and pertinacity with which the case may be pressed on Ministerial attention. One advocate a little more capable of putting a case in attractive form than another may secure an exemption, whilst an equally meritorious claim in less "successful hands would be refused. I am suggesting this course because of my own experience, and also because I believe it would save a good deal of the criticism ' which would otherwise be likely to arise to the effect that favoritism was being shown. If we can lay it down in the law itself, or devise some machinery by which we shall avoid placing on the shoulders of the Minister the difficult obligation of deciding on what must always be a very nice point, I am confident that it will give greater satisfaction to the community and relieve the Minister of a great deal of trouble. Tnere seems to be a proposition in the Bill that will cut across the very foundations of our defence system, which provides primarily and essentially for a Citizen Defence Force. We have sought to limit the Permanent Forces to a minimum, professing at least to desire only so many permanent soldiers and such permanent units as may be necessary for the efficiency of the Citizen Forces. They are, to a large extent, the handmaidens of the Citizen Army, but there seems to be a proposal in the Bill which is going to depart from, or, at any rate, widen the principle very considerably, and to a dangerous extent. By clause 7 it is proposed to introduce an amendment, the effect of which will be to enable the establishment, enlistment, and enrolment of permanent forces in time of war. I know of no reason why we should enlist permanent forces in time of war more than at any other time. To make them permanents units in time of war would mean continuing them as permanent units in time of peace.

Senator Pearce - No; what is the Expeditionary Force but a permanent unit for the time of the war?

Senator MILLEN - That is like saying that this Chamber is sitting permanently for the day. If all the Minister desires is power to enrol for a specific period - say, the duration of a war or some reasonable period afterwards) - I have no objection to what is attempted, although my objection to the language still remains.

Senator Pearce - Where do you get authority under . the Defence Act to raise expeditionary forces?

Senator MILLEN - I am not objecting to authority being obtained to*- enrol men for expeditionary forces. In fact I commenced by saying that some such authority was necessary ; but if that was the intention, these words go much beyond it. The present Act reads as follows: -

No permanent military forces shall be raised, maintained, or organized . except for Administrative and Instructional Staffs, including Staff Corps, Army Service, Medical, Veterinary, and Ordnance . Corps, Artillery, Fortress Engineers, and Submarine Mining Engineers. '

To that it is now proposed to add '.' or except Expeditionary Forces in time of war." If it is intended only by these words to take power to enrol for the definite purposes of a war and for some period afterwards, and that the expeditionary forces shall fall back into the ordinary citizen ranks afterwards, I am satisfied, although I still think the words employed are much too wide for that limited meaning. If that is the Minister's intention, he and I are quite in accord as to what should be done. It is only a matter of determining the right wording to express it. I hope Australia will still adhere to the idea of a citizen army, but I fear there is a growing danger, unless something is done to check it, of that ideal being gradually abandoned and a permanent force being allowed to grow. We have already increased our permanent forces to twice the number that Lord Kitchener said would be sufficient. The extension of the permanent units has been gradually going on.

Senator Senior - Before the outbreak of the war?

Senator MILLEN - Yes. I do not know that since then there has been any room for expansion. The danger of our permanent forces growing undoubtedly exists. It is impossible to come in contact with leading permanent officers without finding that they naturally desire to have permanent soldiers.

Senator Pearce - Lord Kitchener's recommendation to give two full reliefs to certain army services has never yet been given effect to.

Senator MILLEN - That may be one case, but the Minister will not dispute that we have twice the number of permanent soldiers to-day that Lord Kitchener said was necessary.

Senator Pearce - That is due entirely to the fact that we have organized two batteries of field artillery which he did not contemplate.

Senator MILLEN - The expansion runs through every branch. At any rate I want to direct attention to a growing danger.

Senator Bakhap - We ought to have more permanent soldiers than Lord Kitchener recommended.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - I think so, too.

Senator MILLEN - I am sorry that my honorable friends disagree with me, but I still feel, from my limited experience of the Department, that unless the country keeps a careful eye upon it there will be a steady pressure on the part of permanent officers to gradually increase the permanent units, until, before we know where we are, instead of the permanent units being kept down to the minimum necessary to the efficiency of the citizen soldiers, they will become the major portion of the army. I am utterly opposed to that, and should not have spoken on the matter, especially at this time, unless I had felt that there was a grave danger involved.

Senator Keating - Do you think there is any danger of a military bureaucracy?

Senator MILLEN - If you will allow it to grow, " Yes." Of course, I have sufficient faith in the democracy of Australia to say that the moment it detects anything of that kind it will stamp upon it with both feet. But I wish to prevent it from growing up to be stamped upon. I do not say for a moment that the Department is tied down by Lord Kitchener's recommendation ; but, as the result of knowledge which came to me in that Department, I have no hesitation in stating that there is a steady pressure from all quarters to augment the list of permanent soldiers throughout the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the proposal contained in clause 7 of this Bill indicates the effect of that pressure. I do hope that, before the measure emerges from Committee, the Minister will confer with his legal advisers, who are better able to express a definite opinion than I am as to whether or not the addition of the words "or except Expeditionary Forces in time of war," would not permit of the creation of permanent units which would continue as permanent units after the war had ceased. Then it is proposed to include amongst the permanent corps for which authority is to be given, an aviation corps. I admit that the nucleus of a permanent aviation corps is desirable, but I do not think that, even in this matter, we canafford to ignore the pressure to which I have referred. I am quite sure that in the aviation corps we can supply the major proportion of our requirements from our Citizen Forces, if we are disposed to do that. I hope that the Minister will put his foot down upon anything other than the creation of the necessary nucleus-

Senator Pearce - But the instructors must be permanent men.

Senator MILLEN - Yes. But there are some very elaborate proposals to be found in the Defence Department, one of which the Minister himself turned down before he quitted office on the last occasion. The professional soldier is always disposed to regard the citizen soldier as a somewhat secondary quantity, and is ever anxious to build up the permanent side of our Defence Force.

Senator Bakhap - Because he recognises the superiority of the Permanent Forces.

Senator MILLEN - I admit that superiority. But I would point out that Australia is not committed to the establishment of a Permanent Force.

Senator de Largie - It will not have it.

Senator Bakhap - It may regret its decision yet.

Senator MILLEN - If we find that the training which our youths now undergo is not sufficient to make our Citizen Army efficient, let us call for greater sacrifices on the part of our citizen soldiers, and give them greater remuneration for their services. I am not convinced that we cannot provide the major portion of our requirements from our citizen soldiers. At any rate, we should endeavour to do so before multiplying the permanent lists of our soldiers. There is particular need for my remarks in regard to the aviation branch of our defence system. I do not suppose that, in the whole of a modern army, one can find any corps in which there is so much absolute idleness, and in which there is such a brief life, as there is for those who join the flying corps.

Senator Pearce - In what sense does the honorable senator mean a "brief" life?

Senator MILLEN - I do not mean brief from the stand-point of mortality. But at Home it is recognised that, after a man has been in the flying corps four or five years, he is done. His nerve has gone. Consequently, I ask, What are we going to do with our airmen - if they be permanent men - when they cease to be of value as aviators? Hence the reason why we should call upon our citizen soldiers to discharge the duties appertaining to this corps.

Senator Pearce - We must get men who can fly to teach those who cannot.

Senator MILLEN - That is obvious. I quite recognise that we must have a permanent Instructional Staff. But unless a very strong hand is kept on the military officers who make recommendations in these matters the aviation corps will be largely increased by permanent appointments. I know that the recommendations in the Department to-day would, if adopted, be sufficient to create a very elaborate corps indeed. In my opinion, that is quite unnecessary, and would be extremely costly. I am certain that if. the regulations are shaped attractively we can obtain from our citizen soldiers ample material to thoroughly equip our flying squadrons. Consequently, I trust that no effort will be made to take into the aviation corps any more than instructors and mechanics. My criticism is not prompted by any hostility to the Bill or to the Department. I have merely discharged what I conceive to be my duty. Certain facts have come to my knowledge, and I have formed certain opinions regarding them. If there be one question in our public life which calls for a free expression of opinion it is that of our Defence Forces. It was never more necessary that there should be a full understanding of what is going on in our Defence Department than it is now. There are other mutters in this Bill of a subordinate character, but which are nevertheless of some importance, to which I might refer, but it seems to me that they can with more advantage be discussed in Committee, and consequently I shall reserve my remarks until we reach that stage. I trust that the Minister will regard my efforts as being dictated by a desire to improve this measure, and not to destroy its usefulness or to harass his efforts in getting it passed into law.

Motion (by Senator Stewart) proposed -

That the debate be now adjourned.

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