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Thursday, 19 November 1914

Senator FERRICKS (Queensland) . - I desire to refer to a matter upon which representations have been made to me from various parts of Queensland. It appears that many persons who were attached to volunteer corps in days gone by, and who still hold military titles, are desirous of doing something in the interests of the nation at the present time. Many of them are not in a position to volunteer for service at the front owing to domestic ties, although they have the inclination to do so; and it has been represented to me that it might be of assistance to the Defence Department if these individuals were authorized to drill, in their respective localities, citizens who are not now undergoing military training. The people who desire to be trained in these areas are somewhat apprehensive of the future. They fear that the present Titanic struggle in Europe may eventually be transferred to Australia. This matter is one which, I think, should be considered by the Minister. Perhaps it may be possible to give administrative effect to my suggestion without actually providing for it in this Bill.

Senator Turley - The Defence Department has not an Instructional Staff strong enough to carry on our cadet training now.

Senator FERRICKS - But the men of whom I speak are in a position to do the instructional work in the localities in which they reside. They would become honorary instructors. A more serious omission from this Bill is that in it no attempt has been made to safeguard Australia against foes from within, not merely in time of war, but in time of peace. These enemies of Australia and of the British Empire are not confined to the countries with which Great Britain and the Allied Forces are now at war. Many of them, I am sorry to say, pose as high-minded patriots, as great Britishers, and as professional flagflappers. For years past it has been their practice to refer to the disloyalty of the people of the Commonwealth. From the heads of these so-called leaders of thought in Australia clown to the most insignificant exponent of their allegations, it has been the custom to refer to the Labour party as being disloyal to Great Britain and the nation. Very few people are now prepared to regard them seriously, because they have seen from what section of the community in Australia military service to the nation has come. Nevertheless, these persons have encouraged the enemies of Great Britain, and have inspired them to go ahead and attack the Old Country whenever the opportunity arose. We had an. illustration of this practice from no less a person than the Bight Honorable Joseph Cook, the ex-Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Some three or four months ago he referred to the Australian Navy as " Fisher's cockle-shell ships."

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT Gould - Not to the Australian Navy. The honorable senator is in error when he makes that statement. Mr. Cook was referring to the cockle-shell ships which were proposed by Mr. Fisher some years ago.

Senator FERRICKS - I am not going to discuss the question of who is respon.sible for the creation of the Australian Navy.

The PRESIDENT - I would point out to the honorable senator that that matter is extraneous to this Bill.

Senator FERRICKS - I recognise that. The people gave their opinion upon it on the 5th September last, and I am quite satisfied with! that verdict. But the omission from this Bill of which I complain is provision to deal with persons like those who some time since held up the present Prime Minister - after he had filled that office on two occasions - as one who had advocated hauling down the flag and cutting the painter. Still another gentleman who occupied a high official position - I allude to Mr. Elliot Johnson on, who was Speaker of the other branch of the Legislature during the regime of the late Government - openly expressed the opinion that 'if ever an Australian Navy were established he had no doubt that its guns would be directed against Great Britain.

Senator Findley - He was quite certain of that. He said that we were going to establish a republic, and blow the Empire to smithereens.

Senator FERRICKS - I do not think there is a Fusion politician in Australia to-day who, at some time or other, has not, for political purposes, endeavoured to trade on the alleged disloyalty of the Labour party.

The PRESIDENT - I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the Bill. As I have previously pointed out the ruling of my predecessors has always been that remarks in regard to amending Bills must be strictly relevant to the subjectmatter of those Bills, and must not roam over the whole range of the principal Acts.

Senator FERRICKS - I am merely endeavouring to show why provision should be made in this measure to guard against certain dangers in the future. It is absolutely essential to the welfare of Australia, and of the British nation, that provision should be made for interning these traitors to our country in places of military detention.

Senator Findley - We ought to put ex-Speaker Johnson down at Langwarrin.

Senator FERRICKS - There is more in this matter than appears on the surface, and I am quite serious in regard to it. When it was given out here that the people of Australia were disloyal, do honorable senators imagine for a moment that that information was not spread broadcast throughout Germany as an intimation to the authorities there that Australia could not be relied on ?

Senator Bakhap - The German Intelligence Department would not be a very valuable one in that case.

Senator FERRICKS - It would be valuable to Germany, in that it would mislead the German people. It was further said that the Home Rule question in Ireland would provoke civil war, and that South Africa was not loyal, and would break into rebellion. That sort of information tended to mislead the German people. I think that provision should be made in a Bill of this character for dealing with persons who are responsible for such gross misstatements. Any man who is guilty of treachery to Australia should be put in his proper place There is another matter to which I would like to refer, namely, that of exemptions. Under this Bill, the Minister will be given certain discretionary power. I think he is wise in reserving to himself the power to grant exemptions in various cases. The Leader of the Opposition does not approve of the idea-, and seems to think ;that nobody other than himself should express an opinion on such a matter. I have never had the distinction of being crowned with a laurel wreath on account of my military knowledge, as he was crowned at the meeting in Sydney, although that laurel wreath was pulled off his brow by the people on the 5th September last. But within the past few months certain cases of hardship have been brought under my notice, and I have been requested to bring them before the Minister. One of these was that of an orphan boy who was being kept at school by his brothers and sisters until such time as an examination for entrance to the Civil Service should be held. Within a brief period prior to that examination this lad was ordered into a mobilization camp. When the period during which he would have been required to undergo training in camp had expired, the examination would have been over. Consequently he would have been thrown on the world at the age of seventeen or eighteen years without any certificate as to his qualifications. How would Senator Millen make provision for a case of that kind in a Bill of this character ? It would be impossible to provide for every deserving case of exemption in this measure, and consequently the only remedy is for the Minister to reserve to himself the necessary discretionary power. I think he will be well advised to use that discretionary power very freely. I shall conclude by expressing the hope that the Minister will consider the offer of the unattached officers in the outside districts, who are willing to undertake in an honorary capacity the training of the people in their locality who are anxious to be prepared for eventualities in the future.

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