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Friday, 18 December 1914

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition should have attached so much importance to what I said about rank in an effort to introduce a little humour into the discussion. Although this has reference to training in time of peace, that training goes on in time of war also. I take the case of men employed in the small arms factory at Lithgow. We have a large number of young men working there. It might be necessary to call out the regiment in that district for mobilization. These young men are doing very important work in manufacturing small arms. We might call them out for a camo of training, because such camps are held in time of war as well as in time of peace.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator knows that employes in such positions are exempt from mobilization; the men at Cockatoo Island, for instance, are exempt.

Senator PEARCE - Not legally. There is nothing in the Act to permit of their exemption.

Senator Millen - It has been done.

Senator PEARCE - A great many things are done, but it is better that they should be done legally. We might bring in an amendment of the Act to exempt such employes in time of war. I confess that I am more concerned about their exemption in time of war than about their exemption in time of peace. Section 138 of the principal Act deals with exemption from training in time of peace, and I remind honorable senators that under that section we have exempted persons employed in the State Police and Prison Department. They are exempt even in time of peace, and all that we are asking here is for the same exemption in respect of our own employes. This proposal would not apply to senior cadets. Senator Millen's references to boys lead me to think that the honorable senator is under the impression that this proposal applies to cadets. It applies only to the Citizen Forces mentioned in paragraph b of section 138 of the principal Act. I am asking only for the same exemption of employes of the Defence Department that we have already made provision for in the case of the employes of the State Police and Prison Department. With the exception of the factory operatives, the bulk of these are under military discipline and are part of a military organization. If men employed in factories under the Defence Department are called out for camp training they will have a divided duty. On the one hand, they must keep the factories going; and on the other, they must attend a camp of training. Senator Millen says that we can exempt them from going into camp, but we have no legal authority for doing so. If we could do so without legal authority in time of war, we could do so in time of peace. If it is to be done it should be done under statutory authority. If a company were established at Lithgow, I venture to say that three-fourths of it would be comprised of men engaged in the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. If the company was called out in time of war, only one-fourth would respond, as the other three-fourths would necessarily be kept at work in the factory. I am as much opposed to unnecessary exemptions as Senator Millen can possibly be, and I would not permit men to escape military training merely because they happened to be employed in the Defence Department. Senator Millen is aware that there have been cases where it has been found necessary to strain the law to prevent its interference with the performance of other defence obligations by officers of the Department. A further Defence Bill of a more comprehensive character must be introduced next year ; and I can promise honorable senators that, if the operation of this measure is found to exempt men whose training would not interfere with the carrying out of the work they perform for the Department they will be once more brought under the compulsory training (provisions. I desire only to extend the exemption to individuals whose callings in time of peace or in time of war might seriously interfere with the operation of the machine necessary for carrying on the defence of the country.

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