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Friday, 23 April 1915

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - This Bill is, I am sure, more or less a military necessity, and in that respect is unimpeachable. I intend to offer no opposition to it, but it affords me an opportunity of making a few remarks upon clause 6. I suppose that when a man gets a fixed idea in his mind he can scarcely resist ventilating it upon, every conceivable occasion. But, notwithstanding that I may be charged with entertaining a fixed idea in regard to military service, I feel that I would be lacking in my duty if I did not say something upon the question of enlisting married men. When our first Expeditionary Force was being recruited, I took exception to the manner in which married men were being taken from the ranks of our Australian population. Some time ago I asked the Minister of Defence if he could inform me what was the percentage of married men who had enlisted as part of the first Expeditionary Force.

The PRESIDENT - I would point out to the honorable senator that there is no provision in this Bill dealing with the enlistment of married men.

Senator BAKHAP - I do not question your ruling, Mr. President, but I would draw your attention to the fact that clause 6 is designed to meet cases which may arise because of the presence of married men in the Forces. After a good deal of trouble, the Minister very kindly furnished me with a paper showing that 12 per cent, of the men in the ranks of the first Expeditionary Force were married.

Senator Pearce -. - Officers and men.

Senator BAKHAP - That is quite true. At that time I formed the opinion that many men had enlisted as single men when, as a matter of fact, they were married; and the sequel has demonstrated that this was so. The discussion has also proved how injudicious it was to enlist so many married men as members of our overseas Forces. We are bound to have some married men in our Forces, and I do not think that the principle of not using married men at all, especially wb«n they possess sound military knowledge, should be insisted upon. I know that many officers with family responsibilities were in a position to make satisfactory provision for those left behind, irrespective of the fact that they were in receipt of military pay. Notwithstanding that I have no English blood in my veins - I have some British blood - I am as strongly desirous of British supremacy as any other member of this National Legislature. I confess, however, that I have systematically dissuaded married men from enlisting; and, on the other hand, I have done all I possibly could to encourage single men to become members of the Expeditionary Forces in the service of their country. Apart from the fact that an unsatisfactory position is sometimes likely to arise in the allocation of pay for the dependants of married men remaining in Australia, it is impolitic that we should have such a large number of married men in the Forces, because of the probability that this course is likely, sometimes, to bring about an undesirable state of affairs in respect to the greatest of all social relationships. I simply wish to stress the arguments which I used at considerable length two or three days ago, in order that honorable senators will see the undesirability, from a social and economic stand-point, of enlisting married men for overseas service. Of course, if Australia is attacked at any time it will then be the obligation of every man, whether married or single, to do his best in that sphere which might be allocated to him under military law. I pointed out a few days ago that we have 500,000 single men of military age in the Commonwealth, and, in view of that fact, I hope that some step will be taken to check what I regard as a bad policy, the systematic enlistment of married men, more particularly as we are enlisting our Forces rather leisurely, and are preparing them still more leisurely, for the front.

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