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Thursday, 24 June 1915

Senator MILLEN - Does he ?

Senator PEARCE - I understand he does. 'Senator Millen. - You have -given me some news, then.

Senator PEARCE - I understand that in private life Colonel Monash is a member of the Liberal party, and therefore, unless they thought there would be a certain Minister in office, .1 do not see how there could be political .'influence., assuming that the political influence was 'to be connected with the Minister of the Department.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -'Colonel Sir ALBERTGould. - Perhaps it was -meant to placate the Opposition.

Senator PEARCE - Let roe .assure Senator McDougall and the 'Senate that .the .matter was never put to me in that light at all. There was some difference -of opinion between the officers, and H deicided to give the benefit of the doubt to the -officer .commanding the .regiment. I said to myself, " This is the officer who -has to take the men into war with him, and seeing that he - the regimental commander - has been backed up by the .members of the Military Board, I will decide in favour of him."

Senator MILLEN - What is the good of the Committee if their recommendations are not adopted?

Senator PEARCE - They have the power 'of recommendation, and in ninetynine cases 'out -of a hundred their recom.mendations 'are adopted. ; Senator Millen. - When the Committee are in agreement with the .commanding officer, their recommendation is adopted.

Senator PEARCE - Sometimes when the Committee have not been in agreement, the 'recommendations have been adopted ; land, generally speaking, they are indorsed. In this case not only 'the officer commanding the regiment, but. the* two members of the Military Board! indorsed this view.

Senator Guthrie - The, Selection! Committee is the fifth wheel of the coach.

Senator PEARCE - No; it is not. Ina> number of cases the members of that Committee are- the. final arbiters - that isto say, where companies have not been assigned1 to any regiment, they have practically full power- to nominate company officers-, and their nominations are almost alWays indorsed by the Military Board and' approved by the Minister. They appear to have adopted the attitude that unless the Department accepted every one of their recommendations without examination or qualification or exception,, they would resign. They intimated! to me. that this was the position they took up.. We. had' to accept every one of their nominations,, or they would resign.

Senator McDougall - They- did. not say that at: all ; it- is absolutely incorrect.

Senator PEARCE - In. view of- that attitude I intended that I would not wait for them to resign. I simply cancelled their appointment.

Senator McDougall - That is, anotherwrong statement. Get the, papers and read them.,

Senator PEARCE - I informed the Board of the position,, and. that is the. end of the matter so far as I am concerned. This was brought forward as one of the reasons- to back up the attacks of the- Opposition on the Government.

Senator Millen - I' object" to that statement about attacks on the Government.

Senator PEARCE - I say that- this has been brought forward to back up the statement thai, the Government, are not doing the right thing with- regard to recruiting and with regard to munitions, but I challenge the honorable- member to produce, any evidence-

Senator McDougall - I did not bring that forward at all'.

Senator PEARCE - I did not- intend to- discuss- this- matter. I only rose-

Senator McDougall - You say that, but you were* yabbering " all,' the' time another man was> speaking-:.

Senator PEARCE - I rose to let Senaton McDougall. know that I am aware: he intended te, flagellate: me. He hast done so in. the. past, and I presume! he; will continue to.- do. so. in the. future.

Senator McDougall - Don't cry- for mercy..

Senator PEARCE - 1> am awa-re- that, -he: honorable; senator's action! will be welcomed both by the. Opposition and the. press-,, which is; looking' for- copy of that, kind..

Senator McDougall - That- statement, is. as. contemptible ass the- man who, makes it.

Senator PEARCE - I' turn, now? to some statements- made by the Leader of the Opposition. Senator Millen dealt with the views< expressed by Mr: Ferguson regarding a second shift at the Small Arms Factory. Senator Millen started off by assuring us of his* intention to help the Government. I want to believe that; but I ask Senator Millen to- place the facts honestly before the public-. Let me- give one instance of- the way in which he placed the facts, or alleged facts, with regard to Mr: Ferguson's statement. I feel sure- that whenhe comes to read' Hansard he- will' see - I' do- not say that- he did it deliberately - that the facts were not properly stated. Dealing with' Mr. Ferguson's statement, he leads u& to believe that Mr: Ferguson said1 -

If we can ignore, commercial considerations ..... we- need- not. put. on engineers.

Now, Mr . Ferguson did not say anything of the' kind', though Senator Mill'en, said he did'.

Senator Millen - Do you seriously put that forward as an assertion that I have made it appear that Mr. Ferguson used those exact words?

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator, put. it that way, and it will' read that way in Hansard. It will be open to that construction.

Senator Millen - Do- you- assert that I said that Mr: Ferguson used those words?

Senator PEARCE - I< took down the words' as the honorable senator used them-. The honorable- senator stated that M-r, Ferguson said -

K we- can ignore commercial considerations . . . . then there- is no necessity to put on the engineers. ยป

I say that anybody reading- Senator Milieu's speech- in H'ansard' will' come- to the conclusion that these were- the word's used by Mr-. Ferguson.

Senator Millen - The honorable* sena- tor is; quite wrong. It would be obvious from- the context of my argument-, that. I could not have; said. that.

Senator PEARCE - But I took down the words, and that is how they will stand in Hansard, giving people the impression that Mr. Ferguson used those words, and giving them as his reasons for not recommending the course suggested by Senator Millen. What Mr. Ferguson did put as bis objection was that it would upset the whole organization of labour in the Factory.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - That is what I understood Senator Milieu to say.

Senator PEARCE - But the honorable senator also used the words I have quoted.

Senator Millen - No; if I had used them they would have defeated my own argument.

Senator Findley - Did not Senator Millen say, on a former occasion, that Mr. Ferguson had not taken into consideration the better class of labour as against the unskilled?

Senator Millen - Yes;_and it is clear from the second report that I was right.

Senator PEARCE - I do not know whether Senator Millen has any knowledge of this matter; but recently the New South Wales Government received a report from their Committee which is dealing with the question of munitions of war. That Committee was constituted without reference to us as regards its composition, and its members were asked to ascertain if anything could be done in their factories to assist the Small Anns Factory. The Committee consists not merely of Government officials, but has on it Mr. Franki, of Mort's Dock, and men of that" character. They reported to their Government on the way in which they thought the State Government and the Public Works Department of New South Wales could assist the Federal Government, and they dealt with the proposed establishment of a second shift at Lithgow. They pointed out that they could not recommend that the skilled labour at the Eveleigh Workshops should be put in to fill up the second shift, for the reason - -using almost the same words as were used by Mr. Ferguson - that to do that would be to completely upset the present organization of the Factory, that the Factory has been organized on the basis of skilled engineers for a section - a very important section of the work - and unskilled but gradually trained men for the other sections of the work. They say that to bring in a new element - skilled engineers for all sections of the work - would be to upset the organization.

Senator Millen - For one shift.

Senator PEARCE - That recommendation of the Committee was not made for my benefit. The New South Wales Committee have been asked to report, for the information of their political chiefs in New South Wales, as to how they could best help the Federal Government. I have not brought their report in here, for the reason that it deals only incidentally with the manufacture of shells and munitions; but I have sent it on to the Munitions Committee, with a suggestion that that body should cooperate with the New South Wales Committee in the conclusions arrived at. Now, in regard to the statement made by Mr. Butler at the Small Arms Factory, as quoted by Senator Millen, I can only say that my shorthand writer took shorthand notes of the whole of the proceedings of the deputation, and transcribed those notes for me. When I used the statement made by Mr. Butler, I quoted from the typed copy of the shorthand writer's notes.

Senator Lynch - Have the Government any object in preventing this second shift from working?

Senator PEARCE - Certainly not.

Senator Lynch - What is all this trouble about, then?

Senator PEARCE - An attempt is being made to show that the Government were being pushed in the matter, and that we are acting unwillingly.

Senator Millen - An attempt is being made to get a second shift.

Senator PEARCE - Of course it is, and by the Government. But the Opposition are endeavouring to make it appear that the Government do not want to put on a second shift; that they are unwilling to do so.

Senator Millen - Not that you do not want to do it, but that you are missing opportunities of doing it.

Senator PEARCE - That is the statement being made by the Opposition and their press.

Senator Millen - You render a friendly suggestion, impossible 'by this attitude.

Senator PEARCE - No; I am not against friendly suggestions, but when insinuations are made about the insincerity of the Government, and about our having to be pushed, urged, and shoved, a Minister would be a worm if he did not resent the accusation, when he knows it to be untrue; when he knows that everything possible is being done. I, for one, resent such attacks. Prom the very inception, I have tried to do all I can to obtain a second shift, and I believe that we are just on the verge of its realization. Senator Millen raised a question which undoubtedly is particularly serious, and that is the number of desertions from the Expeditionary Forces. For some time, I have been much perturbed over the fact that we take men into camp, and go to considerable expense to clothe and train them, and that, frequently on the eve of embarkation, a number desert. There is a pretty good indication that later some of them re-enlist, get a second turn at a camp, and subsequently desert.

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