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Thursday, 24 June 1915

Senator GUTHRIE - And by Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Manufacture.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - And by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. Severe criticisms have been passed on the administration of the Defence Department within the past few weeks by this organization with regard to the second shift at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. We learn that the Minister of Defence was there in the month of December, talking about the establishment of a second shift, but up to the present nothing has been done to make it an accomplished fact.

Senator GUTHRIE - The Minister has explained that.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The explanation indicates that the Minister has received reports from his officers from time to time; that he has made certain inquiries. But what have the inquiries been about? First of all, can we establish a second shift? The chief officer of the Factory reported adversely. A further report was also, to a certain extent, adverse to the establishment of a second shift. Later reports are to the effect that a second shift can be established, but it is not desirable in the interests of the unskilled labour employed in the Factory. It is suggested that it would involve a disturbance in the labour organization of the Factory. Senator Millen has pointed out that it need' not lead to any disturbance of the labour organization of the Factory, because the second shift would be only temporary, and could be so arranged' that it would not interfere with the promotion of untrained men at present employed in the Factory. The matter might be so arranged that the work of the second shift might be done just as though it were done in another factory. The trained men employed upon the second shift could be made to understand that they would have no right to interfere with the prospects of promotion of the men engaged in the first shift. If it were not a matter of emergency, it might be said that we should adopt the course of training men for the work in anticipation of the establishment of a second factory. But we have to bear in mind that we are in a position of extreme difficulty in the maintenance of the integrity of our Empire, and the Minister of Defence should say to those who have charge of the Small Arms Factory, ' ' You must make the necessary arrangements to give effect to what we find is practicable, although it may be costly and difficult." Is it not a fact that the men who have made history, and who " make good," are those who will not take a negative for an answer while there is a possibility of converting it into an affirmative? In a supreme emergency the Minister should say to his officers, ' ' You must tell mehow this thing is to be done, and must not give excuses for doing no more than you are doing." In an emergency a Minister must whenever necessary override the opinions of his officers. No man knows better than one who has been a Minister of the Crown that in ordinary circumstances a matter is sent from one official to another, excuses for inaction are given, and reasons why a certain action should not be taken. But when, to meet an emergency, things have to be done, the Minister should tell his officers that they have to be done, and it is their duty to see that they are done. People outside learn that the men in the Small Arms Factory were working only eight hours per day, and subsequently for twelve hours per day, and it is natural that they should come to the conclusion that this has been the result of some supineness on the part of the Minister.

Senator Guthrie - Where are we to get the trained men to make guns? The honorable senator cannot make a gun.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am talking at present about themanufacture of rifles, and we know that we can make rifles. If we could get men to work in the Small Arms Factory for three shifts of eight hours each per day, that would be better than having them work one shift of eight hours, with overtime of four hours, and better than having them work two shifts of eighthours per day. I believe that the Minister of Defence will have two shifts at work at the Factory within the next two or three weeks. If he does not, I shall be very much disappointed. I do notwish to make an attack upon the honorable senator. We know that he is being pushed along, but an emergency such as we have to meet now should push every man along and incite him to greater efforts. We have reports that a second shift can be worked at the Lithgow Factory, and it only requires determination on the part of the Minister of Defence to have that done, in spite of any difficulty that may be suggested by his officers. On the subject of the manufacture of shells and guns, Senator Millen and the Minister of Defence have both pointed out what they have done in the matter. The Minister cabled to the Home authorities for information, but was unable to get it because of the pressure in Great Britain in the production of shells. How did Canada get all the information required? She is sending shells in considerable quantities to the Old Country. These shells are the product, not merely of Government factories, but of private engineering firms established throughout that Dominion.

Senator Guthrie - America is also sending shells.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - American factories have been longer established, and America is in a different position from Canada.

Senator Pearce - It is only fair to say that Canada has been making steel for over fifty years.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- That is so. We have been told that certain information must be obtained before we can manufacture shells in Australia. Canada has the necessary information, and is making shells for local as well as for Imperial requirements. I cannot help feeling that if the matter had been properly placed before the Imperial authorities they would have been prepared to encourage the manufacture of these munitions of war not only by the Government of the Commonwealth, but by private firms here.

Senator Senior - Canada does not occupy the insular position which we occupy in Australia.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I recognise that Canada is very much closer to Great Britain than we are, and can communicate with the Old Country much more rapidly than we can. I say that if the Dominions put their shoulders to the wheel, and said that they would help not merely local, but also Imperial defence, by the manufacture of munitions of war, the Imperial authorities would be glad to know that they might receive material assistance from them. If we had the necessary information, have we not the skill amongst us to undertake the manufacture of shells? Have we not any number of trained engineers quite capable of doing this work?

Senator Guthrie - We have, and yet we send all work out of the country.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am suggesting that we should do this work in the country.

Senator Guthrie - That is not what the honorable senator has done in the past.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have never been in favour of sending work out of the country. On the subject of the appointment of officers. I may say that I know nothing of the case referred to by Senator McDougall.

I do know, however, that Selection Committees were appointed for the express purpose of preventing even the imputation of the exercise of political influence in the making of these appointments. The men appointed to the Selection Committee were supposed to be skilled men, and were acting under instructions to exhaust the commissioned officers before recommending the appointment of men from the ranks. The Committee recommended one commissioned officer for a certain appointment, and later on a second commissioned officer, but, nevertheless, a man from the ranks was appointed upon the strong recommendation of the colonel of the regiment with whom, as the Minister has put it, he had to go into the field to fight. The question is, which is the better practice to adopt. Is it right to appoint a Selection Committee to make selections for these positions, or should the commanding officer of a regiment be called upon to say in the first instance who should be appointed to a commission? We must have definite lines upon which to work. Of course, if the Committee recommend incompetent men, there is only one course to follow - to turn the Committee down and get better men. Concerning the charges of political influence, we want the Minister to be in a position to say that he not only resents such a suggestion, but that he has laid down such regulations as should make it impossible for political influence to be used. We know that there is a constant cry that if you want anything to be done, not only in connexion with the Defence Department, but in the various Departments of the Government, you have to go to the politicians. We have always tried to fight against that position of affairs, but I dare say we snail have to fight against it till the crack of doom. Now, referring to the question of recruiting, it appears that only lately have we awakened to the fact that it is of the utmost urgency that we should obtain more men. Although we welcome the action of the State Governments in assisting the recruiting movement, we cannot help feeling that their attitude towards this question is rather a reflection on us here, for, while they are doing their best, we are content, it seems, to give our attention to other matters. It may be that hitherto we have not been able to clothe and equip all the men coming forward, but nevertheless we are now told by the Imperial Government that men, with or without uniforms, will be very acceptable. I think, therefore, it is about time that the whole of our Parliaments " took their coats off " and set about doing their best to see that the men are sent. It is not of much use for one individual to start out on work of this kind. There must be organization, with the Government at the back of it, so that any information that may be necessary for the success of the campaign may readily be obtained to induce men to join our Forces, and assist the Empire in this emergency. If one will take the trouble to go to any of the sports gatherings that take place in the different cities of Australia, he will find there abundant material, if only it could be trained, for the defence of the Empire. I do not believe that there are only 80,000 or 90,000 men- this is, the number we have recruited in Australia up to the present - who have the courage to volunteer to go to the front, although there are many men who, through infirmity or because of family ties, are unable to place their services at the disposal of the Empire in this great adventure. I quoted the other day from a return which I had, showing that there were upwards of 500,000 unmarried men, between eighteen years and thirty-five years of age, in the Commonwealth.

Senator GUTHRIE - Not all are efficient.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - -No, perhaps not; but even if you take off 20 per cent.-

Senator Guthrie - More than that.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Well, if you took off 50 per cent., there would still be 250,000 men available for duty.

Senator Guthrie - Some of them to make shells.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Then they would be doing good work.

Senator Bakhap - Are any shells being made in Australia?

Senator Guthrie - You say they will be made in a fortnight.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I did not say they would be making shells. I hope they will, and I shall be happy to do anything I can. to assist them. With a population of nearly 600,000 unmarried men up to thirty-five years of age, and nearly 700,000 up to forty-five years of age, it is surely " up " to a large number of them to come to. the assistance of the Empire in this great crisis.'

Senator Guthrie - And they are coming.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - They will if it is brought homo to them.

Senator Guthrie - It has been brought home to them.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - If so,we shall probably get them to come along; but we want the lead that can be given by the Minister. We do not want the Minister simply to say to the men, " It is your duty." We want members of Parliament from both sides to go through thecountry on a recruiting campaign and impress on the people the great necessity of all putting their shoulders to the wheel to help the Empire. I believe the Minister the other night addressed a meeting in the Town Hall, and made a very effective speech. I should like to see the Minister and the ex-Minister do the same thing in other portions of the Commonwealth.

Senator Guthrie - The Minister has a very heavy office.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I know the Minister has a heavy office, and I believe Senator Gardiner told the people the other day that the Minister of Defence was working eighteen hours a day now.

Senator Gardiner - Yes; the Minister ofDefence is working eighteen hours a day.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am aware that the Minister has very arduous duties to perform.

Senator Guthrie - And you want to increase the work.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I believe that if this great emergency were recognised, as it has been recognised in Great Britain and in the other portions of the Dominions, Australia would show that she was with the Empire in the accomplishment of a particular object - the defence of the Empire - irrespective of any political views. We would then be doing the right thing, because this is the supreme question,although honorable members opposite are talking of Referenda Bills. In no other portion of the Empire are contentious matters being brought forward at a time when the attention of the people should be devoted to the defence of the Empire.

Senator Grant - Is that why the Age and the Argus are squealing so much?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I do not know; but I say that at present ail these contentious matters should be laid on one side in order to insure the protection of the State. It is said that no party issues are involved in these questions, but we remember that they have been before the people twice, and on each occasion caused great dissension and difference of opinion. Will they cause less dissension and less difference of opinions during the next six months? We know that under the Constitution these Bills will have to be referred to the people within a period of six months after they have passed through both Houses, and I say they should not be proceeded with at present.

Senator Ready - Is it a fact that the honorable senator's party has gone on strike ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I have heard that something has occurred in the other House, but I am not going to be led aside by these interjections. The referenda questions divide the people into two sections, and for the present they should be laid aside. Great Britain has been able to lay on one side all party questions, such as Home Rule for Ireland, with the result that to-day the Conservative, or Unionist, party, the Liberals, and the Labour members have come together with one common object namely, to present a united front in this great emergency. When this war is over and settled, no one would complain if the Government brought forward these referenda proposals again. But this is not the time, and I am afraid it speaks ill of the Government--

Senator Senior - That was the cry before the war, and it is the cry now.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I say it speaks ill for the patriotism of a Government that, during this great emergency, can ask Parliament to deal with a large number of matters involving contentious principles, which cannot affect the progress of the war, but which may affect the progress of this country. I am sufficiently a Democrat to nay that if the majority of the people of this country desire any particular amendment of the Constitution, it is their right to have it. But I say it is not right for a few unrepresentative men, or an unrepresentative body, to stand behind a Government and say, " You have to do this in spite of all things; and, if you do not do it, we will say you are ' blacklegging,' and strike you off."

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What is the honorable member referring to ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am referring to the Political Labour League which met in Adelaide the other day, a body which I contend is unrepresentative of the people of this country, and which has no right to speak for them. It might have a right to speak for a section of the people; but it should not arrogate to itself the function of saying to the Ministry, "It is your duty to do soandso."

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It did nothing of the kind.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- The Government ought to be in a position to stand up against these people, these tyrants, and say to them, " We will do what we believe to be the best thing for this country without being dictated to in any way."

Senator Watson - These Referenda Bills were before the people at the last general election, surely ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - They were before the people for the second time, and were defeated.

Senator Watson - We were pledged that, if returned, we would ask the people to approve of them at the earliest opportunity.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - But not in a great emergency. At that time the people of the. country had every confidence, not only in the strength of the Empire and her Allies, but also in the early success of the Empire in this war. It is only within the last few months that the people have begun to realize the kind of proposition they are up against, and how necessary it is to conserve all their energies for the prosecution of the struggle. These contentious matters should be placed on one side, because if through the supineness or weakness of the Government our nation were defeated, what would be the good of .the referenda proposals then ? I admit that if this war had not been in progress the Government would have been justified in submitting the proposals to the people; but when we find that the mother of our Parliaments has to combine to form a National Government, it is quite up to the people of this country to do the same thing. We know quite well that the war cannot be brought to a close unless every ounce of energy is brought to bear upon it, and unless every available man is sent to the front, because this is a war of masses, and the nation which has the largest mass of people concentrated in the

War area will probably win.

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