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Friday, 22 July 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence.) . - I am glad that Senator- Wilson has raised this, question, as it gives me an opportunity of explaining, the apparent disparity between the number of officers - not merely, at the Military College, but also at the Naval College - and the number' . of cadets undergoing training. This, information was asked for in Parliament,, and -a return was laid on the table of the Senate. At this, juncture the position . appears much worse than it would in any other year, because last year there was a falling off in the number of cadets. The number at present attending that institution is between thirty and forty, which is below the average ; but it has to be remembered that both these Colleges are isolated from any town, and consequently we have to provide certain conveniences which civilized people require. If honorable- senators will refer to page 10000 of Hansard, they will find a return giving details concerning the staff at the Military College. It has been stated that there is a staff of 170, but, as a matter of fact, the actual staff of instructional officers at the Military College numbers 31. There are, however, 107 others, making a . total of 138, who are paid 'by the 'Government. But there are thirty-two who are not paid by the Government, although their names appear on the staff of the institution.

Senator Fairbairn - Who pays them?

Senator PEARCE - The cadets and officers at the College. There is a chief steward and thirteen other employees in the . cadets' mess, and their salaries are paid by the cadets, and not by the Government. Those employed in the laundry are . also paid by the various messes. If the Colleges were situated in a city, we would not have to provide a hospital ; but I am sure honorable senators would be the first to censure the Defence Department if, when cases of sickness occurred, a hospital was not available. We have . to provide a medical officer and two nurses, and these, of course, have to be included in the personnel. Houses also have to be provided for the staff. Those honorable -senators who have had the opportunity of visiting Duntroon will realize that there are a large number of buildings to be maintained, and to keep the buildings and grounds in order, tradesmen and labourers have to be employed, and naturally they appear as on the staff. No private 'business establishments are allowed at Duntroon , or at Canberra, and, in consequence, the Government have established a canteen, from which the residents can. purchase stores. The canteen is in charge of the quarterm asters, who are members of the College Staff. All the employees in the different Departments have to be under our control and that is why the list appears some what long.

Senator Wilson - What is the number of cadets to each officer ?

Senator PEARCE - There are 85 or 86 cadets, and 31 officers on the staff.

Senator Wilson - There is one officer to every three cadets ?

Senator PEARCE - Approximately.

Senator Wilson - Is not that a bit " hot "?

Senator PEARCE - Has the honorable senator visited the College ?

Senator Wilson - Yes.

Senator PEARCE - When operations have been in full swing ? If the honorable senator has not, I invite him to do so.

Senator Wilson - In large schools and colleges in Australia there is one master to every fifty students.

Senator PEARCE - Comparison should be instituted with the universities and not the public . schools.

Senator Wilson - I shall give the Minister some interesting figures, perhaps, next week.

Senator PEARCE - I have always insisted that the staff shall be kept at the lowest possible level. Those in charge of the instructional duties have assured me that all the members of the staff are fully and necessarily employed, and I must accept their statement The College is inspected by the Inspector-General, and by others, who are making investigation in an endeavour to effect economy. The committee at present making investigations will in time visit the Military College to see if the services of any of the staff can be dispensed with. The committee appointed to inquire into the administration of Government Departments also visited the College, and made inquiries concerning the number employed and the duties they were performing, and as it did not recommend any reduction, I must assume that the work there compares favorably with that of the Naval College, particularly as the annual cost is £10,000 less.

Senator Fairbairn -When is the number of cadets likely to-increase ?

Senator PEARCE - In December of this year. After thetermination of the war Canada had a similar experience, as the usual number of military students were not forthcoming.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of the Navy, proposed vote, £329,166, agreed to.

Department of Navy and Defence (Air Services).

Proposed vote, £55,000.

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