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Tuesday, 6 December 1927


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) (Minister for Defence) [4.28]. - -I totally .disagree with the statement of Senator Duncan that force of circumstances actuated Great Britain in reducing expenditure on armaments. The honorable senator must know that this subject was discussed at length at the Washington conference, and that when a proposal was made by the representatives of the United States of America for disarmament, Lord Balfour, the leader of the British delegation, accepted it immediately. Britain's action on that occasion demonstrated beyond doubt her earnestness in the cause of peace.


Senator Duncan - I agree with the Minister.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Much as we desire the evolution of a scheme which will ensure peace, we cannot ignore the fact that throughout the world there are many nations whose ideals, whose culture and aspirations are entirely divergent - so much so as to constitute a menace to peace. The Government has done and is doing all that is possible within its financial resources to provide for the adequate defence of Australia, and to bear its share of Empire defence. Senator Duncan made a comparison between the Commonwealth revenue in 1913-14 and the present year in relation to defence expenditure. I remind him that to-day we have to make financial provision for the interest on our war debt, provision also for war pensions, in addition to meeting the current expenditure on our defence forces. The extra charges mentioned necessarily reduce very considerably the amount available for the ordinary activities of the Government. Let us examine the expenditure in 1913-14, and dissect some of the items. In that year the expenditure on universal training was £550,000. In the present year it is £266,000. For the purchase of clothing, £240,000 was expended in 191P.-14, whereas this year the estimated expenditure in that direction is only £58,000. In 1913-14 provision had to be made for seven quotas, as against only three quotas to be trained this year with 9,000 less trainees. For ammunition and war-like stores, the sum of £603,000 was expended in 1913-14; this year only £20,000 is being provided. The reason for the greater amount in 1913-14 is that at that time stores had ro be imported, whereas, we are now making them in our own factories. Honorable senators will agree that it would be wrong to rely on imported stores for the defence of this country. We are now making provision for the manufacture in Australia of rifles, Vickers machine-guns, and pistols, and also of ammunition for divisional artillery 18pounders and 4.5 howitzers.


Senator Duncan - Provision for the manufacture of rifles was made some years ago.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - That is so, but we are now making the other arms and munitions referred to. We are also manufacturing in Australia the equipment necessary to meet gas attacks. We have produced a. gas mask which has been favorably received by the British war authorities. Practically the whole of these masks are manufactured in this country. Senator Duncan will agree that these are effective measures for the defence of Australia. If we proceeded along the lines adopted in 1913-14, we should be at the mercy of an enemy so soon as the stores which we had accumulated were exhausted. Senator Duncan made no mention of the amount set apart for naval construction. An Appropriation Bill will be brought before us later, which will include £2,900,000 for naval construction. If the honorable senator will add that amount to the appropriation provided for in this bill he will see that we are appropriating for defence well over £8,000,000 this year. That, I submit, is a considerable amount for a population of 6,000,000 persons.


Senator Guthrie - It is far more1 than the other Dominions are doing.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - It is about the same per head of the population as that for all the other Dominions put together.


Senator Duncan - Our dangers are greater than theirs put together.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Let me now deal with the organization of our defence forces to-day, as compared with, the position in 191'3-14. We hod then, spread over the Commonwealth a number of units in connexion with \iliicli militia officers did excellent work. When the war broke out the difficulty confronting us was not only the mobilizing of our forces, but also the organization of them. At that time we had no divisional units. We had to gather units from various parts of the Commonwealth and organize them. The first convoy which left Australia took one division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry. On that organization, we built up the great Australian Imperial Forces. At the present time we have the nucleus of an organization similar to that which we had during the war. I admit that the nucleus, which comprises five infantry and two cavalry divisions, is small; but i1- includes a number of technical units which have been trained to a higher state of efficiency than was the case with similar units prior to the war. While the number of men in training certainly is small, they form a well-trained foundation on which to build. These trained nien are available for the training of other officers and non-commissioned officers. No one will contend that when the war broke out Australia had a sufficient number of trained officers. Irrespective of the amount of money expended, we shall never obtain an adequate supply of trained officers unless from among the young men of this country a sufficient number offer themselves for training. Not one of the militia officers who did such valuable work with the Australian Imperial Forces joined the military forces for the remuneration they received for their services: they joined because they were interested in military work, and were willing to submit themselves for training and to spend their time in studying the science of war. The result was that at the outbreak of war we had a number of trained- officers, who formed the first division, and subsequently did valuable work in training, themen who comprised the Australian Imperial Forces.. If Senator Duncan wishes to do good work for this country, he could not do better than use. his efforts in persuading young men, who can afford the time, to submit themselves for training' as officers and non-commissioned officers. He could do so with, the assurance that those who. so offered themselves would not only find the work interesting, but would also have the satis-faction of knowing that they were rendering valuable service to their country, both in the event of war and in disciplining the youth of this country in times of peace. Among the young men of Australia there are many who cannot afford to devote their leisure to the study of military science or to attending efficiency schools, but there are others who can do so. The honorable senator could' not do better than to enlist their services in the interests of the country.


Senator Duncan - Those who have done so claim that they have received more discouragement than encouragement.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - . Nothing of the sort. If they have received discouragement, it has not been from the militia officers. With the exception of a few divisions, every unit is in the hands of militia officers who occupy their positions not for the remuneration they receive, but because of their interest in the work.


Senator Foll - Would those who desire to become officers have to enlist as privates ?

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.Yes. At present every physically fit youth in certain areas has to undergo a period of compulsory military training. That period is really four years - one year in the senior cadets and three years in the militia forces. In certain portions of Australia youths, otherwise eligible, are exempted from training because it would be economical to train them. Not only have we this nucleus staff available in an emergency, but in different parts cf Australia we have also ordnance and mobilization stores, valued at between £13,000,000 to £15,000,000, of which post bellum equipment, received in Australia as the result ofA.I.F. participation in the Great War, represents between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000.


Senator Duncan - There is still a considerable shortage of some stores.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.That is so. The honorable senator will realize that we cannot do all these things at once; but if he will take the trouble to visit our ammunition factories he will see that a great deal is being done to provide Australia with the means of defence shouldwe at any time be called upon to defend this country, which we all hopewill not be necessary.


Senator Duncan - Will the Minister saywhy so many youths who are eligible for military training are evading it?

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.No youthswho are physically fit, Avho live in areas not exempted from military training, orwho cannot prove that such trainingwould involve hardship on them, are permitted to evade training. Youths whose training Avould seriously interfere with their employment, or prevent them from maintaining those dependent on them, are exempted from training.


Senator Duncan - Only one in every five who are eligible are receiving training to-day.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.The medical examination is very strict, and all those within areas where training is carried out, and who are medically fit, have to undergo training.


Senator Duncan - Does that mean that only one in every five examined are declared medically fit? If that is the case, it is a grave reflection upon Australian youths.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - There is a fair number of rejects.


Senator Guthrie - Surely it cannot be of the proportion mentioned.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.There is a large number of boys living in parts of the Commonwealth where training is not undertaken, but who have to register.


Senator Guthrie - I cannot understandwhy such a small proportion should be under training, because the bulk of the population of the Commonwealth resides in the capital cities.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.About 90,000 boys are eligible for training, and about half of that number is at present undergoing training.


Senator Guthrie - I am sorry that they are not all in training.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.Itwould be uneconomical to train boys in certain areas, as the department could not provide the necessary staff to visit every centre. Moreover, the expenditure of bringing trainees a great distance to training camps would hardly be justified. This matter has been very carefully considered, and where boys can be economically trained thework is undertaken.


Senator Duncan - Are there only 40,000 boys in the Commonwealth undergoing training?

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.There are 45,000. Coming to naval defence I may say that it is the accepted expert view that the defence of Australia is primarily a naval problem, and consequently all of our local measures of defence are based on and subsidiary to the protection afforded Australia, in common with all parts of the British Empire, by the British fleet. Recognizing then the primary importance of naval defence, the Commonwealth has established and is maintaining a fleet, trained and manned in accordance with the best methods of naval efficiency and traditions. During the war years, the Royal AustralianNavy, as a unit of the Royal Navy, was a potent factor in securing the safety of the Commonwealth, not only in Australian waters, but elsewhere. It is the Government's aim that the AustraliaNavy shall remain an up-to-date and efficient arm to contribute its share to the defence . of this continent. It is alreadywell known that the Government has embarked on a naval construction programme costing approximately £7,400,000. For that money,we will have two new 10,000-ton cruisers of the latest type, two neAv submarines, and a seaplane carrier. The two cruisers Australia and Canberra should both be in commission by the middle of next year, and arrive in Australian waters before the close of 1928. In these vessels Australia Avill have two cruisers equal to any of their class afloat. The new submarines,

Oxleyand Otway, are now in commission, and working with a submarine flotilla of tlie Royal Navy. The crews are thus getting valuable experience. The most favorable weather conditions must be chosen for their long voyage to Australia, so that it will be early in 1928 before they arrive here. Satisfactory progress is being made with the seaplane carrier under construction at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the completion of which is expected towards the end of 192S. The sca-going squadron consists at present of the cruisers Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. The destroyers are the Tasmania, Swordsman, and Success, as well as the destroyer depot ship Platypus.

During the past year, these have carried out a useful programme of cruises with the customary exercises and practices to maintain their fighting efficiency. The numbers borne in the seagoing force are 511 officers and 4,672 men, of which 95 officers and 271 men are on loan from the Royal Navy. The citizen forces number 5,889, and very useful instruction in a sea-going . sloop is being given to them. In the matter of naval training, I may explain that the Flinders Naval Depot is now one great school, or rather, a series of schools. In this establishment every part of a trainee's naval career is catered for as experts instruct in all branches. The schools comprise - Gunnery, mechanical training, torpedo, physical training, signals, sick-berth training, wireless, ordnance artificers, stokers, electrical artificers, and cookery. Surveying work on the Great Barrier Reef is proceeding most satisfactorily. This work is of vital importance to vessels using the sea route in that locality. As stated in the Treasurer's budget speech, it is proposed to specially appropriate £120,000 for the continuation of this important activity.

Honorable senators will be pleased to know that graduates of the Naval College have recently done exceptionally well at training courses in England, the results in gunnery, torpedo and signalling, as well as in anti-submarine work, showing an Australian officer at the top of each of these classes. This is a tribute to the standard of instruction given at our College. Fairly substan- tial provisions have been made in the current year's Estimates for eighteen months' requirements of ammunition, smoke floats, &c, while replacement of certain over-age and obsolescent ammuni-* ti on has also been provided for.

The works programme will be advanced a further material step during 1927-28, by including the erection of another oil tank at Darwin. At present, Numbers 1 and 2 tanks are already completed, and orders have been placed for their filling. Numbers 3 and 4 tanks are in course of erection, while the Works and Railways Department have been requested to order Numbers 5 and 6 tanks.

In connexion with the army I may state that the divisional organization of the field force will continue to be maintained on the nucleus basis to which it was reduced in 1922-23, provision having been made for training on practically the same basis as last year. The standard of citizen forces has advanced considerably during the last few years. This has been possible owing to the camp training in 1924-25 being extended by two days, and by an additional quota commencing training in 1925-26. It is proposed that three quotas, approximate!} 45,000, should continue to be maintained and trained in 1927-28. The formation of certain technical units has now been completed and a commencement is to bo made with tank training this year, four light tanks, having recently been imported. The development of mechanical transport in relation to the Army is being closely watched and personnel are at present in England undergoing instruction. The instruction of officers and the training of staffs ?s being carried out by means of brigade, divisional and army exercises and special schools, in- addition to the period of camp training with troops. At present exercises are being carried out by the senior staff officers in the vicinity of Newcastle. I am satisfied that progress has been made and that further material advancement will be effected under existing conditions.

The year of senior cadet training has now come to be regarded as a period of recruit training in preparation for entrance to the ranks of the citizen forces. This system is already proving its value, and it has been found possible to hold cadet noncommissioned officers' courses at which cadets are prepared to assume the duties of noncommissioned officers very soon after incorporation in the citizen forces. It Ls proposed to. extend such courses and by this means to improve the source of supply of non-commissioned officers and officers for the citizen forces. The State governments are giving every encouragement to the physical training of junior cadets in schools, which activity was introduced in July, 1924. Statistics of attendance of teachers to lectures delivered and demonstrations given by defence instructors, one in each State, during 1926-27 are most pleasing. There is definite evidence of increasing enthusiasm in movement.

As will be remembered, the five years' developmental programme introduced in 1924-25 made provision for -

(a)   enough ammunition to enable the field guns in Australia to take the field;

(b)   a supply of gas masks for thefront line troops;

(c)   technical stores for field artillery;

(d)   a smallinstructional nucleus of tanks and anti-aircraft artillery; and

(c)   necessary storage accommodation for the foregoing.

In addition to the £250,000 made available under the Defence Equipment Act, 1924, for the purchase of munitions, approximately £600,000 has been expended during the past three years upon the developmental programme in that connexion. In regard to defence works generally, I may say that negotiations are proceeding for the acquisition of mobilization and camping areas in South Australia and Tasmania, and in, addition the following works services are proposed

(a)   the extension and improvement of camp, training and rifle range sites (at Liverpool, Seymour and Adelaide) ;

(b)   the extension and construction of drill halls and the acquisition of suitable sites at centres where the population is increasing, e.g., Nundah and Miranda (Queensland), North Sydney, Hornsby, Bondi, Wallsend. (New South Wales), Oakleigh and Surrey Hills (Victoria).

The organization of the Air Force will be maintained on the same basis as in 1926-27. although it is proposed that certain additional personnel will be enlisted for the manning of the two new cruisers and seaplane carrier. During the past year 13 pilots have been trained for the Permanent Forces and 9 for the Citizen Forces, in addition to which 22 are at present under training for the Permanent Forces. Of these, 7 were trained, while a further 6 are now under training for short service commissions in the Royal Air Force. This is in accordance with an arrangement with the Imperial Government whereby the latter reimburses Australia the cost of training the officers concerned, who, on their return to the Commonwealth, are under an obligation to serve four years in our reserve. It may be of interest to honorable senators to know that the standard of training at our flying training school has been eulogized by the Air Ministry, which has reported inter alia that the flying capabilities of the officers sent from Australia are extremely satisfactory, and that noalteration whatever in training is suggested. It is also gratifying to know that Royal Australian Air Force officers sent to England for courses of instruction have done particularly well, two comingout on top in the final' examinations at the course they were attending. Experience has been gained in the manning of AirForce squadrons with Citizen Force personnel. This scheme is showing every promise of being thoroughly successful. Advantage was taken of the ceremonies for the opening of Parliament at Canberra and the presence of aircraft there to extend the training of the Citizen Force squadron in New South Wales.. No. 101 fleet co-operation flight has continued to co-operate with H.M.A.S. Moresby on the survey of the Great Barrier Reef. The experimental section at Randwick has been engaged principally upon the production of an amphibian and a new landplane which show promise of success. The latter machine is for preliminary training purposes. The functions of all other establishments, &c, arebeing carried out most satisfactorily.

Following on a number of unfortunate air accidents, the Cabinet in. May last approved of the appointment of an Air Accidents Investigation Committee, consisting of a chairman and four members The primary functions ofsuch committee are to investigate each accident with a view to determining itscause, and. at the same time to recommend what action it considers should be taken to prevent recurrence. Up to the 30th September last investigation of nine accidents had been completed.


Senator Duncan - The Minister has not, said anything concerning the result of the investigation. There is strong suspicion that there has been a hush up policy.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The findings of the committee were published in the press.

During recent years the Royal Australian Air Force has been working very largely on gift equipment supplied by the Imperial Government at the termination of the war. As a first step towards re-equipping the force with new aircraft of post-war design, a sum of £250,000 was specially appropriated under the Defence Equipment Act, 1926, primarily for such purposes, orders already having been placed for some of the latest type army co-operation aircraft aud engines and light day bombing machines. The purchase of other types of service aircraft, as well as new training machines, is receiving consideration. I might also add that two large flying boats which were ordered in England should shortly l>e received, it being very probable that these machines will meet, and accompany for some portion of the journey, the flight of four Royal Air Force flying boats that are due to arrive in Australia, in June next, the latter spending three months in Australian waters prior to their return to England.

The provision made under works from loan funds in 1927-28 will permit of further substantial advancement being made with the building and works programme at Laverton, No. 1 Aircraft Depot; Point Cook, No. 1 Flying Training School; and Richmond, New South Wales.

As is well-known, very satisfactory progress in civil aviation has been made in Australia since the inauguration, in December, 1921, of the first aerial mail, passenger and freight service, namely, between Geraldton and Derby, Western Australia.


Senator Guthrie - Have they not established n world's record in Western Australia '?


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW --Yes, in regard to safety, punctuality, and the distance covered. At present three companies are operating the following routes - aggregating in distance over 3,500 miles -

 

The total mileage per annum approximates 500,000 miles. All of these services are subsidized by the Commonwealth Government. Apart from the mail services, a considerable amount of flying - taxi work - off the regular routes is also effected, more particularly in Queensland, on behalf of persons requiring urgent transport on some matter of business or personal import. In addition, two commercial companies have commenced operations in New Guinea. One company has established a more or less regular service between the goldfields and the coast, and this has proved so successful that additional machines are being purchased.

With a view to affording the youth of the Commonwealth an opportunity to take a practical interest in aviation, the Government some time ago approved of the establishment of flying training clubs and" schools upon somewhat similar lines to the Air Ministry's practice in England. These training schools are divided into two categories, and are subsidized accordingly by the Government as follows -

(i)   The Australian Aero Club at present conducts operations in Sydney and Melbourne, while a commencement will be made shortly in Adelaide and Geelong. In these activities, the Government provides all equipment and hangar accommodation and pays the club a bonus of £20 for each pupil trained. .

(ii)   Commercial companies (Western Australian Airways, Q.A.N.T.A.S., Queensland), have established flying schools at Perth, Brisbane and Longreach, while one at Broken Hill is proposed. These companies provide all equipment. &c, and receive a Government bonus of £40 for each pupil who graduates.

At the end of September 60 pupils (including three women) had passed the prescribed tests and received their private pilots' licences - a very satisfactory achievement considering the short period of time the clubs, &c, have been functioning.

As honorable senators are aware, the Government has decided to make available' a special grant of £200,000 for the further development of civil aviation in this country, the establishment of the following additional services being proposed -

(a)   Perth- Adelaide.

(b   ) Caraooweal-Daly Waters.

(c)   Derby-Wyndham.

(d)   Melboume-Hobart.

(e)   Charleville-Brisbane.

(f)   Sydney -Brisbane.

I might say that the consummation of these proposals, which will mean an addition of approximately 4,000 miles of air lines, will result in the virtual encirclement by . air of the entire Commonwealth, and incidentally will have the effect of placing Australia in the forefront of the countries in the world in respect of aviation highways. During the current year the expenditure from this appropriation will be restricted principally to ground preparation with respect to several of the foregoing routes, but in the case of the PerthAdelaide service tenders are being invited forthwith with a view to the linking up of these two capitals by air as soon as possible.

I sincerely hope that what I have said will convey to honorable senators a general idea of the varied activities of the several services and branches that comprise the Defence Department. As will be fully appreciated, the maintenance and development of such services involve substantial expenditure. The 1927-28 appropriations asked, for including the developmental allotment of £1,000,000 total from revenue £5,003,840, ' and from loan fund £400,000, making a grand total of £5,403,840 under the main Estimates. The Government also proposes to introduce a bill appropriating a further £3,220,000 for the following purposes : -

(i)   £2,900,000 towards naval construction. This amount, with previous special appropriations of £4,500,000 will make a grand total of £7,400,000, which figure represents the total estimated cost of the new cruisers, submarines, and seaplane carrier.

(ii)   £120,000 for the survey of the Great Barrier Reef.

(iii)   £200,000 for the further development of civil aviation.







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