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Thursday, 21 May 1936

Senator BRAND (Victoria) . - I am sure that every true patriot and virile Australian is grateful to find that the Government is making a laudable effort to place the defence of Australia on a sound and self-contained basis. The stimulus given to the search for oil is opportune, even if overdue. The recent Italo-Abyssinian war should be a warning to those who prefer to neglect our defences and rely upon the good-will and assistance of another nation or group of nations in times of national emergency. As Australia is an island continent, many people pin their faith on an efficient and powerful Empire navy, which really means the Royal Navy. Support from the British navy may have been possible before the Great War, but it could not be expected to-day. In any case, why should we "loaf" on the Mother Country? If ever Australia is threatened, Great Britain will have sufficient troubles and responsibilities of its own. The heart of the Empire is not likely to be un covered to meet any critical situation confronting Australia, and we would have to do our best, pending the arrival of a fleet superior to that of the enemy. From whatever standpoint our strategical position is viewed, Australia must possess a strong, self-contained air force. Such a force, acting alone, would not be sufficient to prevent the hostile occupation of this continent. An efficient and highly trained mobile army working in co-operation with the other arms is essential. Amateur strategists are prone to allow their enthusiasm for the youngest branch of our defence forces to influence them unduly, and to overlook its limitations. They underrate possible opposition, and ignore the increasing improvement made for offensive and defensive operations by sea-borne fighting craft. No nation desiring to acquire this continent would rely upon its naval and air power alone. I have been unable to ascertain what the Labour party really means by " adequate defence ". It has been said that its policy means defence within our shores, when the situation demands - a kind of waitandsee policy. Surely the members of the Opposition do not think that an army can spring up as if by magic when ;i state of national emergency arises! The Australian Imperial Force achieved its fame after three years' training and experience in the hard school of war. Under peace conditions, Australia can attain a reasonable standard of training and efficiency if given the men and material. The Government rightly realizes the necessity to establish reserve-: of modern equipment and material. A progressive programme is being followed, and, in due course, ample reserves will cither be visible or capable of fulfilment when desired. Meanwhile, what is being done to create a reserve personnel? The old Australian Imperial Force is no longer a force to be considered. In future, the militia must supply our reserves, but its strength is so weak, and its training so scrappy in consequence of this weakness that the discharged personnel cannot bc classified as dependable reserves. Each year, Parliament votes pay for 35,000 of all ranks for twelve days' training, but not one-third of that number draws the full twelve days' pay. Commanding officers, with the help of mayors, aldermen and citizens' committees have had " drives " for enlistments, and have expended money, time and energy to this end, but with heartbreaking results. Their experience has been like pouring water on stone and expecting it to produce grass. All employers are not unpatriotic. Flash uniforms and busbies will not attract young Australians. The voluntary system, which has been given a fair trial, has failed. It will never be satisfactory until the Labour party gives that system its full support, and throws its weight behind the Government. An increase of pay, especially during camp periods, will have to be provided. Is it fair to ask the man on the basic wage to give up a week's wages for a paltry 4s. a day for a six-day camp? The pay should he increased to at least 8s. a day, as it was 25 years ago. There is one phase of our defence system in which enthusiasm is not lacking or which at least responds . to a little encouragement. I refer to the rifle clubs, the members of which are potential infantrymen - the branch of the militia forces that is so much under strength. At present, there is a good deal of unrest owing to the reduction by one-half of the annual allowance of free ammunition. The Government should encourage, rather than penalize and antagonize, a body of citizens voluntarily and without pay doing something to fit them to take their place in a national army if they should ever be called upon to do so. I strongly urge that an amount be placed on the Estimates next year to meet the expenditure involved in restoring the 100 rounds >f ammunition for each official member. It is the young men who have taken up rifle shooting as a Saturday afternoon pastime who should be encouraged ro remain in the clubs, because once their interest is lost by the withdrawal of practice ammunition they spend their Saturday afternoons in some other form of recreation.

There are some anomalies in the

Repatriation Act, and the regulation thereunder, to which I direct the attention of the Minister. For instance, a man named Brown applies for a war pension. The Medical Board is not sure if he is entitled to a pension, *o he goes into a repatriation hospital for observation; he may be detained there for two or three weeks, or perhaps longer. While in hospital, he receives a sustenance grant of two guineas a week under regulation 113 i, that being the amount of the war pension he is seeking. If he is a married man, his wife and children receive a small additional amount. Another man named Smith applies for a service pension. His annual income is under £80 - the statutory earnings permissible for such a pension. The Medical Board is undecided in his case, so he also goes into a repatriation hospital for observation and treatment in the hope that his disability, which precludes him from regular employment, be diagnosed and 'treated. He may be refused a pension. Unlike Brown, he gets no assistance for wife and children while he is in hospital. He may have had casual work for two or three days in each week, but while he is in hospital, which may be for a month, his wife and even his children have to endeavour to earn a few shillings to keep the home going. The Minister should bring this anomaly under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation. Another anomaly is instanced in the case of a man - whom we may call Robinson - who applies for a service pension on the 1st January, and whose pension is approved on the 8th May. Both he and his wife benefit as from the 1st January. Another man - say Jones - who receives an invalid pension of 18s., knowing that the service pension is greater, applies for it on the 1st January. Assuming that his application is approved on the 8th May, he would receive the pension only as from the latter date.

Senator Sir George Pearce - He would have been receiving an invalid pension while the other was in receipt of no pension at all.

Senator BRAND - There is something in that; however, section 45a of the act should be investigated with a view to removing anomalies of this nature.

Senator Arkins - One pension may be greater than the other.

Senator BRAND - The invalid pension is 18s. a ' week, and the service pension for a. man and wife is 30s. I suggest, however, that these cases could be brought into line without involving much additional expenditure. Such action, would be an admirable gesture on the part of the Government.

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