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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - I have listened with great interest to the various speeches delivered during the debate on this bill, and I propose to reply to a number of contentions with which I entirely disagree. The first matter' with which 1 wish to deal was raised by my colleague from Queensland, Senator Foll, who suggested the replacement of the existing volunteer militia by a standing army of 50,000 men - a most startling proposal.

Senator Foll - Not the replacement.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - There is nothing new in that suggestion.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Senator AllanMacDonald certainly has not an Australian sentiment, otherwise he would not have made that remark. We- know that standing armies are the greatest curse that democracies have to face. They create a military caste which would be found ready to execute the will of some man of the butcher type of mind.

Senator Sampson - Has the standing army in Great Britain become a curse?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - In past centuries the army in Great Britain has been admitted to be a curse; it was used during 'Cromwell's day to keep the people in subjection. The present time is not very different from the day of CromwellI advise honorable senators to read history and ascertain what a standing army really means. Under that system onetenth of the population can rule the entire nation. That has been done many times in the past. In making this proposal, Senator Foll is a long way behind the times. I was in London in 1911, when a big strike of railway men occurred ; 40,000 trained soldiers were drafted to London by the Government to suppress the strike. That experience confirmed my reading of the evil of standing armies, and I do not think that such a system would be entertained in this country. Take, for instance, the cost of maintaining such a standing army. I suppose Senator Foll would say that now that we have returned to normal times we ought to pay to each of those men a basic wage of about £4 a week. On that basis the total annual cost would be approximately £10,000,000. To our honorable friends opposite cost, even in defence matters, is of paramount importance; with them it is a matter of money all the time. During the Great War they objected to the introduction of universal service on that account. When it came to implementing Andrew Fisher's promise of the "last man and the last shilling", they were prepared to send the last man, but protested against taking the last shilling from their wealthy friends. With them money is the first and last consideration all the time.

Senator McLeay - Where would the honorable senator have been had the Government taken the last shilling?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I would not have been any worse off. At that time, I would have been prepared to support conscription of man power on condition that it was accompanied by conscription of wealth.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Judging by the amount of the public debt, we practically took the last shilling.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I do not think so. I agree withmy colleague, Senator Collings, that a class of people, the new-rich, the stay-at-homes, made huge fortunes during the Great War.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Some have made more since the war.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I am satisfied that quite a number of people made money during the war by selling military requirements at exorbitant prices.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Not in Australia; the honorable senator is wrong, as I shall show when I reply.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Investments in the war debt arc owned by somebody; they are certainly not owned by the workers. Quite a number of people are drawing large sums of money in interest on money loaned to the Government to carry on the war. I would be very glad if the Minister could inform me that every person who lent money during the war in Australia made a present of it to the nation from patriotic motives; but they did not do so; they treated the war as an ordinary business, and have derived huge profits from their investments and business undertakings. Now, when we are asked to suggest means of improving the voluntary system of enlistment, the matter of money is again raised. I do not find any large body of employers throughout Australia to-day saying: "If we get as many young men as we need, we on our part are prepared to pay them while they are undergoing training."

Senator Collings - The voluntary system failed because employers did nothing to help it.

Senator J.V. MacONALD.Employers generally are not willing to spend money to prepare young men to defend their country; they are quite prepared for them to undergo their military training on Saturday afternoons. It is strange that they do not also expect them to train on Sundays. The only way in which we can attract young men to military service is to provide that such training shall be undertaken in the employers' time.

Senator Arkins - Many employers have offered to do that.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Not one in a hundred.

Senator Arkins - If it were offered, would the honorable senator stand up to the compulsory system?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - During the war I was prepared to support conscription of men if wealth also wereconscripted, but the wealth owners of this country would not agree to that. Their sole idea was to get the men, and save their own money. Recently an honorable senator expressed surprise and even alarm because 30,000 persons attended a cricket match in Sydney on Saturday last. I happened to be a spectator at that match, and, I think if it were possible to conduct an inquiry it would be found that an overwhelming majority of those present were ex-cricketers who naturally found considerable enjoyment in watching the game. I do not think that it can be denied that cricket, football, and similar games provide a healthy form of recreation for those who participate in them, and that they also provide an enjoyable form of relaxation for the spectators, many of whom have passed the age at which they can engage in active recreation. Moreover the players receive beneficial training and exercise which would be an advantage to them should the nation require their services. The honorable senator said that the younger spectators at such matches would he better employed in drilling; but surely he does not suggest that they should he denied some pleasure. I would favour a system of universal service if there were similar compulsion in the matter of providing money to meet the enormous expenses incurred.

Senator Guthrie - Is the honorable senator in favour of the compulsory system?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Yes, with modifications; but if young men are expected to undergo training for a period of years it should be done in their employers' time.

Senator Guthrie - Should it not be on a fifty-fifty basis ?

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