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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - I am pleased to see you, Mr. President, back in the Chair. One of the minor reasons why I am glad that you have recovered your normal health is that for a fortnight or so I, as Deputy President, have had to wear a muzzle, and it is quite a relief to be able to take it off this afternoon. Year after year, in season and out of season - if it be possible to speak out of season on a matter of such grave national importance - I have dealt with the subject of defence, and the policy being pursued for the time being by the present Government. I have before me volume No. 122 of Hansard, which contains the debates that took place in this Parliament from the 20th November to the 13th December, 1929. It is one of the most interesting volumes of Hansard that I have ever read. On perusing it, I was amazed at the adoption by the Government of the policy which it is now following. The volume contains the views expressed at a time when, in my opinion, a grave injury was done to Australia. The opinions are emphatically and wholeheartedly in favour of the policy of universal training which, up to that time, had been adopted since 1910. Honorable senators may there read the opinions of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan), the exAttorney.General, now Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), the Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson). All agreed that the only sane, sufficient and efficient, system of military training for the Commonwealth was that which was suspended by the Scullin Administration in November 1929. Beading that, I was astonished that this country is still committed - for the time being only, I hope - to the invariably costly and inefficient system of voluntary training.

I desire the Government to understand that I am indulging in friendly and, I trust, constructive criticism. Senator Poll spoke of a standing army. I have said on many occasions that the establishment of a standing army of professional soldiers would be repugnant to most democrats, although the United States of America, which is a democratic country, has a standing army, the National Guard consisting of 200,000 men. If the Government declines to lift the suspension of part 12 of the Defence Act, it would be of disciplinary value to have a certain number of regular troops in Australia. I do not advocate an entire professional army, but we might have some regular troops in each military district. To-day, the militia has no standard to which it can aspire. "We might well have a brigade of infantry and one or two brigades of field artillery consisting of regular soldiers who would set a standard for the militia. Should trouble come, I have no doubt that the manhood of Australia will flock into camp as they did in the years that have passed. In that way Australia will have a cadre of instructors who would train the raw recruits. I do not suggest that we should have a regular army; but it would pay us to do as I have suggested - that is, if we have not the courage and the vision to go back to the scheme laid down by that great soldier and administrator, Lord Kitchener, 26 years ago.

I come now to a broadcast speech by the Minister for Defence, on the 16th July last, which was broadcast throughout Australia, and afterwards issued in pamphlet form. I listened to the broadcast, and, without being offensive, I must say that I was shockingly disappointed with it, because it begged the whole question. In his introductory remarks the Minister said -

It is my duty and responsibility, as Minister for Defence, to put Briefly before you tonight an important aspect of our military defence - the man-power strength of the army.

He then proceeded to beg the whole question. He spoke of our army being organized in seven divisions, and said that it would require about 200,000 combatant troops in war. He went on to speak of a skeleton army of 35,000 men, which would be expanded in war to seven divisions. It was a most stupid statement, because it is impossible to do those things in war. The only time when men can be trained for war is in peace. All peace training is war training, unless it is to be a waste of national funds. War training must take place in peace. A recent statement by the Minister, which I read in the Melbourne Age about a fortnight ago is rather illuminating. The Minister is reported to have said -

The appeal for volunteers for the militia has been so overwhelming that the full strength required is in sight.

That sounds all right, but my honorable and gallant friend, Senator Brand, put on the notice-paper a question in which he asked the strength of the militia on the 30th September last, and the numbers of enlistments and discharges during thu quarter ended September. He received a reply, in the form of a letter from the Minister for Defence, dated the 22nd October, in which he was informed that the strength of the militia on the 30th September was 29,066 all ranks; that enlistments for the quarter numbered 5,512; and discharges, 2,691. That means a net gain of 2,821 during an intensive recruiting campaign extending over three months. Statements made by the Minister recently are, in the main, fatuous, but I do not say that they are not truthful. They are, however, not the whole truth. The statement that it is proposed to stop recruiting is ridiculous, because, of the men now in the militia, about 8,000 are due to go out next year, their time having expired. I do not know the position throughout Australia as a whole, but I do know the position in regard to my old unit, which I commanded for nine years. It is very grave. Numbers of the men, having served their three years, do not propose to rejoin. There is continual need for new recruits to make up the wastage that is (going on all the time. That is one of the difficulties. Men are not coming in regularly, whereas under the old system they came in at a certain period, and went out after a certain period of training. That made possible orderly training and the best use of the men, but such training cannot be given under the present arrangement.

Time after time, in this chamber and elsewhere, it has been said that Australia is such a vast country, and has so few inhabitants, that it would be utterly impossible for Australians to defend it. I was pleased to read recently a speech by Mr. Curtin, the Leader of the Labour party in the House of Representatives, which heartened me considerably. The honorable gentleman said that the only people who could defend Australia were the Australian people themselves. Some of us have known that all along. In my opinion, it is a fallacy to say that Australia cannot defend itself. It can be done. In this respect, I desire to refer to the example set by Switzerland. The Swiss people started their fight for democracy in the fifteenth century, when they strove to throw off the yoke of Austria. Having succeeded, they started what was the first real democracy.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The Swiss are not a particularly militaristic people.

Senator SAMPSON - No. I recommend to honorable senators a study of the Armaments Tear-Booh for 1935, issued by the League of Nations. It deals with the form of defence, the army, the armaments, and, indeed, the defence system generally of every country. A soldier finds the references to the Swiss system interesting reading. I desire to compare what is done in Switzerland with what we are doing in Australia. The present population of Switzerland is approximately 4,125,000, compared with 6,766,445 in Australia. Switzerland is a small country surrounded by potential enemies. On the north there is Germany, with a frontier of 367 kilometres.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - There is some mountainous country between them.

Senator SAMPSON - On the west it has France, with a frontier of 573 kilometres; to the south is Italy, with a frontier 740 kilometres long; and to the east is Austria, with a frontier of 164 kilometres. Another neighbour is Leichenstein, with a frontier of about 39 kilometres. Although a small country, Switzerland has 5,321 kilometres of railway. The Swiss army is a citizen militia, and is under federal control. Every year recruits numbering about 25,000 are called upon to render military service. During their first year they remain with the colours for from 60 to 102 days. There are no permanent or regular forces with the colours, although there is a corps of 300 permanent instructors. Having completed their first year's training with the colours, the first-year men retain their equipment and arras until the period of their liability for military service has passed. Each year about 150,000 men who have rendered their first year's service come up for repetition training courses lasting for from twelve to seventeen days. As I have said, the Swiss system provides for a federal army, which is under the control of the federal authorities, not -the Cantons. There is a federal council, which is the supreme head of the military administration, and acts through the military department, of which the chief is a federal councillor. In. peace time the military department assumes command of the army, but as soon as a levy of troops is ordered or arranged, the Federal Assembly appoints a Commander in Chief of the army. The first line of defence consists of men between the ages of 20 and 32 years; the second line, or Landwehr, consists of men between the ages of 33 and 40; the third line is the Landsturm, containing men from 41 .to 48 years of age. Every male citizen in Switzerland is liable for military service. That service is of a personal nature ; it is military service in the strict sense of the term. A man who is not fit for military service has to pay -an exemption fee - a military tax. Citizens are liable for military service from the beginning of the year in which they reach the age of 20 until the end of the year in which they reach the age of 48. Men "who do not render personal service must pay the military tax until the end of the year in which they reach the age of 40. There is a special law dealing with that tax, and exemptions are so difficult to obtain that they are almost negligible. The Swiss system includes the gymnastic training of schoolboys; but, at that stage, the responsibility rests with the Cantons, not with the federal authorities.

The treatment of rifle clubs by Switzerland sets an example to Australia. Participation in regular courses organized by rifle clubs is also a military duty which has to be performed by privates, lance-corporals, non-commissioned officers, and subaltern officers, who are armed with rifles or carbines. Compulsory courses are carried out each year. Men who fail to complete the regulation course organized by rifle clubs are called up for special musketry duty lasting three days, without pay. All who are liable for musketry practice are required to become active members of the rifle clubs at their place of residence. The

Confederation grants annual cash subsidies to the clubs, and also supplies a certain amount of ammunition free to active members. In 1935, Swiss rifle clubs had 537,000 members, apart from those in the army, and the Confederation issued to men taking part in musketry courses 11,502,000 rounds of ammunition free of cost. The Armaments YearBook, issued by the League of Nations, gives the strength of the first year army in 1935 as 20,460 men. Then it sets out the strength of those who are Called upon to do their repetition course of training. It is a most illuminating report, and from it I have extracted the following figures : -

A grand total of 167,810 men underwent a repetition course in addition to the 20,460 first year men who underwent training for periods of from 60 to 102 days.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Who paid for all that?

Senator SAMPSON - The Confederation. The Swiss army is not expensive and is truly democratic. No man can obtain a commission in it unless he has undergone his second year of training; upon completion of the repetition course a trainee becomes eligible to sit for examination to obtain a commission. In Switzerland all commissions come out of the army; a man who may be a clerk in a big warehouse may be colonel of his battalion, and his boss may be a private under him. Switzerland was prepared for whatever might happen during the Great War. There is not the slightest doubt that the French general staff would have liked to have gone through Swiss territory to turn the left flank of the German ann j, and, likewise, the German army would have liked to have invaded Swiss territory in order to turn the right flank of the French army. What happened when the Great War broke and Europe was in a ferment? This little nation mobilized within 24 hours; it did not declare war, but it called up an army of some 400,000 citizens who manned the frontiers, and during the long years of the struggle in Europe Switzerland was left severely alone. The reason for that was that every power, no matter how great, knew perfectly well that if an attempt were made to violate Swiss territory or interfere with the freedom of the Swiss people a nation of trained and skilled soldiers would be in arms immediately, who with cold and ruthless skill could make any invasion of their territory a most hazardous venture indeed. For 100 years or more the little Swiss nation has been left alone.

Senator Sir George PEARCE - It has the cheapest army in Europe.

Senator SAMPSON - Yes, and its efficiency is amazing. I was interested to read in the Army and Navy J ournal and in the Army Quarterly the .account of a British staff officer who had been in Switzerland to attend its army manoeuvres. The Swiss army consists of what might be called soldier citizens. The Swiss people are proud of it and are keen to serve their country; if a citizen is not physically fit he is more or less in disgrace in his village, and has to pay his exemption fee. The study of the Swiss army is a most amazing one. I am pleased to see on the Estimates that the training vote this year has been increased by £40,000 over the amount provided last year. The extra amount is needed badly, but is still inadequate. I want to compare the Swiss effort with what we are doing in Australia. A study of British military history brings home to one what an un-warlike people we are; we are not, and never have been, a military nation; we are always ready to muddle through somehow. We have never been prepared. I read recently a very interesting book, written by a great man, Sir John Fortescue, who, for many years was in charge of the archives of the British army. There are a number of his books on the shelves of the Parliamentary Library, all of which are very fascinating. Sir John Fortescue wrote -

British military history is one long story of unreadiness and of makeshifts, the natural fruit of unreadiness. Makeshifts are never efficient, and always costly, which is perhaps. the reason why wc delight in them. For we are a purse-proud people, and when n't are confronted with warnings from prudent and sensible men, men who have studied history and pondered over the lessons that it teaches, we delight to jingle money in our pockets and say that a little expenditure will set everything right. But money will not purchase time or redeem lost opportunities.

I am never impressed when somebody tells me that we are going to spend £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 more this year on preparations for defence; I know that money alone will not save us. There are two paths to preparedness. One is that o£ militarism on the continental pattern, which is repugnant to free men, because it means the establishment; of a large standing army in which each man would be compelled to serve his allotted term of years; it means being driven, the breaking down of democracy, and the subtracting of hundreds' of thousands of productive human units from the sum total of the nation's productivity. The other path, and the one I want to see this country tread, is the path of education - the training and proper development of our boys while they are at school, so that no long period of military training will be necessary when they aire grown to make potential soldiers of them. That path can be trod by this nation without upsetting our democratic principles. Physical training of the boys in the schools, followed at maturity by a short period of universal military training, has made the citizens of the Swiss Republic the best soldiers, man for man, on earth. That system has not made Switzerland any the less democratic ; it has not made a militarist nation of that country. On the contrary, it has made it more truly democratic. A system of voluntary military training might have sufficed years ago, but it is not practicable to-day; not only because a sufficient number will not volunteer, but also because of the utter impossibility of training hundreds of thousands of raw recruits when the enemy is almost at our gates. I am afraid that the average Australian is too much inclined to place his personal comfort and convenience, the gratification of his appetites, and the pursuit of material wealth, above the spirit of self-sacrifice that must animate a nation if it is to survive. I am afraid that that poison of indifference has sunk deep, and I suggest that the antidote is universal military training. We must have the men, at least 200,000 of them trained in the use of arms, and officers to command them. I believe that now is the time .to arrest the growth of the cancer with which pacifism has infected our social and political institutions. Those who would never volunteer to undergo national military training must be compelled to do so. Australia, of which we boast so much, and of which we are so proud, must exercise its inherent right 'to take such measures as it deems needful for the protection of its own life. Universial military service is the only safe and equitable basis of national defence. It cannot be universal unless it is compulsory. The volunteer system is a failure most times, and a dangerous expedient always. I suggest that the more the Swiss system is studied, the more is it seen to be applicable to the Commonwealth of Australia. There is no injustice or favoritism in it. It creates the greatest possible defence against emergency with the least possible expense of time, money and service. Lastly, it utilizes to the full the manhood strength of the nation without unduly interfering with the peaceful pursuits of the people as a whole. I myself believe, and I know it to be true, that it energizes and builds up the physique and sturdiness of its- men without making them professional soldiers.

Let me now deal with the arm-chair critic, from whom we hear such a lot. He will say that the next war will be a mechanical one, and that the man will not count. I myself have taken part in two wars, and served for four years in the last one. There has never been a greater fallacy in the world 'than that the man does not count. The man has always counted, and he always will. General Homer Lea, in his wonderful book, The Valor of Ignorance, says -

Warfare, either ancient or modern, has never b.een nor will ever bo mechanical. There is no such possibility as the combat of instruments. It is the' soldier that brings about victory or defeat. The knowledge of commanders and the involuntary comprehension and obedience to orders is what determines the issue of battles. As the instruments of war-faro become more intricate, the discipline, and esprit de corps must be increased accordingly.

That is quite true; but it can be done only by persistent and patient training in time of peace. If left until the outbreak of war it is too late. -We could not then get cool, calm, collected men who would be masters of their weapons, and who would have confidence in themselves. To send trained men into battle is war. To send untrained men into battle is murder, and a Minister who is responsible for sending untrained men to war deserves to be hanged as high as Hainan. All this ill-informed matter - a lot of it is press propaganda - in regard to defence, the pleadings of the present Minister " that young men should be inspired to serve ", and that their employers should encourage them to do so, is mere flatulence and will not get us anywhere. I was in command of a battalion in Tasmania for nine years, and I know what the employers will do. Every year we had trouble, some of the greatest offenders being those in control of governmental or semigovernmental institutions. It was always a . tough job to arrange with the Commonwealth Bank, the Taxation Department, and similar governmental departments to release members of their staffs to undergo training. I was informed from time to time that work could not be carried on efficiently if even an office boy went into camp. I remember the manager of one big business concern in Tasmania ringing me up and saying that his business would be disorganized if a youth whom he employed went into camp at Mona Vale for eight days. I asked what the youth was receiving, and was informed that he was getting 30s. a week. I suggested that the youth's wages should be increased to £15 a week, that the manager should go into camp, and that the youth should take his place and run the business. It is useless pleading with some employers to release their employees to undergo military training. I know that there are quite a number of exceptions, but military training should be compulsory.- It is a pity that a former Government suspended part XII of the Defence Act, because in that part provision is made for the imposition of penalties upon employers who deter young men from carrying out their obligations under the Defence Act. These pleadings that " young men should be inspired to serve ", such as the Minister for Defence puts over the air and publishes in the press, are useless. The remedy is in our hands. The proven remedy for unpreparedness is compulsory national service. I appeal to the Government to tell the nation the truth; that without it an adequate and efficient army is an impossibility. If the people learn the truth they will cheerfully support a system of compulsory service, particularly when they realize the imperative necessity for it.

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