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Tuesday, 29 June 1937


Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - I welcome this opportunity to refer to the debate which took place in the Senate this afternoon in relation to the League of Nations. I was particularly interested in listening to the remarks of Senator Foll and some other honorable senators. When I speak of defence, I speak of the British Empire, or as it is called to-day, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and not only of Australia, because we are all bound together in this matter. The Empire is a wheel, of which the Old Country is the hub, and the dominions are the spokes. If the hub is smashed, the outlook for the spokes is bad; at the same time, the spokes have to do their part of the job, as a part of the wheel. At times there is a good deal of confused thought about defence, because we have to-day, not only in the dominions, but also- in Great Britain, hosts of well-meaning and intelligent people who hold some very strong views of defence, which, in my opinion, are quite erroneous. Some say that we should not be involved in war if we do not make it ourselves. That is to say, that if we do not make trouble, trouble should not come to us. Let us first consider our case : what motive could any nation have for attacking us if we were manifestly unaggressive, and ' even indifferent to the elementary national duty of self-defence? The answer to that is that we own a great many things which make us a subject of the envy of less fortunate countries. Yet there are in this Commonwealth men of heart and brain who contend that either we should have no defence, at all, or that we should limit our need for defence by relying on our fellow members of the League of Nations. Some friends we must have on whom we can rely. But friends are not to be had for nothing, and, if they promise support to us,- we must promise support to them. Pooled security can never be a reality unless every partner to the British Empire contributes his fair and just share, according to his means, to the general defence. That is the only fair and logical conclusion that we can reach. Peace and security cannot be bought; they must be deserved and earned, and a nation which refuses to face that fact in the world of to-day is making war against itself inevitable in the course of a very few years. Our whole object should be to prevent war. To argue that we shall do again what is necessary if an emergency occurs is beside the point. Time will not be permitted to us. Equally futile is the contention that if we keep away from trouble, trouble will keep away from us. Everything will depend upon the estimate which foreign nations are led to form of our preparation for war. The British Commonwealth, cannot afford to be caught unprepared. The first thing to be done in Australia is to bring home to the country the grave danger of its present attitude to military training and service. I think that our democracy to-day suffers from its disbelief in the necessity for military organization, but I think that it is instinctively opposed to inequality of sacrifice. When I talk about the necessity for military organization in Australia, I am thinking of the dire necessity for discipline and organization in the event of air raids. I do not propose to go into a technical dissertation on defence, or what form the next war may take, but it is quite conceivable that an aircraft carrier may reach within 60 or 70 miles of our coast, and if that occurred aeroplanes from the ship could, within half an hour, drop bombs upon the capital cities. That could be done quite easily. It is absolutely essential that our civilians should have some organized training, some idea of discipline, and have instilled in them some measure of selfcontrol to avert some of the consequences of such an attack.

I said just now that the Australian democracy is to-day suffering from a disbelief in the necessity for military training and organization for "war, but that T believe it to be utterly opposed to inequality of sacrifice. Why should the patriotic few give up their leisure in order to undergo military training while the vast majority of Australian men loaf on the job? I am convinced that democratic thought and feeling on this issue is quite sound. If service and sacrifice are necessary, and I submit that they are to-day, they should fall impartially upon the boy whose father has wealth, and the boy whose father may not possess a " bob " or even a job. . Our aim should be universal service - a truly democratic ideal. In such a system of training there should be no distinction of class or wealth, or between man and man. No able-bodied person should be permitted to evade the call.

Many honorable senators will recall that in November, 1929, by an act of positive insanity the Labour Government of the day, then just in the saddle, absolutely destroyed, presumably at the dictation of the then honorable member for Ballarat and an ignorant caucus, the system of defence which had been built up to a high state of efficiency as the result of twenty years of patient effort. To-day we are paying dearly for that disastrous act of government policy, and paying for it in many ways. I have had recently placed in my hands the annual report of the Royal Military College at Duntroon for the year just ended. It is a revealing document, and shows that once more we are, thank God, moving in the right direction for the efficient training of our military staff. But, unhappily, we are about 120 short of trained staff officers. "We simply have not got them. Honorable senators will realize what this means when I tell them that it takes at least four years of patient training by competent instructors, to turn out a young man fit for his job of military leadership and organization. Untrained mobs and levies, raised in a state of emergency can be " licked " into shape only if we have available an adequate number of highlytrained staff officers. The Kitchener scheme of citizen force training, is a system which this country can very well afford and which, I consider was reasonably efficient.

With regard to the present arrangements for militia training, I put it to the Government that, in some respects, it is being penny-wise and pound-foolish. I have in mind its attitude to the cadet training organizations in connexion with many of our larger public schools. It is, I contend, reasonable to expect that the Commonwealth should provide the boys belonging to these school cadet organizations with the necessary uniforms, thus relieving many parents of what may be, to them, an unfair burden. Many intelligent and keen youngsters are debarred from joining school cadet corps, because their parents are unable to find the money to provide them with uniforms, which cost about £4. The Government, I understand, contributes £1 towards the cost of uniforms, and the balance nas to be found by the boys' parents. This arrangement is not fair. The aim should be to make these cadet corps really officers' training corps on the lines followed in England in pre-war days, and which has been resumed more recently. It would be sound policy to do this.

The Royal Military College at Duntroon has had a chequered career, particularly in recent years. It was established about 25 years ago and, for its size, is, without doubt, the finest military college in the British Empire. This is no idle boast; the records amply support my contention. If the college had been in any other country, its wonderful record would have been blazoned forth to the world time after time. The cadets consist of young Australians with a few New Zealanders, and for several years in succession the college won the championship in competition with every military college in the British Empire,, beating those at Kingston in Canada, and! at Sandhurst and Woolwich.

Whenever I enter the historic church of St. John the Baptist, and see there the tablet to the memory of Duntroon graduates, I am reminded of the truly remarkable record establishe'd by those splendid young Australian officers, 150 in number, who were trained at Duntroon,, and served in the Great War. Of that, total, 42 did not return to Australia, having lost their lives in the world war and 58 were wounded. Almost without exception the Australian staff officers trained at Duntroon were mentioned in the despatches, and received high military decorations for their splendid services to the Empire. If 'we are going to do any good with our system of citizen soldiering, I impress upon honorable senators that the training of staff cadets at the Duntroon Royal Military College must be the keystone of our efforts; so we should do all that lies in our power to see that it is well staffed with officers, and fully equipped for the efficient training of the lads who secure admission to it. I hope, as the years go on, that every government, irrespective of its political outlook, will fully appreciate the ideal democratic military college which we now possess. The son of even the poorest Australian citizen may, if he has the necessary qualifications, secure admission to the college, and there receive four years of training at the expense of the Government. At the end of four years, the graduate will probably be sent to India or some other portion of the British Empire for further training with troops, as it is not possible to get this additional experience in Australia. Then, at the end of his period of training abroad, he will be returned to Australia a fully-trained officer with the highest ideals of leadership, thoroughly fit in every respect for his important job. I sincerely hope that never again will the college be treated as it was during the depression years.







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