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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) . - The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat dealt briefly with the man-power position in this country. Whilst all sections of the community appear to be united in the prosecution of our war effort, the fact remains that some sections, against which I hope the Government will take prompt action, are threatening to weaken that effort by advocating conscription of manhood for overseas service and conscription of wealth in this country. That policy is entirely wrong. As Senator A. J. McLachlan has just pointed out, our man-power is commencing to dwindle. At the earliest opportunity the Government should disclose to what degree we can afford to continue recruiting tor overseas service.

Senator Allan MacDonald - Does the honorable senator think that we should stop now?

Senator ARTHUR - I am of the opinion that we may come to that conclusion. In the last war when we had five divisions overseas the cry was for 16,500 reinforcements a month. During that period conscription proposals were defeated on two occasions. To-day, we have four divisions serving overseas. I admit that our present casualties are not to be compared with those which we suffered in the last war; but whilst we have an additional 2,000,000 people in Australia since the conclusion of the last war, the calls on manpower in this war are considerably greater than was the case in 1914-18. We have recruited approximately 200,000 men for the Air Force and the Air Force reserve, 60,000 of whom are serving in the Royal Australian Air Force, and our present naval personnel greatly exceeds our strength in that arm in the last war. Further, thousands of additional men are nowengaged in munitions factories. In these circumstances, can we continue to cry out for more and more men at the risk of seriously depleting our man-power? The possibility exists that we may be attacked at our back door. I admit that we have certain assurances that we shall not lack aid from outside in the event of the war spreading to the Pacific. I urge the Government to make an immediate survey of our resources of man-power in order to ensure that we shall retain sufficienmen in all essential spheres. During the last war we were informed by military experts that a mobile force of 80,000 men. would be sufficient to defend this country effectively under the conditions existing at that time. I believe that to-day one armoured division would provide effective immediate defence in the event of a sudden attack upon this country. 1 can see no reason for continuing the costly circus which is to be witnessed daily in Martin-place in Sydney, and in other capital cities. Such methods are obviously ineffective. It is also apparent that the expenditure incurred in sending recruiting trains all over the country is being wasted. Senator Clothier drew attention to the grave man-power problem which confronts our rural industries. The military authorities refuse to grant temporary exemptions from military service to men who are required to transport wheat to silos. So far as those authorities are concerned the wheat crop can be left to rot in the paddocks. That is happening in the Canowindra district. We also find that military doctors have passed men for service who are blind in one eye or have an artificial limb.

Senator Allan MacDonald - Those cases are not general.

Senator ARTHUR - I cite those instances in order to emphasize the bad effect of our present recruiting methods and military administration on men who are eligible to enlist. Whilst such conditions continue one cannot wonder if many of our eligible men do not enlist. Some people declare that we have unlimited man-power. That is not so. Undoubtedly many eligible men have not offered themselves for service; but an investigation into their circumstances would reveal that many have failed to enlist because of pressing private responsibilities. Most people are inclined to overlook that fact. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from4.46to8 p.m.

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