Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 28 June 1906

Mr EWING (Richmond) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - Before making any reference to the speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I desire to say that matters in connexion with the Post Office, to which allusion has been made, are being attended to. The deputy leader) oj the Opposition has referred to sweating in the Sydney office. The honorable member for Bourke has made frequent representations to the Government with regard to sweating in the Melbourne office. Perhaps I may remark that it is not necessary to take up the time of this House with departmental matters that any honorable member may wish to bring under the notice of the Government; because I shall be very glad, without parliamentary reference, to attend to any complaint in- which wrong-doing is alleged, or to any claim which has legitimate merit behind it. I should not have risen at all to-night - because I think it is unwise to prejudice any case that is under consideration by discussion in this House - except for the frequent references which have been made during the debate to Colonel Hoad'. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has found considerable fault with that officer, although he has given no reasonable grounds to the House for so doing. There is one thing which we should always remember, and' that is that we- in this House, meeting each other face to face, are always mmore or less prepared to defend our opinions and actions from attack. But we should always be careful not to strike at a a man who has no possible power of reply. We are all agreed upon that general principle. I am quite certain that the honorable member for Wentworth subscribes to it, and will agree with me "that when he makes statements with regard to Colonel Hoad, or any other officer, it is obligatory on him to prove them. The honorable member has alleged that Colonel Hoad is rather inclined to use political influence, and he tells us that he came to that conclusion for no better reason than that Colonel Hoad, when leaving for Japan, apparently being rather struck with the personal qualities of the honorable member, sent him a telegram bidding him farewell. I should regard an action of that kind as a delicate attention from one gentleman to another, and,- in any case, there ought to be better grounds than that for such an attack as the honorable member Kas made. But, sir, it really comes to this : that whatever the present Government does - whether it appoints Colonel Hoad as Inspector-General, or whether it does not appoint him - whatever appointment is made, some fault will be found with it. There is no Napoleon Bonaparte offering for the post of Inspector-General of the Australian Forces. It is not contended that any man of such marvellous qualifications is available, however much we should like to have such an officer at our command.

Mr Page - What about the honorable gentleman' himself?

Mr EWING - I am not available I Whatever appointment is made, to this or any other position - whether it be an Imperial officer or whether it be an officer of Australian birth - fault will be found with the decision of the Government. It is one of the reasons for the existence of the Opposition that it will find fault with the Government.

Mr Wilks - But the principal attack has come from the honorable member for Maranoa, who is one of the strongest supporters of the Government.

Mr EWING - I did not ' hear the whole of the honorable member's speech, but I am quite sure that it was distinguished by that reasonable style of delivery, and- couched in that mellifluous language, that are usual with him. The Opposition must find fault with the Government. Whatever it does, it must expect that a considerable amount of fault will be found with it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is an encouragement of wrong-doing.

Mr EWING - That may be; but it is not possible for this Government to do wrong.

Mr Page - Will the Minister tell the House whether the statement which I made as to what Major-General Hutton said before leaving Australia is correct or not?

Mr EWING - I am quite satisfied that any statement that the honorable member makes while he sits on this side of the House must be correct. With regard to the report to which reference has been made, I have not seen it. .

Mr Crouch - Major-General Hutton said what the honorable member has stated.

Mr EWING - I presume if what is alleged was said, it is capable of proof. Dealing with the question of Board versus individual control, I have often asked myself the question whether the Board system is the right one. There are a considerable number of people in Great Britain and in this country who are strongly in favour of the Board method. There are others who believe in the individual system. Macaulay said somewhere in his Essays - I do not remember exactly where - that it was not possible to have a successful army under the control of a municipal council. I have come to the conclusion that if it were possible for Australia to obtain the services of a man capable of doing the work, and possible for Australia to be capable of trusting him to do it, that would be the best solution. But what is our experience with regard to these questions? Major-General Hutton came out to this country possessed of a considerable amount of experience. But how did he leave this country ?

Mr McColl - With a considerable amount of odium.

Mr EWING - He was brought out to Australia with a great reputation behind him. He was a man of considerable ability, and of tried courage.

Mr Liddell - He was a strong man, and that is why they did not like him.

Mr EWING - While I am well aware that fault can be found with the Board system, I must point out that the other system has not proved to be too satisfactory.

Mr Wilks - Did we not have the same kind of trouble in New South Wales with Major-General French ?

Mr EWING - Exactly; and I remember well that the same sort of experience to a less or greater degree has eventuated in New South Wales every time with regard to Imperial officers. They have always proved unsatisfactory in the opinion of some parties. I would also remind the honorable member for Wentworth that, whatever may be said against the Board system, he is responsible for the introduction of it - that is, responsible with his leader, the right honorable member for East Sydney, who was Prime Minister when the Board system was instituted. Honorable members who are not satisfied,' and who desire to go out of the country to find somebody to control our military affairs, should remember that a democracy is the worst form of government in the world for making war. If we had democracies in all countries we might have no more war, because we should forget how to prepare to fight. War cannot be carried on successfully under conditions where everybody insists upon knowing everything - on everything that "occurs being proclaimed to the world, and on your enemy being as well informed as to the movements of your army as you are yourself. I may observe that the same kind of trouble as has arisen in this country with regard to Imperial officers has also arisen in CanadaThere, some time ago, the Government had serious differences with a distinguished officer, Lord Dundonald

Mr Wilks - And previous to that they also had a quarrel with Major-General Hutton.

Mr EWING - Just so. Only recently in India there has been trouble between Lord Kitchener and the former GovernorGeneral, Lord Curzon. There is constant quarrelling between the military and the civil power.

Mr Maloney - The civil power must have control.

Mr EWING - Yes, as a final resort. When it becomes a matter of controlling an army in a belligerent democracy the problem is stilL more difficult. I offer these suggestions to show the difficulty that besets this question. I ask those who are so satisfied with the old system to contemplate matters as they ate to-day. The honorable member for Wentworth believes that everything wrong in connexion with our Military Forces has happened since this Government came into office, and since the Board has been in existence. For a considerable number of years we have imported from Great Britain the ablest men we could get for the money, and with what result? After the occupancy of the highest post by these gentlemen for 846 Supply [REPRESENTATIVES.] (Formal). many decades - and able men many of them were - the result has been disorganization of the worst and most expensive kind. There are in existence about twenty kinds of guns. When this Government took office we found that the total number of modern rifles in the country was, I think, 40,000 or 50,000. There seems to have been little money available for any purpose of that kind while the management was under the control of these admittedly able military men. We had very few citizen soldiers. In a democracy I can understand the difficulty in regard to the finished article. A finished soldier will cost from £120 to £150a year, but in times of peace a democracy will not pay for that class of training. The wiser course would be to increase the number very materially, and have what might be called a large, partially-paid citizen soldiery. Great scorn is heaped upon that idea by a considerable number of military men, but any one who has had the opportunity of reading Wellington's opinion about recently raised levies, and the statements made in later days by General Roberts, must come to the conclusion that a Government is acting wisely in endeavouring to provide a large reserve of fairly or partially-trained men, who are able to use a rifle, to be drawn upon in time of war.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - And to do what the recruits did in America.

Mr EWING -I do not for a moment compare a citizen force with a trained military force, any more than I would compare a trained man with a pugilist. The result brought about by the training of men - atoms all working together under control, and knowing what they are to do, and doing it promptly - must be exactly the same as the result brought about by the training of a raw horse to be eventually a racehorse. "Under the control of able officers from England, we have had but a very small citizen soldiery, a very few junior cadets, and no senior cadets. All these things are essential, but apparently they have not been dealt with as essentials by the able men we have had.

Mr Crouch - What is it intended to do with the senior cadets?

Mr EWING - It is intended to train them, and we hope that eventually that will be the best recruiting ground we can have for younger officers. I do not desire to say any more with regard to this matter. I. have said enough to show honorable mem bers that the blame does not lie at the door of the present Government.

Mr Henry Willis - The honorable gentleman has done very well, but he has not shown that.

Mr EWING - I have shown that the state of things was worse before we came into office, and that during our time we have done much along the lines of definite progress.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the strength of the Forces increased?

Mr EWING - I think it has increased, at any rate, it is on the up-grade: now. I do not wish to bring the Government too prominently into the discussion, because I feel that the question of defence ought to cause us to cast aside all obligations of party.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I meant, has the strength of the Forces increased since Federation was inaugurated?

Mr EWING - I believe so. It certainly has increased during the past year or so. We are at a crucial period with regard to defence. The Government will be prepared to accept advice from any honorable member opposite, and, if it be proved to be wise, glad to act upon -it. We ask honorable members to approach the question of the defence of Australia in no captious way. Some of the inquiries which have taken place, and the questions which have been asked in the House, might have better been left alone. Let honorable members trust the Minister of Defence, and believe that he is desirous of doing the very best he can; let them not heckle him, but try to advise him ; let them not find fault ungenerously with him, but go to him individually, and point out plainly what they desire. I am quite satisfied that if they make any representations in the interest of the country, he will endeavour to meet their views. We know that there are two things which must be done. Our country must be developed and must be defended. I am not inconsiderate enough to say that the Opposition do not desire to defend the country in exactly the same way as we do. There is as much loyalty among honorable members opposite as there is on the Government side of the Chamber, and I hope that in approaching these problems, and the difficulty of an appointment such as will come under the purview of the Government, they will give us the benefit, not of their captious criticism, but of their reasonable aid. It does

Supply[28 June, 1906.] (Formal). 847 appear to me that Australia, with a population of 4,000,000, ought very soon to be able to breed men fit to control its Forces.

Mr Henry Willis - Oh, no.

Mr EWING - The native born, grant that, after all, we have only one test, and that is the test of merit and ability, and the best man for a position should get it. I would put no embargo upon a man because he was not an Australian, but if I had an Australian who was fit for the work, irrespective of any opposition, and any risk, I would give it to him, and expect to get the aid of all reasonable men in so doing.

Mr Wilks - Have we grown an Administrator for New Guinea?

Mr EWING - I do not desire to enter into a dissertation in regard to problematical matters. I am speaking on general principles. The man who can best represent a district is one interested therein. And the man who will do best for a country is a man identified therewith. Whatever the country has to give should be given to a native-born citizen, if he has fitted himself for it. Given no advantage, but a fair field, if the native-born man is fit for a position, let him have it. I shall say no more now with regard to this question. I ask honorable members for a generous consideration of any action which the Government may take. We do not desire to avoid their criticism, but we ask them above all things to act fairly, reasonably, and honorably to men who are not here to defend themselves.

Suggest corrections