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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - Honorable senators will recollect that upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill, I advanced certain arguments against compulsory training. If there be one thing more than another at which we aim in connexion with our Military Forces, it is efficiency. It is practically a stupid thing to compel a man to devote a certain amount of his time to something in which 'he has become proficient years before. I do not think there is any military advantage in it. The average intelligent young Australian will learn all the ordinary drill necessary for a private in six weeks, and become quite efficient. He may not be a show man, but he will at least be fairly efficient in the time, as regards all the movements and orders he is called on to obey, with the excellent physical training that most of our schools give. I am not- trying to limit or take from the Department or the military authorities the right to have what they consider efficient training. I have here an amendment which has been hurriedly drafted, but if the principle is accepted it can easily be put into proper shape. I move -

That the following words be added to the clause: "Provided further that any member of the Senior Cadets or Citizen Forces may be exempt from further training upon passing a prescribed examination."

I leave it to the Department to prescribe the examination and to the members of the Senior Cadets and Citizen Forces to pass it. If a member of the Citizen Forces can pass the examination now necessary for sergeants, what occasion is there to train him any further ? The examination would not only be written, but also practical. Why should a young man who, at the age of 19, is as efficient as he ever will bie, be compelled if he stays in the ranks to go through the same movements and the same training year after year?

Senator Cox - May we not want that man as a non-commissioned officer, or an officer, if he is so efficient?

Senator GARDINER - Exactly, but I believe a proviso such as I suggest would be really an incentive to trainees to make themselves efficient.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -brockman. - When you say a cadet can became efficient in six weeks, what do you mean by six weeks ?

Senator GARDINER - The ordinary intelligent young man, if taken into camp for six weeks, would probably become in that time as efficient as ever he would be as a private drilling in the ranks. Of course, in certain technical arms, it would take much longer for a man to become efficient. But what I want to avoid is the humdrum ' repetition year after year of movements and orders that are so familiar that they become repugnant. The Department could prescribe a very strict examination. I do not mean that the senior cadet should be exempted for all time on passing, the examination. I would' have the Senior Cadets and Citizen Forces kept separate in that regard. The cadet needs his first two years of training as a junior, then he goes into the Senior Cadets, and if after his first twelve months there he can show he has reached the standard of efficiency required by the Department, why not exempt him until it is time for him to go into the Citizen Forces? A similar principle has been applied to public schools. An age was fixed at which boys could leave school, but an examination was .also provided to enable a boy who passed it to leave before that age. If efficiency up to the standard required by the Defence Department can be secured in two years, why compel a man to drill six or seven years? From inquiries I have made and what I have seen of the cadet training, I feel that the Department will be compelled sooner or later to reconsider seriously the whole system of training for the youth and manhood of Australia.

Senator Rowell - Don't you think that 95 per cent, of them like going into the damps for training?

Senator GARDINER - No doubt' many young fellows do.' ' I read an account lately of how a deputation waited on the camp commandant to ask that their time in camp should be extended. I can quite understand that, particularly at present, when the military life is very popular among young men. What good is to be obtained from training men for . a long period to reach' a standard of efficiency when you could prescribe that standard and induce them to reach it in much less time? What is desired is efficiency. The test of efficiency is examination, and that examination will be prescribed by the Department. I have had this pro posal in my mind for a long time; in fact, somewhere about 1911 I moved a similar amendment. Time has gone on, and the Forces have been trained. The compulsory system is undergoing a test. Whether it will be successful or not has yet to be seen. Because it is in the experimental stage, I desire to make it as popular and intelligent as I can. I therefore want a standard of efficiency prescribed that will give the senior cadet or the citizen soldier an opportunity of winning his way out, not by shirking, but by proving that he is efficient. That would be a step in the right direction to popularize compulsory training.

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