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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - No one could object to the terms in which Senator Gardiner has put the amendment forward. I think he 'has said all that could be said to recommend it; but there are some serious objections to it. It is extremely doubtful whether, if a proper standard of efficiency were laid down, any person doing only the amount of training demanded by the Defence Act would be able to pass it. Consequently, only those who could obtain outside coaching, in addition,- Would be able to pass it. That, obviously, would play into the hands of one section of the community: that is, those who could afford the time and money for such coaching. Among the Senior Cadets the boys who by this means would escape their obligations under the Defence Act would be those attending the secondary schools, and not those who have to go out to earn their own living. The senior cadet is not only being trained in military movements, but the training aims at his physical development. If a fourteen-year-old boy were able to pass tha test of efficiency he would not be compelled, under Senator Gardiner's amendment, to undergo any more physical training until he reached the age of eighteen,' and he might neglect his physical development in the meantime. The physical development brought about by this training is a great asset to the country. It is the principal part of the training. I do not say that the amount of training the cadets get is sufficient to develop them thoroughly; but it gives them a liking for physical development and encourages them to take up sport of various kinds to develop themselves further. What would happen when the cadet became a soldier? The Army is art organization, and the organization is carried down to small units, companies, and platoons. If the amendment were carried, as these men became efficient they would be lost to the platoon or company The standard of training in the unit is raised according to the number of efficient soldiers in it, and the presence of efficient soldiers has a beneficial effect on those who are less efficient. Very often an officer calls attention to the efficient way in which a certain soldier is performing an exercise, as an example to the others; but under the amendment we should lose all the efficient soldiers, and the company would consist only of the less efficient. That would have a very bad effect. Our Force is officered by Citizen Force officers. The company officer gets a good part of his training by drilling his platoon or company. If he had only the less efficient, it would militate against his training as an officer. It would be more helpful to him as an officer to have a more efficient company, and to be able to take on the higher training. For these reasons, I must ask the Committee to reject the amendment, although there is at the back of it a very important principle. I can see that, from an economic point of view, it would be better if we could shorten the number of years in which the training is carried out. There would be an economic value to the soldier and to the country if we could compress the training into a shorter period, and it would be less irritating, because the trainee would know that, having made himself efficient, he had relieved himself of the obligation of coming up year after year. If we did that, however, it would be by units, and not by individuals. The quota of a certain year would come in, do its annual training and reach a certain standard, and would not be required to go through that course again ; but that would apply to all the members of it. . If they did come up again it would be only for extended training in the shape of battalion or brigade drill. That is a variation of Senator Gardiner's proposal, although the same principle is at the back of both? ideas. However, I cannot accept the amendment at this juncture.

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