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Tuesday, 3 December 1935

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [8.25]. - I listened with much interest to the remarks of Senators Foll and Brand, and will take an early opportunity to bring them under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill). I have an intimate knowledge of the keen interest -which Senator Brand has always taken in the rifle club movement. For a considerable part of the time when I was

Minister for Defence he was a member of the Military Board, and, although it was generally believed that military men were out of sympathy with the activities of the rifle clubs, I found that Senator Brand was their warm friend and advocate. I am sure that the Minister for Defence will heed the suggestions which the honorable senator has made this evening. It is regrettable that, under our voluntary system, we do not appear to be getting the number of men required. Those who have read the memorandum which has been circulated by the Minister for Defence will realize that the Government is endeavouring to get up-to-date equipment for our defence forces. I think that Senator Brand will agree with other distinguished Australian ImperialForce officers that it would be of no use to have the men without the most modern equipment. Shortly after the war I consulted leaders of the Australian Imperial Force as to the essentials in order to perfect our defence system, and their recommendations, in the order named, were - (1) a trained staff, capable of meeting the expansion of the strength; (2) munitions and other up-to-date equipment; and (3) an army of trained men. It is to be regretted that during the depression our army was reduced in respect of all three of these essential factors. Accordingly, the policy of this Government has been to repair these deficiencies. That three years' programme, which we have adopted, aims at more extended training of officers, greater facilities for training, provision of modern equipment, and particularly the mechanization of a portion of the defence arm. The provision of material has been based on the essential condition that troops around a defended base should be mobile, and capable of being concentrated quickly at any given point, and so equipped as to be able to hit hard. Every government will have to give serious attention to the admitted scarcity of volunteers. If the system is to be successful it will have to attract more men. The suggestions of Senator Brand and of other Australian Imperial Force officers will receive careful consideration. I can assure honorable senators that it is the desire of the Government to make the voluntary training scheme a success if that be possible. "We shall continue to do everything within our power to make the system more attractive in order that we may get the required numbers, and also to ensure that their training is of such a character as to enable them to take the field as trained units.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of Trade and Customs.

Proposed vote,£564,430.

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