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Thursday, 15 May 1924

Mr WEST (East Sydney) .- I think it is a pity that the Standing Orders do not permit us to consider the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope this will be a lesson to members of the House to be very careful in considering Standing Orders not to curtail the liberty of honorable members in such a way as to prevent the proper discussion of a serious matter.

Mr SPEAKER - The Standing Orders do not deal with this matter.

Mr CHARLTON - It is governed by the Public Works Committee Act.

Mr WEST - Then those who passed that Act certainly made a mistake. I do not think the members of the Public Works Committee would be very greatly put out if this were referred back to them, because in that report they make reference to the very matters to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has drawn attention. The report states -

Disregarding the policy which led to the establishment of Flinders as a naval sub-base, and the later decision apparently arrived at to abandon that idea and to retain the establishment as a naval training depot - both of which were outside the scope of the Committee's inquiry - this proposal was approached purely from the point of view of further accommodation being required for the personnel at this training depot.

Flinders is not an ideal place for a naval depot. It is very expensive to train troops there. It is isolated, far removed from the centre of shipping, and there is not a sufficient depth of water to enable ships to come in and go out when necessary. I have visited the place on two or three occasions. When I was last there all the vessels were lying on the mud. That is not a good thing for any vessel. Another paragraph in the report states -

Mr Blakeley moved as an amendment - That the Committee is of opinion that the defence establishments at Flinders Naval Base, Jervis Bay, Duntroon, and Point Cook should be investigated, with a view to the efficient and economic coordination of these sections of the Defence Force of Australia, and that for the time being the proposal to extend the barrack accommodation at Flinders Naval Depot be postponed.

If honorable members were well acquainted with the cost not a member would decline to refer this back for further consideration. It would make some honorable members nervous if they knew what we are spending there. We are not getting the results we should obtain from that expenditure. The regulations governing the conduct of some of these institutions are opposed to what I consider to be the correct thing. We are told that because a certain practice has been followed by the Navy for centuries we must necessarily abide by it. I am not endeavouring to lessen the value of the Navy, and have never expressed sentiments of that nature, but as a representative of the people I have a right to see that we get adequate service for the money that is expended, and if the expenditure is not justified by the results I feel bound to state what I consider would be a better course to pursue. Jervis Bay no doubt, is an ideal spot. If honorable members of this House could go down there for a fortnight every year while the fine weather lasted they would thoroughly enjoy themselves and improve their health. Those who chose it evidently possessed judgment. It may Le thought that I am trying to defeat the object of the Defence Force in Australia. I am doing nothing of the kind. It must be remembered, however, that it costs the Government £1,325 a year to maintain and train a cadet aged thirteen or fourteen years in the Jervis Bay College. That is pretty stiff. Every teaching establishment in Australia is jealous f the College, and one cannot wonder that that is so. I think that if the age were increased and the boy were given further primary education the costmight be materially reduced and accommodation could be found for th.> lower ratings. Jervis Bay College was built to accommodate 160 cadets, and it has only 41. I believe I am justified in asking the House to allow this matter to stand over. Once these buildings are erected they cannot be pulled down, and Flinders is such an out-of-the-way place that it would not be possible to use them for other purposes. We cannot proceed along the lines* followed 25 years ago to make up a deficiency between revenue and expenditure. I remember that in New South Wales, when revenue was short, the Government would sell 200,000 acre3 of Crown land at £1 per acre, and place the proceeds to revenue account. If that did not balance the accounts they would place a duty of 2s. a gallon on whisky. Such methods are not possible to-day. The amount which -we can alford to set aside for defence is limited. I hope the House will take the same view as I do. I feel confident that in another week or two we will have a report from the Committee, and be able to discuss the matter with all the facts before us.

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