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Wednesday, 7 December 1938

Mr BAKER - This Government is responsible; it cannot say that the neglect is- due to the British Government or to any State government. Apparently the only member of this Parliament who appears to believe that there has been no neglect is the newly appointed Minister for Defence, lt. would be interesting to know the reason for the deposition of the previous Minister for Defence who, although the Government says that his status has not been reduced, has been placed in a minor post. I am not blaming the ex-Minister for Defence, because I think that he has had to suffer for the sins of the Government. It is now proposed to increase the strength of the militia from 35,000 to 70,000, but apparently the only method of strengthening our defence system which appeals to the Government is voluntary enlistment or compulsory enlistment.

Mr Street - I have not heard anything about compulsory enlistment.

Mr BAKER - It is common knowledge that certain Ministers favour the introduction of compulsory military training whilst others are opposed to that system. Some honorable members of the Government believe that there is less danger politically under the voluntary system than there is under the compulsory system. I trust that the militia system will be a success, and I give it my blessing, but I have not very much faith in it. My own experience was that the men receive worthwhile training only when they are in camp aim that at other times they can come and go as they please.

Mr Street - That is not so.

Mir. BAKER. - My considered opinion is that neither the voluntary nor the compulsory system is likely to be successful. A third method is to provide a standing army which would be of value in defending this country.

Mr Street - Of what size, that is the point ?

Mr BAKER - At present we have 2,500 members of the permanent force, and I suggest that Australia should have a standing army of 20,000 men.

Mr Street - Maintenance would cost about £300 a man a year, or £6,000,000 a year.

Mr BAKER - I am glad that the Minister has given that estimate. Hia figures must be fairly accurate as they agree with mine. I estimate that if each man received £5 a week, a standing army of 20,000 men would cost £5,000,000 a year in wages.

Mr Street - Without any overhead.

Mr BAKER - Yes. The Minister has said that at an estimated cost of £300 a man, the annual cost would be £6,000,000.

Mr Street - Approximately.

Mr BAKER - Surely £6,000,000 a year is not a very large sum to expend to maintain a standing army of 20,000 men.

Mr Street - Would the honorable member have no militia at all ?

Mr BAKER - I do not think it would matter very much whether the militia were retained or not, although I realize that a militia force would be needed eventually. Under this bill, the Government is proposing to increase its defence expenditure by £8,000,000, although the cost of a permanent standing army of 20,000 men would be only £6,000,000. A standing army of 30,000 would cost £9,000,000 and one of 50,000 would cost £15,000,000, which is less than the cost of a new battleship.

Mr Street - The men must have equipment.

Mr BAKER - Does not the amount mentioned by the Minister include equipment ?

Mr Street - No. They would need uniforms, arms and munitions.

Mr BAKER - I understood that the estimated cost of £300 a man included equipment.

Mr Curtin - A battleship would have to be manned and there would be maintenance and running costs.

Mr BAKER - Yes. If we ' had a permanent army, allowance would have to be made for the saving that would be effected if the militia were dispensed with. A standing army of 50,000 men, which would be of valuable assistance in protecting Australia, would cost less than a modern battleship; I do not believe that the troops at present in training could be called upon for immediate action should the occasion arise.

Mr Street - They are only a nucleus.

Mr BAKER - I suggest that the members of the Citizen Force are more or less gilded peacocks. They are encouraged to join the militia forces because the uniform is attractive. It would be suicidal to ask soldiers garbed in such multicoloured uniforms to face an enemy.

Mr Street - It is an ordinary khaki uniform.

Mr BAKER - I am referring to the highly-coloured uniforms to be seen in the streets of our capital cities.

Mr Street - Khaki is the only field service uniform.

Mr BAKER - Honorable members are frequently interviewed by persons who wish to join the Army, Navy or Air Force. According to a weekly newspaper, of . 1,000 men who applied for admission to the Air Force, only twelve were accepted. In Brisbane the other day - and this is only an example of what is happening in every capital city - when men were being examined, many more wanted to join the Air Force than could be accepted. I have had men come to me wanting to join the permanent forces. If they are sent to the leaders of the Army, they are kept waiting many weeks before they are employed, or else they are not employed at all. We have many fine types of men who want to devote their lives to this work, and to make a career of it. Instead of encouraging them, the Government is going on in the haphazard pot-luck manner which characterizes almost every one of its activities. As to the method of financing the defence programme, there is no reason why the money should not be raised by taxation. In the first place, if money is borrowed, it can be obtained only in two ways - either out of savings, or by increase of credit. Mr. Hartley Withers, a leading British economist, dealing with war-time financial problems, criticized the British Government for obtaining money required during the last war for some of its objects by means of borrowing instead of taxation.

Writing at the time of the war, Mr. Hartley Withers said -

In the meantime the Government falls hack on finding about80 per cent. of its requirements of the war on a system of borrowing. Insofar as the money subscribed to its loans is money that is being genuinely saved by investors, this process has exactly thesame effect as taxation, that is to say, somebody does withoutgoods and services and hands over his power to buy them to the State to he used for the war. Burrowing of this kind consequently does everything that is needed for the solution of the immediate war problem, and the only objection to it is that it leaves later on the difficulties involved by raising taxes when the war is over, and economic problems are much more complicated in times of peace than in war, for meeting the interest and redemption of debt. But, in fact, it is well known that by no means all that the Government has borrowed for war purposes has been provided in this way. Much of the money that the Government ban obtained fur war purposes, has been got not out of genuine savings of investors, but by arrangements of various kinds with Che banking machinery of the country or by the simple use of the printing press, with the result that the Government has provided itself with an enormous mass of new currency which has not been taken out of anybody else's pocket,but has been manufactured by or for the Government.

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