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Thursday, 26 November 1914

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I am very pleased that the Minister is making an effort to meet the difficulty to which I referred on the motion for the second reading of this Bill. But I ask him to consider whether his proposal goes quite far enough. Personally, I have arrived at the conclusion that 3 miles is as far as we ought to compel a lad to travel for training purposes. When the Minister says that it is easier for a youth in the metropolis to travel 5 miles than it is for a lad in the country to travel 3 miles, he merely states an obvious fact. But I would remind him that even a youth in the metropolitan area cannot travel 5 miles without the expenditure of considerable energy and some cash. My chief concern, however, is for the boys in our rural areas - lads in fruit-growing and farming districts who are just outside the 3 miles limit. Many of these youths finish their work about sundown, and have then to traverse bush tracks to reach the place of training. They have afterwards to return home. The number of these cases has forced me to admit that any limit in excess of 3 miles will impose hardship. I had anticipated that the Minister would seek to make the limit 3 miles. I come now to his proposal *o leave the matter in the hands of the State Commandant. I know of no less satisfactory authority to which it could be left. The State Commandants would approach this matter from a strictly military point of view. Now, it should always be remembered that if we wish to secure public approval of this Act it must have sympathetic administration. I would much prefer that the matter should be left to the Minister to deal with.

Senator Pearce - Would not the Minister have to get his information from the military officers?

Senator MILLEN - It is not merely a question of getting the facts. The position is that the Minister would view the facts in one way - just as I would myself - and the State Commandants would view them in another. To the latter it would appear a very easy matter for a boy to travel 5 miles to attend his drill - to me it would not. I would like the Minister to consider the expediency of substituting 3 miles for 5 miles as the limit. As a matter of fact I am prepared to accept a compromise of 4 miles.

Senator Pearce - At the present time 5 miles is the outside limit.

Senator MILLEN - I am not speaking of boys who reside only half-a-mile or a mile from the place of training, but of lads who are distant more than 3 miles from it. In the neighbourhood of Penrith, in my own State, there are lads who finish their afternoon's milking about sundown. They have then to go into town, and after they have performed their drill they have to walk 3 miles back to their homes. That is a hardship which we never intended to impose when we passed the Defence Act. At the same time, the district, to which I refer is too sparsely populated to justify the creation of an additional training centre and the appointment of additional Area Officers. I ask the Minister if he cannot, without detriment to the system, see his way to reduce the radius in the direction I have suggested? We ought not to overburden the Act by making regulations too stringent upon those who are less happily situated so far as distance is concerned.

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