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Thursday, 26 November 1914

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - It does not seem that the duties which the defence scheme entails on eligible lads necessitate their attending for instruction more than about once a week. While I have no doubt that honorable senators are able to point out a case of hardship here and there, my experience, although it has not been very considerable, has produced results somewhat like those described by the Minister. I live in a district which is very sparsely populated, and which is exempted. In quite a number of cases the boys have expressed themselves very strongly at not being included in the scheme. They are anxious to be trained, and they arc continually bombarding me with questions as to why arrangements have not been made to train them. I do not think that there is any very great necessity for varying the provision in the Bill. If the radius is contracted to about 3 miles, there will be considerable blank spaces between the boundaries of existing areas. Therefore, there may be a hole, so to speak, in the scheme as it exists.

Senator de Largie - The only remedy is to create more areas.

Senator Millen - These gaps exist today.

Senator BAKHAP - Honorable senators will recognise, I think, that the gaps will be materially increased if the area is reduced to 3 or 4 miles.

Senator de Largie - Not necessarily.

Senator BAKHAP - I understand that the areas are so fixed as to provide a sufficient strength for a military unit. If that strength is reduced in the way desired by the honorable senator, the whole scheme will bo rendered, to an extent, abortive, because there will not be the necessary strength in any of the areas. If they are 5 miles from the centre, as half of them seem to be, according to the Minister, it may be reasonably assumed that a number of boys within an area is just sufficient to form a military unit for training. If we reduce the limit to 3 miles from the centro, the strength of that particular unit must be materially impaired.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator should not overlook the fact that we are above our numbers now.

Senator BAKHAP - I am speaking of particular units, and not of the aggregate number of boys under training. If a certain area is plotted in order to furnish the number of youths required to form a unit, and the area is subsequently reduced, the number of boys necessary to form the unit will not be available. I consider the Minister's suggestion in the matter the most reasonable one. Australian youths will suffer no great hardships "in being called upon to travel a few miles after dark. They are not afraid of -ghosts and goblins, as perhaps the youths of the country districts of the Old World are, and they really like the outing. I ask the Minister not to concede the point that he, and not the Commandant, should be the adjudicator in this matter. Decentralization of administration is ^necessary in every part of Australia, and -the State Commandants, having more local knowledge than the Minister, are better fitted to deal with this matter.

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