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Wednesday, 11 August 1926

Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - As a new-comer in the Senate, the Estimates and budget-papers are to me ,an interesting study. I do not intend to indulge in a destructive criticism of the budget. I propose to confine my remarks to a subject which I regard as of the utmost gravity, and upon which I think I can claim to speak with some knowledge. I refer to the training of our Citizen Forces. The amount set aside this year is £98,049 for the training of 45,000 officers, noncommissioned officers and men, including 9,333 recruits. Last year we had a total of 53,000, so that our numbers for training have decreased this year by 8,000. This financial provision is for camps of training, schools of instruction, staff tours, regimental exercises, railway fares and freights, expenses incidental to musketry during home training, and expenses in connexion with army musketry competitions. Speaking of my own Military

District, the sixth, which comprises the whole of Tasmania, I say emphatically that the amount provided is totally inadequate. I do not propose to give honorable senators a dissertation on a defence scheme for the Commonwealth, but I should like to remind them that citizen force officers on the active list, particularly those who have had some actual experience of modern warfare, cheerfully devote a great deal of their time to the study of military problems, with a view to determining upon the best line of action to take if. through temporary command of the seas being lost, a hostile force were suddenly thrown upon our shores. Thanks to that mighty shield - the British Navy - that menace does not confront us, but it is the business of officers on the active list to consider all possible eventualities. It is true that they receive a certain amount' of pay for the work which they perform, but it is only a few pounds per annum, and is hardly enough to keep them in shoe leather. But that is by the way. We are to all intents and purposes a volunteer force, and we have to consider how best, with the forces at our disposal, we could meet the situation if two or three brigades pf a hostile force were landed on any part of our coast-line. The consideration pf these problems occupies a great deal pf time. Officers engaged upon it npt infrequently forego their annual holidays. Very often they spend their week-ends in the study of these matters. The proposals for compulsory universal training in the Sixth Military District have been, so emasculated as to cause alarm to every one who appreciates the seriousness of our position. There is plenty of splendid material, but, owing to the inadequate financial provision, ho means of utilizing it. In 1913 the battalion which I now have the honour to command, and of which, at the time, I was a subaltern, was practically at war strength and fully officered. I took the same battalion into camp this year. It is just about equal to a company at war strength, and we were woefully short of officers. It is a matter for deep regret that so much magnificent material is going to waste in some of these areas. The lads are there, but we cannot enlist them for training because, through retrenchment, they reside in exempted areas. Training centres in the Sixth Military District have been cut down to the bone, and we are now a mere skeleton of our former selves. I earnestly urge the Government to take steps to restore this Sixth Military District to its proper status. People who do not know what they are talking about complain that the system of universal military training inculcates in ' our youth ' a spirit' of militarism - that damnable thing which the Australian Imperial Force assisted so materially to smash during the war. I say, emphatically, that universal military training, as w9 have it in Australia, so far from, inculcating a spirit of militarism.,, has a most beneficial effect upon: the rising generation.. It brings home to* the lads the fact that they owe a duty to their country and undoubtedly it. makes better citizens pf them. We had! ample proof of this shortly after the inauguration of the system. Police magistrates testified that the work which the lads were called upon to do improved them physically and mentally, and helped, to break down the push element. I sincerely hope that the financial provision for citizen force training will be increased so that we may be able to re-open a number of training centres that have been closed down in the Sixth Military District. I was much impressed recently by a statement which I read in an interesting book, giving detailed information of the negotiations that took place between the chiefs of the German and Austrian general staffs in 1913. It stated that Field-Marshal Conrad, the chief of the Austrian general staff, was in close touch with and writing f frequently to Field-Marshal Von Moltke, the chief of the German general staff on the eve of the war. These high military authorities had an intimate knowledge of the progress of events that were then leading up to the war, and Conrad's reference to politicians in peace time was so significant that I should like to place it on record. Writing to Von Moltke, and complaining of his difficulty in putting the Austrian army into a state of preparedness, he stated -

It is most convenient in the conduct of

Politics in peace time, to keep the army Leaders responsible in war time at arm's length and then when war comes, to turn all the responsibilities over to them. Politicians of. this school regard the army as an umbrella which they allow to rot in a cupboard and' take out only when it begins to rain.

That is true of Australia to-day. I warn the Government that if and when the storm breaks, there will be no time for us to make a new umbrella. The umbrella which we have now - I speak, of course, of the financial provision we are making for compulsory military training of our citizen forces - is not half big enough, and we are not likely, as was the case in the last war, to have a six months' breathing space in which to train our men. If the amount available for training could be increased by one-half, and if £140,000 were available we could make satisfactory arrangements for staff tours, regimental exercises and the other essential features of citizen force training. . I pay a tribute to officers and noncommissioned officers for the way in which they carry out their work under present conditions. They forego the pleasure of the racecourse, of football and cricket matches and other forms of recreation at week-ends, and holiday time, in order to perfect themselves in the study of a problem which may mean so much to Australia. If the amount available were increased as I suggest, we could give Australia good value for it.

There is another item in the defence vote to which I direct attention, and that is the amount of £57,965 provided for development of civil aviation. That is a step in the right direction. I urge the Government to make it possible at the earliest date for Australian citizens living in the island of Tasmania to act upon the advice that is stamped on letters that pass through the post office to " use the air mail." It is useless to broadcast slogans of that description in Tasmania, since no air mail is available. I submit that it would be a feasible and economical way of dealing with Tasmanian mails. There would be little likelihood of strikes on the part of air pilots. I hope that the subject of providing Tasmania with an air service will be favorably considered.

Recently I, and probably also some of my colleagues from Tasmania, heard with surprise that the States Grant Bill was to be abandoned for the time being. I am glad, however, to notice on page 375 of the Estimates an amount of £378,000 for a " special payment to Tasmania." I feel sure that that is an earnest of the Government's intention to make the money available during the current financial year.

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