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Thursday, 6 October 1927

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .- £ should like to direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to the system oi territorial training in Great Britain, with a view to its introduction in Australia. We have it to a limited extent in connexion with our Light Horse, in which a considerable number of men are serving on a voluntary basis. In Great Britain the Territorials are regarded as volunteers, and they receive what is termed ".efficiency pay," that is to say, pay based upon their degree of efficiency as the result of each year's training. Under our present system the training received by the rank and file is not sufficient to equip them properly for actual war service. In point of fact, the purpose of the ordinary rank and file of the Australian army is to provide the material for the training of officers and non-commissioned officers. Obviously, officers could not become efficient unless they had a sufficient number of men to work under them. Under the old military system a great many men regarded their regiment as a sort of club. I feel sure that if the British Territorial system could be tried in the Australian infantry, as it is being worked in the Light Horse, and if an appeal were made to ex-service men to join their corresponding units on a voluntary basis, there would be a great response on the part of the citizens of Australia. For a period following the termination of the war everybody was heartily sick of war aud the training necessary to prepare for it. That feeling is now dying away to a marked degree and a great deal of valuable training is being carried on voluntarily in rifle clubs. It is gratifying to witness the enthusiasm displayed by young men at Williamstown on the first Saturday in each month. Much might be accomplished if the act were amended so as to permit those who have completed their training to continue to serve in the ranks. In a report on the British territorial forces considerable stress is laid on the fact that the men are no longer paid in the ordinary way, they are given what is called " efficiency pay," which does not amount to very much. The voluntary system exists to a large extent in our light horse unit, and very fine results accrue from it. The compulsory training system should be continued so that we would be in a state of preparedness in an emergency; but a big effort should be made also to induce voluntary enlistment. At each annual camp there would not then be so much of the tiresome elementary squad drill; the men would be able to devote themselves to advanced technical training. Voluntary enlistment as a non-commissioned officer is now permitted, but many men have neither the time nor the inclination to study for appointment as noncommissioned or commissioned officers. It might be possible to hold a conference of the men with a view to ascertaining what there is in the system that attracts and what discourages them. A systematic investigation of the position ought to lead to a solution of the difficulty. Under existing conditions only recruits are handled. I should like to see the force placed in the position of being able to engage in advanced training which would give a greater return for the money expended.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [4.40]. - I have a certain degree of sympathy with the view of the honorable senator. I point out, however, that the position which exists in the light horse pertains also to the -infantry in relation to non-commissioned officers. It is competent under the act for a man to enlist voluntarily as a non-commissioned officer in the infantry. As everybody undergoes compulsory training, probably few would be available for voluntary enlistment in the ranks of the infantry. The system sets out to train a nucleus of officers, and non-commissioned officers, as well as the rank and file in elementary work. I do not know that we could adopt the territorial force system, and it would not be wise to revert to the old voluntary system. Although under that system wo had a. very efficient force and enthusiastic officers and non-commissioned officers, the number trained was very limited and no reserve was formed. When I as a commanding officer secured a good officer or non-commissioned officer I did my best to retain his services. We had a very large number of men with long service but did not train any reserves, and in the event of trouble arising it would have been impossible to expand our force. Although we do not now have the same enthusiasm and keenness amongst officers and non-commissioned officers I believe it will be generally admitted that we train a larger number of men and form them into a reserve force. I sympathize with those officers who are devoting their time to training the youth of the country, but are unable to make any advance in higher forms of training. They could overcome that to a degree by evolving tactical schemes in their schools even though such a method might not be as interesting as would he the case if they had units to handle. I do not believe it is possible to induce the older men to enlist in the ranks.

Senator Foll - Such a system was given a trial with returned soldiers some years ago.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Only in the direction of inducing them to enlist as non-commissioned officers or accept commissions. That position still obtains; after a man has served compulsorily for three years, he can continue to serve voluntarily as a non-commissioned officer.

Senator Elliott - A number of men would serve as privates if they were given the opportunity to do so.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - I am not as optimistic as the honorable senator on that point.

Senator Elliott - Quite a number : serve in the Light Horse.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - That is so. That unit, however, is drawn from country districts, where the conditions are totally different from those which obtain in the cities. The man who lives in the country has not a very wide scope for amusement, and he joins the Light Horse to obtain recreation. The boy who lives in the city has a far greater number of opportunities for filling in his time, and docs not need to join a unit to obtain recreation.

Senator Elliott - The voluntary system is in operation in Great Britain.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - It applies more particularly to the yeomanry units.

Senator Elliott - There are territorial units.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - There is no compulsory training in England.

Senator Sampson - They have a regular army.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Exactly. In Australia every physically fit youth is compelled to undergo a course of training. I question very much whether we would succeed in inducing them, to remain voluntarily in the ranks when they had completed their three years' service. I shall, however, have an investigation made to see if voluntary enlistment can be extended to' include men who have completed their compulsory training, and are prepared to continue in the ranks.

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