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Thursday, 1 May 1902

Sir JOHN FORREST - Ishallanswer the last question first. The Queensland Minister for Railways, in his interview with me, appeared very anxious that the expenditure upon the defence forces of Queensland should be reduced, :and he pointed out that the Queensland naval defences were far in excess of the requirements of the State. He also said that Queensland had more men in its defence forces than it should have in proportion to population, and he -asked for an all-round reduction of expenditure. I have issued instructions to the naval commandant of Queensland to submit to me a scheme by which the naval expenditure of that State may be reduced -from £25,000 a year to something like £10,000 a year. I think that a considerable reduction should be made in the naval expenditure of all the States. So far as I have been able to judge, from my own knowledge, and speaking also from the information which I have received from persons competent to express an opinion upon the subject, I do not think we get full value for the money which we spend on our naval establishments.

I propose to reduce thenaval expenditure very materially by retaining only a sufficient number of permanent officers and instructors to make and keep the militia efficient and to look after the armaments. The honorable member for Fremantle may be certain that, if by any possibility we can find money for the construction of fortifications at Fremantle, the work will be undertaken. It is very regrettable thatsuch an important port - the first port of call of the English mail steamers, and the chief port of Western Australia - is altogether undefended. It is the only port in Australia which is in that lamentable condition, and we must do something to remedy that state of affairs. With regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta, I shall, so far as I am able, so arrange the reductions as not to decrease the number or efficiency of the forces. I do not think any one would say that we have too many men of the rank and file. Therefore we must endeavour to economize in other directions, though that is not quitesuch an easy matter as some honorable members seem to think. Some of the partially-paid forces and the volunteers cost about £290,000 ; ammunition costs £110,000; the contributions to rifle club associations, excluding ammunition, amount to £19,000; the cost of the cadet corps is £5,000 ; the cost of heavy gun ammunition and warlike stores is £56,000 ; the cost of the naval forces - there is room for a reduction here - £72,000 ; the forts at Thursday Island and King George's Sound, £17,000 ; and new rifles, £25,000. Of course the £10,000 expenditure which theRoyal reception entailed will not recur. Those amounts come to £610,000. Then there is £168,000 on the Estimates for the permanent force and staff. While I am obliged to honorable members for their criticisms, because we gain information and knowledge by hearing; the opinions of others, I ask them not to flog a willing horse. I have promised to reduce the expenditure by at least £131,000, and the Government are desirous to do all that is possible to place the defence forces upon an economical but efficient basis.

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