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Thursday, 21 August 1902

Mr WILKINSON (Moreton) - I think that this is the first occasion on which I have ventured to ventilate a grievance. Complaints such as those just referred to are not confined to Victoria, but are general throughout the States. Although theGovernment of Queensland desired that there should be a reduction in the expenditure upon the Defence department in that State, the retrenchment has been carried out in such a way that neither experts nor others can approve of the methods adopted. The officers seem to have been maintained at their full number whilst the men have been reduced.

Sir William Lyne - I wish thehonorable member would speak from his own knowledge. What he now states is not true. Most of the statements of a similar character made to-day are also untrue.

Mr WILKINSON - I have no personal knowledge of these matters, but my information is derived from those who ought to know, and I have documentary confirmation of what I am stilting. I do not make these statements in any hostile spirit, because I can understand the difficulties with which the Minister has to contend in the administration of the Defence department.

I am speaking more with a view to give him some idea of the feeling which exists regarding defence matters before the Estimates are finally prepared. If I am rightly informed it is intended to spend a fairly large sum of money in providing uniforms for members of rifle clubs, whilst at the same time it is intended to increase the charge hitherto made for ammunition supplied to riflemen.

Mr McCay - I take it that that will not be done before the House has had an opportunity of expressing its opinion.

Mr WILKINSON - If that course is adopted it will cause general dissatisfaction. Too much attention is being paid to the scarlet and gingerbread element and too little to those things which make for fighting efficiency. It would be far better to have menwithout uniforms who are capable of handling a rifle than men in uniform who are of no value as rifle shots, and it would be preferable to spend £10,000 in cheapening the cost of ammunition to riflemen than to devote it to the purchase of uniforms. Certain matters relating to the members of the defence forces in my own constituency are now under the notice of the Minister, and I do not wish to refer to them at present, but I may say that there is general dissatisfaction in Queensland at the way in which the defence retrenchment has been carried out there. I believe that there is room for still further retrenchment in Queensland.

Sir William Lyne - I do not think that there is much room for further retrenchment in Queensland, but there may be in Victoria.

Mr WILKINSON - I do not think the limit has been reached even in Queensland, but the retrenchment should not take the direction of reducing the rank and file of the various corps. One of the oldest volunteer companies in the State has been disbanded. The members of this corps are willing to serve at considerably reduced remuneration, and it would be a pity to lose the services of such men if they could be retained- especially as we are piling up the salaries of those members of the force who are more ornamental than useful.

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