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Wednesday, 27 April 1904

Mr CROUCH (Corio) - The Minister for Defence is not in the Chamber', and I presume I must address my remarks to the Prime Minister, in reference to a matter to which I intended to call attention on the motion for adjournment last Wednesday, but which was lost sight of in the excitement fallowing the defeat of the Ministry. I have in my hand two forms of enlistment, as previously used in the Commonwealth, and also the form of enlistment issued by the Defence Department last Wednesday. The only difference between the previous forms and the new form is that in the latter, which applies to volunteers and members of the militia forces only, there is a question, the answer to which has to be sworn to- " What is your religion?" This is a most unfortunate question to ask in connexion with the volunteers, militia, and senior cadets of the Commonwealth. It is a question which on no account should be sanctioned, and I do not know how it escaped the attention of the late Minister for Defence. I shall hand the forms of enlistment to the Prime Minister, and trust that he will hand them to the Minister for Defence, and see that sectarian bitterness is not introduced into the military forces, where it has previously been absolutely non-existent. ' Might I also ask the Prime Minister to see whether he cannot induce the Defence Department to give earlier answers to letters ? This is a matter in which I should like the new Minister for Defence to show some vigour. In January last a letter was addressed to the Defence Department in reference to payments due and promised to certain sergeants; and the military branch were at the time notified by. the civil branch, and requested to send a report. No report has yet come to hand ; and it would appear to be the custom of the civil branch to hand over all communications to the military branch, which is the graveyard for the correspondence to which the Defence Department does not like to reply. The new Government, if they are to succeed, must succeed in vigorous administration ; and I ask the. Prime Minister to see that reports asked for. are supplied within a reasonable time.

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