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Friday, 17 June 1904

Mr SALMON (LAANECOORIE, VICTORIA) - The article in question contained a gross libel upon an arm of the service' with which the writer is not connected - the Mounted Forces. Under these circumstances, I ask the Prime Minister whether inquiry should not be made to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of the statements complained of, so that a stigma which, in my opinion, they do not deserve, may be removed from a number of men who did valuable service in the field - where, I. understand, the officer who makes the statements was not considered competent to bear a part.

Mr WATSON - I shall have inquiries made into that aspect of the question, too.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that a proposal has been made for rendering our cadet system more efficient, and I wish to know from trie Prime Minister if the question has been dealt with. I should also like to be informed, seeing that there are now two Committees of this Parliament, inquiring into military matters, whether he has considered the advisableness of appointing a Commission on lines similar to those followed in England, to inquire into the whole condition of our Military Forces. Although in England they have had centuries of experience in practical warfare, whereas we have only on one or two occasions had any connexion with it, they have considered it advisable to appoint a Commission such as I suggest should be appointed here.

Mr WATSON - It must be remembered that it is impossible to arrange these important services all at once, or to provide all that we wish to provide for the improvement of our defence. We would all like to be in a position, if necessity arose, to put into the field every adult in Australia, equipped and armed. That is the ideal to be aimed at, but we cannot expect to attain it all at once. The last Government, as they went on. shaped and trimmed our military organization very largely, and we hope to do something further in that direction. But I do not at present see the need for a Commission such as the honorable member suggests. I shall have the matter inquired into when the Cabinet are considering the military estimates and the policy to be pursued in regard to defence.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The English Government have appointed a Military Board of Advice.

Mr WATSON - The English War Office is much older than ours, and for that reason has become encrusted with excrescences, so that it is more difficult to reform. Ours is merely a tentative system.

Mr McWilliams - I think that upon investigation the Minister will see that there is need for some reform.

Mr WATSON - Yes; but our whole system could be changed by a stroke of the Minister's pen, whereas the position is very different in England. There they were forced to appoint a Board of Advice, because, without the weight of the recommendations of an independent body such as that, the Department could not have been moved. In Australia, fortunately, we can move in these things very quickly. I shall have the matter inquired into.

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