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Tuesday, 12 July 1904

Mr WATSON (Bland) (Treasurer) .This matter has already engaged the attention of the Minister of Defence, who, in view of a report which has been presented to him by Captain Tickell, has asked Captain Creswell, the Naval Commandant, to report to him generally upon the representations made on behalf of the men. I think that every honorable member must sympathize with the remarks made on behalf of the men with respect to the days available for training, and must agree that we cannot expect militiamen, who receive only a small retaining-fee every year, to Jose their employment for the sake of serving in our forces. Therefore, whatever re-arrangement can be made in order to meet the reasonable demands of the men, should be, and no doubt will be, made by the Minister. .

Mr McColl - The matter should be attended to soon, or we shall lose a number of good men.

Mr WATSON - The regulation to which reference has been made was framed on the recommendation of three very competent officers, namely, Captain Creswell, Captain Tickell, and Captain Colquhoun, who, it was thought, would have some knowledge of local conditions. It appears, however, that the conditions hitherto obtaining in Victoria differ from those in the other States.

Mr Austin Chapman - It .is the old trouble. Uniformity cannot be secured without making changes to which some people object.

Mr WATSON - The object of these naval officers was, I think, a very proper one, namely, to insure that the training of the Naval Brigades should be carried out, as far as possible, at sea, instead of on shore. A sort of horse-marine system has been followed in connexion with some of the Naval Brigades. In New South Wales w,e had nominally a Naval Brigade, but practically a force which learnt nothing from its drill beyond what was imparted to the. ordinary infantry militia-man. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to a promise which was made by the first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, that he would retain the Cerberus. I am quite willing to see that vessel retained for a sufficient number of days to allow us to secure a better vessel, but for no longer. However, this matter is under the consideration, of the Minister of Defence at the present time. He informed rae to that effect this morning. He has asked Captain Creswell to furnish him with a report upon the matter. I have no doubt that, so far as the distribution of drills and the days of training are concerned, something can be done to meet the reasonable wishes of those interested.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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