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Tuesday, 27 September 1904

Mr McCAY (Corinella) (Minister of Defence) . - The . honorable member for Moreton asked a question with regard to the magazine rifles issued to members of rifle clubs. Such weapons can be obtained in three ways. Last November authority was given for the sale of 750 magazine rifles to members of rifle clubs for cash at £3 15s. 9d. each, and of that number a proportion was allotted to Queensland. No great advantage was taken of the opportunities presented to acquire these weapons for cash. In March last authority was given for the sale of a further 1,000 magazine rifles to members of rifle clubs, upon the deferred payment system referred to by the honorable member for Moreton. Of this number 100 were allotted to Queensland. The opportunities thus presented have been availed of with a fair amount of freedom. I propose to inquire what number of rifles have been sold under the cash system, and if the circumstances justify the transfer I shall add the rifles for which cash purchasers are not forthcoming to those which are being offered under the deferred payment system, which is preferred for very obvious reasons. Perhaps we all have a sufficient element of the Micawber spirit in us to lead us to prefer paying twelve months hence rather than forthwith. Besides the rifles to which I have referred, 2,910 maga zine rifles are being issued to the rifle clubs on loan, the clubs finding guarantors that the rifles shall be properly looked after, and that any damage resulting from misuse or neglect shall be paid for. Of the 2,910 rifles 320 have been allotted to Queensland. The intention is that the rifles issued to the clubs on loan shall be available to all the members, notwithstanding the obvious objection that they will thereby become more liable to damage than if they were placed in charge of par.ticular individuals. It was never intended that the president, vice-president, and secretary of a club should, by virtue of their offices, appropriate the only thre'e rifles sent. Honorable members will see that we must retain a sufficient number of magazine rifles under the immediate control of the Department to provide for the equipment of our first line of defence upon a war footing. Five thousand additional rifles have been ordered, and will shortly be delivered. The first 1,000 are on their way out here now.

Mr Maloney - Does the Minister know that the! Victorian Government was swindled in connexion with the rifles sent to them?

Mr McCAY - The rifles on order are the new short barrelled magazine rifles now being used in the. British Army, and I do not think that there can be any swindle in connexion with them.

Mr Maloney - But the Minister did not make any inquiry ?

Mr McCAY - I think we may leave all matters of ancient history and mythology for discussion during the want-of-confidence debate. I am merely telling the honorable member of the existing circumstances. When these additional rifles come to hand, I shall - if I am on hand myself - probably be able to supply some more weapons for use by members of rifle clubs. I desire to offer them every facility. That is all the information which I have been able to obtain on the short notice given me this afternoon, and I trust that it will satisfy the honorable member.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution reported and adopted.

Motion (by Sir George Turner) agreed to-

That, the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.

In Committee of Ways and Means:Motion (by Sir George Turner) proposed -

That towards making good the Supply granted to His .Majesty for the services 'of the year ending 30th June, 1905, a sum not exceeding £430,421 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Mr. FISHER(Wide Bay). - I should like to know if the Treasurer has any objection to furnish the House with the information for which I asked at an earlier stage?

Sir GEORGETURNER (BalaclavaTreasurer). - I cannot possibly do as the honorable member desires. The only information I have given to the Treasurers, has been in regard to the approximate amount of surplus they are likely to receive during the current financial year.

Mr Fisher - That is quite right.

Sir GEORGE TURNER - I thought that I could not do less, in view of the fact that the first three months of the year had practically elapsed, and that the Treasurers were pressing me to give them some idea as to what they might expect to receive back from the Commonwealth. If, however, I had given them any further information as to the anticipated receipts and expenditure, I should have supplied them with a forecast of the Budget statement, and I do not think that that would have been in order. The Treasurers have been told as nearly as possible the amounts that they are likely to receive from the Commonwealth, and upon that information they will be able to base their estimates for the year.

Mr. FISHER(Wide Bay). - I quite agree with the action of the Treasurer ; but I think that this is the proper place in which a public announcement should be made regarding the matter. The right honorable gentleman is to be congratulated upon having advised the Treasurers as soon as possible with regard to the approximate Tevenue they are likely to receive.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolution reported and adopted.

Ordered -

That Sir George Turner do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolutions.

Bill presented by Sir George Turner, and passed through all its stages.

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