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Thursday, 20 May 1915

Mr BURCHELL (Fremantle) . - I am in accord with the honorable member for Richmond when he says that it is a more or less waste of time to discuss these Estimates, and my remarks will not be of very great length. Last night we had a very interesting discussion on the appointment of officers in connexion with the Expeditionary Forces. An incident has been brought under my notice to-night of a young man who entered the ranks at Broadmeadows and worked his way to the position of actingsergeant. About a fortnight ago an examination was held to see which of the aspirants1 to commissions were entitled to go on to the School of Instruction for Officers. I am given to understand that only two in connexion with this particular division were successful in passing the theoretical examination. One of them has been sent to the School of Instruction without any difficulty having arisen, though I am led to believe that a certain amount of influence was exercised in order to get him there. The other, however, has not gone forward. We all object to anything of that kind creeping in in connexion with our Expeditionary Forces, and the reason I mention the case is to remind the Minister of the circumstances, and to ask what he intends to do in the future in order to avoid anything of the kind happening. If there are to bo qualifying examinations at all, it is only fair that the candidates who are successful should have an equal opportunity of going forward.

Sir John Forrest - Perhaps one was a unionist.

Mr BURCHELL - I did not inquire into that. All I know is that the young man I refer to possessed every physical and mental qualification, and was eminently fitted to go forward. One question that has been referred to in the course of this discussion has reference to assistance being given to those who have inventions likely to bc of value in this -critical time of our national history. I recognise that there are many men who imagine that they have all the inventor's qualifications. There are many who think they can do all sorts of things, but when the practical test is applied there is very little in them. A case I have in mind is that of a man in my own division who has invented an improvement on aeroplanes, which is supposed to give automatic stability. The invention is not merely the outcome of hare-brained ideas. Some of the Defence officers who have inquired into this invention have reported upon it very favorably. The inventor is asking for some assistance from the Defence Department to enable a practical trial of his invention to be made. I am convinced that there are many honorable members who are prepared to support Australian inventors in every way they can. One case of the kind has been mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle, and I believe that if the Defence Department could see their way to give this man an opportunity to demonstrate the value of his invention, it would be greatly to the advantage of the community. I wish to say a word or two on the subject of the Area Officers. When the last Government were in power, a regulation was issued that Area Officers should have their salaries increased from £150 to £180 per annum -after the' lapse of a certain time. But the length of the service which was to precede the increased pay was so great as to practically prevent any good effect following from the regulation. Thousands of the young fellows who have gone to the front with our Expeditionary Forces owe much to the work of the Area Officers, and it is difficult to put a cash value upon their services. It would be in the best interests of the community to make some provision for a more generous recognition of our Area Officers in the future. In the beginning, these officers were permitted to engage in private work outside the Defence Department.

Mr McGrath - So they are yet.

Mr BURCHELL - The demand made upon their time for defence work is much greater than it was some time ago, and they are not now receiving adequate remuneration for the services they render. It is shown by the Estimates that, in connexion with universal training, we spent £209,000 in the last financial year, but the amount has been increased for this financial year up to £900,000. This is an indication of the added responsibilities, and the increased work of our Area Officers; but the Estimates show an increase of only £3,000 for their remuneration. The Minister should, in his reply, give us some information in regard to this matter.

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