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Wednesday, 26 May 1915

Mr PALMER (Echuca) .- I am very pleased at being able to congratulate the Government upon their decision to temporarily remove the camp from Broadmeadows to Seymour. I am exceedingly glad to find that the representa tions made have had a certain effect. It is an important matter, because a large percentage of our young men who have gone into camp have developed complaints there which it is pretty certain would not have been developed but for this camp experience.

Mr Hampson - What is the percentage?

Mr PALMER - I do not know what the percentage is, but I know that it is large, and that, in consequence, some very fine young fellows have been buried who would have been in training now or on the high seas going to the front but for pneumonia, measles, and other ailments which broke out in the camp. I have not heard a word of complaint from any man who has enrolled as a soldier, but I have questioned one or two men and found that common-sense methods have not prevailed. While the men are in camp in our own land, we should do our best to see that they have a dry bed. It is all very well for some persons to say that we must make soldiers of the men and bring them down to service conditions. But it is simply courting disaster in my opinion to. ask men, who have been accustomed all their lives to wholesome sleeping accommodation, to sleep on the ground or on straw which has become damp. I asked one man, " What is the position when one set of men leaves the camp and is sent across the water ; are the new recruits put into that tent provided with new material and all that sort of thing?" And he said, "No, by no means." He made no complaint; I simply asked a question and that was the answer. When the occupants of the tents leave the camp, fresh men are enrolled and go into the tents practically as their predecessors had left them. That is not a proper condition of things, and is one which could be remedied at very little cost. These young men are the pink of our manhood, and it is too bad to endanger their health by subjecting them to ill-conditions which can be prevented. However, it has now been announced that the camp is to be moved to Seymour. I trust that it is to be placed on sandy soil, which will dry rapidly after rain. As is well known, the Broadmeadows soil is clayey, and, when rain falls, is quickly churned up into mud, the moisture being retained for a very long while. It is not to be assumed that because men are military officers they are, therefore, masters of all knowledge, and it seems to me that in the laying-out of a camp there is room for engineering skill. The tents should be so placed that the drainage will run away from them, instead of into them. Our desire is that the men who enlist shall be sent to the front in the best of health, and, therefore, they should not be subjected to conditions under which they are liable to contract diseases which make them inefficient and prematurely old. Seymour should prove a capital location for the new encampment. In many parts of the district sites can be obtained where the soil and situation will be everything that could be desired. What is happening in the Old Country in regard to Cabinet changes is wholly commendable. I do not know what hasled up to these changes, but, seeing that the nation is called upon to defend itself against a strong enemy, it is well that the Executive power should be in the hands of a Cabinet representing every shade of political thought in the Empire. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has made a good suggestion - that both parties in this Parliament should meet in camera to discuss matters of military importance - but, to my mind, it would be a master stroke of policy were Ministers to so arrange matters that some of the members of the Opposition could be received into their counsels. Although the Labour party has a very large majority in both Chambers, the electors whom it represents do not largely exceed in number those who are represented by the Opposition members, and I feel satisfied that, wore the Prime Minister to bring into his counsels some of the tried and trusted men who represent the minority in the Commonwealth, the result would be good. All sections of the community would then feel that national matters were being dealt with by a National Government, and that the highest intelligence of Parliament was being devoted to the solution of the difficult problems which confront us. What I suggest would involve Ministerial changes that might be painful to individual Ministers; but the true expression of statesmanship is sacrifice, and there should be in the Government men who would' be willing to sacrifice their personal interests to enable the Cabinet to represent every shade of political thought in Australia.

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