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Friday, 4 June 1915

Mr BURNS - Where does the Minister get his instruction from ? Does he not get it from the War Office?


Mr Burns - We could send 200,000 men.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The War Office to-morrow would take a quarter of a million men if we could send them ready to fight. They need nothing so much as men to relieve the soldiers in the trenches. They need men for nothing so much as to give those who have borne the brunt of the fighting a little relief.

Mr Fenton - But could we equip that number ?


Mr Fenton - If we have not got the material, how could we do it?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member will have the honorable member for Maranoa turning upon him if he begins to make such interjections. I know the difficulty, and he knows it, too.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Do you not think that Australia has done very well, and the Australians, too?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I think that we have done very well; I think that we could have done better. I am sorry that I have to say that.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - I tell the honorable member that I have not been satisfied.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - I am sorry to hear you say that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Let my honorable friends look at the millions in the field, and look relatively at our population, and then decide the matter for themselves. It is our war. The enemy want Australia and South Africa. They do not, in my judgment, want to possess England. I doubt if they would do it to-morrow if they could ; but they do want those two countries, and, therefore, it is our war. I am sorry to have to say it, but there seems to me to be the notion, even yet, that we are sending troops to the assistance of Great Britain to fight a battle in which the Homeland is peculiarly interested over and above our own interests.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Who suggested such a thing? No one!

Mr JOSEPH COOK - That is the thing we want to get out of our minds. Does the honorable member opposite think that an effective fighting force in the field, of, say, 40,000. is a sufficient number to defend Australia when all her interests are at stake, and when there are millions on the other side ?

Mr Finlayson - But that is not the extent of our contribution.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - What does the honorable member mean ?

Mr Finlayson - I mean that in addition to that we have a Navy there.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Yes, a Navy, which, by-the-bye, is getting less, and again is not being replaced.

Mr Finlayson - I am with you there.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - That is the point which I am on. I am showing that the wastage of war is at the rate of 10,000 a month, that all the reinforcements the Minister is asking for is 5,300 a month, and that that does not increase your effectiveness in the field by one man. It makes up for about just half the wastage of war. The honorable member can read the list himself. If this kind of thing continues, and the rate of casualties is maintained, it means that we shall have very little fighting force there unless we get a move on somewhere.

Mr Jensen - We are continually sending reinforcements.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I know.

Mr Jensen - And many of those who are wounded only slightly will be back in the fighting line in a week or two.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It is to be hoped that they will. I believe that about 50 per cent, of them go back to the fighting line; but, even so, the appeal of the Minister of Defence this morning was for the balance of the reinforcements required, and there is no proposal, either now or in prospect, so far as his statement this morning goes, for increasing the num- . ber of effectives in the field. That is the point I want to stress. I only want to get it into the minds of honorable members so that they may come out and help us to remedy the thing. That is the object of my criticisms all through, and if sometimes I seem to get warm in my expressions, it is because I feel in earnest about the situation, and atn anxious to help. Concerning the Small Arms Factory, here is - perhaps I had better not say it, for, in my opinion, the reports from the two Parliamentary Committees constitute a reflection on the Defence administration during the past nine months. There is no escape from it. Nine months after the war has broken out, two Committees of this Parliament, comprising sixteen members chosen from both sides, and acting quite separately, attacked this problem from different points of view, and arrived at the same conclusion. A majority of the members of the Committees represented the party on the other side of the House.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Do you suggest that we would make a party question of the matter?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - No; and will the honorable member hold his tongue? I will not allow him to get party into it either.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Why use language like that ? . .

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! Will the honorable member for Denison cease these interruptions ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I thought I was trying to show the non-party setting. Two Committees composed of honorable members from both parties have unanimously decided that there should be two shifts to make rifles at Lithgow.It cannot be made a party matter because the majority of honorable members on that side of the House who are not likely to do anything to hurt their own Government, say that two shifts should have been at work at Lithgow, and could be employed in a very short space of time.

Mr Boyd - The honorable member for Denison put his signature to the statement.


The CHAIRMAN - Order!

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The two Com mittees say that the output of rifles could be increased by 70 per cent.

Mr Mcwilliams - What have the experts been doing al! this time?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It is of no use blinking the fact that these reports do furnish a condemnation of the methods of the Department in the administration of. these works.

Mr Gregory - It must not be forgotten that the men themselves were anxious for a second shift to be put on.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I have already said that.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Have you perused the evidence we took?

The CHAIRMAN - Order!

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - I advise you to look at the evidence.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I ask the honorable member to desist from interjecting.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am not concerned with the evidence. The honorable member has put down his own name to the statement that the Department can get 70 per cent, more rifles out of the factory.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Look at the evi- dence.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - What is the use of the honorable member quibbling about the evidence ?

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - You should read the evidence before you make these remarks.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - My wish is to emphasize the fact that we are not doing enough, having regard to the range and scale of this war, in the way of equiping men and manufacturing munitions. I hope that honorable members will constitute themselves recruiting agents. In my humble way I have been doing what I can in that connexion. One newspaper in Australia deserves special mention for the manner in which it has, throughout the war, advocated the making of every effort on the part of Australia to do its best. Since I proposed that Australia should send 100,000 men to the front, it has kept that object in view. Such a number would be a very modest contribution for Australia to make towards the defence of the Empire, and the sooner we can fulfil that ideal the better it will be for all concerned. Now, with regard to matters arising out of the war. As to the mobilization of our resources, honorable members opposite are constantly complaining that they have no power, and can do nothing. Let me tell members of the Committee what I think can be done. I speak with great diffidence in the presence of my late Attorney-General, whom I have not consulted on this subject, and who may not agree with the views that I am about to express. I venture to say that we can do several things. In the first place, we have complete power to control exportation, and that implies the power to trace everything that is exported to its source. That is a tremendous power.

Mr Tudor - I do not think that we can do that until we have got the stuff into our stores.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I think that we can.

Mr Tudor - I shall be pleased to learn that that is so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then the Government has the power, which it has taken by legislation, to acquire anything it needs for defence purposes. It may take munitions or materials of any kind requisite for the defence of the country. That gives the Government power to commandeer to any extent. The Government could also get created a Royal Commission, like the Beef Commission of the previous Administration, and give it complete powers of investigation, comprising an inquiry into every detail, the examination of account books, and all other documents.

Mr Mathews - That would merely end with a report.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It would be best to get the report of a Commission before saying where we should stop. I complain that the Government will not use the powers that it possesses. Honorable members opposite merely complain to make political capital. That ought "not to be done. As to the recruiting of men, I am not sure that the time has not come for the registration of all able-bodied men in Australia. I do not speak of their mobilization; and, in referring to the matter, I am speaking entirely on my own responsibility. The flower of our manhood is going to the war, and many men have gone who ought not to be taking the place of others just as fit, who could be better spared. : '

The CHAIRMAN - The right honor- able member's time has expired.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I should, by leave, like five minutes more.

Leave granted.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Justice alone will soon require that we should do something in the direction I suggest, instead of leaving people to please themselves as to whether they will enlist. It appears to me to offend the very elements of justice to send the flower of out manhood to the war and to allow to remain at home those who cannot be got to realize their responsibilities.

Mr Tudor - What does the right honorable member advise - conscription?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I think that it would be sufficient for the present if we had a call of the muster-roll. Something of the kind is provided for in the Defence Act of 1901. That Act implies a power of conscription for the protection of the national safety. On this subject, I speak with great deference, and with as little emphasis as I can, but I think that the time will soon arrive, if things continue to go on as they are going, to make a register, and call the muster roll, so that we may know what men are available, and may make sure that the manhood of the country is doing its duty. We are not doing, and we cannot do, without a complete cessation of party warfare, all that is necessary under the circumstances. We cannot properly mobilize our resources while the Labour party is carrying on an activeparty propaganda and warfare. We need to bring to bear at this juncture the whole of our resources, and to mobilize our munitions. The manager of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow says that he has not been turning out more rifles because he has been short of timber for butts, and of metal for other portions. Are we to be told that there would be any lack of material in Australia could it be mobilized?

Mr Fenton - That is all right now.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - It would have been all right from the beginning if an earnest effort had been made. We need the mobilization of arms and men and of resources. The Government must do something of the kind which it has already repudiated. It must get some other body to help it in the mobilization of ourresources. The war is not yet over. Indeed, it is " a long, long way to

Tipperary." We are fighting a foe that is not deficient in resources; a foe that made itself thoroughly ready before it began hostilities; a foe that has mobilized all its resources - scientific, military, and industrial - and put them wholly on a war basis. We are warring against an enemy that has thrown to the winds all moral considerations, and is murdering and maiming innocent people, and making the slaughter as frightful as possible, even poisoning with fumes of various kinds to gain its ends; an enemy that is ignoring all the fair laws of fighting, and will resort to any tactics if only it may win thereby. Opposed to a foe like this, which is constantly putting myriads, of men into the field thoroughly equipped, we must do the same. We must put all our might and resources into the opposite scale. We must send into the fighting line every man and every gun that we possess for the protection of the national safety, the security of those who are near and dear to us, and the safety of the country that we love so well.

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