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Thursday, 1 July 1915

Mr SAMPSON (Wimmera) .- In a letter to the London Times a few weeks ago, Lord Denman, a former GovernorGeneral, commended the Commonwealth Parliament for having brought into operation a system of compulsory military training for Australia; and, in doing so, gave credit to the present Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, and the AttorneyGeneral, for having been chiefly responsible for the great piece of legislation by which it was enacted. In a subsequent issue of the Times, however, he rather modified his previous statement, and commended the Liberal Government for having invited Lord Kitchener to come to Australia to inquire into and report upon a system of military defence for the Commonwealth. The question of which party was responsible for the Military and Naval defence system--of Australia was revived a few days ago by the Attorney-General, who, when speaking to the motion for leave to introduce one of the Referenda Bills, said -

I wish to show clearly that this party and the Government are not only keenly alive to our present danger, and their duty to prosecute the war with all its energy, but foresaw this war and took steps to prepare for it, when the voices of honorable gentlemen opposite were dumb - when there was neither enthusiasm nor prudence, not even common sense, displayed by them.

That was a straight-out declaration that the Liberal party, in the early history of this Parliament, had been recreant to its duty in failing to provide for Australia an adequate scheme of defence. I propose this afternoon to place on record the facts as disclosed by authoritative historical documents, with the object of proving that the Liberal party, whom the Attorney-General said failed to make provision for the defence of Australia, were, in reality, actually responsible for giving effect to the present system. 1 shall go back to the genesis of this matter feeling that the time has come when we should have placed on record, by a recital from authoritative sources, the history of the development of the defence movement in Australia in order that credit may be given to whom credit is due. When the Defence Bill of 1901 was before this House on 24th July, Colonel Crouch a member of the Liberal party, who then represented Corio--

Mr Fleming - And who is now fighting at the front.

Mr SAMPSON - And who is now fighting at the front, said, in the course of the debate, on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, as reported in Hansard, of 24th July, page 2960 -

I hope that when honorable members are discussing this Bill they will try to remember what arguments have been put forward in other countries in favour of conscription. I see that the Prime Minister, in answering a deputation from the Peace and Humanity Society, 'said he would not favour "a conscription system but I think there are very strong arguments to be used in connexion with conscription and compulsory drill. ... I think that the proposal that has been made that every man should be compelled to make himself perfect in the use of the rifle, as a sort of preliminary to his right to vote, is a very good one. . . . There is one matter that should be provided for in the Bill, and that is that the cadet system should be compulsory. I would make it compulsory for every boy between the ages of thirteen and eighteen to join a cadet corps.

This speech by Colonel Crouch, who is" now commanding a battalion serving at the front, was the first to be made in this House in support of a system of compulsory military training for Australia. The present Attorney-General, in the course of the same debate, said, as reported in Hansard, page 3297 -

It appears to me that the responsibility of citizenship carries with it the right of defending one's country. It is in return for the privileges we enjoy in a free country that we should do something - do everything in our power - to defend it in the hour of need. . . . It appears to me that the only remedy, the only sure and certain method of defence, is a scheme - if you like to call it so - of a national militia.

After referring to the sytem in force in Switzerland, he went on to say -

What I propose is simply this: that every adult male in this country from the age of eighteen to sixty should undergo a period of training. I propose that from eighteen years of age to twenty-one, every man should put in a period of six weeks' training, of which three weeks should be continuous, and three weeks' isolated drill; that from the age of twentyone years to thirty years each man should put in a period of six weeks, of which ten days should be continuous, and the rest isolated drill; that from the age of thirty-one to forty or forty-five, every man should put in a period of six weeks' training, of which seven days should be continuous, and the rest spread over isolated drill.

It will thus be seen that the present AttorneyGeneral then advocated a system of three years' compulsory drill commencing with youths eighteen years of age* His remaining proposals were founded chiefly on the system prevailing in Switzerland. I could, if necessary, quote a number of statements made in 1903 by the present Prime Minister and by Mr. Watson, which show very clearly that, at that time, there was not, on the part of the Labour party, any concrete proposal for a system of compulsory military training.

Sir John Forrest - In those days the Labour party did not believe in the military.

Mr SAMPSON - It was the right honorable member for Swan who introduced in this House the Defence Bill of 1903. When the House went into Committee on that Bill, the present AttorneyGeneral moved, as reported in Hansard, page 3093, the following amendment: -

That all the words after the word " officers," line 1, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " duly appointed and all male inhabitants (excepting those who are exempted as hereinafter provided) who have resided in the Commonwealth for six months and arc British subjects, and are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years. The male population liable to serve in the national militia forces shall -

(a)   present themselves once in each year at such times and places as may be prescribed, for the purpose of undergoing fourteen days' continuous training.

(b)   present themselves for detached drills on such other days as may be prescribed; provided that it shall not be compulsory to attend more than thirty-two of such detached drills, aggregating a period of 112 hours. The period for any one detached drill shall not exceed eight hours, nor be less than two hours.

Speaking to that amendment, he said, as reported in Hansard, page 3094 -

I propose that they shall present themselves at such places as may be determined upon, not all at once, but in such numbers as may be considered convenient.

Colonel McCay,another member of the Liberal party, who is now serving at the front, interjected, " Are they to be paid ?" To which the present Attorney-General replied, "Most emphatically no." Further on Mr. Hughes said -

I merely propose to make compulsory, in reference to the male population between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years, attendance at certain detached drills, and the undergoing of fourteen days' continuous training each year, which has been regarded both here and in England as sufficient for the Volunteer Forces.

That was the original proposal made by the present Attorney-General. Colonel Crouch, a member of the Liberal party, was the first to propose in this House a system of compulsory training for cadets, but the first member of this Parliament to put into concrete form a proposal for the compulsory military training of junior and senior cadets was ex-Senator Dobson, another member of the Liberal party. On 5th September, 1907, he introduced in the Senate a Bill which provided that-

All boys and youths over twelve and under nineteen years of age shall join, and continue to be members of a naval or military cadet corps, and shall receive such instruction in naval or military drill as may be prescribed.

That Bill lapsed at the second-reading stage. As we are all aware, Mr. Deakin, in the course of a brilliant speech in this House on 13th December, 1907, outlined the proposal of his Government with regard to defence. As reported in Hansard, page 7528, he said, in the course of that statement -

We propose a system of universal training in order to form a National Guard of Defence in which every young man in the Commonwealth shall be required to serve during his nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first years.

In that celebrated speech Mr. Deakin laid down a comprehensive scheme of defence for Australia, and his proposal for a National Guard of Defence was the first of a comprehensive character to be made. It has since become law, and today leads the whole Empire on the important subject of citizen defence. In July, 1908 - twelve months after the introduction of Senator Dobson's Bill, and several months after Mr. Deakin had placed before this House the comprehensive defence policy of which his Government approved - the question of defence was considered at a Labour Conference held in Brisbane, when, for the first time, the policy of a " Citizens Defence Force " was embodied in the fighting platform of the party; while in its general platform the following plank was inserted : -

Citizen Defence Force, with compulsory military training, and Australian-owned and controlled Navy.

On 29th September, 1908, Sir Thomas Ewing, a member of the Liberal Government of that day, introduced in this House a Bill providing for the compulsory training of cadets between the ages of twelve and eighteen years, and for the compulsory training of all males between eighteen years and twenty-six years of age. That measure, however, lapsed at the second-reading stage. The present Prime Minister came into office on 13th November, 1908, but did little in the matter of defence until 30th March, 1909, or eighteen months after the defence policy of the Deakin Government had been enunciated. On that date Mr. Fisher enunciated the policy of his Government, which made provision only for three years' compulsory training. In June, 1909, the Fisher Government were defeated, and the Deakin-Cook Government came into office. During the sestion of 1909 the right honorable member for Parramatta, aa Minister of Defence in that Administration, introduced and placed upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth the first measure to provide for compulsory military training of junior and senior cadets. The whole groundwork of the scheme, as we have it to-day, was placed on the statute-book in 1909 by the present Leader of the Opposition, as Minister of Defence. The Government, however, were not satisfied; and it was decided to invite Lord Kitchener, the greatest living soldier in the world, to come to Australia.

Mr Page - In the world?

Mr SAMPSON - Well . we thought so, and rightly. Lord Kitchener was invited here in the following terms, in a cable sent to him at Simla, in India, by the Prime Minister on the 9th July, 1909 -

The Government of the Commonwealth is now proposing to Parliament large and costly schemes for the defence of Australia by land and sea. In respect to Naval Defence, the consultative conference in London this month, at which we shall be represented, is certain to bo most valuable. It would bc a very great advantage to the Commonwealth were this supplemented on the military side. If, in the course of your projected tour this year, we can bo honoured by a visit of sufficient duration to enable you to inspect our forces and fixed defences, in order to advise this Government upon the best means of developing and perfecting the land defence of the country, we should have much more confidence in completing our schemes.

That meant the completion of the scheme which had already been passed into law.

Mr Poynton - Under that scheme nineteen years was the maximum age.

Mr SAMPSON - That is so; but we had the whole scheme in operation as the law of the' land before Lord Kitchener came. The Bill did not become law until after the invitation had been sent to Lord Kitchener, but it was law before he made his visit -

A visit from you will .be particularly welcome to Australia on personal grounds, and we trust you will consent to be our guest during your stay.

As a Government, we venture to urge your acceptance, not only in the public interests of the Commonwealth, but also for Imperial reasons, as, for instance, the recent arrangements regarding the General Staff, so as to associate the military forces of all the Dominions with those of the Mother Country.

The following was the cable sent by Lord Kitchener to the Prime Minister -

With reference to your telegram 9th July, after attending foreign manoeuvres, Japan, early in November, it will give me pleasure to accept your kind invitation to visit Australia. I will be glad of this opportunity of meeting again the men who served so well under me in South Africa, and to help the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia with any advice that I- can give.

Then the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth cabled to Lord Kitchener on the same date -

Government of the Commonwealth of Australia extremely gratified your cordial acceptance, which is warmly appreciated throughout Australia. At your convenience, would be glad to learn probable date of and place arrival, probable duration of stay, and of any preparations that can be made in advance to facilitate your inspection.

It is a matter of history now that Lord Kitchener came here, and reported on the whole military system, suggesting improvements and extensions of the scheme that has become law. In his report, dated 12th February, 1910, he says, in paragraph 12 - I desire to place the facts before honorable members with as little comment as possible -

The new Defence Act will give sufficient numbers to defend the country effectively if the force provided under it is efficiently trained, organized, and equipped.

He is speaking there of the law of the land - of the Defence Act that had been passed by both Houses of Parliament, and had received the Royal assent -

It must, however, be distinctly recognised that a national force, maintained at a high standard of efficiency, can only be produced by the work of years, and that such work must be steady and continuous; any divergence from the policy decided on may, and probably will, lead to chaos and useless expenditure of money.

On page 5 of his report, in paragraph 6, he says -

The Defence Bill 1909, which has just been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, gives effect to the principle that every citizen should be trained to defend his country, and I therefore propose to base the following advice as to the manner in which the force of 80,000 fighting men should be enrolled, organized, and trained on the principle embodied in that Act, which is designed to call into existence a National Citizen Force.

It will be noted that he did not make any alteration in the fundamental principle of the Act, but simply presented a scheme of organization based on those principles which had received his indorsement and approval. I think that the only substantial alteration he did make was an extension of the period of training from twenty to twenty-five years of age. All these facts show that it was a Liberal member who first, in this House, suggested compulsory cadet training.

Mr Poynton - The first? Why, the present Attorney-General was the first.

Mr SAMPSON - Colonel Crouchwas the first member in this House to propose the system of compulsory cadet training. My time is limited, and if honorable members dispute the facts, they must do so at the proper time. Then Senator Dobson introduced the first Rill in the Senate providing for compulsory training of that kind. Mr. Deakin, in 1907, unfoldedthe Liberal defence policy in this House, and this was embodied in a Bill by Sir Thomas Ewing in 1908, though the first Government to give effect to the policy of that Bill was the Liberal Government of 1909. The policy then adopted was that in operation today, and that which was indorsed by Lord Kitchener without alteration, except in the way of organization. I think that the facts do not require further comment. I have not time to go into any comparison of the schemes, or even refer to that laid down by the present Prime Minister in March, 1909. That scheme provided for only three years' training; but, however that may be, I desire now to refer, as rapidly as I may, to one or two documents which have reference to the Naval Unit. It has been claimed by the Labour party that they have to be credited, not only with the scheme of military defence, but also with the scheme of naval defence. The present Prime Minister, in his Gympie speech, on the 29th March, 1909, a few months after the Imperial Naval Conference, detailed the proposals of the Labour party. His scheme, however, was quite different from that proposed at the Imperial Conference. The unit was to consist of twenty-four vessels - four ocean destroyers, with a speed of ten knots, and with twenty-six knots in an emergency; nineteen destroyers of the River class ; and one armed vessel for police duties. That would have been an insufficient defence for Australia. I am afraid that we should have found ourselves very insecure if that had -been recently the only naval defence in the Pacific. In response to the invitation of the Imperial Government, the Liberal

Government sent Colonel. Foxton to England as the representative of the Commonwealth. At that Conference the lines for the Naval Unit of the Commonwealth were laid down - a scheme which would fit in with the Imperial system of defence.

Mr Spence - I notice that the honorable member is not going back to the days when Mr. Watson was here, and first suggested a Navy.

Mr SAMPSON - I have some of Mr. Watson's proposals or statements amongst my notes, but do not wish to detract from the Labour party's advocacy of an Australian Navy in the early, years of Federation. All I am endeavouring to show now is that the crystallized .efforts of the Labour party for years and years meant this proposal by the present Prime Min- ister in 1909. I guarantee that the two vessels which were sunk at Falkland Islands would have blown such a unit out of the water in an hour. As against that scheme, we had the one enunciated when our representative was present at the Colonial Conference in 1909. It was decided that the Commonwealth should construct one armoured cruiser, the Australia; three second-class protected cruisers, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane; six destroyers, Parramatta, Warrego, Tarra, Torrens, Derwent, and Swan; and two submarines. A certain number of these have already been sent out, and one of our second-class cruisers is almost ready for launching, although it should have been launched long ago. The Australia, in my opinion, was really a substitute for the proposal of the Liberal party to present a Dreadnought to- Great Britain - a step which would have been more effective than halfadozen fleets such as those suggested by the present Prime Minister in March, 1909.

I think I have shown very .clearly that the first member within this House who suggested compulsory military training was Colonel Crouch. Subsequent debates on the subject took place here in which members on both sides spoke, the views being of a more or less declaratory character, affirming in some form or another a citizen soldiery responsibility. Resolutions were moved by Senator Dobson on the one side, and afterwards by the present AttorneyGeneral on the other side. These were individual and preliminary views on a subject which was occupying much public attention in the press, and in the thoughts of the people. The first real authoritative responsible pronouncement was the unfolding of a comprehensive compulsory system of cadet and citizen soldiery, also an Australian Naval policy, by Mr. Deakin, in 1907. This was followed by a Bill embodying that policy by Sir Thomas Ewing, then Minister of Defence, in September, 1908. That Bill, however, did not pass the second reading. It was not until after Mr. Deakin- s declaration, in 1907, that the citizen defence scheme found its way into the Labour party's programme. Soon after Sir Thomas Ewing's Bill of the 29th September, 1908, the Labour party gave the Deakin Government notice that it withdrew its support, and the Fisher Labour Government came into power in December of the same year, and held office until June, 1909, during which period it did nothing. Then the DeakinCook Government came into power, and Mr. Cook, as Minister of Defence in that Government, carried through the House, and passed into law, amidst the stormiest scenes and fiercest opposition from the Labour party yet experienced in ' this House, the great scheme of citizen and compulsory training, which provided for the training of our youths from twelve to twenty years of age. . That system is now in force. The same Minister, in the same session, gave us the proposals for the Australian Naval Unit, of which we are so proud, and which has done such valuable service to Australia and to the Empire; and, not satisfied with these two monumental, colossal pieces of achieved statesmanship, he also advised that Lord Kitchener, the greatest active soldier of the Empire and the world, be invited to Australia. This was agreed to by Cabinet, and an invitation, in the terms already read to the House, was extended to Lord Kitchener by Mr. Deakin. Lord Kitchener accepted the invitation in 1909, and in February, 1910, finished his notable and comprehensive report, which, while indorsing in toto the Australian law of 1909 then, in force, proposed a complete scheme of extended territorial organization to enable general effect to be given to the Cook military law, and advised that the age, as already contemplated, should be increased to twenty-five years. It was in April, 1910, two months after Lord Kitchener reported, that the Deakin-Cook Government were defeated and the Labour party proceeded to extend the existing Defence Act on the lines he had recommended. In the case of the Naval Unit, the representative at the Imperial Conference in 1909 was a Liberal Minister, and the Unit agreed upon, including the Australia, was ordered by Mr. Cook, Hie Minister of Defence. This Unit superseded the obsolete, low-speed, River class destroyers, which were the policy of the' Labour party, as enunciated by Mr. Fisher at Gympie in 1909. Whatever may have been the nature of the preliminary discussions and suggestions on the question of defence by land or sea, and whatever may be the ultimate achievement of our system, these facts from the history of the Defence schemes of Australia prove irrefragably that, whilst a substantial majority of the House has indorsed the policy laid down in the Deakin-Cook law of 1909, the authors of the two schemes - the military scheme, which is attracting world-wide attention and approval, and the existing Naval scheme, which satisfies Australian aspirations, and forms a substantial addition to the Imperial Naval defence strength - can rightly be claimed to be the Liberal party.

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