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Thursday, 1 July 1915

Mr MCGRATH (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) - It might be put in the Warracknabeal paper. That is what it is for.

Mr PAGE - Well, sometimes they get a paper like that up my way. At the time of which I speak the present AttorneyGeneral supported the Bill.

Mr Glynn - I think both sides of the House were pretty mixed over it.

Mr PAGE - Yes. There was a small minority in the Labour party who had the courage to tackle it. But, after all, it was only a question of time, for this, like all other great movements, had to spring from a mustard seed. What I dislike about the whole business is that the honorable member for Wimmera should try to belittle our Attorney-General over this subject, because, if there is one man deserving of credit for consistency in connexion with compulsory training ever since the inception of Federation, it is the present Attorney-General.

Mr Tudor - That is the method of non-party warfare adopted by the honorable member for Wimmera.

Mr West - Yes; and when the Empire is in danger.

Mr PAGE - I find, also, that the honorable member for Flinders opposed the Bill, and moved the following amendment: -

That, in the opinion of this House, the defence of Australia depending upon control of the sca, it would be unwise to commit the country to any scheme of compulsory universal military service until Parliament is in a position to determine the naval policy of the Commonwealth.

I give the Liberals credit for introducing the Bill; but no one knows better than the honorable member for Angas that, in Australian politics, there was no greater "whale" than Mr. Alfred Deakin for presenting memoranda to the House; and that is how far they went. Mr. Deakin would come down every day for a week with memoranda as to what should be done, but with the good old Liberal rally, " The time is not yet ripe." The time was ripe in this instance, for when the Labour party came into power they found that something had to be done, and they did it.

Mr Glynn - I always thought that Sir Edmund Barton declared, in 1901, that the Government would tackle the local Navy after the Braddon section expired.

Mr PAGE - The honorable member for Angas will remember that that was the stalking horse of every Government up to the time of the extinction of the Braddon section, and the Labour party did not escape it any more than the Liberal party.

Mr Glynn - When it expired the question was considered seriously.

Mr PAGE - Yes; something had to be done, and the honorable member for West Sydney was like a voice crying in the wilderness. Yet he kept at it until he saw the fruition of his ideas.

Mr Glynn - He spoke on the subject in England, I remember.

Mr PAGE - Yes; the present AttorneyGeneral spoke on the subject at every opportunity, and no one knows better than the honorable member for Angas how unpopular the movement was with, supporters, of the Labour party outside. Most of the Labour party's supporters outside of Parliament ab horred the sight of a military uniform, just as I did particularly after the action taken in the 1891 strike in Queensland. If there was anything I detested more than a rat on earth at that particular time it was a soldier in uniform. Having experienced what we did in 1891, no one can blame us for having that feeling. Yet, despite that, the honorable member for West Sydney was persistent, and in the Labour ranks - I do not say in the whole of the country - his persistency was' the means of bringing compulsory training to what it is to-day. Here is what the honorable member for Echuca said at that time -

A scheme which, in the first place, is unnecessary, and in the second is likely to be ineffective and inequitable in its operation.

You, sir, know the sway the honorable member wields in the House, and the attention with which his ideas and opinions are listened to, and that is what that giant of a statesman had to say then about compulsory training. Again, here is what the right honorable member for Swan said -

Why should we, in tin's offhand and hurried way, be called upon to subscribe to the principle of compulsory service or training as put forward by the Prime Minister?

The right honorable gentleman, I might explain, was sitting in opposition to the then Prime Minister, Mr. Alfred Deakin -

Who has asked for its application to Australia? . . . Let \is stand firm and selfreliant, following the well-known paths of experience and knowledge. '

Then we find some remarks by the honorable member for Lang, another big Liberal gun -

I do not see any need to go to the extent proposed by this - Bill, and, as I think the amendment expresses the true position, I shall support it. I' am sure that in time of need Australians will be found ready and willing enough to offer voluntary service in defence of their country.

The Bill was not proceeded with; the Budget was introduced, and the Government was defeated on the 10th November, 1908. That was the end of the first Defence Bill introduced by Sir Thomas Ewing, providing for compulsory training. The next stage was the introduction of a Bill by that famous Coalition known as the Deakin-Cook Fusion, and God knows they were hurrying to destruction. They thought, that they should dp something, and do something quickly, and bo they brought in a Defence Bill, also providing for compulsory training. The honorable member for Parramatta, who was Minister of Defence at the time, said -

We propose also to recruit the fighting line to war strength from the reserves of the young manhood of Australia - that is to say, we propose to train young men compulsorily up to twenty years of age, and from those we hope to get enough to make the Militia the first fighting force, equipped at war strength, ready to meet any emergency that may arise.

The honorable member for Gippsland, who was sitting in opposition, said, "Another Liberal plank given away." Continuing, the honorable member for Parramatta said -

We begin, then, with the cadets at twelve years of age, training them chiefly by physical exercise. After they attain the age of fourteen years they will enter upon more advanced military training, and from the age of fourteen to eighteen a number amounting in the aggregate to 75,000 will be organized uniformly.

Then he apologized for going beyond that, and said -

We propose to brigade him in the higher formations, and take him into the field and camp 'and compel him to train for another two years.

Mr. Hall,the present AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, interjected, "The honorable member alludes to those between eighteen and twenty years of age," and the honorable member for Parramatta said -

That number includes the cadets, and represents all that we can hope to grapple with for the purposes of compulsory training at the oresent time.

He told us next that the Government had invited Lord Kitchener to come to Australia. The Bill introduced by Sir Thomas Ewing for the Deakin Government provided that f*r the first three years the trainees must put in every year eighteen working days. The honorable member for Parramatta, when he was Minister of Defence, proposed to have only one muster parade per year. Mr. Hutchison, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, moved this amendment -

That the words " on registration of one muster parade" be left out, with a view to insert " seven whole days in camp of continuous training."

The ' amendment was lost by thirty-two votes to seventeen, Sir Thomas Ewing and the old Liberals in the Fusion voting against it. The honorable member for

Wimmera has a lot to take credit for, indeed. With regard to the Naval Unit, it is not five years since a battle raged here over the Naval Loan Bill introduced by the right honorable member for Swan, as Treasurer for the Deakin-Cook Fusion party, to raise a loan of ?3,500,000. For what purpose? Not to start an Australian Navy, but to present a Dreadnought to the Old Country. We all know how that memorable division was taken. After a good deal of fighting in the House, we got an amendment made to the effect that the loan was not to be proceeded with until after the elections.

Mr Glynn - That was a loan to provide a Fleet, not to present a Dreadnought to the Old Country. The question at issue was whether the Fleet should be provided out of loan money or out of revenue.

Mr PAGE - The honorable member is right, and I am right. You, sir, recollect very well what took place when the Fusion, party wanted to present the Old Country with a Dreadnought, and continue the subsidy.

Mr Glynn - It was not the DeakinCook Government. They, .never decided on giving a Dreadnought.

Mr PAGE - It was just before that.

Mr Glynn - It was individual members who talked on the platform about it.

Mr PAGE - The honorable member for Swan talked about giving an increased subsidy to the Old Country, and presenting it with a Dreadnought. You, sir, remember as well as I do that we went to the country with that proposal fresh in our minds, and you recollect, too, the fiasco that occurred. You know well what took place in Sydney. There were bands playing in the streets, .with much flag-wagging, and a great dinner was given in the Town Hall. Patriotic speeches were made. Men went round with a subscription list, and said that they would show the Old Country and the Imperial Government what the sentiments of the Labour party in Australia amounted to. They declared that they would present the Old Country with a Dreadnought raised by public subscriptions. They had a great bean-feast that night in the Town Hall, and while the champagne was flowing a pad was taken round the room for the banqueters to put down the amount which they would subscribe.

Some of them put their names down for several thousand pounds; one of them went so far as to put his name down for many thousands of pounds, and when the list was totted up it was found that about £2,500,000 had been promised. On the following morning, when the mayor and his secretary went round the city to collect the money to present it to the Old Country, many of the banqueters were found with a bandage round their heads, or sitting in their office with elbows on the table and chin in their hands: while some of them did not even recollect putting their names on the pad, and when the entries were shown to them, they did not recognise their signatures. You, sir, remember the trouble which was experienced in collecting the money. It was announced in the press in Melbourne by the Fusionists that they were going to show the loyalty of the citizens of Sydney and the loyalty of the people of New South Wales by subscribing the money for a Dreadnought. It is a matter of history now how much money they raised. I think £46,000 was collected from this great wealth-producing centre - the Chicago of Australia. Their loyalty was worth £46,000 !

Mr Burns - What did they do with the money?

Mr PAGE - I will tell the honorable member directly. On the night the banqueters had the " shicker " in them, and did not know what they were doing with the pad, they subscribed £2,500,000; but when the mayor went to collect the actual cash, after several weeks or months, the great patriots who had done the flag-wagging and set the bands playing, had to part up to the tune of £46,000. They offered that sum to the Old Country to purchase a Dreadnought, and the Imperial Government said, " No, thanks; we are not that hard up. We do not want your money. You had better do something with it in Australia." The Fusionists put the money in a bank at fixed deposit, and found that nobody would have anything to do with it. They were like the kid in the advertisement for Pears' soap. They were not happy till they got it, and when they got it they did not know what they were going to do with it. After all the " flapdoodle " and flag-wagging, the Fusionists had £46,000, and they wanted to present the Minister of Defence with the money to furnish the Naval College on condition that it was to be built within so many miles of Sydney. The Minister could not accept the offer conditionally, and the consequence was that the money was handed over unconditionally to the Federal Government to buy furniture with which to furnish the Naval College now being built at Jervis Bay. It is of no use for honorable members on the Opposition side to think that the public have such a short memory that they do not remember these things. I, for one, have never claimed, either on the platform or in this House, that the Labour party did anything more than its just share, and it should only get its just reward. in connexion with the starting of compulsory military training and the establishment of the Naval Unit of Australia. We know very well what the honorable member for Parramatta said, or was reported to have said, in Adelaide about the "River" boats. He wanted to know what rivers there were in Australia for the " River " boats to go up.

Mr Groom - That has been explained over and over again.

Mr PAGE - There it is in the press. If the honorable member does not believe it-

Mr Groom - I do not dispute that it is there, but I say that it was denied and explained.

Mr PAGE - It was not Labour. papers in which the statement was reported. I ask any representative from South Australia whether the Register printed in Adelaide is a. Labour newspaper ?

Mr Archibald - No ; it is Conservative.

Mr PAGE - Well, that is one newspaper in which I saw the statement.

Mr Groom - That does not alter the fact that it was explained over and over again in the House that it was not a correct statement.

Mr Kelly - It has been answered. here often.

Mr PAGE - I have never heard the answer.

Mr Kelly - Surely you can trot out something new ! The story of the banquet is entirely new; it is a good yarn.

Mr PAGE - Of course the honorable gentleman does not like the story because he was one of those at the banquet. That is the trouble with him.

Mr Kelly - I was one of the contributors.

Mr PAGE - The- honorable member does not like it, because he was one of those who were going to show the Imperial Government that the private citizens of Australia could put the Labour party in their proper place. I can well understand him not wanting to hear about the banquet, These old tales are true. The honorable member for Wimmera has gone back to the days of Noah. Surely, then, there can be no harm in referring to matters of a little more recent date !

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member's time has expired.

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