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Friday, 2 July 1915

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) - With regard to those who are eligible for military service, I repeat what I said, before, that we are now giving of our very best. If the Avar were to last only a very short time, and were to be what most of us hoped such a war might be, a war of months instead of years, then I should say that we might rely solely upon the efforts of those men, the most courageous and public-spirited of our community, who of their own volition come to the aid of their country. But the war may last for years, and I say again that the fact that the small Australian community is being steadily and rapidly bled of its best cannot be regarded, with equanimity. Patriotic service cannot be left to the few who are possessed of a public spirit that prompts them to step forward and accept a duty of which all ought to bear a share. I, therefore, suggest for the consideration of the Prime Minister - and I hope he will not give expression to any opinion until he has had an opportunity of pondering over the proposal - that we should obtain a complete registration of the men of Australia, with a view to the organization of all forces, industrial as well as military, for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire now. If we cannot have a register of all the men between the ages of twenty and sixty, or whatever is the extreme military age, we should have, at all events, a register of the names of all men who are capable of bearing arms. The honorable member for Capricornia asks whether we should compel those men to go on foreign service. The time has not arrived for that, but it may arrive. There are certain aspects of this question about which we cannot speak in public. There are certain aspects of the relations between ourselves and our Allies which it is not wise to refer to except in the most guarded language ; but the time may come when we shall have to follow the lead of Prance and Belgium, and call to the colours all men of military age - a proceeding which has not meant; an invasion of the liberties of those people, but has resulted, in an immense enhancement of the patriotic spirit which dominates them. The time has not yet come for compulsion, but the stage has come at which the Government may say, " We require so many men per month. We have the names of all eligible men on our register, and we shall select, by lot, those whom . we shall invite to join the colours. They need, not go against their will." Many men may have valid reasons for not serving at all; many may be able to offer reasons why they cannot serve immediately without incurring practical ruin, although they may be able to servo a few months hence. We may allow every man the fullest liberty of stating why he should be absolved for the present, or, perhaps, altogether, from this public duty. But let those who are unable to prefer valid reasons take the responsibility of refusing to serve their country when it calls. We arĀ© about to enter upon a recruiting campaign in Victoria, and' I hope that a great deal will result from it. But how ? Net by direct appeal to the men of the community, but by appealing to those who may be indirectly instrumental in organizing a response to the country's call. The difficulty with all recruiting movements is that we are not able to reach the people whom we wish to reach. I read with tha utmost pleasure the speech of the Attorney-General at St. Kilda a few days ago, and also the remarks of the Prime Minister, because those utterances show that Ministers recognise the deadly peril in which Australia stands. I shall conclude by appealing te the Prime Minister to stand out above and beyond all questions of party, and lead Australia. Never since Australia has bean colonized has a man been in a position in which he bore such a tremendous responsibility, or had such a magnificent privilege as the Prime Minister has to-day.

Mr HAMPSON (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - H - He will respond to it. Do not worry.

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - I sincerely hope he will. I know that his heart is in this Defence movement. An appeal has recently been made to him from certain quarters that he should form a National Ministry, but I have never concealed the belief that such a thing is impossible. The right honorable gentleman is not called upon to take any such step.

Mr Sampson - Why not?

Sir WILLIAM IRVINE - He cannot. We must recognise the conditions under which he holds office, and I, for one, have never asked him to take any such step. But I do appeal to him to allow every other consideration to go to the winds, and to stand forth as the leader of the Australian people, and create a definite basis of organization, not only for recruiting men, but for taking the steps necessary to create munitions. It is of no use other persons engaging in this work unless the Prime Minister leads. We look to him to lead us in this matter, and if he will lead us definitely with the whole force of the Government, and the Ministerial party behind him, in the one movement to secure strength to fight the foes that are threatening our existence, h'e will receive the support of every member on this side of the House.

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