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Friday, 2 July 1915

Mr FISHER (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - My own family experience was that my sister, who had lived in Scotland all her life, could not stand the cold there so well as my wife, who was born in Queensland, and had lived in Queensland all her life prior to visiting Scotland.

Sir William Irvine - That is the experience of a good many people.

Mr FISHER - Therefore, I think that part of the honorable member's argument cannot be sustained.

Now I will come to the question of compulsory registration throughout Australia. I have no qualms on that point; far otherwise. I think that as a democracy we have been proceeding on unscientific lines, not only in regard to war purposes, but also for civil purposes. There can be no reflection on any man or upon any family in their being asked to submit to a census for a particular purpose, apart from that of merely giving information as to the actual number of people there are, the number of the family, and where they live. The honorable member asked me not to condemn that suggestion without giving it consideration. I cannot speak for my colleagues; I cannot speak for this side of the House on a motion of this kind, but I see no insuperable difficulty in doing what the honorable member suggests for war purposes just as is done for general purposes. If I gathered the honorable member's remarks correctly, I think the idea he had in his mind was that there should be a registration, not only for war purposes, but also for home purposes.

Sir William Irvine - There are thousands of people in this country who are hungering to do something, and who would do it if they were only shown how.

Mr FISHER (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - That is so. But it has to be remembered, to the honour and credit of the Ministers of Defence who have occupied that office since the war began, that they have had no time to devote to anything other than the provision of soldiers for the front.

Sir William Irvine - Hear, hear! * That has been one of the difficulties.

Mr FISHER - It is a fact that this country, although the most distant dominion with the exception of New Zealand, has sent more well-equipped assistance to the front in proportion to its population than any other. I do not know that we are entitled to any special commendation for that. Happily the. Commonwealth was in a better position at the time war broke out than other Dominions. In the course of the last two months 8,000 men per month have been sent, and that notwithstanding the great distance which separates us from Europe, which has militated considerably against what we might have done in other circumstances. Sad this international trouble broken out four years ago we should have been in a pitiful state so far as rendering assistance is concerned. I am sure we are all glad that we have been able to do so much. How much more we can do cannot be determined by any one, but I say to my own friends here, as I say to honorable members sitting opposite to me, that what we do cannot be done on political lines; nor may what we do in the future be done on political lines. Strong as ray views regarding defence matters in Australia have always been, I have never ceased to be associated with men who are diametrically opposed to me on political questions in the effort to bring to fruition an adequate scheme of defence for the Commonwealth.

Mr Boyd - A joint Committee of this House might carry out the idea which the Prime Minister is suggesting and do very effective work.

Mr Sampson - The same as is being done in New Zealand.

Mr FISHER - "We are coming along. I have before me a veritable bundle of evidence as to the difficulties in the way of Governments in dealing with defence matters, but I do not propose to do more than read the following sentence, which I take from an article that appeared in a great leading journal in this country less than eighteen months ago, in order to emphasize this point -

We are indulging in an orgie of frenzied military preparation for a contingency more remote than the millennium.

Sir William Irvine - We have all been blind, but we ought not to be blind any longer.

Mr FISHER - The difficulty to-day is not as great as it was two or three years ago when this war was pending and indeed was absolutely inevitable. As long as men are prepared to sacrifice themselves - no shorter time and no longer - so long shall we have uo need to fear. I can only say here, as I have said again and again, that the young men of Australia who are fit and free should offer themselves to the recruiting sergeant, and that if they are accepted as fit they should take their part with their mates in the fighting line. That is the point that has to be stressed. We may have public meetings and much enthusiasm, but unless we reach the young men of Australia with this message we cannot hope to do anything. I heartily approve the suggestion that the effective working forces of Australia, the engineering and every other branch of the industrial community, should be organized from top to bottom, and that those who control the financial machinery of Australia should likewise be organized, and be taken into the fullest confidence of the drovernment, so that we may be able to present a united front, co-ordinating in all things, to give the best possible effect to what I believe' is a policy unanimously supported by the people of Australia - the policy that we should do our very utmost to bring this terrible war to a successful conclusion.

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