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Friday, 2 July 1915

Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - I cordially re-echo one sentence in the address just made by the Prime Minister, and that is that we cannot properly conduct this war along political lines. I stand here this morning to say that I am not conscious of having obtruded politics into the consideration of these matters since the war broke out. I make that statement with all solemnity and in all seriousness. What is more, I should regard myself as a criminal if I were to make use cf the war for political purposes. That is the very last thing that any of us ought to think of importing into the consideration of this question. The 'war is too serious to. permit of either one side or the other attempting to make political capital out of it. The business before us is far too serious, and every ounce of our energy, spirit and concentration should be devoted to its vigorous prosecution. Unless we do that we shall not win. Our enemy is devoting himself to the work of insuring thoroughness of preparation, and unless we do likewise I shall not say what will be the result. We cannot afford to play with this matter while our enemy is in deadly earnest. And here I come back to the question of politics. In no country other than our own is party political warfare being carried on side by side with war preparation. That is an outstanding fact. Germany does not consider that she can go on with her programme of social reform. Austria does not, neither does Great Britain, nor any of the Dominions of the Empire. It is only here in Australia that we think we can do so.

Mr West - Better leave that matter alone.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am making an appeal to the Government even now to reconsider their decision, and to work along the lines suggested a few moments ago by the Prime Minister. We should follow absolutely non-political lines. That is the first requisite to thorough efficiency and preparation. I come now to a practical suggestion. The Assistant Minister of Defence, I know, tries to make out the best case possible, but may I say that I doubt whether it helps on the work of recruiting to say, as he does, "Look how well we are doing." It seems to me that such an attitude has rather the opposite effect. It causes a man to say, "Well, things are not going along so badly; we seem to be doing very well, and there is really no overpowering urgency that I should go. I had better, perhaps, stay at home to look after my own great responsibilities here." That, I think, is the result of too much complacency shown in talking of the war. The honorable gentleman, the other day, for instance, said that we had been sending away 8,000 troops per month for the last two months. The explanation is that during that time we have sent away an expeditionary force of 10,000 men. There is no secret about the matter. We have despatched to the front from 62,000 to 63,000 men, and of that number there must be something like 15,000 out of action. If we allow for casualties due to sickness and every other cause since the outbreak of the war, I venture to say that it will be found that my estimate is not too large.

Mr Hughes - Was it not shown yesterday that the casualties amounted to between 10,000 and 11,000?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am talking of the total wastage due to sickness and other causes since the outbreak of the war.

Mr Hughes - The right honorable member may be right.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I think it will be found that my figures are well within the mark. The wastage of this war from various causes is terrible.

Mr Hughes - I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition is allowing in his computation for the number of men who have been wounded, but who have since returned to the firing line.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Perhaps not; but I do not think my figures are inflated. We have to ask ourselves whether from 30,000 to 40,000 men on the Gallipoli Peninsula represent what is a sufficient force for Australia to send. The point is not how many men we have sent away in twelve months; that is nothing; the numbers are wasting all the time ; what we have to get into our minds is the number of men we have in the actual firing line. I venture to say that we ought to get' into our minds a definite objective in this respect. It would help recruiting, and would also give us a clearer comprehension of the' tremendous stake at issue in this war. I saw the other day that Mr. Holman had suggested that Australia's proper quota was about 400,000 men; but I think that is an extreme number on the other side, as we cannot send 400,000 men - at least not for some time; neither do I think the general statement made by tne Prime Minister, that every man and every shilling are available, helps us. Can, we not get into our mind, -this objective, and aim at it, that we should keep two army corps in the field in full efficient fighting strength? That will mean 100,000 men in the. firing line, not on the water or in hospitals or anywhere else, but actually in the firing line. It would be a very fine contribution for Australia to make, but it means at least 12,000 a month in the way of reinforcements.

Mr Hughes - If the wastage has been as you say, it would mean more than that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The recent casualties have been rather exceptional, I think. I think that I am not far out in putting down the wastage of war at 100 per cent, per annum, and that would necessitate 12,000 reinforcements per month in order to keep two army corps in the field, or roughly 100,000 men.

Mr Charlton - In your calculation you are overlooking the fact that a number who receive casualties return to the firing line.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The more the better. The minimum that we should aim at is two army corps.

Mr Jensen - I hope that you are not forgetting what a big undertaking it is to provide transportation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I think that we can get the transports.

Mr Jensen - Many of the ships that we have fitted up are retained by the Imperial authorities, and we cannot get possession of them, and in order to send more men we have to keep on fitting up other transports.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I hope that we shall keep on doing so. We should get the troops there. If we are to get the big army that I suggest we shall have to stop some of the little "tiddly- win king" causes of rejection of volunteers. We shall not have to keep men back because they have lost some of their teeth. Loss of teeth is common to some of the" best and fittest men in Australia. I asked a question the other day as to whether the medical examination was uniform throughout Australia, and the Assistant Minister told me that it was, yet Colonel Fetherston has suggested that the reason for the large number of rejects in Victoria over aud above other States is that there may be a different standard of medical examination. Such ought not to be the case. The same medical standard should apply right throughout. There should be no difference, and this matter should be attended to at the earliest possible moment.

Mr Jensen - Colonel Fetherston has had that statement corrected. I think that the instructions with regard to standardization are uniform throughout Australia.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - But the point is whether those instructions are carried out uniformly. I cannot bring myself to believe that men applying in Victoria are so much inferior to men in the other States, as is made out by these rejections. There must be some differentiation in the method of applying the standard, if not in the standard itself.

Mr Hughes - I think it will be found that some doctors are stricter than others.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Is that not an argument for having another Minister of Defence? I think that we should have another Minister of Defence, who can travel constantly throughout the country and among the camps, and see that things are done as they ought to be done. We need a travelling inspector in the shape of a responsible Minister, who can alter things that are wrong, and see that there is uniformity. One of the things we need most at the present time is the creation of another portfolio, but one which will not keep a man tied up in his office. We want nothing so much as inspection of what is going on. Only in that way can we hope to see the rectification of these many troubles. Notwithstanding what the Assistant Minister said yesterday, and what has been said this morning, the statements made by the honorable member for Nepean yesterday were in the main correct, and the trouble is that things are not being righted. We need some one to see that things are being righted, and it can only be done by having a responsible Minister to travel over the country and see that our preparations are progressing uniformly and efficiently. All these complaints show the need for close and minute' personal inspection on the part of some one in responsibility. I am not so sure that we should not do something in another direction. After Marengo Napoleon struck a medal bearing on one side "Marengo," and on the other side "I was there." Something of the same kind might very easily be instituted here. It would be an added incentive to a man to go to the front if, on his return, sitting by his fireside, he could have something upon which he could look and which would prove a memento of the occasion when he freely offered his life for the service of his country. Above and beyond all, it seems to me that we need the personal touch in any recruiting campaign. We need to bring home to the young man in the street really what is at stake. I am not so sure that a few shells dropped in our streets would not do it better and more eloquently than all the oratorical efforts of the best orators in Australia. I believe that there would be an instant response. The strange thing is that whenever there is special trouble at the front, whenever anything happens to cause a shock to the public mind owing to the horrors of war, it proves the best recruiting agent we can get. We have to bring right home to the minds of these young men the fact that they are under an obligation to go and do their very best at this time of crisis. But all that we can do is insufficient. We are up against a foe that is thoroughly organized and thoroughly prepared, that is pressing every day into his preparations the latest results of science, that is ruthless beyond degree, and that is setting aside every rule of the game; and to think that we can beat that foe while we continue distracting our attention with party squabbles, party struggles, party pr

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