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Friday, 2 July 1915

Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) . - I deeply regret the tone of the latter portion of the speech by the AttorneyGeneral.

Mr Fenton - You must attack your own leader for that.

Mr Richard Foster - It was very unfair.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The latter portion of the Attorney-General's speech was in striking contrast to the able and eloquent tone of his opening remarks, for towards the close the Minister, in the most specious manner possible, introduced matters of a party character, though he endeavoured to persuade himself that nothing that has been done by the Government is in the remotest degree connected with party strife. But the mere fact that honorable members on this side of the House resent the action of the Government in the introduction of certain measures is, I think an indication of the party character of those proposals. The honorable gentleman might try to persuade himself that he is engaged solely in the national interest in introducing the legislation referred to, but honorable members on this side cannot view the Bills from the same stand-point.

Mr Richard Foster - Hear, hear !

Sir ROBERT BEST - Nothing but the highest admiration can be entertained for that portion of the AttorneyGeneral's speech in which he referred to the necessity, the imperative necessity, of organization in connexion with this war. and if my honorable and learned friend and those associated with him in the Government, would display an active intention to carry out those sentiments, they could rely upon the whole-hearted support from honorable members on this side of the House. The Attorney-General, I believe, is fully impressed with the necessity for organization. No man who has studied the condition of Germany at the present time can be other than deeply impressed with the effective value of organization as applied to a mighty nation engaged in war.

Mr Archibald - We have been preaching that for years.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I say we must be deeply impressed with the value of a complete system of organization such as that perfected by Germany. That power of concentration which has been so consummately achieved is something that we must not fail to admire, and it is also something which demands of us that we should at least attempt to emulate it. There we find that every man who is fit and capable of going to the front, or otherwise working in theinterests of the nation, is fully employed in the scheme of organization, and the industrial places of men so employed are taken by women. I believe there is not a family throughout the length and breadth of Germany which is not embraced in this system of organization, and if we realize how much can be achieved by it, surely there is but one national duty before honorable members of this House, and that is, to come together with the object of securing the most effective means to accomplish the ends which we know have already been achieved by our formidable enemies. That is all that is suggested by this motion. In passing I might say the AttorneyGeneral did a great injustice to the right honorable Leader of the Opposition just now when he suggested that the honorable member for Parramatta intended by his remarks to introduce party strife. In his own insinuating way the Attorney-General himself dealt with these matters of a controversial nature, and although he did it with apparent sincerity, the fact remains "that what he said introduced far -more controversial matter than could be suggested by the spesch of the Leader of the Opposition. Now, the object of this discussion, which I hope will maintain its calm and temperate note, is to endeavour at least to see how it is possible to bring about organization. It is to be regretted that we have had no suggestion from my honorable friends opposite as to how this desirable end is to be achieved. A Committee of Public Safety has been spoken of.

Mr Groom - Mr. Carr suggested that.

Sir ROBERT BEST - Yes; the honorable member for Macquarie made a suggestion of that kind, and the idea should be encouraged by this House. Having regard to the experience of other nations, it is most desirable that something should be accomplished with the least possible delay. There is much to be regretted in the unpreparedness of Australia to deal with this crisis, though much of it was forecasted by General Ian Hamilton in his memorable report. He indicated that confusion would be incidental to the precipitation oi war under our present system, and that has been amply borne out by the events of the past few months. We should therefore bend our energies in the direction of organization, and especially to the stimulation of recruiting. I am sorry to think that the serious confusion which exists in our Defence Department is responsible to a very large extent for the lack of recruits. Personally, I can claim that I have done nothing to accentuate the troubles in this House.. Probably no man has heard more of the complaints against the Department than I have, and the Minister of Defence will be aware, from my correspondence, how I have brought these complaints under his notice, and urged that they should be remedied. I have not paraded them in this House, and I know . that, at the present time, the Minister is engaged in attending to these matters. I am convinced that most of the dissatisfaction which existed at Broadmeadows, and many of the complaints that have emanated from the Liverpool Camp, are seriously hampering the recruiting movement, and in this connexion the Defence Department must bear a grave responsibility. It has been suggested, and, I think, with justice, that recruits should have reasonable consideration in the local camps, particularly having regard to the hardships which they will have to encounter at the front, and no effort should be spared to remedy the state of affairs complained of. Surely at this juncture nothing could be more reasonable than the suggestion for the appointment of a Committee of Public Safety, and also to adjourn this Parliament for two or three weeks at least, in order to allow members to traverse the length and breadth of Australia in a recruiting campaign.

We cannot emphasize too much the necessity for this organization, and in this matter the Government can rely on the fullest co-operation of members on this side not to speak from any party stand-point. I am speaking just now in the presence of a supreme crisis, which must impress every member ' in this chamber. It is from that stand-point alone that I am urging the necessity of organization.

Mr J H Catts - Do you think that at this time we should close the House and leave the direction of all this business?

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