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Thursday, 8 July 1915

Mr FISHER - Yes. It is proposed to ask Parliament to sanction the creation of an additional Minister, who may be termed the Minister for the Navy, or the Minister of Marine. This will free the Minister of Defence from a considerable amount of work.

We intend also to appoint a Committee to consist of an equal number of honorable members of each party in the Houses - eight members of the House of Representatives and four senators, on the basis of two representatives from each State, The duty of this Committee will be to consider ali questions relating to the war that may be referred to it by the Government, and a Minister will preside ex officio over its meetings.

Mr Groom - The Minister of Defence ?

Mr FISHER - As the questions which will be referred to the Committee will be various, I think it better to say merely "a Minister." A more definite arrangement can be made later.

Mr Joseph Cook - I think the Prime Minister should preside.

Mr FISHER -- It may not be possible for rae always to do so, but I think that some Minister should be in touch with the deliberations of the Committee, which will deal with all matters referred to it.

May I also say that the Government consider present circumstances indicate that we have arrived at a time when we ought to dp something more. I think that the Government should introduce and pass through this Parliament a Bill to enable us to make a register of all males between such ages as fit them to help the country. I also think we should ascertain from the people of the Commonwealth their condition as regards wealth, and as to all their possessions. It is reasonable, having regard to the present circumstances, that we should be in possession of all these facts, so that we may be able, organized and equipped, to face any situation, and be ready for effective action at any moment.

Mr Thomas - Does the Prime Minister's statement as regards the collection of information relating to the wealth of the people refer to females as well as males?

Mr FISHER - Yes. I said some time ago that I thought that if we were to mobilize at all we should include the wealth of all our citizens.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Before putting a question to the Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, I should like to be permitted to make a brief statement relative to the announcement just made by the right honorable gentleman. I wish to say that the Opposition have heard of the decision of the Government with the greatest possible pleasure. It seems that at last we are really bending our backs to the very serious trouble that confronts us, and I want the right honorable gentleman to understand that anything the Opposition can do to help Kim to bear the tremendous responsibilities he has to carry will be cheerfully done. The Prime Minister can count on our full support in putting through any of the propositions to which he has referred, so far as we understand them. I do not quite understand his reference to the mobilization of the wealth of the country, but as to his other proposals - the numbering of the men of the community, the creation of an additional portfolio, and any other matter necessary to the prosecution of the war - he need not anticipate any serious criticism from this side of the House. I wish now to ask the right honorable gentleman whether he and his party are considering the wisdom of continuing the sitting of this Parliament, and particularly its continuance for the purpose of dealing with party business?

Mr J H Catts - Surely the Leader of the Opposition does not wish us to close up the Parliament?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I tell the honorable member at once that I think the sooner the Government can obtain all that they want from Parliament, and close it up for the time being, the better, so that they may address themselves without let or hindrance to the task that is before them.

Mr J H Catts - Then your criticisms will cease.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - What criticisms we have to make we shall not hesitate to make directly to the Government, as we have already done. That is our duty in all circumstances.

Mr J H Catts - We should have some non-party meetings of the House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I do not know anything about non-party meetings of the House, but I take it that we are to have a non-party Council of the House, which should do good work.

Mr Fisher - Of the two Houses.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - With such a Council, which will really be a Committee of Public Safety, there should be less need to continue our ordinary sittings of Parliament. Above all, I am anxious that we should, if possible, postpone any further party measures and address ourselves with all the power we have at our command to the great task in front of us. I now ask the Prime Minister whether he and his party have considered this point ?

Mr Fisher - Does the right honorable gentleman refer to the Tariff?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - To the Tariff in particular, but also to any other contentious business.

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