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Thursday, 8 July 1915

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Bass upon the high position to which he is to be appointed. In doing so, I would point out that the only object we had in view, in urging the appointment of an additional Minister, was to enable that Minister, when appointed, to concentrate his attention upon the war and our defence preparations in connexion with it. Up to the present the Minister of Defence and the Assistant Minister have been jointly controlling the whole of our ordinary defence organization, including the Navy and all the extra work which the war has involved; but it has seemed to me that an enormous amount of this additional work is due to the arrangement which has obtained to the present, because the honorable gentleman who represents the Minister of Defence in this Chamber has not been in a position to speak authoritatively except on very few of the subjects brought up from time to time until he referred to the Minister. It is this dual control that has placed on the two Ministers a great deal of additional work ; their duties were always overlapping, and the objection that I see in the proposal now put forward - to make the Minister in this House the Minister of the Navy, and leave the rest of the work of the Defence Department entirely to the Minister of Defence - is that it will not do away with this overlapping. Undoubtedly, at the present moment our principal concern is the war, all our interests centre in the war, and in these circumstances I think that it would be far better not to make any appointment of a permanent character. I quite agree that there should be an addition to the number of Ministers; but it would be infinitely better to leave the whole of the Defence routine, which is colossal work for any one man to undertake, to the Minister of Defence, and concentrate the administration in regard to all war matters in the new Minister that is being appointed. From what I say I wish to: divorce any idea that I am desirous of saying anything derogatory of the present Minister of Defence : that is not in my mind. What I feel is that if we carry out what has been suggested, we shall not take from the gentlemen who now control the Defence Department one scintilla of the work they are now doing; whereas by dividing the work in the way I have suggested a great deal of the overlapping that now exists would be avoided, and Ministers would be relieved of a considerable amount of' work and responsibility. One Minister would be responsible for the one part, and the other would be responsible for the other part. I do not think that the control of the Navy by itself represents a great deal of work.

Mr Jensen - What about Cockatoo Island, and the Naval Bases, and the transport work?

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I realize that there is a considerable amount of work involved in managing the various industrial enterprises on which the Naval branch has embarked; but, as the honorable member for Wimmera has said, much of the work of the Naval Department can be got rid of by placing the construction of our Naval Bases and similar work in the hands of the Department of Home Affairs. That step would relieve the work of the Minister of Defence considerably. I hope that later on - I do not suggest that it should be done now - we shall go further, and appoint another Minister as Minister of Works, creating a separate Department for the purpose of the construction of works now undertaken by the Department of Home Affairs. I believe that this will have to be done after the war, as at present we would not be justified in going to the additional expense which would he entailed. I do believe that we should be doing the right thing if the whole of .the administration in connexion with the war were taken bodily out of the Defence Department and put under a new .Minister or given to Senator Pearce, the ordinary administration of the Defence Department being left to a Minister in this Chamber. I would rather have the War Minister here, because this is the House which, in a democratic way, more fully represents the people of Australia than does the Senate. In fact, I should like to see both Defence portfolios in this Chamber, and I believe that this will come about; but in the meantime it would be infinitely better for the Ministry to divide the work of the Defence Department in the way I have suggested, and at .the same time relieve the Minister of Defence by placing the work of the construction of Naval Bases in the hands of the Department of Home Affairs. We should give to the Minister in this Chamber theabsolute control of all war matters. The arrangement that I have suggested would be much more satisfactory than that outlined by the Government, and would relieve both Ministers of Defence of a great deal of the work they are now doing in trotting backwards and forwards and iconsuiting one another, and the tension and anxiety that exist in the country in regard to the general administration of war matters in Australia would also be relieved.

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