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Thursday, 8 July 1915

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) .- I do not know whether the Government have made up their minds, or whether they will take notice of any suggestions that honorable members may make; though, from what the Prime Minister said in the earlier stages of this debate, it does not seem that Ministers' minds are made up. Therefore, they may take some grains of goodness out of the ideas honorable members may give. I suggest, as the honorable member for Henty suggested, that the whole of the original duties of the Minister of Defence should be centred in one Minister, and that another Minister should take all the other duties. The Prime Minister has announced the intention of the Government to arrange for the registration of the male population between certain ages. The inauguration and organization of that huge body of men for home defence alone will take the whole time of more than one man. Home defence, with compulsory service in the Navy and Army, will require the whole time of one man, and the duties pertaining to the war may be given to another Minister. Together with manyhonorable members on the Opposition side, I consider that the Minister of the Defence Department should be in this House. There are other Departments, as, for instance, the Department of External Affairs, which are comparatively non-spending, and which could be managed by a Minister in the Senate. Both Ministers dealing with Defence ought to be members of this

House. I do not think the proposal before the Committee will lead to any improvement on the present system. The only information the honorable member for Bass will be able to give us will be in relation to the work of the Department that is handed over to him; outside the affairs of that Department, he will continue to be simply the mouthpiece of Senator Pearce. I do not think there is any other Minister in the Cabinet who has worked more assiduously to do the right thing than has the Assistant Minister of Defence, and he deserves promotion if any honorable member does. I congratulate the honorable member on his prospective appointment, and I feel sure that he will do much more effective work in the future than he has been able to. do in the past, because responsibility will henceforth rest on his shoulders. It would be an anomaly to call the new Minister "Minister of the Navy" when we have no Navy here. Our ships are serving -with the Imperial Navy in foreign waters. No matter how the new Minister is entitled, he will still be Assistant Minister of Defence, and, whatever title he bears, I am sure he will give effective attention to his Department. The honorable member for Henty made some very wise suggestions as to what the Government should do in regard to the allocation of Departments, and if that course is followed the House will be satisfied, and the country will have more confidence in the Government than it has at the present time.

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