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Wednesday, 14 July 1915

Mr HAMPSON (Bendigo) .- I have listened very carefully to the debate, and I have yet to be convinced that this measure is going to do as much good as the Attorney-General appears to think. There is, I fancy, a way of organizing for the effective conduct of the war without the elaborate machinery now proposed. I suppose we are all agreed that what we require here, as well as in the Old Country, is, as Lord Kitchener said in his great speech the other day, men, munitions and money. In Australia, up to the present time, there have been about 100,000 recruits, and we have heard the honorable member for Flinders estimate that, if the example of Victoria be followed, another 50,000 will be added. If our object is to have 100,000 men in the fighting line at Gallipoli, and there is a wave of enthusiasm passing over us, we shall probably get enough recruits for a considerable period in advance. If the measure before us is necessary, it is to my mind overdue, because what we desire to have are men who are not married, and not men who would be useful to us later on in the production of munitions. Is there no other machinery of which we can avail ourselves at the present time t What is there to prevent the Government issuing regulations providing that the unmarried men now offering shall be taken first, and those who would be more useful in this country, placed on a reserve list? What I mean is, why should we not take the single men first, and place mechanics and others who are offering, and who would be useful later on in the production of munitions, in a reserve force? Where is the necessity to get these returns from all over Australia regarding- men between the ages of eighteen and sixty, when all that is necessary can be done now? I have here the call which was issued by Lord Kitchener on the 27th May - a little over six weeks' ago - as follows : -

I have said that I would let the country know when more men were wanted for the war. The time has come ; and I now call for 300,000 recruits to form new armies. Those who are engaged in the production of war material of any kind should not leave their work. It is to men who are not performing this duty that I appeal.

Mr Hughes - At the same time, the House of Commons is at this present moment, I suppose, considering a Registration Bill almost identical with our own.

Mr HAMPSON - It is no wonder. In the British Army to-day there is something like 60 to 65 per cent, married men - a very unsatisfactory state of affairs - and those who are required for the production of munitions are told not to submit their names as recruits. Could we not do something similar here without adopting the methods of the Bill ? It has been stated that - the measure is not a first step towards conscription ; but, if it is worth while to spend £150,000 in registering the manhood of Australia between the ages of eighteen and sixty years, to bring some sort of moral pressure on single men who ought to, but will not, enlist, we should logically follow this course with compulsion.

Mr Finlayson - Otherwise it is useless.

Mr Hughes - Is the honorable member aware that the exportable wheat crop of Australia this year will be worth £25,000,000, and that, if the result of this registration is the efficient harvesting and marketing of that crop, the cost will be less than Is. per cent. ?

Mr HAMPSON - The honorable and learned gentleman is now introducing industrial considerations. Is this measure proposed for both war and industrial purposes ?

Mr Hughes - It is proposed in order that, as an organized community, we may face the problem which confronts us, and so that industries essential to the prosecution of the war may not be disabled by the taking away of men who cannot be [177] spared. That is, perhaps, the main object of the measure.

Mr HAMPSON - -The great bulk of those who are enlisting come from the cities and towns, not from the country districts.

Mr Austin Chapman - Nonsense !

Mr HAMPSON - An analysis of the returns that have been published bears out my statement.

Mr Austin Chapman - The honorable member is speaking only of this " cabbage garden." What about New South Wales ?

Mr HAMPSON - The Premiers of the States purpose holding a Conference in reference to the harvesting of what is expected to be a record wheat crop. They do not look to the Commonwealth for assistance in this matter. The Premier of Victoria -expects the Commonwealth to provide means for the exportation of the surplus grain, but the Commonwealth is not expected to organize forces for the harvesting of the crop. That is regarded as a State duty.

Mr Hughes - The Commonwealth and the States deal with the same set of men - the men of Australia, who will harvest our crops and fight our battles.

Mr HAMPSON - I take it that the Government are dealing with this matter for war purposes, and that it will leave to the States the organizing of forces to help the farmers to harvest the great wheat crop that is anticipated. As to the proposal to collect statistics relating to wealth, I agree with a good deal that has been said to-night. It should be stated whether it is intended to commandeer part of the capital about which information is sought, or whether the information is needed merely in order that taxation may be imposed on the wealth of the country. I can understand the collection of returns as to the wealth owned by the people of Australia if it is intended to commandeer part of that wealth, but if the object in view is to impose a war tax on incomes, or on property, this collection of statistics is not necessary. In my opinion, information regarding men, munitions, and money can be obtained in a simpler way than that proposed.

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