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Thursday, 15 July 1915

Mr SHARPE (Oxley) .- The Bill has been discussed by many honorable members, and I have been pleased to hear very little opposition to it. I am sorry to say that the opposition that has been offered to it has come from members of our own party.


Mr SHARPE - Practically all of it. The right honorable member for Swan objected to a portion of the Bill, as we expected him to do. I am pleased that the Government have decided to establish this form of organization. Those who have paid any attention to the war so far must agree that the weakness of the British Government has been the absence of any organization at its command at the outbreak of the war. After many months of fighting and the loss of many valuable lives, Great Britain has recognised the necessity of adopting the same system of organization that Germany has had in operation for the past twenty-five or thirty years, and has recognised that Germany's great strength has been due to the fact that her very complete system of organization enabled her at the outbreak of the war to know exactly where her men were, and how best they could be used. Now that Great Britain is adopting the very same system of organization that Germany has had in operation, we can have greater confidence in the efforts that the Allies are putting forth with the small amount of organization that has been employed so far, and I have no doubt that Australia will benefit very considerably by imitating this scheme of organization, which is in existence all over the world. Germany was so completely organized that at the outbreak of the war she knew how many bushels of wheat, flour, rye, and other foodstuffs she could control, and how best she could make use of all her produce. The Allies 'were not in that happy position, and through their inability to control foodstuffs great unrest was occasioned, whereas Germany has had a peaceful passage in that respect, and her people have not been exploited as have been the people of her allied enemies. In Australia, though late in the day, we have recognised the necessity for taking steps to organize our forces, and though many opinions have been advanced as to the powers given by the Bill before us, and as to its utility, I am of the opinion that it will prove very valuable, and that, though the present intention is to limit its provisions to the period of the war, we may find a continuation of the organization which it will establish of considerable value for a long time ahead. Much of Germany's success has been due to the fact that she has been organized, not only in regard to the war, but also in regard to her industries. In Australia we may meet with the same rapid success as regards industrial progress if we have in force the same system of organization of our industries that Germany has possessed for the last twenty or thirty years. In regard to utilizing the labour that has been offered gratuitously to the Government for the purpose of taking the census for which the Bill provides, the AttorneyGeneral should confer with the Chief , Electoral Officer. If the latter will agree to it, the work of conducting the census should be intrusted to the Divisional Returning Officers throughout the Commonwealth. I believe they will be permitted by the Chief Electoral Officer to undertake it - if it is carried put by these men it will be done satisfactorily, because they are in close touch with the people in the different electorates, and would know exactly how to handle the matter. There would then be no need for creating new machinery for the purpose of taking the census - while the labour that is being offered gratuitously in all parts of the Commonwealth could be used by allotting portions of the different electorates to different individuals who would distribute the census cards, assist the citizens to fill them in, and afterwards collect them. That would be a valuable way of using the labour that is offering, and in all probability it would be the easiest way of securing the information that the Government require. I do not know what the Attorney-General proposes, but it will be necessary to have officers of some kind in all the capitals as well as in many of the big centres of the Commonwealth, and it will be a simple matter to add to those on the electoral rolls the names of citizens between eighteen and twenty-one years of age.

The work will be more easily executed by electoral officers than by any new men who might be appointed to do it. I concur in the remarks of the honorable member for Robertson relative to the despatch of unmarried men to the war. It is estimated that the proportion of married men in Kitchener's latest Army is 65 per cent. Great Britain is already recognising the heavy responsibility that is being daily incurred by the death of married men at the front in respect of the heavy liability for pensions, and, remembering that liability, the despatch of married men will be a very serious matter for a young country like Australia. We are likely to have a very heavy pension list. Although we have not the same number of men fighting as Canada has, our casualty-list is already considerably higher than that of Canada, which estimates that her pension bill for the year will be £9Q0,000. We may, therefore, conclude that our pension bill will be considerably more than that of Canada, and if we are to continue allowing married men to go to the front, we shall have a still heavier bill to pay in a year or two. In my opinion, if we have any money to spare for pensions it would be better to allow single men to go to the front, and be in a position to allow their dependants a higher individual pension than to have the amount of money available split up by having to pay pensions to widows and a great number of young children. According to the latest statistics, Great Britain has available for fighting, 7,839,000 men between the ages of nineteen and forty, and it is estimated that half that number are unmarried. In Australia we have more unmarried men available for fighting in proportion to population than has any other country. Mr. L. G. Chiozza Money. M.P., according to the Sydney Sunday Times, recently said -

At 27 years of age, the men of the country arc as nearly as possible divided between married and unmarried. Below 27 years of age the majority are unmarried. Here are some interesting facts on this head: - At 27 years -of age, as I have said, one man out of every two is married; at 26, however, only one out of every three is married; at 23, one out of every five; at 21, one out of every 15; at 20, one out of every 34; at 10, one out of every 125.

The men referred to by Mr. Money are the best that we can recruit as soldiers. They have the best physique, and stand the hardships of the battlefield better than any other class of man. In Australia we have available 10 per cent, more of unmarried men than any other country in proportion to population. As a matter of fact, we have sufficient unmarried men to fill all our requirements, without sending any married men to the front. I hold the same opinion as the honorable member for Robertson - that we should not permit married men to leave Australia while there are unmarried men available and willing to go to the front. When the honorable member for Flinders was discussing this matter the other day, he said that the age of recruits should be raised from eighteen to twenty years. The Prime Minister held a different opinion. The remarks of these honorable gentlemen have been commented on in the Sydney SundayTimes by Colonel Foster, who states plainly that men between eighteen and twenty years of age have shown the best fighting qualities of all the soldiers who have taken part in the battles of Europe. The majority of the men engaged in the battle of Mons were between eighteen and twenty years of age. It was the same in two or three other battles. Colonel Foster is of opinion that men of eighteen years of age are fully matured, and make the best soldiers.

Mr Lynch - They cannot stand hardships so well as older men.

Mr SHARPE - According to the reports from Europe, they stand hardships better than any other soldiers. That is the opinion of Colonel Foster, who has had wide experience, and who thinks that the age of military service should not be raised from eighteen to twenty years.

Mr Lynch - Young men will go anywhere, and have good-healing flesh.

Mr SHARPE - There is something in that. I am sure that young Australians will continue to enlist. Young men have served Australia magnificently. Our men have put up a performance which, before the war- began, even the most imaginative could not have believed possible. In the Old Country trouble has been caused by the conditions in many engineering shops, clothing factories, and collieries. There has been unrest and discontent because the men found themselves exploited by their employers, who were speeding them up in order that huge profits might be made out of the manufacture of war materials of one kind and another. The men were also being exploited by the sellers of foodstuffs, and could not get the Government to take action. In my opinion, the Bill will put an end to unrest and discontent of this kind in Australia, and will prove of value to the people at large. I hope that the public will not complain, as some honorable members have done, of the request for information regarding the wealth that is held. The information regarding the wealth of the community will probably be of as much value as that regarding the number of men between the ages of eighteen and sixty. Some honorable members on this side have said that the Government had already the machinery to do what it wishes to do. But the Commonwealth Statistician has told us on several occasions that, in regard to many matters, he has to rely on statistics furnished by State authorities, which are often received very late. It will be necessary for the Government to give consideration to the appointment of statistical officers in each State, in order to bring the Tear-Book up to date. The last T ear-Book published has not the correct figures relating to the number of cattle in Australia, and does not contain the latest information regarding many branches of production. There is a shortage of 1,000,000 in the cattle of Australia, but that does not appear in the T ear-Book. There is also a shortage in sheep of 5,000,000. The Bill provides machinery for bringing our statistical knowledge up to date, and will give an opportunity for the organization that is so necessary. Some of the statistical information published by Mr. Knibbs is often eighteen months or two years old. I think that the complete information which will be obtained by the collection of information under the Bill will justify the expenditure that must be incurred.

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