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Thursday, 15 July 1915

Mr BURCHELL (Fremantle) , - I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate on this measure. Had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro about the laying aside of party issues, I should have had something to say in regard to the manner in which men who previously held the opposite view are now subscribing to the necessity for organization. I find myself in a peculiar position, because I believe sincerely in organizing , our resources. Not merely during the war should we have our resources organized and thoroughly tabulated, but in connexion with our industrial warfare also there is necessity for organization. However, I shall content myself with saying that I have long held that view, and it is pleasing to me to find honorable members opposite now acknowledging the wisdom of some of those things which 1 have advocated for a considerable time. In connexion with the propositions that are facing Australia today, and more particularly in connexion with the wheat harvest and the wool clip, we shall need to be thoroughly prepared to handle our products to the satisfaction of the producer and the consumers in Australia and abroad, and I think that we shall need to investigate' very carefully the whole question of the war census. The work that has been undertaken up to date in connexion with munitions is, of course, very necessary, and I realize also that the organization required to render to the Mother Country the utmost assistance of which Australia is capable is of vital- import to us as a community. But I wish to stress this fact: The Commonwealth Parliament is about to pass this Bill; the Mother Country has already in existence an Act of similar provisions, and, although this does not provide in any way for. compulsory service abroad, there is a feeling prevalent in the Mother Country that such service is the intention of the Government. I wish to draw a distinction between conscription and compulsory service abroad. I have taken the trouble to inquire from those who know regarding the system of conscription in operation in European countries, and I was surprised to find that such conscription does not of necessity involve foreign service. It means service for the 'defence of one's country, but the European Governments could secure soldiers for service outside their own territory in a very simple manner. Regiments are paraded and told that the country is at war, and those who have no desire to face the common enemy are requested to step out of the ranks. We can well understand what form of compulsion that must be. I feel, therefore, that when we use. the word " conscription " we are apt to misconceive its meaning, because those European countries claim that the men who serve outside their own countries are volunteers. I am glad to say that the voluntary system in Australia has not broken down. It is producing a large number of recruits, and it has been productive of the greatest good in Victoria during the past ten days. But I am fearful in regard to this matter of moral compulsion. Clause 7 of the Bill provides - me forms which may be required to be filled up shall be in accordance with the forms in the First and Second Schedules to this Act, with such modifications or additions as are prescribed.

As one who does not believe at the present time in compulsory foreign service, I would like the Attorney-General to explain exactly what was in the mind of the Government when that clause was drafted. The printed schedule contains no special question in regard to foreign service, but I take it that, under clause 7, the Government would have power to insert such a question, and demand from every citizen1 a reply.

Mr GRooM - The only question that could be inserted is. " Are you willing to serve abroad ? "

Air. Burchell.

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