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Friday, 16 July 1915

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) (Prime Minister and Treasurer) . - I do not agree with the honorable member for Richmond that the questions as they already stand do not provide for all that is required so far as concerns registration and the discovery of the occupation which a person is best fitted to perform, apart altogether from any work he may be engaged, in at present. The questions 9a and 10 set out the position very clearly, and any intelligent person filling in that return, if he has information of that character to give, will feel called upon to supply it. I have no doubt that if further questions were prescribed the effect would be really to limit the number- of persons who fill them in.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think you want an actual definition, of the occupation.

Mr FISHER - Any information particularizing the nature of employment will undoubtedly be of great value. Coming now to the other point referred to- I am sorry in one way, but glad in another, that it was raised - I want to say at once that this Bill is not a commandeering Bill at all:

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No one suggested that it was.

Mr FISHER - It is not a recruiting Bill. There is no suggestion that any person who gives the information asked for therein will be in any different position after he has given it than he was before, so far as the defence of the realm is concerned.

Mr Joseph Cook - At the same time, it is intended to assist recruiting, I hope.

Mr Finlayson - It is a war census.

Mr FISHER - It is not, in a conscription sense.

Mr Finlayson - The title says it is.

Mr FISHER - I say that any attempt by any honorable member, or anybody,I care not whether on this side of the House or on the other side, to associate this Bill with conscription is an attempt, wilful or otherwise, to mislead the public.

Mr Joseph Cook - We call it a war census.

Sir John Forrest - It is a war census.

Mr Finlayson - Limited to the duration of the war?

Mr FISHER - It arises out of the necessities of the war.

Mr Fleming - But the AttorneyGeneral, when he was introducing it, said the Bill would be limited by the duration of the war.

Mr FISHER - It arises out of the necessities of the war. My honorable colleague is too well seised of the position to limit this legislation to the war.


Mr FISHER - It will be useful for civil, as well as for war, purposes.

Mr Hughes - You are merely speaking of the duration of the Bill?

Mr FISHER - Yes. No one will say that this Bill would not have been introduced had there been no war. I am glad the circumstances have awakened the people of Australia to a sense of their duty, and that we will get this information.

Sir John Forrest - You have most of it already.

Mr FISHER - And we shall require it for civil, quite as much as for war, purposes, even when the immediate necessity ceases. We are aware that we have a quantity of information, but the essen tial part is not available at the present moment. By means of this census, however, it can be brought up to date speedily and completely, and I believe every honorable member on both sides of the House, and among all parties, will be very happy indeed to have this information furnished to the Government, not to determine who shall go to the war in the first instance, but so that we may be able to mobilize our resources for the use of the people, and to enable the Government more effectively to protect the country from foreign foes.

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