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Friday, 16 July 1915

Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) . - As the discussion continues one begins to wonder what the object of the Bill at the present time, really is. Is it a war Bill, but not intended for use during the war? I take it that the object of the legislation is to get information as to what men there are between certain ages suitable to go to the war. There would be no advantage in having that information if the suitable men do not go to the front. What advantage would it be to the country to know that there are many thousands of men between certain ages who are fitted for the front, unless they are at least told that they ought to go ? If these men say that they have other obligations and duties, and are not prepared to go - what then ?

Mr Finlayson - The honorable member for Flinders said that we ought to demand their reasons.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not in favour of conscription, because I do not think it is necessary just now. I think, however, that the object of the Bill is to enable the Government, if we do not get sufficient response without conscription or a legal demand - whatever we may call it - to ascertain what men are available and legislate accordingly. There ought to be no blinking of the facts; otherwise, why go to the trouble of taking the census? What can be the object of taking a census if, when we get it, we do nothing with it? The response has been too good already to demand any coercion, but I am not in favour of going to a great deal of trouble to collect information unless we are able to see what we are going to do with it when we have got it. The Bill is to have effect only during the war, and the information will soon be out of date unless it is kept up. Most of the information we require we have already. The Commonwealth Land Tax Department can tell us the value of the lands in estates above £5,000 in value, and the States can tell us the lower amounts. The Federal Statistical Department and the State Statistical Departments know all about the wealth of the country, the incomes of the people, and so on. I asked the AttorneyGeneral to let us know what Mr. Knibbs thinks about this matter, and what information is desired that he cannot get from his own Department or from the Land

Tax Commissioner, or the State Statistical Departments, but the Attorney-General has given me no reply on that point. If something more than we have already got is wanted we should devote ourselves to that point, and not go over the whole gamut, and try to get the whole of the information anew, with all the attendant trouble and expense. I would, of course, like to have all possible information catalogued, printed, and available, but I do not believe that it is to be of use to us during the war, unless it is to be for the purpose stated by honorable members opposite - to ascertain what men within certain ages are available to go to the war, and to make them go if they do not volunteer.

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