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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - To a very large extent, I am in sympathy with the views which Senator Clemons has expressed. I hope that in the recess the Minister of Defence will settle down to the real work of formulating a defence scheme, and that he will keep in mind the method of naval defence which, of course, would entail a larger expenditure, and the further encouragement of rifle shooting, so that we shall have a larger reserve to draw upon for our land defence, and at a lesser expense than we now pay.

Senator Playford - That will mean disbanding a number of the militia.

Senator O'KEEFE - Well, if it does, it will meet the views of myself and, I believe, of a large number of the people of Australia. According to the Minister, our militia cost £8 6s. a head, and our riflemen only £1 10s. 3d. a head. The discrepancy between the expenditure per head is so great, when contrasted with the difference between the usefulness of a rifleman and a militiaman, as to deserve serious consideration from the Minister.

Senator Playford - If we are to have a field force, we must have a stiffening.

Senator de Largie - How many riflemen have we?

Senator Playford - Thirty thousand.

Senator O'KEEFE - We have 30,000 riflemen at an individual cost of £1 10s. 3d. per year, but we have room for 60,000 riflemen. The Commonwealth will have to rely upon the riflemen as the great base of its land force. It was all very well for in Imperial officer like Major-General Hutton to lay down as the basic principle to guide the Commonwealth -in defence matters, that it should not have so many volunteers, but should convert them 'into militia. The central thought in his mind was that in Australia there should be raised a certain, number of men upon whom the Commonwealth could call for service in foreign parts. But that idea is not shared by a great majority of the people of Australia. When he mentioned in a report that it was necessary for us to convert our volunteers into militia in order to maintain a higher standard of efficiency, what did he mean? The higher standard of efficiency, I take it, is a higher standard of usefulness. Does the Minister of Defence agree with MajorGeneral Hutton that the higher standard of efficiency should be efficiency in drill, without efficiency in rifle shooting? Let us recall the work which was done by the Boers without that higher standard of efficiency to which Major-General Hutton alluded.

Senator Staniforth Smith - But the Boers had had a good deal of training.

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes, but nothing like military training in the sense in which Major-General Hutton used the term. Their higher standard of efficiency was efficiency in rifle shooting. In the South African war, a small army was able to resist an enormous military power, simply by reason of their higher standard of efficiency in rifle shooting. The back-bone of the land portion of our defence system should1 be efficiency in rifle shooting. That should go hand in hand with an immediate and a very large increase 'in the number of cadets. It is simply absurd that Australia should have only 9.000 cadets, while New Zealand has 12.000. Let us either sweep away the cadet system, or put it on a more practical and common-sense basis. I believe that the Minister will give his serious attention to this point, but I am sorry to see that he is not in sympathy with the view held bv a number of us that there should be universal compulsory training to a certain extent. I think that any able-bodied man who is not willing to contribute a little towards the defence of his country or to qualify himself to render some service when called upon is not worthy of the rights of citizenship.

Senator Staniforth Smith - It would cost two or three millions sterling a year to supply rifles and accoutrements.

Senator O'KEEFE - It would not be necessary to -incur that expenditure at the start. Either let us have no defence or let us have a defence system on a commonsense and sound basis. No doubt we have nol: \-et arrived at that stage when we should be able financially to place a rifle with ammunition in the hands of every ablebodied man. But I believe that public opinion is gradually coming round to that view, and that eventually we shall have compulsory universal training for a short period, and1 compulsory military service. The principle that the Commonwealth can call upon every able-bodied citizen is, now embodied in the Defence Act.

Senator Playford - Only in time of war.

Senator O'KEEFE - What is the use of sending out a number of men in time of war, unless they have been trained in time of peace to defend' the country ?

Senator Playford - Does the honorable senator propose to have compulsory military training without pay ?

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes, for a certain period of the year.

Senator Playford - Then the people will not stand it.

Senator O'KEEFE - I am sorry to hear the Minister enunciate that view, because I believe that they will when they see that the cost of defending the country or of always being in a position to defend it when necessary will be far less under that system than under the present system. What are we getting from the present system? As the Minister knows, we are getting very little indeed. We have to expend nearly £600,000 on the Military Forces, and £47,000 on the Naval Forces, which, I think, is entirely inadequate - quite irrespective of the naval subsidy which we pay to the Imperial Government.

Senator Fraser - A great .deal of that, sum goes in forts and mines.

Senator Playford - And ammunition for the big guns.

Senator O'KEEFE - To my mind the most pleasing portion of ,the 'Minister's speech on. the second reading of the Approp riation Bill was that in which he referred to the report of the Director of Naval Forces,. I hope that the views expressed in his report by Captain Creswell will find a very strong supporter in the Minister, and that they will be carried out to a very large extent.

Senator Playford - That does not mean the cruisers which the honorable senator's colleague talked about.

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes; it does. I do not altogether agree with Captain Creswell 's views as regards, the land forces. I believe that he would sweep them all away.

Senator Playford - Every one of them except the rifle clubs.

Senator O'KEEFE - We must have a land force as the backbone of our defence. If we foster the cadet movement, as the Minister has promised to do shortly, and encourage rifle shooting, so far as that can be done consistently with the state of the finances, and sweep away still more of theexpenditure on our present military system

Senator Fraser - That is all very good, when speaking in a general sense, but when it came to a matter of details it could not be carried out.

Senator O'KEEFE - It is for us to speak in general terms, and for the Minister to carry out the details. He is a thoroughly practical man, and will, I believe, agree to a large extent with what I am saying. We should also go as far as we possibly can with the view which Captain Creswell has laid down in regard to our naval defence. It is satisfactory to think that if his view be adopted a large portion of the work could be done in Australia. I am informed that we could build a certain portion of the torpedoes and torpedo destroyers.

Senator Sir William Zeal - And a nice mess we should make of it !

Senator O'KEEFE - I do not think we should. At any rate, that is an additional encouraging feature in Captain Creswell's report. Originally., the Estimates contained an item of £22,500 for making saddles, and an item of .£10.250 for saddle-trees, stirrups, and bits. These items were omitted in the other House.

Senator Staniforth Smith - And they decided to buy rifles with the money.

Senator O'KEEFE - That was a very sensible course for the other House to take. I am not objecting to the omission of the items, but to the fact that in the Defence Department there should have' been officials who could place on the Estimates two items amounting to £32,750, unless the expenditure was necessary.

Senator Staniforth Smith - That was done by the previous Minister.

Senator O'KEEFE - If it was done by the previous Minister, surely it was done with the concurrence, and upon the advice of his officers. I take it that a Minister of Defence would not recommend an expenditure of over £30,000 on such items as I have mentioned without the concurrence and upon the advice of his officers.

Senator Staniforth Smith - It was part of Major-General Hutton's scheme for the defence of the Commonwealth.

Senator O'KEEFE - If we have in the Department, as we apparently have, officers who are prepared to recommend an expenditure of £32,750 for the purchase of articles which are not wanted, it discloses a serious state of affairs. The other House knocked out that amount, showing that the expenditure was not required. The Minister of Defence does not propose to re-instate it.

Senator Staniforth Smith - It was omitted at the suggestion of the Minister.

Senator O'KEEFE - This fact shows that a very careful watch should be kept on the Department, and on the work of every officer. It is evident that there are officers who have very unsatisfactory ideas as to our financial position, and who do not recognise that we have only a certain amount of money to spend, and that it is better to spent it on rifles and ammunition than on accoutrements, which are not absolutely required. I trust that the Minister of Defence will, during the recess, devote himself to the task of formulating a complete defence scheme for Australia, and will keep in ' mind the two important points to which I have referred. We must certainly incur heavier expenditure in relation to our Naval Forces. I hope that he will adopt, to a very large extent, Captain Creswell's recommendations in that respect, and that, in relation to the land forces, he will see whether he cannot reduce still further the expenditure on our present military system. He should increase the expenditure for rifle shooting by purchasing more ammunition, and giving greater encouragement to able-bodied young fellows to perfect themselves in the art. It is worth while to consider whether it would not be a great incentive to our ablebodied men to practise rifle-shooting to hold out as a prize a certain sum of money for sending a team of rifle shots annually either to Great Britain or America to compete against the world's best rifle shots. I have always been in favour of that course.

Senator Playford - It costs £2,000 to send a team to England.

Senator O'KEEFE - Surely we should get an adequate return.

Senator Fraser - It would be better to make them compete on our own soil.

Senator O'KEEFE - Let us have competitions for rifle shooting in every State, but as a final prize to encourage rifle shots to make themselves as efficient as possible, let there be held out the bait that a team of a dozen men will annually be sent abroad to compete. Senator Clemons has been an athlete. He was a good cricketer. Was it not an incentive to him to excel, that he might be able to take part in Inter-State matches, and would it not be a further incentive that he might be able to take part in an Australian Eleven?

Senator Clemons - The analogy is not quite complete, because the question of cost arises in relation to the rifle shooting.

Senator O'KEEFE - The ambition of every good cricketer is to get into an Australian Eleven. We should make it the ultimate goal of every good rifle shot to get into a team to compete against the world. The expenditure would be very small in comparison with the gain. I have had a great deal to do with rifle shooting in my time. It is a fascinating pastime, but an expensive one for a working man with a small salary. If there was a chance of riflemen eventually reaching the goal of their ambition, and being able to compete against the best shots in the world, that would be a great stimulus to them. It is worth the while of the Minister to consider the point.

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