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Friday, 22 June 1906

Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - If Senator Turley takes various statements which are attributed to me in the press, and asks me whether I have made them, all- I can say is ' that, in many instances, the reporter's imagination has amplified any little thing I may have said into something simply unrecognisable. So far as the wireless telegraphy station isi concerned, a reporter* did ask me as to what was intended to be done in the matter. It is well known that one of the Admirals on the Australian Station recommended to the Government of the day, before my time, that wireless telegraphy stations should be established all along the coast of Australia, commencing in Western Australia and running to Cape York, and even to Port Darwin. However, a new Admiral arrived, and he reckoned that, instead of the large number of stations recommended by his predecessor, only three were necessary. It was on the report of this Admiral that the reporter asked as to my intention. In the course of. casual conversation!, I did say that, to my utter surprise, I had found in Queensland a wireless telegraphy station of which I had known nothing previously, and in regard to which I had- seen no provision on the Estimates. But the statement by the reporter about my "discovering" a man in charge is pure imagination. The reporter doubtless concluded that there would be a man in charge, and that, as there had been no provision, made on the Estimates, this man had got there in some peculiar manner; and so the tale goes on. Since that time I have been requested to provide money for the repair of one of the large masts of the apparatus, which seems to have come down, or become- weakened, and I have sent to Captain Tickell, asking for full particulars. I inquired as to whether this station was used at all. and, so far as I could ascertain in Queensland, it is useless for any practical purpose. The question, now is whether, under the circumstances, I shall provide money for the repairs, and T am at present making inquiries. The newspaper account' proceeds :

The Minister for Defence, referring to-day to. General Finn's approaching retirement, expressed the opinion that the service would get on very well for a bit without .so much inspection. " The back-block corps," he said, " are lined up for the Inspector-General to Look at, while the State Commandants, the very people who ought to be inspected, are left to themselves."

I never put the matter in that way at all. I have expressed an opinion that InspectorGeneral Finn used to occupy a great many days and hours in visiting the back-blocks, and inspecting small corps of half-a-dozen or a dozen men, when his time might have been more profitably employed in looking after the Commandants and their staffs ; but I do not think I put the case in the way attributed to me by the reporter. The paragraph goes on to say that I stated I had found Tasmania in a state of " utter disorganization." I do not know whether or not I used the word " utter," but, when I took office, I certainly found defence matters in Tasmania in a state of disorganization.

Senator Millen - Was there not somethink like a revolution there?

Senator PLAYFORD - We heard of revolution and mutiny, and of Major-General Hutton disbanding a corps.. I am now looking into that matter, and reestablishing the force as nicely and quietly as possible. I have had to do some rather serious things which I should not care to make public in connexion with the defences of Tasmania ; but, so far as I know, matters are now going on very pleasantly. With regard to the bandsmen, I never made any such statement as that attributed to me in reference to any particular corps in Queensland ; but I did make a statement relating to some bandsmen in Victoria. The newspaper paragraph goes on to say that I stated I found military bands everywhere, but that not a word appeared on the Estimates about bandsmen. Considering that I make up the Defence Estimates, I was not likely to make such a statement, in face of the fact that provision is made for bands. I can suggest, however, how such a statement may have been written by the reporter. There is a band provided for every regiment, and for each band certain provision is made on the Estimates. A regiment may, however, be composed of men who are very mu:h scattered; a portion may be stationed at the head-quarters at Bendigo, for instance, and a branch or company of the same regiment stationed at Echuca. When regiments are scattered in this way, it very often happens that bands are improvised by the men themselves. A band is already provided at the head-quarters at Ballarat or Bendigo; but in an outlying district, 50 or 100 miles away, the little squadrons organize a band of their own, all the expenses of which they pay themselves. The trouble arises from the fact that men are put into these bands who are not effective as soldiers, and who cannot pass when the corps goes up for the effective allowance. In this connexion the officers complain very much because, while a man may be able to read music, blow a trombone, or beat a big drum, he is not an effective soldier, and does, not earn the grant. In speaking with the reporter, I may have referred to some such case as that ; I have a Victorian case in ray mind. I do not think I did refer to the matter, but if I did, I certainly never intended my remarks to apply to Queensland. Statements of the kind taken fi om their context are. of course, exceedingly misleading. There may have been a general conversation in which I alluded to bands ; but the circumstances are as I have stated. I can assure Senator Turley that when the reporters have to " dress up," as they do, what thev may casually hear from a Minister in a' general conversation, perhaps as thev walk along the street, they make mistakes, and lead people to form wrong impressions. In the present case a very wrong impression has been formed in regard to the wireless telegraphy station, and the wonderful man I am supposed to have found, hut did not find. ^ A mistake has also been made in attributing to me the statement that military bands are not provided for on the Estimates. As I say, recognised military bands are provided for, but there are those other improvised bands, which are not provided for, and which cause some little trouble.

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