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Friday, 24 August 1906

Senator STYLES (Victoria) .- I should like to know whether the Imperial Government has kept its part of the Naval Agreement towards which Australia contributes , £200,000 a year ? Is there an armoured vessel on our coast at the present time?

Senator Playford - No, but there is a vessel which is considered to be quite as good.

Senator STYLES - On whose authority does the Minister make the statement that a protected cruiser is as good as an armoured vessel?

Senator Playford - On the authority of Captain Creswell, whose statement to me is that, taking the fleet as a whole, it is, in fighting strength, equal to, if not superior than, that which the Imperial Government promised to give us. It is not exactly in every detail what the agreement provided for, but in fighting strength it is superior.

Senator STYLES - Then, it is true that there is no armoured vessel in these waters, but that we have a protected cruiser, which is considered to be as good. If that be the case, I wonder why it is that the Imperial Government spends millions in building armoured vessels. I understand that the deck of a protected cruiser is protected by 2 -inch plates, whereas an armoured vessel has its sides protected as well. If Captain Creswell says that the vessel which we have in our waters is equal to what was promised to us, I am satisfied, because I attach a good deal of weight to his opinion. Another point to which I wish to refer is that, under the agreement, the Royal Naval Reserve was to consist of 25 officers and 700 seamen. But, asa matter of fact, it consists of only 5 officers and 305 men. How is it that that portion of the agreement has not been adhered to by the Imperial Government ?

Senator Playford - We are told that it is necessary for the men who are trained in Australia to be brought up to a certain pitch of effectiveness before they can be put on board the vessels. The naval authorities are actually working up to what is provided for in the agreement, and it is only a question of time when we shall have the full complement.

Senator STYLES - If the strength is increasing every year, I can understand the reason given by the Minister to be a sound one.

Senator Playford - I think it is.

Senator STYLES - Steps should be taken to see that the agreement is being carried out in this respect. If it is shown that there is a substantial increase every year im the number, I shall be satisfied. Of course, I can understand that it would be impossible to put 700 men in the reserve all at once; but if the number is substantially increased annually, I shall be satisfied that the agreement is being carried out in the spirit in- which 'it was made. I wish to ask, also, whether the attention of the Minister has been called to the fact that a warrant officer at Williamstown has been in the habit of training, at his own expense, a number of cadets? He has spent a large amount of his own money in doing this work.

Senator Playford - Those cadets are outside our control.

Senator STYLES - Does the Minister say that they are not being properly trained by this officer?

Senator Playford - They are connected with some religious bodies.

Senator STYLES - Are they any the worse for that?

Senator Playford - Not a bit.

Senator STYLES - Is it not a fact that this officer has spent a good deal of his own money, and much of his own time, in training these cadets ; and does not the Minister think that the Department should do something to assist him?

Senator Playford - I have taken the matter into consideration, and am most willing to do something ; but how can we control what an officer is doing outside the Department ?

Senator STYLES - I think that the Minister might strain a point to give some encouragement to a man who has the wellbeing of the country so much at heart as to train cadets at his own expense. Surely he should receive some sort of aid. I commend the matter to the Minister's consideration, and hope he will see whether something cannot be done to recompense this officer for the trouble he has taken..

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