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Thursday, 7 December 1911

Senator PEARCE - No. Those periods, speaking from memory, are five, seven, and twelve years. Under our previous regulations enlistment was for three years. But then, of course, we had only a very small service. Now that we are going in for a more up-to-date service, we want to follow more on the lines of the Imperial Navy, and the shortest period of service which we have found compatible with efficiency is five years. The boys will be taken into the training ship to be trained for the personnel of the ships. The age at which they will be taken in has not yet been definitely laid down. Regulations on the subject are being drawn up, and probably the age will be from fourteen to sixteen years. The boys will remain on the ship for about eighteen months or two years.

Senator McColl - That is on a harbor ship ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes. Obviously, * we do not wish to go to the trouble and expense of training boys only to find that at the end of eighteen months or two years they want to leave us and enter other employment. We wish a boy when he conies to us to definitely make up his mind - and his parents, too - that for at least seven years he will remain in the Navy. Therefore, we want a provision that, with the consent of his parent or guardian, a boy shall enter into a legal contract to remain for that period. Then in regard to the cadets - those who are to be the future officers - we wish to inaugurate a system by which all our officers shall go through the Naval College; so that a boy will make up his mind that he is going to take to the Navy as a profession. We propose that the Naval College shall be established on the same lines as the Military College - that is to say, the absence of wealth will not be a bar, because we shall pay the expenses of each boy. There will be no cost to the parents. There will simply be an examination, and merit and ability will be taken into consideration in regard to admission to the College. We have laid it down that when a boy comes in as a cadet he must enter into a contract, with the consent of his parents; to serve for twelve years, because in his case, as in that of the Military College, we shall give a very valuable education. Every boy will be taught science in its higher branches, and the engineering branches will be made a strong factor, so that a boy who has gone through the course, and obtained an education there at the expense of the Commonwealth, will be fit for almost any kind of civil engineering in other walks of life. We think it is only right that a boy who is to receive that training should enter into a contract to let the Commonwealth have the benefit of his services.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Besides, he will have the invaluable training and discipline.

Senator PEARCE - Yes.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - In what position will the boys be who do not go through the Naval College?

Senator PEARCE - The rank and file will have to work up step by step, but the boys who go through the Naval College will be, first, midshipmen, and then sublieutenants. The difference in the .training is necessitated by the fact that a boy who goes into a modern warship as a sublieutenant has to be, in fact, an engineer. He has to deal with complicated machinery, and, therefore, he must have a scientific training. Each boy will have to go through a course at the College - probably a six-years' course - before he is put into a ship.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - In what position will the boys be who spend two years on a ship?

Senator PEARCE - They will serve for a year as boys, and then rate successively as ordinary seamen, . able seamen, petty officers, and so on. If, while they are going through the minor ranks, they can qualify, that is, acquire the knowledge which the other boys get at the Naval College, commissions will, of course, be open to them.

Senator Rae - There will be no official bar.

Senator PEARCE - No; but so highly technical are warships to-day, being practically masses of floating machinery, that it is very improbable that a boy who is acting as a seaman will be able to acquire the knowledge to fit him for the position of sub lieutenant.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Can these boys qualify for transfer to the Naval College?

Senator PEARCE - If they are not over the age, yes, but the age of entry to the Naval College will be limited, because we desire to turn a poy out for the position of sub- lieutenant at an early age. If he is too old when he gets the position he will be retired under the age limit before he has had the opportunity to get a step to thenext rank.

Senator Givens - Will they have any opportunity to get sea experience?

Senator PEARCE - Not for the first year or two, but in the' last year or two they will be sent to sea in a cruiser attached to the College.

Senator O'Keefe - What is the age limit ?

Senator PEARCE - That has not been fixed yet, but Captain Chambers, who is drawing up the regulations, considers that the best age for entry to the College will be from thirteen to fourteen years.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - In England it is lower.

Senator PEARCE - Yes, but Captain Chambers says that in Australia it will be wise to make the age a little higher than in England. He has not definitely made up his mind on the subject. The regulations are still under consideration. It is imperative to catch the boys young. However, that is not affected by this provision. If we are to keep them for twelve years we want to be in a position to make a binding contract with them, and this Bill gives us authority to do so. The other part of the Bill refers to a very important matter. Clause 3 deals with the question of command which will arise when our ships form part of the squadron composed of Imperial and Dominion ships. As honorable senators know, in future the Fleets of the Empire will consist, unless, of course, an alteration takes place, of the United Kingdom Fleet, the Canadian Fleet, and the Australian Fleet. Each will be, to all intents and purposes, a separate Fleet under separate administration and control. But at the recent Conference in England an agreement was arrived at that, as these Fleets will each be represented on the Pacific Station and the China Station, and may, in time of war, have to operate together in the Pacific or in other waters, it is advisable in times of peace that opportunities should be given to them to come , together for joint manoeuvres and training. With that object in view it was agreed that action should be taken by the three Governments concerned to make mutual arrangements by which, in the event of the ships of the Fleets coming together by the orders of their

Governments the joint Fleet should be under the command of the senior officer. If that happens to be an Australian or a United Kingdom or a Canadian officer, he will be in command of the combined Fleet. Clause 3 gives power to settle that question of command so far as our Fleet is concerned.It is rather a coincidence, and I hope a pleasant augury, that I saw in the Age of to-day the following cablegram : -

London, 6th September.

Mr. T.J. Macnamara, Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, yesterday introduced in the House of Commons a Bill which declares the effect of Naval Discipline Acts when applied to the Legislatures of the self-governing Dominions to the naval forces raised by the latter.

At the Imperial Conference an agreement was arrived at, and the following clauses dealing with that question will be found in a paper which was laid on the table of the Senate: -

It is desirable, in the interests of efficiency and co-operation, that arrangements should be made from time to time between the British Admiralty and the Dominions for the ships of the Dominions to take part in fleet exercises or for any other joint training considered necessary under the Senior Naval Officer. While so employed, the ships will be under the command of that officer, who would not, however, interfere in the internal economy of ships of another service further than absolutely necess ary-

In time of war, when the naval service of a Dominion, or any part thereof, has been put at the disposal of the Imperial . Government by the Dominion authorities, the ships will form an integralpart of the British fleet, and; will remain under the control of' the British Admiralty during the continuance of the war.

The Dominions having applied to their naval forces the King's Regulations, and Admiralty Instructions and the Naval Discipline Act, the British Admiralty and Dominion Governments will communicate to each other any changes which they propose to make in those Regulations or that Act.

In our Naval Defence Act of last year we applied tbe Naval Discipline Act to our Forces. Previously, of course, we had rigorously scanned that Act, provision by provision, to see its effect, and satisfied ourselves that it contained nothing which could not be safely applied to our Forces. The clauses which I have read mean that the Admiralty have entered into an agreement with us that before they amend the Naval Discipline Act in any particular, or the regulations made thereunder, they will submit for our consideration the proposed amendments of the Act, or the proposed regulations. Therefore, we shall be consulted in the first instance, and know what we are asked to accept. The object, of course,istohavea a uniform system with uniform regulations throughout the whole of the three Fleets, which may at any time have to operate together in time of peace or war. On one occasion our two torpedo destroyers were placed for a week under the- orders of Admiral King Hall, commanding the station here, and carried through certain training operations. He expressed great pleasure at the work which the boats did, and the commander of them also expressed to me his feeling that great benefit was derived by them from the joint training. The torpedo destroyers are intended to operate with larger vessels. When they , \vere able to carry out the training which, on the one hand, the squadron would not have been able to carry out without their assistance and vice versa, we had a practical illustration of the benefit of combined training. In 191 2-13 the Australian Unit will be on the Australian Station, and the British Squadron will be withdrawn. But it is anticipated that from time to time British ships from the China or some of the other stations, will periodically visit Australia. When these ships do come to Australia, where our Fleet will be the superior Fleet, under this arrangement they will be under the control of our officers, if theyare. placed with our Fleet for training.

SenatorMillen. - Will, not that depend upon seniority?

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