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Thursday, 7 December 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . -I desire to add a few words to what has been said by Senator Gardiner. During the course of his speech, the Minister of Defence mentioned that it was intended to institute some form of competition between different companies. If that be so, it seems1 to me that the suggestion of Senator Gardiner might well be adopted, and that exemption certificates from drill might be issued to those who exhibit the greatest efficiency.:

Senator Millen - I understood that these competitions were . not individual competitions. '

Senator RAE - But the. two things are not antagonistic to each other. I think that .a reward should -be granted to the individual 'for superior' merit. ' I agree with Senator Gardiner that, to exempt from further drill youths who show the necessary efficiency, would be an incentive to them to excel in their -work. The Minister of Defence has admitted that the early part of their military' training must be very monoltonous to lads.'' I quite agree1 with "him. But it must 'be exceedingly irritating to one who has attained the necessary proficiency,' to be kept side by' side with members of the awkward squad. I believe that our Defence system will have to be amended from time to time as experience discloses its defects. We must also look carefully into the causes of non-attendance at drill's. It is not sufficient for us to punish those who' fail to attend. We must find out why they are disinclined to attend, with a view to removing the cause of their disinclination. We all recognise the wisdom of the old adage that " Prevention is better than cure." There is another matter to which. I desire to direct attention. Upon two or three occasions, the press has chronicled the fact that 'certain lads have refused to attend parades because they are .the sons pf unionists and were asked to drill with the sons of black-legs. I know that the law cannot differentiate between unionists and non-unionists, and I do not desire it to do so. But, in districts where industrial disputes have occurred, the idea has been inculcated that our cadets may at some future period be called upon to take up arms against unionists. That feeling- whether it be rightly founded or not - is, to a large extent, responsible for the bad odour attaching to our compulsory training system at its very inception. This is very unfortunate. I believe that while the ostensible reason for the enrolment of the youth of this country is a desire to defend it against a hostile foe-

Senator St Ledger - -Not the " ostensible," but the real reason.

Senator RAE - While the ostensible reason is to render them efficient to defend their country against possible foreign aggression, they are afraid that their services will be called into request for quite other purposes. I ask honorable senators to look at the question in no narrow partyor class spirit, but to realize that if this feeling is allowed to grow, it will militate, no matter what laws we may make, very seriously against the effectiveness of our compulsory military system; in fact, it may even lead to an absolute break down. While I do not anticipate that just now, I do say that already it is a canker at the root of the system which is leading a very large section of the people to offer a kind of passive resistance, which may at any time blossom out into a very active resistance, and so render the scheme absolutely ineffective, and cause its entire break down - unless that possibility is guarded against. I trust that honorable senators will not, in any prejudiced spirit, close their ears and remain deaf to this matter, but will realize that it is one which is going to be of very serious import to this country. If this tendency is not guarded against in time, it may do irreparable damage to a system which I hope to see made the most effective military system in . the world. To be that, it must be clear that it is based entirely on the citizenship idea of defending the country against outsiders, and is not in any way to be used for quite other purposes.

Senator Fraser - For what other purpose could it be used?

Senator RAE - For strike breaking.

Senator Guthrie - For firing low and laying them out.

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