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Thursday, 7 December 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I shall deal first with the reference which Senator Rae has just made. Whathas occurred to make anybody believe, or to be afraid, that the services of the Citizen Forces of Australia will be brought into operation in a case of industrial trouble?

Senator McGregor - Against themselves ?

Senator PEARCE - Yes ; against themselves.

Senator Rae - Oh, everything !

Senator PEARCE - Absolutely nothing. We are not responsible for what has occurred in the past. During the ten years that the Commonwealth has controlled the Citizen Forces nothing has occurred to warrant such an assumption.

Senator Millen - Neither under Federal nor under State control.

Senator PEARCE - A statement has been made that, during the last two years, there has been more industrial trouble in Australia than at any other period of its history.

Senator Rae - That is not true.

Senator PEARCE - Where, in those two years, has a suggestion been made by any responsible person that the Citizen Forces should be brought into industrial disputes ?

Senator Rae - It was suggested at the time of the Broken Hill strike.

Senator PEARCE - How was the suggestion made?

Senator Rae - It was made. Mr. Wade sent up a lot of bludgeoners from Sydney, but the strike did not necessitate the employment of the Citizen Forces.

Senator Millen - Who sent bludgeoners up to Lithgow ?

Senator PEARCE - Senator Raewill remember that I was Minister of Defence at the time of the Broken Hill strike.

Senator Rae -Ah, that is different !

Senator PEARCE - I remember what took place. I know that no request was ever made for the Citizen Forces to be used; and if it had been made, I should have replied that there was absolutely no necessity for making the request, and, therefore, the military would not be sent. I do not suppose that in Australia there were half-a-dozen persons who ever thought that the military ought to be sent to Broken Hill.

Senator Gardiner - If you read Mr. Fisher's statement at the time, you will see that he anticipated it.

Senator PEARCE - No. The Prime Minister was grossly misrepresented and slandered on that occasion.

Senator Rae - Why did he not make an explanation ?

Senator PEARCE - He did make an explanation, and it was suppressed.

Senator O'Keefe - By the newspapers?

Senator PEARCE - By the press. A statement was put into his mouth which he never made.

Senator O'Keefe - It was a cowardly thing to do.

Senator Millen - Where was this statement supposed to have been made?

Senator PEARCE - It was made in a newspaper interview.

Senator Millen - In England?

Senator PEARCE - No; it was made in Australia at the time of the Broken Hill strike.

Senator Rae - Would not a party which was capable of suppressing that kind of tiling act very differently from the Labour party if it was in power?

Senator Millen - First of all, Mr. Wade did not ask for any soldiers.

Senator PEARCE - This question, of course, has very little to do with the Bill j but, as it has been raised, I must say a few words, otherwise it might be assumed that there was no reply. There is a certain section of people who are making these statements; but I think that Senator Rae knows that they are opposed to universal training in any circumstances. One has only to read their publications to see that.

Senator Rae - But they are using that possibly as a lever.

Senator PEARCE - I know that they are spreading that idea. Knowing that people will not listen to them when they assert that there is no danger of foreign aggression, they try to bring in something to which they will listen, and so they hold up this bogy that the Citizen Forces are to be used for suppressing industrial discontent.

Senator Rae - They may be in the future.

Senator PEARCE - It is a false statement, and it has been used by these persons because they are against universal training for any purpose. Does not the honorable senator know that some persons argue that there is no danger of foreign aggression? They say that the Germans, the French, and the Japanese have no hostile intentions towards us, for they are our brothers. They recognise the brotherhood of man, and say that these nations have none but the best intentions towards Australia, and that it is only the capitalist who has any idea of invading our territory. All that kind of thing I have read in their publications. The persons who circulate this statement, which I believe they know to be false, are aware that there is not the slightest intention to use the Citizen Forces for other purposes.

Senator Rae - If there is no intention of ever doing it, what harm would there be in making that clear?

Senator PEARCE - The purposes for which our Citizen Forces are to be used are clear to the mind of every sensible person in Australia. With regard to the suggestion of Senators Rae and Gardiner as to the period of training, as far as that can be carried out, it is carried out. The least advanced men are often put into a squad by themselves, and given squad drill in order to bring them up to the standard of the others. At a camp, I have seen a certain number of men taken from a company because, by their behaviour on march, it had been made clear that they had not gone through the recruit course, and, during the period of the camp, they have been kept in a company doing recruit drill, while those who showed that they were further advanced, were taken through more extended training. As regards physical exercise, it will, I feel sure, comfort Senator Gardiner to know that in the competitions which we are introducing, the companies are not to be judged merely on military exercises. Rifle shooting is one thing for which so many points are to be given, and so, too, with military, and various forms of physical, exercises. The competitions will be carried out in different localities on a given day. So much money will be given for that purpose, and the committees will be instructed that, in addition to the military and other exercises which they are to arrange for, they must arrange for athletic sports. We have also told the area officers throughout Australia that if any drill-halls can be made available to the cadets who are attending the parades, as a sort of gymnasium and store for keeping their gloves and other accessories in, to do so. I may say that on a recent parliamentary visit to the Military College, "there was great disappointment at the absence of Senator Gardiner. I was told that a certain cadet had been anxiously looking forward to a meeting with him.

When I inquired the reason, to my astonishment, I was informed that he had conquered every other cadet in the College, and was looking for fresh scalps to add to his belt. I was ashamed that there was nobody in the parliamentary party who was prepared to step into Senator Gardiner's place. I want to give the correct figures of the absentees at the surprise visit of the InspectorGeneral on the 1 8th November. Twelve companies were inspected, and the number absent without leave from the companies averaged 34.9 per cent.

Senator Guthrie - Was that in Melbourne ?

Senator PEARCE - In and around Melbourne. Of course, these lads had very little distance to go to get to their areas. Senator Millen has raised a question as to the medical examination. I am fain to confess that I am largely of opinion that the last medical examination was too lenient. Believing that, we have altered the regulation, and issued a general instruction to area medical officers that the next medical examination is to be of a more stringent character.

Senator Rae - That will mean more rejections.

Senator PEARCE - I think that the figures for next year will show a larger number of rejections, and properly so, too. No doubt many lads were taken in who ought not to have been passed.

Senator St Ledger - At that age, especially.

Senator PEARCE - Yes. With regard to the proposed exemption because of bad weather, I have been considering the clause, and I think that it may be tightened up. In Committee I shall propose, or accept, an amendment which will have that effect.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clause 1 (Short Title and citation.)

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