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Friday, 16 August 1912

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator should confine himself to matters contained within the Bill.

Senator BLAKEY - I observe an item of£312 set down for the construction of drill halls in Victoria.. That sum is totally inadequate. Recently I had the pleasure of introducing to the Minister of Defence a deputation from representatives of various public bodies in Warragul, in Central Gippsland. They pointed out the difficulties and disadvantages under which youths are receiving their military training in that part of the country. These youths are absolutely imbued with the spirit of patriotism and are keen to participate in the defence of their country. At present, however, they are deterred owing to the difficulties under which their training is undergone. The climatic conditions of the part of Gippsland where they reside, the state of the roads, and the distances to be traversed, are in themselves handicaps ; but, in addition to that, there is a serious want of proper drill halls. Under existing circumstances, the youths are not doing justice either to themselves or to their Area Officers. With all respect to the sympathetic administration of the Minister, I do not think that £312, the amount set down on page 9 of this Bill, for drill halls, can be anything like adequate. It is only a drop in the ocean. Requests will come in from various parts of the country, as well as from the metropolitan districts. I give all credit to some public bodies, especially at Footscray, Victoria, as well as other towns that I could instance, in loyally coming to the assistance of the Government in placing at our disposal public buildings for drilling purposes.

Senator Needham - For their own defence.

Senator BLAKEY - Certainly; because they realize that however little they may have to lose, they have a common interest in defending this country, and warding off risk of attack by a foreign foe. I am very pleased that the Minister was so emphatic, definite, and logical in the answers that he made to a deputation of worthy people, representing a certain body, that waited upon him during the last day or two. He pointed out that every man, woman, and child in Australia has something to defend. Those of us who have not property have our liberties, our hearths, and homes,and our native land. I know that I am not appealing to deaf ears when I make this appeal to the Minister, and point out that £312 is a paltry and utterly inadequate sum for drill halls in Victoria.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is barking up the wrong tree. Thereis £80,000 appropriated for that purpose

Senator BLAKEY - I am very pleased, indeed, to know that there is another vote under another heading. I have absolute confidence in the Government, and was satisfied, from thesympathetic attitude of the Minister, that the amount which I have called attention to could not be the total. I thought it was either a clerical or typographical error. I also feel keenly as to the determination of the Defence Department to deprive certain worthy citizens of this community of the right to wear a certain uniform when they join the Defence Forces. I refer to the kilts of the Scottish Regiment. There is not a drop of Celtic blood in my veins, as far as I am aware, and I have no especial reason for appearing here as an advocate for the canny Scot But I recognise that it has come down as a tradition that one of the factors which has made the British Empire what it is to-day is the fighting power of the Scotch, and one of the things that the Scotsman loves almost above everything, else - next, indeed, to the diabolical bagpipe - is the kilt. I honour the Scot for his reverence for national tradition. I sympathize with him in that respect. I see eye-to-eye with him, though I am not, so to speak, ear-to-ear with him in respect of the barbarous sounds emitted from the bagpipe. I do trust that the Minister of Defence will give careful and deliberate attention to the request that has been made that he will not abolish from our Defence Forces that picturesque garment which' the Scotch, perhaps in their folly, regard as essential to the maintenance of a spirit of military ardour within them. Some of my friends who are keenest in the defence of Australia, and in their love of our military system, have the greatest adoration for the dress of their forefathers.

The PRESIDENT - I hope that the honorable senator will not continue in that strain, because there is nothing about kilts in this Bill.

Senator BLAKEY - I will say a word or two about the Northern Territory. 1 observe that the sum of £2,000 is set down for artesian water bores and dams, and similar purposes. I am pleased at that, because it is a useful vote. I am afraid that this sum will not go far in the direction of boring for artesian water, but after having had the pleasure of listening to Captain Barclay, who pointed out how essential to the development of the eastern portion of the Northern Territory, between .the Macdonnell Ranges and Borroloola, was a full and adequate supply of . water, I thoroughly realized how necessary it is that efforts should be made in this direction. It is also necessary, in my opinion, that adequate railway construction should be undertaken for the development of the Northern Territory. For that reason I hail with delight the sum of money put down for the survey of a railway line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River, ,£4,200. That amount will not go far, but it is a start. As one who has recently travelled between Pine Creek and the Katherine River, I am convinced that, no matter how much opinions may differ with regard to the connexion of Queensland with the Northern

Territory by railway, a line' from Pine Creek must be built.

Senator Chataway - It is an inevitable link.

Senator BLAKEY - It is. Even if it is decided afterwards not to continue the railway southward through the Macdonnell Ranges - if we carry the Tine over to Camoo-weal - the little piece from Pine Creek to the Katherine River' must be built. I an glad that the Government are showing that they are earnest in their desire to link up the empty north, the Achilles' heel of this continent, with the great, populous districts of the south. I trust that mining grants will be given to the Northern Territory. I am even pleased to observe a vote on these Estimates for a steam laundry, £1,000. It may seem a peculiar item - ' rather childish to some, perhaps - but those who have been north, and have seen that the only means of getting clean linen is at the hands of the " yellow agony " - which means getting under the thumb of our almond-eyed Mongolian friends - will welcome this vote. Unfortunately, at present the white race of the Territory are too much dependent upon the other races, who may contaminate their clothes with diseases peculiar to yellow men.

Senator Chataway - Does the honorable senator know that they are steadily clearing out?

Senator BLAKEY - Of course, I know that the honorable senator was always a lover of black, brown, yellow, and brindled races. He must be sorry that they are gradually clearing out. I hope that they will do so soon.

Question - That the Senate do now adjourn - put, under sessional order, and resolved in the affirmative.

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