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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - These are always difficult questions for me to deal with in the open. There are some state ments which I cannot make, but which 1 shall be quite prepared to give honorable senators privately. The item of £100, referred to by Senator St. Ledger, has little or no significance; it simply provides for an addition to the fort."- at Lytton. Regarding the item of £200 for fortifications, on page 13, that 'is for a new work, and it also is of very little significance, but item 12, which the honorable senator overlooked, and which deals more particularly with what Senator Givens raised - an item of £1,500 - is a very important one, because it is towards a total cost of £35,000, and does involve the question of Thursday Island. The Inspector-General has just returned from a visit to Thursday Island, where he was sent to investigate this question, and the Council of Defence is to again discuss it. As to what the intentions are I cannot say, but in regard to the point about Townsville I can only say that Senator Givens is quite mistaken if he thinks that Lord Kitchener recommended the retention of the fortification at Townsville. There is no such recommendation either by Lord Kitchener or by Admiral Henderson, and there is no item on these Estimates for an increase of the fortifications there.

Senator Buzacott - A war boat could not get into Townsville.

Senator Chataway - The biggest boat in Australia can get in there.

Senator PEARCE - In any case, there is no recommendation by the naval or military advisers of the Commonwealth, past or present, for the extension or the retention of Townsville as a fortified port. As regards Thursday Island, I can only say that the Government do regard, not Thursday Island itself, but that locality, as a very important point, and we hope to be able during the present year to take action which will make that fort, at any rate, more effective than it is at present. It will probably involve a radical departure from what has been done, but more than that I am not in a position to say at the present time.

Senator SAYERS(Queensland) [5.15J. - Under the head of Queensland I see an item of £1,560, including a re-vote of £1,200, and a new vote of £360 for rifle ranges. When I was up north last year 1 was informed that a large number of young men had applied for a rifle range, and, I believe, done most of the work. For some reason or other the application has been hung up for twelve or eighteen months, although a sum of £1,200 was unexpended last year. The place I may mention is Yungaburra. The young men could get nothing done; they could not even get a range proclaimed. I ask the Minister of Defence if anything has. been done in this matter, and what rifle ranges the Government intend to proceed with.

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