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Thursday, 28 June 1906

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) .- I knew the honorable member for New England only wanted warming up to let us hear what he had to say, and we have since listened to remarks from him on the subject of brain and muscle. He has told us that brain should be treated in the same way as muscle, and that there should be no grading between them. I ask the honorable member whether, as a contractor, he paid as much for muscle as for brain? I venture to say that he did not.

Mr Lonsdale - I paid a man according to his value.

Mr PAGE - Of course, the honorable member shirks and shuffles about when he is pinned to a definite question. He knows very well that when he employed a tradesman whose work required the application of brains, he had to pay him a tradesman's wages, and that he did not pay a navvy the same wages as he paid to a carpenter, engine-fitter, painter, or' any other tradesman whose work, to ' be properly done, required the application of skill and1 brains. He paid a navvy only for the work he did with his muscle. It is all very well for the honorable member to speak of officers in the Clerical Division getting the minimum of £II 0, the same as officers in the General Division, but he knows perfectly well that under the Act it is strictly laid down that officers of the Clerical Division must pass a clerical examination, whilst officers of the General Division are required to know only the four simple rules of arithmetic, to be able to read, and to write from dictation. The honorable member spoke of men away in the back blocks, and I should like to know to what he refers.

Mr Lonsdale - To men up in the Maranoa district

Mr PAGE - Every clerical officer in that district who wishes to get the salary of ;£ito has only to apply to the Public

Service Commissioner, and he is given a chance to pass an examination. All that he is required to show by the examination, to qualify him for the higher salary, is that he knows something about the work he is doing.

Mr Lonsdale - That is not so.

Mr PAGE - I beg the honorable member's pardon. I am sure of it, because I have the questions and answers in the case of two examinations that took place during the recess.

Mr Lonsdale - Then the examination has been modified.

Mr PAGE - I ask the honorable member if he ever saw one of these examination papers? He makes the statement that the paper is so difficult that officers in the bush! are unable to pass it, because they have too much work to do. If is my experience that! the men in the bush offices have more time on their hands than have those in town and city offices.

Mr Lonsdale - They have not the opportunity of getting coached up which men in the cities and towns have.

Mr PAGE - If they have once passed the clerical examination which they must' pass to enable them to enter the Service, they should want no coaching. If I had education sufficient to enable me to pass the clerical examination for entry into the Commonwealth Service, I should want no more coaching. The only thing they are asked to do to qualify them for the salary of ^110 is to prove their competence for the work they are doing. The honorable member for Cowper referred to the Commerce Act when the Minister of Trade and Customs was temporarily absent from the chamber. I hope that what he accused the Minister of doing is not' true, because, if it is, the action alleged to be taken will bring the whole of this legislation into ridicule, and will render the operation of the Commerce Act a regular farce. The honorable member charged the Minister with having issued a regulation requiring, potatoes to be washed in order that it might be possible to discriminate between black, pink, and white, skin potatoes.

Sir William Lyne - Surely the honorable member did not say that ?

Mr PAGE - I have only the statement of the honorable member for Cowper for it, and if that statement be true, I ask the Minister not to attempt to enforce such regulations, because to do so would be simply to make a farce of the whole 836 Supply [REPRESENTATIVES.] (Formal). concern. The whole of the regulations under the measure will be the subject of contempt and ridicule, and if the honorable member for Cowperhas correctly described them, they would richly deserve to be. On the subject of the answering of questions by Ministers, I should like to point out that the putting of questions is one of the privileges of private members, no matter on which side of the House they may sit. Our position in the House to-day might be occupied by honorable members opposite a tittle later. We have all had a turn so far in the cold shades of opposition. When honorable members put questions on the notice-paper, they do not do so for the fun of the thing. They expect answers to their questions; but, in many cases, all they get is " Yes " or " No." When an honorable member asks a question of a Minister, he should get a reasonable and proper answer. Take my own case to-day. I had some questions on the notice-paper, and I certainly do not consider that they were answered satisfactorily. I asked' -

9.   Have any of the present Commandants passed the examination for Lieutenant-Colonel ?

10.   If so, who are they?

The answer I received was this - 9 and 10. With one exception (when the appointment was made by the late Minister) the present Commandants held the substantive rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, or higher rank prior to the coming into force of the Commonwealth Defence Act and Regulations, and under the previous Regulations they were not required to pass any examination for that rank.

That is not an answer to the questions I asked. It is an absolute evasion of those questions. I wished to know how many of the present commandants had passed the examination for lieutenant-colonel. It would have been a very simple matter to have said that one, two, three, four, five, or six, had done so, or that none had done so. I got no answer to the question as to who, if any, had passed the examination. I am told that one commandant passed the examination. I want to know who that one commandant is. If the officers occupying these positions have not passed the examination for lieutenant-colonel, they are not fit to occupy them, and have no business to be there. Later on, I asked the question -

Did General Hutton leave on record an unfavourable report of the abilities of Colonel Hoad, and what was such report?

I remember seeing in the Age and Argus, just before Major-General Hutton left, the statement that a report had been issued by him to the Minister on giving up command of the Commonwealth Forces, and yet the answer I got to my question is -

11.   Before leaving for England, MajorGeneral Hutton, at the request of the Minister, made confidential reports on all the officers of the Permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth. The Minister considers it inadvisable, in the interests of the Service, to make public these confidential reports. Before Colonel Hoad. was appointed Senior Member of the Military Board, the Minister then in charge of the Department had in his possession the confidential reports made by Major-General Hutton on all the Permanent Officers.

This was not a confidential report, because, as I have shown, it was published in the press, where anybody could see it.

Mr Bamford - The honorable member does not believe in Major-General Hutton ?

Mr PAGE - I do not say that. I think that Major-General Hutton is a good soldier, only he does not understand the Australian sentiment. Major-General Hutton, in speaking of Colonel Hoad, said he was " the most incapable officer I have ever had to do with."

Mr McColl - I think Major-General Hutton wrote a lie when he wrote that.

Mr PAGE - Major-General Hutton was imported from Home as Commanding Officer, as the very best man we could get, and at a high salary ; and that is the opinion he expressed of Colonel Hoad.

Mr Salmon - Why did Major-General Hutton appoint Colonel Hoad?

Mr PAGE - The honorable member had better ask Major-General Hutton that question ; I am merely informing honorable members what was said by that officer, and showing that this cannot be regarded as a confidential report. All I ask is that the Government should lay the report on the table, and allow honorable members to draw their own conclusions. If there is anything in that report in favour of Colonel Hoad, or, on the other hand, anything to damn that officer, let it1 be known to honorable members. If what I am saying is not true, let the Government- let the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence - deny it. So far as Colonel Hoad is concerned, I entertain no personal feeling whatever. If Colonel Hoad is a competent officer, by all means let him have this appoimtment. I am now speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth ; and I say that if the Defence Forces are to be a benevolent asylum, let us so declare at once. There are a lot of incapable officers commanding forces, who ought to be retired ; and we cannot shut our eyes to the fact. I do not wish to name any particular officers,- but any one who knows anything of the Defence Forces, knows that there are men in command in the different States who are practically incompetent. If there is anything to be said in favour of Colonel Hoad's appointment to the InspectorGeneralship, we have a right to know what it is. I have challenged the Government on what I have read in the public press, to place this report upon the table of the House.

Mr Kennedy - That cannot be done if it is a confidential report.

Mr PAGE - Then why does the report appear in the press?

Mr Salmon - Does the honorable member for Maranoa believe all that appears in the press?

Mr PAGE - Fortunately for myself, I do not; but what I have read are statements made about an officer who may be appointed to the most responsible position in the Commonwealth Defence Forces. As I said before, I am only speaking in the interests of the community ; I do not care twopence who gets the appointment. So far as my personal feeling is concerned, I should like Colonel Hoad to have the position if he is competent. But I am not going to allow my sentimental feelings to run away with my good conscience, or what I consider to be my good conscience. So far as Colonel Hoad is concerned, I have nothing whatever to say against him. I should like to see an Australian officer appointed if he be competent.

Mr Wilks - In what way is Colonel Hoad incapable?

Mr PAGE - I have seen Colonel Hoad's record, and there is nothing in it in my opinion to prove that he is competent to take charge of the Military Forces. The honorable member for Dalley will bear me out in what I am now going to say. General Kelly-Kenny-

Mr Bamford - Do not be personal.

Mr PAGE - What does the honorable member mean ? General Kelly-Kenny's tactics in the Imperial military forces were considered perfection. On one particular occasion, when a great battle took place in New South Wales, one ofl the charges hurled . against the honorable member for Dalley was that he had used his own brains and had taken his commanding officer prisoner - that he had not fought the battle according to General Kelly-Kenny's tac tics.

Mr Wilks - That was not a matter of tactics, but of strategy.

Mr PAGE - At any rate, the honorable member for Dalley outflanked his commanding officer. The book written by General Kelly-Kenny, of the Imperial Forces, was sent all over the world, and his tactics were regarded as those of the defence forces of all British-speaking communities. What happened? When General Kelly-Kenny was put in the field in South Africa, and told to move the forces, he proved one of the most incompetent generals there. Then, again, General Gatacre, when fighting in the Colesberg Ranges, was looked upon, with his Indian experiences, as one of the best officers in the service; and it is well known what happened to him. General Gatacre did not cause one disaster, but four disasters in succession, and consequently he was superseded. I have been through all the country in which General Gatacre fought in South Africa, and I know it as well as I know Melbourne. These men, who were considered the very cream of the Imperial Service, made mistakes. The only qualification, so far as I can see, that Colonel Hoad possesses), as the result of his whole career, is that he commanded the Australian soldiers who were invalided, and the nondescript Australian brigades in South Africa.

Mr Salmon - Colonel Hoad did very good work.

Mr PAGE - I have no doubt. But I can tell honorable members how it is that some officers claim that they have held commanding positions in South Africa. In the Imperial Service there was a great shortage of officers, owing to so many being shot or invalided, and others had to be found to fill their places. I know of one colonial officer who was given charge of a field battery in South Africa simply because he happened to be the senior officer on the ground, and there was no other artillery officer to take the position. This Australian officer was, under these circumstances, asked to take charge until an officer of higher position wa§ obtained; and yet he now claims that he was in command of a battery of artillery in the South African war. If that be his qualification, I might make exactly the same claim for myself, for at the battle of Ingogo I was the only gunner left standing, thus being in command of the battery, which was worked with the help of the Rifle Brigade. But

I did not come back a colonel, and pose as a military authority. What I have stated is the only qualification I can see in the whole of Colonel Hoad's career to justify his being pitch-forked into this position. I say it is a scandal in the Commonwealth, and nothing else. I have received two anonymous letters - one from an officer in Melbourne, and another from an officer in Sydney - the contents of which strike me as1 being very pertinent to this question. Both these officers say that they cannot get on in the service simply because they do not belong to the Australian Natives' Association.

Mr Wilks - Apparently the idea of Australia for the Australians is being worked.

Mr PAGE - Where it suits. I can show the inconsistency of the Government in regard to this claim of Australia for the Australians. I make these remarks with all due respect to every Australian, because after twenty-four or twenty-five years in the country - practically a lifetime - and as the father of some Australians, I look upon myself as an Australian. But as an imported man, I cannot forget the country which gave me birth and nurtured me. If my country wanted my services to-morrow I should leave Australia and proffer those services. I cannot, however, allow sentiment to run away with me in connexion with this cry of "Australia for the Australians." If the Government are consistent in their attitude in this connexion, why do they not put an Australian at the head of affairs in New Guinea? Can it be said that out of 4,000,000 of people, there is not a man with brains enough to administer the Government of that Possession ? There are many thousands of men who could do that work ; and yet, for a Possession which costs Australia from £20,000 to £25,000 a year, the Government are importing a man as Administrator. The position of InspectorGeneral will cost thousands of pounds, and we spend nearly £1,000,000 a year on the Defence Forces ; and yet, while the Government find it possible to obtain in Australia an Inspector-General, they go abroad to find an Administrator for New Guinea. The idea is preposterous ! " Australia for the Australians " is certainly a good protectionist policy ; and I should recommend a ring fence around "Australia, which, while keeping Australians in, may keep other people out, and thus enable us to dispense with the Defence Forces. If we are to have defences, let us have them; but we have not them yet. We have spent millions- on the defences, and yet they are in a worse position now than when the Commonwealth took .over the administration. It was the honorable member for Parramatta,. I think, who referred to the appointment of Major-General Hutton at an exorbitantsalary, with travelling expenses to enable him. to go through the country and prepare a proper scheme of defence. What happened after that scheme was prepared? After all the expenditure, the scheme had to be sent home to the old country in charge of Colonel Bridges. I believe Colonel Bridges to be an officer in every sense of the word - a thorough soldier, and the only soldier of high rank we have in the Commonwealth to-day. I know there are a lot of young men coming on - there are two in Queensland, and three or four in Sydney - who will be a credit to the Forces.

Mr Wilks - Colonel Bridges rose fromthe ranks.

Mr PAGE - I am satisfied that ColonelBridges is a soldier, and a scientific soldier, in every sense of the word; and if he were given the command, we should get some value for our money.

Mr Bamford - Does Colonel Bridgesbelong to the Australian Natives' Association ?

Mr PAGE - I have not the slightest idea. So far as that association is concerned, I give the information I have merely for what it is worth. The Herald wound up its article by presenting another qualification for the officer in command. Mr. Speaker, I would sooner see you Commandant than I would Colonel Hoad ; because I am satisfied you would not make a mess of things - that you would leave matters as they are. God knows what will happen when Colonel Hoad gets there ! We know some of the things which have occurred under that officer. Anybody who stuck up for, or was a favorite of MajorGeneral Hutton, has since been passed over, whereas all who stuck up for Colonel' Hoad have - since he got his seat on the Board - and I have watched this very quietly - fallen into good positions.

Mr Salmon - The honorable member ought to make a specific charge.

Mr PAGE - If the Government will' grant me an inquiry, I shall make more charges and substantiate them. No one knows better about these forces than the honorable member for Laanecoorie. What

Supply[28 June, 1906.] (Formal).. 839 is the good of that honorable member talking as he is talking now, when we recollect that he stood up in his place here and declared that two officers whom he knew - one Captain in particular-had been passed over on account of social influence?

Mr Salmon - That had nothing whatever to do with Colonel Hoad.

Mr PAGE - But it is peculiar that there should be charges against somebody else of using social influence. I am prepared to substantiate every word I say. Honorable members have only to carry their minds back, to know that Colonel Hoad and Major-General Hutton were at daggers drawn. I am informed - this is only hearsay - that for some time before Major-General Hutton left Australia he and) Colonel Hoad were not on speaking terms. Fancy the Chief of Staff and the General Officer Commanding not on speaking terms ! Who suffers from all this sort of thing? The Forces of the Commonwealth, of course. Is that a desirable state of things? I maintain that it is not. I think that it was Lt.-Colonel Antill and General French who spoke at the dinner to which I have referred, and a great deal of what they said there has since come true. If General French had stood his ground, instead of running away, he could have proved a good many of his statements, and if we only wait long enough, I am certain that every one of them will be proved, with, perhaps, the exception that some waster from South Australia will not be appointed Inspector-General. With regard to my charge against the Government about this confidential report, I speak of what I have read in the press. I desire that Colonel Hoad, like any other man, shall have a square deal. I have no feeling against him, and wish him well.

Mr Storrer - Then, why does the honorable member make these charges against him?

Mr PAGE - In the interests of the Commonwealth. Do we wish to make our Defence Forces a charitable institution for wasters ?

Mr Storrer - That will not happen while we have a good man at the head of affairs.

Mr PAGE - If the honorable member considers Colonel Hoad a good man, let him get up and point out bis good qualities, and, if he disproves my statement, I will withdraw every word that I have said against that officer..

Mr Wilks - The honorable member is not making this a personal matter.

Mr PAGE - No. I wish the best man available to be chosen. It does not matter two straws to me who is appointed, so long as we have a competent man at the head of affairs, and, if it can be proved that Colonel Hoad is a competent man, I shall be willing to congratulate him upon getting the position of Inspector-General.

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