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Friday, 16 July 1915

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) (AttorneyGeneral) . - I despair of being able to impress on the minds of honorable members who have lived in an atmosphere utterly remote from that now being breathed by the modern world, any conception of what the Bill is for. It is for the purpose of organizing the nation. It is a belated attempt to do that which, had it been done long ago by England and by us, would have made this war absolutely impossible. We are fighting an organized nation. The right honorable member for Swan says we have all this information. That is a voice coming from the tombs of the Pharaohs. We have not the information. He asks what is the use of having information if we do not make use of it. The right honorable member is saturated with information that he does not make use of. We have not the information we want. We have to get it. We must do now hurriedly work that we ought to have had in leisured preparation for years. The honorable member for Brisbane has the bee of conscription in his bonnet, and because of the obstinacy of his race I give him up. On the other hand, I have the right honorable member for Swan. If this Bill means conscription, I say devoutly, without any reservation, that those two will be the first to go. If the Bill served no other useful purpose, it could not then be said to have been altogether futile.

The Bill will organize the forces of the nation. My honorable friends are unable to see that for the first time in the history of the world it is the whole nation that is at war - not the 100,000 fighting men that we are going to set up at the front, but the nation at large. We must face the fact that, unless we organize, we cannot keep 100,000 fighting men at the front. It means the bleeding of the best resources of the nation in men and money, and a disorganization of commerce and industry which we cannot tolerate. We must put our house in order. This Bill is to enable us to do it. Its purpose is not to send certain men to the front. Its purpose is to find out what numbers of men we have to do the things which have to be done. So many men have to be engaged in the primary industries. We cannot carry on the war unless we can sell our primary products. Cut off as we are, and must be, from those financial resources upon which Australia has depended for over 100 years, we must now depend, for the first time, on what we grow and make ourselves. Just as a man confronted with tremendous obligations determines to utilize and develop his resources to the uttermost, so must this nation. And the first step towards this great work is to take stock. This is a national stocktaking, and the purpose for which we utilize the information must necessarily depend upon the circumstances of the case. The Bill is not for the purpose of conscription for service either in Australia or abroad. In no circumstances would I agree to send men out of this country to fight against their will. If the day ever comes when men will not fight when their country is at deathgrips, it will be because the country is rotten to the core, and not worth fighting for. If the enemy comes here it will not be a question of conscription at all, for every one, young and old, must take what comes to his hand, and die, if need be, in the attempt to defend the country.

Mr FISHER (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - That is already provided for.

Mr HUGHES - As the Prime Minister reminds me, we have already provided in the Defence Act for compulsory service for Home Defence. The right honorable member for Swan, who does not believe in conscription, has provided for it. Conscription is stamped all over him, and it will probably be found engraven on his heart. I move -

That question 7 he left out.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-

That in question 9a the words "prior to 30th June " be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words' " immediately prior to 30th June, 1915."

That the following new question be inserted: - 11a. State number and description of firearms and quantity of ammunition you possess.

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