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Wednesday, 13 September 1916


Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - The observations that I rise to make concerning the statement of the Prime Minister will be brief. The situation, as I view it, is exceedingly grave, and the less the time occupied in the discussion of non-essentials, the more there will be available for dealing with the real crux of the proposals which have been submitted to us.I never before rose to address the House with a greater sense of gravity than I now feel. From whatever point of view it may he regarded, the position is very grave. The daily newspapers show that recruits are only dribbling in, while enormous casualty lists are piling up. War is marching in seven-leagued boots, aud we must keep up or perish by the way. The sooner we address ourselves seriously to the position, and squarely face the real interests of the country, the better it will be for us, for our honour as a nation, for the Empire, for the Allies, and the civilized world. In the first five days of this month, when the number needed was 5,420, only 1,460 recruits were enrolled, and in ten days, only 2,471 recruits were enrolled, although the month's requirement is 32,500. During the same period over 5,000 casualties have been recorded in the newspapers. There is, therefore, no time to spare.

The Prime Minister has said that it is due to the public that they should be told how imperative and urgent the demand for men is. He has told us that the Government, after long and earnest deliberation, has arrived at the conclusion that the voluntary system of recruiting cannot be relied on to supply the steady stream of reinforcements necessary. The members of the Government, after giving the matter the most serious consideration possible, have arrived at the conclusion that the present system has broken down, and fails to meet the situation. To falter now, the Prime Minister continued, is to lose what we have gained. I entirely agree with him. Now, he says, is the psychological moment, when every ounce of effort is called for. It has been said that he gives twice who gives quickly, and the proverb is abundantly true when applied to the giving of men for the greatest of all services - the defence of the country. I read the other day a letter which that great democrat. Abraham Lincoln, wrote to the Governors of the States when, during the American Civil War, he proposed to raise a draft of 300,000 men by the method of compulsion. He wrote -

I should not want half of 300,000 troops if I could have them now. If 1 had 50,000 additional new troops here now, I think I could substantially close the war in two weeks. Time is everything, and if I get 50,000 new men in a month, I shall have lost 20,000 old ones during the same month, having gained only 30,000, with the difference between old troops and new troops against me. The quicker you send, therefore, the fewer you will have to send. Time is everything. Please act in view of this.

How true are those words of our present circumstances. Every man that we send now will be equal to two sent months hence. The sooner we face the situation presented to us by the Prime Minister, who, from his visit to the Old Country, and to the front, must know, in a way that we cannot, the requirements of the situation, the better it will be for the successful prosecution of the war, and the greater will be the saving of our brave Australian soldiers' lives. The more men we can pour into the theatres of war now, the more we shall save from the hell, as it has been called, into which our men must enter for the defence of their country.

The voluntary system has broken down. All the figures show that. Our recruiting does not meet our requirements. There are some who do not believe in the compulsory method of raising men, who say that Australia has done enough. I hope that there are not many in this Parliament who think that. We have not done enough, and shall not have done enough until we have won the war, even if, to use the words of the exPrime Minister, it takes " the last man and the last shilling."

The Prime Minister said the other day that we have so far at least done as well as any other portion of the Empire, and have kept pace with the -rest of our race. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman meant the Empire as a whole, or the outlying Dominions; but, while we have done well, we have not done quite as much as they have done in the Old Land. We have sent away about 280,000 men - a fine army, infinitely creditable to the country. Our population being 5,000,000, this draft is equal to about 6 per cent, of the population. Great Britain, on the other hand, has enlisted about 10 per cent, of her population. According to the Treasurer's estimate, our expenditure this year will be about £50,000,000, or a little over £10 per head of population, but Great Britain is spending £1,800,000,000, or about £40 per head of population. She has also done wonders in providing munitions. I do not think that if any other nation had begun where Great Britain was two years ago it could have achieved the same result. Any one who has read Boyd Cable's latest book, Doing Their Bit, must have felt, as he laid it down, that the transformation in Great Britain, in regard to the making of munitions, has been nothing short of a miracle. We are proud of what the Empire lias done, and our contribution must be adequate, and in every way worthy of that effort. AVe must emulate the sacrifices that are being made elsewhere. While we have sent men, we have had to rely on the Motherland for rifles, shells, and guns of all kinds. We manufacture very little warlike material in Australia, and must go a long way before we have a selfcontained and efficient army. It is our duty to do the best and utmost that we can do. The late President Garfield made use of words which I commend to the notice of every man in this Chamber, and which I should like every man and woman in Australia to hear. Considering the possibilities of war, he said -

A nation is not worthy to be saved if, in the hour of its fate, it will not gather up all its jewels of manhood and life, and go down into the conflict, however bloody and doubtful, resolved on measureless ruin or complete success.

When great racial issues are being decided, the nation must burn its boats behind it, and be prepared to face either irreparable ruin or complete success. Without success in this war, Australia can no longer be free.

We are now coming to the real test of patriotism, and of sacrifice. Hitherto we have sent out of our abundance men and material. Now both are becoming scarcer. It is therefore more difficult to meet our demands by voluntary methods. It is times of stress and strain that are the real test of a nation. To give when we have a surplus of wealth and men does not test our metal so much as to give in these times of stress and strain when things axe not so easy. Now is the day of our real sacrifice. We have not been hurt much in Australia except for the sacrifice of some of the bravest and best of our men. I am not so sure that the war has not done us good actually, economically, in business, and in many other ways. Money has circulated plentifully, and we have not been hurt very much by the war yet.


Mr Fenton - There is the aftermath.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - We must face the aftermath. We cannot go into a struggle like this without hurting ourselves; and the real sacrifice is when it does pinch and hurt us. We must face the conditions even though they be not agreeable to our preconceived notions. If our prejudices stand in the way, let us heave them overboard, and face the facts as they are, and do it courageously and boldly, as befits full-bearded men standing up to the responsibilities of nationhood.

Now I come to the figures presented by the right honorable gentleman the other day. These figures indicate not merely urgency, but a very serious condition of affairs. I should like the right honorable gentleman to follow my setting of those figures, for they seem to me to be little less than tragical as he presents them. He began by telling us of the number of men in the " pool1' in London: and I regret that the word " pool " has been introduced in this connexion. It seems to me that if we have a " pool," and we keep pouring some men in, while others are going out, we are apt to overlook the significance of the figures in their detail. Those figures of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence indicate to me that the question now raised is belated, and that what is now proposed should have been proposed many months ago. The Prime Minister tells us that there are 44,500 men in London, and that of these 32,500 are required for this month of September. I presume that those 32,500 will.go from the London pool, in which there will then be left 12,500 towards the October reinforcements of 16,500.


Mr Hughes - I do not wish, to interrupt the right honorable gentleman, but T followed each month out.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - And I am doing so, too. After we have sent 32,500- men, we shall have 12,500 left. We face our October reinforcements from the London side with 12,500 men in the pool, and 7,000 arriving in London during the month of September. Of these 7,000 men, 4,500 must go to the trenches in October,, and, therefore, can have little training at the other end. That will leave us to face the November quota of 16,500 to be made up as follows: - We shall have 2,500 left of the quota arriving in September, and w,e shall have 12,500 October arrivals in London, and weshall have to get 1,500 of the men actually arriving in London in November to go straight to the trenches to make up that month's reinforcements. These men will have to go without any training at all in England; and that is the serious aspect as I see it. The December quota for France will be made up of 11,000 November arrivals and 5,500 December arrivals. For our December quota for France we shall have to rely on 11,000 men who have not been in London a month, and on 5,500 men who have just arrived, and must be hurried away to France. For the January quota we shall have 7,000, this being the balance of the December arrivals, and 9,500 arriving in the same month. That is the point to which the Prime Minister takes us in his figures. At the Australian end we have pretty much the same state of affairs. The right honorable gentleman told us that we have here 43,000 men in camp. That was some time before he made his statement - on the 1st September - so let us say that there were 40,000 men in camp on that date. We are told that our reinforcements from this end are limited by transport conditions to 12,500 a month, so that, roughly, we have three months' reinforcements at this end now in camp. These, therefore, will be all exhausted in November, and for our December quota we must rely on those we are recruiting now. If these be not enough we must get the balance from those proposed to be called up next month.


Mr Hughes - I am satisfied that the troops in hand will supply the reinforcements until January.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - At the other end, yes; but they supply the reinforcements by exhausting both pools, as the Prime Minister himself pointed out; and those who go after - this is my point - those who go after the pools are exhausted, must go straight into the trenches, if this scheme is to be carried out.


Mr Watt - They will have four mouths' training in Australia if the Prime Minister's figures are correct.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - They will not - that is the point.


Mr Watt - If the Prime Minister's figures are correct, the men who arrive for the January reinforcements will have started training early in September.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - But before they arrive they must have been nearly two months on the water. Look at the figures. There are in camp 40,000 men, or three months' reinforcements; and those reinforcements, therefore, must exhaust themselves in November. The men to go away in succession to them in December can only have between now and the beginning of December to train.


Mr Poynton - There are 102,000 altogether.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - It is deceiving to mix up the two pools like that. I am trying to show that this is a very grave and urgent matter, and that, even from the most favorable aspect, we have no prospect ahead, if these reinforcements go as planned, of sending men from here with more than two months' and three months' training, to go straight into the trenches from the London end. That is the position we are u;p against, and it seems to me to be a very serious one indeed.


Mr Watt - The trouble is that the casualties are increasing beyond the Prime Minister's calculations.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - Exactly. The Prime Minister, the other day, very properly pointed out that to send men into the trenches untrained is little short of murder.


Mr Hughes - I repeat that.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - And I am pointing out that if this scheme is carried out, as sketched by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, we shall, perforce, have to send Australian soldiers into the trenches with two or three months' training. Is that enough ?


Mr Hughes - They will have three months' training before they will have to go.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - They cannot have three months' training here. We have not got the men yet, and we are within eleven weeks of the December quota being due, with only 2,000 men this month towards it.


Mr Hughes - I am not going to say one word of excuse about sending men without sufficient training, but I do say that many of the troops that have gone to England, and are now in France, had not so long a training as these other men will have.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - Unfortunately, that is so. But is it not our scandal that, after two years of war, we should be sending men to the front with less than two or three months' training? So far as my reading goes, I think Lord Kitchener insisted at the other end that men should have from nine to twelve months' training before going to the front.


Mr Hughes - What is the use of talking like that? We are at war, and must do the best we can in the circumstances, and we are doing our best. It is not a counsel of perfection, but a counsel that has to be accepted by the 'nation in the face of the unique circumstances. We cannot give the men nine or twelve months' training.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - May I suggest to my right honorable friend that I am not offering a counsel of perfection, but offering remarks which appear to me to be very serious as bearing on our Australian soldiers.


Mr Hughes - I agree with the spirit of what you say.


Mr Webster - What is the use of remarks if they do no good?


Mr JOSEPH COOK - May I ask the honorable member why he did not begin a little earlier? I am only pointing out what is the absolute fact - that this scheme is at least six months behindhand. Since it is all behind, and since, under the most favorable circumstances our men cannot get the training they ought to have, the sooner we begin to get more men into camp, so that we may start to train them, the better for all concerned. That is an argument of urgency, and for the authorities having the power and right to do what is necessary to attain our supreme and vital objective. If this had been done earlier we should not have had all the trouble and confusion that we find on the public platforms of the country to-day. Either we are in this war to stand up to our pledges, our honour, and our responsibilities, or we are not. If we are going to make good our statements - if we are going to honour our pledges - to stand in and with the Empire to the end of this bitter fight, the sooner we set about remedying this dilatory condition of things the better for us all. It is not fair to the men to send them away as we have been doing, and as we propose to do, perforce, under this scheme. That is all I desire to say. I wish to import no bitterness into this matter. To me the condition of affairs is very, very serious. I am hoping, even yet, that some explanation may modify the position as I see it.

Here are the figures, and they show that both pools, that at the other end and that at this end, will be exhausted in January. It takes two months to transport troops to England, and, therefore, troops for the January quota must leave Australia early in December at the very latest. These troops we have not got yet, and we ought to begin to get them at the earliest possible moment.

Leaving that point, there are many things which might be suggested as to the best way of carrying through our task. The Government have decided upon the referendum. I believe that- every man on this side will assist the Government to the uttermost in the prosecution of that referendum.


Mr Watt - If it is a free referendum, yes.


Mr JOSEPH COOK - Exactly. I believe that every man associated with me will help the Government to the uttermost in the prosecution of the referendum.


Mr Mathews - Will you help in prosecuting those who are against the referendum ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK - I hope the contest will be devoid of bitterness, that it will be one in which we may respect each other's point of view, and persevere with our own proposals with as little feeling as possible. The outlook in that respect is not very promising, . I admit, but we must make the best of it. Here is the position as set forth to us by the Government in a proposal emanating from the Ministerial party and from the Prime Minister. We on this side have had nothing to do with the formulation of the scheme; we have not been consulted about it.in any way. It is not a national proposal, evolved by a national parliament, to meet a national emergency. At the best it is only a party expedient, but there it is; it is the Government's responsibility; but the situation, as I conceive it, is so grave, and the need so urgent, that I will do nothing to interfere with the free course of the referendum, but everything to help, in the sincere hope that it may do what I consider to be necessary, namely, conserve our honour amongst the nations of the world, and enable us to take our rightful place in the Empire alongside our brothers who are fighting for our freedom and our liberties. It is our duty to stand behind the Government and help them to carry their proposals to success. We must fight on in this matter, and there must be no faltering. To palter now would be a national sin, a national calamity. As the Prime Minister has said, we must do all that we set out to do originally. We must see the fight through to the bitter end, and even if it costs us many more lives, and much more of the wealth of Australia, all must be given freely to this most sacred of all purposes, the defence of our country and the preservation of our civilization.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Poynton) adjourned.







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