1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. AUSTIN CHAPMAN presented a petition from over 900 electors of New SouthWales, praying the House to pass as soon as possible the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill.
Petition received and read.
Mr. CLARKE presented a similar petition from 449 electors of New South Wales.
– A few weeks ago. I directed the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the fact that some of the mail contracts are being sublet, and I referred to a case in which a contractor namedVines, carrying on business as Cobb and Co., had sublet a contract, for which he received £160 per annum from the Department, to a man named Livingstone, for the sum of £72 per annum. I was informed by the Minister, however, that the person to whom I said the contract had been sublet was really an employe of the contractor. I now ask him whether, upon further inquiry, he has not ascertained that my statement was correct? If so, will he. make the fact public, as the denial of- that statement has already been made public?
– The statement of the honorable member was correct. The Department has since discovered that the contractors, Cobb and Co., have sublet a contract, for which they were receiving £160 per annum, to some other person for the payment of £72 per annum, and, subletting being contrary to the Postal regulations, they have received notice; that the contract will be discontinued. This is the first instance in which the practice of subletting has come to the knowledge of the Department, but it is a practice that cannot be tolerated.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of , the House, 1 commented on the premature disclosure to the press of the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I understood that he intended to give honorable members some information as to the reasons which governed the actions of the Ministry, but he - apparently through inadvertence - omitted to do so. I therefore ask him to let us have that information now.
– Last night, during the discussion of the motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable member commented upon a reply which I made to a question asked by him early in the afternoon. He wished to know if the Government would consent to the appointment of a select committee to investigate the truth underlying the conflicting versions of the Minister for Trade and Customs and a representative of the press, in regard to the premature publication of a certain document in the columns of the newspaper for which the latter was a reporter, and to inquire into the circumstances under which the press are in the habit of obtaining information from the Government Departments. To that question I replied that the Government did not see any necessity for the appointment of a committee. The honorable member appeared to think that my answer was somewhat curt, and therefore I beg to assure him now - having omitted from sheer inadvertence to refer to the matter when speaking in reply on the motion for adjournment - that not the slightest discourtesy was intended. I answered the question in a few words because it seemed to me that it was not necessary to make a lengthier reply. The explanation of the conduct of the Government in this matter, which the honorable member appears to desire, is this : A motion for a select committee to inquire into the veracity of a version of a transaction given by a Minister is one to which no Government could consent, and if such a motion were carried in spite of their opposition to it they would regard it as a vote of censure. Now that the Minister is willing to admit that, instead of being wilfully at variance with him, the newspaper representative concerned was under a misunderstanding, the Government see no need for any further inquiry.
– The newspaper concerned does not say that there was a misunderstanding.
– The Government accept the statement given to them by their colleague. If they agreed to the appointment of a committee to investigate that statement, it would, they think, be a reflection upon their colleague, and if a motion for the appointment of such a committee were carried against them they would consider it a distinct vote of censure. Whether’ we are rightor wrong, that is the view we hold, but I have no wish to be discourteous to the honorable member. As to the other matter in regard to which he wishes an inquiry to be mode - the circumstances under which information is obtained by the press from the Government and the Departments. - we think that, strong as may be the opinions of individual Ministers on the subject of the publication of departmental documents and information, the matter is one for our own inquiry rather than for the investigation of a committee of the House.
– Has the House no right to’ complain of the premature publication of parliamentary documents ?
– I do not say that the House has no right to complain, but we deprecate the intervention of the House in the matter, because it is purely one of administration. If Ministers fail to deal with it as it should be dealt with, it is open to the House to pass a vote of censure upon them. Things of this kind occur in all countries, but I think the ascertainment of how they have occurred, and the prevention of their recurrence, is a departmental and administrative matter with which the House is not concerned, until it has been proved that Ministers are incapable of properly dealing with it.
– Yesterday I asked a question, upon notice, in regard to certain details of a table of precedence which had been published in the press, and I received the reply that the matter was still the subject of conference between the Government and the Colonial-office. I see that the Prime Minister has given a similar reply to letters written to him on the same subject by the heads of certain religious organizations. I should therefore like to ask him now, if the matter is not absolutely and purely an Australian one, and, that being so, if there is any reason why there should be any interference in connexion with it by the Colonial-office and why should not the Government take the entire responsibility upon themselves?
– The reason why the Government have taken the stand that the table of precedence should not at this stage be discussed is that it is now the subject of communication between us and the authorities in England. We consider that it is not a purely Australian question, and a little reflection will serve to show that, as the Crown is the fountain of honour, so the official table of precedence for those who have received honours, or have accepted positions under the Crown in any part of its dominions, is a matter in which its authority cannot be ignored. The Crown’s advisers in London therefore justly and properly claim the right to be consulted in regard to it, however willing they may be in the end to defer to the views of those who represent popular opinion here. I have no doubt, however, that any complete and considered representation of the views of the advisers of the Crown in any of the self-governing parts of the Empire will be given full weight in an ultimate settlement of the matter.
-They have in one State.
– I should further, in consequence of that reply, like to know if the Prime Minister does not consider that the settlement of questions of precedence properly belongs to the powers which are delegated by the Grown to the GovernorGeneral under section 61 of the Constitution. Are his powers limited, and to what extent? Are we to understand that the
Colonial-office has a right to instruct the Governor-General on this subject ?
– The section referred to by the honorable member reads as follows : -
The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen, and is exercisable, by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.
That refers to those executive powers of which the Commonwealth is the guardian. The matters regarding which the honorable member has asked his question are not comprised in. the executive powers of the Commonwealth, but relate to those executive powers of the Crown - the supreme government of the Empire - which are retained by it as the fountain of honour, under the Crown prerogative. Whether I desire to alter that, to sever that slight link, or not, in any way, is not very material to the question - although I do not wish to do so - but while it remains, I think the answer I have already given to the honorable member holds good.
– A day or two ago, the Minister for Home Affairs told us that he expected to receive the report of the Federal Sites Commission this afternoon, and that he would lay it upon the table of the House directly he received it. I wish to know if he has received it, and, if so, when he intends to lay it upon the table?
– I replied, in answer to a question on Tuesday last, that I had that day received a telegram stating that the report was in the hands of the Commissioners in Sydney, but that the Lands Department there considered it impossible to have the plans which are to accompany it printed before to-day. I have not received any further information on the subject, but I presume that the intention is that the report and the accompanying plans shall be forwarded together, and I anticipate that they will be posted either to-day or to-morrow, and that I shall be able to lay them upon the table of the House next Tuesday.
Royal assent reported.
Sir EDMUND BARTON laid upon the table
Correspondence with reference to British War Office and Admiralty Supplies.
SUPPLY - (Formal).
South African Trade : Delivery of Letters : Telephone Guarantees : Telegraph Line-repairer’s Widow : Retirement of Deputy POSTMASTER.GEN.ERAL, Perth : Overtime : Publication of Parliamentary Documents : Post-office Repairs : Representation of Departments in Parliament.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I have a matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the Government. I had first intended to submit a motion for discussion as an item of private business on some .Friday, but as I think there would be small chance of dealing with it this session, I take the present opportunity of bringing it under the notice of the House and the Government. I want to draw attention to the present unsatisfactory arrangements for the transmission of the produce of Australia to the countries which desire to have it, with special reference to the South’ African trade. This matter was brought under my notice some months ago, and I communicated with the Prime Minister, who replied very sympathetically ; butsaid that, after all, it was a matter for the Governments of the States rather than for the Commonwealth to deal with. In view, however, of the bountiful harvest which we are promised, and the increase of the natural products of Australia, and, in addition to that, the realization of our hope that, as the result of our past labours, there will be an increased output from our manufactories, we shall probably be placed in the position of having no markets unless we make some better arrangements.
– What about the home market 1
– I am sure that that will be over-supplied during the coming season; and it is my desire that those who earn their livelihood by tilling the soil shall not be placed in the position of having products for which no one has any use or , desire. We cannot occupy our time more profitably than in endeavouring to secure an outlet for those products. We have heard a great deal during the last few days as to the necessity for naval defence ; but I believe that a better system of bringing together the producers of Australia and consumers in other parts of the world would be more conducive to our immediate prosperity. Applications have been made in Melbourne recently for freights to South Africa, and I have been astonished at the marked difference between the rates charged here and those asked in the country which we must recognise as our most formidable competitor in that part of the world, namely, the Argentine Republic. We are, at the outside, 25 days’ steam from the ports of South Africa, and the Argentine is only five days nearer, and the marked disparity in freight charges accounts for the position which Australia now occupies, and will, I believe, be the cause of our total obliteration from the markets of South Africa.
– The difficulty is partly due to the fact that there is not sufficient cold storage in Melbourne.
– Most of the products to which I refer do not require cold storage, but can be shipped from here in considerable quantities even under present conditions. The charge for conveying horses from Argentina to South Africa is ?5 per head, or ?4 for deck- space, a reduction of ?1 per head being made in the case of deck accommodation only being required. The charge for conveying horses from Melbourne to South Africa is ?8 per head. For sheep the charge from Argentina is 5s. per head, and from Australia 10s. per head.
– If the honorablemember will give me the horses I will have them conveyed from Melbourne to South Africa at ?5 per head by a steamer leaving here on the 20th inst.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– The figures I am quoting were supplied to me by the representatives of the largest trading firm in South Africa - Meyer, Limited - who are anxious to do business with Australia.
– Hear, hear. We ought to run ships of our own, just as we do the railways.
– The Australian rates I have quoted are charged in Melbourne today, and the rates given for Argentina were current some six weeks ago. The freight charged upon ordinary produce from Argentina to South Africa is 20s. per ton, and from Australia 50s. per ton.
– By the shipment?
– No ; I am not quoting the freights by special charter, but those which are charged to the ordinary producer who is not in a position to send whole shiploads, but who desires to send consignments such as those of which I shall presently give particulars. The rates for case goods from Melbourne to Durban and Delagoa Bay is 50s. per ton. I have not quoted the rates to Capetown, because it is from the two ports named that we can expect to reach our best markets in South Africa, namely - the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, Natal, and Rhodesia. A farmer writing to the gentleman who is my authority for this statement, says : -
I am thinking of sending atrial shipment of onions to South Africa. Could you let me know the best way to go about it. Give me an idea as to present prices for prime stuff, and would you undertake to forward. I am a fairly large grower, and there are two or three more here who would join me if there was any prospect of realizing anything like a fair price.
These are the men whom we should help. A reply was sent giving the quotations I have already mentioned for produce, and, of course, the grower at once saw that he could not afford to pay £2 1 0s. and land his onions in South Africa for sale at a profit. A Farmers’ Association also asked for information with regard to the same product, and stated that they were sending away over 800 tons from the district during the season, a considerable proportion of which was still available for export. They were also told that they could not send their produce to South Africa with any prospect of deriving a profit.
– Do the rates quoted for the Argentine apply to small quantities?
– Yes ; they are for ordinary quantities, and not for those which are sent under special charters. A firm in Delagoa Bay, doing the largest business in that port, write as follows -
We have sold a great part of the goods for whatever they will fetch, and altogether we estimate that our loss will be £200.
That loss was incurred upon a consignment valued at £500. The letter continues -
After the experience of the loss referred to above, you can quite understand our position, and we regret very much that our first business transaction has had such an unfortunate ending, and in the face of this experience it is quite plain to us that it is useless to import from Australia unless we have a direct line of steamers, that is to say for small quantities of provisions, as the Durban people seem to show no trouble at all in looking after transshipped goods at their port.
– What was the total freight on that shipment?
– I could not tell the honorable member. The whole trouble is that we have not a direct line of steamers from here to South Africa. Most of the goods have to be forwarded by vessels which are under the control of what is generally known as the shipping ring. I think that the whole of the goods sent from Australia to South Africa are carried in ships controlled by the ring, with one exception.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– I know that the honorable member is the agent or proprietor of one vessel which trades to South Africa.
– And the agent for two other lines as well. There is no combine such as the honorable member suggests.
– At any rate the shipowners arrange prices ; and, not only so, but if any vessel is not full of cargo, it must, leave on the advertised date, and the owner is recompensed in some way. I suppose that there is a general fund, or pool, from which vessels, which would otherwise wait for cargo, and possibly, if they were independent, would cut down freights in order to fill their ‘ships, go on their way partly loaded, and are recompensed.
– “ Kyabram “ ought to be satisfied with private enterprise.
– I am not advertising “ Kyabram ; “ but I desire to give the whole of the producers and manufacturers of Australia an opportunity of entering a market which at present is virtually closed to them by the exorbitant freights charged for the conveyance of their goods.
– What does the honorable member propose ?
– I shall tell the honorable and learned member presently. The Argentine Republic was fully alive to the benefits to be derived from the trade with South Africa ; and the Government chartered a number of vessels, filled them with produce, and sent them away without any preparation. They scattered their products through the country with the idea of showing what they could produce and of developing trade. The resultwas that they captured the.market, and that there is now a direct line of steamers to South Africa. I have not been able to discover whether it is still subsidized by the Government, but there is no doubt that the action of the Government has resulted in that country gaining an enormous amount of trade which it otherwise would not have obtained. What I suggest is that the Commonwealth Government should approach the States Governments - because I recognise that after all this is, in essence, a State matter - with a view to subsidizing a direct line of steamers which would carry these goods to South Africa. They would thus be despatched from Australia under Government supervision, and a guarantee would thereby be afforded that they were up to sample, and were really what they purported to be. The result would be that the people of South Africa, who were desirous of acquiring these products, would have no hesitation in accepting them, so that we could confidently anticipate a tremendous volume of trade with that country - a trade which would increase as the years rolled by. But if we allow the present conditions to continue - conditions whereby the producer is left entirely at the mercy of the shipowner - I contend that we shall be wanting in our duty, and that during the time of glut which will inevitably follow the bad seasons to which I have alluded, we shall deserve the blame which will be heaped upon us for neglecting to take steps to secure a market for Australian produce. That is a simple and easy way of overcoming the difficulty.
– What is?
– The subsidizing of a direct line of steamers to South Africa.
– It is simple enough, but is it easy?
– Undoubtedly. We shall find that steamers will be ready enough to carry those goods, if we only offer them sufficient inducement, and in my opinion we should be justified in adopting such a course. It is no new thing which I am advocating, Some honorable members seem to think that I have evolved it out of my own inner consciousness. I do not claim to have done any such thing. The same policy is being adopted by Germany to an enormous extent, and we could well afford to follow in the footsteps of that country in this connexion, and thus secure for our own people the reward which their labour undoubtedly deserves. In the past we have exhibited enterprise, and at the present juncture, when we are on the eve of producing far more than is required for our own needs, it behoves us to see that those who have experienced bad times, but who have an opportunity under more favorableconditions of enjoying better times, are not robbed of the reward to which their labour justly entitles them. There is one argument which might be advanced against the proposal I have put forward, namely, that of expense. I have already stated that in my opinion the results would justify the expenditure. But leaving that matter out of consideration, I hold that the expenditure would not be very great if we were to make provision for back-loading.
– Order ! I must again call attention - I should be glad to think that it was for the last time - to the frequent interruption of honorable members whilst they are addressing the House. I wish particularly to mention the objectionable practice of interjecting across the Chamber. All I can say now, with a due regard for my office, is that instead of merely calling attention to the irregularity, the next time that it occurs I shall have to name the honorable member who trangresses, in accordance with the rule which I have so frequently been compelled to bring under the notice of the House.
– The objection to my proposal on the ground of expense would, I feel sure, be overcome by providing that the return journey of these steamers need not be made direct to Australia. We are doing an enormous trade’ with India and the East, and there are very few vessels which go direct from Australia to South Africa which return by way of the Indian Ocean. If honorable members desire that the trade should be conducted under strictly economic conditions, the direct return journey toAustralia need not be insisted upon. We should thus secure a reduction in the expenditure, which would inevitably’ accrue if these vessels returned in ballast. A great many other arguments might be advanced in favour of the proposal which I have put forward, but I do not think that the present is an opportune time to urge them. I wish particularly to draw the attention of the Government, the House, and the country, to the relations at present existing between the producer and those who carry his produce to other countries, and to offer a suggestion, which, if adopted, would, I believe, amply repay the initial expense, and, possibly, cover any risk which might be involved.
– As the representative of the Postmaster-General is present in the Chamber, I wish to direct his attention to one or two matters of minor importance. There is a very good rule in connexion with the administration of the Postal Department, which relates to the delivery of letters. It is that correspondence must not be delivered to its owners except at the post-office to which it is addressed. In the country districts of New South Wales- and I have in my mind several instances, to one of which I shall refer - this rule, although a good one, works out very badly in practice. The particular case to which I desire to direct attention has been brought under the attention of the Postal Department by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and myself. It is that of a large grazier who resides at the southern end of the Illawarra electorate. Letters intended to reach him are addressed tq Sassafras Post-office, which is 30 miles distant. Upon three days each week this gentleman - Mr. Allen - is in Nowra, but although he is well known in that town, he cannot obtain delivery of his letters there. They are sent on to Sassafras, with the result that he loses a large amount of business in connexion with his particular avocation. His case is typical of many others throughout New South Wales and the other States. I admit that the rule itself is a good one, but I think that in particular circumstances such as those to which I have referred, it might be relaxed so as to convenience individuals who labour under special disabilities. I shall be extremely obliged if the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will have this matter investigated with a view to seeing if some arrangement cannot be made whereby wellknown men can have letters delivered to them at other than the post-offices to which they are addressed.
– I shall have the report of the honorable and learned member’s remarks transmitted to the PostalDepartment.
– I am obliged to the Prime Minister for that assurance. Upon different occasions other honorable members and myself have brought under the notice of the House the unsatisfactory manner in which the Commonwealth telephone service is being conducted. I have no desire to again refer to instances with which I have previously dealt, but I wish to mention that during the past fortnight another case of hardship has cropped up in my own constituency. In the populous district of Burragorang, which is about 50 miles from the metropolis, there is a large silver-mine, which affords employment to a considerable number of the inhabitants. The population is not of a floating but of a settled character. Yet, owing to the Department insisting upon the observance of the regulation which provides that a cash guarantee is necessary before any telephonic extension can be undertaken, this place is denied the enjoyment of this very great convenience. In my judgment, the Department might very well take into consideration the circumstances under which telephonic communication is asked for. I can readily understand that in some instances in which private persons desire such communication, the Government may be justified in insisting upon their -providing a cash guarantee ; but in a large populous centre, where the inhabitants are permanently settled, and where their numbers are certain to considerably increase, the rule might be rendered elastic, and the system altered to suit the special circumstances. To my own knowledge, many unsuccessful applications have been made by the residents of different centres for the establishment of post-offices and money order offices which are absolutely required. At the terminus of the South Coast railway there is a place which has sprung into existence during the past few years, and which now contains a largebutter factory, a bacon factory, and a commodious hotel for tourists, which has cost between £6,000 and £7,000. Application has been made by the residents for theestablishment of a telephone-office and a. post office, but their application was immediately met with the objection by the postal authorities that the present business of thetown did not warrant provision being madefor the extension of these facilities to them. Within a few months I am certain that thebusiness of the place will equal the requirements of the Department, and under these circumstances I think that it should betreated in a more liberal way. Consideringthat the postal service is” intended to- convenience the public, I hold that the authorities at the head of it should take a more generous view of these matters than they have done in the past.
– It is a little refreshing to hear the honorable member for Laanecoorie discoursing upon shipping. I rise particularly to disclaim that there is any shipping “combine,” as it is termed, so far as the South African trade is concerned. I have had some experience in this matter, and I know that there is no arrangement whatever between ship-owners as regards rates of freight, dates of despatch, or anything else.
– It would only be a trades union if there wore.
– Exactly. One would assume from the fact that such high freights are charged between Australia and South Africa, that the owners of steamers from Australia to the Cape would obtain larger returns than if they loaded from the Argentine. Such is not the case. Prom the Argentine they chu rely upon securing a deckload of cattle, and also a large number of horses. Consequently they are able to charge lower freights than the ship-owners from Australia, who carry only a limited number of stock to South Africa. Whilst the honorable member for Laanecoorie was speaking, I interjected that I should be pleased to cany a number of horses to South Africa, at £5 per head, on the 20th instant. That is due to the fact that whilst we have a steamer here, there are no horses to be shipped. We have the deck space empty and should be only too glad to get it filled. It is the same on all occasions. The small number of horses shipped from here necessarily causes a higher rate of freight to be levied. As to the suggestion that a subsidy should be granted for this purpose, I, as a ship-owner, should naturally be glad to obtain one. I do not consider, however, that it would be of any advantage in creating a larger trade between Australia and South Africa, although one should be granted for the carriage of our mail services by the route named. I believe that most ship-owners agree with me that a trade subsidy should not be paid. If the trade exists, there is abundant enterprise amongst the shipowners, who, without any subsidy, have made the mercantile marine what it isi to develop it. Therefore «on that point I am entirely against the honorable member. If at any other time he desires any information before speaking on a matter of this kind, with which he is naturally unfamiliar, I shall always be prepared to supply him with it.
– The proposal to which the honorable member for Melbourne has just referred seems to me to be a most extraordinary one, and one that cannot be too strongly condemned. The tendency at the present time seems to be to fly to the State for every conceivable thing. This doctrine, which has permeated the lower orders to an almost deplorable extent, sapping their morals, if not their very religion, seems to have affected the upper working classes, and now finds converts in the professional grades of life ; and we find its exponents daring publicly to make propositions of the most astonishing character. Under such melancholy circumstances I am very pleased to think that there is at least one just man amongst that class who lias the courage, apparently against, his own interests, to say that there is sufficient enterprise amongst the ship-owners of Australia to enable this produce to be carried, if sufficient inducement be offered, without the payment of any subsidy. I regret to say that the honorable member who opened the discussion on this subject failed to have the full courage, not of his own conviction, but of the conviction of the class he represents, which was so admirably epitomised by a gentleman who, I believe, is now a member of another place, when he said that the only way in which to meet the combines of Pierpont Morgan and the International Shipping Ring ‘was for the State itself to undertake the establishment of a line of shipping. I regret that the honorable member did not see his way clear to point out . the advantages which would follow to the producers of this country if the State took the whole burden of transporting produce from Australia to South Africa upon its shoulders. What is wanted is a little more individual 3/ort and a little less leaning on the State ; a little more of the principle of rising early in the morning and doing a little more work, and a little less talking in this House as to what the State ought to do to help the producer.
– This is the first occasion on which I have ventured to bring a grievance before the House, and I am led to state the case to which I arn about to refer, only by the hope that I may receive some definite statement from the Government in regard to it. The facts are that a telegraph line repairer employed on the northern railway line of New South Wales, was sent some time ago to repair a telegraph line some distance from Armidale. He carried out this work, but whilst returning on a railway trolly he was cut down by a special train, and in that way met his death. I knew him intimately, and he was a most deserving, sober, and industrious man. He left a widow with several young children practically in a state of destitution, because his wages were insufficient to enable him to make any adequate provision for them. In my innocence I applied to the Government, thinking that they would regard with approval a proposal that they should place the sum of £200 on the Estimates, to test the feeling of Parliament as to whether such a grant should not be made to the man’s widow and children as some compensation for his death while in the performance of his duty. In the New SouthWales Legislature, the practice followed in a case of this kind is for a member to induce the Government to place a sum on the Estimates. The Government accept no responsibility. The proposed vote is defended by the member interested in it, and if the House see fit to pass it all is well. I thought that the same course might be pursued in the Federal Parliament. Unfortunately, however, owing to some constitutional difficulty, the Government decline to adopt that practice. Much to my astonishment they informedme that it would be necessary to obtain the permission of the Government of New South Wales to any proposal that they might make to grant assistance to the widow and children of this unfortunate man. I am assured by the Prime Minister that it would be unconstitutional to pass a vote ‘without adopting that course. The peculiar feature of the case is that while the AttorneyGeneral of theCommonwealth takesone view, the Attorney-General of New Seuth Wales holds a totally different opinion in regard to the case. I desire to ascertain who is right. The New South Wales Government are prepared to agree to the sum of £200 being voted, but they stipulate that it should come out of “ other expenditure,” so that it would fall upon the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. The Federal Government, however, wish to make it a charge on “ transferred expenditure,” so that it would fall wholly upon the State of New South Wales. 1 have done my best for this unfortunate widow. I have interviewed Ministers, and visited the Government-offices from time to time, until I am absolutely tired of the whole business ; and I now bring the matter publicly before the Government, in the hope that something will be done. I understand that there are many other cases of a similar character, and I desire to know what course the Government propose to adopt.
– I desire to corroborate, to some extent, the views that have already been expressed as to the indifference shown by the Postal Department to the requirements of new settlements. The greatest difficulty is experienced in obtaining the slightest improvements in the postal facilities of the electorate which I represent, and great delay invariably occurs in. effecting any changes. In view of the fact that the electorate is one of the largest in the Commonwealth, and is in process of rapid settlement, it requires greater attention from the Post and Telegraph Department than does an older district. I hope that the Government will find some means of retiring the gentleman at the head of the Postal Department at Perth, and who is rapidly approaching the age at which he is entitled to retire upon a pension. There is another matter, relative to the employment of State officials in the discharge of Commonwealth duties, to which I desire to refer. In West Australia, and I believe in other States, a large number of State officials are working overtime in discharging duties for the Commonwealth Government, but they receive no compensation for their labour. That does not seem to me to be equitable. I may cite a case in point. Agentleman has given me a schedule of the duties which he performs for the Commonwealth Government after the ordinary office hours, and in respect of which he receives absolutely no remuneration. He points out that the Audit Act renders all officials, discharging functions for the Commonwealth Government liable to certain penalties, but that in his case the Government is allowing its own law to be defeated, inasmuch as he could not be punished for any lapse of conduct since the Commonwealth is paying him nothing for his services. The case to which I refer is a very hard one, and the justice of the man’s claim is indorsed by the Collector of Customs at Fremantle, who states that he is entitled to be paid for this additional work. The Minister for Trade and Customs, however, ignores the recommendation of the man on the spot, who knows the duties which this officer has to perform, and refuses to allow him a single penny. That seems to be an unwarrantable position to take up. If I were in the position of this State officer, I should refuse to perform work for which no remuneration is provided, and so test the matter.
– Where is this officer stationed ?
– At Mount Magnet. He is Mining Registrar and Clerk of Courts at Mount Magnet and also a justice of the peace. His duties as an officer of the State occupy the whole of his attention during the ordinary working hours, and the duties which he performs for the Commonwealth are carried out in his own time.
– I forget what are the receipts from Mount Magnet-
– I believe that they have approximated to £500 since this officer has ‘been attending to the work of the Commonwealth Government there. Surely he is entitled to some little remuneration.
– What salary does he receive from the State ?
– About £300 a year, and that remuneration is small enough, having regard to the place at which he is stationed. If the Minister were living there, he would certainly look for something more. The Federal Tariff has added to the cost of living in Western Australia, while the State Tariff also increases the cost of the commodities which these public officials have to purchase. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth Government is paying them nothing for the performance . of extra duties. I desire now to refer briefly to the question which I put last night to the Prime Minister. I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber. There is a conflict of testimony between the Minister for Trade and Customs and the newspaper responsible for the premature disclosure of the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The Minister states that he did not authorize the publication of that Bill before its submission to Parliament. The reporter, on the other hand, says, not merely that the Minister authorized the publication, but that he knew that it was going to be made upon the day that it actually took place. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon either party, but, to my mind, it is a strange thing that the Government should refuse to take advantage of the only means that they have of vindicating the honour of one of their colleagues. By refusing to allow the appointment of a select committee to investigate the whole matter, they allow their colleague to remain under the stigma of this charge.
– The whole thing may be a hoax. The Bill presented to the House may prove to be quite different from that published in the Age.
– That may be so, but the honorable member’s suggestion does not tally with the statement of the Minister, that the Bill which has been published is that of which he is the author. The point which requires emphasis, however, is that the Ministry are really doing an injury to one of their colleagues. My object in asking for a select committee is really to vindicate the honour of the Minister concerned, and I believe and hope that an investigation by such a committee would have that effect. The Prime Minister seems to ignore the other aspect of the matter altogether. As he has expressed his confidence that the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs is correct, he inferentially accuses the newspaper concerned of telling a lie. There is no escape from that conclusion. If that be so, I want to know what the Government intend to do with that newspaper. Do Ministers intend to receive the representatives of a newspaper which has not onl y betrayed the con fidence of one of them , bu t has actually lied about the matter afterwards? That is the position in which the Government stand. They refuse to adopt the only means by which the honour of their colleague can be vindicated, and by asserting their belief in the truth of his statement, virtually declare that the newspaper concerned has told a lie about the matter. That being so, would it not be the proper thing for them to refuse to receive its representatives until it withdraws its charges and apologizes. Then, too, I think the House should have something to say on this matter. The Prime Minister has stated that it is purely one of administration, and that the Government must be trusted to do what is right and proper in regard to the furnishing of information by Ministers to representatives of the press. But when a Bill of such importance as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is given to the representative of a newspaper before honorable members have an opportunity to see it, and when the premature disclosure of its provisions provokes criticism which results in alterations being made in it before it comes to this House, we have a very improper situation. Under such a system a Bill may be recast by the Cabinet, not after arguments delivered on the floor of this Chamber, but at the bidding of some outside clique. I do not think that the Ministry can afford, either in their own interests or in those of the House, to dismiss the matter in the way in which they seem disposed to do. The position in which it is now left is this: The Minister for Trade and Customs remains under a serious charge, brought against him by a very important and influential newspaper, and his colleagues propose to allow him to continue to rest under what they say is an unwarranted suspicion. That seems to me a very lame and impotent conclusion. But when the Prime Minister speaks of treating a motion for the appointment of a select committee as a motion of censure, he, of course, prevents me from proceeding further. I have suggested the appointment of a select committee purely out of friendship to the Ministry, and with the desire to vindicate the honour of the Minister concerned. But if the carrying of a motion for the appointment of a committee would be regarded by the Government as a vote of censure, I cannot do more than I have done. The statement of the Prime Minister, however, will not prevent me from expressing my surprise that the Ministry have not taken a more elevated view of their duties and responsibilities.
– I desire to say a word or two with regard to the administration of the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, more particularly in regard to the system which has been adopted in connexion with the authorization of telephone extensions to the more remote parts of the country districts. Several instances have occurred in my electorate in which telephone connexion is urgently required, but, owing to the illiberal and unsuitable nature of the regulations governing the matter, it is impossible to have those connexions made. It is quite beyond the power of the people who require telephone lines to subscribe the cash guarantees which the Postmaster-General requires to be furnished before their erection. I intend to bring before the House two specific instances which I think are typical of the state of things existing throughout the Commonwealth, and in doing so I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not seeking merely to grind my own axe, but that I wish to have the existing regulations altered in the interest of the people in the country districts generally. The Postmaster-General apparently fails to recognise that the continuance of these regulations is retarding the development of the country districts. One of the cases to which I wish to refer is the application for a telephone line between Bellinger and Bealestown, the postal town of Don Dorrigo, a district on the north coast of New South “Wales which offers great possibilities for settlement. The answer which I have received to my application on the subject is that the construction of the line can be undertaken by the Department only on the cash guarantee system, or thatitcan be erected by the persons interested under the conditions laid down in the accompanying copy of regulations. The cash deposit required, I have been informed, would be twothirds of the estimated cost of the line and instruments, or £470, and the cost of operating the line for a period of five years, which is put down at £25, making a total cost of £495. I have also been informed that if the connexion were to include offices at Never Never and Bealestown, as well as Don Dorrigo, a deposit of £545 would be required - two-thirds of the estimated cost of the line and instruments - and £75 for operating three offices for a period of five years. I have had that reply in my possession since the 24th of last month, and I . am ashamed to send it on to the people interested. An application was also sent in for the erection of a telephone line between Macksville and Taylor’s Arm, a branch of the Nambucca River, and a township in a thicklypopulated centre. The guarantee required in that case is again two-thirds of the cost of the line and instruments - £323 6s. 8d. - and £25 for operating, or £348 6s.8d. in all. It would be much more satisfactoiy and honorable for the Department to say straight out that it will not construct the line. Then the people interested would know how they stood. But it is the worst policy possible to apply regulations of the kind to which I refer to the conditions obtaining in our country districts.
– Was any estimate made of the expected receipts ?
– I presume that the inspector who reported on the applications made some kind of estimate, but it has not been conveyed to me. I suggest that the regulations should be modified. The people in the country do not expect to have telephones constructed for them at the expense of the Commonwealth, and given to them for nothing. They would, I feel certain, be prepared to find the interest on the cost of construction, and a certain amount for a sinking fund, as under the old New South Wales system. The suggestion that that system should be reverted to will probably be. met with the reply that the people of New South Wales often failed to meet their obligations’. But if that happened, the Department was to blame in not insisting upon their fulfilment.
– It is said that it would have cost more to recover the money due than the amount owing to the Department.
– If no guarantee or other security is to be insisted upon, how can the Department be profitably administered ?
– Under the New South Wales system, guarantees were taken only from men of substance, whom it was known could meet any demands likely to be made upon them. I wish to draw attention to another matter, which shows the shortsighted policy of our postal administration. A few months ago I applied to have a telephone bureau established at Maclean, a town on the Clarence River. After a considerable delay, 1 was informed that the bureau would be established if the usual number of subscribers could be obtained, but that trunk-line fees would be charged for conversations between Maclean and Grafton, and that a guarantee of £92 per annum would be required. I presume that Maclean was to be credited with the trunk-line fees, but of that I am not sure. Now, the Clarence River runs through one of the most important districts in New South Wales, and there are on its banks, commencing from the mouth, the towns of Palmer’s Island, Harwood, Maclean, Brushgrove, Ulmarra, Lawrence, Southgate, Grafton, South Grafton, and Copmanhurst, which might all be connected by I telephone. Such a system would not only be a great convenience to the public of a. large district, but would be very profitableto the Department. But, instead of the Government looking carefully into thematter, it has quietly ignored it, and telephonic connexion between those towns is practically impossible under the existingregulations.
– Does the honorable member know that they could obtain a licencewhich would enable them to construct theline for themselves t
– That would not. be satisfactory, because they would require theservices of a man with technical knowledgeto superintend the work. At any rate, that system would not be popular so far as the country districts are concerned, and I think that new regulations should beframed to meet the peculiar circumstances of the case. I hope that some good will result from my representation. I have repeatedly applied to the Post and Telegraph Department, not only in Melbourne, but in Sydney, without obtaining any satisfaction,, and I can only again express the hope that, some improvement will be effected.
– I regret verymuch that the Postmaster-General is not amember of this House, because, under existing circumstances, one does not feel justified in relieving one’s mind before the honorable gentleman who, although he re- presents the Postmaster-General in this Chamber, has nothing to do with the administration of the Department. In my electorate the position in regard to postal matters is simply “intolerable. I havewaited very patiently for the reforms promised by the Postmaster-General, and still they appear to be almost as far off as ever. I admit that the conditions in the Perth electorate are somewhat unusual. We have there a population which is increasing perhaps more rapidly than that of any other part of Australia, but it is a permanent population, and I contend that, under the circumstances, a greater effort should be made to give the residents better postal facilities. I think it is. necessary to give only one illustration of the disabilities under which the residents of that city labour.. The morning delivery of letters in many of the suburbs is not made until - if I may . be permitted to perpetrate a “ bull “ - the afternoon. A promise was made that the postal service of Perth should be placed in all respects upon an equality with that enjoyed in other metropolitan centres, and I wish to know when I may reasonably expect that promise to be fulfilled. What I have stated does not present the worst aspect of the case. We have as postmasters in some of our suburbs thoroughly capable men, who realize what the public want, and what they are fairly entitled to. One of these officers has made recommendations and suggestions to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Western A ustralia with regard to improvements inhis district. As the . result of his representations, supplemented by those made by myself and others, certain concessions were made, but the unfortunate postmaster is about to be punished by, being transferred to a remote corner of the gold-fields, a change through which he will suffer a loss of status and salary.
– Not as a consequence of his representations ?
– I say that no one can come to any other conclusion, because the officer to whom. I refer has been singled put in the most extraordinary way. It is not the first time that the gentleman at the head of the Postal Department in Western Australia has adopted similar tactics. The officer concerned has very properly appealed, and I believe that his case is so overwhelmingly strong that his protest must be sustained. His case affords an . illustration of the unfortunate state of affairs in Western Australia, and it is necessary for the credit of the Commonwealth that some attempt should be made to effect an improvement. The system adopted in Melbourne for the distribution of mails seems to be very effective and reasonable as regards cost. The letter-carriers are seen to jump on the trams and the trains with their bags containing letters for delivery in the various city and suburban districts, and, after completing their work, returning to head-quarters. No suchsystem is in vogue at Perth. The letters are sent from headquarters to the various suburban post-offices, and are sorted there and afterwards distributed. A large amount of heavy matter is earned up and down the streets of Perth by the unfortunate letter-carriers, who are sometimes called upon to bear a burden altogether beyond their strength. It appears to me that heavy mailbags containing matter for distribution, particularly to various institutions, should be conveyed by some other method. The present practice is becoming a public scandal in Perth, and frequent references are made in the newspapers to the appearance of letter-carriers in the street trudging wearily along under huge loads of mail matter. This subject also merits the attention of the PostmasterGeneral. I could enumerate many other instances of the unsatisfactory condition of affairs, but I trust that I have said enough to indicate that immediate attention should be devoted to the improvement of the postal conditions affecting residents in my electorate.
– I was very much surprised at the request made by the honorable member for Laanecoorie for a subsidy for steamers carrying produce from Australia to South Africa. The honorable member asked that the steamers should be subsidized in connexion with their back loading also, but I should liketo know where lie expects the back loading to come from.
– Perhaps the absence of back loading renders the subsidy necessary.
– Whether that be so or not, the request was an extraordinary one for a protectionist to make. The honorable member for Cowper has directed attention to a real grievance, which merits the earnest attention of the PostmasterGeneral. The unsatisfactory state of affairs which he has brought under notice is not confined to the electorate of Cowper, but extends to nearly every electorate in New South Wales, where complaints are continually being made regarding the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. I admit that some of the officials cannot be blamed for not carrying out more reasonable ideas, because they are bound by the regulations ; but in view of the serious allegations made by two strong supporters of the Government, the time has arrived when Ministers should seriously consider the question of bringing about a radical change in the administration of Post and Telegraph Department.
– Would the honorable member grant all applications for telephone services irrespective of whether they would pay or not?
– No : but the regulations should be so amended, that whilst the Department would be safeguarded against loss, reasonableconveniences would be offered to the public. Those who live in large cities have their requirements sufficiently well looked after, but in the country districts, where similar facilities are absolutely required, no effort is made by the Department to supply them. Applications for telephone services in the country districts have to be made under regulations which cannot be complied with except by men who have large incomes. The honorable member for EdenMonaro recently asked the Minister for Home Affairs a question with regard to the repairs authorized at the Milton Post-office, and I do not wonder at the indignation expressed by my honorable friend. Although he is a strong supporte’r of the Government, he has vainly exerted himself to secure the carrying out of work authorized by this House, and for which the money had been voted.
– Milton is a most important place.
– I shall take the honorable member’s word for it. The extent to which the honorable member exerted himself was shown by the answer of the Minister for Home Affairs, which also indicated utter lack of supervision and business capacity on the part of the Postal Department. If a strong supporter of the Government, such as my honorable friend, is treated in the manner disclosed, we can well imagine what would happen to other honorable members. The work was approved on the 5th November, and instructions were given that it should .be “carried out on the 13th November. That was eight months ago, and yet my honorable friend had to come to the House on the 9th July and ask when the work was to be done. The complaints made by two strong supporters of the Government disclose a state of affairs in connexion with the Postal Department which calls for earnest consideration.
– When the House provides the money all grievances will be remedied.
– In the case referred to the money was provided for the work.
– Why, then, did not the Minister for Home Affairs get to work 1
– The Minister blamed the Postal” Department for the delay, and made a most serious indictment against his colleague, the Postmaster - General. Judging from a Gazette notice published last week, tenders are being called for the work.
– That is the most satisfactory feature about the case.
– Yes. The honorable member had good cause for complaining that the work was not carried out months ago. I believe that there are many other cases of a similar nature, and it is high time that the Government instituted an inquiry in regard to the administration of this Department. In my judgment, it is a mistake that the PostmasterGeneral does not occupy a seat in this Chamber.
– From what I can gather, neither House thinks it can get along without the presence of all the Ministers.
– I dare say that it would be possible to arrange for the transfer of one Minister from this House to the Senate, so that his place might be occupied by the Postmaster-General. The members of the House of Representatives; I claim, are brought much more intimately into contact with postal matters than are members of the Senate, and, therefore, the Minister controlling that large Department should be a member of this Chamber. The honorable member for Coolgardie has referred to another important matter, namely, the dispute between the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Age newspaper regarding the premature publication of the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I think the honorable member was justified in seeking definite information upon that matter, and I regret that so far we have failed to receive anything in the nature of a satisfactory reply. Apparently the practice of divulging official information is not a new one, because I find in the Melbourne Herald of Tuesday last, a complaint by the Minister for Defence regarding the publication of alterations in the Defence Force, which up to the present time have not even been approved by the Cabinet. The paragraph in question is headed “Who really rules “ t It reads as follows : -
The Minister for Defence, when seen to-day, said he could not believe that any portion of the reorganization scheme had been officially given to the press in the manner indicated. Sir John Forrest immediately called for the files of the district orders of the States named, and he had to admit that portions of the scheme that had not yet been approved of by the Cabinet were contained in them. “ This has not been done with my concurrence,” said the Minister severely, after glancing over the matter; “and I don’t know why it should be done. But,” added Sir John emphatically, “ I will find out -you may depend on it, 1 will find out.”
I think that the Minister ought to take some action to discover who is responsible for the publication of that information. Under such circumstarces, honorable members are justified in complaining of maladministration. I trust that the Government will see that alterations are made in the regulations relating to telephone extension so that better facilities for communication may be afforded to residents of country districts. The present regulations are so severe that it is impossible for country residents to obtain reasonable telephonic facilities.
– The regulations are unworkable.
– Undoubtedly. I have felt it my duty, in view of the serious nature of the charges which have been made by honorable members, to refer to these matters, and I trust that the Prime Minister will take steps to have the evils complained of remedied immediately.
– In regard to the matter which was brought before the House by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I felt sure at the time he was speaking that the brief with which he had been furnished was incorrect, at all events in some respects.
– In Victoria ?
– Incorrect as to the freight charges. Since then some information has been placed in my hands which I think it is only right should be put before the House. The honorable member for Melbourne, who must know the circumstances of the trade, has denied that any shipping ring exists, and we must accept his denial. If such a combine did exist, and had produced the results stated by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I should consider that there was a real grievance to be remedied. But if there is no such combine, and if the freights to South Africa do not compare unfavorably with those from the Argentine, the public should be apprised of the fact. I was rather amused at the means suggested by the honorable member for Laanecoorie for remedying this supposed evil. He suggested that these greedy shipping companies, which had combined to extract so much from the shipper, should be punished, and that the shipper should be benefited by the State making good any difference-
– I suggested that we should subsidize a direct line of steamers to South Africa. At present there is no direct line.
– There is a direct line.
– What does the honorable member mean by a direct line?
– The honorable member knows that a direct line is one which trades only between two ports.
– No ; it is one whichgoes direct from the shipping port to the landing port.
– And nowhere else?
– Does the honorable member desire these ships to be forced to come back here in ballast ?
– Certainly, if necessary.
– That is an extraordinary scheme for benefiting the producers of Australia. I should have thought that the cheaper the freights and the more return loading we could procure for the ships, the better it would be for the producers. I would remind the honorable member for Laanecoorie that he is desirous of interfering with the back loading of steamers, and to that extent his suggestion, if adopted, would render the freights from Australia higher. However, I merely wish to place before the House some figures which, I think, will prove of interest in that connexion. There are no less than eight lines of steamers running from Australia to South Africa, namely, the Federal line, Houlder’s, White Star, Aberdeen, Lund’s, Currie’s, Melbourne Steam-ship Company’s, and McIlwraith, McEacharn, and Co.’s.
– Doall those lines carry cargo to. South Africa? I think that the honorable member is wrong.
– Which line does not ?
– The White Star line.
– The White Star line carries cargo.
– I was assured only to-day that it refuses cargo.
– But even leaving the White Star line out of consideration, there are still seven companies trading to South Africa. During next month five steamers are advertised to sail for South Africa. As to the freight charges, it seems that oats average about 32s. 6d. per ton of 65 cubic feet, plus primage 10 per cent, less 5 per cent. ; and bran averages 40s. per ton of. 80 cubic feet, plus 10 per cent, primage, less 5 per cent. At the present time the freight charges upon certain lines of produce are as follow : - Compressed fodder, 20s. per ton of 45 cubic feet ; oats, 25s. per ton of 65 cubic feet ; general cargo, about 30s. per ton ; mutton,7/16.d. per lb. ; sleepers, from Sydney, about 20s. per ton dead- weight.
– Did the honorable member obtain those figures from a shipper or a shipping firm?
– Prom a shipping firm.
– I obtained mine from a shipper.
– I have in my hand a paper showing the actual earnings of a ship which is now berthed in Melbourne. When the honorable member for Laanecoorie was speaking, I could scarcely credit his statements, because they did not at all correspond with the known circumstances of the case. New Zealand was led to give a subsidy for the reason that, unlike Australia, she had no ships leaving her ports for South Africa, and because it was felt by the Government that the absence of a line of steam-ships trading regularly between those ports hampered the development of trade between the two countries.Australia has many lines trading regularly between her ports and South Africa, but, save for an occasional steamer, New Zealand had no service. In granting a subsidy to a line of steam-ships, the New Zealand Government very rightly required that certain freights should be fixed. What are those freights? Oats are carried between Australia and South Africa at from 25s. to 32s. 6d. per ton of 65 cubic feet, while on the subsidized line the maximum freight from New Zealand is 30s. per ton weight. The freight for the carriage of bran from Australia to South Africa is 40s. per ton of 80 cubic feet, while in New Zealand it is 40s. per ton weight.
– What difference does that represent?
– I cannot say. Usually measurement rates approximate to the ordinary ton weights, except in the case of cargo that is very light. As far as bran is concerned, I do not know what the difference would be.
– I think that New Zealand has a slight advantage over us.
– It may have. The freight for mutton from New Zealand is from¾d. to9/16d. per lb., while the rate from Australia is7/16d. per lb. I think the honorable member for Laanecoorie said that the freight for cattle from here to South Africa was £8 per head.
– The freight charged by the New Zealand subsidized line is £12 10s. per head, so that I do not think that the experience of that country offers us any encouragement to subsidize a steam service in the way that has been suggested. If we desire to establish a trade with South Africa, it will be necessary for our business people to show more enterprise. I know that there are difficulties in the way. Our markets, for example, are intermittent. When we have a bad season trade falls away, and we cannot depend upon that regular source of supply to which the Argentine can look. It is because of these difficulties that, in order to establish a regular trade with South Africa, it will be necessary for the people of Australia to exhibit an enterprise superior to that which is shown where the source of supply is more reliable. The honorable member for Laanecoorie mentioned a house which he said was- one of the largest trading firms in South Africa. If it is an enterprising firm, and if the supply is satisfactory, it will have no difficulty in chartering its own ships to trade between South Africa and Australia. In that way it would secure much lower rates of freight than those I have named, by reason of the fact that it would employ the whole available space of a vessel. On the other hand, if our shipments are to be sent away in driblets, if we are to have shipments this year and none next year, freights will necessarily be correspondingly high. We all hope to see a large increase in our grain yields during the coming season, and, with large freights to handle, I am sure that the rates for big consignments will be brought down to a point nearly, if not quite as low, as that which prevails in the Argentine. Indeed, it seems to me that, notwithstanding the small supplies that are available here, they are already bordering upon the rates charged for the carriage of produce between Argentine and South Africa.
– I do not say that the subsidy should be granted for any length of time. I believe that the trade which would follow the giving of the subsidy would quickly render its continuance unnecessary.
– We have already seven or eight freight lines of steamers trading between Australia and South Africa, and if they, with the assistance of shippers, find it impossible to develop a trade between the two countries, I am afraid that a subsidy will be of no avail. Subsidies are sometimes given to create means of communication or to maintain those which already exist. In this case we have already seven or eight lines of steam-ships running “to South Africa, and it would be an extraordinary thing to pay a subsidy when the sources of communication are already -available.
– Most of these vessels run only to Capetown.
– They run to Durban and Port Elizabeth as well.
– -Not to Delagoa Bay.
– The terms under which the subsidy is granted by the New Zealand Government provide that if one of the subsidized vessels has less than 300 tons for Durban or Port Elizabeth, it may tranship at Capetown, and need not go beyond that port. Before I resume my seat I desire to refer to the very irritating and unnecessary system which is adopted by the Postal Department in relation to inquiries affecting the service. If a complaint be made that something has gone wrong in the postal .service, and an inquiry is -asked for, the complainant is called upon to deposit the paltry sum of 2½d. before the investigation is entered upon. The amount involved is of no importance, but this procedure has given rise to much indignation. I have received several letters relating to a case in which a gentleman discovered that on three occasions letters which had been posted to him had not reached their destination. He requested that an inquiry should be made, but the Department refused to do anything until he had deposited 2½. in respect of each charge. I understand that now that the inquiry has taken place, and the discovery has been made that an error has occurred, he has also to take some steps to secure the return, of his deposits. I am sure that the Department has no desire to be troubled with unnecessary inquiries, but I think it would be sufficient for them to provide that some evidence should be submitted in support of any charge that is made, and that the inquiry should then follow as a matter of course. That would be a much better plan to adopt than to insist upon the payment of the small deposit. I mention the matter, because I know that the system has given rise to widespread irritation. The Department should certainly do away with the annoying practice to which I have referred, and which can hardly be of a payable character.
– I strongly advise the Prime Minister to take the bull by the horns, and to do something with regard to the administration of the Postal Department. The basic trouble is the absence from this Chamber of the Minister in charge of that Department. I am not suggesting that this Minister should go to the other Chamber, and that another Minister should come to this, but I am satisfied that before this Federation is very much older it will be recognised as a necessity of the situation that Ministers should have the right to enter either House for the purpose of listening to debates of every kind in relation to measures in which they are interested. If the Postmaster-General were in a position to take part in a debate like this, I am satisfied that many of these anomalies would soon be rectified. I do not suggest that the Prime Minister, or the honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Philip Fysh, do not do all that they can in the matter. They send complaints on to the Postal Department, but, having a multitude of other matters to engage their attention, they do not trouble themselves about these questions until the replies are returned to them. I may cite a case which occurred the other day in connexion with the now famous guarantee question. About six weeks ago I asked a question in this Chamber in regard to the matter, but I have not yet received an answer. I found out, accidentally, a few days ago that it was not until three weeks had elapsed from the date upon which the question was put in this House, that it was transmitted to Sydney for the necessary answer. Cases of’ this kind should not occur. The Prime Minister refers these matters to the officials, and prompt steps should be taken to investigate them. When I originally complained about the guarantee demanded in connexion with the extension of the telephone service, I had no supporters, but I. am pleased to see that honorable members sitting behind the Government are now taking part in the ventilation of this important matter. There can be no doubt that it is a matter of much importance to the settlers in the interior of
Australia The Department has practically put an end to all telephonic expansion, and in this way is striking a blow at the rural population of Australia. I do not know why this action has been ‘taken. It is said that since the inception of the telephone system in New South Wales, the Department has made a loss of some £8,000 in connexion with the service. I desire to obtain an answer to my question in order that I may compare the total of these bad debts with the total volume of business transacted. They are really bad debts. The Postal Department is essentially a business one, and the Postmaster-General has as much right to take risks in seeming legitimate business as has any ordinary business concern. If the telephone revenue, for example, is £25,000 a year, and the Department in earning .that revenue makes bad debts to the extent of £500 or £600 a year, what is to be said ] Will any one say that that is a thing which ought to be reprobated, and that to prevent it the Postmaster-General should take drastic action with the result that there is a block in the expansion of the service ? I am sure that we shall hear of no more telephonic concessions being given to rural Australia while this absurd regulation remains in vogue. I am hopeful that when we come to examine the sum said to represent bad debts - this huge bogy which is constantly placed before us as an excuse for the Minister’s action - in relation to the total receipts we shall see that there is really nothing in it. I submit to the Prime Minister that, as these complaints are so general in this Chamber, steps should be taken to bring honorable members into direct contact with the Minister controlling the Postal Department, either by an exchange of portfolios, or by allowing the Postmaster-General to come here so that we may thrash out the3e matters with him, and get to the bottom of them. We shall never get to the base of these complaints until that is done. My relations with the Prime Minister in connexion with the Obtaining of information concerning Postal matters have always been of the happiest character. He has always done his best to obtain for me whatever information I have asked for, and I think no one complains of want of courtesy on his part in this matter. But, as he is not the head of the Postal. Department, he cannot pretend to know anything about the details of its management. The present arrangement cannot be satisfactory tohonorable members. If we want another evidence of the need for the change which I advocate, it is to be found in the absurd red-tape method of procedure which is responsible for the friction now existing between the Postal Department and the Department for Home Affairs. In my opinion, the construction branch of the Department for Home Affairs is undermanned at the present time.
– More Federal extravagance !
– Some of us can express our opinions upon- these subjects without fear of Kyabram, and I believe that the carrying out of public works would often be facilitated if the Minister for Home Affairs had more officers in the construction branch of his Department. But the question who is responsible for the carrying out of works connected with post-offices should- have been settled long ago. A definite arrangement was. come to in New South Wales, and some similar arrangement should be come to here in as short a space of time as possible. One honorable member has complained of a delay of seven months, but I have to complain that in one case the painting and renovation of a post-office was delayed for twelve months. It is useless to argue that these delays are due to irremediable causes. The obstacles in the way of greater despatch are removable, and Ministers areresponsible for their removal. But to go to the root of the whole matter it will be necessary, in my opinion, to have in this House the Minister who is charged with the control of the Post-office, so that honorable members may be in direct contact with him, and may thrash out their complaintsin his presence.
– I rather despair of being able to deal within a reasonable time with the various questions which have been raised this afternoon, although some of the subjects which have been touched upon have been so dealt with by other speakers that I need not devote much time to them. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that, as there are seven or eight lines of steam-ships trading from Australia to South Africa, probably every possible attention is; being paid, by reason of the competition. which exists, to the development of the trade in order to capture business, and that, therefore, no subsidy is necessary in order to obtain improved accommodation. That being so, I do not think that the honorable member for Laanecoorie has made out a very strong case. It may, perhaps, be thought that, inasmuch as others are doing something to subsidize a line of freight steamers, we should not entirely ignore the matter. .1 understand that there will soon be trading between Canada and New Zealand,- viti South Africa - if they are not already doing so - a line of steamers subsidized by the countries named; but, no doubt, these steamers will have to call at Australian ports to make up’ their cargoes. This Government was approached by the Government of Canada in regard to the granting of a subsidy to that line, but we thought that under all the circumstances it was inadvisable to ask Parliament to appropriate money for the purpose.
– We already subsidize a Canadian line.
– Yes, but the line of which I am speaking is a line which proceeds by what has been designated by some speakers and writers as the Greater Trade Route - that via” the Cape of Good Hope. We hope that in the future there will be a great increase in Australian trade with both the east and the west coasts of Canada but at the present time the trade with that country has not reached such dimensions as justify us in doing more than to grant the subsidy which we are now paying to the mail steamers which also carry passengers and cargo to the west coast at Vancouver. We were also approached recently by Mr. Alley, the representative of a steam-ship company, who desired us to grant a subsidy to a line from Australia to Puget Sound, on which Vancouver is situated, whose primary ports of call would be the American ports of Tacoma and Seattle. I understood that New Zealand had agreed to participate in such a subsidy, but we were of opinion that a sufficiently good case for our joining in the contribution had not been demonstrated.
– The United States Government should participate in the subsidizing of such lines, but they will not do so.
– Probably, if they thought it necessary, they would do so, but we have not yet heard from them on the subject. In reference to the various complaints which have been made about the administration of the Post-office, I have pointed out already that the Government is in a dilemma with regard to these matters. I. do not say that the administration of any Department is perfect, because that never happens anywhere ; but in this case, although there is a very natural and laudable insistence by the constituencies upon the carrying out of many kinds of public, works, an. insistence which is voiced by the individual representatives of those constituencies, Parliament, collectively, is equally insistent that no large sum of money shall be spent. Most of the applications which are made to us could easily be complied with if we had more money at our disposal, though I admit that in one or two instances there has been, in carrying out public works, a delay into which it will be my duty to inquire. But apart from those cases, the position is this : that although there are works which, if undertaken, would return interest upon the cost of construction, and which, therefore, come within the category of works upon which in the past it has been considered by the States justifiable to expend Joan money, the great desire - I will not say the craze - for economy upon the part of this House prevents the Government from undertaking them. If we are required to construct them out of revenue - and it has not been the practice of Governments to do so in the past - it must be incumbent upon us to deal with the individual applications of honorable members with a certain degree of parsimony. Although honorable gentlemen in their individual capacity have expressed themselves very strongly as to the need for these works, collectively their attitude towards loan’ expenditure has been equally strong, and this opposition of equal forces does not present a very hopeful outlook. If honorable members, individually, wish the works for which they have asked to be carried out, there must be more readiness upon the part of .the House, collectively, to find money for such undertakings. The Government must not be compelled to pay for them out of revenue, when it has always been held that the proper course is to pay for them out of loan money.
– Our complaint is that the Government do not spend the
I money which has been voted.
– I think that I have met that complaint by saying that where there has been unreasonable delay in the carrying out of works for which money has been voted, I shall make the matter the subject of inquiry. I do not know that I can say much more about it at present. I am in the habit of paying careful attention to the remarks of honorable members on subjects like these, and I always do my best, within reason, to rectify the complaints which are brought before me. The honorable member for Coolgardie has spoken of a case in which Customs officials have been required to work overtime without compensation. . A question was asked on the subject the other day, and to it the Minister for Trade and Customs gave, I think, a sufficient answer. Nevertheless, if the honorable member will make known to my right honorable colleague or to myself any specific complaint which he has to make, I am sure that we shall be ready to rectify it.
– The men employed on the Customs launch work seven days a week, and are not paid for the seventh day.
– I am told that the chief complaint comes from a gentleman who is receiving £300 a year, and who is not overburdened with work.
– A good many of those who complain are in positions like that.
– It is within the experience of every one of us that the strongest cases are constantly made out . by members of the public service, who come to us when we are not in office and enlist our sympathy on their behalf, and that we afterwards find that our compassion has been wasted, because the explanation of the Department shows that the grievance is only imaginary, and has been manufactured by the person who complains. As to the suggestion of the honorable member that the Government should consent to ‘the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the case in which the Minister for Trade and Customs is at variance with a reporter of the press, I say again that it would be most undignified for a Government to consent to anything of the kind. We owe it to ourselves to either accept the statement of our colleague, or to refuse to allow him to retain his position. I have not the least intention of adopting the latter alternative. Not only am I constitutionally bound, so long as the Minister for Trade and Customs remains my colleague, to treat him as a trustworthy co-operator, but in all our dealings I have found that he eminently deserves that title. If I were to allow an inquiry into the possibility of his having made a false statement of facts in regard to a case about which another version has been given by a reporter of thepress, I should be acting in opposition tomy knowledge and experience of him, and I should be admitting that there is room for a suspicion which my association with him gives me overwhelming proof is impossible. Furthermore, I reiterate that itwould be an unheard of thing for a Government to submit the statement pf a’ colleague whom it is willing to retain to an investigation by a Committee of the House. I am not given to arrogant courses, but I could not consent to such an inquiry and at the same time retain office.
– Especially when theMinister has admitted that there may have been a misunderstanding.
– It seems to be admitted on both sides that there was a misunderstanding, and I am at a loss to know why the matter should be raked, up again when it is not proved thatany public interest can be helped, or any public service done, by an inquiry, and I am so persuaded to the contrary that I cannot consent. As to the question whether a newspaper has betrayed confidence, or behaved well to a Department, or whether it has not observed those ruleswhich ought to prevail among gentlemen, I do not think that those are matters for public inquiry, or upon which this House, through one of its committees, should be asked to waste its time. If the press representatives do not behave ‘themselves honorably and correctly, honorablemembers will recognise that Ministers havein their own hands a way of preventing a recurrence of such unpleasant incidents. If it- could be shown that certain information had found its way into the press contrary tothe intention of a Minister, or that a newspaper had improperly obtained possession of official documents which in the public interest was inexpedient to publish, it would be the duty of the Department from which theinformation was obtained to inquire intothe matter, to trace out the guilty party, and to endeavour to punish him by making a strong example of him. If these means were not efficacious, it would rest with Ministers to refuse to have any dealings with newspapers guilty of such conduct.
– Has the Prime Minister anything to say with regard to the Postmaster-General being a member of this House ?
– I am glad that the honorable member has reminded me of that. I do not think the suggestion made would provide a remedy for any of the evils alleged. I do not think that it would be in accordance with the spirit of our Constitution, or with the British Constitution, for members of the Government to become virtually members of both Houses ; nor would it be pleasant or right if a Minister were placed in such a position that he would be called upon to enter a Chamber of which he was not a member to explain certain matters, and afterwards be. unable to support his opinions or desires, or the intentions of the Government by his vote. As we go further we may be able to make some different arrangement, but it is impossible to attempt anything in the direction indicated in the present state of clamour with regard to every item of expenditure. The difficulty under which Ministers in charge of great departments labour through being unable to deal with matters relating to their administration or policy in the Chamber in which they have not a seat, has Jed inEngland to the adoption of a system which has proved efficacious. Where there is a Secretary of State or Minister chiefly in charge of a Department in one House, there is in the other a responsible political Under-Secretary holding a seat as a member of the Ministry, and equally capable of explaining the transactions of the Department and keeping in touch with the desires of honorable members. That cannot be done at the present stage of our development, because it would at once be said of Ministers, however hard they were working, that they had nothing to do, and were asking for some one to help them to do it.
– That shows that the Postmaster-General should be a member of this House.
– I do not think so. Of course, every argument that is used in that way might be applied with equal force to the suggestion that every
Minister should be a. member of this House. That would entail that every Minister should be a member of both Houses, and that would be at variance with the genius of the Constitution. In all Parliaments except the House of Commons, in which the circumstances differ, as I have explained, reliance is placed upon the attention which Ministers give to complaints made regarding the Departments controlled by their colleagues who have seats in the other Chamber, and upon their reporting them, with a view to their rectification. I am sorry that, for my own convenience, I cannot have my honorable colleague, the Postmaster-General, in this Chamber, and also that I am not able to attend in the Senate to explain matters relating to my Departments ; but, as I have pointed out, that is a matter which is quite foreign to the nature of responsible government, and until there is some change of system I do not think it is possible to apply any remedy.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 15th July (vide page 2180), on motion by Sir Edmund Barton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Watson had moved, by way of amendment -
That the word “ now “ be omitted, and that after the word “ time “ the words “this day six months “ be added.
– With the permission of the House, I desire to say that, after this debate has proceeded for some time, I shall accept a motion for its adjournment, in order that during the present sitting’ the Minister for Defence may move the second reading of the Defence Bill, and thus afford honorable members an opportunity of reading that measure in the light of his explanation. There will be no attempt to bring that motion to a division to-night.
– I regret that the observations which I have to make will be addressed . to a somewhat thin House. (House counted.) I had no intention of addressing myself to this question, but the debate has taken such an extraordinary turn that it would be almost an act of cowardice on my part if I did not give expression to some views which I seriously entertain. I do not propose to go fully into the subject, because, in view of the fact that it has been so f ully debated by honorable members, I consider that to do so would be to indulge in vain repetition. The debate has taken a somewhat wide range, and reference has been made to matters which, in my judgment, might have been more appropriately dealt with in connexion with the Second reading of the Defence Bill. I had not an opportunity of hearing the speech of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, but I understand that he has been justly complimented upon having delivered a very concise and able address. He is always very concise, and I regard him as almost a model parliamentary debater ; but I venture to differ from him as to some of the propositions which he laid down. He said that we should have three lines of defence, and he placed first the land forces, second the coast fortifications and harbor defences, and thi i’d naval defences. I differ entirely from that view. I consider that the navy must be our first line of defence, because if we could prevent an enemy from coming here there might be no necessity whatever for action by our own land forces. Tho navy is the first line of defence of almost every country ; it certainly occupies that position in regard to Great Britain. It is not the army but the navy that protects Great Britain against invasion ; and as an island continent we are very much in the same position. The honorable and learned member referred to a matter of most urgent importance, namely, the necessity, for providing effective fortifications for the protection of our cities and coal depots. So far as I know, he is quite right when he says that the guns mounted in our fortifications are not up to date, and, in view of the fact that the Government have ample funds at their disposal, I trust that this matter will receive early attention. The Tariff we have passed is bringing in ample’ returns, far beyond the expectations of the States, and I rejoice that it is so, because we have much need for the money. I trust that the Government before this debate closes will be able to assure us that they intend to put ourfortifications in a state of efficiency. I should be willing to vote almost any sum of money to provide up-to-date ‘guns for our forts. It is idle to live in a fool’s paradise. We can never feel assured that within a year, or even perhaps a few months, the whole world will not be in arms, or that the British Empire will not emerge from such a huge convulsion in a sadly weakened state. I should not care to be in the position of either the Minister for Defence or of the Prime Minister after such a war had broken out, if the people had realized that, although the Government had ample funds at their disposal, they had made no provision for arming our forts. I hope, therefore, that we shall receive an assurance that immediate steps will be taken to procure the necessary armaments. In addressing myself to the proposed naval agreement, I think it is right to say, at the beginning, that the ‘existing agreement never could have given absolute satisfaction to any Australian. The Auxiliary Squadron has, to my mind, always fallen short ;o£ what we were led to expect. It is certainly not an effective squadron, and the miserably inadequate amount of money - £106,000 - contributed by Australia seemed to me to be &0 insignificant that it excited my contempt. I wonder that the Imperial Government could have condescended to receive it. The same statement might almost be made with reference to the new agreement. The proposed contribution, viewed simply as money, is almost as contemptible. What is £200,000 for this great Commonwealth to give for its naval protection 1 And yet objections have been raised’ to the amount which we shall have to pay. It is generally admitted that some form of naval defence is necessary, but it has been claimed by some opponents of the proposed agreement that we should retain control of the squadron, and by others that we should create an Australian .Navy. Referring first to the matter of control, which was almost the only point mentioned by the honorable member for Bland in moving his amendment, how is it possible to divide control in a matter of this kind 1 A divided control would lead only to confusion arid chaos. Upon all matters of importance there must be one head - one final authority. Let us picture the Admiral on -the Australian station, after receiving a confidential cable from the Admiralty authorities containing information which would warrant him in at once effecting1 a junction with another squadron for the purpose, if possible, of annihilating an enemy, having to walk ashore, cap in hand, to ‘an Australian Prime Minister, -and to wait till an Australian Cabinet ‘had ‘been summoned to -consider the question of whether they should consent to the removal of the fleet from Australian waters. Why, the loss of a day, nay, perhaps even of a few hours, might almost decide the fate of the Empire.
– Would they, or we, be likely to obtain the quickest and best knowledge of the movements of an enemy ?’
– There is no doubt that the Admiral alone should exercise this power of removing the fleet from. Australian waters without an hour’s delay. It is absolutely absurd to suggest that an Australian Cabinet should have any control, in a matter of this kind-. The Admiralty has been referred to by some honorable members in rather a sneering tone ; but I venture to think that the words- employed by the First Lord of the Admiralty, in the memorandum which was placed’ before the Premiers’ Conference in London, are very weighty. I make no apology for repeating them, as I am anxious that they should come to the knowledge of the people of this country. The right honorable gentleman said -
The real problem which this Empire has to face in the case of a naval war is simply andabsolutely to find out where the enemy’s ships are, and to destroy those ships.
That is what Nelson did in the old days. He ascertained where the enemy was, and then annihilated him. The same- authority continues -
In time of naval war there must be only one authority, with full power and responsibility to the Empire to move the ships, to concentrate them where they can deal the most effective blow against the forces of the enemy ; and any separation of responsibility,, any diminution of the power of that central authority, any risk of hesitation,or delay inmaking a conjunction of. the squadrons where they can deal the most effectiveblow, may have the most disastrous consequences.
Whatever mistakes any First Lord of the Admiralty may have made in the past, undoubtedly’ there is wisdom in those words. Great Britain could never consent to divide her authority in naval matters, however much she might desire to preserve good relations with the Commonwealth, or with her people in any part of the Empire. It is quite clear that she could not afford to share the responsibily of directing the operations of the navy. Yet it is’ apparent that that argument alone prompted the honorable member for Bland to submit his amendment. He did not discuss the financial aspect of the question. To my mind the great importance of the way in. which . we treat this matter is to be found, not in. the monetary consideration which is involved - that is almost insignificant - but in the- effect that an adverse- decision by this Parliament would have upon the outside world’.. What is to be the message from the Commonwealth of Australia to the nations of the world, after a Conference held in London, with the Secretary of State for the Colonies and others, at which our Prime Minister pledged his word to bring this agreement under the notice of Parliament, and to do his utmost to carry it? Are we to send forth a message that the appeal of the right honorable- gentleman has been defeated and ignored? What would that mean? It would mean that all the vaunted loyalty of the past few years, the despatch of our troops to South Africa - the chief value of which lay in the intimation to the world that when England was attacked her enemy had also to reckon with her children throughout the Empire - was merely empty show. To refuse to ratify this agreement would be to undo all that we have done in the past. All our previous actions might then be described - as they have been - as mere hysteria and egotistical vain-glory. It is quite true that the weight of Empire- is- pressing upon the people of Great Britain’. The mother country has not only to provide a fleet equal to that of any other single power, but it is- necessary to her very existence that she shall create and maintain a fleet equal to the fleets of any two, if not three, firstclass powers, so that in case of combination on their part, she may be able to’ hold hen own. That weight of Empireis undoubtedly pressing upon the people of Great Britain.. The honorable member for Bland spoke of the amount of money which we ought to be asked to contribute upon a population basis. He said that weshould contribute about £3,500,000. and that a small subsidy such as is proposed under this Bill is a mere farce. But he evidently forgets that the conditions, of Australia are not similar to those which obtain inGreat Britain The people of Australia are not as much interested in the navy as are the people of the mother country The latter hare interests abroad in which we do not share, and: the mighty commerce of Britain has to be protected in every sea, whereas Australia is interested only in the trade from this Continent. Besides - as was pointed out by the prime Minister - Australia has some special work to perform. We guarantee to fortify our own cities, and our coal depots, which are essential to the efficient working of the British Navy, so that the argument of the honorable member for Bland has not much weight. For my part, I believe that the amount of the proposed subsidy is altogether inadequate considering the services that are rendered to us. I should have been more content - and I am prepared to proclaim it from any platform in Australia - had we been asked to contribute double the amount, something like £500,000, I would have concurred. Coming to the question of the establishment of an Australian Navy, which is involved in the second objection urged to this Bill, it has already been pointed out that the adoption of such a course is a financial impossibility under the present circumstances.
– The naval experts do not say so.
– I have read Captain Creswell’s report, and it did not affect my mind one iota. I look upon the possession of second and third-class cruisers as altogether beside the question. If we are to have a navy, let us have one which is worthy of the name, and not a tin-pot affair such as is possessed by some of the South American republics. I hold that any navy which we could establish at the present time would lay us open to the derision of the civilized world. I have no desire, however, to dwell unduly upon that aspect of the question. I frankly declare that I object to the establishment of an Australian Navy upon higher and more important grounds. I hold that the adoption of such a policy would be fraught with danger. Let honorable, members look, for example, at our policy of acquisition in the South Sea Islands. The Government would be glad to acquire further control of territory in the South Seas.France has possessions in the New Hebrides, and Germany holds territory alongside that of Britain in New Guinea. If the British fleet were to hand over the patrol of the South Seas to an Australian Navy, it would inevitably lead to friction and misunderstanding with, at any rate, two ofthe great Powers of the world. ButI take even a higher stand than that. I hold that a navy can be controlled only by a sovereign power, and the Commonwealth is not a sovereign power, despite all the poetic imagery which has been indulged in. It is not a nation ; it is simply a collection of States, formed into a Commonwealth under the shadow of the British Crown. Our actions in the South Seas might possibly lead to complications with foreign powers, with the result that we should inevitably lead Great Britain into trouble. Further, I insist that the creation and control of a navy is not in keeping with our position as a Commonwealth under the British Crown. It is true that we are not independent. In this connexion I was sorry to listen to the utterances of the honorable member for Kennedy last evening. His remarks were received with the utmost good nature, but he frankly declared that his. object in supporting Federation Was that Australia should ultimately become independent. No doubt the honorable member can reconcile that sentiment with the oath of allegiance which he took when he became a member of this House. Doubtless he is able to satisfy his own conscience upon the matter. My great point is that under any circumstances, and altogether irrespective of what our financial position might be, I am absolutely opposed to the establishment of an Australian Navy. The teachings of history, and our own conceptions of human nature, lead us to believe that if we were to create an Australian Navy, all-round friction would result, and that ultimately Australian independence would follow. I believe that it would be the beginning of the end. It would inevitably lead to separation, and it appears to me that any such departure would be full of peril. In view of all that has been said about the British Navy, and the miserable contribution that we are asked to make towards the maintenance of this fleet, I think we should remember that this Parliament has passed a measure providing for a white Australia, and that we should ask ourselves - “ What would be the possibility of a white Australia if it were not for the power of the British Navy behind it?” Australia, if independent, would never be able to maintain that policy. Japan may not always be the ally of Great Britain; she is not likely to be the ally of an independent Australia, and I venture to say that but for the British Navy that power would not only be in a position to levy tribute upon our great cities, but to occupy the greater part of Northern Aus-, tralia.
– The honorable member does not say much for our defence- system.
– Any defence system that we might provide as an independent community would be unable to resist an invasion in force by Japan. In spite of these facts, however, I regret to see that many honorable members appear to study little, and care less for, the obligations of our great protector. Without that protection in the past we should have fallen an easy prey to any first-class power, although today perhaps our fall would not.be so easily accomplished. I desire briefly to refer to the speech delivered during this debate by the honorable member for Bland. I regret that he is not present. It appears to me that in regard to this question he is leading a solid, united labour party. The stand which they are taking affords but another illustration of the remarkable strength which this party secures by reason of its peculiar tactics.
– The honorable member does not like it.
– Would it not be a strain upon our credulity - would it not be a compliment to our simplicity - =to believe that every member of that party is opposed to the Government proposal ? It is singular that, while members of other parties in the House are divided upon this question, the labour’ party is united. It is the tactics of this party which imparts to it its strength. The leader of it appears to be in a serious difficulty. In the speeches which have been delivered by other honorable members of the party, great stress has been laid upon the contention that we are able to defend ourselves, and that we do not require the protection of the British Navy. Both the honorable member for Kennedy and the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor,, argued that we did not require British assistance ; that we were capable of protecting ourselves. But, as the Minister for Defence pointed out, the leader of the labour party has fallen back upon the question of control. In the speech which he delivered last session during the second-reading debate on the Defence Bill, he said -
We cannot have anything like an Australian Navy without incurring an expenditure that we dare not face, and it is therefore of no use for us to discuss a question of this kind at the present stage.
– Are those the words of the mover .of the amendment now before the House ?
– Yes. He’ went on to say-
I am quite prepared to admit that, as far as outside defence, and the protection of our commerce is concerned, we ought to be prepared to make some contribution towards the maintenance of something like an efficient British fleet.
– The honorable member for Bland occupies, to-day, exactly the same position.
– Will any honorable member venture to say that the Prime Minister has not arranged for an efficient fleet, and arranged for it upon remarkably satisfactory terms ? The honorable member for Bland spoke of a “ fair contribution.” What is a “ fair contribution “ towards the cost of a fleet such as that which is to be supplied under this agreement ? Would the honorable member for Bland assert in this House that the miserable sum of t’200,000 a year is an extreme consideration to give in return for the great service which is offered to us 1 What is the character of the amendment moved by him ? The honorable member, who is an experienced politician, contended that the acceptance or rejection of this agreement should not be decided now. He urged that there was no hurry,, and that the question should be postponed until an appeal had been made to the people at the forthcoming general election. If that were the only object which the honorable member had in view, he might have moved an amendment in some such terms as these -
That without expressing any opinion as to the merits of the Government proposal, this House considers it advisable that the question should be postponed until after the general election.
– But the honorable member for New England is opposed to any amendment.
– If the honorable member for Bland had moved an amendment of that character, it would not have been so serious as is his proposal that the Bill be. read a second time this day six months. The merest novice in politics must know that if the Government were defeated on a motion for the second reading of any great measure of high policy, the position would be very serious. Surely this is a question of high policy? The reputation and the position of the Prime Minister are pledged, to the adoption of this agreement by the Federal Parliament ; and if a measure of the character of the Bill now before us were defeated on a motion that it be read a second time thisday six months, it would be idle for any honorable member to expect the Government to say that the situation thus created should not be treated in a most serious way. In that event, it would be the absolute duty of the Prime Minister - pledged as he is to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and to the other members of the Conference of Colonial Premiers, which took place in London - to carry the question beyond this House, to carry it to our masters, the people of Australia. In spite of the fact that the honorable member for Bland has said that we should not dare to advocate the adoption of this measure when before our constituents, I defy the whole forces of the Opposition to defeat me on this question in my electorate.
– Did the honorable member say that I was pledged to carry out this agreement ?
– The words I used were to the effect that the Prime Minister had pledged himself to do his utmost to secure its adoption.
– I made this agreement subject to the approval of the Parliament, but without divesting myself of my responsibility.
– This measure is of so much importance that no Government worthy of the name, or possessing any self respect, would remain in office if it were defeated upon it. I go further, and say that in that event it would be the duty of the Prime Minister to carry this question beyond the House of Representatives - to the people of the country. I support this Bill. I value most highly the Imperial connexion, and I view with absolute dismay any proposal to form an Australian Navy. I can scarcely understand the reason for such a wild ambition, which, I repeat, is compatible only with sovereignty and nationhood. The honorable and learned member for Bland referred to the position of Canada. We are not responsible for the attitude taken up by the Dominion. I regret that the statesmen of Canada did not see their way to fall in with the proposals made at the Conference. The position of Canada, however, is somewhat different from that of this island continent. We have beside us no mighty nation whose territory runs along many hundreds of miles of land frontier. The most important portions of Canada are away from the sea coast, but extend for many miles up the St. Lawrence. These portions might easily be defended from any hostile attack from beyond the sea. Her chief difficulty would occur if she ever quarrelled with her neighbour to the south.
– The Monroe doctrine of her neighbour is her great protection.
– I deem it my duty to give expression to my views fearlessly and without the slightest dread of consequences. I support the Bill in the cause of Imperial unity, and what is more, I support it, as an Australian, and acting in what I conceive to be the best interests of Australia.
– To my mind, this debate has assumed a very peculiar turn. It appears to me that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat is “ barking up the wrong tree.” Like many other honorable members, he is under the impression that the leader of the labour party does not want a navy.
– I did not say so.
– The honorable member is altogether wrong in regard to that point. Although a native of England, with Imperialistic tendencies, I maintain that this is the land of my adoption, and that as long as I remain here I should stand up for Australia and Australian sentiment. We must sooner or later make a start. Queensland’s contribution to the naval subsidy under the old agreement of 1887 was £13,585 per annum, and we were told that at the end of ten years we should have the nucleus of an Australian Navy, and that thenceforth there would be no need to pay a subsidy. But that period has now come to a conclusion, and we are confronted with the demand for a new subsidy of £200,000 per annum, or, roughly, about twice as much as we paid under the old agreement. I maintain that the people of the country should have a “ say “ in this matter. Their opinion has never been sought on the hustings, and what could be better than, on the eve of a general election, to make the proposal one of the principal planks in the Government programme. That is the position the labour party take up. I would agree to the payment of a subsidy for one or two years, but I. cannot agree to the payment of a subsidy for so long a period as ten years. The Age dealt with the subject very plainly in a leading article published on the 8th of the present month, and I recommend the honorable member for New England to read it. It answers every argument which he has used to-night about the impossibility of having tin Australian Navy. Honorable members have accused the labour party and those who are opposed to the granting of this subsidy of being disloyal. I hurl that charge back in their teeth. Any one who says that I am disloyal says what is not true. I ask what have honorable gentlemen who accuse us of being disloyal done for the Empire ? Theirs is no more than lip-loyalty. But fully 95 per cent, of the men whom I represent went and fought for the Empire. From what ranks of society are you going to get the men who will defend Australia in the future if it is not from the class which the members of the labour party represent, the class from which T have sprung, and the class which is defending the Empire all over the world % The honorable member for Echuca said last night - and I took down his words so as not to be mistaken - that the labour party have decried the British Navy. I challenge any honorable member to prove that statement. Either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence has been in the Chamber throughout this debate, and I ask them if they have heard any member of the labour party make such a statement. Not one of us has done so. Are we so foolish as not to know .that the bulwarks of Great Britain are her Navy ? We are taught that from our infancy up, and those who have read the records of the naval battles of England know the stuff of which our naval forces are made. But we have the same stuff here in Australia. We are sprung from the same stock. Our fathers and mothers were British, and the material has not changed, as was proved in South Africa. The leader of the Opposition, in 1887 when a subsidy from the Australian colonies was proposed, said that the kangaroo was all right ; that if he were coaxed he - might be led, and something might be got out of him, but that if a collar and chain were put on him he would be found a very ticklish creature to deal with. We do not want to be hobbled, but whenever Great Britain is in trouble the sons of Australia will come to her aid, as they have done in the past. Then, in the 1897 Convention, the Minister for Trade and Customs, speaking on behalf of South Australia, said that he wanted to bind that State to the Empire, not by treasure, but- by blood. That is the position which the labour party “take to-day. Every one recognises that £200,000 is only as a drop in the bucket when compared with the naval expenditure of the Empire. But we desire to have a navy of our own.
– The leader of the labour party did not say so. He said that an Australian Navy is impossible.
– He did say so, and the sentiment of every member of the party is the same. If we never make a start in this matter we cannot advance. What is now being asked is that Australia shall pledge herself to the payment of £2,000,000, for which at the end of ten years she will have nothing. I ask the honorable member for New England, who is a keen business man, if in his own affairs he would consider that a good bargain 1
– We pay for an insurance.
– If a man insures his pro perty,he gets compensation for any damage done to it : but Australia will have nothing to .-show at the end of the ten years for this expenditure of £2,000,000. We shall not have as much then as we have nov”, because the Naval Reserve will belong to the British Navy.
– And shall be paying interest on the principal borrowed to meet the subsidy.
– Yes, but we shall have no tangible advantage to show for our expenditure. No doubt the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence propose what they think best in the interests of the Commonwealth, and deserve credit for doing so ; but the members of the party to which I belong have surely the right to say what they think on the subject, without being called disloyalists and separationists, and being accused of decrying the British Navy 1 I ask honorable members what will they tell the electors on the hustings in regard to this expenditure ?
– That it is necessary for our efficient protection.
– If we pay it we shall not be more efficiently protected than we are now. If I want a suit of clothes I go to a tailor for it ; if I want a pair of boots I go to the bootmaker for them ; if I am to be buried my friends go to the undertaker ; and, similarly, if I want information on naval matters I go to a naval expert. We have before us the report of a conference of naval officers who assembled in Melbourne to consider the question of naval defence for Australia. We have also the report ofCaptain Creswell, which was called for by the Minister for Defence. Surely the opinions contained in those reports are worth something? It is all very well to say that themen who expressed those opinions are not authorities of note. If that is so, why were they asked for their opinions?
– The honorable member must not forget the Admiral’s report.
– I have here the reports of several admirals who have declared that an Australian Navy can be created. When the Prime Minister went to England he had no mandate from the people to make this agreement with the British Government, and I am sorry to say that, because of the good treatment which he received there, or for some other reason, he succumbed to temptation. The agreement covered by the Bill provides for eleven ships of war, three of which are to be used for training a naval reserve in which Australian citizens are to be included, and into which Australian cadets are to be drafted each year ; and the Commonwealth is to pay annually for ten years the sum of £200,000. The agreement may be terminated at the end of that period, upon the giving of two years’ notice. Why should two years’ notice be given of the desire to terminate or alter the agreement ? Those who charge the members of the party to which I belong with disloyalty must admit that we are in good company. The leading papers of the chief cities of the Commonwealth are against this proposal.
– The Age is against it. Is not that a leading newspaper in Australia ? The Brisbane Courier is against it, and so are the Sydney Morning Herald, the South Australian Register, and one of the Western Australian newspapers.
– I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day which strongly supports the agreement.
– I do not mind facing my constituents upon this matter - in fact, I should like the Government to go to the country upon it, because it would make a real good battle cry, and would result in every member of the labour party coming back, with a few more added to our ranks. Sir Wilfred Laurier, the Prime Minister of Canada, resolutely refused to commit the Dominion to this compact, and our Prime Minister has taken credit for saving expenditure by the Commonwealth in agreeing to pay only £200,000 per annum, instead of the amount which was asked for.
– I have not taken credit for that.
– The Prime Minister will find it recorded in Hansard that the Minister for Defence made that statement about him. I remember his saying that the Admiralty wanted us to contribute £300,000, and that it was through the intervention of himself and the Prime Minister, that they reduced the amount to £200,000. The increased subsidy now proposed, will involve a charge of1s. per head upon the people of the Commonwealth. I should like to know how some honorable members, who are supporting the agreement reconcile their present attitude with their recent action under the influence of the “Kya- bram “ scare, when they ratted from the Government in connexion with the Judiciary Bill. They then held up their hands in holy horror, and deluged the Chamber with their tears at the bare idea of spending £20,000 on a Federal Judiciary, which would have conferred benefit . upon the people of Australia. I cannot understand the anxiety which is now being shown to send another £100,000 out of the country. I do not know how protectionist honorable members can square such a proposal with their principles. Great Britain is under the necessity of maintaining a vast navy, because of her world-wide interests and of her complicated foreign policy. One of the leading ship-owners in Melbourne assured me a few days ago that 85 per cent, of the trade of the Commonwealth was carried in English ships. Surely Great Britain does not want us to protect her property? Imperial statesmen have frequently told us that they are independent of any colonial possessions, and that they do not need our assistance in regard to the navy. If such a large proportion of our trade, as has been stated, is carried in British ships, the argument’ of the honorable member for New England falls to. the ground. Then it must be remembered that Australians have contributed large sums of money for the construction and equipment of new forts for the protection of the harbors which are available to British war vessels as bases, at which they can obtain coal or provisions. I am not finding fault with the expenditure that has been incurred in this direction, but I think that we should receive the fullest credit for what we have done. Special reference was made to this point in a leading article published in the Age of 8th July. This article is one of the best I have read, and displays an amount of thought and care and expert knowledge which should meet with the appreciation of every honorable member, whether he favours the Bill or not. The Minister for Defence has said a good deal about the views which he put forward at the Conference regarding the representation of Australia in the Councils of the Empire, but it is absurd to make any such suggestion. The leader of the Opposition put the matter before us very graphically, when he spoke about the appearance in the French Chamber of Deputies of the representatives of Algeria. I can quite imagine the Minister for Defence being present as our representative at the Imperial councils of
Avar. It is true that we should have a representative, but that would be all, because no heed would be paid to him. We should be represented in the same sense that the Maories are represented in the New Zealand Parliament. Regarding the differences of pay provided for in the new agreement, Senator Matheson in his paper Australia and Naval Defence, says -
Endless difficulties would also arise in connexion with the special rates of pay to Australian seamen in the British Navy,, especially when a ship so manned moved to other stations, as Lord Selborne suggests and desires. Vice-Admiral C. C. P. Fitzgerald fully indorses this view. He writes : - “ It would be subversive of all discipline, contentment, and good fellowship to have two sets of nien doing the same work, holding the same nominal rank, and yet receiving two totally different scales of pay on board one of His Majesty’s ships. We could not, in justice to our own men, permit such a thing, save, perhaps, as a very temporary expedient.”
The Age deals with this question effectively, and I tabulate their figures : -
The Australian rates are those actually paid to the permanent men in Victoria, while the highest British rates quoted are- above anything I can find in the Navy List.
It is also worth while to note the following rates in the British Navy -
We should, therefore, have in Australia British sub-lieutenants drawing less pay than their petty officers, and midshipmen worse off than the lowest-rated seaman.
That would not be a desirable state of affairs. When I was working I was never content to receive less pay than the man working alongside of me, and I am sure that the proposed arrangement for differential rates will cause the utmost discontent among the men. The honorable member for Grampians brought before us what he conceived to be a very good scheme to provide for the insurance of the lives of the men employed on the Australian Squadron. He said -
I have given some thought to the possibilities of life insurance. Of course, without knowing exactly what the rates of pay will be, and what the pensions usually given are, I have not been able to make very exact calculations, but I have ascertained that a man entering the service at the age of 21 could, for a yearly premium of 621 lis. 7d., or ls. 2Jd. per day, insure his life for £500, the policy to mature when he reached the age of 42. I have fixed that ap-e because the British sailor is entitled to a pension after he has served 21 years.
A British seaman gets ls. 9d. per day, and out of that has to find money to pay for his clothing, boots, and hats, and also has to contribute a certain amount towards the mess account; and after the deduction proposed by the honorable member for Grampians had been made, he would have about 6£d. or 7d. left to meet all his requirements. When I was on active service I got 2s. a day with everything found, and that was not too much, and I think the honorable member must have been at sea when he conceived the idea of deducting ls. 2d. a day from pay amounting to only ls. 9d. per day. Following upon the remarks I have just quoted, the honorable member said -
At the end of that time the cash value of the POliCy and its bonus additions would be about £080, a sum which would purchase an immediate annuity of £40 15s. 4d. Those figures were obtained from an actuary of one of the best institutions in Melbourne. Now there is in the Savings Bank here a system under which the employes are compelled to insure their lives, the bank paying half the premium and the employes themselves the other. If that system were adopted in connexion with our naval forces, the State would be called upon to pay 7Jd. and the sailor 7id. per diem. In this way an investment might be provided for him, which, perhaps, would not be too expensive for the Government, and which would make provision for his old age, or benefit his relatives in the event of his premature death.
My experience of seamen is that they want to be allowed to do what they like with their own money. They do not think very much about the provision which is to be made for their old age. Their motto is “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof,” and no provision for old-age pensions or insurance would attract men to the service. Another question which suggests itself to me is - what are we to do with our existing navy? We have two beautiful ships in Queensland, the Palumah and the Gayundah. They have the Protector in South Australia ; and the Cerberus in Victoria ; but in New South Wales they have no war vessels. I do not know whether this is due to any special wisdom on the part of the people of New South Wales, or to the fact that they are content to have the Imperial Navy stationed there. The officers and men we have at present have devoted many years to our service, and their bread and butter depends upon our finding them continued employment. I desire to know whether they are to be transferred to the ships of the Australia Squadron, or to be thrown upon their own resources. We have it suggested by the Minister for Defence that they will be absorbed into the Imperial Navy. But something should be done to keep up our present defence vessels, even if they are used only as training ships. It has been urged by some honorable members that it is necessary that the Admiralty should have the power to make use of the Australian Squadron in any part of the eastern seas, in order that the combined forces of the navy in these and neighbouring waters might be brought to bear upon any foe within reach. We are told that we do not need a navy to defend our shores, and Earl Selborne has stated that the word “ defence “ has become obsolete, so far as the navy is concerned. If that be so, we should not have a Minister for Defence, but a Minister for War. But we do not want to go out looking for. war ; we are not a militant nation. We do not want some one else’s blood, but desire .to live at peace with all mankind. Why should we be dragged into the troubles of Great Britain, in which we have no concern, and why should we be exposed to attack by a power with which we have no quarrel ? It is stated that we do not want a navy to defend our shores, but an offensive up-to-date squadron. Why is the Channel Squadron kept cruising up and down the English Channel, except it be. for the defence of the shores of Great Britain ? And why is the Mediterranean Squadron maintained except for the defence of British interests 1 No one could defend Australia better than Australians. I would further point out that, under this Bill, Australia will become a recruiting ground for the British Navy. I hold that no part of the Commonwealth should be made a recruiting ground for any forces other than our own. If the Bill reaches the Committee stage* I shall embrace the opportunity of entering an emphatic protest against the clause containing that provision.
– How can the honorable member block a man from doing what he wishes ?
– I would prevent such recruiting. I understand that no amendment can be made in this Bill, and I would therefore suggest to the Prime Minister that he should follow the practice which’ was adopted by the Ministry in connexion with the Governor-General’s Establishment Bill, and hand it over to the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who will effect his object quickly enough. No honorable member who has yet addressed the House has touched upon the question of the protection of Australian interests. In this connexion, I would point out that the interest upon our public debt aggregates £7,591,738, and that the total amount annually paid upon our indebtedness1 to bond-holders in London is, roughly speaking, £16,000,000. Some honorable members have drawn a graphic picture of a foreign fleet sweeping down upon our shores, and devastating our towns, as if the English bond-holders would not lift a hand to protect their own property. Honorable members who entertain that idea must be mad. The English bond-holders are bound to protect their own interests, and they will see that a sufficient navy is maintained in Australian waters for that purpose. Further, if we have had an efficient defence up till now for an annual payment of £106,000, why should the Government desire to contribute an additional £100,000 for a force which will afford us no better protection 1 Is it for the purpose of allowing naval officers in brilliant uniforms to grace society ball-rooms? I know some people who desire the presence of these “ curled darlings “ to escort their daughters to the balls. We saw an instance of this only a week ago, when the Auxiliary- Squadron was brought to Hobson’s Bay, simply to allow the officers an opportunity to “fly round.” That is what the taxpayers of the Commonwealth are asked to pay for. The Prime Minister has declared that the cost of the maintenance of an Australian Navy would be £500,000 annually. He said that -
The upkeep of eleven ships such as those which will comprise the Australian Squadron would reach at least £304,000, and the wear and tear of the ships would be at least £200,000 more.
In opposition to his statement, I wish to quote some passages from the report of Captain Creswell, who is admittedly an authority upon naval matters.That officer was asked to report upon the question of the naval defence of Australia, and surely his opinions are entitled to some consideration. He says -
The scheme here proposed, while it will be as effective in war as the fresh agreement, will cost no more, and we shall have the solid remaining advantages of experience gained in naval work, training, and experience of officers and men, together with possession of ships, plants guns, &c. Economies which make such solid advantage possible are due to difference in conditions between -
An Australian fleet serving in its own waters with only reduced permanent crews, and
The cost of manning and providing for a fleet from the other end ofthe world, with full complement, passage of crews to and fro, &c.
There is an advantage in using the services of officers and men upon the spot, who have a close knowledge of the waters in which they will have to serve. Australia offers advantage to the defence as yet unvailed of in one important particular. It admits the use of a type of vessel of superior gun-power to others of her class or any probable enemy.
He suggests that -
The coast and ports of Australia be divided into naval districts for training purposes. Each district to raise one ship’s company. The complement of one Australian defence’ ship to be the unit, and under the orders of the commanding officer of the district, who will be responsible to the Naval Commandant.
The Federal ship will make the round of all districts at least twice in each year for the continuous training afloat of the naval force, which it will be compulsoryfor officers and men to undergo at least once a year.
Now I come to the question of the cost of this scheme, and in this connexion I wish to institute a comparison between the amount set down for that purpose by Captain Creswell and the estimate of the Prime Minister. Captain Creswell sets out the cost as follows : -
This estimate is totally at variance with that furnished by the Prime Minister. Continuing, Captain Creswell says -
The Australian seaman is readily trained. By training and practising him in the ship in which he will be required to serve, he can be made efficient for service in a. comparatively short time. The Protector, under this system, was manned and ready to leave for China in three days. On arrival in China, the Commander-in-Chief rereported ‘ ‘ that the Protector was most useful, being an efficient and well-kept man-of-war, reflecting credit on captain, officers, and men.” Her engine-room staff, largely made up of reserve men, steamed her 16,000 miles in four months, and she returned without defects. The system of reduced permanent crews and reserve has thus been fairly tested. The objections to the provision of an Australian Navy were on the ground of -
Firstly, Great cost of original outlay; and
Secondly, Ships of war, it was said, become obsolete so quickly that they have to be continually replaced.
Both the above have been much over-estimated. The cost of a ship of war was said to be £1,000,000. That is the price of a battleship, a vessel practically useless for Australian service. Their sphere of service is restricted to the major operations of war, the scene of which, it is extremely unlikely, will be in Australia. Our work in hand is the protection of the floating trade ; for this a different class of vessel, costing a fraction of the amount paid for a battleship, is required. The limit of cost for the Australian war vessel would be £300,000.
Great advantage will be gained by the adoption of a type of vessel specially designed for the service she will be required to carry out in Australian waters. None such exist in the Royal Navy.
Ships of the Royal Navy may be called upon to serve all over the world ; they are built, armed, and fitted accordingly. Such a ship must be able to steam great distances on end, and carry on operations away from a base for a comparatively long time. Long distances steaming compels great coal capacity. Long absence from a base requires that there shall be large stowage room for stores and provisions. The whole space and tonnage of a vessel of war is roughly divided as follows : -
Engine and boiler room.
Coal and stores.
Guns and ammunition.
Tonnage being limited, none of the space under the above headings can be increased unless at the expense of the others. To increase coal, stores, and armour would be to decrease engine room and boiler or crew space. Ships of the Royal Navy being designed to steam great distances, and to be absent from their base for long periods, a very large proportion of the tonnage is set aside for coal and stores. This compels reduction in armament, and they are therefore very lightly armed in proportion to their tonnage.
Service in Australian waters would not be at any great distance from a base ; all ports would be open to our ships for replenishing their coal. The generous allowance of space or tonnage for coal and stores (especially for stores), required by the British cruisers, would- be unnecessary for Australian service.
By adapting our design to the favouring conditions of a long coast-line with many coaling ports, we can reduce the coal and stores’ space, and increase largely armament and gun-power. There can be no greater waste than to carry hundreds of tons of coal and stores more than necessary. Gun-power can, therefore, be so largely increased in an Australian ship that she would be equal to a ship twice her tonnage. Besides greater fighting efficiency there is a large economy in purchase money, maintenance, and up-keep of the smaller vessels.
Surely this expert’s evidence is worthy of consideration, seeing that neither the Government nor any of their supporters have attempted to refute it. He goes on further to say -
Special service ship of 960 tons carries 70 percent, heaviermetal than general service ship of 2,500 tons. The above principle applied toa vessel of 3,000 tons would give an armament exceeding that of any probable commerce raider, and equal to many first-class cruisers. Coal and store space has in the above been sacrificed, but it is likely that the adoption of the turbine may, to some extent, compensate even for this sacrifice ; its economy of weight and space being one of its strongest recommendations.
The objection that such, ships would be restricted to a limited field of action, and useless if Imperial emergency called for their service elsewhere, and that we should thereby be pursuing an unsound policy of localizing naval defence, is clearly disproved by the Protector’s performance. She is only 960 tons, and designed for service in the South Australian gulfs, yet, with a heavier armament, covered the distance to China in practically the same time as the Wallaroo, of 2,500 tons. It is clear that a ship should be specially designed to carry out the work which is her ration d’etre. It does not preclude her being of service in other respects, but all other considerations should be secondary to the main one - her ability to do the work she was built for. Powerful ships may mean fewer ships, and proportionately smaller expenditure.
He concludes his report as follows -
It has been said that the Australian is a poor seaman, and does not take readily to sea-work. This scarcely needs contradiction. Australia has inherited her due share of the nation’s genius for sea-enterprise, either for war or commerce. The scheme put forward has been designed to develop our naval capacity at the least (if any) additional cost to the country ; but I would respectfully ask. whether it would not be in the true interests of Australia and theEmpire, even atconsiderablecost, to develop locally those qualities of race and that sea-profession which first gave us, and litis since held for us, the laud we live in .
Captain Creswell has the reputation of possessing considerable naval knowledge. He should be thoroughly familiar with naval architecture, naval discipline, and all requirements as to the armament of ships of” war. His evidence should be of some value to us. In an appendix to his report, Captain Creswell gives extracts from several journals. The first is a quotation from an article written by Sir J. C. R. Colomb, K.C.M.G., M.P., in the MonthlyReview for June 1901 -
The hope of British survival in the Pacific is. not in mounted infantry or bushmen scouts - those admirable troops of proved excellence in modern war by land - it lies in means of local production and maintenance of battle power in that ocean.
In the face oE such developments as are now in progress on both sides of the Pacific, our island resources in the north east corner of one hemisphere cannot indefinitely compete on equal terms for maritime control of the other. The mere fact of having to drag across the globe almost every single thing necessary for the repair and equipment of British ships is a heavy handicap in war with a nation or nations having the necessary sustaining power, so to speak,’ on’ the spot.
This authority asserts that we have both the material and the ability necessary for this work. Some honorable members urge that we .cannot establish an Australian Navy, but I fail to see the reason for this assertion. Do they mean to say that the Australian nation, as a whole, is not as good as any other nation ? I maintain that we have sprung from British stock, that we have the same brains, and! that we can do what our forefathers have done before us. Captain Creswell also gives an extract from the United Service Gazette of the 27th July, 1901-
We would go further, and say that the fostering of the idea in a colonial mind that their island continent can be protected by any other means than the navy is a positive danger, for it diverts consideration from the principles which must for ever govern the defence of our Empire. The day that Australians are called upon to resist the onslaught of some great invading force by massing troops foi- the defence of their coasts will mark the close of our rule of the seas, and consequently the disintegration of our vast dominions.
In Appendix D to his report we have the following statement -
The fleet of two cruisers of the first class, six of the second, and two second-class in reserve, probably includes the whole fleet’s strength in Australian waters, that is, the Imperial Squadron and the “Auxiliary Squadron.” Though there is no statement to that effect, it is probable that four second- class cruisers will represent the addition for the protection of Australian floating commerce, i.e., the Auxiliary Squadron. It was probably not intended that Australia should assume complete naval responsibility in these waters, and four cruisers may be estimated as our share.
This concludes my reference to Captain Creswell’s report. I have here a report, presented by a conference” of naval officers, which met in Melbourne to consider the question of the naval defence of Australia. If the Government had no intention of continuing the Australian Naval Forces, why did they convene that conference? If the opinions of the members of the conference are of no value, the Minister for Defence should have told us so, so that we might have been in a position to prosecute independent inquiries.
But all the members of this conference were naval experts. They comprised Captain Francis Hixson.. commanding the New South Wales Naval Forces, Captain Robert Muirhead Collins, Secretary for Defence, Victoria - a very good man who, I am sure, knows what he is talking about; Commander Walton Drake, commanding the Queensland Naval Forces, Commander Frederick Tickell, commanding the Victorian Naval Forces, and Captain W. R. Creswell, commanding the South Australian Naval Forces, who joined the Conference on Wednesday, 2nd August, 1899, In presenting this report Captain Hixson: President of the Conference, says -
On the motion of Captain Collins, I was elected President of the Conference.
The Conference further appointed the Chief Clerk of the Defence Department, Mr. F. Savage, as secretary.
The Conference very carefully considered the question remitted to them, and their report is forwarded herewith.
I have much pleasure iu expressing the appreciation by the Conference of the services rendered by Mr. Savage.
– When was that conference appointed.?
– It met on the 31st July,. 1S99.
– That was some time prior to Federation.
– That does not alter the position.
– But the honorable member said .that the conference was convened by this Government.
– Most of the members of that conference are in our service to-day. Captain Collins is now Secretary for Defence.
– There are many good naval officers who would not be. allowed to dictate the policy of the British Government.
– I do not say that these gentlemen should do so. . But if there are defects in their report, I think they should be pointed out to us by the Government. If the report is valueless, why should not the Government advise us accordingly ?
– The statement that the Conference was appointed by us conveys a certain inference, and now thatthe honorable member knows that that is not correct I think he should withdraw it.
– I do not wish to infer anything. I am perfectly plain in my statements.
– But the honorable member inferred just now that we were bound by a report that was not prepared on our instruction.
– I see now that the Conference was appointed prior to Federation, and I regret the mistake I have made. In any event, however, this is a report by men who, I believe, are now in the service of the Commonwealth. If they are incapable they should not be in the service. If, as naval officers, they are utterly useless, I am surprised that the Minister for Defence, who desires to keep our forces in an efficient state, has not rid the Department of them. The report sets forth -
We have had the honour to receive a letter from His Excellency Lord Brassey (see appendix), whose experienced judgment in such matters is so well known, in which he gives it as his opinion that the training of seamen in the colonial ships of war - Cerberus, Protector , and Gaymidah - might be considered an equivalent to six months’ continuous training in an Imperial ship of war.
I am sure that the Prime Minister will admit that Lord Brassey speaks with some au thority upon this point, and he considers that we should be able to give our men some training on colonial ships of war.. I am not a naval expert, and I am basing the whole of nay argument in- support of an Australian Navy upon the statements contained in these reports. It is set forth in the report of the Conference that -
The Conference are of opinion that this expenditure, controlledby the Federal Government, would be sufficient to provide for the maintenance of five 2nd class cruisers stationed- in peace time, as proposed, in the principal ports and exercised from them, and’ for the raising and maintenance of a reserve of sufficient strength to provide; not only for the manning of these vessels in time of war, but also to furnish a source from which men would be available to meet Imperial naval requirements, and to make up waste.
They go on, generally, to enlarge upon their findings, and they say that -
It has been the design of the Conference to outline a scheme whereby the available Naval Defence in Australia shall advance pari -passu with the growth and development of the Australian Commonwealth, and become less, year by year, a charge ou the Imperial forces and exchequer ; to develop our resources, and the training of our seamen, so that instead of remaining a source of weakness and anxiety to the mother country - an exposed flank: - and we may gradually become a strong outpost.
To accomplish this it is necessary to have specialregard to the nature, of defence requisite for an. island continent.
It was with the object of developing Australian Naval efficiency that the late Admiral Tryon suggested the formation of the Auxiliary Squadron.
The progressive policy which it is certain he intended to carry out with this end in view has not advanced from the initial stage at which Sir George Tryon left it.
When the Auxiliary Squadron was first established by agreement between the Colonies and the Admiralty,it was generally understood, in Australia at any rate, that the ships would form a means of drilling and training Australian seamen.
This expectation has never been realized, the vessels in reserve having always been laidup in Sydney, and no attempt has been made to utilize them for the benefit of the local Naval Force.
There has, consequently, been no advance in Australia’s ability to undertake any honorable share in her sea defence.
The present policy, viz., that of the payment in specie in return for Naval Defence furnished in toto by the mother eountr’, makes no advance whatever.
Twenty or fifty years hence, Australia’s ability for sea defence - self-defence - will be as to-day, and as it was tenyears ago.
A continuance of the present policy involves either the periodical increase of the amount paid to the Imperial Government for Naval Defence, that the growing trade and interests of the Federation may be adequately protected, or, if that amount be not increased, we must expect a justifiable complaint from the British taxpayer. In this connexion, it is well to remember the high point already reached by the Imperial Naval Estimates.
In the event of a European combination of such strength as to occupy the attention of the British fleets, the continuance of a policy which in noway advances Australian ability for sea defence might have disastrous consequences.
We come now to the question of the desirableness of an Australian Navy for the defence of Australia. The report continues -
Ithas been the invariable policy of the motherlaud to encourage all her colonies and dependencies in self -defence, i.e., to encourage the organizing of forces suited to meet and to resist the particular danger to which they are exposed. The Cape, Canada, and India are all cases in point - all have laud frontiers requiring military defence.
Australia having, no military frontier requires for her defence a sea or naval force.
As a recent modern example of the respective merits as a defence of a powerful army or navy for an island defence the case of Cuba in the recent American war is conclusive. Cuba had. a standing army of from 150,000 to 200,000 men, and an inefficient navy. The United States a standing army of from 25,000 to 30,000 and an efficient navy. The efficient navy of the United States destroyed the Spanish Navy.
The small army of 25,000 men embarked, and, choosing their point of attack, captured Santiago. The large army, with Cuba closely blockaded, became merely an additional burden as ration eaters, and hastened, the fall of the Spanish side.
It is necessary here to draw attention to the salient conditions which will govern Australian defence and determine its character.
There is one point which I desire specially to emphasize. Why do not the advocates of this proposed naval subsidy go one step further, and propose that we shall give another £200,000 per annum to secure the presence of Imperial troops in Australia? If they. did so, their action would at least be consistent. We are spending something like £800,000 a year upon our internal defence.
– Not as much as that.
– We are expending some £700,000 a year in this direction, and I hope that next year it will be less.
– If the honorable member says £600,000 he will be nearer the mark.
– The advocates of this naval subsidy ought to go one better, and urge the payment of £500,000 a year as a contribution to the maintenance of Imperial troops in Australia. In that way we should save at least £100,000 a year in our military expenditure. If they made such a propostion I should be with them all the way. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, sounded the tocsin, which we all should heed, when he said that this proposal was simply the thin edge of the wedge of Imperial Federation. I am convinced that it is, and that, if we agree to this contribution of £200,000 per annum for ten years, we shall probably be asked at the end of that period to increase it to £500,000.
– And a good job too.
– I am satisfied about that. As the result of the. adoption of this proposal, Imperial Federation, against which we have all been fighting, will receive an impetus.
– Who has been fighting against Imperial Federation ?
– The labour party has, at all events. Senator Matheson has written a letter dated the Sth of the present month, which puts the whole case for an Australian Navy into a nutshell, and I will quote some extracts from it, so that honorable members who have not read it may be able to take to heart some of the lessons which it teaches. He says -
The Prime Minister, in introducing the Naval Subsidy Bill, never explained that the agreement of 1887 was suggested by the Admiralty themselves solely to enable an Australianowned Squadron to relieve the British fleet of the necessity of protecting floating trade in Australasian waters from the attacks of chance raiders in time of war.
The Blue Book of the 1887 Conference proves this explicitly, and, presumably, the Prime Minister will not deny the fact. Has any reason been brought forward for a radical alteration of the arrangements then made, or to justify Australia in resigning, at one sweep, all attempts to provide for her local naval defence ?
Then, as now, the British Squadron in these waters merely formed part of the general strength of the British fleet in Eastern waters - that is, of the combined Indian, China, and Australian Squadrons. It was more or less immaterial to the Admiralty how this fleet was distributed in time of peace, and to Australia the strength of the section in local waters was. really, equally immaterial, though its money-spending power was material to Sydney. But in time of war the position would be vastly different. Then, as now, it was essential that in time oE war the various sections of the British fleet should combine to deal concentrated blows on the enemy ; it followed that the coast of Australia would be left without any local naval protection, such as Great Britain herself enjoys, and the Admiralty therefore in 1885, honestly admitting the fact that local naval protection was quite as necessary for Australia as the general protection she would derive from squadrons of British battle-ships iu action, advised the Australian States to purchase a fleet, and to arrange to protect their own coasts with their own seamen from the raids of scattered cruisers.
This is an historical fact, that can be verified by any one who cares to do so.
In 1898, the State Premiers met in Melbourne, and, with one exception, resolved to continue the yearly subvention : and though they must all have known that the vessels supplied under the hiring contract to the States were inefficient, they made no demand for an improved type of cruiser, or for the proper armament. To Mr. Kingston, the then .Premier of South Australia, belongs the credit of having opposed this iniquitous surrender of Australia’s rights, but Mr. Kingston, alas, is now a member of the present Federal Ministry !
To-day the Admiralty suggest that local naval defence should be abandoned altogether, and that the £100,000 paid annually, as a rent for a local defence squadron, should be paid instead to the British fleet as a subsidy, with £94,000 more thrown in, making £200,000 in all.
It is idle to suggest, as the Prime Minister does, that Australia obtains one pennyworth of defence by this subsidy that she would not obtain without it.
It is idle to suggest that the British fleet in Eastern waters will be one ship or one gun the stronger for this subside’ !
If, instead of spending the £200,000 in a subsidy, if, instead of relying on a mercenary defence, we paid our own Australians in a local squadron -
First. - We should provide with certainty for repelling any raiders that might manage, to escape the British fleet.
Second. - We should be certain that our own seamen were being trained with our money
Third. - We should effectively develop the sea power of Australia, which the new agreement will not do, though, in its preamble, it claims it will.
Fourth. - We should encourage and develop an Australian interest in naval affairs, which the 1887 agreement never did, and which the new agreement never will do.
Fifth. - We shall help to consolidate a sense of nationality throughout the Commonwealth, which it sadly lacks at present, and which the subsidy to the British fleet will never do.
In conclusion, the cost of a local squadron is not prohibitive.
It will be noticed that the Premier has come down 50 per cent, in his estimate of that cost, viz., from £1,000,000 annually to £500,000. Let him come down 50 per cent, again, and he will be about the mark.
The Admiralty have themselves supplied the maximum annual cost of five second-class cruisers of the Highflyer type (5,600 tons), a squadron far above the requirements of a merely local squadron. It is, for interest and sinking fund, £125,000; for maintenance, £242,000; in all, £367,000. That represents the maximum expense that any local squadron could be to Australia, and Australia can well begin and be satisfied with something less.
The honorable member for Echuca has accused the labour party of disloyalty, but it is new to me to find him the censor of this House. In reply to his statement that we have decried the British Navy, I will quote a pet phrase of the honorable member for Parramatta, and say that it is a figment of his own imagination. In the matter of loyalty I will play second fiddle to no man. If my services were required for the defence of Great Britain or of any of her dependencies, I would willingly give my life for such a cause, and other members of my party would do the same. The loyalty of the honorable member for Echuca is only lip loyalty. He may know something about farming and irrigation and the manufacture of three legged glue pots under the closest protection, but he knows nothing about naval defence. As I said before, if I am sick I go to a doctor for relief, and in this instance I have gone for my information to naval experts, and have, therefore, determined to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs).In rising to oppose the proposal which has been formulated by the Government, I think it right and just that I should emphasize the protest which has been made against the attitude assumed by certain honorable members, who, because they favour the adoption of this agreement, speak of those who oppose it as disloyal, or incapable of understanding the responsibilities and duties of Empire. With all respect to those who support the agreement, I submit that those who are opposed to it have spoken against the Bill under a strong sense of duty, and have ideals of Empire which they cherish with love and affection. They, equally with honorable members who support the scheme, desire to see the Commonwealth become a great and independent self-governing community under the Crown. I sincerely regret that the Government have brought forward this proposal. Before the States were united it was realized that it was impossible for their separate Governments to do anything in the matter of providing for a joint naval defence. But we were told that as soon as we had Federation, with one central executive, and a Federal Consolidated Revenue Fund, we should be able to begin the slow process of building up an Australian Navy. That was put before us as one of the ideals to which we should aspire. We were assured that in the Constitution we had an instrument which empowered us to provide for both our military and naval defence, and it therefore comes to me with a sense of disappointment that we should be asked to delegate the authority which we have obtained for the building up of an Australian Navy. I am disappointed that those who were the leaders of the Federal movement, and who urged the electors to accept an instrument which would give us the power to build up a strong defence for the Empire, are now urging us to delegate our authority to the Imperial Government.
– Honorable members are not willing to find the money which is necessary for the creation of an Australian Navy.
– It will readily be admitted that every member of the House desires to see the Empire flourish, and the first argument which is used to induce us to vote for the agreement is that we owe it as a duty to the Empire to do so. But, to my mind, there is underlying that assertion a mistaken conception of what constitutes Empire. . Some honorable members seem to think that, although we are a self-governing community, we should allow our work to be done for us by an executive and legislative authority which is situated far beyond the sea. Others, however, believe - and I think justly believe - that the best way to develop the Empire is to encourage the spirit of independence and self-government in every part of it, so that fully-developed nations may be ready to come to the assistance of the mother country, or of any dependency that is attacked. In support of that contention, I wish to quote the words of Sir Frederick Young, who, in a book entitled, A Pioneeron Imperial Federation in Canada, has written-
Imperial Federation necessarily involves the virtual independence of the federated States. The discussion of a scheme of British Imperial Federation, with a view to its actual realization, would lead to practical results only if carried on between perfectly independent autonomous powers. Participation by right, not merely by courtesy, over its foreign as well as domestic affairs, must be exercised by every self-governing community. Dependence on themselves and on their own diplomatic skill, as well as, when necessary, on their own strength, can alone build up a vigorous, self-reliant national character in any people ; while, on the other hand, reliance on a foreign power, even though it be a parent State, enfeebles and degrades.
– Does the honorable and learned member suggest that Australia should intermeddle in foreign affairs ?
– I believe with Sir Frederick Young, a most ardent advocate of Imperial federation, that reliance upon a foreign power, and even upon the mother country, will degrade us.
– We have been content for a long while to rely upon the mother country.
– No ; we have been undergoing a gradual process of education. Great Britain has, from time to time, conceded to us more and more enlarged powers of self-government, and in the Commonwealth Constitution we at length received an instrument which gives us the right, if we like to exercise it, to build a navy which will make us all the stronger to defend ourselves and the interests of the Empire itself.
– It was even included in the powers they gave us.
– Yes; the Constitution gives us power to deal with that subject, and also with external affairs, so that we possess greater powers than when we were a number of separate States. I regret, therefore, that at the very beginning of our Commonwealth life, with our newly-granted powers of independence, we should be asked to practically tie our hands in such a way that we shall be dependent upon the parent
State for our defence. I do not say this with any feeling of disloyalty, but with the fullest loyalty, because I believe that, now that we have this full power of selfgovernment, it is our duty to make ourselves perfect in every particular. I hold that we should become a self-contained nation, develop every one of our resources, and exercise our inherent strength and capacities, so that in case of war we can help the Empire by showing our ability to stand alone. I believe that is the highest ideal that we can place before ourselves, and that is also the ideal that in its essence inspires the British people. Some reference has been made to the change that has taken place in the attitude of the motherland towards her colonies. The honorable member for “Kennedy referred to the time when the British feeling towards the colonies was that they might well be allowed to go their own way, or as Tennyson puts it, their cry was -
Keep you to yourselves,
So loyal is too costly, friends - your love,
Is but a burthen : loose the bond and go.
We know that a change has come over the spirit of British statesmen in regard to the colonies. We know that that is not the the tone of Empire, not the faith that made the English rulers, not -
And meaning whom the roar of Hongomont
Left mightiest of all peoples under heaven.
It did not sound like the voice of Britain, but of -
A sinking land,
Some third-rate isle, half lost among her seas.
Tennyson was right when he claimed -
The loyal to the Grown,
Are loyal to their own, far sons, who love
Our ocean Empire, with her boundless homes,
For ever broadening England, and her throne
In our vast Orient, and one isle.
That isle is one which is now begin ning to truly realize its own greatness. Great Britain desires to retain the loyalty of her colonies, and I am glad that that love which we bear her is being reciprocated. But I am opposed to the new agree- ment, which I regard as a virtual abnegation of the powers conferred upon us by the Constitution. It is true that we are to pay only £200,000, but the probable effect of the payment of that sum appeals to me far more than the actual amount, it is the principle and precedent involved in it. I am afraid that it will tie our hands for the next ten years. What will become of our naval brigades, and what will be the fate of the officers who have performed such good work in connexion with them? I am not acquainted with the circumstances of any of the States except Queensland ; but I know how the naval forces in that State have been built up, and how, owing to their having their own training ships, they have been able to attain a high standard of efficiency. We have in Queensland naval officers who are worthy of every respect. In Queensland, we also have another branch of the naval force, which I hope to see still further developed, namely, the naval cadets. Recently the members of. this force had a new experience. They were sent out to sea in one of the gun-boats, and Captain Creswell, speaking with regard to them, says -
I was first not in favour of it as having any naval defence value. I am not quite of the other opinion. TheMackay cadets gave promise of turning out really good men for their work. This movement, it continued on sound lines, has a great naval defence future before it, and has, I am informed, the very best results on the boys themselves, and I am consequently informed it is thought highly of in the ports where they are in force - collects the very best stamp of boys at the critical time in their lives, fifteen to eighteen years of age, when most liable to get into mischief, and gives them evenings and half-holiday work, in which they take the keenest interest. Their attendance is proof of this, and the first sample of these, lads taken to sea has quite gone beyond in smartness, keenness, andanxiety to do well anything I had ever expected or hoped for. Six or twelve months under a good smart instructor makes different boys of them. The Australian boy afloat after such would, I think, be a revelation to many whose commonest impression is certainly not that of the keen, willing, active spirit they show afloat.
That is taken from a statement by Captain Creswell reported in the Brisbane Courier of Thursday, 18th June last. I am afraid that the new agreement will lead to the practical abandonment of all the work done in connexion with the naval brigades in the various States. If the Minister for. Defence thinks that it is necessary to go on with this agreement, I hope that he will still give every encouragement to lads such as those referred to. It would be almost a crime to nip in the bud a movement which seems so full of promise. As regards the agreement itself, it may be admitted that it recognises the duty to the Empire, that it is, from an Australian point of view, economical, that it shows generosity or the part of Great Britain, and thatit contains some improvements, inasmuch that it provides opportunities for training upon the vessels of the squadron, and for a better class of ships. Further, it recognises the principles upon which the Admiralty lay ‘ such stress by treating the subject from an Imperial stand-point.. At the same time I say that we should not be justified in adopting the agreement merely on these grounds. As to the recognition of the duty to the Empire, I contend that we could render just as much service to the Empire if we only began to create a navy of our own. ‘ I do not contend for a moment that we could start with a navy, fully equipped, such as is promised under the agreement, but even if we spent only £200,000 a year, it would be better in the interests of the Empire for us to initiate an Australian Navy. It is desirable that we should instil into the minds of our young men a love of the sea, a love for the work of naval defence and of the Empire, and I am sure that we should achieve better results in all these directions, and in the end secure a higher degree of efficiency if we created an Australian Navy, because we should then feel that pride which comes of possession. We cannot feel any pride of possession in something which does not belong to us.
– The honorable member has assisted to cut down the Defence estimates.
– It was the Minister who cut the Naval Estimates down.
– The Queensland Government wished the expenditure to be still further decreased.
– I have nothing to do with the State Government. If. we had a squadron regarding which we could feel the pride of possession, and which would serve for the training of our own officers and men, and over which we could exercise direct control, our patriotism would be practically demonstrated. If we established naval brigades in which our sons could be trained, and if our people could witness the spectacle of our own brigades marching through the streets, to and from our own ships, we should stimulate that pride of country and love of the sea which can’ never be fully developed whilst we are dependent for our protection upon a hired force over which we have absolutely I no control. Over the Auxiliary Squadron we had some degree of control, but under the new agreement we shall have no right to be consulted with regard to the movements of the ships, I recognise that in view of the purposes for which the new squadron is designed, there is much to be said in favour of the position taken up by the Minister. The principal object of the squadron will be, not to afford protection to our floating commerce, but to hold itself in readiness to co-operate with the other British war vessels in the Eastern seas.
– For what purpose?
– Ostensibly for the purpose of protecting Australian trade, but I do not take that proposition seriously. We know that the French Squadrons in the East and in the Pacific are being organized and mobilized, and strengthened so that they will be more powerful than any single British Squadron on any station that could be opposed to them. I recognise that there is an absolute necessity for freedom of action on the part of British war vessels in these and the neighbouring seas, because the various squadrons must be concentrated where they are likely to be most needed. Admitting all that, however, the real defence that Australia requires will not be afforded by the proposed squadron. It will not protect our Inter-State trade. It has been emphatically laid down by the Imperial authorities that we should have practically only one navy, with one control, andI recognise that that is a sound maxim. But there is another principle to which, according to the experts who have advised us. and according also to the Admiralty experts, it is quite as necessary to pay regard: Their opinion is that it is absolutely essential that we should make provision for coast defences, and also have some vessels for the protection of our float ing trade. Surely it is a fair and reasonable ideal for us as Australians to aim at having the few ships necessary for the lat ter purpose manned by Australians,and owned by Australians.
– Where would the honorable’ and learned memberstation them ?
– Our naval author! ties would guide us in that matter, which we might safely leave to such men as Captain Creswell and others. In the event of the Imperial Squadron beingcalled awaywemust have some ships left for the protectionof Australian shipping, and we could gradually create a fleet that would be sufficient to protect our commerce. We cannot set ourselves up as naval experts, but must rely upon the opinion of those who are best able to judge upon these matters, and we have been continuously advised by the Imperial authorities to procure for ourselves vessels which would be capable of protecting our floating . trade. We have now had a good many years’ experience, and on the strength of expert advice we have spent large sums of money in equipping our forts and maintaining vessels, some of which are now out-of-date. After acting upon the advice given by the Imperial authorities, why should we abandon all the work which has been done in the past, and all immediate prospect of commencing the creation of an Australian Navy.
– Captain Creswell is an enthusiastic supporter- of the Government proposal.
– I do not know anything about that. All Iknow of is the report which has been presented by him to this House for our guidance. That is the only evidence by which I can be guided. There is a further aspect of this question which I may term the political aspect, and it is one which this House is quite competent to decide. I think there is a very great deal of force in the contention which was raised by Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He took up the position that under this agreement we are practically asked to surrender some of our powers of self-government. I feel thatthereis a good deal of significance in that statement. I do not think that any attempt is being consciously made on the part of the British Empire to deprive us of our self-governing powers, but the agreement certainly makes in that direction. After due consideration, I am compelled to vote against the Bill, because the agreement is contrary to those aims and aspirations which we, as an Australian people, may very reasonably cherish in our hearts.
– I certainly do not think that Australia can fairly be charged with meanness in the shaping of her defence policy. Let us consider the three main stages of the development of that policy. What were they ? The first was when Australia voluntarily relieved the British Government of the extremely onerous duty of defending our important naval positions by declaring that she- would undertake that responsibility herself. What did that step cost? Up till 1897 it cost Australia the enormous amount of nearly £4,250,000. Where does that action evidence meanness on the part of Australia? The second stage was when we created our army. How proud we are to recall the distinguished courage and gallantry with which our troops served in South Africa ! Can we conceive what would have been the effect upon the public mind, and especially upon those European powers who were jealously watching the British operations in South Africa waiting anxiously for the defeat of the British Army, if Australia had assisted, the Empire by a cash contribution only 1 But instead, our sons of the soil sacrificed their lives in defence of the mother country. Surely there was no meanness there. The third stage in the development of our defence is marked by the period when Australia, unfortunately, I consider, agreed to hire an Auxiliary Squadron. This is the only part of her policy with which I find fault. In one sense I think it is exceedingly fortunate that England has asked Australia for an increased naval subsidy, because it brings the matter before us for discussion. Had she not done so, or had she been willing to renew the agreement upon the old terms, I am afraid that the Government would have accepted the offer, and that Parliament would . have confirmed it. What was the true reason which induced England to ask for this increase of subsidy from £106,000 to £200,000? It has been said that it has resulted from the intolerable burden imposed by war. In four years the naval expenditure of England has increased by £10,000,000. In 189S the expenditure totalled £24,000,000, whereas last year it aggregated £34,000,000. In view of these facts, of what value, I ask, is a contribution of £200,000 to England ? It represents only a ltd. per head of the population of the British Islands. The idea is perfectly absurd. There is some reason behind this new departure which has not yet been disclosed. I agree with those honorable members who have said that the new proposal amounts to the insertion of the thin end of the wedge of Imperialism, and that it behoves us to be careful lest that wedge be driven home. What will be the next move on the part of England ? Undoubtedly she will say that the burden of the army is becoming enormous, and that in consequence of her having to support other dependencies, and to send troops there, Australia should contribute towards that arm of her defence. The Minister for Defence in his speech the other evening declared that the enormous annual contribution of £34,000,000 was borne by the 40,000,000 inhabitants of Great Britain alone, and that our proportion of that expenditure upon a population basis would be £3,500,000. The right honorable gentleman asserted that our proportion was £3,500,000, and that oneseventeenth of that amount was all that England asked from us, namely, £200,000. But the real fact is that our population is only 1 per cent, of that of England with all her vast dependencies added. Therefore, all that we ought to be called upon to contribute upon .a population basis is£340,000, and not £3,500,000, as was suggested by the Minister. We must also remember that the naval expenditure of England includes the cost of her vast defence works and of administration, the payment of pensions, and the maintenance of the Royal Naval Reserves. But Australia, I would point out, provides the money for her own defence works, pays the cost of her own administration and her own pensions, if there are any, and supports her own naval brigades. Why, then, should she be asked to contribute a single penny towards the defence of England ? I think that the Government found that they had to bring forward other figures in order to justify the proposed expenditure of £200,000 annually on the part of Australia. Thus it was that the Prime Minister told us that the cost of the maintenance of the proposed Australian Squadron would be £480,000. Of that amount, the Commonwealth is asked to contribute £200,000, and New Zealand £40,000, or a total of exactly one-half. When honorable members talk so glibly about the blind generosity of England, I utterly fail to see where it comes in. We are asked to pay half the cost of the maintenance of this fleet, although it is directly doing England’s work. For what purpose is that fleet principally required 1 To keep the harbors of Australia open to the wardships of England, and to protect her coaling stations. Why should we be saddled with this . burden, which has euphemistically been called an “insurance”? But for whom is it an insurance ? It is an insurance for England, and not for Australia. I think that we must look at this matter from a common-sense stand-point. Personally, I object altogether to the proposed agreement. My main objection is that it is worse than the old agreement. Under the latter we were provided with some sort of. defence, but under the proposed agreement our defence is a mockery. When England is involved in serious difficulties, and the position of Australia is threatened, there will not be a single ship upon ‘ our coast to defend us. Let honorable members consider the gigantic sphere of the operations of the proposed squadron acting in conjunction with the East- Indies and China Squadrons. The area which these three fleets are called upon to patrol represents some 40j000,000 square miles. In the event of trouble occurring at Mauritius or at Bombay, what would be the position of Melbourne and Sydney ? Where should we be as regards protection? I hold that the creation of an Australian Navy is an absolute necessity. But there is a higher climax, too, than this. Mr. Wyatt, the Navy League representative, has predicted that when war occurs the decisive battles will be fought in the English Channel, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and in the Baltic. He asks, “ Where would Australia be with the Australian fleet in Sydney Harbor?” I think that if England were defeated anywhere it would be an absolute necessity for us to. see that Australia had some sort of defence, because we should inevitably be attacked. Instead . of that being an argument against the establishment of an Australian Navy, it is the strongest possible argument in its favour. We cannot do without such a navy. We are told that it would be madness to build a fleet, but, from my point of view, it would be madness to remain without one. During the course of a recent public address the Minister for Defence made a very effective appeal to the patriotism of Australians. He said - “ Do not allow England to do everything.” I think that is a manly and independent utterance, and one which ought to be adopted by Australia. It is an excellent argument why we should undertake the task of defending ourselves. In 1891, when this question came before the Sydney Convention, the late Sir Henry Parkes, to whom the honorable member for Robertson referred the other evening, spoke with great power upon it. He declared that it was absolutely essential that the Federal naval officers should be placed upon the same footing as the military officers - that they should be under one head, in fact that they should be federated. He considered that indispensable to the proper conduct’ of the defence of Australia. General Edwards, in a report which was frequently quoted during the Federal campaign, expressed the opinion that the federation of the naval and military forces was indispensable. *From that contention he adduced a very strong argument for the political federation of Australia, and on many platforms throughout the Commonwealth that argument was used with powerful effect. Lord Brassey, who is certainly an expert on naval matters, stated that he agreed with very many eminent British admirals that Australians ought to be allowed to contribute to the Imperial defence in a way that suited themselves. All the Australian naval experts, as well as the English naval authorities outside a close ring in the Admiralty, are reported to have expressed a similar opinion. Honorable members will recollect that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne cited a great number of authorities, and urged the Government to rePlY to the statements of those who favour our view of the question. The honorable member for Maranoa this evening made a very happy reference to the attitude taken upon this question by the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, when Premier of South Australia some four years ago, contended that Australia should ‘ not surrender her right of control. I am sorry that he was not able to carry the view that he then expressed. Although I am politically opposed to the right honorable gentleman, I certainly admire the stand which he took upon that occasion. He is one of the best-abused men in the Commonwealth, and it is something to his credit that we can point to him as one who formerly shared our view of this question. The Minister for Defence expressed astonishment that this view had not been put before the House prior to his departure for London with the Prime Minister. But could any Australian have foreseen that .these distinguished gentlemen would quietly surrender the control that Australia possessed under the existing agreement, and, at. the same time, agree to pay an increased subsidy ? The Prime Minister, however, glories in the agreement.
– He thinks that there is no necessity for consulting the country in regard to the change.
– He holds that view, because he thinks the agreement is an excellent one. No doubt the right honorable gentleman is perfectly honest in that . opinion, but we may be allowed to differ from him. My own opinion is - and it is well to speak plainly in regard to these matters - that we have fooled away fourteen years, and thrown away some £1,500,000 without even ‘ having a trained sailor to show for it. To do without an Australian Navy, under Australian control, would be the most absurd policy to adopt ; it would be a criminal and a suicidal policy. The Prime Minister considers that the establishment of an Australian Navy would be impossible; that the expense which it would involve, presents an insurmountable difficulty. Is it right to say that .the expense would be insurmountable, when the question involved is that of defence - a matter of existence? Are we to pay no regard to the fact that the estimated surplus of Customs revenue received this year is £600,000? Are we to forget that we have spent £200,000,000 on railways and public works of various kinds, many of which are highly remunerative? The Estimates which we passed shortly prior to the close of last session contained an item of £140,000 to provide for post-office works. If I were asked whether it was better to allow that item for postal works to stand or to allow our navy to go, I should certainly give .the go-by to the post-office item, and stand by a navy expenditure. I believe that the navy is as essential as is the Parliament itself. There are other large questions involving considerable expenditure that have yet to come before us. There is the question of the site of the Federal capital. No doubt the Federal capital will involve an immense expenditure.
– Not one penny.
– I am anxious to learn what will be the attitude of various honorable members when that question is discussed. We have abo looming in the distance the proposal for the construction of the great transcontinental railway line. I shall not express any opinion either for or against that proposal, but I put it, in all fairness to honorable members from Western Australia, whether they do not think it would be better first to provide a navy to defend the works we possess,, and afterwards to consider any question pf railway construction.
– Most of us want both.
– I must say that I feel very warmly on this subject, and that I am inclined to become indignant in dealing with it. Have we become suddenly bereft of our senses that we talk in this way about the expenditure of £100,000 or £200,000 per annum ? Have we lost all our independence ? Have we no backbone ? Have we no resources that we hesitate to spend an insignificant sum like this for the welfare of the nation ? This is not a question of paltry economy. It is a question of necessity ? It is not a question of mere expense it is a question of existence. Even a Chinaman would not consider the matter of dollars when he had to fight for his life. I do not know whether attention liasbeen drawn to this fact, but I should like to point to the example of three little republics, the population of each of which isnearly equal to that of Australia. Peru has a population of 3,000,000 ; Chili a. population of 3,250,000 ; arid the Argentinea population of 4,500,000 - making a total of 10,750,000. The external trade of those little powers amounts to £73,500,000 per annum ; while the external trade of theCommonwealth, exclusive of New Zealand, represents £92,000,000 per annum. I notice that the Prime Minister is reported to have stated that the external trade of Australia is £109,000,000 per annum. In that calculation he has doubtless included the external trade of New Zealand, but thecorrect figures are those which I have stated. These little independent powers have three independent fleets.
– A re they a success?
– Yes. They are able, at all events, to defend their respectivecountries.
– Those republics are alwaysselling their vessels.
– No doubt they are always ready to sell their vessels, when they become obsolete, to any otherpower which is stupid enough to purchase them. I wish that we could obtain a buyer for some of the vesselsof our fleet. The Prime Minister quoted the case of the Argentine Republic, and pointed out that they were a liberal people, contributing 3s. 9d. per head to the cost of their navy. If they do contribute that sum, they have something to show for their money, and if they are able to sell their vessels from time to time, it must be seen that those vessels are a marketable asset.
– They sell them because they have not the money to keep them in commission.
– We come now to Captain Creswell’s report, which I do not think is very well understood by the public. I have very carefully perused it, and I consider that it is a very cautious practical report. It is not in the least degree revolutionary. Captain Creswell does not suggest, as many seem to think, that England’s control over us should be abolished, or that the Imperial Navy should be shut out. He does not say anything of the kind. His idea is that we should build every two years a cruiser costing £300,000, and that in that way we should gradually replace the Auxiliary Squadron. That is a very sensible proposal. As we replaced the vessels of the Auxiliary Squadron by our own ships, we should, of course, reduce the subsidy to England. The proposal, I think, displays a great deal of independence, and is a thoroughly workable one. In effect, he says “Let us continue the subsidy of £106,000 a year, but let us set aside £150,000 a year out of our revenue to provide for the construction of cruisers of our own.” If this were done, we should have a fleet to guard Australian home interests, whilst the Imperial fleet outside would destroy any sea-wolves preying upon British commerce. If we were to adopt that proposal we should not detract from the strength of Great Britain. . Indeed, we should give her increased strength. If we could relieve Great Britain of the anxiety and responsibility of defending our shores, we should remove an enormous weight from her shoulders, and actually strengthen the Empire. By the adoption of Captain Creswell’s scheme, we should also be in a position to train our own Australian seamen. The question has been asked, “Where should we be able to obtain them ? “ There would be no difficulty, however, in securing them if_ we were ready to pay an adequate wage. Another point which we have to consider is, that by the adoption of the course suggested by Captain Creswell we should avoid the jealousy which would be created by the payment of two distinct rates of pay to British and Australian sailors on the same ship. I was very much impressed the other day by a statement in a periodical that the chief gunners of the United States Navy receive £360 a year. That is a principle in which I believe. In my opinion, good gunnery is of supreme importance, and although we may cut down the salaries of our officers, we should pay as much as we can afford in order to secure the best gunners in the world. If our proposal were adopted, the manning of these war-ships would not be so difficult as it is under the present system. Under the existing arrangement, relief crews are sent out from England every three or four years, and they are constantly passing to and fro. This practice renders it necessary to keep vessels manned to their full strength, and in that way an enormous and unnecessary expenditure is incurred in times of peace. But under a local system these ships might be manned by skeleton crews, and in times of difficulty, when it became necessary to have a full complement of sailors, we should be . able to draw upon the reserves. I am thoroughly Australian. I think we ought to hoist the Australian flag to the masthead, and be Australians in every sense of the word. But if we have no courage, if we have not the heart to face this difficulty, we should change our flag. We should blot out the magnificent, glittering stars in the Australian standard, and put in their place a miserable skulking dingo, signifying that we cannot defend ourselves. Perhaps it would be appropriate to use a kangaroo with his tail between his legs, ‘ because naturalists tell us that the tail is a lever which is essential to the progression of that animal. He is a bounding kangaroo if the tail works, but when it is between his legs he is no good for anything. In the same way Australia, if we pass this Bill, will lose all control of her naval defence. The honorable member for Parramatta made. a speech which, although it enunciates views which are opposed to mine, seemed to me an excellent contribution to the debate, and likely to be of great assistance to the Government. He admitted, however, that this magnificent agreement has a blot on it. The blot, he says, is the provision under which the fleet may be suddenly called away to police the Eastern seas, leaving Australia absolutely defenceless. He said that he would try to alter that provision in Committee, but in the next breath he told us that all agreements must go down before a great Imperial necessity involving the fate of the Empire. If that be so, what is the use of an agreement at all ? He concluded with an expression of his intention to vote for the Bill, because he considered the agreement the best we could get, and because the Admiralty had asked for it.
Mr.Watson. - The PrimeMinister has stated that he did not try to get any other terms.
– Yes, and how do we know that he could not have got other terms if he had asked for them? I think we should still try to obtain some other arrangement. Thehonorable member for Parramatta ridiculed the idea of building a fleet by one vessel at a time ; but how else could we do it? I come finally to the statements which have been made with regard to the want of patriotism in the suggestion that Australia should have a navy of her own. It has been said that it is disloyal to Great Britain for us to build a fleet of our own. That is a very strange statement in view of the fact that for the last 50 years the statesmen of Great Britain have been complaining of the enormous and intolerable load imposed upon that country by the expenditure upon the colonies. Now we are told, when we propose to relieve her of part of the burden, that it would be disloyal to do so. It is also said that to build an Australian Navy would lead to the cutting of the painter. That is a favorite phrase which is always used whenever a reform is suggested. All of us know that the abolition of transportation to Australia was not obtained without a tremendous struggle on our part. England would be sending convicts here still if we had not refused to take them. In the same way we had to battle for the rights of self-government. They were not forced upon us by England. We have had to fight for every reform which we have secured. Two years ago, when we passed the Pacific Island Labourers Bill, the English Government acted nobly in presenting it promptly for the Royal assent ; but they would not have done so if we had been mealy-mouthed on the subject, and were not ready to insist on the carrying out of our wishes. If we are not vigilant in looking after the interests of Australia, we cannot expect others to do much for us. Notwithstanding all this talk about the Butting of the painter, the bond between
England and Australia is stronger to-day than it ever was before. On the subject of disloyalty one must speak with bated breath, but there are many of His Majesty’s subjects in every rank of life, aristocrats as well as democrats, who hold the most radical views, and are theoretical or philosophic republicans. At the same timethey are peaceable men of the highest honour, and their loyalty is not questioned. Good-natured and loyal as the Imperialists may be according to their light, they are no more to be trusted than are those who holdrepublican opinions. If all who held such views were dubbed disloyal, the cream of England would come under the accusation.
– Mr. Chamberlain could be condemned out of his own mouth.
– Yes. The most notable men in England are known to be impregnated with radical views ; but every one recognises that England is really a republic, and that her Prime Minister really takes the place of a President. She is a republic in all but name. That being so, it is unwise to insult those who wish to create an Australian. Navy by saying that they are disloyal, and want to cut the painter. We desire to make the relations of Great Britain and Australia closer, but we wish to be independent of Great Britain in the matter of defence. We have to thank the Prime Minister for the very exhaustive speech which he made in introducing the measure. Its preparation must have involved immense trouble, and’ its. matter has been the basis of half the speeches which have followed it. I thoroughly, sympathize with the noble words of Longfellow which he quoted in his peroration -
Sail on, 0 ship of State :
Sail on, 0 union strong and great.
I think, however, that Longfellow’s bones would have turned in their grave if he knew that his lines were being used to support an . agreement so absolutely servile as this one is. I shall vote against the second reading.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Kennedy) adjourned.
– I have great pleasure in moving -
That the Bill he now read a second time.
This is a measure which has been before Parliament for nearly two years, and I think that the time has arrived when we should place it upon the statute-book. I gave a good deal of attention to the subject with which it deals before it was presented to the House last session, though I then had not had much experience in the drafting of a Defence Bill. But, notwithstanding, I think that the measure then introduced did not deserve half the ill -things which were said of it, and that, if it had gone through Committee, the amendments made in it would not have been so many as might have been expected after reading the remarks of some of those who spoke upon its second reading. I have since that time, in addition to the advantage which I obtained from reading the speeches to which I refer, given much attention to the subject, and I believe that the measure in its present shape will be found suitable to our requirements. It has been stated that in speaking on the second reading of the Defence Bill introduced last session I said very little about those provisions in it which dealt with the naval forces of the Commonwealth ; but, as almost every clause of this Bill applies to both the military and naval forces, the remarks I then made and those I make to-night in regard to the military control will apply equally, unless the contrary is specifically stated, to the naval control. I shall, no doubt, find it difficult to clothe my speech on a subject such as a Defence Bill with words which will make the subject attractive to honorable members, but as the discussion of the second reading of the Naval Agreement Bill is affording an opportunity for the expression of patriotic sentiment, I purpose on this occasion to. confine my remarks to a clear statement of the provisions of the measure, which is a purely machinery Bill for . the control of the Defence Force of the Commonwealth. Before I embark upon my task, however, I should like to say ‘ a word or two in regard to another matter. I have been credited in this House, and I am afraid to some extent in the country - though for what reason I have not been able to understand - with having extravagant and reckless ideas as to the expenditure of public money, characteristics which are altogether inconsistent with my life’s work, and quite out of keeping with the reputation I have 6m earned, and which, I am glad to say, I still enjoy, in the State which I represent. I suppose that I have been held up to the public as reckless and extravagant because I have advocated the construction of a great work, having for its object the binding together of the people of the Eastern and Western, sides of Australia with “ hoops of steel,” and which I believe, would not only make federation for the whole of Australia a reality, but would also prove reproductive; and it may be also becaus’e I have great faith in the future of Australia, if our affairs are wisely, energetically, and generously administered. I know that the criticism which has been passed on me has been offered in good part, but still I do not wish to be considered as in any sense unmindful of the interests of the public, so far as the careful husbanding of the finances is concerned. If I had been, I should never have occupied the position of Premier of Western Australia for so long a period. The next matter to which I wish to refer is the statement that my views are strongly Imperialistic, by which it is sought, I think, to infer that I am out of sympathy with the wishes and aspirations of Australia. The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, described me as the most Imperialistic member of the House. I am proud to say I am Imperialistic, in the sense that I believe in Australia being as closely allied as is possible to the mother country. I take this view for “the very good reason that I appreciate the generous action of the mother country towards us, and for the further reason - that I believe that it is to our interest to for ever remain in the closest bonds of union and affection with the old country. I am not prepared, however, to do anything that would in the slightest degree limit our freedom, or interfere with our constitutional rights, nor would I give up anything to which we are “ fairly entitled. I believe that the people of the mother country are our best and surest friends. They have proved to be so in the past, and therefore, I am firmly convinced that, in assisting any movement that will promote the advantage of the Empire, I am doing that which is best for Australia. After all, we must never forget that we are bone of their bone, and that “ our fate and theirs for good or ill are woven threads.” Now, turning to the Bill, I may mention at the outset that it does not provide for any expenditure. On a former occasion, when a similar Bill was before us, many honorable members discussed the whole . question of expenditure upon the defences of Australia, and the strength of our forces, and much valuable information upon naval and military matters was furnished during that debate. I propose, however, on this occasion to confine my attention strictly to the provisions of the measure before us. The Bill has nothing to do with the strength of past, present, or future naval or military forces. It is a machinery Bill providing for all the requisite powers of organization and control for our present forces and those which may be hereafter constituted. Under the Bill the Commonwealth may have a large force or a small one. “ “We may have military forces numbering 100 men or 100,000 men. We can have one ship of war or 1,000 ships ; in fact, there is no limit in this Bill, as to the power of Parliament as to contraction or expansion in regard to either military or naval affairs. There is nothing very novel in the Bill, I am glad to say, because it is far better, if possible, to legislate in a direction which will be familiar to the people of Australia rather than to strike out into untrodden paths. The measure recognises that the military and naval forces of the Commonwealth shall be constituted almost entirely of citizen soldiers, and that the primary duty of such forces is to defend Australia from invasion or attack. Provision is made for a permanent force, which will, under existing conditions, be only sufficient for the purpose of manning the forts and ships, working the submarine mines, arid instructing the citizen forces. With the exception of this permanent force (which does not number, at present, more than 1,300 men for the whole Commonwealth), all theset will be citizen soldiers. The citizen forces are divided into three classes, namely, militia, or partially-paid forces ; volunteers, who get no pay, a capitation allowance being provided for corps purposes; and reserve forces, consisting of the members of rifle clubs and others, who may .be enlisted as reservists. Before I go further, I desire to thank my honorable and learned colleague, the Attorney-General and his officers for the assistance they have rendered me in drafting this Bill. I am afraid I gave them a good deal of trouble, but they most willingly extended to me all the help in their power. I am also grateful for the assistance given by the General Officer Commanding, and the Secretary for Defence, and by the many other authorities whom I consulted in framing this measure. I desire, however, to say that I am responsible for the shape in which the Bill is now presented to honorable members. There are a few points in the Bill not quite in accordance with the recommendations of the General Officer Commanding, especially on one important point, i He does not approve of the provision that the citizen forces shall not be required to’ serve, in time of war, beyond the limits of the Commonwealth. The General Officer Commanding thinks that power should be taken to send them wherever they may be required. I do not take that view. I think that if a citizen is willing to assist his country by enrolling himself as a soldier, and gives his time and attention to defence matters during periods of peace, in order to qualify himself for military service in the defence of Australia, in time of wai-, it is unreasonable to expect him also to serve in some far-off land. If, however, he desires to take part in any expedition abroad, provision is made to enable him to volunteer to do so. I am of opinion that citizen soldiers should not be compelled to do more than protect their country from invasion and resist attacks upon it. Under the Constitution, the control of the Federal forces is vested in the Governor-General, and the Bill, of course, is framed accordingly. Under clause 4 the term “ GovernorGeneral” is defined as meaning -
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth, or the person for the time being administering the Government of the Commonwealth, acting with the advice of the Executive Council.
I repeat that this Bill g”ives no authority to spend money. Honorable members may vote for all its provisions with the full assurance that under it no expenditure oan be incurred unless the money for the purpose is appropriated by Parliament ‘in the* ordinary way. Clause 7 puts the matter very concisely and clearly. It says -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken as an appropriation of any public moneys.
Nearly all the powers contained in this Bill already exist in the various States Acts. Every State of the Commonwealth has a Defence Act of its own, and all the chief powers which must be incorporated in any Commonwealth Defence Act already find a place in the Acts of the States’. During the past two years great difficulty has been experienced in administering the Defence Department because we have had to administer it under six separate State Acts. We desire to overcome that difficulty by providing a consolidated Defence Act which shallgovern the whole of the forces of the Commonwealth. I repeat that during the past two years, it has been difficult to administer the Defence Department, and to keep within the laws of the States. Difficulty has been experienced in removing officers and men of the Permanent Forces - especially the latter - from one State to another, and we have had to adopt the expedient of requiring men to volunteer for transfer. But when this Bill becomes law, there will be no obstacle in the way of moving the permanent forces from any part of the Commonwealth to any other part. Of course, that provision does not apply to our citizen soldiers. It has been questioned whether I have acted legally in undertaking the reorganization and re-arrangement of the forces without the authority of an Act of this Parliament. I think I shall be able to show that not only have I acted legally, but that I have acted also in a way that will meet with the approval of this House, I have adopted a course which will give honorable members an opportunity of considering and reviewing, if necessary, these acts of administration. I repeat that the Department has been legally administered under the States Acts, and under sections 70 and 108 of the Constitution. Section 108 provides -
Every law in force in a colony which has become or becomes a State, and relating to any matter within the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, shall, subject to this Constitution, continue in force in the State ; and until provision is made in that behalf by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, the Parliament of the State shall have such powers of alteration and of repeal in respect of any such law as the Parliament of the colony had, until the colony became a State.
That means, that until this Parliament legislates upon defence matters the States are at liberty to alter their laws in regard to those matters. None of the States, however, have legislated in that direction since the establishment of the Commonwealth. Therefore, the laws that were in force when the Defence Department was transferred to the Federation, are still operative, and under those laws we have been administering the forces in the respective States. Section 70 of the Constitution provides -
In respect of matters which, under this Constitution, pass to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth, all powers and functions which at the establishment of the Commonwealth are vested in the Governor of a colony, or in the Governor of a colony with the advice of his Executive Council, or in any authority of a colony, shall vest in the Governor-General or in the Governor-General in Council, or in the authority exercising similar powers under the Commonwealth, as the case requires.
That provision means that for all the purposes of administering the States Acts, wherever the term “Governor “ is mentioned, the power which was before Federation vested in the Governor of a colony is now vested in the Governor-General. Similarly, where the word “Minister” - meaning a Minister of a colony before Federation - is used, the power vested in him is transferred to the Minister for Defence for the Commonwealth. Under these two sections, viz., 70 and 108, we have been able to administer the Defence Department in each State according to the law which operated in that State prior to the Department being transferred. It has been urged that it would have been wiser if the Government had not taken over the Defence Department until the passing of a uniform Defence Act. I am entirely opposed to that idea. I believe that it is the duty of the Commonwealth in this, as in all other matters, to take upon itself at the earliest possible moment all the powers and authorities which are conferred upon it by the Constitution. If we had not acted thus in regard to the Department of Defence, we should at the present time have occupied nearly the same position as we occupied on the 1st March, 1901, when the Department was transferred. But what have we been doing since? Notwithstanding that we have not a Commonwealth Defence Act, we have used the powers vested in us as far as we possibly could. We have re-organized the forces, and within a very few days that reorganization scheme will be approved, and have the force of law. We have also re-adjusted the pay of the forces, so that practically every person of equal rank at present in the Defence force - wherever he may be serving - receives the same remuneration. There may be a few small exceptions to this rule, but all the questions of allowances and pay have been virtually settled. The allowance system has been almost entirely abolished, so that when honorable members see certain salaries provided upon the Estimates for certain officers, they will know that they represent all that they receive. The rates of pay have been gazetted, and ate now known to all the forces. Then, again, we have arranged and gazetted uniform dress regulations. We have also arranged and gazetted financial, regulations in regard to defence administration, which are applicable to the whole Commonwealth. In fact, almost everything essential to the uniform control and management of the forces throughout Australia has been attended to and settled. It is intended that the regulations relating to the re-organization scheme shall come into force as from the 1st July. I do not know how these facts present themselves to honorable members, but it seems to me that if I had remained inactive during the past two years, and in submitting this Bill to the House had informed honorable members that I. proposed to do all these things after a Federal Defence Act was passed, while knowing all the time that the laws of the States gave me the necessary legal power, I should have been open to very great censure. Indeed, I would much rather run the risk of making mistakes in attempting to accomplish something than to sit still and do nothing, and thus run no possible risk. .The regulations relating ‘to’ the re-organization and rearrangement of the forces will be laid upon the table of the House very shortly, and if honorable members wish to make any suggestions they will have an opportunity of doing so. But had I waited until this Bill passed and Parliament was in recess before arranging and gazetting these changes, honorable members would have had no opportunity of even criticising any arrangements which had been made till the next meeting of Parliament. ‘ In such circumstances, the next Parliament, and not this, would have had the. first opportunity of dealing with the re-organization of the defence forces as a concrete whole. I should feel absolutely ashamed if I had to inform honorable members that the work of re-organization had not been grappled with and completed. I should feel that I was urging honorable members to agree to a measure as representing the foundation upon which the whole structure had to be built, when I knew very well that the necessary legal authority’ or foundation was already in existence. The pressing necessity for this. Bill is that the authority we exercise is based - upon the Defence Acts of the six separate States, which renders the administration very difficult. This measure, however, will consolidate and amend the whole of those six laws, and will of course be found to be much more convenient. I am very pleased to be able to inform honorable members that nearly the whole of the work of reogranization has been accomplished, and that when the Estimates are laid upon the table it will be found that they represent not what is to be, but something that is already in existence. I am especially gratified to be able to make this statement, because from the day that I entered political life I have found that if -a Minister has anything good to tell, he should by all means tell it. If, on the other hand, he has any admission to make of an error of judgment on his part, he should be equally ready to confess his mistake to Parliament. During’ my long career in the State Parliament, I invariably found that if a Minister freely and openly admitted that he had made an error, or had done something that he should not have done, honorable members were more inclined to take a generous view of the matter. It is the devious path and not the straight one that is difficult to follow. I am satisfied that when the Defence Estimates are presented to Parliament, honorable members will admit that I have pursued the right course, and that there would have been no excuse for delay in carrying out the uniform organization.
– Have the Rifle Clubs Regulations been gazetted ?
– Yes. I feel sure that honorable members will deal with this measure on its merits. It has nothing to do with any supposed faulty administration, and, therefore, this is not the occasion on which to deal with any supposed grievances which honorable members may have as to the general working of the Department. We have to consider the provisions of this Bill, and any criticism which honorable members may have to offer in regard to any supposed faulty administration should be deferred until the Estimates are presented to the House. Failing that course, a special Opportunity should be sought to ventilate’ such matters. For these reasons, I do not propose to import into my speech any reference to the administration of the Department or to the question of expenditure. Those matters are wholly foreign to this Bill. The measure is designed to deal with the formation, control and discipline of the Defence Forces. It does not appropriate one farthing. It does not declare how much shall be spent, or the way in which the votes of Parliament shall be expended. It deals with the division of the forces into permanent troops, militia, volunteers, and reserves. If it were possible to-night to pass this Bill through all its stages, I am satisfied that much good would result, and no harm. I do not believe that special exception can be taken to any of its provisions. It seems to me that it is a very plain, straightforward measure, and that it contains nothing that should give rise to any great controversy. I am, of course, expressing these views because of the desire which I entertain that honorable members should be spared the necessity of discussing the measure at length. The personnel of this House is the same as it was eighteen months ago, when the original Defence Bill was discussed at great length. Unfortunately, owing to a sad family bereavement, I was unable to be present during the debate on the motion for the second reading of that measure. The discussion was a very exhaustive one. It dealt with the whole range of the defence question - past, present, and, future, and in view of these facts, I scarcely think that it will be at length found necessary to debate this motion. I have given a good deal of attention to the speeches that were delivered during the second-reading debate on the Bill introduced last session, and I trust that honorable members will find evidence in this Bill that the opinions expressed by them on that occasion have not been wholly disregarded.
– So. that we have in reality already dealt with this measure 1
– Yes. I find that out of the total of 75 members, 43 spoke upon the second-reading debate on the old Bill, and that the report of those speeches extends over no fewer than- 205 pages of Hansard. For the most part, those speeches were of a most exhaustive character - a fact which I mention simply to show that this subject has already been well discussed by honorable members. To my mind, this Bill has been better arranged than was the original measure. For the most part, what -was in the old Bill is to be found in this one; but in several respects it will be found that this measure is a great improvement on the last. I have no desire to interfere with the right which honorable members possess to discuss at length the provisions of this measure, but I am, of course, anxious that it should be passed this session. Many other matters of pressing importance are engaging our attention, and it was really only by chance that I secured the opportunity to night to move the second reading of this Bill. If we have to return to our homes at the close of this Parliament without having placed the Bill, either in its present shape or as amended to meet the desires of honorable members, on the statutebook, I shall deeply deplore the fact. I shall refer now specially to some of the provisions of the Bill. It will be noticed that it is to come into force on a date to be fixed by proclamation. That provision has been inserted in order to avoid any inconvenience. No doubt the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has noticed that the Bill makes no reference to the King’s regulations, and that it will therefore be necessary for us to frame our own regulations. It would be. inconvenient to have the measure in operation in the absence of the regulations that are to be framed under it. We propose to frame those regulations as soon as possible after the Bill is passed, and the Act and regulations will then be brought into operation at the same time.
– Do not sections 50, 51, and 52 make the King’s regulations apply to the forces ? Section 50, for example, provides that the naval forces shall at certain times - be subject , to all laws and regulations to which the King’s naval forces are subject.
– I shall deal later on with that matter. Honorable members will be pleased to see that that the word, “ emergency,” to the presence of which in the original Bill so much exception was taken, does not find a place in this measure. In lieu of employing that word to define national danger and in relation to the calling out of Forces, we have inserted the terms “ time of war “ and “ war.” In the interpretation clause it is provided that - “War” means any invasion or threatened invasion of, or attack or threatened attack on, the Commonwealth or any territory under the control of the Common wealth by an enemy or armed force, and includes war or the danger of war the existence of which is proclaimed by the GovernorGeneral.
It is also provided that - ‘ Time of war “ means any time during which a state of war exists -
– Where? What is ‘ ‘ war”?
– The clause continues - and includes the time between the issue of a proclamation of the existence of war or of danger thereof and the issue of a proclamation declaring that the war or danger thereof, declared in the prior proclamation, no longer exists.
The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne inquires “ what is war “? What does he think it is ?
– I desire to know what the Minister will proclaim to be “ war “ ?
– The definition is quite clear in the Bill. “ War “ means war or the danger of war in which our nation is or is likely to be engaged. The use of these terms, together with the definition of them which is given in the interpretation clause, will more clearly express our intentions than did the employment of the word “emergency” in the old Bill. No doubt the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne will have something to say on this subject, and any new light that he may throw upon these definitions by which they can be improved will be welcomed by me. In clause 6 we provide that the States Acts shall cease to apply ; but the previous operation of anyof these Acts is not affected by this provision. We come now to Part II. of the Bill, which relates to administration. It gives power to the Governor-General to appoint a general officer to command the military forces, and a naval officer to command the naval forces ; to make appointments and give promotion to officers ; and to allot military districts. Clause 10 provides that -
All officers of the military and naval forces holding office at the commencement of this Act shall continue to hold office as if appointed under this Act.
This clause will save a great deal of trouble. The appointment of each existing officer, instead of having to be regazetted, will be confirmed by the operation of the Act. Clause 11 is an important one. It provides that, if there is an equality of qualifications, preference shall be given in the first appointment of officers to persons who have served for three years in the defence force without a commission. I think that that is a reasonable and fair preference. Other qualifications being equal, persons who have been serving without a commission should be chosen as officers before persons who have not served at all. Clause 15 contains the usual provision in regard to Army and Navy appointments, that officers shall hold their appointments during the pleasure of the Governor-General. Under clause 1 7, the seniority of officers in their respective ranks is regulated by the date of their commissions. This provision was not in the same shape in the old Bill. In that measure it was provided that the seniority of officers should be determined by the Governor-General, but I have come to the conclusion that it is better to leave things as they were when we took over the Departments from the States. This will not be altogether satisfactory, because in some of the States promotion was more rapid than in others, and therefore colonels are to be found in one State who have less service than officers of lower rank in another State. Any attempt, however, at classification would probably create more dissatisfaction than to leave matters as they stand, and in time the difficulty will no doubt cure itself. Under clause 1 9, no officer below the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the military forces, or of commander in the naval forces, can be promoted unless he has previously passed the prescribed examination for promotion to a higher rank. We must have efficiency, and it is absolutely wrong to appoint a man to the command of others unless he is qualified for the position. Indeed, I hold that it would be a criminal act to do so, because the lives of soldiers are intrusted to the officers who command them.
– Will the right honorable gentleman retire officers who are inefficient?
– No officer below the rank of lieutenant-colonel, or of commander, can obtain promotion until he has proved his efficiency by passing the prescribed examination. Clause 20 is one which should find favour with my honorable friend the member for Maranoa, who has had military service. It provides that -
The Governor-General may appoint any person to be an officer, or may promote an officer for distinguished service, or for marked ability and gallantry in active service, without his passing the prescribed examination.
– Why not give similar promotion to men who are not engaged in active service 1
– In my opinion, we must draw the line very strictly to prevent the promotion of persons who have not proved their efficiency, but we must not close the door to promotion against men who have shown valour and gallantry on the field of battle. Under clause 25 provision is made for the compulsory retirement of officers at ages which are to be specified by regulation, but the Governor-General may extend the time for two years if good cause is shown. Clause 26 will carry into effect a wish which has been expressed by some honorable members, because it provides that a Military and Naval College may be established for imparting education in the various branches of naval and military science, and’ in subjects connected with the military and naval professions. Since I introduced the former Bill, I have had an opportunity of visiting, in company with my right honorable and learned colleague, the Prime Minister, Kingston College, in Canada. We found it to be an excellent institution, where a good college education was being given. The fees charged were not, I think, very low, but I was very much impressed with the character of the education imparted. I heard from many sources that those who have graduated from the college have taken good positions as engineers, and in other professions in the United States and in Canada. I think, however, that it is a defect in the Canadian system that no preference is given to graduates who desire to enter the military service of Canada. To my mind, that should be a sine qua non in the establishment of such an institution. The door should be left open for, and provision should be made for, officers to be recruited from it for the permanent service, otherwise the value of the college for military purposes would be greatly lessened. The matter, however, is one which can be discussed when the Government ask Parliament to pass a vote for the establishment of such a college, and that will not be possible this session. Part III., Division I., of the Bill deals with the constitution of the Defence Force. Honorable members will notice that it divides the force into two branches, the Permanent and Citizen forces. I do not know who invented the latter term, but I consider it an excellent one, and I believe I am the first to introduce it into a statute. At any rate, I have not found it in any other Act of Parliament. There are to be only two kinds of soldiers in this country - those who are permanently engaged in manning the forts, in looking after the armaments, and in instructing the Citizen Forces ; and the Citizen Forces, who are divided into Militia, Volunteers, and Reserves. The Militia are partially paid, while the Volunteers get no pay at all. The Reserves consist of the Rifle Clubs, and of persons who have served in the active forces or otherwise, as may be prescribed. Members of Rifle Clubs are to be under an obligation to serve within the Commonwealth in time of war, and are to be considered part of the military system. Last year, the expenditure upon Rifle Clubs was about £40,000, of which the greater part was expended on ammunition. The members of these clubs are not required to attend drills unless they desire to do so, and they are not forced to provide themselves with uniforms unless they wish to, but it is clearly ‘laid down that they will be under an obligation to serve within the Commonwealth in the time of war. The second division of Part III. deals with the raising of the Defence Force and the enlistment and discharge of its members. Clause 30 gives the Governor-General power to -
Raise, maintain, and organize in the manner prescribed such permanent and citizen forces as he deems necessary for the defence and protection of the Commonwealth and of the several States.
Clause 3 1 provides that the existing forces are to be deemed to have been raised under the Act, but any member other than a member of the permanent forces may retire within three months after its commencement on giving, in writing, fourteen days’ notice. Clause 32 declares that, except as provided in Part IV., the provisions of which I shall deal with presently -
The Defence Force shall be raised and kept up by voluntary enlistment only.
Voluntary enlistment is the principle which underlies the service of our citizen soldiery.
– Does the Bill give the Government power to compel all adult males to submit themselves for military training?
– No. Under clause 33 -
Persons voluntarily enlisting as members of the active forces shall engage to serve for a prescribed period of not less than three years, and are to be exempt from the obligation of serving upon juries. Clause 40 allows the Governor-General at any time, by order published in the Gazette, to disband any corps, or portion of a corps, and to dispense with the services of any officer, soldier, or sailor, should it be thought desirable to do so. Then comes Part III., Division 3, which deals with the service of the forces. Clause 41 provides that the permanent forces - shallat all times be liable to be employed on active service, and in the defence and protection of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and under clause 42 their services- may at all times be utilized wherever required, either within or beyond the limits of the Commonwealth.
The permanent forces consist of those who have voluntarily made soldiering their profession - not men who have been pressed into the service and told, “You must serve the Commonwealth as soldiers.” They adopt soldiering as their profession, and will be only too glad to have the opportunity to show what they are made of. That being so, it seems to me that it would be the height of folly for the Commonwealth to limit its powers in regard to the service that may be required of them.
– What use will the Commonwealth have for their services beyond its limits ?
– Even if the Commonwealth is unlikely to have any use for their services beyond its limits, there is no reason why we should curtail our power to use their services wherever we think fit. The men who enlist will enlist with the knowledge that they may be called upon to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth, and in becoming members of the permanent forces of the Commonwealth will agree to serve wherever they may be sent. The soldiers of England agree to do so, and our permanent soldiers will be only too willing to enter into a similar under taking.
– Is the right honorable member clear that the clause is within the powers conferred by the Constitution?
– I believe it is but the honorable and learned member can discuss that matter with my honorable and learned colleague, the Attorney-General.
– But is not the right honorable gentleman a Doctor of Laws ?
– In my opinion it is only reasonable that the Executive Government which is responsible to Parliament should have the right to say where the permanent forces of the Commonwealth shall serve.
– That was the provision which led to the defeat of the Bill last year.
– The Bill was not defeated, but I think the provision that was objected to in the Billlast session was that provision which required citizen soldiers to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth. Clause 43 deals with the Citizen Forces, and provides that -
The Governor-General may in time of a war, by Proclamation, call out the Citizen forces, or any part thereof, for active service.
The proclamation must state the reason for calling out the forces. If Parliament is sitting when the proclamation is issued, the reason must forthwith be communicated by the Governor-General to both Houses. Clause 44 provides that the Citizen Forces shall be liable to employment upon active service when they are called out. “ Active service “ is defined in the interpretation clause to mean -
Service in or with a force which is engaged in operations against the enemy, and includes any military or naval service in time of war.
In clause 45 it is provided that -
Members of the Citizen Porces who are members of the naval forces may be required to serve either within or beyond the limits of the Commonwealth for the purpose of training, or in time of war for the defence and protection of the Commonwealth and of the several States.
It would be absurd, of course, to provide that the citizens belonging to the naval forces should not be required to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth, because in many cases such a provision would have the effect of taking away their usefulness as citizen soldiers, or more properly speaking, sailors. We should have to ask their consent before they could be taken outside Port Phillip or Sydney Heads, and therefore if we are to have naval forces composed of citizens, they must be required to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth for the purposes specified. They are not to be required to go to any distant part ‘of the world, such as’Kamschatka or Japan, but their services must be employed “ for the defence and protection of the Commonwealth and of the several States.”
– That is a corollary of the naval agreement.
– I have endeavoured to make the provision upon this point as reasonable as possible, so that all the purposes of our defences might be served, whilst at the same time safeguarding the interests of the members of our citizen forces. In clause 46 it is provided that -
Every part of the Citizen Forces employed on active service shall forthwith, after it ceases to be so employed, be returned to the military district to which it belongs.
Clause 47 provides that -
Where a Governor of a State has proclaimed that domestic violence exists therein, the GovernorGeneral, upon the application of the Executive Government of the State, may, by proclamation declare that domestic violence exists in that State, and may call out the permanent forces, and, in the event of their numbers being insufficient, may also call out such of the militia and volunter forces as may be necessary for the protection of that State, and the services of the forces so called out may be utilized accordingly for the protection of that State against domestic violence.
The Constitution lays upon us the obligation to protect every State against invasion or domestic violence, and therefore we could not avoid inserting this provision. 1 find that a statute passed in the United States in 1902-3, Act No. 196, intituled “ An Act to Promote the Efficiency of the Militia and other Forces,” contains the following clause : -
That whenever the United States is invaded or in danger of invasion from any foreign nation, or of a rebellion against the authority of the Government of the United States, or the President is unable with the other forces at his command to execute the laws of the Union in any part thereof, it shall be lawful for the President to call forth, for a period not exceeding nine months, such number of the militia of the State or of the States or territories or of the District of Columbia, as he may deem necessary to repel such invasion, suppress such rebellion, or to enable him to execute such laws and to issue his orders for that purpose to such officers of the militia as he may think proper.
– Military forces have been very improperly used in the United States.
– The conditions in the United States are not the same as ours. They have a considerable permanent force, and we have not. The Commonwealth would be absolutely helpless to fulfil its obligation to the several States if it were not possible to callout the citizen soldiers for the suppression of domestic violence. There are at present only 1,300 men of all ranks in the permanent forces scattered throughout the various parts of the Commonwealth, and we should not be able to fulfil our duty under the Constitution if we were restricted to the use of these forces for the purpose of suppressing domestic violence.
– The section in the United States Act refers to violence against the Federal authorities.
– I may inform honorable members that this clause was framed and approved of by the Government before I had any knowledge of the provision which I have quoted from the United States ‘ statute, and it is satisfactory to notice how closely the language of the American clause is in accord with that adopted in the Bill.
– There is no power under thelaw of the United States to declare that there is war by proclamation ; whereas in the Bill submitted by the Minister there is war if the Government say there is war. The United States Act does not go as far as is proposed here.
– On the contrary, I think it is very much stronger, as the militia may be called out without any request from a State Government and without any proclamation for the purpose of repelling invasion, suppressing rebellion, or to execute the laws of the Union. I am sure that I am expressing the views of the Government when I say that we felt that we had no alternative but to insert this clause; otherwise we should not have incorporated it in the Bill. If we had a large force of permanent soldiers it might not have been necessary, and the clause provides that only in cases in which the permanent forces are not sufficient shall the citizen soldiers be called out!, and in any case it can only be done after the Governor of a State has proclaimed that domestic violence exists therein and on the application of the Executive Government of a State.
– But the responsibility will rest with the Federal Government all the same.
– Yes, that is no doubt so. In Part III., Division 4, will be found general provisions in regard to drill and training and the command of the forces in time of war. Clause 50 provides that -
The Governor-General may, for the purpose of training, or in time of war, for the defence and protection of the Commonwealth and of the several States, place the Naval Forces or any part thereof on board any ship of the King’s Royal Navy, and during the time they are so placed they shall be under the command of the officer commanding the ship upon which they are placed, and he subject to all laws and regulations to which the King’s Naval Forces are subject.
The two following clauses provide that the military and naval forces shall be subject to the Army Act and the Naval Discipline Act respectively. The provisions contained in the Defence Bill introduced last session regarding the King’s regulations and the Admiralty instructions have been omitted from the measure, so that our forces will be subject to our own regulations only. There is also a provision in clause 53 that -
When any member of the Defence Force is killed on active service, or on duty, or dies or becomes incapacitated from earning his living from wounds or disease contracted on active service, provision shall be made for his wife and family out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund at the prescribed rates.
Part IV. of the Bill contains provisions relating to the liability of the whole male population of Australia to serve in the militia forces in time of war, similar provisions to which already exist in the Defence Acts of Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania. Without these provisions contained- in clauses 55 to 57 of the Bill it would be sufficient for all ordinary, purposes, but I think that it is wise to insert these clauses, for reasons which I shall endeavour to explain. Every citizen has the obligation cast upon him to defend his country in time of war. I think that is recognised in all parts of the world.
– There is a conscience clause in a number of Acts.
– And exemptions are provided for under this .Bill.
– The provisions in Part IV. of the Bill do no more than hall-mark - if I may use that term - the obligation which rests on all of us to serve our country in time of great peril. They can only become operative at a time of great national danger, in the event, for instance, of an invasion or attack by a strong hostile force. Honorable members will notice that it is provided that if Parliament is sitting, the reason for calling out under this part of the Bill has to be communicated to it, before the Proclamation is issued^ hut if Parliament is not sitting at’ the time at which the Governor-General by proclamation calls upon persons liable to serve to enlist, it must be summoned at once. Therefore the action of the Government will be subject to the immediate review of the Legislature. My principal reason for wishing these provisions inserted is that they will enable us to present a bold front to the world. They will show that we have 1,000,000 men capable of bearing arms, who are liable to be called upon to serve in order to defend their country from invasion. It ‘ is far better to have these matters arranged beforehand, although I hope the necessity may never arise for carrying the scheme into effect. The male inhabitants of Australia who are liable to be called upon to serve in time of war are divided into four classes. The first class embraces all men of the age of 18 years and upwards, but under 30 years, who are unmarried, or are widowers without children. These would be called out first, and the number available is 326,000. The second class comprises all men of the age of 30 and upwards, but under 45 years, who are unmarried or widowers without children. Of these there are 149,000 who would be called out second. The third class is made up of men of the age of 18 and upwards, but under 45 years, who are married or widowers with children, and of these there are 341,000 who would be called out third. The fourth class consists of men of the age of 45 years and upwards, but under 60 years, of whom there are 189,000 who would be the last to be called out. These figures aggregate 1,005,000. These are. all healthy men, and are exclusive ‘ of those who are in the hospitals or are not available because of sickness. Thus we have over 1,000,000 . men who could resist an invasion of this country. I desire to show the world that, while we have such an immense number of our people available to resist invasion, we cannot be regarded as defenceless. I do not think it can be fairly urged that there is any element of what is called conscription in the proposed arrangement for the defence of our hearths and homes in times of great difficulty and peril.
– How would the Minister arm the forces t
– We should find some kind of weapons for them, even if we have ‘ to resort to pick-axes. As I have already informed honorable members, if this clause be omitted, the Bill will not be in-
Ijured in in its other portions. No other clauses are dependent upon it ; but I feel that it is a good provision to insert in order that the people of the world may know that Australia possesses a million of hale and hearty men, under 60 years of age, who are ready to resist any attack upon its shores. For that reason I trust honorable members will agree to incorporate it in the Bill. Clause 57 declares -
It will be remembered that when the Defence Bill was under consideration last session, it contained a long list of persons who were exempted from military service. It seems that to exempt certain individuals is to create invidious distinctions, and seeing that the bringing into operation of Part IV. of this Bill is a remote contingency, I hold that this is a power which might well be left in the hands of the Executive of the day.
– There should be no exemptions.
– There must be some. For example, Parliament might be sitting, whilst a state of war prevailed. At the same time the Bill defines no classes as being exempt from service.
– Some people entertain conscientious scruples against military service.
– Yes : I have received a letter in that connexion from the Society of Friends, in which I am informed that its members are everywhere exempt from military service. When the emergency arises, if it ever does, the GovernorGeneral of the day will, no doubt, deal with this matter in a fair and reasonable way. It is unnecessary to specially exempt any -one in the Bill. As a rule I sympathize with any one possessed of conscientious scruples, because many people have not -a superabundance of them. At the same time I do not much sympathize with those who entertain such scruples in connexion with military service, because if many of us thought the same way, we might soon have no country to call our own.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It is of no use sitting down and refusing to fight when the enemy is at our doors. The only course then open is to stoutly resist the attack. I now come to Part V. of the Bill, which deals with military cadets. It seems to me that the provisions relating to this matter will effect a large amount of good by educating the youth of our country to a sense of their obligations as citizen soldiers. The system in force in Victoria seems to be the best that has yet been devised in the various States. I think that a system on somewhat similar lines will be found most suitable to the needs of the Commonwealth. Part VI. deals with special powers in relation to defence. It gives the GovernorGeneral power to build, arm, and maintain ships and vessels, to construct and maintain forts and defence works, to lay down mines, and in fact do everything that is necessary for the protection of the Commonwealth and of the States. ‘ Clause 60 gives the Governor-General the control of the railways in time of war, and the following clauses deal with the conveyance by railways or tramways of troops, horses, guns, ammunition, forage, baggage, and stores from place to place, and prescribes regulations as to traffic. Part VII., embracing clauses 69 to 81, deals exclusively with offences and their punishment. I do not propose to touch upon them at the present juncture. When we come to deal with them in Committee, I trust I shall have the assistance of my honorable and learned colleague the Attorney-General, because they relate exclusively to legal matters. Part VIII., comprising clauses 82 to 94, deals with courts-martial. Part IX., comprising clauses 95 to105, prescribes the legal procedure to be followed in all offences against the Act. Part X. is headed “ Miscellaneous.” Clause 106 provides that -
Nothing contained- in this Act shall prevent any member of the Defence Force from volunteering to serve in any force that may be raised by the Commonwealth to augment any of the King’s regular or other forces, or to occupy or to defend and place beyond the Commonwealth.
That is to say, if the Commonwealth raises any force to augment the King’s forces anywhere, any person in the Defence Force may volunteer for the purpose. To that provision I do not think there canbe any objection. Clause 111 deals with the establishment of a fund for the payment of annuities or gratuities. It provides -
Funds may be established in such manner, and subject to such provisions as are specified for providing for the payment of annuities or gratuities to members of the Defence Force permanently injured in the performance of their duties, and for payment of annuities or gratuities to members of the Permanent Forces who are retired on account of - age or infirmity.
I hope that something will be done in this direction. After all, whilst the profession of a soldier has some advantages, it is essentially a dangerous one. He has to leave his home, and risk his life in the service of his country, and we cannot treat him too well. In times of peace, perhaps, we sometimes may not value the soldier sufficiently, but in times of war and difficulty we place a high value upon him, and readily accord to him all honour. I believe it is possible - and I am giving the’ matter attention- to devise a scheme under which, with some assistance from Parliament to start the fund, members of the forces would be compelled to contribute to such fund for the payment of gratuities and annuities. It is sad to reflect that a man who has been fighting the battles of his country all his life, should, in his old age, be cast aside and left entirely without means. Both in the case of officers and men I most strongly urge that some provision for their old age should be made.
– It would be sadder still if a man contributed to a fund which went insolvent.
– Part XI. deals with regulations. The administration of the Bill, to a large extent, is governed by regulations which are approved by the Government, gazetted, and afterwards laid before Parliament. Clause 112 provides -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for securing the discipline and good government of the Defence Force, or for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.
Amongst those matters is the establishment and composition of a board of advice, and the convening procedure and powers of such board. It was thought by some honorable members last year that a Council of Defence or a board of advice should be appointed. The matter, however, is surrounded with a good deal of difficulty. First of all, we are confronted with the difficulty that if we have a General Officer Commanding,’ who is the Minister’s adviser in all military matters, everything must go to him, and the Minister probably may not hear or see all that he would like. On the other hand, if we have a board of advice, their decisions will probably override those of the
General Officer Commanding, with the* result that unpleasantness will be created,, and discipline probably impaired. I thoughtthat the best plan would be to provide powerto establish this board, with a view to ascertaining how far it could be worked upon’ lines that would promote efficiency without impairing discipline. We all know that without strict discipline it is impossible to» satisfactorily manage large bodies of men… This portion of the measure also provides-, for the establishment, regulation and good”’ government of the Military and NavaL College, when it- is established Power is» given to determine the rates of pay, to grant leave of absence, and to deal with manyother matters. These matters include the? formation and management of rifle clubs, and rifle associations, the formation and’ management of a council consisting of:’ representatives of rifle associations, and theinsurance of the lives of married members, of the permanent forces for the benefit of their wives and families. All thesethings are provided for by regulation.. It may occur to honorable members: that the Bill gives the Executive too. much power to make regulations, but when it is considered that these, regulations have to be made in broad daylight, that they require to be approved by the Government, tobe duly gazetted, and that, afterwards they must come before Parliament, it will be seen that the power is notreally so great, or at all likely to be abused. The same system is adopted in regardto almost every Act passed by this House.. I have now referred to all the main features, of the measure. The first schedule practically repeals the States Acts. There is. nothing extraordinary in the Bill, and I aminclined to think that it contains nothingwhich is unreasonable. It is a very simple measure, and I am glad to think that it is. a sufficient one. Honorable members must not lose sight of the fact that we haveundertaken to protect every State against, invasion, and it is our duty not to shirk that responsibility. When I was advocating Federation in Western Australia, I remember saying that possibly some people might be disposed to attach very little importance to section 119 of the Constitution, which, says -
The Commonwealth shall protect every State against invasion, and, on the application of the Executive Government of a State, against, domestic violence.
I then said that I attached a great deal of significance to that provision and I thought it was one of the most important sections in the Constitution. I still hold the same opinion. These States have federated in good faith, relying upon the provisions of the Constitution being respected. I trust that none of us will shirk our responsibility in regard to this matter. Of course, honorable members may have already discerned the trend of my observations. It could not be expected that I should not refer to the absence of railway connexion with Western Australia. Until that railway is constructed it is impossible for us to discharge the obligations which we have undertaken in regard to the defence of that State.
– There might be flying machines before long.
– It will be impossible for us to carry out the obligation we have incurred as a Commonwealth to defend the State of Western Australia from invasion unless we connect it by rail with the Eastern States. Some honorable members may demur, but I have no hesitation in saying that it was upon the understanding that railway communication would soon be established between Eastern and Western Australia that Western Australia consented to enter the Federation. In the very words of my right honorable friend the leader of the Opposition -
It was a tacit understanding upon the strength of which Western Australia had consented to join the Federation.
That is practically the true position, notwithstanding what any one may say to the contrary. As Western Australia has fulfilled her obligations to the rest of the Commonwealth, and is willing to do even more than fulfil those obligations, it is the duty of honorable members of this House to take such steps as will secure that that State equally with every other State in the Commonwealth shall be protected against invasion. That is clearly laid down by the Constitution, and that is what we have undertaken to do. The right honorable member for East Sydney has referred to this as that - little bit of equity which the Federal Government has got to do to the State of Western Australia.
That little bit of equity must be fairly faced and the obligation we are under must be fulfilled by the people of the Commonwealth, and also, I may add, by the people of South Australia. I hope that in dealing with all matters of defence, and in considering our obligations as a Commonwealth to the various States, we shall adopt a broad and a national view. I hope we shall not allow our minds to be warped by parochialism. If we are to err at all let it be on the side of broadness and liberality. It is much better that we should err in that way than that we should err on the side of exclusiveness and parsimony. Since I have been in this House I regret to say that I have found that there are too many persons who Take the rustic murmur of their bourg For the great wave that echoes round the world.
Those ideas, from whatever source they come, will never make a great or flourishing country. Our duty in the matter of defence is to keep before us the main objects we have in view in maintaining a defence force. What are our main objects 1 In my opinion, they are to train our citizens in the use of arms, so as to enable us to protect and defend Australia from invasion or from hostile attack ; and secondly, that we may be able, in case of need, of our own free will to assist in maintaining the integrity and the power of our Empire. It is our Empire and not the Empire of other people, and we are under an obligation to assist in maintaining it, not in the interests of others, but in our own interests, which I hold, are identical with the interests of the British race. The sentiment which is. called patriotism is, after all, but closely allied to a regard for our own interests. The great historian of the Roman Empire says that - that public virtue which among the ancients was denominated patriotism is derived from a strong sense of our own interest in the preservation and prosperity of the free governmentof which we are members.
– What does Dr. Johnson say it is?
– He said that “ Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
– It is clear that the foundation of patriotism is not only love and affection for our country and pride in our race, but that it is also closely allied with the preservation of our own interests. I urge that we should not act as if we were “ Little Australians.” Let us insist upon having efficiency in our defence force as well as in all other matters. Let our watchword be “ efficiency with economy “ ; and, above all, let us have faith in our country and confidence in our nation. Knowing, as we all must, that the dismemberment of the great Empire of which we form a part, would mean disaster and ruin to us as well as to the motherland, we must be prepared to do our best to assist in every way we can in placing Australia not only in a position to defend herself - that, of course, is our first duty - but also, if need be, to help in maintaining, both by land and by sea, the power and the supremacy of our Empire throughout the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr. G. B. Edwards) adjourned.
In Committee :
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be mode for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the acceptance of British New Guinea as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, and for the government thereof.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Resolved (on motion by Sir Edmund Barton) -
That the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral be appointed a committee to prepare and bring in the Bill.
Bill presented by Sir Edmund Barton, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
I learn that honorable members who have notices on the paper for to-morrow are willing, in fact, desirous, that that business shall stand over, and, under the circumstances, I suppose it is the general wish that the House should adjourn until Tuesday next. Honorable members will have heard me give notice this afternoon of another disposition with regard to future Fridays.
– It is a matter of regret that days are lost by these adjournments on the Thursday for the week ; and I expressed myself fairly fully last night on this matter.
– The Government cannot take Fridays for Government business until a resolution has been carried to that effect.
– But an opportunity was lost of submitting a motion to that effect so as to prevent the loss of to-morrow. I think I am not exceeding my duty when I protest against the loss of time which such adjournments entail. A great deal of tolerance has been shown by honorable members who represent distant States, and who have to remain constantly in Melbourne in order to attend sittings on three days of the week. I am glad to hear, however, that the Government intend to adopt a different course in the future.
– I do not altogether agree with the contention of the honorable member for Wide Bay, seeing there is really only one abstract motion on the paper, and that it is not the fault of the Government that there is no business for to-morrow.
– Why not have gone on with Government business?
– As has been pointed out, the Government cannot take Fridays for Government business until a resolution has been passed to that effect. The fact is that honorable members have exercised some forbearance this session in not filling the notice-paper with motions of an abstract nature ; but after the intimation given by the Prime Minister tonight, it will in future be the fault of the Government if there is no business for Fridays.
– I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Wide Bay, though, under the circumstances, I do not see how the Government could have appropriated to-morrow for Government business. But Parliament was called together at a late period, and we have a lot of business to do in a very short time if we are to end the session in October, so as to allow honorable members who desire to return to their constituencies. The general election, I understand, will take place in December. It would be a wise step on the part of the Government if they not only appropriated Fridays, but asked honorable members to sit an hour or two later each night. I am here as regularly as any honorable member, and
I am prepared to sit until midnight in order to complete our business, and be able to show the country at the end of the session that we have passed some legislation. We have been in session now about Beven weeks, and have scarcely done any business.
SirEdmund Barton. - We have dealt with six Bills, including a Supply Bill.
– Several of the Bills were not of a contentious nature. Sir Edmund Barton. - They occupied some time.
– Considerable time has been spent over the Judiciary Bill and the Naval Agreements Bill, and there is probably much contentious matter in the Defence Bill ; and under the circumstances I do not see how it is possible to get through much business this session.
– I think honorable members sometimes forget that Ministers have work to do outside Parliament.
– That does not seem to matter one bit. .
– It is ‘ an important aspect of the case which is overlooked. Personally I should be quite willing to sit until midnight, and even meet in the mornings, but we must recollect, though it is constantly forgotten, that members of the Government have administrative work, and I am sure it is quite as much as they can do to get through it under the present arrangement. If we were to sit later that work could not be done, or, at all events, could not be well done.
– I join with the honorable member for Kennedy in an anxious desire to get through the Government business. It is most natural that the Government should desire to make a record of work this session if possible ; indeed, that is my earnest wish. I am also willing, besides taking Fridays for Government business, to sit a little later each night, if I can get honorable members to be of like spirit with the honorable member for Kennedy. For myself, later sittings would mean that I should seldom be in bed before four o’clock in the morning; but I suppose that cannot be helped.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 July 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030716_reps_1_14/>.