1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CHANTER presented a petition from over 1,000 residents in and around Sydney, praying the House to pass into law the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill.
Mr. CLARKE presented a similar petition from 1,022 electors of New South Wales.
Sir EDMUND BARTON laid upon the table the following papers : -
Royal Commission on Federal capital sites, minutes of evidence.
Correspondence regarding the strategical importance of the proposed transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie toPort Augusta.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if any estimate has been made of the time needed to print the minutes of evidence taken by the Federal Sites Commission! If the work could be done expeditiously, printed copies of the evidence would no doubt be useful to honorable members.
– It would be a waste of money to print the evidence.
– If the honorablo member will repeat his question tomorrow, I shall be able to inform him then how long it would take to print the evidence, and what it would cost.
– Will the Prime Minister first of all consider whether it is necessary to print it, and if he thinks that it is necessary to do so, will he see that the work is done at once?
– If the printng of the evidence is necessary, I agree with the right honorable and learned member in thinking that the work should be done at once. It may be that you, Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the Printing Committee, may, on seeing. the evidence, be of the opinion that it should be printed at once, in antici- pationofauthorityfromthecommittee.
– A meeting of the committee is to be held to-morrow morning.
– That being so, I suggest that the matter may be. brought before the committee then.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will be laid on the table? The question was asked last night by the honorable member for Macquarie on the adjournment, but it was overlooked by the right honorable gentleman when speaking in. reply.
– It was overlooked by me, and I am glad of the opportunity to correct my omission. I hope that the Bill will be circulated this week, and that the second reading will be moved some day next week.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether Mr. Oliver has not made a supplementary report to the main report furnished by him on the Federal capital sites? If so, will the right honorable gentleman cause it to be laid upon the table of the House ?
– Mr. Oliver furnished a supplementary report to the New South Wales Government many months ago- I think before the Capital Sites Commission was appointed. I was under the impression thathonorable members had already had an opportunity of seeing it.
– It has not yet been placed at our disposal.
– I will inquire into the matter. So far as I am concerned, I shall be very glad to place it at the disposal of honorable members.
– The following telegram appears in this morning’s Argus : -
Adelaide, Tuesday.- In the Legislative Council the Attorney-General to-day informed Mr. Thompson that the Government had received no payment or other consideration from the Federal Government for the gun-boat Protector. The original cost of the vessel, with her armament and stores’, was £65.039.
I should like to ask the Minister for Defence whether South Australia has received exceptional treatment in this matter?
– So far as I know, South Australia has not received exceptional treatment. No payment has yet been made to any of the States for property transferred by them to the Commonwealth Government, but eventually the Protector will be paid for in exactly the same way as the Custom-houses, post-offices, and other property taken over from the States.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if, in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs, he has become aware of the circumstances connected with the alleged unlawful imprisonment, in November last, of a citizen of this Commonwealth named Captain John Strachan, who, I understand, is a justice of the peace in the State of New South Wales, and alleges that he was unlawfully imprisoned and his ship illegally seized by the authorities of the British North Borneo Company? I also wish to know if the Government have made any representations about the case to the Imperial Government, with a view to having Captain Strachan’s statement thoroughly investigated, so that the rights and liberties of Australian and British traders whose business may take them into the British North Borneo Company’s territory may be properly protected ?
– I have become aware that Captain Strachan, who has complained to the secretary to my Department, has a grievance against the authorities of the British North Borneo Company, and I have initiated correspondence with the Colonial-office on the subject. I cannot at this moment call to mind whether it is of a confidential nature, though I will ascertain between now and to-morrow. I may say that I lost no time in inquiring into the representations made, and I understand that since I did so the authorities of the British North Borneo Company have given to the Government of New South “Wales an account of the occurrence which is very much at variance with that of Captain Strachan. Of course, I do not presume to say, at this moment, which is right.
– I wish to intimate to the House that, at an early date, I shall, in Committee of Ways and Means, move a resolution, which, if carried, will be followed by a Bill, to provide for the giving of a customs preference upon certain goods imported to Australia from the territory of Papua, or British New Guinea. This action, however, will be dependent upon the House making some progress with the Papua Bill.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon not:ce -
– I have been furnished with the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
Debate resumed from 21st July (vide page 2359), 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.
– During the last twelve years or so we have had anarrangement with the Imperial authorities under which we have contributed towards the maintenance of an Australian Auxiliary Squadron to supplement the British Fleet in Australian waters. We are now asked, however, to make a very radical departure from that arrangement. We are asked to increase our annual contribution, and henceforth it is to be devoted, not to the maintenance of an Australian Auxilliary Squadron, but wholly to the maintenance of the British Squadron. This contemplates a very radical departure from the arrangement previously made with the old country, and therefore it requires very careful consideration. It has. been recommended to us for several reasons, one being that we are not in a position at the present time to establish an efficient squadron of our own, and that it is highly desirable that we should arrange for some protection by contributing towards the maintenance of a British squadron upon our coasts. We are further informed that by adopting this course we shall secure adequate protection at much less cost than would otherwise be involved. It has also been stated that it is not the amount of our contribution that appeals so strongly to the British naval authorities as the moral effect which the agreement would have by indicating the extent to which we are prepared to assist in maintaining the general interests of the Empire. It has been strongly urged also that the agreement would afford an indication of our loyalty, and that if we were imbued with proper affection for the Empire, we should have no hesitation in approving of it. We have also been told that if we do not see our way to approve of the - agreement, a doubt may be cast upon our loyalty. So far as the financial aspect of the matter is concerned, I believe that the agreement has very much to recommend it, and that it would secure to us a considerable advantage at very small cost. I think, however, that we should be unwise if we confined our attention entirely to money considerations, and that we should fully consider the probable effect of the agreement upon Australia, and particularly upon our relationship with the mother country. The more closely I examine this question, and endeavour to weigh the future possibilities involved, the more am I led to the conclusion that there are elements of danger iti the proposal of such a character that we should be wise not to commit ourselves to it. It has been asserted that our best means of defence will be land forces, and that naval defence need not enter into our consideration. I entirely dissent from that view, and upon this point I am at variance with the honorable member for Bland. We are in a position somewhat similar to that occupied by the mother country. We are an island continent, and’ any attack directed at us must come from over-sea, and from one of the great powers. It would npt be wise for us to wait until our enemy effects a landing within our territory before we assumed defensive operations. As soon as danger threatens us we should be prepared to meet it as far from our shores as possible, and make only the last stand upon our own territory. If I am correct in this assumption, it follows that we must adopt some means of naval defence. To this extent the Government are on solid ground, and it is with respect to the particular character of the provision to be made that I am in disagreement with them. So far as home defences are concerned, we should not create a large body of men specially assigned to the duty of defence. In other words, we should, not establish a large standing army under conditions similar to those in the old world, but we should properly equip our people with the necessary arms, and give them such training as would be compatible with their following their ordinary avocations. We should afford such facilities for training as would enable our citizens to be readily organized as defence forces. Having regard to the fact that the main part of our population is located on our coasts, we should provide efficient harbor ‘ defences. We should also arrange for the protection as far as possible of our large and increasing commerce. We may be subject to attack from an enemy, but only after a declaration of war with the old country. No power could specially single us out for attack without reckoning upon having to face the sea forces of the Empire as well as such opposition as might be offered by us. We have to consider that we are remote, from the Great Powers of the old world. It is true that we are near to China and Japan, and that the possibilities of trouble from those countries have been presented to us during this debate but from present indications the danger that threatens us from that quarter is not nearly so great, or so serious as that which may be apprehended from the more distant parts of the world. The dangers we have to contemplate from eastern countries are associated not so much with warfare as with those evils against which we have endeavoured to provide by means of legislation to restrict immigration. At present it is hardly likely that we shall have’ to count upon any open aggression on the part of China or Japan. The latter country has been prompted by consideration for her own interests to enter into a friendly alliance with Great Britain, and, no doubt, this will continue for some time, and will relieve us of the likelihood of attack from that quarter. An attack might be made upon us by Russia, and in such an event Great Britain might, be compelled to so concentrate her forces that she could deliver an effective attack upon the naval forces of that power in the eastern seas. Present indications point to the fact that the Admiralty authorities recognise this possibility, and are making preparations to meet it; and I am not sure that they do not look upon the proposal which they have submitted to our Government under the agreement as one of the means to this end. In the next place, we have to consider the relationship which has been maintained between the Empire and Australia up to the present time. At the outset we were completely1 under the tutelage of Great Britain Both our naval and our land forces were completely under the control of Downingstreet, and even the civil service was managed from that centre. Our experience of that control was not favourable, and we do not wish to see it restored. Thanks to the great politicians who have controlled the destinies of these States in the past, the British authorities have gradually been induced to recognise the unwisdom of centralized control of that character, and have bestowed upon us the complete measure of self-government that we possess at the present time. They withdrew their military forces, and imposed upon us the obligation of providing for our internal military defence, and for the defence of our coast-line, at the same time giving us the benefit of the general protection which their fleet affords in maintaining the naval dominance of the Empire. The wisdom of that departure from old methods has been fully recognised by British politicians and by naval defence experts. Some years ago, when the need for supplying us with some system of naval defence in addition to our harbor and internal defences, came prominently before these States, an agreement was entered into with the mother country under which an Australian Auxiliary Squadron was located within Australian waters. The squadron was not part and parcel of the British fleet. Its presence did not imply a reduction of that section of the British fleet which was stationed in Australian seas. It merely formed an addition to that squadron. The different States contributed to the cost of its maintenance in a certain ratio, and the agreement was terminable within a certain period upon a “specified notice. That arrangement has continued in operation up till the present time. Now it is proposed to make a complete, and radical departure.? rom the relationship which has existed between the States and the mother country during the past 30 years. The new arrangement involves a complete change from the terms of the existing agreement in respect Of the Australian Auxiliary Squadron. Under its provisions we are asked to dispense with that squadron, and to substitute a section of the British fleet, pure and simple. For the maintenance of that fleet, the Australian people are asked to contribute during the next ten years the sum of £2,000,000. To my mind that proposal involves such a radical departure from the understanding which has hitherto existed, that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Bland is thoroughly justified. The only way in which the taxpayers of the Commonwealth can be afforded an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon this matter is by the adoption of his amendment, which simply means postponing the consideration of this agreement for a period of six months. Within that time a general election must take place. Irrespective of whether or not the Government see fit to dissolve this House, under the provisions of the Constitution an election must be held to fill the vacancies caused by the retirement of certain senators. That will afford an opportunity of securing an expression of public opinion upon the matter, and if the Government so desire they can as.certain the will of the people in this connexion at a very little additional ‘cost by means of a referendum. If no general election were imminent, and if the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Bland necessitated calling into existence expensive machinery in order to ascertain the popular will, there might be some objection to the course which he proposes. But in view of the facts as they exist, no reasonable grounds can be urged for any such objection. Surely the Government do not suggest that the present position is so critical, that war is so imminent, as to render it absolutely necessary in the interests of the Australian people and of the Empire that this agreement should be immediately ratified. If any such conditions exist, the Ministry should take us into their confidence and inform us of the facts. But so far as we are able to judge, the position is ito more acute or threatening now than it was some years ago. Indeed, the probability is that nothing in the nature of a large European war “will occur within our time. We can therefore view this matter from a peace stand-point. I do not think it is necessary to consider the extent to which the ratification of this agreement will our loyalty” to the Empire. We have been told that the proposed subsidy is a nominal contribution, which is intended to have a moral effect. I am of opinion that neither the British Empire, nor the nations which may view it with feelings of enmity, require any such demonstration on our part. We have recently given expression to our loyalty and to the unity of the Empire in connexion with the South African war. Our action in that respect has had a moral effect upon the nations of the world, such as a mere monetary contribution of £200,000, or even £2,000,000, to the Imperial Navy, could not possibly have had. It proved that our allegiance to Britain meant something more than could be expressed by any such contribution. It demonstrated that, we are prepared to give not only of our wealth for the purpose of maintaining the supremacy of the Empire, but of the best fighting material that we can produce. Our contribution to the success of British arms in South Africa cannot be questioned. Therefore, those nations which we are told will be influenced by this nominal subsidy have already received an intimation that within Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, Britain possesses fighting material of a character that money cannot purchase. The point was raised by the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn; the other night in the course of his very thoughtful and learned address, that the new agreement was objectionable upon the ground that it imposed taxation without giving us any representation. An endeavour has been made to minimize the effect of his suggestion by declaring that the proposed’ subsidy does not come within that category, and that because in a Bill of this nature we approve of the agreement, the case could not be considered as one of taxation without representation. I should like to remind those who entertain that view that the corollary of the principle of taxation with representation is that the taxation levied should be under the control of those who authorize it. In other words, the people of Australia, who are called upon to contribute this money, should have a controlling voice in its expenditure. The proposed agreement, however, makes no provision for any such control. It simply binds us to provide a certain sum of money annually, and to place it at the disposal of the British Admiralty authorities, who are at liberty to spend it as they think fit. Probably they will expend it to the best possible advantage, but the fact remains that when once we commit ourselves to the agreement, we shall have to provide the subsidy without being able to exercise any control over its expenditure. Therefore I contend that the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, was on substantial ground when he urged his pointed objection to the ratification of the agreement. Irrespective of how wisely the subsidy may be expended, if those who provide it can exercise no control over its disbursement, they have a just grievance. Consequently I think that instead of the contribution assisting to cement the ties which bind the Commonwealth to the motherland, it will probably prove a source of friction. It is because I am strongly disposed to view it in that light that I think it would be unwise to adopt it at the present time. There is another point which is worthy of consideration. We have to remember that the peoples of the old world have been engaged for some time in perfecting their means of defence, in improving the implements of destruction to be used in times of war, and that in this way they have incurred enormous expenditure. The expenditure is one that does not tend to develop the latent resources or the wealth of those countries. It can be regarded only as a means of insurance or protection against agression from outside forces, and it has to. be borne in times of peace as well as in times of war. Many of the nations of the old world consider that their security is not to be insured merely by means of a citizen soldiery, for they do not know when they may find it necessary to call out their forces against discontented sections of their own people. For this reason they feel it absolutely necessary for the maintenance of good government that they should .have means of defence dissociated as far as possible from the general life of the people. Those conditions, however, do not prevail here, nor are they imminent in Great Britain. These old-world communities are being called upon to bear a burden in the shape of military expenditure that is becoming almost intolerable, and it is apparent that it cannot continue at the present rate for any considerable length of time. On the other hand, whilst Great Britain has not allied herself with other nations so as to become almost part and parcel of them - whilst practically she stands alone - she has not until recently committed herself to anything like a corresponding expenditure. I fear, however, that the wise policy which Great Britain has adopted in refraining from overloading her people with an enormous expenditure of this kind is gradual])’ being departed from. I am afraid that she is gradually falling into the general ruck, and adopting a system similar to that which is crushing the very life’s blood out of many other nations of the old world. The leader of the Opposition has already placed this phase of the question very forcibly before the House ; but I think it is of such importance that it is well worth repeating. In 1870 Great Britain’s total expenditure upon naval defence amounted to £9,500,000. At that time the outlook was very much more unpromising than it is at present, and invited a greater expenditure in this direction than the present state of affairs in the old world appears to call for. In 1897, however, Great Britain’s naval expenditure had increased to £22,000,000. Within recent years, and particularly during the dominance of the present Imperialistic Conservative Government, it has gone on increasing by leaps and bounds, and last year it reached the total of £35,000,000. Thus since 1870 Great Britain’s expenditure on naval defence has increased by £25,500,000. The proposed expenditure on naval defence for the current year is £39,000,000, or a total increase of something like £29,500,000 since 1870. The same remarkable growth of expenditure is to be found in connexion with the British Army. In 1S70 the expenditure on the army amounted to £14,500,000, but last year it totalled £35,000,000, showing an increase of £20,500,000, as compared with the outlay during the year 1870. The total expenditure on the army and navy in 1870 was £24,000,000, whilst in 1903 it amounted to £70,000,000, or an increase of £46,000,000. These figures show the way in which the various Governments of Great Britain, and particularly the present Imperialistic Conservative Government, have been drawn into an enormous military expenditure, similar to that of other nations of the old world in times of peace.
Some of the leading minds in Great Britain consider that this is a retrograde step. They hold that burdens are being imposed upon the productive communities of the mother land which are wholly unnecessary, and which are gradually becoming intolerable. Indeed, it is thought that if this expenditure goes on increasing at the present rate, it will ultimately reduce Great Britain to the position of other large powers in- the old world, where a large expenditure on defence is entailed, not simply to resist aggression, but to maintain law and order. When this question was submitted to the Conference of Premiers in London, the Prime Minister of Australia, as well as the Premiers of New Zealand and Cape Colony, accepted the new Imperialistic views of the British Government, and decided to ask their respective Parliaments to agree to this contribution. The Prime Minister of Canada, however, refused to commit the people of that important dependency to a policy of this kind. I know that it has been alleged, during the course of this debate, that one reason for his action was the doubtful loyalty of a section of the people of the Dominion. But, apart from what has been stated during this debate, my reading does not lead me to suppose that there is any very considerable feeling of disloyalty in the Dominion. We have to remember that when Great Britain was in trouble in South Africa, Canada came to her assistance just as loyally and nobly as did the ultra-loyalists of Australia.
– It is hardly fair to suggest that such a feeling exists in Canada.
– I agree with the honorable member. I doubt very much whether there is any real ground for the suggestion. I believe that Great “Britain has, in the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfred Laurier, as true a friend as she has in the Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Edmund Barton. Sir Wilfred Laurier refused to enter into this compact because, in his own words, he objected to Canada “ being drawn into the vortex of militarism.” The leader of the Opposition has referred to the enormous expenditure which Great Britain has incurred on her military defences within the last few years, and that fact amply bears out the contention that the present British Government, supported by the conservative party in that country, are legislating in a direction that threatens- to create in the motherland the condition of militarism that obtains upon the Continent. It indicates that Great Britain is gradually drifting into the position which Sir Wilfred Laurier describes as the “ vortex of militarism.” I regret that the Prime Minister did not view this question from the standpoint adopted by the Prime Minister of Canada ; and that we have now before usan invitation which, if accepted, may tend to draw us into that vortex. If it does, then it will be one of the elements that will weaken the bonds that bind us to Great Britain. Instead of being a means of consolidating and building up the great British Empire, it will be one of the means of itsdisintegration and ultimate destruction. We have no voice in the management of theaffairs of Great Britain. We may very much question the wisdom of this largely increased expenditure on non - productive agencies, but that is a matter for the sole consideration of the statesmen of Great Britain and the people of that land. But when it comes to a question of whether we should contribute to that enormous expenditure, it is for us to consider whether we should commit our people to it. I believe that those who oppose this proposal, who desire tq take up the stand that was adopted by Sir Wilfred Laurier, instead of being the enemies of the Empire, as some would have our critics in the motherland tq) believe, are really its true friends, inasmuch as they are endeavouring to resist a policy that has within it elements of danger rather than of strength. I believe that it would -be very much better if this money were spent upon an Auxiliary Australian Squadron. That would remove a great deal of the criticism which can be aimed at the proposed agreement, would maintain a much better understanding, and would minimize the friction which is bound to arise between Australia and the mother country. Once we admit that we are in duty bound to contribute to the naval defence of the Empire, and that our contribution must be at the disposal of the British Government to spend as they think . proper, the question will arise - What is a fair contribution for us to make ? No one would contend that £200,000 a year would be anything like a fair contribution under the circumstances. We have been told that it amounts to something like ls. per head of our population, whereas the contribution of the British taxpayers is something like 17s. 6d. per head. There is a wide differ- ence between the two contributions, and, no doubt, efforts will be made in the future to lessen it. According to a letter which appears in to-day’s Age, written by Senator Matheson, who has recently returned from. England, it is generally accepted there, as the result of some minutes or statements of the Minister for Defence, that our contribution should amount to something like £5,000,000 per annum. That feeling is one which will grow, and pressure will continually be brought to bear upon us to cause us to contribute proportionately with the English taxpayer. But such a contribution would impose a burden upon this community which would be detrimental to the development of our country and a cause of untold friction in our relations with the motherland. ‘ It is because the proposal presents itself to me in that light, and will, if agreed to, have the result of weakening rather than of strengthening the union between Australia and Great Britain ; because it will have the effect of causing us to enter upon large non-productive expenditure which is- not warranted in time of peace, and will drag us into the vortex of old-world methods and conditions, that I oppose it. Our policy should be to increase the wealth of our own community, and to make the taxation of our people as light as possible, giving them at the same time’ the best return possible for the revenue levied from them. The honorable and learned member for Indi made a very eloquent address last night in support of the agreement, and justified it upon the ground that within recent years a complete departure has been made by the nations of the world in regard to international conditions, as’ the outcome of a great increase in their trade. He told us that these new developments were on the lines of what he termed a new Imperialism. It is not so long since I heard him speak of the advantages of a new protection, which we found to be not very different from the old protection. Similarly, I think the new Imperialism which he speaks of has something of the old leaven in it, and that upon examination it will be found to be . the old Imperialism over again. I do not wish for Imperialism of that description. The Imperialism which I desire will keep the various parts of the British Empire together, while giving their scattered populations complete rights of self government, and the sole control of their expenditure. The proposed agreement, however, takes from our people the control of their expenditure to, at least, the amount of £2,000,000. It contains a proposal which, to my mind, is the thin edge of the wedge, which, once inserted, will do a great deal of mischief. Therefore I shall oppose the ratification of the agreement, and support the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, which has been moved to give an opportunity for the taxpayers of the country, who are so vitally concerned, since they have to find the money which is being voted, to express their views upon the matter.
– I shall not occupy the attention of honorable members for more than a few minutes, as it is not my intention to make lengthy extracts from musty- volumes. When I remember the many important projects for the expenditure of the people’s money - the establishment of a High Court and an Inter-State Commission, the foundation of a Federal capital, the construction of a transcontinental railway, and others - all of which I view with considerable alarm, as increasing the future responsibilities of the Commonwealth, I regard the proposal now before the House as one which tends in the direction of economy, while, at the same time, it provides for the security and safety of our people. When Lord Salisbury was approached by one of the magnates of England to use his influence in the distribution of honors to some of his friends, he said, “ My dear sir, I doubt if there is sufficient skilly to go round.” In my humble opinion, there will not be sufficient financial skilly to carry out ‘ all the ambitious Commonwealth projects which are now in the air. It does not seem to me.that the question of patriotism should be imported into this debate. The people of England are well aware of the patriotism of the people of these southern lands. They know that the sons of Australia will march shoulder to shoulder when the old country needs assistance from them, and our consciousness of our own loyalty should be sufficient for us. I think the agreement should be treated merely, from the commercial and business point of view. In my opinion, it is a thoroughly businesslike and common-sense arrangement, and reflects great credit upon the administration of the day, and particularly upon the Prime Minister. A great deal has been said about the provision which allows the fleet to be removed from Australian waters, and some honorable members appear to think that under such an arrangement Australian interests would be insufficiently protected. To my mind, however, this clause of the arrangement is a very proper one. The supremacy of England at the beginning of the nineteenth century was decided in the Bay of Trafalgar, not on the waters of the English Channel, and I sincerely hope that future naval engagements will take place, not in Port Phillip, or upon the Australian coast, but in the China seas, or in some distant part of the world.
– It will be all the better for us if that happens. I hope that we shall never hear the guns fired.
– It will be infinitely better for Australia if these engagements take place at a distance from her coast, but I have no doubt that when that time comes the supremacy of the old land will be maintained by her fleets as it has been maintained in times gone by. Honorable members are, perhaps, not aware of the extraordinary amount of secret information which is collected day by day for the information of the Admiralty. The movements of every armed vessel, whether it be Russian, Japanese, French, German, or of any other country, are known to the British Admiralty. Models are kept of every war vessel afloat, and these models are moved daily in accordance with information received, so that it can at any time be seen at a glance where the fleets of the world are situated. Seeing that the British authorities have this information at their command, there cannot be any doubt that, in the event of a collision between England and any European or Asiatic power, they should have’ the control of the war vessels in these waters. Is it not better that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have a voice in deciding where the various vessels shall be placed rather than that some one in Melbourne or Sydney should control the movements of the Australian Squadron? Viewing the matter all round, I regard the agreement entered into by the Prime Minister in London as highly satisfactory, and I therefore have very much pleasure in giving it my hearty support. I believe that it will have the effect of strengthening the ties between the old country and the people of Australia.
– This question has been discussed at such great length, and so many authorities have been quoted on both sides, that I feel there is really nothing to be added. I shall therefore content myself with explaining as briefly as possible the principal reasons that have induced me to support the Bill. In the first place, one does not need to be a naval expert to know that a fleet-is essential to the defence of a country which is surrounded by sea, and which can be attacked only by a force from oversea. Therefore upon that question there is no difference of opinion. We are all agreed that a navy is essential to the defence of Australia, and it appears to me that the real question at issue is narrowed down to whether we shall now procure an Australian Navy or avail ourselves of the very favorable offer made by Great Britain under the proposed agreement. I cannot see that the two proposals are so antagonistic as some honorable members imagine. For my own part, I am strongly in favour of the establishment of an Australian Navy, and I look forward to that as the final . goal towards which we should work. An Australianowned. Navy would be more in keeping with the dignity and independence of Australia, and would be better calculated to inspire our young men with a love for the service of the sea. I think, moreover, that it would enable us to render more effective aid to the Empire in time of stress or danger than we could possibly render by means of a mere subsidy. But the question we are now considering is whether we should establish a navy at present. I do not think that the time is very opportune for undertaking such a work. In the first place, we know that the Commonwealth has suffered from extremely hard times during the last few years. We have incurred losses through drought to the extent of many millions - to the value of many navies - and we know also that this is a time of very rapid changes in connexion with naval construction and equipment. Ships that are considered suitable to-day may be utterly discarded ten years hence, and we must not forget that in recent years there has been no great naval engagement to test the quality of modern warships, and that the greatest uncertainty exists with regard to the effectiveness of naval armaments. It appears to me that the wisest thing we can possibly do - and I think we are very fortunate to have the opportunity - is to enter into the proposed agreement. We shall thus provide for the defence of Australia for the next few years, during which time probably a great deal of light may be thrown upon naval questions that are at present shrouded in uncertainty. In France the object seems to be to construct a navy to fight not upon the surface, but under water. The changes now taking place are very radical and very rapid, and to construct a navy at great cost at present would be to enter upon an undertaking of very doubtful utility. We do not know how soon our ships might become obsolete. There is nothing in the agreement to prevent our commencing the construction of an Australian Navy dur.ing the currency of the agreement. Some honorable members seem to think that we should be binding ourselves for all time to an arrangement on the lines of this agree-, ment ; but there is nothing to commit us beyond ten years. I should certainly have preferred an agreement for a shorter term, for, say, five or six years, because we should then be able to commence the construction of an Australian Navy at an earlier date, if we found it desirable to do so. If, on the other hand, we preferred to wait a little longer, we should very probably have no difficulty in securing a renewal of the arrangement for a few years. I do not know whether the Prime Minister regards it as possible to shorten the term of the agreement. If that can be done, I should prefer it, because it would leave our hands free at an earlier date ; but whether that can be done or not, I intend to support the Bill. A great deal of adverse criticism has been directed to the provision which enables the Australian Squadron to be sent into waters other than our own. It appears to me that that is a useful and prudent stipulation to make. I have no fear that the authorities of the Admiralty would remove the Australian Squadron under circumstances which would expose Australia to danger. I am quite satisfied that they would pay due regard to our safety. If the squadron could be removed from Australian waters only with our consent, does any one who is acquainted with Australian sentiment imagine that our consent would be withheld if it were asked for? When we’ found the mother country engaged in hostilities in China we did not hesitate to send our ships to her assistance; and I am perfectly sure that we should, if necessary, do the same again. We know that effective defence does not always consist in allowing an enemy to choose his own time and place of attack. It is sometimes very much more prudent for a defence force - whether a land force or a naval force - to assume the aggressive, and to attack the enemy where a blow can be struck with the most effect. We must remember that the arrangement for the ‘removal of our squadron is a reciprocal one. If Australia were threatened with an invasion in great force, we should -have the China and East Indian squadrons sent down here to assist our defence vessals. Therefore I think the provision a wise one, which will not be availed of against the interests of Australia. We can trust the Imperial authorities to keep faith with us in that respect. I am sure that the squadron would be removed only when it was in the interests of the Empire, and of Australia as a portion of the Empire, that it should besent to some place outside of. Australian waters. For the reason I have stated, I shallsupport the Bill, expressing the hope that the Government will, if they consider it practicable, shorten the term of the agreement by some three or four years.
– Every honorable member must have listened with pleasure to the debate on this important question - important not alone because of the relation in which we stand to the Empire, of which we form a part, and in whose affairs we showed our readiness to take a part during the. recent war in South Africa, but also from the point of view of the protection of our immediate interests in Australia. The. object of the Bill is to provide, not only for the protection of our shores, but also to enable us to prevent an enemy from destroying or preying upon our commerce. A great deal of our commerce passes towards China, and the East Indies, and if honorable members will look at the map, they will see that the China Sea is not very far distant from the northern part of Australia. Consequently, our commerce might be subject to attacks by cruisers within an area that would be beyond the scope of operations of a purely Australian squadron. I desire tospecially refer to our real financial possibilities which have apparently escaped the attention of honorable members. We are very young as a Commonwealth, and yet some honorable ‘members are ready to rush into all sorts of expense and to saddle us with a huge debt. At present, the public debt of Australia is divided amongst the various States, but before long it may be necessary for the Commonwealth, with the consent of the whole of the States - I am sorry that that change cannot be brought about otherwise - to take over these debts. Coghlan, in The Seven Colonies of Australasia, 1901-2, says : -
No feature of Australasian finance is so astonishing as to the growth of the public indebtedness, and this fact has formed the gravamen of the many indictments which have been urged against the States during recent years. The debts have undoubtedly grown at a much more rapid pace than the population ; butas the States were in an entirely undeveloped state, when public borrowing first came into favour, the more rapid growth of their indebtedness, as compared with the population, was in a sense the corollary of the position taken up by the various Governments - that the State should reserve to itself the construction of railways and similar undertakings which in other countries are prosecuted by private enterprise. Even with this explanation, however, the figures inthe following statement are sufficiently striking: -
The Queensland figures are exclusive of £1,079,750 for Savings Bank Inscribed Stock.
The amounts for the year 1901-2 represent both funded and unfunded debt. In round figures the increase for the States of the Commonwealth, from 1861 to 1871, was 19 millions ; from 1871 to 1881, 36 millions; from 1881 to 1891, 89 millions ; and from 1891 to 1901-2, 60 millions ; or for the whole of Australasia, from 1861 to 1871, 27 millions; from 1871 to 1881, 57 millions ; from 1881 to 189.1, 98 millions ; and from 1891 to 1901-2, 75 millions.
In the face of these facts, it is seriously suggested by opponents of this Bill that we should establish an Australian Navy. We have been told that the annual cost of its maintenance would represent £500,000, and that the purchase of the necessary ships would involve an expenditure of £2,500,000. Surely, in the light of these facts, our first obligation is to make an earnest endeavour to place our finances upon a sound footing, especially as we are all aware that, so far, Federation exists only in its infancy, and that there is a great deal to do to place us on a firm footing. This necessity stares us in the face as a necessary corollary in the carrying out of works in accordance with the Constitution. I rose merely to express these views in order to justify my vote in favour of the Bill.
– I do not think that any honorable member doubts that Australian sentiment is in favour of the establishment of an Australian Navy. It is generally realized that our naval defence, in common with our other lines of defence, should be eventually under Australian control. But, at the present juncture, we are faced with a condition of things which renders it impossible for us to embark upon this undertaking, which I maintain would best relieve the Empireof the burden of defending the Commonwealth which undoubtedly attaches to it. I claim that we can best aid the taxpayer of Great Britain by adequately providing for our own defence. That that work can be immediately undertaken by the initiation of an Australian Navy is open to very serious question. I am one of those who hope, at no distant date, to see the defence of Australia undertaken entirely by Australians - such defence, of course, forming a portion of the Imperial defence. The honorable and learned memberforlndideclaredthatin hisopinion loyalty to the Empire was no barrier to loyalty to Australia. I go a step further, and hold that loyalty to the Empire is quite consonant with Australian hopes and aspirations. I believe that it is not only practicable, but that in the near future it will be necessary for Australia to relieve the Empire of the burden which at present it is called upon to bear, by establishing an efficient system of local defence, not only upon land, but also upon the sea.I have gone to some trouble to analyze the estimates which have been submitted regarding the cost of the maintenance of an Australian Navy, and, in my opinion, they are extravagant to a tremendous degree. In this connexion we must always recollect that the whole of the coast line of Australia - at any rate at the present time - need not necessarily be defended. It is only the great centres which have to fear attack from a swift cruiser, or even from a letter-of-marque vessel, which require to be protected.It is inconceivable that for the purpose of acquiring territory any of the European powers would endeavour to land upon Australian shores an army sufficient to conquer this country. What we have to fear is the destruction of our shipping, and a descent upon our centres of population, which, unfortunately for Australia, are situated on our coast. In order to defend these we must have an efficient land force, proper fortresses, and also a first line of defence in the shape of a naval force. The lust named can be obtained only by assenting to the agreement which we are now asked to accept. It has been said by one honorable member that no defence policy has been initiated by the Commonwealth. But I would point out that a defence policy was brought; forward. It was purely a military policy, and in my opinion was also purely an Imperial policy. It was formulated by the General Officer Commanding the Commonwealth forces. It was not a policy which recommended itself to the people of Australia, and I feel sure that if it were again brought forward it would not commend itself to the good sense of this House. In my judgment the time will, not arrive for the establishment of a complete Australian Navy until we can provide all the necessary munitions of war within our own borders, and build our own ships. If we bestow proper attention upon the development of the natural resources of our country, and utilize the enormous iron deposits which are at our command and only await development, the time is not far distant when we shall be able to accomplish what so many honorable members desire. By assisting
Our iron and steel industries we shall become self-contained in this regard-
– Does ‘the honorable member think that the present policy of the Government tends in that direction?
– The honorable member must have completely misunderstood the. trend of my remarks. I have already announced that I hope to see an Australian Navy established. I believe that the. recognition of initial difficulties will undoubtedly pave the way to an adequate protection of our coasts by our own ships, manned by our own men, and all the necessary material in which will have been manufactured by ourselves. It has been proved by one example that we are not behind the rest of the world in inventive genius, and it must be admitted that development in naval warfare is very largely in the direction of invention. The Power which can command the greatest inventive genius will in the future undoubtedly control the seas. Those countries which bend their energies in the direction of securing the safety of their commerce upon the great ocean highways, will most rapidly attain their object by fostering inventive genius. We have in the Brennan torpedo, which was invented in Australia by an Australian, an earnest that the Commonwealth will probably be able to keep pace with other parts of the world in this respect. The arguments which have been used regarding the value of the services rendered for the proposed subsidy ought never to have been introduced into this debate. We cannot for a moment take up the position that we are obtaining from the Imperial Government full value for the money that we are asked to pay. I hold that the services rendered cannot be measured by a money value. It has been estimated by some experts tha’t an annual contribution of £200,000 would provide us with an adequate protection. But seeing that the proposed scheme is a part of the Imperial defence policy, we cannot take Australia, which forms one factor, out of the sum, and expect to arrive at a correct result. Under other conditions - if we were undertaking the protection of our coasts and of our commerce - we should be able to arrive at an accurate estimate of the expenditure that would be involved. But I would point out that the proposed subsidy of £200,000 will secure for us so many advantages that we cannot possibly gauge the full value that we receive. I sincerely trust that the Government will take immediate steps to lay the foundations of an Australian Navy. We can begin, for example, to train our men in naval tactics. Those honorable members who have had opportunities of seeing Australians afloat, who have been on board one of our floating batteries, and have witnessed the way in which our men, as the result of only a few hours’ training in twelve months, fall into their places, perform the complicated work of manoeuvring a vessel, and fire at floating and moving targets, must admit that they possess all the characteristics of the British race - characteristics which have proved such a potent factor in establishing its naval supremacy. We should therefore demand that these men shall be afforded opportunities for drill and instruction in the working of vessels, and in using the guns which are mounted upon them. We can best assist the Empire by preparing to take upon ourselves a portion of the burden of our own defence. I recognise that a burden would still rest upon the Empire in respect of the Commonwealth, because we have only to imagine the possibility of an invasion of Australia, ‘ to realize that British forces would immediately come to our assistance if that course, were considered to be necessary. It would not be considered to be part of our duty to make any monetary payment for such a service. Great Britain, recognising as she does that the strength of the whole Empire depends upon the integrity of each individual atom of it - that we must preserve this country for the British race - would readily expend the last sovereign that she possessed, in order to prevent us from being torn from her against our will. In these circumstances we have nothing to fear, and I say that there will always be placed upon the shoulders of the British taxpayer a burden of which he does not desire us to relieve him. I very much regret that the question of loyalty has been introduced into this debate.. I do not believe that it redounds to the credit of the Australian that he should be so particularly careful to express his loyalty on every possible occasion. My own opinion is that the loyalty of the Australian is deep down in his heart, although not so far down that it cannot make itself evident at the very moment that it is required. I think that if these protests of loyalty, which are so frequently made, are not in bad taste, they, at any rate, are calculated to give some cause for suspicion, and “ to give, perhaps, some colour to the statement that we are not so sound on this question as we would have the other portions of the Empire to believe. In my opinion there is absolutely no anti-British feeling in Australia, and those friends of the British Empire who are striving by their writings and ‘ speeches to show their intense loyalty, are not doing good service to the cause of the Empire by the frequency with which they resort to this practice. The bonds which bind us should be invisible ones. They should not be anything in the nature of chains which clank every time that we move. We desire rather that they should be as silken threads which readily accommodate themselves to every movement, and which at the same time are strong enough to bear any strain that may be placed upon them. The honorable member for Canobolas said that this agreement would be a cause of friction and weakness. I believe that the friction which would arise, and the weakness which might ensue from it, would result rather from the method of dealing with the agreement than from the arrangement itself. If we were to approach this matter from the true Australian stand-point, recognising that closely interwoven with it are interests which are great British interests, we should be able to consider it with very much less friction, and, indeed, with added strength. I do not wish to detain the House, but as I am strongly of opinion that it is necessary for Australia, as an integral portion of the Empire, to take her own part and her own share in its defence, I felt that I should not give my vote for this agreement without advancing my reasons for doing so, and without expressing the hope that this will not be looked upon as being in any way the final settlement of the naval defence policy of Australia. I’ trust that we shall have, within the near future, evidence of a desire on the part of the Government to carry out what I believe is the true desire of the Australian people–the efficient arming of the people of the Commonwealth, both on sea and on land, against a possible invader.
– I think that in all these matters of Imperial and almost international concern with which this Commonwealth Parliament has to deal, the utmost latitude should be given to legitimate debate. These debates will probably hereafter furnish the historian with a great deal of information in relation to the evolutionary processes through which we must move towards our destiny of the future. At the same time I feel that, as we have entered upon the third week of this debate, and in view of the fact that many able speeches have been delivered, it would be well for me to make my remarks as brief as possible. I propose simply to deal with one or two salient points which seem to me to be at the base of the whole question, and, probably, in doing so I shall inadvertently repeat views that have already been better expressed. I must confess at the outset that I find it very difficult to place myself in the mental attitude of those who are opposed to this proposal. I should like to ask, in the first place, whether we can afford a navy. The absolute answer to that question is that we Cannot. It is all very well for those honorable members who do not analyze the public accounts of Australia, and for those who say that we can make good any deficiency by resorting to land and income taxes, to talk about an Australian Navy. But those who understand our finances, who know where our enormous Customs revenue goes, who remember the interest that we have to pay upon our debt, and who recognise that we have a vast expenditure extending over a large territory, with only a comparatively small population, must know that, at this early stage of our development, it would be madness to think of creating anything like a navy sufficient to guard the 8,000 miles of Australian coast. Let us look at this matter in a commonsense way. I do not intend to deal with the question of our relations with the mother country. But what position are we in at the present time ? As the honorable member for Fremantle has so wisely inferred, in bringing about the federation of Australia we have practically completed an enormous national task. We have an enormous expenditure to face, and we are passing through difficulties of a local character which must confront us for years to come. But here is a proposal - not a proposal that has been forced upon us, but one that is the result of a council, in which each party was absolutely free - to bridge over, at any rate, the intervening period. Why should we object to have this bridge? Some honorable members imagine that the acceptance of this agreement would be practically to put chains upon our every action in the future. Is there anything in it, however, to show that we are proposing to enter into a hard-and-fast arrangement for all time to come 1 What are the two chief points of the agreement? In the first place, it is an arrangement to extend over a period of only ten years. Within eight years we shall be able to review the whole position ; and we shall have absolute freedom of action in regard to our future course. Then again, let us look at the details of this agreement. If the Admiralty intended to allow no local atmosphere to surround our forces, to give us no opportunity of training our own men upon special ships, if they said to us - “ For good or for ill you will have no word to say ; you must simply carry out this agreement, and look upon the ships to be provided under it as a branch of the Royal Navy, without any regard to your local sympathies,” we might perhaps be justified in saying - “ This proposal is enveloped in suspicion.” But the British Admiralty do not wish to create a system in these waters which would obstruct the formation of an independent Australian Navy. The very opposite is the fact. If I were in the position of those honorable members who desire to see an Australian Navy I should not be able to conceive of a more convenient bridge than this to carry us towards the creation of a future Australian Navy. What will be the position at -the end of the ten years’ period? During the currency of this agreement we shall have three ships manned entirely by Australian seamen. We shall have every opportunity to train Australian seamen. We shall have a generous arrangement by which, if we choose, men who are specially paid and employed on certain terras of service, will be enabled the moment that the ten years’ period elapses to become part and parcel of an Australian Navy. What could be more generous? What could be more above suspicion? Could there be an easier way of moving forward in our present financial position than by the acceptance of this agreement ? The leader of the Opposition struck the only weak point in the armour of the agreement when he pointed out that under the existing arrangement, the British Government guaranteed that the strength of the British fleet in these waters - apart from the vessels of the Auxiliary Squadron - should not be decreased. I do not place much weight upon that fact. I believe that the Admiralty will be just as anxious as we could possibly be to strengthen thenposition in Australian waters. Sydney, with its harbor, with its means of repairing ships of war, and with its coal, occupies such a magnificent position, that, in the nature of things, the Admiralty must keep a large number of these vessels in that centre. At that point the vessels of the squadron will be within three weeks of the China sea, and I think that, considering the past - and we can only reason from our experiences of the past - the Admiralty may be trusted in this matter. If we were going to pay an enormous subsidy or anything equal in proportion to the cost of this squadron, we might talk to the Admiralty about the retention of a certain number of vessels on this station. But in view of the fact that they propose to double the present strength of the fleet in these waters, and that the contribution of £200,000 per annum will not represent 1 percent, of the annual expenditure on the British Navy, I think that during this period in our early Commonwealth life, at all events, it would be preposterous for us to dictate to the Imperial authorities. Surely, in view of the fact that Great Britain has allowed us the fullest local autonomny, and has given -us this Commonwealth with a freedom and generosity unknown in the history of the colonial policy of other Empires, we can be in a trustful mood ? There has been nothing to create suspicion in any act of the British Govern-, ment towards this country. Laissez faire is the phrase which practically describes what has been the attitude of the Ministry and Parliament of Great Britain towards this country during the last 50 years. Every sensible man invariably judges of the future by the experience of the past. If any honorable member could give us an instance of anything in the nature of a tyrannical action, or of anything like suspicion on the part of the British Government with regard to us, then he might perhaps be fearful of the present proposal. But we are asked to enter into a partnership. I hold that the one point upon which the union of this Empire must depend is that of defence.
– We cannot say that this agreement constitutes a partnership.
– It is essentially a partnership, inasmuch as, so far as the conditions allow, we are to receive every consideration in regard to the presence of these vessels in our own waters.
– Every consideration except that of control.
– No man can serve two masters.
– It is childish to talk about control in the present state of affairs. If we could furnish a navy which would efficiently defend the coasts of Australia, and would be sufficiently strong to co-operate with the navy of England in other parts of the world, we should, of course, expect to be given some kind of control in regard to it. But this is not a case of that kind. This is a case in which, as a common-sense, business arrangement, we practically give to the other partner’s in the concern the complete control of the whole matter. It is-nonsense to speak of the principles of the British Constitution in this connexion. British people are not such fools as to carry logic to an absurdity in dealing with practical questions of this kind. This is a case to be dealt with by special means. We are getting a bargain which the most quick-witted Yankee would say is the best in the world. This is not an occasion to argue upon either our relations to the Empire or the advisability of establishing an Australian Navy. Those matters can take care of themselves for the present : we have as practical men another subject for our immediate consideration. An objection has been raised to the proposal on the ground that the British authorities will have power to remove the fleet from Australian waters, but, if there is anything in the Blue Book which has been placed in our hands with which every British subject can agree, it is the statement; that when we go to war our navy cannot act on the defensive. When we go to war it will be the business of our ships to seek out and destroy the enemy’s vessels.
– What better defence could there be than that ?
– Exactly. As was said a short time ago, if we can fight the battles of the Empire in the China seas, and crush the enemy at three week’s steaming distance from our coasts, that will be better than having the guns firing at our very doors. I do not intend to say much more. I have read several of the speeches which have been delivered by honorable members, and it seems to me that the question has been thrashed out very effectively. According to my limited comprehension, it might have been decided almost after the delivery of two speeches. The matter is so sensibly one for arrangement upon business principles that I think that the continuation of long arguments in regard to it would be an absolute waste of time. In our position in regard to the foundation of the Commonwealth, we should recollect that the process of evolution in connexion with our relations with the British Empire should be very slow, and I consider that this period of ten years will be of great advantage to us in giving us leisure to consider the whole question of exterior lines of defence. I do not,’ of course, intend to commit myself at the present time as to the advisability of establishing an Australian Navy, but I strongly hold the opinion that the future external defence of Australia and of the Empire at large must be carried on by means of one great navy, however the maintenance of that navy may be contributed to, and whatever representation we may have in regard to its control. In naval matters, above all others, there must be one governing authority. It may be that Australia, in view of the erratic movements of war-ships in times of trouble, may desire’ to establish a naval force of quick gun-boats to act as scouts, and to patrol its coasts. But the establishment of such a force will not affect the worldwide defence of British commerce. If the security of Australian commerce may be obtained by a battle off Newfoundland, the confinement of the war vessels of the Empire to particular waters in times of war would be incompatible with the best lines of defence. I give my unqualified approval to the proposed agreement. I believe that the British Government have acted most generously and magnanimously to us in regard to it. The agreement is to last for only ten years, and in that period, after other serious Commonwealth business has been transacted, we shall have time to fully consider the question of external defence. When we do so, the relations of Australia to the Empire, and man)7 questions connected with trade, commerce, and defence generally, will have to be discussed, but public opinion on the subject will have been enlightened by the fructification of the discussions which are now taking place here and elsewhere, and we shall thus be better able to deal with the great questions connected with our destiny as an integral part of the Empire. I hope, however, that we shall never lose the protection of the British Navy, and the right to call ourselves British citizens.
– After the long discussion upon this subject, I feel almost ashamed to ask honorable members ro listen to the few remarks which I have to make upon it ; but the question is of so much importance to Australia that I do not wish to give a silent vote. The matter involves, to some extent, our financial position, but, to a greater extent, our relations with the mother country. I intend to give my cordial support to the agreement. I feel that it is not a question into the consideration of which party politics should be introduced, because it is of far too great moment to the destinies of Australia. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, who gave us a very well-considered address upon the subject, expressing his views in regard to it very tersely, said that our naval defence fell under three heads - our coastal defence, our harbor defence, and. the defence of our commerce upon the seas. In my opinion, he dealt with the question more practically than any other honorable member has done. I listened to his speech with a great deal of pleasure, and I feel that he placed before the House, in perhaps a better way than I could have done, what are also my ideas upon the subject. To object that the squadron to which we are to contribute £200,000 a year is to be liable to be called away from Australian waters at any moment may be a very good argument for those who oppose the ratification of the agreement, but 1 should like to put it again to honorable members that the supremacy of Great Britain upon the oceans of the world so closely affects our interests that, whether the squadron were under the control of the Admiralty or under our own control, the position would be the same. If it were under our own control, we should be only too ready in time of need to send it to the assistance of the mother country in other parts of the world. There were one or two points in the speech of the honorable and learned member for Corinella which struck me as particularly worthy of consideration. The honorable gentleman referred to our need for harbor defence, and I should like, therefore, to take advantage of this occasion to draw attention to the defenceless position of Port Darwin and Roebuck Bay, where the cables connecting us with other parts of the world land. In recent times, Thursday Island and Albany have been placed in the category of ports- which must be defended, not at the cost of the States to which they belong, but at the cost of the Commonwealth. But while those places are now well fortified, the two places to which I have referred remain two of the most vulnerable points in Australia.
– The honorable member should also include Fremantle.
– I am sure that the Minister for Defence will agree with me that all these vulnerable points should be defended. We have to depend for our information as to what is occurring in other parts of the world, and as to the movements of the navies of foreign powers, upon the cables which are landed at Port Darwin and Roebuck Bay.
– Not exclusively. There is also the Pacific cable.
– Not only are the landing places of our cables at the mercy of foreign cruisers, but detachments from such vessels could easily be landed to cut our telegraph lines. This is a matter which should receive the fullest consideration when the defence of our coast line is under discussion. I do not wish to go beyond the limits of the question before the House, but I think that this matter is sufficiently important to justify me in directing attention to it. The financial position of Australia is such that we can scarcely consider the question of establishing a navy of our own, and I think we should do much better at present to enter into an agreement such as that proposed. I cannot join forces with those who are willing to hamper our finances by incurring the enormous liability that would be involved in the creation of a navy, and therefore I intend to support the Bill.
Mr.F. E. McLEAN (Lang).- I quite agree with honorable members who have recently spoken that the debate has now been prolonged to such an extent that any lengthy speeches at this stage would be quite unjustifiable. At the same time I should like to say a few words in justification of the vote I intend to give in support of the measure. In the first place, the proposed agreement appears to me to come under our consideration in the natural order of events. It was only to be expected that the inauguration of the Commonwealth would lead to a reconsideration of the existing agreement with regard to the maintenance of an Imperial Squadron in Australian waters, and that some further provision would be made for the defence of Australia by means of a naval force. The proposal was not sprung upon us, nor is it extraordinary in ‘character. If the professions of Australians in regard to their loyalty to the Empire mean anything, they should convey that we are prepared to contribute liberally towards the support of the defences which are necessary to our very existence. We have already enjoyed the advantages of a very satisfactory arrangement with the mother country, so far as expense is concerned, but it appears to me that the proposed new agreement can also be defended upon the grounds of public economy. However we may feel with regard to the necessity of ultimately establishing an
Australian Navy, we must admit that at present we are utterly unable to seriously entertain such an idea. The initial expense of such a huge undertaking removes it from the range of practical consideration at present. Therefore, we are bound to make some temporary arrangement which will enable us to tide over a reasonable period, during which we can gain experience and strengthen our finances. A great deal has been said about starting with what has been called the nucleus of an Australian Navy, as if, forsooth, some two or three small ships of war, which would be utterly useless in the event of an attempted invasion, could form the nucleus of our future navy. To my mind, not only would such a so-called nucleus be absolutely useless, but it would be degrading to the very lowest degree for us to enter upon such a policy. The true nucleus of an Australian Navy will be found in the training of Australia’s sons for naval duty, and the proposed agreement makes very wide provision for such a training, so that Our youths may be capable of manning our own ships of war when we are strong enough to incur the necessary expense. The arrangement proposed is very satisfactory from a business stand-point, and it contains nothing that would prevent us at any future time - even at an early date - from considering what may be necessary in the way of coastal defences. If we are financially strong enough to incur the expense of purchasing coastal defence vessels for ourselves, there is absolutely nothing in the agreement to prevent us from entering upon such a project. If, however, we undertook any such work at present, we should force upon the people of Australia a policy for which, apart altogether from the question of expense, they are not ready. We have made no preparations, and we have had no time to think out any naval policy, and while we are preparing and are training our men for the work to be done in the future, we must enter into a temporary arrangement. The scheme set forth in the proposed agreement is the best that could possibly be suggested at this stage. I do not see any force in the argument used against the Bill on account of the Imperial control which is to be exercised over the movements of the squadron. It has always appeared to me that in matters of defence we must stand or fall with the Empire. England’s wars must be our wars, and her troubles must be our troubles, just as her glories are our glories. Our connexion with the Empire may involve us in danger or difficulty at any time, and our interests are one with those of the mother country in those respects. Therefore the control of the ships of war that are large enough to be capable of doing service in waters beyond our own must be in the hands of the Imperial naval authorities. This provision does not in any way affect our right to defend our own coasts, and there is no reason why we should not in the near future take into serious consideration the desirableness of establishing a small navy of our own. I believe that it is our duty to defend ourselves, and to contribute to some extent towards the defence of the Empire. It is not reasonable to expect the Imperial Government to defend Australian interests for all time without any contribution from us. “We have been contributing upon a meagre scale for some years past towards, the maintenance of an Australian Squadron, and it is now proposed to increase that contribution - I will not say to a reasonable extent - but to a proportion that is commensurate with our financial ability at the moment. In view of the provisions of the Constitution which limit our financial powers, we are not in a position to incur any serious expense in connexion with naval defence at the present time ; but what we are able to do we are bound to do, and therefore I most heartily support the Bill.
– I am glad that the time has now ‘ arrived at which I can make a few remarks and bring this debate to a close. In occupying honorable members’ attention for a short period, I hope that I shall not be guilty of any of that repetition which became so necessary when I was endeavouring to thoroughly explain the nature of the agreement submitted for the approval of the House. I shall deal with some of the principle objections to the provisions of that agreement, and particularly with those which appear to have been put forward as fundamental objections. It has been urged that this agreement will have the effect, for instance, of tying the hands of Parliament, and of fettering the actions of this Commonwealth for ten years - indeed that argument has been pressed again and again, even to the extent of the assertion that this is an instance of taxation without representation. I think, with all respect to those honorable memberswho have used this argument, that nothing could be further from the fact, if one looks at the matter in that reasonable manner in which we are expected to view political principles and their effects. This agreement no more contemplates tying the hands of Parliament, or imposing taxation without representation, than would an agreement for the payment of a subsidy to a cable company, or to a steamship company for the maintenance of a mail service, for a period of ten years. With agreements of this nature we are perfectly familial”. They are, as has been remarked, our own voluntary acts, and it is not to be supposed for one moment that the parliaments which have been responsible for them, intended to impose taxation without representation. If an attempt be made to show that such agreements involve taxation without representation, then it is tantamount to arguing that these free communities have been for the last 50 years engaged in bartering away their birthright. Is not the major portion of the objection which has been raised to the proposed new agreement due almost wholly to . that alarm which new departures - and this is a new departure to some extent - create, arousing, as they do, those conservative instincts which are latent in nearly all of us. I have known minutes . and State papers to be written from time to time by the most liberal and democratic of Ministers who have regarded new proposals as dangerous innovations, simply because they were new. These cases have afforded proof of the existence of that little patch of conservatism which is within all of us, and which ‘ we cannot eradicate. Perhaps it would be better if we could do so, but I must be allowed to say that if it does not carry us beyond a certain length perhaps a little of it may sometimes be a good thing. It has been objected that the agreement will have the- effect of obliterating the naval forces already established in Australian waters by the Australian Governments. I have not put forward any arguments that would show that it was the intention of the Government to ask Parliament - and Parliament alone could do such a thing - to obliterate the forces necessary for our coastal and harbor defence.
– The right honorable gentleman said, distinctly, that all our war vessels except, perhaps, the Cerberus, would have to go.
– I did not say that. What I said was that we were considering a proposal to that effect. When, however, we came to open up the whole matter and deliberately consider it from end to end, I asked my honorable colleague, the Minister for Defence, to write a minute on the subject. When he had done so, I came to the conclusion, and I think all the members of the Cabinet were agreed, that it was not desirable to obliterate the whole of the local naval defences. Later on I shall give the reasons in support of this view, and also indicate my strong concurrence in it. The agreement itself and the Bill by which we are seeking to enforce it, and to make the necessary financial arrangements, can have absolutely no effect upon any provision that we may make in that regard. It has been pointed out during the course of the debate, that the Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1S65 - an Imperial Act - does make provision by which the colonies are empowered to raise colonial branches of the Royal Naval Reserve, and also to maintain ships and crews of their own. I am not aware that that Act has been repealed. I believe that it is still in force. Not many minutes ago I had an opportunity of perusing a copy of it, and to my mind it is clear that we are entitled to maintain the sole control of such measures of coastal and harbor defence as this Parliament may choose to specify, or adopt upon the motion of the Government. I may say further, that not only am I sure that this Bill does not affect any liberty which- is given to us under that statute - a liberty which I fancy we should possess under the terms of our Constitution if that Act were nonexistent - but lest there should be any misapprehension upon the subject, I am perfectly prepared to accept an amendment which will make it clear that our autonomy in that respect is not interfered with by this agreement or any provision in it. That, however, does not affect the principles upon which I put forward this agreement for acceptance. If, in order that there may be no misapprehension in the minds of those who might otherwise be opponents of the agreement, I am in favor of declaring upon the face of the statute enforcing it, that we are free to make and maintain such provisions for our harbor and coastal defences as we may choose to adopt, it certainly cannot do any harm either to the Act or to the agreement. Indeed I am not sure that it will affect the operation of the statute in any way. But lest any apprehension should be created, although such a provision might amount only to a legislative placard, it might be a wise placard, and I am prepared to accept it.
– We had the power all the time under the old agreement.
– I think so. I believe that we had it under the Constitution, but. if not, we had it under the Colonial Naval Defence Act. Another point which was taken as a fundamental objection to this agreement was one upon which the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne laid great stress. He quoted from a State paper the utterances of Lord Selborne, which I cited so extensively in my opening speech. He mentioned the passage which begins with the words -
The reason why we have eliminated the word “ defence” from ‘this paper, and in which he says -
In the foregoing remarks the word “ defence” is omitted.
The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne took this point : That inasmuch as the word “ defence “ was omitted - inasmuch as the provision instituted by this agreement was aggressive and not in the colloquial sense “ defensive,” “it was unconstitutional, because it did not come within the term “ defence of the Commonwealth.” That is an argument which I should consider to be valid, if it were also valid to say that when a burglar is attack ing the house of your neighbour, you are not helping to defend yourself if you lent him your gun to shoot the burglar. The most effective defence frequently takes the form of aggression. The man who is insulted is doing no more than what is defensive if he knocks the aggressor down, because the insult is aggressive. In time of war there can be no nice calculatoin as to whether a step taken or an action fought is offensive or aggressive. But if two men are to fight, the one who uses nothing but his guard will assuredly get the worst of the encounter. ‘
– One needs to “get his blow in first.”
– Yes, and that is self-defence, not only according to the noble art itself, but also as the term isunderstood in every liberal sense. The honorable and learned member lias threatened to raise the question of the unconstitutionality of this agreement in the lawcourts, because of what was said by Lord Selbourne in a paper, which was of course designed to show that what is done in naval warfare is, for defence purposes, best done when it assumes the form of attack. If, after this agreement has come into statutory force, he desires to show that our action or the agreement which justifies it, is beyond the defence provisions of our Constitution, I shall welcome the opportunity to prove that he is mistaken. At any rate, I am quite prepared to take the risk. I can assume that risk with an absolutely light heart, and I recommend honorable members to be equally light-hearted in accepting it. Another objection which has been urged, is that this agreement is proposed, not merely for the purpose of obtaining £200,000 a year in ‘ addition to the £34,000,000 - which is the very large sum annually voted on the Naval Estimates of Great Britain- but as part of a -policy, which is intended to enable the Imperial authorities to gain control of our expenditure upon the fleet stationed .in Australian waters, without allowing us, as a selfgoverning part of the Empire, any voice in its disbursement. I hold that the people of the Commonwealth are fully represented in this House and in another. It is for them, through their representatives, to accept or reject a proposal of this kind. If we choose to agree to this monetary provision for the purpose of insuring a better defence of our shores, there is nothing to prevent our .doing so, and there can be no higher exercise of the functions committed to our charge than to vote public money for purposes of defence. To suggest that this is part of some deep laid scheme to inveigle us into a spider’s web, that there is an intention on the part “ of the Commissioners of the Admiralty to lay a trap for us, and to hold this poor, young struggling Commonwealth, so to speak, by the legs, notwithstanding all its efforts to free itself for its own defence, betokens a condition of mind which, if the gentleman who used the expression were not my friend, I should be inclined to consider almost morbid.
– There is nothing Machiavellian in the proposal.
– There is no Machiavellian intention on the part of the Admiralty. Their idea is that all parts of the Empire should participate in its naval defence, not from any swollen notions of
Imperialism, not for the purpose of defending one -part of the Empire more effectively than another, but with the object of protecting the trade and interests of the whole, paying due regard to the. fact that without a trade, and without its political influence, we could describe that Empire by a cipher. During the course of the debate Captain Mahan has been referred to, and a passage from one of his works has been quoted as showing that because he thought San Francisco should be a fortified base, he was therefore in favour of detached local defences. Perhaps I may be permitted to read something from an article by Captain Mahan, which appeared in the July number of the National Review of last year. This passage is the more interesting when one considers that it was written about the very time that this agreement was being entered into. He starts with a generalization of the relative naval power of the nations of Europe in the German ‘Ocean or North Sea, the English Channel, and the Mediterranean. Then he carries his reasoning into the waters eastward of Suez, thus-
In the Eastern seas, Australia and China mark the extremities of two long lines, the junction of which is near India. Let vis say for the sake of specificness, Ceylon. They are offshoots of one branch, the root of which under present conditions is the English Channel, and the trunk, the Mediterranean.
He adds that -
It is the nature of extremities to be exposed, and it appears to him
That the waters from Suez eastwards should be regarded as a military whole virtually connected with the system to the westward, but liable to temporary interruption at the Canal, against which, precaution must be had. In the nature of things there must be a big detachment east of Suez, but it is not China nor yet Australia that is by position the permanent strategic centre of the Eastern seas, but rather a point which approximately equidistant from both is also equidistant from the Mediterranean and the East. What Australia needs is not her petty fraction of the Imperial Navy, a squadron assigned to her in perpetual presence, but an organization of naval force which constitutes a firm grasp of the universal situation. Thus danger is.kept remote ; but if it should approach, there is insured within reaching distance an adequate force to repel it betimes. The essence of the matter is that local security does not necessarily nor usually depend upon the constant local presence of a protector ship or squadron, but general dispositions. Local safety is not always found in local precaution.
Speaking of harbor defence, he goes on to say - and this is a passage which may be read in connexion with the possibility of an attack upon these shores -
Ships in motion, like birds on the wing, are not easily hit ; and it litis been demonstrated that fleets of ships can without disabling loss, pass by guns before which they could not lie. The obstruction of channels by torpedoes is therefore necessary, and further, to prevent a blockade or bombardment, the aggressive torpedo boat is also requisite.
Those are the words of Captain Mahan, both on the general question of the proper unity of control, and upon that of local defence. Honorable members will now recall what I said towards the close of my speech in moving the second reading of this Bill. I reminded them that we had decided not to dispense with the local defences which now exist, and which are maintained at an expenditure of £43,000 a year, but that we intended to ask Parliament to agree to rearming the Cerberus, and to maintain upon the Estimates the Protector, Gayundah, and Palumah for another twelve months from the beginning of the present financial year.
– Only for twelve months?
– That is all we propose to make provision for upon the Estimates. The adoption of that course will enable us to turn round in the interval, and see what must be done upon the inevitable day when the services of boats like the Protector, Gayundah, and Palumah are considered by this Parliament no longer essential.
– The Government do not commit themselves to anything?
– We do not; but I have already indicated that it would be very welcome to me if Parliament would agree to provide a somewhat better measure of harbor and coastal defence. I take it that such a measure is to be found either in the employment of first-class torpedo boats or destroyers, or any other means of offensive defence. All that is needed is for Parliament to lend a favouring ear to suggestions for the improvement of harbor defence by that means. If I may respectfully suggest it, we have been making a great deal too much of something that may, perhaps, be described as a game of cross purposes. It is well to bear in mind that there are two lines of defence before we come to the actual employment of our land forces as distinct from those attached to our fortifications. First, there is the navy, and then the combined coastal and harbor defences. Afterwards we come to the movable army, which has. nothing to do with the garrisoning of forts. It is compatible with a just scheme of defence to provide for cruisers and battleships, if need be, as well as other mobile forces, to act as part of a combined navy - to use that power of concentration which, when properly employed against a foe, has always been the root of the naval defence of England and of this Empire. It has been pointed out that Great Britain does not entirely dispense with coastal defence, and certainly she has many vessels that fall outside the first rank, but might be used in that way. In the same way a selfgoverning colony may, if it chooses, make some provision for the defence of its harbors by means of land fortifications, torpedo boats, or even floating forts like the Cerberus. As she grows richer she may also make provision for the defence of her harbors by means of cruisers of heavy armament, able to strike effectively within a short distance of their base, but not suited to form part of a navy, the first purpose of which is concentration.
– Are we likely to have money for both those branches of defence for some time to come?
– I do not think so. That brings me to the point whether it is better to provide most- effectually for the first line of defence, or for that which only Comes into play when the first line is broken. The first line of defence is the mobile navy of the Empire. The second line, which is not required until the first has been broken, consists of forts, torpedo boats, or submarine vessels if honorable members like, as well as other defences which are incapable of being used to strike at that distant point at which perhaps the most effective defence could be secured. It is inconceivable that we should attempt to leave both these factors out of consideration. We may say that we prefer one to the other. One honorable member may say that he prefers coastal defence to any other system, and that he would put all our dollars into it ; while another may say that he prefers that kind of naval defence which would be able to strike at a distance, and that he would therefore support the making of all available provision in that direction. I am not above confessing that I have learned a little during this debate.
I am not above confessing that I have been struck with the ability displayed in some of the speeches which have been made, and in which other considerations have been suggested. I do not think that this agreement can be amended, or that we ought to amend it ; but at the same time my view that while we should provide adequately for our first line of defence, we should not lose sight of the second has been confirmed and strengthened by what I have heard during this debate.’ This is a confession which involves no loss of firmness or of manliness. But whatever opinion honorable members may hold as to what would happen if the sea power of the Empire were broken, and we had to make what defence we could at the mouths of our ports, or thereby, we are not relieved in our capacity as an integral, and, I hope, an unbreakable part of this Empire, from the consideration that the main line of defence is the one that demands our first and best attention. I do not anticipate any great attack upon our coasts unless a day comes when a descent in great numbers can be made upon us. But our harbors can be attacked only after the combined naval power has been broken. It is obvious therefore that our harbor fortifications are only a subsidiary line of defence. Useful as they may be when the time comes, theirs - if there must be a qualification, and there must be - is not the chief utility. The first and greatest consideration is the strength of the combined naval forces which, by efficient action, put attacks upon our coasts and harbors entirely out of the question. I am . prepared, therefore, to lay it down that nothing in this agreement that we wish to enforce shall be deemed to affect any purely Australian naval defence force or purely Australian ships or armament that we maintain for harbor and coast defence purposes. I am prepared, also, to see it laid down, in order that there may be no mistake, that such Australian forces, ships, and armaments as the Parliament may provide for shall be maintained by the Commonwealth and be under our sole control. Such a provision would be only in accordance with the Imperial Act of 1865, and would not be likely to involve us in the slightest dispute with the Imperial authorities. But, further than that, I am afraid I cannot go. A suggestion has been made by the honorable, member for Gippsland, for instance, that the term of the agreement should be reduced to five years. Others have suggested that it should’ be limited to ten years, while’ the still further suggestion has been made that the squadron should be confined to Australian waters. In the first place, I should resolutely resist any attemps to tie down the squadron, because that would create a defective spot in the very heart of the policy upon which effective naval defence depends. Apart from that consideration, however, the suggested amendments would each affect an integral part of the agreement. That agreement has been entered into between the Admiralty and myself, and, therefore, the First Lord of the Admiralty is a party to it. It must strike honorable members at once as a matter of commonsense that even the principal of one of the parties to an agreement cannot alter that agreement so far as it has been signed and accepted by the other side. This is a signed and accepted agreement, although it is true that it is not to operate unless by the authority of this Parliament. That, of course, brings into view the fact that this Parliament may reject the agreement altogether, and give instructions for a better one. Parliament may make a better one if it can do so ; but it cannot, without the consent of the other parties, alter the terms of this agreement any more than if any one of us having authority for the sale of a number of cattle or sheep had entered into an agreement, subject to the approval of our principal, for the sale of a number of them, our principal could alter the terras of that agreement without the consent of the other party. Therefore I must resist an amendment of this kind.
– Would not the Prime Minister give the other man a chance if he were in the position which he has just mentioned?
– Yes. A principal who does not think that the instruction or the authority given to his agent has been correctly interpreted by that agent can say at once - “ I will wipe out the agreement ; I shall not ratify it.” This is the co-relative of the rejection of this Bill. He might also say - “ I will set aside this agreement and enter into negotiations for another one. I think I can make a better one myself, or I shall delegate the duty to another agent.” But he could not alter the existing agreement, and expect the other party to abide by what he had had no hand in framing;
Therefore amendments cannot be made in this agreement, although honorable members may endeavour to prescribe the conditions of its operation. While it is perfectly true that this question has been treated in no party spirit, it is equally true that I cannot under any circumstances in this House forget my Ministerial responsibility. There is another fact of which I have just been reminded. It is that this is not only an agreement relating to the Commonwealth, but is one to which the Admiralty and New Zealand are parties. The acceptance of it by New Zealand is, of course, subject to the approval of her Parliament. In these circumstances, however, any alterations in the terms of the agreement would have to be accompanied by the assent of both New Zealand and the Admiralty. Consequently it is out of the question for us to think of endeavouring to make alterations in it. We are reasonably concluded to this course. If we do not agree with the step that has been taken, we can repudiate it altogether. I shall not say that that is a course which I should like to see adopted, but it is within the powers of this Parliament. It is also within the powers of the Parliament, if it wishes, toabstain from making any agreement, or to appoint a new agent and allow him to enter into negotiations with the Imperial authorities in its behalf. In the latter event, I, of course, should be the person relieved. I should also be sent about my business, so far as my position as an agent was concerned.
– Can we not go any further?
– I am afraid that I have put the matter as far as I can put it, from my point of view.
– The right honorable gentleman is pretty, bold when he is safe.
– I have had to be much bolder than I have known the honorable member to be at a time when my position was very unsafe. I refer to an incident which occurred two years ago, when some honorable members opposite were determined to make me feel very unsafe. I had to fight them as well as certain honorable members sitting below the gangway. As to the suggestion of subserviency, I think that the subserviency was shown by those who entered into those relations, while the courage was exhibited by those who defeated that attack. I do not’ need togo further.
– Will the Prime Minister explain what that means ?
– That is the right honorable gentleman’s first line of defence.
– On that occasion the combination met with a superior force.
– Was that a case of defensive attack ?
– It may have been a case of defensive attack, but I cannot say ; it depends upon our reading of what are defensive relationships. Another objection that has been raised against this agreement is, that it is impossible to have two sets of men working together on the same ship and receiving two rates of pay. In the first place, however, an endeavour will be made to exclusively man oneof thesecond- class cruisers which will be in commission with Australians and New Zealanders. That scheme may take time to carry out, and meanwhile there might be an invidious position of affairs. Again, if I have formed a right estimate, and I think I have, some 120 or 130 of the crews ofthe three drill- shipswill be naval men working under a three or five years’ agreement. They will consist of Australians and New Zealanders to the very greatest extent possible, but if it happens, before the full complement of these men has been made up, that there are some of the British bluejackets on those vessels there will be something in the objection thatit would be invidious to have two rates of pay operating on the same vessel. But the matter is one which I think can be arranged. I believe I see my way clear to make a satisfactory arrangement in a way that would not involve any alteration in any term of the agreement. It would simply be a matter of detail.
– How does the Prime Minister hope to obtain the men for such a short, service ?
– I feel confident that we shall secure them, because, if they desire to do so, they will be able to renew their engagements on the same terms. This scheme, does not assume any pension rights, because it provides for what I think is a short service, and the rates of pay will, as I take it, be raised approximately to those received by the men engaged in our local defence forces. A portion of their remuneration will consist of Admiralty pay, while the remaining portion will consist of the increase granted to them because of their special colonial service. What would be easier than to arrange that so far as the pay on board the vessels is concerned the Admiralty rates shall be given all round, and that in the case of the colonial men the colonial Governments shall be allowed to make good the difference. That difference might be made good by any of the known forms of payment, or by placing the requisite sum in a savings bank to the credit of each of the men. I think that the Australian and New Zealand Governments might be allowed to pay the difference that will accrue to those who are of Australian or New Zealand citizenship, not on board ‘ ship but on shore, the Admiralty rates being paid -all round on board.
– That was done in the case of some of the South African contingents.
– There could be nothing easier, and if we made provision for the payments to be made in this way we should not affect any term of the agreement. I shall endeavour to see that it is done. Payments made in that way may be deducted from the sum which otherwise we should pay by way of. maintenance, and be placed to our credit against the £200,000. That is a way by which the invidiousness complained of may be avoided, and avoided all the more easily when it4 is considered that, although the Australians and New Zealanders who serve in these ships are to receive higher rates of pay than the men of the British navy, Jack will be comforted by the reflection that at the end of his term of service he will be entitled to draw a pension, whereas the provision which we are making does not carry with it that advantage. I should like now to refer to one or two other objections which have been urged against the arrangement. It has been said that the Government are opposed to the establishment of an Australian Navy at any time. I do not think that that is a correct interpretation of our intentions, any more than it would be right to say that the agreement and the speech which I made in defence of it are not part of our policy, and that there should be some definite statement of our future intentions in regard to this matter. I made a statement in my opening speech which may be taken as an earnest of the design of the Government to give strong and favorable consideration to 6 t 2 the local arm of defence; But there is more than that to consider. So far as the policy of having an Australian Navy of cruisers upon the coast is concerned, the fact that we have made the agreement subject to determination upon notice at the end of eight years, which will be somewhere about the time when the financial provisions of the Constitution will be subject to revision, is an indication of what we mean. We do not wish to try to bind Parliament as to its future action in the matter. Let me not be misconceived in this respect. I shall always retain the opinion that the first line of defence is the most useful and effective we can have, and one which we should support in preference to any other, if we had to make a choice. But any action -we take in this matter must be subject to the opinions of those who come after us. Since one Parliament cannot bind its successor, it will be open to our successors to take action at the termination of this agreement, or when notice is given to terminate it.
– That state- : ment does not imply any future policy.
– It merely implies the determination not to affect the future policy of the Commonwealth. I do not know that I shall be here then, because none of us can say where we shall be in eight years’ time, but if I am here I think I shall still be found defending the contention that the combination and concentration of the fleets of the Empire under unity of control is our best line of defence. If we .had only one line of defence, that would be the- best we could have, although, fortunately, w.e are not shut down to one line of defence, and can therefore make provision for contingencies which the success of the first line of defence will make highly improbable. There is nothing in the agreement which pledges this Parliament to something which it cannot alter in the future.
– There is nothing in the agreement which amounts, to an implied undertaking as to the future.
– No. We are left at the -expiration of the period each to the exercise of his own opinion, and to the exertion of that influence in Parliament “which is commensurate with the honesty 1 and strength of the views which we hold. I have already indicated my views on the matter.
– The misconception as to the attitude of the Government has arisen from the fact that when a reduction was made in the defence Estimates, the naval forces were subjected to more Severe retrenchment than any honorable member anticipated.
– So far as I am aware, no one has been dismissed ; at any rate, no one in Victoria.
– The carrying out of the views of Parliament in regard to retrenchment in our defence expenditure has been an extremely difficult work, but, so far as .our defence afloat is concerned - I cannot speak of it as naval defence, because the Cerberus is not a sea-going vessel - adequate provision will be made for the efficiency of the vessels retained. If it should be the wish of Parliament to increase our floating defence by strengthening it, and making it capable of aggression, by the use of torpedo gun-boats, or other similar means, I shall be very pleased, and I shall be encouraged in my future efforts in that direction. ‘The honorable member for Bland has moved, as an amendment, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months. That, of course, is a complete change from the policy of the agreement. It is an assertion, if I interpret the honorable member’s speech aright, that we have no authority to enter into or to ratify this agreement, that it is our bounden duty to wait until the constituencies have expressed an opinion upon it, and. that the Government are censurable foi” having brought it forward. The honorable member suggests that we as a Parliament should stay our hands until the electors have ‘declared their will on the subject, and that if they are opposed to the arrangement the Government should go out of office. I am content to deal with the amendment in that light, and I should be content to so deal with it even if I thought it would be carried. But I am bound to say, in answer to the honorable member’s argument, that it is no part of our political principles to say that an elected Parliament is tied down, when important measures are brought before it, to the settlement of questions which have been the issue of a general election. That can never be an accepted principle of parliamentary Government, while members are representatives and not merely delegates. If we were to regard ourselves as delegates, and were to say - “ We cannot vote upon this measure or upon that; because we have no instructions from our constituents,” to what a miserable position should we reduce ourselves ! Is it to be supposed that the public take that niggard view of our powers and opportunities ? I protest against such a notion. It is not in accordance with any principle which I have had the good fortune to learn in connexion with politics. If there is a distinct issue before the constituencies at a general election, and a mandate is given by them in regard to it, it is essential, of course, that Parliament should carry out that mandate. But honorable members are elected not merely for the carrying out of the mandates of the electors, but also to deal with those large matters of public policy which, if each of them were made the ‘subject of reference to the constituencies, so much time would be consumed in that way that . there would be none left for their discussion and decision by Parliament.
– There would be continual ref rG ii d 8*
– Yes, or continual elections. I do not think that it is in accordance with the principles of parliamentary government that the constituencies should be disturbed, whether by general elections or by referenda, for the decision of an issue perhaps every few months. They decide at the general elections upon our fitness for Parliament, and our competency to entertain large projects such as this. It must have been widely known throughout the Commonwealth at the time of the last general elections that the existing naval agreement, which was entered into in 1S89, and had ten years to run, subject to notice being given of the wish to discontinue it, might be discontinued at any time. It must have been patent to the people that notice could at any time be given of the wish to terminate the agreement, and that two years thereafter a new agreement could be entered upon. But is it to be supposed that the people thought that when Parliament chose to bring the existing agreement to an end, and to substitute another for it, there would be a general election or a special referendum upon the subject 1 It is absurd to say that the people- wish to be appealed to at all times and in all seasons in connexion with these matters. If they have given us their confidence as their representatives in Parliament. T cannot help thinking that they consider a case of this kind quite within the trust which they have reposed in us. Therefore it does not behove us to run timorously and tremblingly to their feet, and say - “ This is something new. ‘ Will you let us deal with it V That is not the purpose of parliamentary representation. But I would venture to say something more on the’ subject. I could have welcomed nothing better, as a matter of political tactics, than the opportunity to take this Bill to the country, and to say to the people - “ Here is an issue for you. If you indorse our action with regard to the Bill, you- confirm us in power; but if you dissent from it we must go out of office.”
– The Government would get an overwhelming majority on such an issue!
– - I think that my honorable friend is correct in that statement. There would be no lack of courage on our part, because we should know the certainty that we had. We should have a good thing, and could accept it with the proper degree of thankfulness. I think I need occupy no further time in arguing against the amendment. Objections have been taken to the agreement which are merely subsidiary to objections which I have already answered. We have been told that in bringing forward this agreement we are doing an injury to the budding Australian nation. I wish to make no appeal to the past, but if I am doing an injury to the budding Australian nation I am quite unconscious of the fact. It is entirely contrary to so much of the history of Australia as I think I have had a part in the making of. The idea of injuring the budding flower of national life would to me appear to be the greatest treachery I could commit, and would render the past, upon which I hope to stand or fall, utterly useless. I cannot be seriously accused of anything of the sort. If any honorable member thinks that the effect of ratifying the agreement will be to destroy the budding aspirations of Australian nationhood, he has, of course, the liberty of his opinions, and I cannot quarrel with him ; but if it is said that it is my deliberate intention to inflict such an injury I think I must be absolved from the desire to participate in any such act. Then it is said that the fleet will not be available in time of war for the defence of Australia.. What is the idea underlying that statement ? It is not proposed to send the fleet to China or to the East Indies when there is no enemy there, nor is it proposed to detain it there when there is an enemy here. The idea is that the ships shall go where the enemy is - to the post of danger. The concentration of our forces at the post of danger, and the overcoming of that danger, is a first, and, if all goes well, the final step towards our safety. How, then, can it be supposed that we are leaving ourselves defenceless when we send our fleet to combine with squadrons upon other stations, without which combination they would be in danger of being overwhelmed, but by the means of which the enemy could be overcome ? The overwhelming at a distance of the forces of the Empire would expose us to attacks which our own provision for coastal and harbor defence, be they never so large, would not be able to resist. How can it be then, that by taking the first step commensurate with the danger which is threatening, and the step best adapted to secure our safety, we shall leave ourselves defenceless? An argument of that kind requires - no further reply, and if I have occupied time in answering it, it is because I consider the matter of great and vital importance. I ask the attention of honorable members to the fact that, if we know and understand the history of Australia, whose people made no complaint about being left defenceless when they sent their sons in thousands to South Africa, and had nothing to say about taxation and representation when they allowed their precious blood to be spilt to prevent the disintegration of the Empire, we can safely assume they will be the first to say that they seek no greater security than can be obtained by the combined policy of the Empire, and, in the next place, that the Government are taking the best step to obtain that security. I have now come to the end of the remarks which I intended to make, and I trust that I have not wearied honorable members. I feel strongly and deeply upon this matter, not because of the possession of swollen ideas of Imperialism, because that is a gibe to which no action of my life exposes me, but because I believe in giving to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. I believe in giving, not to the Caesar of Imperialism, but to the Caesar of selfgovernment ; in giving unimpaired to. each part of the Empire its proper powers of selfgovernment. We do that under the present policy of the Colonial Department, which’ is explicit and strong in that direction, and we thus secure an attitude to each other which makes for the internal peace and cohesion of the Empire. If we lend ourselves too much to measures which savour of disintegration, or teach our people to trend that way, we shall have ourselves to thank if, in detaching ourselves from the Empire, in the end we weaken the home of our children. It is because that is the last contingency to which I wish to expose Australia, and because I hope that it may be as distant as the day of doom, that I ask honorable members to vote for this Bill.
Question - That the word “now “ proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The agreement set out in the schedule is hereby ratified and approved.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I desire to submit an amendment upon this clause. Having regard to the vote that has just been taken, I recognise that it is the wish of a majority of the Committee that this agreement should be given a fair trial. It is considered that, in view of the condition of our finances, it would be well to leave the whole of our defence to the British Navy. I suggest, therefore, that we should declare upon the face of the Bill that it is merely of a tentative and experimental character. I would point out that this agreement, in its present form, will continue indefinitely, as will be abundantly clear by reference to Article 10. At the expiration of ten years it will still be operative, and it is not necessary for the question to be again brought before Parliament. I know that there are several honorable members who think that this matter should be reconsidered, in the light of future circumstances, within ten years. The adoption of my proposal would compel the Government to reconsider it within that period. I therefore move -
That the following proviso be added : - “ Pro vided that it be modified by the contracting parties, so as to limit its term to ten years, unless the parties consent to its continuance.”
I repeat that if we do nothing, the agreement in its present form will continue indefinitely, whereas, if my amendment be carried, it will terminate at the end of ten years, unless the high contracting parties enter into some fresh arrangement. I merely propose to compel Parliament to reconsider the matter within ten years. Of course, if I moved to amend the schedule in that direction it would be in order, but it would be inconvenient, and the Prime Minister would at once say that I desired to amend an agreement upon one side without the other party to it having been consulted. It is perfectly within the power of this Parliament to say that it is willing to accept the agreement with a slight modification. Such a procedure would not be unlike that which was adopted in connexion with our Constitution. That instrument of government was ratified by the Australian people, but the Imperial authorities afterwards said, “ We will accept it if it is modified in certain respects.” If it was not unreasonable for the Imperial Government to insist upon a modification of a matter which was purely Australian, it is surely pot unreasonable for us to demand a modification of this agreement.
– I shall be glad if the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne will temporarily withdraw his proposal to enable me to submit a prior amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the following words be added : - “ Subject to the following alteration : that the squadron shall not be removed from beyond the limits of the Australian station without the consent of the Governor-General in Council.”
I shall not occupy the attention of the Committee at any length, because the opinions of honorable members have already been freely expressed.
– How can we make such an alteration when New Zealand is a party to the agreement?
Mr.FULLER. - It will be a matter for the Imperial and New Zealand authorities to agree to ?
– They may desire to alter something else, and there will be no finality.
– That is not a point which we have to consider. We have to consider what is best in the interests of Australia. In asking honorable members to accept this amendment, I am simply requesting them to agree to the insertion in this agreement of a power that is contained in the agreement of 1887. Under that agreement the squadron cannot be removed from Australian waters without the consent of the Governments concerned, and now that we have become aunited people, I think that the.Federal Government should have at least as strong a voice in regard to this question as had the six separate States. The Prime Minister, as well as the Minister for Defence, have asked us to consider this agreement as a purely business transaction, and, regarding itin that light, I think it would be wise for the Federal Government to have some control over the movements of the squadron to be provided. If, in the opinion of the Federal Government, it became necessary for the squadron to join forces with the British fleet in some other part of the world, I am sure that no obstacle would be placed in the way of the adoption of that course. The Admiralty has not always been correct, so far as colonial matters are concerned. We know that a mistake was made in connexion with the annexation of New Guinea. Although a movement was initiated by Sir Thomas McIllwraith for the annexation of that island, the opportunity was allowed to go by.
– The Imperial authorities repudiatedSir Thomas McIll wraith’s action.
– Yes. The Germans have been able to obtain possession of a portion of that island in close proximity to Australia, and in all probability a base will be established there by a nation which is showing great antagonism to England. I trust this amendment will be carried. ‘
– I wish to ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman. It seems to me that this amendment would be a variation of the agreement which appears in the schedule, and I should like to know whether, after this clause has been dealt with, I shall be permitted to move an amendment to that schedule 1
– We cannot amend the agreement, but in the Bill itself we can impose conditions upon its acceptance.
– Then I shall have to move a further amendment to this clause. Article 5 provides that -
If a sufficient proportion of men from either colony should not on the aforesaid basis be forthcoming, a sufficient number of men to complete the complements of the ships may be enrolled from the other colony.
The amendment which I desire to move may be only a verbal alteration, but it seems to me that the Commonwealth should not be described as a “ colony.” It is not a colony in any sense of the word, and even the States which are its constituent parts are no longer colonies. I desire to move an amendment which will remedy this defect in the schedule.
– The Commonwealth is a colony within the meaning of certain British legislation.
– I think that this schedule is a part of the Bill, and that we can amend it just as the Imperial Parliament amended our Constitution, which appeared as a schedule to the Imperial measure. I trust that we shall have an opportunity of amending the agreement which appears in the schedule. It cannot yet be described as an agreement arrived at between- the parties. It is subject to the approval of the Parliament, and we may alter the terms very considerably. I trust that we shall do so, and that you will not rule, Mr. Chairman, that we cannot amend the schedule. Unless you do so, I shall move several amendments in regard to it.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio has raised a very important question. I am not prepared to say that it is not within the power of the Committee to alter any Bill which is placed before it, however wrong or awkward that alteration might be. But, as the preamble to this Bill recites, the agreement is between His Majesty’s Government, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the colony of New Zealand ; and inasmuch as it has been made, subject, of course, to the approval of this House, by three distinct parties, it would be far more convenient, if the Committee really wishes to vary it, to do so by an amendment in the Bill itself, indicating the conditions governing the acceptance of the proposal. It would be desirable for the Committee to express its view as to a variation of the agreement, by amending that part of the Bill which speaks for this House. It would be better to look upon this , schedule as a document which should stand as agreed to at the Conference.
– It might seem to some honorable members that I had unnecessarily delayed what I have to say upon this question of amendment if I did not speak at once. I am bound, to state that I do not think it would be either right or courteous to make an amendment of this kind, which would be in fact an amendment of an agreement to which there are two other parties. I cannot for myself accept any such amendment. I cannot accept this Bill with any such amendment in it. I cannot undertake the onus of carrying on a Bill containing a statement that an agreement which .was made between this Government and two other parties, is an agreement other than that which I brought back from London.
– I thought that we were told that the Parliament was not bound by the agreement.
– And yet the right honorable gentleman says now that we cannot alter it.
– I did not say that. Before the division on the motion for the second reading of the Bill was taken, I explained very clearly that while this Bill might ‘be rejected, the effect of an amendment in an agreement to which there were parties other than ourselves would be tantamount to the rejection of this Bill. The amendment says that the agreement to be carried out is not the agreement that has. really been made. It may be clearly within the power of Parliament to repudiate this agreement - I do not use the word “ repudiate “ in the dishonorable sense attaching to it - and to say that that which was done by a person on its behalf, subject to its authority, is not approved of. That, however, can best be done by rejecting a Bill of this kind. It can be better and more fairly done by striking out the second clause, because to amend the schedule would be to say the contrary of what is set forth in that clause. If the schedule be amended it ceases to be the agreement for all the practical purposes for which I made it. It would appear from the amendment that the Bill was not ratifying the agreement actually made, but something else. I cannot accept that position ; I cannot accept the Bill with such an amendment. I wish the Committee to be quite clear as to my attitude, because sometimes one is not understood to be acting here on his responsibility as a Minister unless he expressly says so. I malco this statement, acting on my responsibility as a Minister, and fully alive to every consequence that it may entail. Article 2 reads as follows : -
The base of this force shall be the ports of Australia and New Zealand, and their sphere of operations shall be the waters of the Australian, China, and East Indian stations, as defined in the attached schedules, where the Admiralty believe they can most effectively act against hostile vessels which threaten the trade or interests of Australia and New Zealand. No change in this arrangement shall be made without the consent of the Governments of the Commonwealth and of New Zealand ; and nothing in the agreement shall be taken to mean that the naval force herein named shall be the only force used in Australasian waters should the necessity arise for a larger force.
It will be apparent that the amendment would effect an alteration in that agreement just as much as if it were an amendment of the schedule. It says in effect that the sphere of operations of the squadron shall be the waters of the Australian station. The primary reason for removing the squadron from the waters of the Australian station, if it ever were removed, would be because the Admiralty, with its. superior means of information, had come to the conclusion that the trade and interests of Australia and New Zealand would be better protected by the fleet striking a blow at the enemy in some other part of the. world than by its remaining on our coasts. Honorable members propose to substitute for the judgment of the Admiralty an authority which, strong as is my belief in the efficiency of our Constitution, I must acknowledge cannot possess the information which is secured by the Naval Intelligence Department for the Admiralty. Among the -experts who were present at the consultations which preceded the drawing up of this agreement was the British Director of Naval Intelligence, who. was as strong in his belief in the policy of Article 2 as any one who attended ; while among other experts who were present was not only Lord Selborne, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Admiralty, Mr. Arnold Poster, who has given a great deal of consideration to naval affairs, but also the senior naval Lord of the Admiralty, who is looked upon as one of the highest authorities upon naval matters. If the amendment were carried, the policy laid down in Article 2 would be defeated, and those who listened to what I had to say in moving the second reading of the Bill, and in speaking again in reply, cannot fail to know that I consider that article a vital part of the agreement. The united control of the British fleets is its cardinal principle, and to defeat that principle would be to defeat the agreement in its most essential point. I do not propose to repeat in detail the arguments which I have already used, because if I have not made the position clear I despair of doing so; but I wish to put the importance of the amendment strongly and clearly before honorable members, so that they may see for what reasons, and prompted by what motives, I regard it as vital to the Bill. All the Bill does is to ratify the agreement, to provide funds for carrying it into effect, and to declare that the agreement does not disturb or interfere with existing arrangements for local defence, or limit the authority of this Parliament to make additions to them. But if the amendment is carried, it will radically alter the agreement, and the effect of making such an alteration in an agreement to which there are three parties can only be to destroy it altogether. The agreement was made, of course, subject to the approval of Parliament, and Parliament can say that it does not approve of it. It would be better for Parliament to do that than to defeat the agreement by a side wind.
– Cannot we say that we want other terms 1
– I do not say that the amendment is out of order, though it might be contended that it is so. If anyone is ‘of that opinion, I ask him not to invoke the decision of the Chairman upon the point, because I wish the matter to be fought out on its merits. That is the only manly way of dealing with the question.
– How can it be fought out on its merits if the Government make it a party question ?
– I cannot consent to put aside my sense of Ministerial responsibility, even to please my honorable friend. When speaking in reply, I pointed out to honorable members who stated that the matter was not one to be dealt with in a party spirit, that, however honorable members might treat it, nothing could divest me of my Ministerial responsibility in regard to matters connected with it in which I thought that responsibility involved. This is such a matter. But in saying that my Ministerial responsibility is involved, I am far from making a threat. I am conscious, however, that if a vote were taken against the Government which we felt bound to accept as a defeat involving our Ministerial responsibility, our supporters would say - “ Why did you not tell us beforehand that you considered the matter a party question ? “ On the other hand, I know that whenever Ministerial responsibility is mentioned in a debate, a section of honorable members is always ready to cry out that the House is being threatened. Nothing is further from my thoughts than the wish to threaten honorable members, but it is the duty of a Government on critical occasions to make their position absolutely clear. I am only communicating to the Committee my sense of my responsibility in this matter, but I leave honorable members to take what course they think fit in regard to it. Any man who thinks that the reasons for voting for the amendment are stronger than those which cause him to support the Government, is absolved by. that conviction from his party ties, but the more open and straightforward course would be to refuse straight out to ratify the agreement. It is natural to some honorable members, however, to consider that amendments which they wish to make are not of vital importance to the principles of a Bill. Some honorable members, during the discussion on the second reading, spoke of their intention to move amendments with a view to prevent the fleet from being removed from the Australian waters without the consent of the Commonwealth Government; but it is incumbent upon me to repeat that I consider that the carrying of such an amendment would absolutely destroy the agreement. If it seems good to honorable members to vote straightforwardly for the rejection of the agreement, I cannot complain, and I would soonersee it dealt with in that way than defeated by an amendment which I regard as destructive of one of its vital principles.
– Suppose the Government had discovered a flaw in the agreement?
– If we had discovered a flaw which we considered prevented us from presenting the agreement for the sanction of Parliament, we should have communicated with the Admiralty and the Government of New Zealand, asking for their leave to make an alteration in it.
– Is it not a technical error to call the Commonwealth a. colony ?
– In the Colonial Laws Validity Act, the term “ self-governing colony “ is defined in a way which brings the Commonwealth within the scope of its meaning. The term “ colony “ applies to Canada and’ to New Zealand in the statutory sense. The use of theterm is not intended to convey any slight or insult.
– It is simply an oversight.
– It may be an oversight ; but that is no reason why we should amend in any particular an agreement arrived at by three parties, when by making such an amendment we should practically do away with the agreement.
– We were told that it was a provisional agreement.
– Hon members were told that it was an agreement subject to the approval of Parliament. Such an agreement is equally subject to the disapproval of Parliament, and the proper course to adopt is to ratify it, or to decline to ratify it, and let it go.
– Could we not ratify a portion of it?
– Not if the agreement is to be preserved. Under the existingagreementf or an Australian squadron > the colonies which were then contributories. were -called upon to pay what was assessed as the cost of maintenance, together with a contribution of 5 per cent, interest and sinking fund, on the capital cost of the vessels provided, consisting of five firstclass cruisers and two gun-boats. The estimated cost of these vessels was £700,000, and the 5 per cent, provision for interest and sinking fund amounted to £35,000 per annum. The estimated cost of maintenance was £91,000, and, therefore, the total contribution to be paid by Australia and New Zealand amounted to £126,000. The vessels actually cost £854,000, instead of £700,000, as estimated, and the maintenance involved an annual expenditure of £120,000, instead of £91,000 j but a bargain was a bargain, and an agreement was an agreement, and the Admiralty kept their compact. The 5 per cent, contribution for interest and sinking fund upon £854,000 represented an annual charge of £47,000, and the maintenance amounting to £120,000, made a total annual outlay of £167,000; but, notwithstanding this, the total annual contribution of Australia and New Zealand to the Admiralty was restricted to £.126,000, and the Imperial- Government paid the other £41,000. Under the proposed new agreement, the estimated annual cost of the squadron will be £480,000, but [ have every reason to believe that that amount will be considerably exceeded. The contribution of Australia and New Zealand is, however, restricted to £240,000, and the Admiralty will pay the other £240,000, together with any further . expense that may be involved if the estimate of annual cost should be exceeded. I wish honorable members to dismiss from their minds the consideration of any expense in excess of the present estimate which may be involved in carrying out the agreement. The whole p6int is that, under the present agreement, Australia and New Zealand pay an amount calculated upon the whole of the cost of maintenance, whereas under the proposed agreement we shall pay a contribution calculated upon only one-half that cost, whilst the Admiralty will pay the remainder. Consequently an amendment to take away control from the Admiralty, and vest it in Australia and” New Zealand, would be entirely out of harmony with that principle in the agreement.
– Under the old agreement an Imperial Squadron was to be kept here, apart altogether from the vessels forming the Auxiliary Squadron.
– Yes, and under the proposed agreement it is provided that -
Nothing in the agreement shall be taken to mean that the naval force ‘herein named should be the only force used in Australasian waters, should the necessity arise for a greater force.
I admit that that is not the same as having Imperial vessels stationed here apart from the Australian Squadron ; but, on the other hand, the cardinal difference between the two agreements is not affected by my honorable friend’s interjection. The cardinal difference is that under the present agreement we pay a contribution calculated upon the whole cost of maintenance of the Auxiliary Squadron, whereas under the proposed agreement our contribution is calculated upon half the cost of maintenance. An amendment which would deprive the Admiralty of direct control of the Australian Squadron would rob the agreement of its chief value. On principle, I am opposed to the amendment, and I think it would be unfair if it could take effect under the Bill, considering that the Admiralty are to pay half of the cost of maintenance. It is not to be expected that a fresh agreement, allowing of a divided control, would be consented to if the contribution of the Admiralty were increased from practically nothing to one-half of the cost of maintenance. I think that some honorable members who have spoken upon the subject of tying the fleet down to Australian waters, have perhaps overlooked the important consideration, that under the old agreement we were assessed at the whole of that cost, whereas under this agreement we are assessed at only half the cost. However that may be, I wish to reiterate that I consider myself personally, and as a Minister, bound to ask the Committee to accept or reject this agreement. If it is rejected, I shall regard the action of the Committee as an intimation to me that, although I acted under the responsibility of a Minister in what I conceived to be the best interests of Australia, my intervention resulted in something distasteful to honorable members. I should therefore - as I think any other Minister would - feel myself constrained to accept an intimation of that kind, however sugar-coated the pill might be, as one to me that I had not correctly gauged the feeling of honorable members in regard to the vital principles of the Bill, and that I must therefore take the consequences. I could not conceive of anything further from my thoughts than to make this declaration with any view to threaten the House. Honorable members will be free to vote as they like. I am not one to crack the stockwhip, ‘ but I am making this declaration so that honorable members may know from me what my position is. It might be possible if the agreement is destroyed - and this amendment would destroy it - to conclude another agreement, but so far as I am concerned I should be obliged not to take part in any negotiations to that end. The amendment would not only be fatal to the Bill, but it would compel me to consider my own position.
– Although I do not attribute any such intention to the honorable member who moved the amendment, I agree with the Prime Minister that it would prove fatal to the Bill. The proposal runs absolutely counter to the whole principle of the agreement. The old agreement, under which the whole of the cost of maintaining the Auxilliary Squadron was paid by Australia and New Zealand, provided that the squadron should not be removed from Australian waters without the consent of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. That agreement was most unsatisfactory, and the Prime Minister was forced . to agree to the adoption of a new scheme under which a British fleet, under, direct control of the Admiralty, would be stationed in Australian waters under such conditions that Australia would be called upon ‘ to contribute only half the estimated annual cost. If we sought to assume the sole command of the squadron in times of emergency, we should be asking for something which was never contemplated by the agreement, and something which we have no right to claim considering the smallness of our contribution, I am absolutely against a joint control of an important portion of the British Navy, and I could not support an amendment which aims at exercising control, not only over the proposed vessels of the Australian Squadron, but over any additional war-ships which might be stationed in Australian waters. The agreement provides for a minimum number of vessels in this squadron. It declares that the naval force upon the Australian station shall consist of not less than eleven vessels. But future exigencies may require considerably more than that number of warships to assemble upon the Australian station. Under such circumstances, what would be the position ? If half the vessels of the British fleet were stationed in Commonwealth waters, we could, if the amendment were adopted, prevent them from being removed elsewhere.
– But a ship which comes here in an emergency is not a vessel under this agreement.
– Article 2 refers to this particular force.
– It shows that it is a distinctive force.
– In spite of all the objections which are urged, I hold that if future circumstances required the permanent increase of the fleet on the Australian station under this amendment its movements would be restricted.
– Not at all.
– Let us suppose that it were found necessary to permanently double the fleet upon the Australian station. Would not its vessels constitute “ the naval force on the Australian station 1”
– The naval force mentioned in the Bill is not necessarily the only force that may come here.
– I maintain that if the regular fleet in Australian waters were increased, or if more powerful ships were provided than those which are specified, they would, under this amendment, be subject to the restriction which it seeks to impose. Objection has been urged against giving the Admiralty full control over this fleet, on the ground that its decisions and actions are not always wise. We have failed yet to create an institution that is always wise. In support of that argument, it has been pointed out that only a portion of New- Guinea was annexed by Great Britain when Australia desired the annexation of the whole. But I would point out that the Admiralty authorities had nothing to do with the matter. Who made the mistake ? The political authorities in Great Britain ! Yet that fact is used as an illustration in favour of handing over the control of the fleet upon the Australian station to the political authorities of the Commonwealth.
– The Admiralty is, subject to political control.
– That does not destroy my argument that the case of New Guinea furnishes no reason for putting into the hands of the political powers of the Commonwealth the joint control of the fleet in Australian waters.
– We cannot distinguish between the Admiralty authorities at home and the political authorities.
– But we can distinguish between an act of peace and an act of war.
– Of course we can. Whilst I should be perfectly willing to allow the decision of the question of whether or not the squadron should be permitted to strengthen another portion of the British fleet elsewhere to rest with” the people of Australia, I am not prepared to allow it to rest with a weak Ministry. I can imagine a Ministry which is dependent upon the votes of a few who are antagonistic to the removal of the vessels preferring its own safety to that of the Empire, especially if it thought that the safety of the Empire was not seriously imperilled. 1 can also imagine a timid Ministry being afraid to allow the fleet to leave Australian shores, lest it should be difficult for it to justify its action before the people of the Commonwealth. But apart from these considerations, what might occur? A portion of the fleet might be patrolling the extreme limits of Australian waters. Those vessels, perhaps, might receive a request from the Admiral of another station into whose proximity they had come to proceed in a certain direction beyond Australian waters to assist in repelling an opposing force. In such circumstances, are they to return to Australia before they can act?’
– What would happen to the English Channel Squadron under those conditions ?
– The Channel Squadron would act as it has done in the past, and if it were not within easily communicable distance of the British Admiralty, would go to the assistance of another fleet if its services were required.
– It has never gone far.
– If the Admirals of the British fleet were not prepared - as they have been in the past - to assume responsibility when occasion demands it, it would be a poor look out for the naval supremacy of Great Britain in the future.
– The Channel fleet would not go 2,000 miles away.
– If it were necessary or desirable, it would proceed even to that, distance. Before now it has gone to the mouth of the Mediterranean to operate against an enemy. But I would point out that the fleet stationed in Australian waters may require to go 2,000 miles away without obtaining the consent df the Executive Government, but it is proposed that it must not pass an imaginary line without returning to Australia to first secure the permission of the Commonwealth Executive.
– There might be no opportunity of obtaining that permission until it was too late to be of any use.
– An earthquake might happen.
– Earthquakes do happen, and are likely to occur at any time.’ We cannot provide against them, but we can provide against certain situations which will probably arise. It has been argued that there should be no objection to the proposed restriction upon the removal of the fleet from Australian waters because that restriction would never be exercised. If the vessels were required elsewhere, it is said that a patriotic- Australia would grant the requisite permission. Then what is the use of inserting such a provision in this Bill ? If that be so, there seems to be no argument in favour of the amendment. I would further point out that the proposed restriction would be absolutely ineffective. What should we think of a British Admiral in charge of the fleet who, being convinced that in the interests of Australia and of Britain he should take his vessels to a certain point, neglected to do so? If a Nelson were in charge of the squadron, I am sure that the blind eye would be put to the signal which was intended to restrain him from acting upon his own initiative. Indeed, he would not be worthy of the traditions of the service if he did otherwise.
-Of what use was a similar stipulation in the old agreement ?
– It was absolute humbug. It might be safely allowed to continue, however, because the ships which we acquired under that agreement were not fit to go very far from our coasts.
– They were said to be splendid vessels of their type.
– Does the right honorable member consider that they were splendid vessels ? I say that the fleet provided under the old agreement scarcely needed a restriction to confine it to Australian waters.
– According to the honorable member, the agreement should bind us, but not the Admiralty.
– Even if we adopted the amendment it could not bind the Admiralty, because the interests of the Empire and of Australia would be above any such ridiculous restriction.
– According to the honorable member the ships might go to the Atlantic or to the Mediterranean.
– Yes, if it were deemed necessary for them to do so.
– Then the agreement is all humbug, because it confines their operations to three stations.
– I assert that any fleet would, in time of war, cross the borders of those stations if it were considered necessary for them to do so.
– It might all be done by the consent of the Government.
– I have already pointed out that in that event it might be necessary for a ship to travel 1,000 or 2,000. miles in order to obtain the consent of the Commonwealth Government to take part in an action, and it might be all over before she could again reach the scene of operations.
– Could they not be allowed out On parole 1
– Where would be the restriction if , before any war was declared, the vessels of the squadron were given permission, as the honorable and learned member suggests, to roam wherever they pleased ? The only purpose that could be served by the amendment is to enable our people to resist the departure of the fleet. To my mind it would be not only dangerous, but most undesirable, to have the fleet under a divided control. If, in the future, we create a fleet of our own, we shall then have undivided control but if we had our own fleet how should we like the British Admiralty to have the power to prevent us from using it in a way that we consider would best serve our interests ?
– But the Imperial power must overrule the Australian power.
– The British authorities cannot order Australian troops to leave this country for the purpose of taking part in a war elsewhere, and the honorable and learned member was opposed to a provision in another measure which would have allowed them to do so.
– As long as we are under the Imperial power we must obey it.
– The honorable and learned member takes up the position that, if we have a fleet of our own, the Imperial authorities would be able to command it to sail or prevent it from sailing in a certain direction, or even from leaving our ports. I think they have no such power over our military forces, and why should they have the power-
– According to the honorable member, an Australian admiral would not be worth his salt unless he took his fleet to a point at which it would be m6st useful to the Empire.
– To a point at which it would best serve the defence of Australia, not necessarily of the Empire, as a purely Australian fleet is for Australian defence.
– Are our interests different?
– Every honorable member who supports the creation of an Australian Navy has argued again and again that there is a distinction. During the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, it was said over and over again that if we obtained a fleet of our .own we should be able to control it, and to station it at any point or use it in any direction we pleased. Is the honorable and learned member deserting that position 1
– I am not deserting it ; but the honorable member adopts it only when suits him to do so.
– I trust that I have not caused any irritation to any honorable member. But the position is that an attempt is being made to defeat this measure by a side issue. I do not believe that the honorable and learned member for Illawarra had any such intention in moving the amendment ; but some honorable members who opposed the motion for the second reading of the Bill are seeking to cause the rejection of the whole measure by supporting his proposal. Even if I were opposed to the agreement, and in favour of the immediate creation of an Australian Navy, I should not be in favour of a divided control of that portion of the British fleet that we should have on our shores.
– I intend to support this amendment.
– Quite so.
– And I suppose that even the honorable member for Richmond expected that I would do so.
– No doubt the honorable member for Richmond will support the Bill.
– There is no danger of his supporting anything which the Government say should not be supported, no matter how much it might grate on what he terms his conscience to refrain from doing so. It seems to me, however, that the effect of carrying this amendment will be to bring the agreement, if an amended one is obtained as desired, back to the lines upon which the agreement of 1887 was made. There would still be a difference, as to the basis upon which the contribution is to be paid, and in regard to the training of Australian seamen, but the main features of the two agreements would be the same. It would be primarily an agreement to provide for the protection of Australian interests in Australian waters. I contend that the Prime Minister had no authority whatever from the people of Australia to enter into an agreement different from that which had previously existed. There bad been a tacit approval of the agreement of 1887, and in going beyond that it seems to me that the Prime Minister wholly misrepresented the feelings of Australia. The best indication that the right honorable gentleman himself considers he has misrepresented the feelings of the people in this respect is that he is seeking to dragoon honorable members of this House into supporting this proposal. If he thought that he represented the feelings of the people of Australia, and that the majority of honorable members who are free from any party ties were with him, there would be no necessity for him to crack the whip and bring his supporters behind him. The mere declaration that this amendment is regarded by him as a motion of want of confidence is an indication that the Government are afraid that the people of Australia, speaking through their representatives in this House, are not in favour of this proposal.
– And that the Government want to commit suicide by passing this Bill?
– The honorable member knows very well that the issue at the next general election in all probability will not be the question of whether the naval agreement is a proper one or not. It would be very difficult to obtain the decision of the people upon a matter of this kind except by way of a direct referendum. They may be prepared to swallow their objections to an agreement of this sort, in order to retain the present Government in office; or, on the other hand, they may be desirous of ousting the present Government irrespective of whether they approve of this agreement or not. It appears to me that we should primarily make provision for the defence of our coastal interests. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that we can still make that provision, and that he is willing to accept the farcical amendment outlined by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. That amendment would put on record a declaration, where no declaration is necessary, that this agreement will not prevent us from carrying out our own coastal defence. Of course, so far as its terms are concerned, it will not do so. But what we have to apprehend is that as this agreement sets aside a large sum of money for what is distinctly not the coastal defence of Australia, it will have such an effect upon our finances as to prevent any provision being made for that coastal defence.For that reason I think this agreement should be resisted. I know that one or two honorable members who spoke during the second-reading debate did me the honour of quoting some remarks which I made two years ago, during the second-reading debate on the Defence Bill, with the view of showing that I am now adopting a course inconsistent with the attitude which I then took up. I contend, however, that I am still occupying the same position. I am prepared to vote for an agreement, and tentatively to rely for the coastal protection of Australia on the British Navy, as against the immediate creation, at great expense, of an Australian Navy. But I am not prepared to pay for a squadron that may be in the China seas, and which, at the most critical time, will leave the whole coastal interests of Australia defenceless. The Prime Minister has said that the head of the Naval Intelligence Department insisted strongly upon this particular feature of the , agreement, as being the most valuable one of all. If our resources would permit it, I would say at once that it would be wise for us to consider what might be termed extraAustralian interests. In those circumstances we should feel it our .bounden duty - whether by the effective partnership of the Australian Squadron with the British fleet, or by some other arrangement with the Admiralty - to pay some regard to the general interests of the Empire. We should, however, act always within the limits mentioned by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney - within the limits of a sane Imperialism, as against the hysterical notions which seem to have been forced upon some of us of late. But, in view of our circumstances at the present time, I do not think that we are called upon to do more than to assist the Empire by providing for the security of Australia, and by making the naval bases here impregnable, so that they may be of assistance to the British fleet in general. As to the particular advocacy of this feature by the head of the Naval Intelligence Department, I am mounded of a fact which has quite. recently been, put forward by the British Navy League, that out of a total of some £13,000 per annum, voted on last year’s Estimates for the Intelligence Department of the Navy, only some £4,000 was actually used for the actual maintenance of the Intelligence branch. If the Admiral at the head of the Intelligence Department has only as many officers to rely upon as an expenditure of £4,000 per annum can secure, I do not see that greater reliance can be placed upon his opinion than upon that of any other highly placed naval expert.
– The naval attaches also undertake intelligence duty.
- Mr. Arnold White, at the annual meeting of the Navy League, made it a strong point against the Admiralty administration that so little was spent upon the Intelligence Department ; and it would seem a ridiculous thing that only £4000 should be expended in obtaining intelligence for the control of a navy whose annual maintenance costs £34,000,000. The Prime Minister says that those who propose to alter the agreement ought to vote against it altogether. I was prepared to object to the Bill rather than approve of an agreement which differs so materially from anything to which our people are accustomed, but I think it is quite proper for those who do not care to go so far fis that to say what they are prepared to accept in lieu of the agreement as it stands.
How is it possible for us to indicate to the Imperial authorities what we are willing to accept unless some such specific motion as this is moved 1 I think it is only a proper thing that we should clearly indicate how far we are prepared to go, and those who voted for the second reading, but desired to have the agreement altered in some particulars, are quite consistent in voting for’ such an amendment as this. The Prime Minister proceeded to say that the amendment is an unfair one in view of the fact that the basis of the agreement is that we shall pay only one half of the cost of maintaining the squadron. He fails, however, to appreciate the force of the fact to which the right honorable member for East Sydney was the first to draw attention, that under the existing agreement, while we pay the full cost of maintaining the vessels of the Auxiliary Squadron, which is supposed to be a peculiar creation for Australian needs, the Imperial authorities are bound to maintain certain other vessels at their own cost so long as the agreement continues.
– But the number of vessels in the Auxiliary Squadron and the Imperial fleet under the present agreement does not equal the number of vessels which we shall have here under the proposed agreement.
– No. That is another matter. Seeing -that the fact is as I have stated, it does not seem to me that we are now asking too much, especially as our contribution is henceforth to be doubled. I am surprised at the construction which the honorable member for North Sydney, whom I regard as one of the most clear-headed men in the Chamber, desires to place upon the proposed agreement. He has stated that if the amendment is carried its effect will be that all the war vessels in Australian waters will be subject to the conditions which the honorable and learned member for Illawarra wishes to impose.
– All the vessels permanently stationed here- not vessels coming here at a time of crisis.
-I understand that. Neither, of course, could it affect vessels coming here with relief crews, or for some other temporary purpose. I would direct the attention of the honorable member, however, to the fact that the naval force mentioned in Article 2 is the naval force ‘ which is specified at length in Article 1,’ as one first-class armoured cruiser and so many cruisers of other classes, together with four sloops.
– Article 1 says “ not less than the undermentioned sea-going ships of war.”
– The Admiralty may maintain as many ships as they like here, subject to the conditions of Article 8 as regards the contributions^ of Australia and New Zealand.
– Yes ; but the contract is for the maintenance here of at least as many ships as are specified in Article 1, and the amendment would apply only to such ships.
– The Admiralty could remove any ships exceeding the number specified in Article 1.
– Yes. The Prime Minister in introducing the Bill said that it was not to be expected that the agreement would be subjected to scrutiny in a court of law, nor can it be thought that any of the parties to it would haggle in regard to its details, or interpret it according to dry legal technicalities rather than according to its spirit. Personally, I do not fear anything from such an interpretation. The honorable member for North Sydney further said that the present squadron has proved ineffective, but I should like him to specify in what particular it has been ineffective. If he thinks that the Admiralty broke faith with the people of Australia, in regard to that squadron, such an admission cannot do much to sustain his present argument.
– The present agreement arranged for the maintenance of certain ships ; under the proposed agreement the squadron maintained must, throughout the whole period, be modern and up-to-date.
– When the vessels of the Australian Squadron were first sent here they were supposed to be up-to-date.
– It is a reflection upon the Admiralty to suggest that they provided in the original agreement for the sending out of unsuitable vessels.
– Yes ; but although the vessels were not armed according to the recommendation of Admiral Tryon, who suggested that their main battery should consist of 6-inch guns, whereas they have been supplied with only 4-7-in. guns, they were supposed to be effective vessels of their class for the work for which they were designed.
– The honorable member would not call them effective, now.
– I do not say that they are, since the armament of the cruisers which would oppose them if trouble occurred would probably be much better, because of the improvement which has been made in naval equipment during the last fourteen or fifteen years. The armament of the vessels of the Auxiliary Squadron is now practically obsolete.
– Then we are to-day unprotected ?
– Very largely so, except for the presence of the Royal Arthur ; though the ships of the Auxiliary Squadron would be of use in protecting our commerce against the havoc which might be wrought by armed merchantmen, such as the Germans could put upon our seas at short notice by the conversion of a number of the vessels which now trade to Australia. There is one other point to which I should like to refer. It has been said that no British Admiral worth his salt would hesitate to break any agreement if in his judgment the necessities of the situation warranted him in doing so. If it were merely a matter of going a few miles beyond the limits of the station, it is probable that any British or Australian Admiral would break an agreement to that extent to meet or to pursue the enemy’s ships ; but an Admiral would be less likely to take the fleet away on small provocation if the agreement contained an express prohibition against his taking it away at all. Without such a prohibition, it is more than likely that upon the slightest indication of trouble in the China seas, the whole squadron would be taken away, and our coasts would be left defenceless. Although it is probable that the Admiral of the English Channel fleet would take his ships beyond the boundaries of his station to pursue an enemy, I think, from what I have read, and from what I know of the opinion of naval experts upon the subject, that the English people would never deliberately consent to the Channel fleet being made available as a general thing for service elsewhere.
– The only time that an enemy sailed up the Thames, the British fleet was at home.
– It could not be said that there was any British fleet in existence at that time.. Nominally the fleet was at home, but actually it did not exist, because the’ vessels were unrigged and without crews.
– Would the honorable member object to the squadron on the China station being brought down to Australia ?
– If it becomes necessary to concentrate the forces of the British Navy, no doubt that should be done, but under the agreement .we should endeavour to provide primarily for the defence of -Australia. Captain Mahan has in several instances stated that in connexion with any policy of concentration, or combination of forces, there is always the possibility of the enemy detaching single cruisers or cruisers in pairs to attack the coasts of the power from which the defending ships have been withdrawn. It is not likely that England would denude her coasts of ships, and I do not think it is likely that the people of Australia would consent to our being left defenceless. I regret very much that the Prime Minister saw fit to enter into an agreement of this kind, especially one embracing a provision such as that contained in Article 2. When he was going to London he assured us that he would enter into no agreement which would commit us, but that its terms would be subject . to the approval of Parliament. He has now, however, taken up such an attitude, that it is impossible for us to give free expression to our opinion.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member for Bland with reference to the attitude taken up on this occasion by the Prime Minister. I confess that it gave me a violent shock of surprise. I admit that the exhibition was one to which we are not accustomed, but none the less, it was the right attitude and gave one a fleeting glimpse of the true spirit of parliamentary government. Although the Opposition are pictured both in these States and in the mother country as a party, and their leader as an individual, always on the look-out for an opportunity of displacing the Government, the fact remains, and will I hope stand’ to the credit of the party, that when matters of national concern come before this House, we rise above the ordinary instincts of an Opposition. When the division took place this evening, the members of the Opposition voted almost solidly with the Government and saved them from, overwhelming defeat, and, apparently, inspired by the additional strength which we gave him on the Government Benches for a few moments, the Prime Minister spoke outlike a man. It is safe to put your footdown when you have the Opposition behind your back. I may say that it also affordsus pleasure to reflect that by the patriotic attitude which we assumed upon this question we enabled a number of loyal Government supporters to listen^ for once to the dictates of their conscience and voteagainst the Government.. Thus have we been able to afford the public a fleeting glimpse of courage on the part of thePrime Minister, and an equally fleeting glimpse of conscientiousness on the part of his supporters. I have all through felt that this agreement is one which has a greatdeal of make-believe about it, that there has been a considerable amount of cleverness shown in disguising the real nature of the transaction, and that the people of Australia were undoubtedly led to believe that the agreement was in no sense the departure which it really is. Under the other agreement we had the protection of the. British Navy, under an arrangement entered into at the invitation of the Imperial Government. Thirty years ago we were asked by the Imperial authorities to undertake our land defences, whilst they would undertake to provide our sea defences. As time went on we were asked to establish an Australian Squadron - not to contribute to the support of. the British Navy in these seas. We were told that the British Navy in these seas would be kept up at its former strength, and that the Imperial Government would give us an Auxiliary Australian Squadron which would be something altogether apart from the British Navy. The agreement was framed in those terms, and a provision was inserted that the vessels of the Australian Squadron should not be removed from the waters of the station except with the consent of the Australian and New Zealand Governments - in those days the consent of six separate Executives was involved. Now we are told that the ships provided .for under that agreement were of no use - that they were unsuitable for the purpose. Well, all I have to say is that, although I am conscious of a number of these matters I. feel bound to meet this issue in a broad spirit. My feeling of obligation to the mother country is so profound, my sense of the generosity with which that Imperial power refrains from pressing its claims upon us, and leaves us absolutely free to give a refusal to a request for even the smallest contribution towards the enormous expenditure upon naval and military defences which is burdening the people of the mother country, is so great, especially in view of recent developments, that whatever the flaws in this agreement may be, and whatever objectionable complexion may be put upon it - that for example we are entering into a partnership with the mother country in the burdens of Empire - a complexion I absolutely repudiate - I shall vote for the proposal. No doubt the object of this bit of paper, the primary motive of the agreement from the stand-point of the mother country - mind I do not at all say that it may not be a good one ; personally I do not think it is, but the Imperial authorities may have good reasons for their judgment - the object is, I think, to take off the aspect of an Australian agreement for an Australian naval force, and to substitute an Australian partnership in the British Navy the whole world over. That is the object which, I think, underlies the agreement. It is not the £200,000 provided for under the agreement that the Lords of the Admiralty want; £200,000 would be spent every moment of the day in the Admiralty by a stroke of the pen. Itwas not that consideration that led to the proposal submitted to the Conference, and to the frantic efforts made to sustain it. I think that it is consistent with a feeling of absolute loyalty to the mother country and in the interests of the mother country itself to set myself strongly against any attempt to substitute for the independent action of these self-governing States an admission to share in the active management of the British Empire. I think that the idea is utterly ridiculous in itself and that any attempt to carry it out would be fraught with failure. It is in a spirit of absolute loyalty, and in the interests of the Empire itself, that I view with the greatest dislike the attempts made by hysterical and. weak-kneed politicians in the mother country to find relief from the growing burden, which some of them at last regard as becoming too great. They will not by these artificial methods gain the strength they need. We cannot search the history of- the world without noticing the marvellous magnanimity which has caused the Imperial power to ask us to contribute so small an amount, and to sign such an agreement. Let those who talk so loudly about duty to the mother country, just imagine what our position would be in the French or German Empire. The benefits we derive not only from the protection of our trade on the seas, but from the mother land all through, are such that I cannot oppose this agreement. Because I disagree with some of its aspects I am accused of inconsistency. It is, however, perfectly consistent with a man’s objections to certain features in a proposal that he should adopt it, not because he believes in every detail, but because he accepts its broad spirit. It was the recognition of our profound obligations to the mother country which led the two parties in this Chamber to unite in a contribution which will not render one tithe of what we owe to the mother country.
Mr. FULLER (Illawarra). - I am very glad indeed that the Prime Minister and the honorable member for North Sydney have absolved me from any intention to destroy the Bill. In moving the amendment I was actuated by a desire merely to give effect to the view I have always held in connexion with the control that should be exercised over the vessels stationed in Australian waters. I was under the impression that the Prime Minister told us that this was merely a provisional agreement, and that he went to England as the agent of Parliament.
– I used no phrase with regard to the agreement except that it was “ subject to the approval of Parliament.”
– I understood that the Prime Minister went to England as the agent of Parliament, and that we should be at perfect liberty to amend the Bill covering the agreement in any way that we thought fit. Every day business men enter into arrangements subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, and when I voted for the second reading of the Bill, I was under the distinct impression that we should have full power of amendment in Committee. The Prime Minister was ready enough to accept the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and I do not see why we should not alter the agreement as we may think fit. I was surprised to hear the construction that the honorable member for North Sydney attempted to place upon the first article of the agreement. Under that article it is provided that the naval force on the Australian station shall consist of not less than a certain number of ships ; but if we are to believe the honorable member for North Sydney, no matter how many British ships come here, we should, under the amendment, have complete control over all of them. That is not the object of the .amendment, and I do not think it would fairly bear that construction. It is perfectly clear that under, the agreement as it stands it would be possible to remove the vessels forming the Australian Squadron into China or East Indian waters, and leave us absolutely defenceless.
– Does the honorable member object to’ the removal of the Australian Squadron in order that it may act against a hostile fleet 1
– The honorable member for North Sydney argued that if the whole British Navy were despatched to Australian waters, it could not be removed under this amendment without the consent of the Commonwealth Government.
– I to some extent withdrew from that position when I was speaking.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I did not hear him withdraw. In view of a possible combination on the part of some of the great Powers against the mother country we are entitled to control the movements of the fleet for which we pay. In speaking upon this matter, I went further than most honorable members, because not only am I prepared to sanction the payment of the proposed subsidy, but I believe that in addition we should have an Australian Navy purely for the purposes of coastal defence. If the agreement be adopted in its present form, the establishment of such a navy will be a very long way off indeed. The principal reason why the States entered into the Federation was that we might establish a proper system of defence for Australia. The Prime Minister and some others seem to think that when they have paid £200,000 to England in the form of an annual naval subsidy, they have done all that is necessary in this connexion. I am convinced that in this matter they misinterpret Australian sentiment. If it were put to a referendum, I am satisfied that the electors of the Commonwealth would not hesitate to sanction the expenditure of £500,000 to establish a navy to protect their own interests. Only the other evening, the honorable member for
Richmond drew a vivid picture of a probable Chinese invasion of Australia. That is a contingency which was often depicted by the greatest statesman Australia has ever had - I refer to the late Sir Henry Parkes. He was never tired of talking of a probable invasion by the Chinese. In case of a combination of the great Powers against England, such a catastrophe might easily happen, unless we had a proper system of naval defence. The amendment embodies my views upon this matter, and I am glad that honorable members acquit me of being actuated by any party spirit.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I think that the amendment submitted is intended to ascertain whether the consent of the GovernorGeneral in Council is required before the ships upon the Australian station are removable from its waters. I am bound to confess that there is a good deal of force in the arguments of the honorable and learned member for Illawarra. To my mind his proposal does not interfere with the power of the Admiralty in any way whatever. It merely insists that the local authorities shall be consulted. Seeing that we are paying a portion of the’ taxation that is levied for the naval defence of the Empire, have we not a right to be consulted ? Ought we not to be considered before England engages in any war 1
– Does the honorable and learned member suggest that the consent of the Governor-General, of the Commonwealth Government, and of the New Zealand authorities, should be required before the fleet can be removed from Australian waters t
– The old agreement contained a similar provision to that embodied in the amendment, and the naval authorities had then to deal with six States Governments, instead of one central Government, as they- have now. If this fleet is to be removable at any time without the Australian Government being consulted, we shall be denied the only opportunity we have of expressing our opinion upon the action of English statesmen in plunging the Empire into a war of which we may not approve. If the Government had demanded even a larger subsidy, I might have considered their proposal. No European power could land in Australia a hostile force which would be strong enough to successfully invade it. The Boer war has conclusively proved that. It has shown that the numerical strength of the attacking force requires to exceed that of the defending force by at least three to one. The experience at Colenso and a dozen other places shows of how little value artillery is when a line of sand-bags has been erected as a shelter for riflemen. Not a single man, I venture to say, could be landed from a war-ship while our shores were protected by rifles behind sand - bags. I would further point out that a transport cannot accommodate more than about 2,000 men, whilst the general impedimenta for that number of troops necessitates the employment of three or four more vessels. Consequently every war-ship would require to be accompanied by several other vessels. In view of these circumstances, I maintain that no hostile force could ever obtain a footing in Australia.
– We have no rifles with which to shoot them.
– I believe that we have somewhere about 40^000 rifles. At any rate we could easily obtain sufficient rifles of an ordinary pattern, with a range of about a mile, suitable for the purpose. The limitation proposed in the amendment is a very reasonable one, and I feel bound to support it.
– Last night I declared that I was opposed to the agreement, but when I made that statement I added that, although I supported the establishment of an Australian Navy, I would not countenance the imposition of a restriction that would prevent the authorities in charge of it from going wherever the interests of the Empire demanded. Consequently my vote will be cast against the amendment.
– I think that by this time the Prime Minister must have concluded that this is a vital issue in the Bill. The strategic idea underlying this measure is the establishment of three fleets - one in the East Indies, another in the China seas, and a third in Australian waters - which in time of danger can rapidly be concentrated at any particular point). When once war broke out, what would be the position if, in Australia, the fleet had to await the wrangles of the Executive Government?
– Of two Executive Governments.
– I will assume that it had to await the outcome of the wrangles of only one Government. We know that delicate differences of opinion sometimes occur even in Cabinet. Let us suppose that when the Imperial authorities have arranged for the concentration of these three fleets at a certain point, wrangling takes place in the Cabinet, the golden moment may pass, and disaster to the British Navy may lie at the feet of Australian statesmen. That is a responsibility which we have no right to undertake. Should the time ever arrive when we have a squadron of our own, with the British fleet as an auxiliary force, we can then do what we choose ; but the whole principle of this Bill is an amalgamation of interests, and the idea underlying it is that the control shall belong to the British Navy. I am glad that the Prime Minister has taken up that position, and has determined that if the amendment be carried, the Bill will be dropped.
– I welcomed the announcement made by the Prime Minister, in reply to an interjection, that if a flaw were discovered in the Bill, he would think that he had authority to refer it to the contracting parties for reconsideration, and to put his views before them. If the right honorable gentleman possesses that right, this Parliament has an equal right to amend the agreement, and to approach the Colonialoffice and the New Zealand Government upon the matter.
– It is none the less true that action of that sort would destroy this agreement as such.
– No doubt it would; but in both cases it would mean that a new agreement- must be entered into, and the position is very similar to that occupied by the Senate in its relation to this House. The other Chamber has not the power to amend certain Bills, but it may re. quest this House to amend them. Similarly I hold that we have a right to request the parties to this agreement to amend it. It is a pity that the Prime Minister has taken up the position he has, because I find that prior to his departure to England he made a distinct promise. In the other Chamber the answer given by the VicePresident of the Executive Council to a question by Senator Stewart binds the Prime Minister.
– Why not take my own words ? They were very explicit.
– I have endeavoured to find them in Hansard, but have failed to do so.
– I said that anything which I did in England would be subject to the approval of Parliament.
– Upon the llth April, 1902, Senator Stewart asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council if the Prime Minister intended to take part in a Conference in London on matters of Imperial concern ; and, if so -
Will he engage not to commit the Commonwealth to any act or policy in connexion with Imperial matters till the Federal Parliament has had an opportunity of considering the same?
To that question the following answer was given-
The Prime Minister is fully alive to his responsibility to Parliament, and does not intend to pledge the Commonwealth so as to deprive Parliament of its perfect freedom of action.
I submit that our freedom of action is limited. As soon as we desire to act with anything approaching freedom in regard to this agreement, we are told that we cannot amend it. I think we should be allowed to amend the schedule as we think advisable, and that the alterations that we make should then be put in the form of a request’ ‘to the other parties to this agreement.
– Then the honorable and learned member will have to get some one else to make the request.
Mr.CROUCH.- I am sorry that the Prime Minister has taken up such a position. I regret thathe considers that this amend ment is vital to the Bill. I do not think much of the contention that the squadron should be confined to Australian waters. One of the principal arguments put forward by the Prime Minister, and one in which I agree, was that it would be useless to have an Australian Navy confined to Australian waters, and that if we were to have a navy worthy of the name it should be free to fight wherever it was necessary to do so. I do not like this amendment,but when the Prime Minister assures me that its acceptance will mean the destruction of the Bill, I feel that I must support it, because I desire to secure the destruction of this Bill. I think that it is adverse to us and binds us for ever. Whether Governments continue or not, Australia has to go on. It has a future which cannot be tied up by any agreement that may last for ten years. If it were not so permanently and injuriously bound the position would be different. When Great
Britain enters into a treaty she invariably takes care to see that she has the right to denounce it on giving two years’ notice; that is a provision in all treaties entered into by European powers. Why should we not do the same 1 Why should we be bound down for eight years? Why should the next Parliament be bound in this way 1 I protest against any such thing. I shall not agree to the proposal. I am not bound by it now or in the future, and if I have the good fortune to represent any constituency in the next Parliament, I shall be prepared to help to destroy these provisions. If I can do anything in future to destroy this measure, I shall do it. If any future Parliament of which I am a member proposes to rescind this agreement, I shall support its action. There has been an unholy alliance between the Government and the Opposition. This agreement does not bind me, and I shall take every opportunity that I can to revoke it.
– Where is the evidence of any alliance between the Government and the Opposition? I have had no conversation with the leader of the Opposition, save for an occasional remark over the table. The honorable and learned member should not make use of such a very improper expression, unless he has some evidence to support it.
– An alliance means the adherence of two parties to a certain arrangement. I must admit that I cannot show that the Prime Minister was a party to it; but I find that the leader of the Opposition has made a remarkable change of front. During the debate on the motion for the second reading, I was able to place before the House newspaper extracts showing that the leader of the Opposition had denounced this agreement. I read an extract from the report of an interview with the leader of the Opposition which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, setting forth that he strongly opposed the decision that had been arrived at by the Prime Minister in London. ThePrime Minister himself has not faltered in his allegiance to the original proposal; but, in view of these facts, I must say that I am disappointed by the attitude which the leader of the Opposition has adopted. I shall vote for the amendment, not because Ibelieve in it, but because I desire to destroy the Bill, and am told that the acceptance of the amendment will have that effect.
– I have no desire to reply at any length to what the honorable and learned member for Corio has said, but I feel that his remarks necessarily call for some rejoinder by me. In the first place, his unhappy expression, “an unholy alliance,” would be - unless one’ felt that it had been made somewhat recklessly iu the heat of debate - a very curious expression for the honorable and learned member to use in the circumstances. The . Bill has been brought forward in the ordinary way. Honorable members know that I do not interview any one to seek for support, and I have not done so in this case, any more than I have done so on any other occasion. But after I had moved that the Bill be read a second time, the leader of the Opposition informed me, in the presence of several other honorable members, within the precincts of this House, that he intended to’ support the agreement. This is the extent of the “ unholy alliance.” The honorable and learned member has also used another argument, which is significant. He says that he is impressed by the argument that if an agreement of this kind is made the chief point for which if should provide is the concentration of the fleets ; but he is so opposed to the agreement itself that, although he does not believe in the amendment which has been moved, he intends to vote for’ it as a means of destroying the Bill. I should like to know whether an alliance of that kind is a holy one. I should like to know whether the honorable and learned member, in allying himself - against his own better judgment I think, is the most charitable view of his action to take - with those who wish to destroy this Bill, and who,’ with that object in view, intend to support an amendment which was moved without any such desire, believes that he is carryingout political principles in a proper way. I am very glad to have the support of the honorable and learned member, but I hope that the support which he has hitherto given “me has not been upon such terms. With every disposition to be generous, I feel that the declaration which he has made is one which I cannot but regret. The statement of the honorable and learned member is a perfect justification of the position which I have assumed. It is admitted by him that the effect of this amendment will be to destroy this Bill. That justifies my statement to the Committee that my Ministerial responsibility is involved in this matter. It would surely be idle to tell me, because I have made this agreement subject to the consent of this Parliament, which is my master - as I am a servant of Parliament and of the people - that I am also a slave ; that I must accept the decision of the Parliament and put up with that decision, whatever its consequences may be. Parliament in its wisdom may take whatever course it chooses. I do not rebel against the omnipotence of Parliament. It may take its own course and exercise its own judgment, and I am seeking to throw no obstacle in its way. But there is a straightforward and manly way of exercising that judgment as well as another way. I ask the honorable and learned member for Corio whether the course which an honorable member should- pursue should not be to endeavour to adopt the straightforward and manly policy of refusing to ratify this agreement rather than to support an amendment in which he does not believe, simply for the purpose of securing the destruction of the Bill 1
– When we take into consideration the fact that on several occasions the honorable and learned member for Corio has helped to save the Government from defeat, it seems to me thai; the Prime Minister should be the last to rebuke him. In these circumstances the rebuke administered by the Prime Minister shows base ingratitude.
– I regard that as a compliment.
– It matters very little to me how the right honorable gentleman regards it. The Prime Minister has said that Parliament is free to take whatever action it chooses in regard to this agree? ment, but, as a matter of fact, we are not free. I do not know whether the light honorable gentleman has sanctioned it or not, but the Government whip has gone round the House ‘ threatening honorable members with a dissolution if this Bill be not carried.
– I have said nothing to that effect, nor have I given any instruction in the matter.
– Whether the Prime Minister has done so or not, the honorable member, responsible to the Government for the divisions in this House has taken that course “’
– Is the honorable member sure of that 1
– I have heard nothing of it.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi would not hear, anything about it because the Government are sure of his vote on every occasion. As soon as the Government crack their whip the honorable and learned member is with them. The Prime Minister has. said that we should adopt straightforward and manly methods. I think that the Government would have acted in a straightforward and manly way if they told us in the first instance exactly what the Bill meant. But, as a matter of fact, it was only dragged out of the Government by the leader of the Opposition and others that this is not a provisional agreement, but has been entered into by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth-
– Subject to ratification by Parliament.
– He tells us that we must pass the Bill as it stands.
– But Parliament may withhold its approval.
– What purpose can be served by introducing the Bill and carrying it into Committee in view of the fact that as soon as an honorable member expresses a desire to amend it in a certain way the Prime Minister threatens to resign.
– It is a perfect farce to go into Committee.
– Of course. I admire the clever way in which the Prime Minister has tricked the Opposition. It is one of the smartest things that he has done. A number of honorable members of the Opposition have committed themselves by voting for the second reading of the Bill, and although they are opposed to what are said to be some of its vital principles, they find now that they cannot vote for it to be amended in any way without destroying it altogether. The leader of the Opposition himself has stated that the does not agree with some of the many provisions in this agreement, yet he proposes to vote for them. I do not think that this “ Yes-No “ attitude is going to help the right honorable gentleman, or a number of others who propose to vote in this way. I think that the whole principle of the agreement relates not to the increased contribution, but to the fact that we are really asked under it to take part in the defence of the Empire.
– That is not a bad thing to do.
– I am not going to. say whether it is good or not. But we should try to defend ourselves. In that way we should do more towards the defence of the Empire than by increasing our annual contribution by £94,000.
– That would be a good principle if it were in the Bill, but the position is that we are proposing to pay the other fellow to defend us.
– Yes, but we ought to take the responsibility upon ourselves, and we could do so, if we thought it desirable. The Commonwealth is required by the Constitution to hand back to the States three-fourths of the revenue which it collects, but we are now handing back to them more than £1,000,000 in excess of that proportion. Therefore, we have at our disposal ample funds for the purchase of a navy if we desire to undertake it. I would point out to the Committee that, even if we refused to ratify the agreement, our position would not differ from our present position. The existing agreement will continue until two years’ notice has been given of the wish to terminate it, so that the ships now here will remain here for at least another two years. Furthermore, so far as we can forecast the trend of events, there is no likelihood of immediate war.
– We cannot tell that.
– I admit that no one knows when a war may break out, but if we are to believe the cablegrams which are published from day to day, there is no likelihood of war occurring just at present. There is another feature of this agreement to which consideration should be given. Australia has an inter-State trade which is valued at £56,000,000, but the fleet which we are being asked to subsidize will not be called upon to protect that commerce, and, whether we ratify the agreement or not, we shall still have to make special provision for its protection.
– If the honorable member could show that the agreement makes no provision for the protection of our InterState trade, I would vote against the Bill:
– I would not have signed the agreement if it made no such provision. Its sole purpose is to protect Australian trade.
– Two lawyers would quibble out of anything. . The honorable and learned member for Indi made a “yes-no” speech last night, but when the Government cracked the whip he said very humbly, “Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, I am with you.” What is to become of our Inter-State trade if the fleet is removed beyond the waters of the Australian station ? We have been told that our only danger is from raiding cruisers, which may evade the British ships and do damage to our coastal cities. If the British fleet were away, the whole of our Inter-State trade would be at the mercy of such vessels. I voted for the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, and .against the second reading, in order to negative the agreement ; but now that we find that we cannot do that, I think that our next best course is to try and improve it, and I think that the amendment now before’ the Committee will have that effect. The Prime Minister has told us that his is opposed to the protection of Australian interests.
– I have never said anything so wild.
– The right honorable member has not made the statement in so many words, but his attitude indicates that he holds that view. He has absorbed the whole Imperialistic idea. They must have inoculated him with it when he was in England, and it is now so strong in him that he cannot recognise Australian interests.
– The honorable member for Kennedy says that in England I was inoculated with Imperialism.
– Does the Prime Minister wish to “stonewall” his own Bill? How often does he intend to speak ?
– As often, as I. deem it necessary in the interests of the measure to do so. I do not accept advice from the supporters of an amendment which I conceive to be destructive to the agreement.
– The right honorable member is quite incorrect in classing me as a supporter of the amendment.’
– Well, it is often the- fate of interrupters to be misunderstood. The honorable member for Kennedy said that I imbibed the Imperialistic idea in England, but I am no more an Imperialist now than I was before I dreamt of going to England.
– Then the right honorable member must have been an Imperialist before he went.
– I’ would, however, rather be inoculated with Imperialism than confess that I had voted for Federation as a prelude to independence.
– I acknowledge that I did that.
– I ask those who think of voting for the .amendment if they will ally themselves with an honorable member who has made such an admission ? Because Australian independence is the first step towards the disintegration of the Empire. The whole of his views in regard to the Bill are coloured by his opinions on the subject of separation, and I appeal to members of the Committee not to associate themselves in their vote with an honorable member who professes such opinions.
Mr. FULLER (Illawarra).- I think that the action of the Prime Minister in trying to stigmatise myself and others who intend to vote for the amendment as having been supporters of federation in order to bring about Australian independence is unworthy of him.
– I did not do so. I asked honorable gentlemen not to associate themselves with the honorable member for Kennedy in this matter.
– The right honorable gentleman pointed in my direction, and made the direct accusation that those who support the amendment are persons who hold views similar to those just admitted by the honorable member for Kennedy.
– I intended to convey no such impression, ‘ and my words did not convey it.
– I am sensitive on a matter of this kind, and I repudiate the charge. I recognise the ties which bind us to the mother country as fully as the Prime Minister or any other honorable member can do. All I ask the Committee to do is to insist upon the insertion in the proposed agreement of terms which exist in the present one.
– I had no wish to convey the slightest imputation upon the honorable and learned gentleman’s loyalty.
– I took the remarks of the Prime Minister to mean that he is of opinion that all who support the amendment are ready to vote for the disintegration of the Empire. The publication of the. right honorable and learned gentleman’s remarks might spread that imputation broadcast throughout .the .country,- and I repudiate such a suggestion.
– I think I have as much right to “ stonewall “ this measure as has the Prime Minister, who has levelled against me the imputation that I wish to destroy the agreement, whereas, as a matter of fact,. I intend to vote against the amendment, and to support the Bill right through, even at the risk of being accused of adopting a “ yes-no” attitude in regard to it. I acknowledge that I should have liked to see some of the articles of the agreement differently worded. As 1 pointed out the other night, I object to the drafting of Article 2. There is nothing in it to prevent a case like this occurring :’ A short time ago the mother country ceded part of Samoa to a foreign power. There is hardly a man in Australia who did not take strong exception to that action, and but for the difficulties in which the Empire was then involved, there would have been active protests on the subject from many parts of the continent. Similar action may be taken in regard to other islands of the Pacific, and we may then see the fleet which we are subsidizing ordered away, ostensibly to protect- our interests, but really to police a transaction to which we are strongly opposed. That ought not to be possible under an agreement signed by the Prime Minister on behalf of Australia. But although I should like to see the terms of Article 2 modified, I do not feel called upon-, in view of the declaration of the Prime Minister that he will accept no amendment affecting the agreement, to take the responsibility of voting against it. Although I think the agreement would have been an infinitely better one if Article 2 had been differently drafted, I consider it, on the whole, a good bargain for Australia, and I throw upon the shoulders of the Prime Minister the responsibility for all its defects. I again strongly protest against the deliberate “ stone- walling “ to which the Prime Minister has been resorting in regard to this measure. I have seen many Ministers conducting Bills through Parliament, but I have never known a Minister to rise and reply to almost every speaker. . The Course adopted by the Prime Minister is not calculated to expedite the transaction of business.
– I .should like, before addressing myself to the amendment, to say that I think the honorable member for Kennedy has used words which are perhaps unfortunate. I am not now speaking of his references to myself, but to his statement that the Government Whip had been threatening honorable members with a dissolution.. I have consulted several honorable members since that statement was made, and I have not been able to obtain any confirmation of it. I do not think it should be allowed to pass unchallenged. It would convey an entirely erroneous idea of public life and leave an improper impression as to the motives which actuate honorable members in speaking and acting with regard to a measure of this kind. The inevitable effect of the amendment will be to destroy the. Bill. The professional experience of the honorable and learned member for Illawarra should tell him, as our own common sense does, that if we. alter the proposed agreement the whole of the Bill must fall to the ground ; therefore honorable members who voted for the second reading would really be reversing their votes by supporting the amendment. Suppose that the Australian Squadron was cruising some distance from our shores and that the Admiral conceived it necessary to move perhaps some thousands of miles in a north-easterly direction. Suppose that instead of proceeding at once, as he would naturally feel impelled to do, in view of the advices which he had received, he were required by the terms of the naval agreement to come back to Australian ports in order to communicate with the Federal Government, and lay before them the contents of the confidential despatches which he had received from the Admiralty with a view to obtain their consent to the removal of the squadron beyond Australian waters. After proceeding thus far it would be necessary for him to go over to New Zealand, and repeat the process gone through here in order to obtain the consent of the New Zealand Government. By the time all this was completed the enemy would, no doubt, have either escaped or have worked the damage that it was the Admiral’s object to prevent. “ Then the British Squadron, under this treble-headed command, would sail over the seas to do nothing, or worse than, nothing. If we are going to enter into any bargain at all in regard to naval defence, we must consent to the control of the squadron being under one head. It is impossible to conceive of any effective action being taken under a divided’ control. Let us show the world that we are quite content to place confidence in the British Government and the British Admiralty. I am sure that if the honorable and learned member for Illawarra looks into the matter he will find that his suggestion is not practicable. The second article of the agreement provides that the Australian Squadron is to remain in Australian waters except when it is necessary to meet hostile vessels wherever Australian and New Zealand trade and interests are imperilled. What is there wrong about that ?
– Might there not be a vital difference of opinion as to what were our interests?
– Who is to determine that?
– The question is whether wo are to have any voice in the matter.
– I cannot conceive how we could debate with the British Admiral the instructions which he has received from the Admiralty. How could we expect him to bring the whole of his squadron into Melbourne or Sydney or some other port, in order that he might lay bare the whole of his instructions to the members of the Federal Government, and thus enable them to justify to Parliament their action in consenting to the removal of the squadron from our shores. The whole proposition seems absolutely absurd. We have to accept the agreement or reject it.
– I intend to vote against the amendment, although I took a very strong stand against the Bill itself. If this amendment is carried the whole principle of the measure will go to the wall, and, in a matter involving great national issues, I do not care to follow methods which might savour of party tactics. I know that any idea of that kind is entirely foreign to the honorable and learned member for Illawarra. It is ridiculous to expect that the Imperial Government would accept the agreement if it were amended in substance. The agreement asks us to affirm the great principle of the concentration of three fleets within the sphere of operation mentioned in Article II. As a matter of fact our contribution of £200,000 a year would not represent more than one-twelfth of the total cost of maintaining the Australian,
China, and East Indian Squadrons. According to the information at our command, the cost of the three squadrons, exclusive of the 5 per cent. interest charged on the capital cost of the China Squadron, would amount to £2,250,000.
– The Imperial authorities desire us to affirm the principle that it is our duty to contribute to the cost of the naval defence of the Empire.
– Of course they do. My point is, however, that we cannot reasonably seek to interfere with the control of the squadron on the strength of a contribution of a paltry one-twelfth towards the total cost of the three squadrons which may be called upon to operate in Australian waters. Any such amendment of the agreement would amount practically to the rejection of the Bill. New Zealand must be considered in this matter ; but the amendment provides for the consent of only the Commonwealth Government to the removalof the fleet from Australian waters. As a matter of fact, New Zealand takes an entirely different view of the matter. She has consented to allow the two vessels which are allotted to her to be removed from New Zealand waters without her consent, and if we seek to exercise control over the whole squadron, New Zealand will inevitably withdraw from the arrangement. Although I may vote against the Bill even on the third reading, I think that we should regard the agreement in the light of a treaty which must be accepted or rejected in its entirety, and which cannot be varied.
– The Imperial Parliament amended our Constitution?
– Yes ; but they sent it back to the people of Australia for technical adoption, after it wasagreed to in England. It was not cast into the crucible of Parliamentary debate, nor was it sent back to Australia for further discussion as to its terms. The Imperial authorities trusted to our good sense to adopt in toto the Bill as it had been agreed to by them.
– I think it is a pity that the Prime Minister imported into this debate the question whether honorable members were favorable to separation or not. There was no justification for taking any such course. The honorable member for Kennedy did an injustice to honorable members on this side of the Chamber, when he suggested that they had entered into an unholy alliance with the
Government in this matter. Surely in view of the fact that party considerations have been entirely set on one side in this matter, no question of an unholy alliance can arise. I give the honorable member- for Kennedy the utmost credit for sincerity in these matters, and I do not think that he was justified in imputing motives to other honorable members. If there is any alliance among honorable members, it is among those whose patriotic motives have brought them into sympathy, and have caused them to vote together upon what they conceive to be a great national question. I intend to vote against the amendment, because it appears to me that it would have the effect of impairing the agreement. Where is the great disadvantage of placing the control of the Australian Squadron in the hands of the Admiralty? It is patent that the movements of the fleet must be controlled” by some governing authority. This is an arrangement under which the Commonwealth and New Zealand contribute a proportion of the cost of maintaining that fleet in these waters. Approximately £500,000 is required for this purpose, of which Australia and New Zealand will contribute about one-half. The controlling authority must reside in the hands of some one, and is it reasonable to suggest, that it should be vested in the Commonwealth Government ? Is it not better that it should remain with those who are most skilled in naval matters, and who have to deal with the whole question of Imperial defence from a comprehensive stand-point? If any port in Australia were threatened we should receive the assistance of the East Indies and China Squadrons. Is it not reasonable, therefore, that in time of emergency the Australian Squadron should render help to the mother country by concentrating wherever Imperial interests may be threatened ? Under an agreement of this kind we must expect to give just as we expect to receive. We contribute only a portion of the cost of its maintenance, and it is not to the point to argue that under the old arrangement power was given to the States Governments to withhold their consent to the removal of the squadron from Austraiian waters. Under that agreement I would point out that the States contributed ihe whole cost of the maintenance of the vessels comprising the squadron, which, moreover, was not fitted for service outside of Australian waters.
Now we are confronted “with a totally different position. Seeing that we are to receive the benefit of the services of two other squadrons, we ought to be prepared to concede whatever may be necessary in the interests of the Empire. The whole tendency of modern ideas in regard to administration is opposed to divided authority. What might happen if it became necessary to remove the fleet at a moment’s notice, and a division of opinion occurred in the Commonwealth Cabinet, has already been pointed out. Besides, if the Imperial authorities conceded to Australia a voice in the movements of the fleet, it necessarily follows that New Zealand must be granted a corresponding measure of control. I cannot conceive that the Imperial Government would act other than in the interests of Australia. What is the purpose of the squadron which will be provided under this agreement ? Is it not intended to assist in the defence of Australia ? I differ from the honorable and learned member for Illawarra iii his view that the passing of the ‘Bill, without amendment, will mean the extinction of all hope of an Australian Navy. I believe that, in its present form, it will hasten the establishment of such a navy.
– That was said sixteen years ago.
– I have carefully read the debates which took place in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales when the previous agreement was under consideration, and I do not remember any such statement being made. But even if it were, that is no argument against the position which I take up. There was no Commonwealth in existence sixteen years ago, and there was no possibility of united action on the part of the States. But to-day we are confronted with an entirely new set of circumstances. We are to have the protection that is afforded by the squadron which will be quartered in these seas, and we also have an unlimited right of action in regard to the establishment of an Australian Navy. We are not restricted in any way. I believe that the Committee intend to pass the Bill in its present form, and I do ask honorable members to credit each other with sincerity, irrespective of the way in which they may vote upon this matter. We ought not to accuse one another of being disloyal, neither should we question each other’s motives in supporting various clauses of the .Bill. I am thoroughly satisfied that the opponents of this particular agreement are actuated by a sense of what they conceive to be their public duty. It is unfair to import into a discussion of this character imputations of disloyalty, or indeed, any element which is likely to create discord.
– I think we can all a&ree with the concluding utterances of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. At the same time, more than one honorable member has leaned in the direction of stirring up party strife on the one side, and disloyal feeling on the other. That, however, has no reference to the Bill which is under consideration. Upon this occasion I intend to follow the example of Mr. Chamberlain, who, in dealing with a measure to which he was entirely opposed, used every weapon that he could possibly employ to kill it. I am against this measure, and every principle which it’ contains. It is bad for Australia to begin its national career by a surrender of rights which the States’ had acquired from the Imperial Parliament. To me it is astonishing that the Prime Minister should have entered into such an agreement. Of course, the monetary consideration is as nothing compared with the value of the services to be rendered. My great point is that the Commonwealth has parted with its right to deal with this question as an Australian one. The honorable member for Lang declared that sixteen years ago, when the Australian States imposed a condition regarding the retention of the Auxiliary Squadron in Australian waters, there was no Federation in existence. Yet now that the States have entered into Federation, he is prepared to surrender rights which they previously enjoyed. Does he contend that that is a move in the right direction 1 If it is absolutely necessary for the purpose of protecting Australian and Imperial interests that the control of the British and Australian fleets shall be placed entirely in the hands of the Admiralty authorities, the case should be proved up to the hilt. So far it has not been proved. At the present time there is no great war imminent, but undoubtedly there is an Imperialistic tendency permeating the whole of the British-speaking races. Why should this agreement be ratified before the Australian people have been consulted upon iti I am disposed to fight it line by line, So that they may have an opportunity of saying whether or not they desire it. I venture to say that British people who are not prepared to contribute funds to defend their own honour are unworthy of any defence. Australians have frequently been twitted with a tendency to lean upon others, and there is some measure of truth in that skit. What does this agreement mean? It further exemplifies the justice of that accusation. We are to be content to lean upon the mother country, and to deprive our own people of that initiative which springs from independence by surrendering the entire control of the proposed fleet to the Imperial Government. In the future, what will the Commonwealth Executive say ? They will urge that they are not allowed to make even a suggestion regarding the movements of the fleet. Is there a single honorable member who is bold enough to assert that there are not men in Australia who are as capable of great ideas and great heroism as are those of the United Kingdom ? The statement made that Australia will never contain any person who is fit to direct a naval squadron is a reflection upon the ability Of our people. For these reasons, but chiefly because this agreement involves a radical departure from the existing order of things, I feel that those who are opposed to its principles should fight it line by line, even at the risk of a dissolution, so that the people may be given an early opportunity of declaring whether they favour the establishment of an Australian Navy, or the Bill submitted by the Prime Minister.
– I am very glad that the honorable and learned member for Illawarra protested against the imputation that those who were supporting his amendment were disloyal. The Prime Minister inquired whether those who favoured the amendment were prepared to ally themselves with such support. Whatever may have been the purpose which the honorable member for Kennedy had in view in supporting Federation, it does not necessarily follow that because he favoured the union he desired to see the separation of Australia from the mother country. I would remind the Prime Minister of the company which he kept when he was fighting for Federation. At that time he was engaged in endeavouring to secure the consent of a doubtful majority in New South Wales, and also in making herculean efforts to bring Queensland into the union. I believe that the honorable member for Kennedy lent him considerable assistance in changing the trend of public opinion in Queensland in regard to Federation. The Prime Minister apparently welcomed the support that he received from the honorable member on that occasion, and if that support was good enough for the Prime Minister during the Federal’ campaign, I do not know why he should question it at the present time. The debate which has taken place on this clause strongly emphasizes the wisdom of the agreement made in 18S7. The purpose of this amendment is practically to continue the provisions of that agreement.. That arrangement has existed for fifteen years, and during that time none of the calamities and difficulties which the honorable and learned member for Indi professes to believe would follow the adoption of this amendment have occurred. I believe that those who entered into the agreement of 1887 were desirous of providing specially for the defence of Australia. That is why the Auxiliary Squadron was created under the control to a certain extent of the British Admiralty. And that is the point that we should keep in view when dealingwith this proposal. The trade of Australia is of infinitely greater importance to the people of this country than it is to the rest of the Empire. I’ believe that the trade of the Commonwealth is not more than one-fifth of that of the whole of the Empire, so that while one of’ the greatest disasters that we could suffer would be for us to be cut off from the Empire and be subject to a power alien to us, such an occurrence would not be of anything like the same vital consequence to the rest of the Empire. These are matters which ‘should receive our consideration when we are dealing with questions of this kind. I find, according to Coghlan’s Seven Colonies for 1901-2, that the total extra trade of Australia amounts to something like £80,000,000, while the Inter - State trade represents ‘ another £63,000,000, or a total of £143,000,000. The whole of that trade requires this special protection. On the other hand, the trade of the Australian Commonwealth with the United Kingdom represents only something like £62,000,000 out of that total. What I stated in the early part of the debate seems to be the ‘general opinion of the military experts qualified to speak in regard to old-world complications. If Great
Britain went to war with another great power our danger would be, not from any invasion, but from isolated attacks on our port”,. A kind of guerilla -warfare would, no doubt, be carried on to strike a fatal blow, if possible, at Great Britain’s commerce. I have a pamphlet, by a naval expert, Lieutenant Fearnley, which deals with this very question. He emphasizes very strongly the point that our danger is to be anticipated from attacks of the kind I have mentioned, and that we should seek to combat it by. providing special methods of naval defence. He tells us that during the Russo-Turkish war, when there was a possibility of Great Britain ranging herself on the side of Turkey, a movement was made by Russia to» counteract any such hostile tendency by striking at our trade and commerce, and four large vessels were purchased and manned as commerce destroyers. The writer goes on to say that the movement initiated at that time is still maintained as part of Russia’s aggressive policy, and that at the present time her commerce destroyers consist of sixteen large vessels, of from 2,700 to 12,000 tons burthen, fitted with every modern appliance necessary for their purpose. The writer also points out that during the trouble which occurred between Great Britain and France, in connexion with the Fashoda dispute, a number of leading French newspapers urged that the best policy which France could adopt would be to secure a fleet of these destroyers. Other large powers, according to Lieutenant Fearnley, have, masked boats of this description, which, at a. given signal, would be converted from the harmless traders which they appear to be into active . instruments of warfare, and would be able to” strike a severe blow at British commerce. That being so, the question which we have to consider, apart from the concentration of war-ships at a. particular point, is the precautions which are necessary to be taken in order to protect our commerce along our coasts, and to guard, as far as possible, our oversea trade. It has been said that this agreement, instead of operating against the establishment of an Australian Navy, will assist in that direction. But what promisehas been given of the adoption of such a policy by the Government? As theresult of the discussion on the Estimatessubmitted to us for the years 1901-2 and 1902-3 considerable reductions were ordered to be made in the naval and military expenditure. The Government had to provide for a decreased expenditure on both branches of the forces, but the honorable member for Cowper has shown that while the reductions so far as the naval defences were concerned represented something like 34 per cent. they amounted to only something like 14 per cent. in the case of the military forces. This fact indicates that in carrying out the mandate of the House that the vote should be reduced the Government sacrificed the small naval forces which had been initiated by the States and retained -the military forces practically on the footing upon which they existed. Judging from this, their policy has been in the’ direction of giving every attention to the military forces, and allowing the naval forces to be handed over to the control of the British Government. Is that the kind of policy we were promised in pre-federation days? We were told then that one of the reasons why we should federate was that we should thereby bring about a more effective system of naval and military defence. We find, however, that the Government have practically handed over the navy - -which should be the most important branchof our defences - to the British Government. If that Government is best qualified to deal with our naval defence, why should it not also arrange for our military defence 1 Why should not the Commonwealth Government, in the name of economy, and at the shrine of Kyabram, abolish the Department of Defence, translate the worthy Minister in charge of that Department to some other sphere, and hand over the whole control of the naval and military defences of the Commonwealth to the British Government? If it is possible to secure the efficiency which the advocates of this scheme claim will result from it, is it not reasonable to suppose that a similar result may be secured by dealing with our military defences in a like manner? I do not believe, however, that a proposal of this kind affecting either our naval or military forces would be in the interests of the Commonwealth, or in the interests of that union with “the mother country which we desire to see maintained. As the amendment is in the direction of maintaining the control which was wisely provided for in the original agreement, I will support it. The experience of the past fourteen years has not shown any objections to it, and I see no reason to anticipate the creation of any friction in the future. If it were intended that our relations with Great Britain should be altered, and that Australia should, in the matter of defence, be merely a joint in the lion’s tail, the Prime Minister would be on safe ground in insisting upon our acceptance of the letter of the agreement; but if Australian is to work in harmony with Great Britain in the defence and control of our common interests, I think that we shall do well to adopt the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 July 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030722_reps_1_14/>.