2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether there is any truth in the rumour referred to in the South Australian Parliament yesterday, that the guns at the Largs Bay Fort are obsolete and inefficient? Why has no reply been obtained by the Government of the State to its inquiries on the subject?
– Our letter to the Government of South Australia was dated 24th inst., and should have reached the Premier of that State yesterday. At any rate, it must have come to his hands this morning. The guns are not obsolete.
– Is the Prime Minister yet able to inform the House as to the course which the Government intend to take in regard to the Federal Capital Site question? Do they propose - as it would seem probable from the correspondence that they do - that the survey of the site shall be proceeded with, and that Parliament shall afterwards be asked for authority to peg it out and delimit it, negotiations being then opened up with the Government of New South Wales for the granting of the necessary territory ?
– The letter laid on the table on Tuesday was the communication arranged to be sent by the Attorney-General to the Attorney-General of New South Wales. We have received a telegram from the latter saying that he has transferred the matter to the Premier, who will reply to our letter. His answer has not yet reached us. The probability is that we shall follow the procedure suggested, or something closely approaching it, introducing a Bill to permit of the survey referred to.
– This session?
– I hope so.
– The settlement of the matter seems to me to be further away than ever.
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am informed in regard to the honorable member’s questions -
– In the meantime, three appointments have been made.
– I have no knowledge of them. If the honorable member will give notice of a question on the subject, I shall be glad to give him. a reply.
asked the Minister of
Trade and. Customs, upon notice -
– I regret that my honorable colleague is confined to his room by a severe attack of illness. He desires to reply in person to questions 1 and 2, but in reference to questions 3 and 4 I have been supplied with the following, answers : -
4,The amount of duty stated to be payable in the conditions of tender is£40, but the duty actually due, calculated on the basis of the tender, is shown as follows : -
askedthe Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
O Lord, our Heavenly Father, High and Mighty King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the only Ruler of Princes, Who dost from Thy Throne behold all the dwellers upon earth ; most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favour to behold our most gracious Sovereign King
Edward VII., and so replenish him with the grace of Thy holy spirit that he may alway incline to’ Thy will, and walk in Thy way : Endue him plenteously with heavenly gifts, grant him in health and strength long to live; strengthen him that he may vanquish and overcome all his enemies; and, finally, after this life, he may attain everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant O Lord, we beseech Thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by Thy governance; that we may serve Thee in all godly quietness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O Lord God of Hosts, bless these colours, and consecrate them to the glory of Thy great name, the dignity of our beloved King Edward VII., and the general welfare of this Commonwealth and his Empire at large. Amen.”
Sir JOHN FORREST laid upon the table the following paper : -
Transfers under the Audit Act, approved by the Governor-General in Council, financial year, 1904-5, dated 21st October.
– I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, the Federal Government should approach the Imperial and the Canadian Governments with the view of purchasing, on behalf of the three Governments, the telegraphic land line of Canada and an Atlantic cable, so that the whole length of line from Australia to England be State-owned.
When I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament I had great pleasure in supporting the proposal that Australia should contribute towards the cost of laying a cable along the bed of the Pacific from this country to Vancouver, and I was the more ready to do so since the line was to be placed under State control. I and a number of others, however, are of opinion that the whole line from Australia to England should be State-owned. At the present time a message telegraphed from Australia to England via the Pacific route is transmitted over a Canadian land line, which is privately owned, and over an Atlantic cable, which is also privately owned ; and my proposal is that the Government of the Commonwealth shall negotiate with the Governments of Canada and Great Britain, with a view to securing both lines for the Pacific Cable Trust, or, at any rate, to arranging that they shall be State owned. I admit that .it is more than probable that the Government of Canada will not allow a ‘ telegraph line crossing its territory to pass into the control of another Government; but my object will lie . achieved if the effect of this motion is to bring about the resumption of the Canadian privately-owned line by the Canadian Government. I think that the passing of the motion will be of material assistance to those in Canada who desire that the whole of the telegraph system of Canada shall pass from the control of private individuals to that of the Government. We have not heard quite so much of late of the anti-socialistic movement which was so much to the front recently; but, in view of the fact that a (number of people are continually stating that private enterprise can carry on great services better than a Government can do so - the statement was made only last night by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa - I think it not out of place to give the history of private enterprise and Government control in connexion with the telegraph systems of other countries. Notwithstanding their differences on all sorts of political questions, every country in Europe, from .autocratic Russia to republican France, has always insisted on the Government control of telegraph lines; but in England, for twenty-seven years, the telegraphs were in the hands of private individuals. Then a number of persons - not Anarchists thirsting for other people’s blood, or Socialists’ holding peculiar views in regard to the marriage question, but staid and sober business men - agitated to have the lines brought under Government control. They pointed out that in England, under private enterprise, the telegraph system was practically stationary, while in European countries it was progressing by leaps and bounds. As the result of this agitation, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed. I do not know if there were any labour representatives in that body in. those days, but, if there were any, they were very few, and probably none of them were members of this Committee. lt reported that in all essentials the English telegraph system was inferior to the continental. Whilst the continental telegraphic business was progressing by leaps and bounds, no advance was being made in England. The result was that Mr. Gladstone proposed in the House of Commons that the telegraph system should be taken over by the. Government, and that course was adopted..’ Prior to the transfer the minimum charge ‘ for a telegraph message from one part of England to another was 6s., but the Go- vernment immediately reduced the rate to is. The number of messages increased fourfold almost immediately, and when the charge was reduced to 6d. per message the business increased thirteen-fold. Under private ownership England was considered to have the worst telegraph system in the world. but the improvement effected has been so great that it is now acknowledged to have as good a service as any country. It is a striking fact that in England the telegraph service is used by a larger number of persons per head of. population than in either Canada or the United States, in which countries the telegraph lines are owned by private companies. This fact appears to me to speak volumes in favour of State ownership, especially when we consider that England is so small in area that a letter posted in one part of the United Kingdom can, within twenty-four hours, be conveyed to any other part, whereas in the United States and Canada no such condition prevails. In this connexion I should like, to read an extract from Professor Ely’s Introduction to Political Economy, which ‘is considered by many persons to be the best elementary economic treatise ever written. Professor Ely says -
How profitable natural monopolies are may be seen from the fact that they are the source of most of the enormous fortunes of our country (the United States). When they are taken under public ownership and management the income from them mav be diffused in either of two distinct ways ; charges may be placed so low that price will simply cover cost - the method ‘ pursued by our post-office and by the English telegraph; or a profit may be derived from these pursuits, and this used to lower taxes 1 or to do things of benefit to the people as a whole. . . . It is only a popular superstition that private enterprise is uniformly superior to public enterprise. Each should be superior in its own field. This superiority of. public enterprise is not exceptional. During the last fifteen years the writer has had considerable experience in the use of the post-office and the Express Companies, and has yet to find one instance in which, when a mail and express package were sent at the same time from the same place to the same destination, the express package reached its destination as soon as the mail. Any one may try the experiment for himself. The author lias found the post-office incomparably more obliging and desirous of doing all that he asked. . . . Nor is it true that private enterprise always excels public enter- [ prise in initiating improvements. English municipalities have gone ahead of private gas companies in improvements. The English Government has introduced improvements in the telegraph services which our American telegraph companies have strenuously resisted. The burial of wires in cities is only one of these improvements. The American post-office went ahead of American express companies .in .developing the money-order business. ‘ Private Savings Banks have followed the lead of the English Postal Savings Banks in the establishment of branches, and in the use of stamps pasted on cards for small savings. Government has gone ahead of private corporations in the matter of publicity of financial accounts, and has shown many of the pecuniary advantages of such publicity.
We have it, on the authority of one of the United States Consuls in Australia - I think it was Colonel Bell - that the telegraph service in New South Wales was more prompt, economical and reliable than that of the United States, and that no well-informed person in the State referred to was willing to hand it over to a private company. I think that I have succeeded in showing that Government control of land telegraph lines is much to be preferred to private ownership, and I venture to say that the same thing applies to cables. Our experience in connexion with the Pacific Cable has afforded abundant evidence of the advantages of State control . The establishment of that line of communication has already resulted in a saving of £200,000 per annum to merchants and others. Prior to the construction of that cable the Eastern Extension Company charged 4s. od. per word for the transmission of messages. Now the charge is 3s. per word, the reduction being equivalent to 37 per cent. The Eastern Extension Company were asked again and again to reduce their charges, but prior to the construction of the Pacific Cable they would make no concession. The honorable member for Parramatta, when discussing the Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department last year, made the following statement: -
I have repeatedly pointed out that we should never have had the Pacific Cable but for the way we were treated by the Eastern Extension Company. They would make no concession to us, but the moment arrangements were completed for the construction of the Pacific Cable the Eastern Extension Cable Company rushed it, and for a bribe - for that is what it amounted to- in the shape of reduced rates, they obtained concessions that have enabled them to relegate the Pacific Cable to the back ground. -. I believe that all the great cable services, such as the Pacific Cable, should be owned by the Governments interested. However patriotic and lenient a private company may be, we should not allow it to hold us at its mercy.
The honorable member was, no doubt, speaking as the outcome of “his experience whilst he occupied the position of PostmasterGeneral in New South Wales. I am one of those who believe that all such charges as those to which I have been referring are eventually paid by the members of the general community, and that the £200,000 per annum saved in cable charges represents a practical gain to the consumers of Australia. Moreover, the taxpayers have not had to paxone shilling extra by way of subsidy. For the year ended 30th June, 1904, the loss on the Pacific Cable amounted to £87,000, towards which New SouthWales,. Victoria, and Queensland had to contribute £29,000. Last year, the deficiency amounted to .£75,000, towards which the three States mentioned had to contribute £25,000. It must not be forgotten, however, that for twenty years prior to the construction of the “Pacific Cable, five of the Australian States - Queensland not having been a party to the compact - paid the Eastern Extension Company a subsidy of £32,000 per annum, and also had to guarantee that the revenue derived from the company’s Australasian business would reach the sum of £237,000. I believe that’ for two or three years some small deficiency had to be made good. Therefore, we are now paying less for our cable facilities than under the old arrangement. Besides that, we have to consider that in the expenditure of the Pacific Cable Company, which amounted, in 1904, to £167,000, and, in 1905, to £163,000, was included a sum of £77,000 for the repayment of a loan at 3 per cent., and that of the amount contributed annually by the British, Canadian, and Commonwealth Governments, £35,000 is every year devoted to renewals, or written off for depreciation. Therefore, we are gradually making the cable our own property. It seems to me that this arrangement is far better than that into which we previously entered with the Eastern Extension Company. I understand that Tasmania has for forty years been paying the. Eastern Extension Company £4,200 per annum, to cover the interest on the cost of the construction of the cable connecting that State with the mainland. The State referred to has also had to guarantee a revenue of £5,000 per annum. Although
I am pleased that the cable rates have been reduced from 4s. od. to 3s. per word, I am not satisfied. I am anxious that the cables should be used, not merely by millionaires, but by the millions. I understand that in the United States and Canada, even to-day - as was the case in England before the telegraph system was taken over by the Government - the telegraph lines are used only by those who have extremely urgent private business to transact, and for commercial purposes. In most countries, the telegraph is now entering into the social life of the people, and I desire that the cable service should do the same thing. I believe that it should be employed, not only in connexion with urgent business matters, but in connexion with our social requirements. I am anxious that the advantages of electricity should be placed at the disposal of the public, rather than that they should be utilized primarily for the profit of a few individuals. I say, too, that the exigencies of the Empire today are such that the cable service ought not to be in the hands of a calculating director who regulates everything from the stand-point of dividends, and in the interests of his shareholders. It ought rather to be under the control of men who, whilst thev are not unmindful of commercial considerations, place, first and foremost, the welfare of the community as a whole. In sending messages by the Pacific Cable we are helping to feed privately-owned lines. Every message flashed from Australia to England by that cable has to pass over the Canadian telegraph land line and the Atlantic Cable, both of which are privately owned. I desire that every message despatched from continent to continent shall be transmitted over lines which are State owned1. History and experience have proved that Stateowned telegraph lines are preferable to privatelyowned lines, and I venture to say that the same remark is applicable to our cable service. Just as it has been found impossible for a body of directors, to whose care the interests of shareholders have been committed, to furnish such a land telegraph system as the country demands, so it is equally impossible for the cable companies to meet the claims of the Empire for a popular service. We- are also handicapped because of the fact that every message despatched from Australia, to England over the Pacific Cable costs 3s. per word, while messages intended for transmission to any part of the Continent are charged at the rate of 3s. 6d. per word. The Eastern Extension
Company, however, make a universal charge of 3s. per word for all messages, whether sent to England or any part of the Continent. The ‘arrangement in connexion with the Atlantic Cable is that all messages to England shall pay is. per word, which . rate covers both the Atlantic Cable charge and that , of the land line of Canada. But if a message be forwarded to the Continent, an extra 6d. per word is charged. If this motion be carried, it will be possible for us to have a State-owned line for the whole distance, and in forcing messages over that line - as we have a perfect right to do - we shall not be feeding private enterprise, but supporting a Government undertaking. When we were at the mercy of the Eastern Extension Company, that body used its utmost powers to the advantage of its shareholders, and consequently we have no right to extend any consideration to it. I regret that the Postmaster-General of New South Wales should have agreed to allow the Eastern Extension Company to open a private office in Sydney. I understand that the Commonwealth Government feel that they are in honour bound to continue that agreement for a certain period ; but I do hope that directly they can honorably do so, they will terminate the agreement in question. Not only should we have much lower cable charges, but I venture to think that press messages ought to be carried over these wires at an extremely cheap rate. There are hours in the day when the Pacific Cable is not used by business men at all, and at such times it should be utilized for transmitting press messages at a very low charge. The advantage of having, correct and ample newssupplied to the people of England and Australia is incalculable. I had an interesting conversation a while ago with Senator Best and Senator Clemons. Incidentally, I may mention that yesterday I saw Senator Best, who gave me permission to use that conversation in any way that I desired, and he was also good enough to refresh my memory as to some of its details. The circumstances leading up to it, briefly stated, are that Senator Best had just returned from England, and had disembarked at Adelaide, with the intention of coming to Melbourne by train. Senator Clemons and myself saw him just prior to the departure of the express. In the course of conversation Senator Best explained that he had been absent in Eng- land: two months, £nd that during his sojourn there he had naturally looked to the daily press for news in reference to what was transpiring in Australia. That news, he said, might be summarized ian. the statement that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had moved an amendment, which practically amounted to a motion of censure upon the Reid-McLean Government, that that Government had been defeated, and that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had been commissioned to form a new Administration. The names of those who had accepted portfolios in his Government were mentioned, but not the offices which -they held. The newspapers also contained a sensational account of the circumstances surrounding the refusal of a Customs officer to admit a blind merchant into Tasmania, and the following day a short paragraph appeared, to the effect that the Prime Minister did not indorse the action of the officer in question. Practically, that was all the Australian news which Senator Best read in the English press during his absence. He said that two or three statements were published which seemed to reflect discredit upon Australia, but absolutely nothing appeared in its favour. I find that in Canada there are a number of persons who feel that the news which they receive has an American taint, inasmuch as Ft has to pass through the United States, and they would therefore prefer to obtain it direct from England, I am prepared to admit that in Australia we get a good deal of news regarding events transpiring in England - thanks to the energy and enterprise of the .big daily newspapers. But the very fact that press cables are so costly, tends to make the service a monopoly. I am one of those who believe in the fullest freedom of the press. To a large extent the members of the Anglo-Saxon race owe the great freedom which they enjoy to the liberty of the press. But, whilst I favour “ the press being permitted to express its opinions fully and freely upon any question, so long as it does not libel individuals, I am opposed to anything which would tend to create a monopoly. At the present moment it is practically impossible - because of the monopoly that is enjoyed by the big daily newspapers in respect of cables - for any opposition, journal to be started, unless’ it is possessed of a vast amount of capital. The news cabled, to Australia to-day practically comes from one source, and has an extremely conservative bias. I have no objection to the Conservatives telegraphing their opinions to the Commonwealth, but I claim that the democratic view should also find expression through our cable service. In a pamphlet which has been forwarded from the Empire Club’ to every honorable member of this House there is an account of an address which was recently delivered by Sir Sandford Fleming. From that address I propose to make an extract or two upon the question of cheap telegraph rates, because its author expresses in a very concise and clear fashion the views which I entertain. He says -
It has been suggested that for high Imperial reasons the co-operation of the Press should be sought. The Press has much in its power to promote unity and progress; its highest functions are to spread knowledge, enlighten the people, and mould their destiny. But the Press must have freedom, and it should enjoy every advantage in performing its beneficent work, which science can devise. I have shown that the. Stateowned cable service, employed only half the day at a low tariff of charges, can be self-supporting. May we not fittingly inquire, is there no useful purpose to which we can apply during the whole or a portion of the other half-day this wonderful means of communication established at the public cost for the public advantage, in the sense of the free transmission of news under proper restrictions? I ask to what better purpose can the cable be applied during some of its idle hours than in co-operation with a free Press to promote general intercourse and benefit the British people?
For the present, our greatest need is a better knowledge of each other, and if our object be to unify the Empire, all our people who live beyond the seas should, as much as possible, be brought practically into the neighbourhood of England and into the neighbourhood of each other. Before we can be expected to decide on any possible organic union to bind us together for all time, we should first know and understand each other, and the more thoroughly we can accomplish that purpose, the easier it will be to realize the high ideal of Imperial unity.
In forming an Intelligence Department, the plan to be followed will, of course, require to be carefully matured. The headquarters of the Department naturally would find its proper place in England. Besides tlie Imperial Board of Intelligence in London, possibily branch boards would be desirable in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, Africa, the West Indies, and elsewhere. All the Boards should consist of representative and independent public men, whose duty it would be to obtain for dissemination over the Empire accurate information and unbiased opinions on all subjects of general interest. The information so obtained would be. cabled daily or weekly, as may be determined, to the London Board, and to all the branch Boards, for publication. As it seems to me, some such organization would become a most potent Imperial agency. It would prove to be an invaluable means of educating out people everywhere respecting .the life, the opinions, and aspirations of all our fellow subjects in the several parts of the Empire. It would directly place before each section of the British world the views formed or forming in all other sections. I am thoroughly satisfied that the cable during a portion of each day could not be turned to any better account. Two hours a day would easily admit of 10,000 or 12,000 words being transmitted each week. This full volume of news, published simultaneously in the chief centres of the Empire, would have a wonderful influence. The good to result from a mutual interchange of information and sentiment is beyond Calculation. Obviously it would steadily have a unifying tendency if every day in the year the pulsations of the great heart of the mother land could be felt by kith and kin beyond the seas, and if also every man within as well as without the central kingdom could read in his morning paper the same sympathetic evidences of interest in the common welfare,, and all fresh from his fellow subjects in all quarters of the globe. I venture to ‘think that to organize an Imperial Intelligence Department, such as has been indicated, will come to be- regarded as -an eminently progressive movement. And I feel satisfied that in conjunction with the world-girdling chain of State cables, there is no other conceivable agency which would more speedily mould our great world Empire into a living reality.
These are the words of Sir Sandford Fleming, and they fully express my own views with regard to the desirableness of utilizing the cable service for the diffusion of news throughout the Empire. If these lines were taken over by the State, .we should at once be able not only to reduce the charges from 3s. to is. per word, but, as Sir Sandford Fleming says, to send a stream of news throughout the Empire at an extremely cheap rate. We should be able to do this without feeding private monopolies, and Could practically force the whole of the traffic along the one line. I am prepared to admit that if it were possible for the State to acquire these lines, with the Result that the messages now sent by the Eastern. Extension Company would be sent by the Pacific Cable/South Australia would Suffer a serious loss of revenue. At the present time she derives considerable revenue from messages sent by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s ‘ line, and I dare say that if the reform which I advocate, were achieved, it would mean a loss of something like ,£20,000 per annum to that State, -during trie book-keeping period. I trust, however, that the book-keeping section, of the Constitution will be allowed to lapse. In that event the change- would make no material difference to ‘South’ Australia, because the whole of the expenditure of the. post and telegraphic .service throughout the Commonwealth would be pooled, and each State would share the benefit or loss derived from any new service. I hope, however, that if this course be not followed we shall treat South Australia, not only justly, but generously. We have to remember that prior to the establishment of Federation she rendered a great service to Australia. Notwithstanding her small population, her Government took care, for the sake of the well-being of the rest of the continent, to keep the Northern Territory white. , If Queensland,which is much richer in minerals and other natural resources, had acted similarly, the northern part of that State would not now be one of the plague spots of the Commonwealth. It has also to be remembered that South Australia constructed the Overland Telegraph Line at great, expense, and ir» view of all these reasons, we should, as I have said, treat her not only justly,’ but very generously. The taking over of these lines would tend materially to consolidate the Empire of which we are so proud. In the past empires have been built up by the lust for power and the shedding of blood. During the South African war many people were prepared to assert that’ because Canadians, Australians, and Britishers shed their blood side by side on the veldt of the Transvaal, they were doing much to con-, solidate the Empire. I believe that eminent saint: - that meek and lowly follower of the Prince of Peace - Dr. Fitchett, asserted that Kruger, by appealing to the arbitrament of war, had done much to unify the Empire ; but, having regard to the attitude subsequently taken up by the Imperial authorities in reference to the introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal, I do not. think that many people will share thatopinion. If the Empire remains consolidated, it will be due not to the deeds of warriors, but to the infinitely greater achievements of men of science, working along the lines of peace. I would far sooner see public moneys devoted to the purchasing of- a cable service than to the procurement of rifles. A State-owned cable which would enable us to let the rest of the world know from day to day what we think and how we are acting, and also afford us an opportunity -to learnwhat the rest of the world thinks of, us, would be more instrumental in . the. preservation of peace than would the pos-. session of ships of war. I trust that the
Government will accept this motion, and that we shall have before long a Stateowned cable between Australia and England which will be used not only by the wealthy, but by the great masses of the people.
– There may be some good reasons why the cable lines in question should be brought under State control, but I must say that some of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Barrier in support of his contention are not convincing. The comparison which he made between the State-owned telegraphic system of England to-day and the service as conducted by private enterprise, was not by any means a fair one. I think that it was by an Act passed in 1869 that the British Government acquired power to take over the privately-owned telegraph lines of the Kingdom; but the honorable member quite forgot to mention that up to a short time previously, the old semaphore, or hand system, had been used, notwithstanding that private companies had done much to improve the telegraphic system since its introduction, by Cooke and Wheatstone, about 1837. Prior to this two or three others were also instrumental in improving the system, more particularly after the discovery made by Faraday of the induced current, produced by passing a magnet through a coil of wire, part of a closed circuit. It is necessary “to point out that the cost of the service in the early days was largely increased by the fact that no less than six wires were used On each line. Another point to be remembered is that before a private company could extend the service in England, parliamentary sanction’ had to be obtained, and the cost of getting a Bill through Parliament in many cases far exceeded the actual cost of constructing the line. These facts should indicate to the House that the comparison made by the honorable member was not a fair one. The improvements made in. telegraphy between 1837 and 1869, when the system was taken over - by the Government of Great Britain, were almost as great as the developments that have taken place in the telephone system since its discovery.
– Is the telegraphic system under State control in England better than is the telegraphic- service of the United States, which is controlled by private enterprise? . .
– I can- hardly answer -.that question; but I. would point out that, as far as possible, the telegraph service in England is conducted upon, business lines, and is altogether free from political influence and control. That is the reason of any success that it has achieved. Notwithstanding these facts, the control of the telegraphic service by the British Government has not been an unmixed success. For many years the Government availed themselves of the power conferred upon them under the Act of 1869 to prevent the introduction of telephones into England, on the ground that their use would interfere with the State-owned telegraph service. That does not say much for their enterprise, and we have no reason, to suppose that any other Government would be more progressive than they were. When the telephone system was at last allowed to be introduced into England, the Government appropriated onetenth of the profits derived from it. Having regard to these facts, it is ridiculous to say that private enterprise ever had a reasonable opportunity in Great Britain to demonstrate that it could successfully conduct such a system.
– Can the honorable and learned member say why privately-owned telegraph’s in England were not as well conducted as were State-owned telegraph services on the Continent?
-I have already explained that it was impossible for private enterprise to deal effectively with the system in England.
– They had full control.
– But they experienced great difficulty in the passing of an Enabling Bill. Consider the delay that there has been here in regard to the Papua Bill, notwithstanding the urgent need for the measure. In England so much concern was shown for the interests of private holders of land, that it became almost impossible to erect new telegraph lines, and, consequently, private enterprise in connexion with the control of the telegraph system practically ceased to have any chance of proving successful there. I might remind the honorable member, however, that the penny postage system flourished in London 200 years before it was extended to England generally. It proved so profitable in London that James I. made it a monopoly, and bestowed the monopoly on one of his favourites.
-What has that to do .with ;th’e question?
Mr.CONROY.- The probability is that had there been no Government interference the penny postage system would have spread from London all over England in a much shorter time. It is well known that the cost of carrying letters in England at the present time is about1-36th of a penny, but the Post Office Department continues to charge1d. for each letter carried.
– So that the State sweats the public as much as private enterprise would !
– The revenue from the Post Office is used for general purposes, and thus allows the taxation to be reduced.
– If under Government control a letter can be carried for1-36th of a penny, it is probable that under private control the cost would be still less.
– I suppose that under private control letters would be carried for nothing.
– No service could reasonably be expected for nothing, though we should require the cheapening of our services as much as possible. The honorable member drew a certain conclusion from an imperfect acquaintance with the facts. Had I known the lines on which he intended to speak, Icould have furnished 100 instances of which I have read, but cannot call to mind at the present moment, to show that Government control is not better than private control. It seems tome that the effect of the Government control of telegraphs in Australia will be to largely hinder the development of wireless telegraphy. It has certainly largely hampered the development of the telephone service, because of the desire of the officials to prevent competition with the telegraph business.
– Did not the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company oppose the laying of the Pacific Cable, because they thought it would interfere with their profits?
– No doubt; but it must be remembered that a company is in a very different position from a Government, which can absolutely prevent any development to which it is opposed. In London the officials who had charge of the telegraph system prevented for many years the adoption of the telephone system. It was only after the system had proved an undoubted success in America, under private control, that they were forced to give way to the strong pressure brought to bear upon them, and as they would not provide telephone facilities themselves, to permit private enterprise to furnish this convenience to the public. I am informed on very good authority that messages could be transmitted between Melbourne and Tasmania by the wireless telegraphy system at a cost for the erection of apparatus which would probably not exceed , £7,000, and I am very much afraid lest the development of that system will be hindered from the lack of. interest in it which will be shown by our telegraph officials. To my mind the Wireless Telegraphy Bill will tend to prevent wireless telegraphy from being as much used as it should be. One effect of the Government making a monopoly of a service is that there is no longer a stimulant for inventive genius.
– The discoverer of radium asked for no reward.
– Or Rontgen either.
– If honorable members think that inventions: will be sought for so earnestly when there will be no chance of profit, as they are under present circumstances, their “faith in the unselfishness of mankind is greater than my own. The discoveries of men of science are altogether different from the inventions of those who desire to improve commercial methods.
– All medical discoveries are given to the world without fee or reward.
Mr.CONROY.- Yes; but inventors could not be expected to give up years of their lives, and to expend large sums of money, in discovering new methods, if they did not hope to receive some return for their work. As a general rule, individual*; will not seek out inventions if they cannot hope to make something by their discoveries. The researches of scientists are of a different nature. Many discoveries have been made, however, which have led to no developments, until it has been seen that they were capable of practical application and would give a profit to those who so applied them.
– The quack makes a charge for everything he does, but the honest medical man does not. Is it not the same in regard to commerce?
Mr.CONROY.- To my mind there is no analogy between scientific discoveries and commercial inventions. I think it is probable that State control has distinctly retarded the advancement of mankind in many directions. If in Australia men were free to experiment in regard to wireless telegraphy, the probability is that within a few years cheap and ready communication would be afforded between town and town and district and district, and even in sparsely populated country districts, between house and house, which would be of immense advantage to ‘our people. As’ things are, however, we shall have to await the slow development of the system under the control of Government officials.
– The public of the United States has to pay through the nose for its telegraph service, which is an inefficient one, although conducted by private enterprise.
– There has been a greater development of the application of scientific principles to commercial methods in the United States than anywhere else. Half the Governments of Europe are now using American inventions.
– -But the cost of the service is not reduced to the American people.
– If the honorable member makes inquiries he will find that in the United States there are readier methods of communication than elsewhere, and that there is not the same risk of error in the transmission of messages. Private companies which undertake to carry on telegraphic business are held liable for any loss that may result from terrors )n .transmission,. ,and those who suffer injury have a remedy against them, but the Government absolutely decline to give any redress. There is no question that the United States was the country in which telephones were first used for commercial purposes, and the facilities provided there have been gradually extended to all parts of the world. Whatever objections may attach to the private ownership of telegraph and telephone services in the United States, monopoly has not grown to the extent that one might have expected. If the honorable member for Barrier had ‘been able to show that State interference was needed in order to abolish a dangerous monopoly, he would have stood upon solid ground, but as the case stands at present, we are asked to make the proposed change merely because, in some cases, charges on private lines have been higher than those on Government lines. The statements made by the honorable member with regard to the charges first made for the transmission of telegraph and telephone messages were altogether misleading. It must be remembered that when telephones were first used for commercial purposes they were worth ,-£20 each, whereas now instruments can be purchased for ^4 down to £2 10s. each. It was much the same with -the telegraph service in the initial stages. Every one is aware that, as the volume of business increases those who have control of the telegraph lines or cables find themselves in a position to reduce their charges, but it must be remembered thai the cable companies have to face the probability that in the near future half the present lines will become absolutely valueless. They have to provide, not only for depreciation, but for a possible total loss before many years are over, and therefore their present charges may be pertecty reasonable. At the present time it is quite premature for us, especially in view of the development of wireless telegraphy, and the probable supersession of cable services in the very near future, to seek to obtain control of the lines referred to in the motion. If the honorable member for Barrier could show that there was no likelihood of a considerable loss being incurred, he might have a good case to present to us. But anyone who has kept himself abreast of literature in regard to electrical matters during the last two or three years must feel that wireless telegraphy has reached such a stage that it is likely to almost entirely supersede marine cables. If the Government erected stations for the transmission of wireless telegraphic messages between Victoria and Tasmania, and between Sydney and New Zealand, they would be doing work well within their capacity, although’, of course, they would need to secure the co-operation of the latter Government. At present, we are relying entirely upon private energy and enterprise to test the practicability of utilizing wireless telegraphy for commercial purposes, and doubtless we shall soon be made aware of very important developments in connexion with the trials now being made between England and America. Under all the circumstances, I cannot support the motion. I do not base my objection entirely on the ground that the proposed action would be an unwarranted interference with private enterprise, but I regard it as inopportune, in view of the possible developments in the near future.
– Although it may be desirable that we should obtain possession of the means of communication between the Commonwealth and Great
Britain, I think we should first direct attention to the necessity of controlling the means of telegraphic communication between the whole of the States of the Commonwealth. At present, the Tasmanian Government have to pay a large subsidy to the Eastern Extension Company in respect to the cable service between Victoria and that State, and persons who patronize the cable are called upon tq pay a special rate for messages. If the honorable member for Barrier is willing to amend his motion by inserting a provision to the effect that steps shall also be taken to purchase the cable between Victoria and Tasmania, I shall give the matter further consideration.. The State which I represent has a perfect right to demand that it shall be placed upon the same footing as the other States in regard to means of communication. It was on that understanding that we agreed to join the Union.
– I think that we should be informed as to the attitude assumed by the Government towards the motion. Personally, I am strongly opposed to it. I do noi see what we have to do with the purchase of telegraph lines in Canada, or Atlantic cables, nor do I see what advantage could accrue to the people of the Commonwealth from our possession of- such means of communication. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Barrier is not anxious to strengthen the Imperial connexion, because, so far. as I can judge from the views he has expressed, he would be willing to cut the painter to-morrow. What his motive, is I cannot understand. The great majority of the people of the Commonwealth would derive no advantage from the purchase of the lines referred to. although possibly a few business men might be able 10 forward their cables at less cost than at present. I am surprised that the honorable member for Barrier should be anxious to involve us in great expense for the advantage of members of the capitalistic class. The Dominion, Government are able to look after their own interests, and I do not suppose that they would become a party to the proposed arrangement. If anything is to be done in this matter, tue Government should take action, instead of allowing a private member to assume the responsibility. I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Bass, which strikes me as being an extremely selfish one. He is opposed to the motion, but if the honorable member for Barrier will offer him a bribe in the shape of a special concession to Tasmania, he will vote for it. Apparently he is prepared to sacrifice any principle for payment.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in stating that I am prepared to sacrifice any principle for the sake of gain?
– If the honorable member for New England made that statement I must ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I have no desire to employ language which is offensive to the honorable member. At the same time, the honorable member has stated that he would not vote for this proposal, unless he obtained a concession for Tasmania.
– That is not what I said, and the honorable member knows it.
– The honorable member distinctly stated that if the honorable member for Barrier would amend his motion so as to make it include Tasmania, he would vote for it.
– No; he said that he would give it further consideration.
– I said that the State of Tasmania should be connected first, and the other matter could be considered afterwards.
– I should like to see the Hansard report of the honorable member’s remarks. I hope that no alteration will be made by the honorable mem. ber in his proofs- when they are supplied to him to-morrow morning, because my recollection of his remarks is to the effect I have stated. If Tasmania is placed at any disadvantage in regard to its cable service, that matter should be dealt with separately. If it labours under any disability, so far as its connexion with the mainland is concerned, we should remedy it, not because of something else, but because the State has a justifiable claim to be placed upon the same level as the other States of the Commonwealth. I do not know what is behind the honorable member’s suggestion, and, therefore, I cannot say that effect should be given to ‘if. ‘ All I say is that Tasmania should not be placed at a disadvantage as compared with the other States. I cannot conceive of any benefit which the Commonwealth would derive by the purchase of the lines included in this motion. Surely the Postmaster-General should give- us some advice in regard to the matter, instead of leaving us in the dark as to what the intentions of the Government are. I have never known a Ministry to possess a policy similar to that of the present Administration. They are prepared to let matters slide in any direction, so long as they can retain possession of the Treasury benches. It appears to me imperative that the PostmasterGeneral should define the Government attitude upon this matter. ‘He should declare whether they are in favour of or opposed to the motion, and should assign reasons for the position which they take up. To my mind, this Parliament is always seeking to interfere in the affairs of other people, instead of attending to its own duties, and attempting to set its own house in order. The present proposal may be a socialistic one, or it may not. I believe that public utilities should be in the hands of the Government of any country.
– That is a very different tale from that , which the honorable member told the old women last night.
– I believe that the Government of a country should control its public utilities. I can assure the honorable member for Maranoa that I never say one thing outside the House and another thing upon the floor of this Chamber.
– But the honorable member says the same thing in a different way sometimes.
– I put matters in my emphatic way, wherever I may be.I repeat that I am in favour of the Government controlling the public utilities of the country, but I am not in favour of the Government of the Commonwealth attempting to control the public utilities of Canada. Let the Administration of that country control its own utilities. The motion is an absurd one.
– It is retaliation upon Canada for daring to send her harvesters to the Commonwealth.
– I am quite in favour of Canada sending her harvesters here, and because she does that I am not prepared to sanction interference with her land telegraph lines. I again ask the Postmaster-General whether the Government have any policy upon this question ? Do they intend to become the owners of the Canadian land line, or do they propose to form a syndicate to purchase it? I cannot conceive of the Commonwealth being able to purchase that line, together with the Atlantic cable, and I should like some declaration of Ministerial policy upon the matter.
– The honorable member who hasjust resumed his seat is like Mr. Dick with the famous head. He always wants to hit the Government. I do not think that the Ministry are likely to go to the other side of the House for instructions as to what they shall do in regard to this matter. The honorable member for New England has affirmed his belief in, public utilities being in the hands of the Government; but he added that we have no right to interfere with the public utilities of Canada. All that we desire is that Canada shall own her own land telegraph system just as we do, so that we may both reap an advantage.
– No; the proposal is for a joint purchase.
– The proposal is that there should be a joint purchase by England, Canada, and Australia, in order to provide a national line. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa based his criticism of the motion upon the difference between private enterprise and Government control. I do not think honorable members desire me to deal with the early history of telegraphy, but I can give one instance which will exemplify the benefits that are conferred bya line which is nationally owned, as against those conferred by a line which is controlled by private enterprise. I hold in my hand a telegram which I wished to send from Hong Kong to a friend at Shanghai - a distance of 700 miles. It contains thirteen words, and for its transmission I was asked 13s. 6d., although it is possible to send a message of sixteen words over a State-owned line from Thursday Island to Perth, a distance of 6,000 miles, for1s.
– The residents of Tasmania pay very nearly asmuch as the Eastern Extension Company’s charge to communicate with the mainland.
– No. If the honorable member will listen to me for a moment, I think I can correct his impression.
– The rate charged for messages between Tasmania and the mainland is1s. for sixteen words, plus1/2d. per word.
– That is so. The extra1/2d. per word is a mere bagatelle
– It is about 700 miles, and it is 6,000 miles from Thursday Island to Perth. If the honorable member cannot realize the difference between the rates charged for despatching messages over the lines I have mentioned, God help him. In America, it is possible to send telegraph messages from New York to Chicago by various means. For instance, one has the choice between a very rapid transit and a special service. But nobody will dare to say that a person can send a message from New York to San Francisco as cheaply as he can from New York to Chicago, although any one who is acquainted with even the rudiments of telegraphy must know that when once the current has been completed it costs no more to send a word 1,000 miles than it does to transmit it 100miles. I do hope that honorable members will realize the position which I am endeavouring to place before them. It is a fact that the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, which is endeavouring to injure our “all red “ line, charges 13s. 6d. for transmitting a message 700 miles, whereas in Australia it is possible to send a message 6,000 miles for1s.
– The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s line is an “ all red “ one. too.
– It is certainly “ all red “ in its charges; in fact, itis blazing scarlet. I intend to vote for the motion, and I trust that the Government will permit it to pass without any opposition. Surely they must share our desire to secure a national line.
Debate (on motion by Mr. King O’Malley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Page) agreed to -
That an estimate, in detail, of the cost of erecting and working the proposed trunk telephone line from Melbourne to Sydney, with appliances, be laid upon the Table of this House; such estimate to show the sum to be set aside annually for depreciation and renewals, and the loss likely to ensue through a diminution in telegraphic and postal receipts, together with full particulars as to the anticipated revenue, and the figures on which such estimated revenue is based.
Order of the day read, and discharged.
Debate resumed from 5th October (vide page 3231), on motion by Mr. Crouch -
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the advisability of amending the Regulations issued under the Defence Acts ; the Committee to consist of Mr. Batchelor, Mr. Hutchison, Mr. Maloney, Mr. Mauger, Mr. Page, Mr. Wilks, and the Mover, with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to sit at any time.
Upon which Mr. Hutchison had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ Mr. Wilks “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Mr. Lee.”
– I desire to move a prior amendment to that submitted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– It will be possible for the honorable member to do so, only in the event of the honorable member for Hindmarsh consenting to temporarily withdraw his amendment.
– I consent.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That after the word “That,” line1, the following words be inserted : - “ in the opinion of this House, the Government should furnish a comprehensive report to Parliament dealing with
For my own part, I think that it is unwise for the Parliament to interfere with the administration of the Department by the military authorities unless such interference is imperatively necessary ; but if this Committee is to be appointed, its scope of inquiry should be enlarged, and the Government should be directed to obtain a report dealing with all the matters enumerated in my amendment.
– What is the difference between coastal and harbor defence?
– I consider it desirable that Parliament should be presented with . an authoritative report upon these questions by those who are competent to deal with them. Such information would enable us to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the best policy to adopt for the defence of the Commonwealth. I have on previous occasions in this House expressed myself as being strongly of opinion that sufficient attention is not paid to our coastal and harbor defences, which, apart from the Imperial Squadron- on the Australian station, constitute our first line of defence; and it seems to me that we should have some authoritative information as to what is the best course to pursue in perfecting these defences as far as our means will permit. I cannot close my eyes to the fact that, in case of war, Australia would be practically at the mercy of amy hostile cruiser that might be detached from an enemy’s fleet, or might suddenly make an independent attack upon us from one or other of the foreign naval bases in close proximity to our shores. In order to be able to resist such attacks, we must have a properly equipped coastal and harbor defence. We have to rely mainly upon the British fleet for the protection of our commerce, but that fleet might not always be available for the protection of vulnerable points of the coast-line, which extends between 7,000 and 8,000 miles. The’ necessities of naval warfare might require it to be some hundreds of miles away from Australia, and a hostile cruiser might avail itself of such an opportunity to make an attack upon us. As I shall have an opportunity when the Defence Estimates are before us to deal with the general question of defence, I do not intend to elaborate my argument. If the report which I suggest be obtained, it will be of great value to the Parliament, and will also enable the Committee to gather information from the most reliable sources, and so equip honorable members for a proper consideration of the questions of defence with which we may be asked to deal.
– I think that if a Committee of this sort be granted, it should have powers sufficiently extensive to enable it to present am authoritative report to the House.
– The honorable member knows that there is no hope of carrying such a proposition.
– He knows that there is no intention to allow the motion to be carried.
– As soon as I rise to make a few observations, my honorable friends opposite jump to the conclusion that I am taking part in some conspiracy.
– There is no doubt about that.
– My honorable friend misjudges me. I do not believe in the wording of the amendment, and intend to criticise it.
– At length.
– That suspicion is unfounded. I fail to understand exactly what is meant by the amendment. We are told that a comprehensive report is required in regard to coastal and harbor defences, land forces, citizen soldiery, a cadet system, regulations, and the charges made by the honorable and learned member for Corio in regard to administration. I cannot differentiate, however, between a citizen soldiery and coastal and harbor defences, between a citizen soldiery and our land forces, or between a citizen soldiery and our cadet system.
– Are the cadets citizens?
– They will be in time. Perhaps the words referring to the cadet system should be allowed to stand.
– The honorable member is trying to talk the motion out, which is not right. I do not think that he has any honest intention to discuss it fairly.
– That is a very grave and a very wrong charge. Had I been in the place of the mover of the amendment, I should have moved simply for a report as to the forms of attack to which Australia is most exposed. The House requires information on that subject. It needs to know what are the dangers which the Commonwealth should prepare to meet. When it has obtained that information, it will be in a position to consider what steps should be taken to meet those dangers. The discussion of defence matters in this Chamber has shown that honorable members are not able, to easily understand one another. Consequently, in every duologue we have the member addressing the Chair as he understands himself, and as he is understood bv his opponent, his opponent as he understands himself and as he is understood by the member addressing the Chair, and the two honorable members as they are understood by Mr. Speaker. At the present time we have no fixed defence policy. The honorable member for Lang wishes to extend the powers of the Committee for which the honorable and learned member for Corio asks ; but he should move in a direction which will lead to the securing of useful information. How can any member of our military forces differentiate between coastal and harbor defences and our land forces? As the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne explained yesterday, our coastal and harbor defences are almost entirely on the land, only a very small part of them consisting of floating defences ; while the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who is the authority in this House on defence matters, has told us that absolutely every section of our land forces can properly be described as coastal and harbor defences.
– That is so.
– Then, with regard to citizen soldiery, we know that it is the ambition of honorable members to do away, as far as possible, with the professional element in our military ‘forces, an,cl employ only citizen soldiers. How, then, could any one differentiate between a citizen soldiery and our land forces, or a citizen soldiery and. our coastal and harbor defence forces. The terms are absolutely interchangeable. No information is sought by means of the amendment which could not properly be given under any of the several heads which are set out in it.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– I ask the honorable member to deny my statement that, even in our garrison artillery, a large proportion of the gunners are citizen soldiers. I affirm that one cannot say what is meant by citizen .soldiery apart !from our. coastal and harbor defences, or apart from our land, forces. Citizen soldiery, coastal and harbor defences, and land forces are, as I have already said, interchangeable terms. If the honorable member had been as concSse in framing Che amendment as he usually is in his speeches, he would have contented himself with asking for information in regard to our Defence Forces. I cannot say that I quite agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that all our forces are for coastal defence purposes, because I understand that some of our field artillery companies are to be raised up country, and it would surely be very expensive to move them to the coast.
– They could be moved to the coast either in a north-easterly or southwesterly direction.
– Having these coastal and harbor. defence.**, we should be able to forecast what portions of the coast are most open to attack.
– We cannot know what an enemy may think on the point.
– We know that an enemy, cannot land an expedition in Australia until
Great Britain has lost her command of the seas ; and we can be tolerably confident that an enemy’s vessel would not bombard a barren headland, but would reserve her fire for a place where she could do some damage. The honorable member for Maranoa, who is over prone to suspicion, thinks that there is some arrangement between the honorable member for Lang and myself.
– There is a conspiracy to talk the motion out.
– Because the honorable member has to do what he is told.
– Does my honorable friend think that the Opposition wish to talk out the motion to prevent the Government from being placed in an awkward situation ?
– Yes; on the present occasion. ‘
– I fail to understand how my honorable friend can hold that view. I recognise the difficulties in which the amendment would involve us. Instead of having before us a concrete proposal to allow a number of inexpert members of Parliament to range at large throughout all the technical details of a technical Department, we are now asked to require information which cannot be easily classified. It is with the object of extricating the Committee from the tangle in which it will be involved . by the amendment in its present form that- 1 am anxious to have certain alterations made. We all know that the majority of honorable members - I. do not refer to those who are sitting on this side of the House - are ignorant of the very elements of Australian defence requirements. Such being the case, I do not, for a moment, suppose that any honorable member will object to a proposal that we should obtain an authoritative report. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has just suggested to me that, perhaps, I am doing an injustice to him in so far that my speaking at length at this juncture may make it appear that he is afraid to have the regulations submitted to a Select Committee. I have such a regard for the honorable and learned member that I would not for a moment, dream of acting in such a way as to place him in a false position. At the same time, I think that the question before us demands the utmost consideration, before we proceed to a vote. If no honorable member -wilt’ endeavour to elucidate what the honorable member for Lang means by his amendment, I shall have to vote against it.
– I desire to make a short personal explanation. During the course of the speech made by the honorable member for Wentworth, the honorable member for Maranoa interjected that my_ amendment was the result of a conspiracy^ between the honorable member for Wentworth and mvself.
– I did not say that ; the honorable member for Wentworth made that statement.
– A further interjection was made, and repeated, to the effect that the statement was true. I now wish to state that I had no conversation or communication of any kind with the honorable member with regard to my amendment prior to submitting it to the House.
– As I had a shrewd idea of the fate that was in store for the motion, I withdrew my amendment, as a mere matter of courtesy, to enable the honorable member for Lang to submit his amendment. If the honorable member is sincere, no one can object to widening the scope of the inquiry. The Defence Department is the largest spending Department we have, and, in many respects the most wasteful. It is also the most autocratic Department, and the one in which the greatest number of injustices are committed. That being so, I am sure honorable members will be pleased if the honorable member for Lang is found to voice the opinions of members of the Opposition, lt would be a good thing for us to so widen the scope of the inquiry as to include the whole organization of the Military Department, and if the Committee could evolve a scheme of efficient defence at a minimum of expense, it would perform a great work. I am glad to hear that there has been no conspiracy to defeat the object of the motion, and I am also pleased to learn that the motion will probably have the support of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who has evinced such a great interest in defence matters, and has made so many valuable suggestions in regard to the organization of our forces.
– I should like to make a few remarks in .answer to some of the statements, made by ‘the VicePresident of the Executive .Council.
– On a point of order, I should like to know whether’ the speech of the honorable and learned member for
Corio will close the debate, or whether he will be regarded as merely addressing himself to the amendment before the Chair. This is a matter that has come under consideration before, and I want to know whether the honorable and learned member for Corio, if he speaks whilst an amendment is before the Chair to the effect that certain words should be inserted, will close the debate.
– I take it that the honorable and learned member is proceeding to speak to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang.
– I do not wish to address myself to. the amendment unless I can at the same time close the debate.
Amendment (by Mr. Hutchison) agreed to-
That the words “ Mr. Wilks “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Mr. Lee.”
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- I desire, first, to answer several statements which were made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council; and, secondly, to meet some of the objections which have been urged to the motion. I would first point out that the accuracy of my statements on the 14th September with regard to Corporal Watts have Been to some extent admitted by the Minister. I then stated that certain questions had been addressed to Watts before he was allowed to submit himself for examination. The Minister replied -
I gather that the questions originated from the fact that Corporal Watts was unable to produce a certificate of birth, and could not say definitely what was his age. The board then asked him whether his father, or his sisters, or brothers could furnish them with some confirmatory evidence in regard to what he believed to be his age.
– That is a shocking piece of bluff, and the honorable gentleman is aware of it.
– Was any other applicant asked similar questions?
– Under the regulations an applicant requires to prove his age. -
– Has any one who has proved his age been asked similar questions?
– No. General Gordon and Colonel Stanley go further, and assert that they did not ask. any questions that. could bear the construction placed upon them by the honorable and learned member for Corio. Colonel Stanley states that if such questions were asked they were simply put with, a desire tq secure confirmatory evidence with regard to his age.
First of all, it was denied that any questions had been addressed to Watts, and it was afterwards stated that if any questions were addressed to him they, were designed to obtain information regarding his age. The comment of the honorable member for Bland upon the Minister’s statement was -
That is a piece of bluff, because similar questions have been put to other candidates.
I am now in a position to read to the House, certain questions, in addition to those previously set out, which were addressed to Watt’s. Honorable members will be able to judge for themselves whether Watts was examined merely with a desire to ascertain his age. The questions and answers were as follows; -
Then Brigadier-General Gordon appeared upon the scene. He said -
You help to support your mother. That, you know, would prevent you holding your position as you should. Have you any means beyond your pay, because you know that the position you will have to keep up is a very expensive one.
These were the questions that were asked of this man. Yet the Minister says that Colonel Stanley states that if such questions were asked, they were put with the object of securing confirmatory evidence as to the man’s age. The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that these regulations have since been amended so as to remedy such abuses. I frankly admit that the present Minister of Defence is doing his best in that direction, and I understand alarge number of members who would have supported this motion are now influenced By that promise. My motion is in no sense an attack upon his administration.
– The question at issue is : “ Has the Minister abolished the Board which put such questions “ ?
– I hold in my hand a copy of the amended regulations which the Minister has laid upon the table of the House. No. 66 of these reads: -
Applications from candidates, in accordance with paragraph 67, will be received by District Commandants, who will forward the same to the Military Board. When forwarding applications, District Commandants will state their opinion of thefitness of each candidate for appointment. Candidates will be informed of their nomination or otherwise to undergo the examination prescribed.
That regulation shows that although the Special Military Board has been abolished, the nominations of candidates for examination have to be approved by the district commandants. Failing to secure that approval, intending candidates cannot present themselves for examination.
– That regulation merely provides that the district commandants shall express their opinions. The Military Board decides whether they are to compete or not.
– Any man who has served three years in the Defence Force, and who is ready to face the examination should be allowed to compete.
– If we did not give somebody that power a convicted felon might insist upon presenting himself for examination.
– My complaint is that this regulation still allows the system of nomination for examination. That is unfair.
– I do not see anything unfair in it.
– Then all reference to such matters as leave to marry, and the right of a man to put any grievance under which he labours in writing before the Minister, has been omitted from the amended regulations. If such matters were dealt with in the regulations, any honorable member would be at liberty, within thirty days of those regulations being laid before Parliament, to move that they should be rejected. But all these questions are now incorporated in the Standing Orders, the bulk of which we shall never see. One of the points made by the honorable member for Wentworth, in the course of his speech, was that a number of men who had served in South Africa with honour, and who received commissions there were, upon their return to Australia, deprived of their right to use those commissions.
– Not deprived of them, surely.
Mr.CROUCH. - I have here a list of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. It states: -
The following warrant and non-commissioned officers now serving in the Commonwealth are noted for honorary rank as soon as they receive a commission in or cease to belong to the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Honorable members will notice that they are to be allowed honorary rank as soon as they cease to belong to the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. I will take the case of the man whose name is first mentioned in this list. It is that of Private George John Bell, of the Australian Light Horse. I may mention that I have no acquaintance whatever with him. . What is his record? From the record of the war services of officers I make the following extract : -
Bell, G. J. South African war, 1899-1902. Operations in Cape Colony, south of Orange River, Orange River Colony, and Transvaal. Distinguished Service Order medal, with six clasps. Despatches. London Gazette, 29th July, 1902.
In South Africa Bell was good enough to be a captain.
– If the honorable and learned member will submit a motion asking that special consideration shall be extended to such men, I will support him, but I will not support any proposal for the appointment of a roving commission.
– I do not say whether this regulation is good or bad, but I do say that a recommendation should be made to the Minister - either one way or the other - upon evidence which has been properly obtained. There must be some reasons why Private Bell and the next man, Sergeant Jerome have not obtained their captaincies.
– Have they ever applied for commissions?
– There was one man who served in South Africa under similar circumstances. His name is Lieutenant B. Watts. Upon his return to Australia, he was merely Bombardier and Corporal Watts. He applied for a commission upon more than one occasion. He made an application whilst the honorable and learned member for Corinella was Minister of Defence.
– Is the honorable and learned member now speaking of the Watts towhom he referred upon a previous occasion ?
– Yes. The Argus of 12th September last contains an account of an interview with Colonel Ricardo. As showing what the men serving in the artillery have to face, I make the following extract from that report : -
The candidates who did present themselves were young fellows who had had the advantage of the best teaching of the public schools, yet, as it turned out, only one was able to secure sufficient marks to entitle him to a pass.
Yet that is the sort of examination that rankers, men who have been years away from school, are expected to pass. The second statement which I made in submitting this motion was that certain girls had been paraded before military officers. It has been admitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that such a state of things did exist. In the course of the interview, from which I have already quoted, Colonel Ricardo says: -
When I was in Western Australia, a man under me asked permission to marry, and feeling satisfied that the girl, whose father I knew, was not aware of his financial position, I asked him if he would have any objection to my meeting the young lady. He said he had none, and would bring her to the barracks. But he failed to do so, and I left without granting permission.
– Why did she go to the barracks ?
– Apparently, he wished to inform her of the position of the soldier in question. To my mind, any man in the Permanent Forces should be allowed to marry without obtaining the consent of his commanding officer. I now come to the case of Bombardier Webb. It was information to me to learn from the Minister that Webb’s wife was not confined until six weeks after he had retired from the force, instead of five days, but that is a mere detail. In reference to him, the commanding officer at Queenscliff, Major Hawker, says -
On April 14, 1905, Lt.-Col. Le Mesurier and I were crossing the barrack square, We were both in uniform. Webb was standing under the verandah, and must have seen us approaching. He deliberately turned his back on us, and when Lt.-Col. Le Mesurier drew my attention to it, Webb turned round and stood in a most unsoldierlike and disrespectful manner, without attempting to salute, or even stand at attention.I did not tap Webb on the back with my stick, or touch him in any way. I asked him why he had not saluted, he said “I did not see you.” Lt.-Col. Le Mesurier said “ You could not help seeing us.” I then ordered Webb to report himself under arrest to the orderly sergeant. I made inquiries as to his general conduct from the officer commanding his company (Lieutenant Innes), and he informed me that since he had been allowed to live out of barracks, Webb had become very careless and slovenly. On April 15, Webb was brought before me, and I reverted him to his “permanent grade (gunner), and withdrew the privilege granted to him of living out of barracks.
Attached to the papers is a telegram, in which Colonel Wallace, who is now in Western Australia, states that he thought Webb would have secured the position of assistant linesman. Major Hawker attaches papers which show that on one or two occasions Webb made complaints to the commanding officer of his company, Lieutenant Innes, but, inasmuch as that officer did not think that he would secure any redress by forwarding them to his superior officer,they were not so forwarded. In spite of the declaration of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that, under the regulations, a man was permitted to forward any complaint in writing to his commanding officer, I hold in my hand the very document that Webb handed to Lieutenant Innes, and which the latter refused to transmit to his superior officer. This man paraded twice before Lieutenant Innes, but was not allowed to forward his complaint to Headquarters. So far, the honorable and learned member for Corinella is the only one who has advanced any argument against the appointment of the Committee.
– Has not the Vice-President of the Executive Council spoken against its appointment?
– He has shown that there are certain trivial inaccuracies in the complaints of the men, but in the main he agrees with the statements that have been submitted to the House. One of the arguments used by the honorable and learned member for Corinella was that if Major Hawker had broken the regulations he ought to be court-martialled. The word “ court-martialled “ appears in the Hansard report of his speech, although I think the word actually used by the honorable and learned member was “punished.”
– Then the honorable and learned member had better blame Hansard.
– I do not blame any one.
– The honorable and learned member would sooner trust his own memory than the shorthand writer’s notes?
– I merely wish to show that, in the opinion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, an absolutely false statement has been made by this officer. On the 5th July last, when speaking in the House in regard to the case of a man named Sheehan, who complained that his discharge had been refused him, the honorable and learned member said -
I could not go to Queenscliff in search of the officer who swore these men, but I was informed that he stated personally that he read the regulations to them, and that they knew the terms on which they were enlisted.
– If I made that statement I was so informed.
– On 12th July the present Minister of Defence caused the following letter to be sent to me -
Dear Sir. - With further reference to your letter of the 29th ult., relative to Gunner W. T. Sheehan, I am directed to inform you that, on further investigating the case, it appears to the Minister that the Regulations were not read to Sheehan ; and under the circumstances Senator Playford thinks that the request for a discharge should be granted.
Instructions have therefore been given to this effect.
– It proves that the honorable and learned gentleman, when Minister of Defence, was misinformed by Major Hawker.
– No, I was never informed by Major Hawker personally that he read the regulations to the man.
– On the 7th July the honorable and learned member, when speaking in this House read a report from Major Hawker, in which he asserted that the regulations were read out to the men.
– It is evident that some one misinformed the Minister.
– Misinformed one of the Ministers.
– I do not wish to read the letters in regard to matters affecting the service that have reached me from almost every State; but I think I shall be justified in reading the following letter, published in the Argus of 22nd ultimo: -
Sir, - I, for one, know that it is a breach of discipline to approach members of Parliament or newspapers on military matters, hut something must be done,as personally, I may state,I have been over six months trying to get a case of my own looked into by the authorities, but so far I have not been able to get any satisfaction, not am I likely to unless it is stirred up from outside ; I may add that I hold a commission in the nth A.L.H.R.- Yours, &c.
Sandford, September 18.
This letter was written by a captain in the Forces.
Mr.Hutchison. - It is a common complaint.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows that I have had letters from officers holding the high rank of lieutenant-colonel, and also from a captain in the Forces in South Australia, stating that gross injustices are being perpetrated in the Forces, and that they hope that the Committee will be appointed. I was asked by the honorable and learned member for Corinella why I had not previously referred my complaint to the officer in question. So far as Major Hawker is concerned, I may say that I have never spoken to him. I have no feeling in this matter, but I believe that a gross injustice has been done to certain men. Until Major Hawker took command at Queenscliff it was the rule to allow artillerymen who had served a certain number of years to submit themselves for examination for the Police Force. About April last, applications were invited for admission to this force, and I was informed that the artillerymen of Queenscliff for the first time were being refused permission to submit themselves for the qualifying examination. Upon receipt of this information, I sent a Jong telegram to the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who was then Minister of Defence, and was absent in Western Australia ; but I have never received an answer to that communication.
– I do not think I ever received the telegram. At all events, I have no recollection of it.
– The wire was sent on 20th April, 1905.
– Why did not the honorable and learned member mention the matter! to me on my return from Western Australia?
– It was then too late for the Minister to take action. I took care, however, to write to the officer commanding at Queenscliff, asking that permission be given the men to submit themselves for the examination, and stating that I had communicated with the Minister. I pointed out that it was only just that those who desired to go up for examination should be allowed to do so, in accordance with the established practice.
– When did the honorable and learned member telegraph to me?
– I anticipated that the honorable and learned member would reach Western Australia about 24th or 25th April, and I timed my message to reach him on his arrival there.
– From the honorable and learned member’s statement, it would appear that he wired on Good Friday.
– I cannot say exactly what was the date of the telegram, but it was timed to reach the honorable and learned member about 24th April. In reply to my letter to the officer commanding at Queenscliff, I received the following answer: -
Dear Sir. - I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the20th instant, and in reply beg to inform you that I have forwarded same on to the Commandant for his information and consideration.
In the instructions issued there is nothing to prevent any man of the R.A.A. applying for leave of absence on private affairs, and presenting himself for these examinations.
I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,
Major R.A.A. C.O. R.A.A., Victoria.
Notwithstanding the statement that there was nothing to prevent any man applying for leave of absence, in order to submit himself for examination, I am informed that at the very time I received the letter a notice was standing on the board to the effect that -
No man will be allowed to go for Police under four years’ service. If any man goes up for the Police he will be brought up for disobedience.
And yet the honorable and learned member for Corinella inquired why I did not communicate with the officer commanding at Queenscliff !
– I asked why the honorable and learned member did not bring the matter before the notice of the proper authorities ?
– The honorable and learned member said that these complaints should have been made in the first place to the officers concerned.
– I did not.
– The proposed abolition of canteens is. another matter of great importance. I understand that there is a notice of motion in regard to this question standing on the business-paper in the name of the honorable member for Lang, and that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has introduced a Bill dealing with the same subject. This precludes reference to the merits of the question. I have hitherto felt it impossible, to support a proposal to abolish canteens, but I have received statements which suggest the desirableness of a- careful inquiry being made in regard to the whole system. I venture to say that unless this’ Committee is appointed, and inquires into the question, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and the honorable member for Lang, who take a great interest in it, will find, when their proposals are considered, that honorable members are in the same state of uncertainty as to what is the right thing to do as they were last session.
– That is why I wish the scope of the inquiry to be widened.
– If an attempt had not been made to strike out the proposal for the appointment of a Select Committee, I should have supported my honorable friend’s amendment, but in the circumstances I shall have to vote against it. I would remind him that it would be competent for the Committee to inquire into the canteen system. When a proposal was before the House on 21st August, 1903, to abolish canteens, I voted against it, believing that the circumstances were different from what they really were. We were then guided by the statements of certain military authorities. The honorable and learned member for Corinella - who always votes with the temperance party in regard to temperance matters - as well as myself and other honorable members, were placed in a false position, and led to cast a vote that caused some people to believe that we were hostile to the temperance cause, simply because of certain statements then submitted to the House. Among these was the “assertion that coffee-rooms were established apart from the canteens, and were largely patronized. That was the statement which influenced me to vote against their abolition. I am informed, however, that, the coffee-room at the Queenscliff, forts was opened shortly before the matter came before the House, and was ‘abolished soon afterwards. . It remained in existence for a few months, and was evidently established with a view to furnish evidence against the proposal to abolish military canteens. In view of all these facts, I trust that the honorable member for Lang will support the motion, in order that the House may obtain information that will enable it to arrive at a proper decision in regard to this question. One side asserts that canteens are very necessary, while the other contends that they are not. In 1903 they were said to be necessary in order to keep the men away from the public-houses.
– I must ask the .honorable member not to enter upon a detailed discussion of the question of canteens.
– -Very well, sir. I also wish the Committee to be appointed in order that it may inquire into the regulations relating to uniforms. It is somewhat singular that the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who has been for many years a working officer in the militia, did not cure the trouble when he was in office.
– If the honorable member only knew of the work I put into the question of uniforms, and how far I got towards its ‘ completion, he would be silent on that point.
– The honorable and learned member did not even so amend the regulations as to enable an officer in the militia to equip himself with uniforms at a cost of less than £20. . We know that in many cases men cannot accept commissions, even in the volunteers, because of their inability to pay £20 for uniforms.
– A kit can be bought for less than .£20.
– Does not the honorable and learned member know that there is a large number of functions from which men are excluded unless they are provided with expensive dress and mess suits; although the commanding officers in some of the upcountry corps have’ rigorously put their feet down upon expense of this kind?
– These are not dress regulations, I spent days and weeks in going into this matter, but I was not allowed to continue in office long enough’ to complete my work.
– I voted against the free-trade Government, but I would have been glad to allow the honorable and learned member to remain in office another week if he would have put an end to the state of things of which I complain. I hope that the Committee will recommend a thorough change in regard to uniforms, so that men who show themselves qualified by their ability to hold positions of command, shall not be prevented from seeking promotion by the cost which it would entail upon them. Last Saturday night the Prime Minister, when present at a Trafalgar dinner at which I presided, was informed in my presence by an officer of good position that, although he had been only fourteen years in the service, he possessed already£100 worth of useless and obsolete uniforms.
– That is because of the constant changes which have been made in the past.
– The changes which have been made are absurd. If I were to bring into the Chamber my collection of caps, hats, helmets, and other head-gear, honorable members would have an impressive demonstration of the need for amending the expensive dress regulations which are now in force. The motion is in no sense intended as an attack on the Ministry. Of this I am certain, that even if this motion fails it will have accomplished its purpose. Never again shall we have similar abuses in the service. If I thought that the Government could get the information which they need An any other way, I would not press for the appointment of a Select Committee. The Minister went to his officers for reports, and, in regard to the Queenscliff case, got a statement from Sergeant-Major Morris, who said that he was present on the occasion of an interview between Captain Hawker and Bombardier Webb, and did not hear certain things. There were, however, five interviews, and I could give the Minister the names of warrant and non-commissioned officers who were also present, one of whom knows that certain things were said. In connexion with almost any inquiry it is always possible to bring any number of witnesses to prove that they did not hear things said. What we want is positive evidence of those who were actually present. I am desirous only of assisting the Government. It is necessary that the regulations should be gone through by persons who will not regard them from the official and military standpoint, but will apply to their examination a little of the common sense which Parliament embodied in the Defence Act. I think that the members of the proposed Select Committee will agree that regula tions should not be permitted to nullify the provision in the Act which says that men. may rise from the ranks, by giving to one officer and another the right to say whether men shall or shall not be allowed to present themselves for examination for higherpositions.That isan injustice which I think honorable members will not tolerate. So far as Corporal Watts and Bombardier Webb are concerned, their cases were brought before the House mainly to accentuate my objections to the regulations, and to. concentrate the attention of honorable members on this subject. This is much more than a matter affecting a few individuals, whom, in a few years, it will no longer concern. The principle of these regulations requires alteration. An injustice will be done to our Military Forces, and the Defence Act will not have full effect, until regulations more in accordance with commonsense are agreed to. I trust that the House will pass the motion.
– Under standing order 324 I ask for a ballot.
Six members having risen in support.
– As six honorable members concur in regard to the taking of a ballot, if the motion is carried, a ballot must be taken. To give an opportunity for this to be done, I will put, first, the question - That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the advisability of amending the Regulations issued under the Defence Acts.
Question put. - The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 5th October (vide page 3243), on motion by Mr. Kelly-
That whereas the command of the seas in time of war is essential to the security of the Empire’s vast interests on, and beyond, the seas; and whereas this command cannot be assured by separate squadrons acting independently on behalf of each section of the Empire; and whereas the United Kingdom, which has hitherto borne practically unassisted the burden of Imperial naval defence, will sooner or later be unable to continue to make sufficient provision against the rapidly increasing naval armaments of foreign powers ; this House is of opinion -
That all naval expenditure by the Commonwealth of Australia should be towards an Imperial Navy, on the efficiency and adequacy of which in time of war will depend her security from serious danger; and
That the Commonwealth of Australia’s contribution to the Imperial Navy should be doubled.
Upon which Mr. Carpenter had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “ That,” line 1, the following words be inserted : - “ in the opinion of this House it is desirable to encourage and promote a national and self-reliant spirit among the Australia people ; to create and maintain a deeper interest in the development of our sea-power and in the naval defence of the Commonwealth. “ That, while regarding the existing naval agreement with Great Britain as a recognition of present obligations to the Empire, it is essential that provision be made in the near future for an Australian Navy for defence purposes. “ That an advisory report be obtained from the Naval Director showing the number and class of war-vessels necessary under existing circumstances, and the approximate cost of providing and maintaining the same.”
– Some of the motions presented to this House are not to be taken seriously ; they are moved to provoke discussion of an educational character rather than to achieve any practical end. This motion belongs to that category, but the problems whichits discussion involves require that we shall endeavour to reduce our ideas to a practical form. I shall therefore endeavour to put before the House that view of the defence question which to my mind deserves the most serious consideration of all patriotic Australians. The honorable member for Wentworth proposes that we should double the subsidy now paid towards the maintenance of the Australian Squadron, but I do not think that that idea can be seriously entertained. The whole question of naval defence, as it relates to Australia and to the Empire, is in some degree involved in the proposal, and I intend to address myself to the general aspect of the matter. In the first place, I have to ask myself what are the privileges, rights, and duties of Australians, not merely with respect to local matters, but also in relation to Imperial concerns ? We have a great heritage in Australia, and no one would for a moment say that it is not worth defending. The duty, therefore, devolves upon us to provide adequate local defences, and, if possible, to bring our arrangements into line with the Imperial scheme. Looking at the matter from that point of view, we have to consider the risks to which we may be exposed, and to determine beforehand how we should dispose of our military and naval forces in order to guard against them. It must be generally admitted that the only danger to which we are exposed is an attack from oversea. By the act of Federation, we have eliminated any possible chance of internecine strife.
– Suppose that there were a fight for secession?
– I have never seriously considered any such possibility. I do not think that the people of any portion of Australia would give a second thought to any such proposal.
– The Premier of Western Australia has placed himself at the head of the secession movement in that State.
– It is true that he has made some remarks upon the subject, but he can do nothing without consulting the people of Western Australia, and I have such confidence in the good sense of the citizens of that part of the Commonwealth that I do not think there is any chance of the proposal finding much support. Taking that for granted, we have to consider the form that an oversea attack upon us would probably assume. Would it assume the shape of an effort at conquest, or be designed merely for the purpose of loot, or to obtain coal, or possibly with a combination of ends in view? The honorable and learned member for. Corinella, who has devoted a great deal of attention to this subject, stated positively a few days ago that, in his opinion, there was no- chance of any attempt at conquest, and that- we should probably not be called upon to repel anything beyond a sudden raid by a comparatively small force, with the object of loot. I agree with the honorable and learned member, and I believe that his opinion is largely shared throughout Australia. “Under these circumstances, we have to reflect whether we are doing right in maintaining a large military force, and only a small naval establishment. On previous occasions, I have contended that our policy in this respect ought to be reversed - that, instead Of devoting a large amount of money, time, and attention, to strengthening our military forces, we should endeavour to build up our naval defences upon much more substantial lines. I may be asked how this is to be accomplished. Certain proposals have been put forward, among them being that of the honorable member for Wentworth. I grant at once that it is part of our duty to provide for adequate naval defence. But I entirely disagree with the honorable member when he urges that we should begin by making an increased contribution towards the maintenance of the British Navy.
– -Not the British Navy, but an Imperial Navy.
– The honorable member makes a new point. There is a distinction to be drawn between, the British Navy, as we now have it, and an Imperial Navy which would be representative of all parts of the Empire, and which would be maintained apart from the British Navy proper. But my idea is that Australians should depend upon themselves for their own defence; that they should encourage a spirit of local patriotism, which would ultimately render us, so far as Australian defence is concerned, absolutely independent of the British Navy.
– Should not our patriotism induce us to take a wider view of Imperial . matters ?
– I trust that our patriotism will always lead us to recognise our duty to the Empire ; but I contend thai our first duty is to our own kith and kin, and that the discharge of our responsibilities in that direction will not in any sense conflict with our duty to the Empire as a whole. To this end, I think we should put our own house in order before we proceed., to consider questions of Imperial policy in. regard to defence. It is our duty to de,velop our own resources, to maintain this, country for the British race, to keep it free, from foreign domination, either racial or otherwise, and certainly free from conquest: or aggression. When we have done that,, we shall have discharged a duty to the importance of which the mother country will not be insensible. It is our dutv to defend Australia, but our capacity in this direction is limited by our financial, means. We all have a sincere desire to dothat which is right, but we are often deterred from taking action by the fear of making mistakes. I think, therefore, that our’ first effort should be to secure expert advice which will assist us in arriving at a wise determination upon this great ‘question. I speak - as most other honorable members do - as a layman, and it would be’ folly for me to express any opinion with regard to matters of technical detail. For instance, how could I pretend to express any authoritative opinion as to the particular kind of armoured vessel, the class’ of gun, or the description of torpedo we should employ in our defences? I know nothing about such matters, and therefore I propose to devote myself merely to the consideration of the general principles we should follow. In all these matters we are more or less influenced by the fear that the action we desire to take may be upon wrong lines, that the money we propose to spend may be wasted, and that all our efforts may go for nothing. Therefore, we should aim at evolving, with expert advice, a comprehensive scheme under which we can pursue a continuous policy and insure that all our. efforts will be directed to useful purposes, and tend to mould our defences upon permanent lines. We want to feel assured that we are obtaining full value for our money. I regret that a great deal of the money that has been spent upon our defences has been wasted, and I fear that much more of our expenditure will prove futile unless we act upon the lines I have suggested. We spend something like. ;£.[, 000,000 annually upon our defences. Of this amount ^200,000 is represented by the Naval Subsidy. The remaining ^800,000 is devoted to purely local defences. Our expenditure is so large that I think we may be said to have almost reached the taxable limit, and I trust that whatever changes may be made will be effected without further outlay. If that can be done, we shall then be able to at once allay any fears on the part of our .taxpayers. Of the amount devoted to local defences, only ^50,000 is expended upon our naval forces. Surely, if we are all agreed that any attack upon us must come from oversea, the appropriation -of ^50,000 upon the force which will have to bear the brunt of any such attack must appear to be ridiculously inadequate. Not one of. the boats we possess can be said to answer the requirements of modern warfare.
– Does the honorable member think that any Australian Navy would be able to protect this country from invasion if the British Navy did not exist ?
– Yes, I do, and I propose to indicate the kind of defence we shall require. In the meantime I am devoting myself to a consideration of the question of how we can best acquire that defence. Nevertheless, if we alter our present system, we must be careful that we do not impair the efficiency of our Military Forces. We require a third line of defence. Our first line of defence is, of course, the British Navy. The second should be our Naval Forces, including forts, batteries, mines, and harbor defence generally, and our third the land forces. The honorable and learned member for Corinella believes that the present land forces are intended to be an adjunct to the naval arm, I disagree with “hi’m. I do not think that they are fitted to do that sort of work. At the present time we are spending ^200,000 annually upon the British Navy, ^50,000 upon our own Naval Forces, and, roughly speaking, about ,£700,000 upon our land forces. Seeing that the sum which we are expending on our Military Forces is so large, and that the services of those forces are not likely to be called into requisition, obviously we ought to curtail our expenditure in that connexion, and devote the saving, thus effected to that branch of our defence system which will afford us the greatest measure of security. If we adopt a modification of the Swiss system, we shall probably be able to secure all that is necessary in respect of our third line of defence. The Swiss people have perfected their military system to such an extent as to make them the envy of all those nations which have need for military equipment. A book, entitled The Swiss Con federation, which was written by Sir
In the administration of this citizen army we see, not only the most typical advantages, but also the drawbacks and imperfections of that peculiar form of military organization. It is a striking example of an army in which the chief aim of those who in this country advocate “ short service “ has been successfully attained - namely, the existence of a large reserve of trained soldiers. The motto of our volunteers, “ Defence, not Defiance,” might well be adopted by the Swiss troops, for they are essentially a force of militia intended for defence purposes and to secure the neutrality of the country - an army framed upon principles of the strictest economy, as may be seen from the following table, which shows, approximately, the annual cost per man in the principal armies in Europe.
Then follows a table which shows that the annual cost oi maintaining the army in Great Britain is £64 10s. 4d. per man, in France £46 13s. 6d., in Germany ,£46, in Russia £22 16s., and in Switzerland only The writer goes on to say : -
The Swiss army is absolutely complete in every detail ; the medical, commissariat, and veterinary departments are thoroughly organized ; there is the proper proportion of cavalry, artillery, engineers, and transport; the battalions are kept up to their full strength and all in readiness for service. In fact, all the adjuncts for making an army a mobile factor in the field are, with the Swiss system of administration, complete and in thorough working order.
In Switzerland that result is achieved for an annual expenditure of £j per man. In Australia, according to the figures supplied by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, our Permanent Forces cost £140 per man per annum to maintain. That is the cost of the maintenance of the Royal Australian Artillery and the submarine engineers. If we omit these from the comparison, it will be found that our militia - that is our light horse, our infantry and field artillery - cost us ,£15 per man annually, or more than double the price that is paid by the people of Switzerland. Our riflemen of the rifle clubs cost us but 30s. a man a year.
– Does that include the cost of the cheap ammunition which is supplied to them?
– I assume that it does. My point is that the Swiss have been able to prepare themselves for all possible contingencies by means of a military system which costs only £7 per man per annum. If we could reduce the expendi- ture upon our Military Forces to the same level we should save something like £350,000 annually, and we could devote that saving to naval purposes.
– The honorable member believes in “ sweating “ the soldier.
– I neither believe in sweating the soldier nor in paying our Permanent ‘Forces in the way that they are being paid at the present time. What >ve want is a citizen soldiery, similar to that which has been established in Switzerland. In Australia we also need some of the patriotism which has been exhibited in Switzerland. I believe that the splendid rifle club movement ought to be encouraged in the Commonwealth by providing men with rifles and with ammunition, and by promoting rifle practice as much as possible. By that means we shall approximate more closely to the Swiss system, and shall at the same time avoid wasteful expenditure. What we require to do, then, is to lay the foundations of an Australian Navy by reducing our military expenditure. I made a similar statement in this House two years ago. I make it again to-night. I shall repeat it as occasion arises until the need for repetition disappears ! The naval arm of defence in an island continent must be the chief arm. We can only be attacked from oversea, and that being so, of what value would our light horse or infantry be? Of what avail would- our forts, batteries, or mines be as at present equipped ? Indeed, I might ask, “ What would be the good of
Our boats or the naval equipment generally that we possess?” Our forts require to be remodelled and modernised, our boats need to be put out of commission, and replaced bv vessels of a newer type, properly equipped with both men and guns. By doing away with unnecessary expenditure in the military arm of our defence system we could devote the money so saved to the purchase of torpedo-boats, torpedo-boat destroyers, and possibly submarines or submersibles. and to providing our forts with the guns that they require. The latter should certainly not be of more than three or four types. We should also secure proper ammunition for those guns, and train the men in our forts in the duties that they would be called upon to discharge in time of national emergency. By so doing we should afford local protection to our coal bases, to our harbors, and the cities beyond them, and we should also provide a safe retreat Tor our shipping.
– Then the honorable member does not believe in cruisers?
– I do not ; neither do I believe in the purchase at present of battleships for Australia. I do not think that we are in a position to purchase battleships, nor shall we require to do so whilst the British Fleet remains supreme upon the seas. But we do need to protect our coal bases, and to complete our system of harbor and coastal defence, and we can only do that by supplying our forts with modern guns and equipment, and by purchasing submarines and submersibles, and- by torpedo boats and torpedo-boat destroyers.
– Then the honorable member would abolish the naval subsidy ?
– No. It will be time enough to consider that matter eight or nine years hence.
– What would be the position if there were no British Navy in existence?
– It would then be our duty, as it is now, to defend ourselves against threatened attack. We can best do that by contributions to that form of coastal and harbor defence which I am at ‘present discussing.
– Then co-operation in naval effort is not a success?
– It may be under certain circumstances, but so far as Australia is concerned it has not yet come within the realm of practical politics.
– What would be the use of the system which the honorable member, suggests if there were no British Navy?
– If there were no British Navy in existence, or if by some unthinkable mischance that Navy were disposed of, our position would be still the same as it is to-day. It would be our duty to provide a complete system of local defence, and we cannot do that by paying tribute to the British Navy.
– That is not an answer to my question. If the British Navy were not in existence, would the scheme of defence which the honorable member has outlined be sufficient?
– I think so, and in that connexion I propose to quote an authority which the honorable member will admit is a good one. What would be our position if an enemy succeeded in defeating the British Fleet on the Australian station, and we had no local defence upon which to rely ? Surely, whether we increase our contribution to the British
– It is the Imperial effort that safeguards Australia from invasion.
– I disagree with, the honorable member. The point I wish to make is that the Imperial Navy in Australian waters might be defeated, or might be so fully engaged elsewhere as to leave us absolutely unprotected in the event of our having no home defence.
– That is a strong argument for an Imperial naval force.
– It is a strong argument in favour of our securing an adequate local naval defence. How can it be said that our defence is secured1 by means of a fleet which might be taken from us? We ought to depend upon ourselves and that local defence of which I speak. At the present time our naval equipment, as well as our forts and guns, are neither adequate nor modern. Every one knows that. A* a matter of fact, at some of our forts there is not even an installation of the electric light, so that in the event of a night attack the enemy might succeed in forcing a passage through. It is clear that the matter is one that requires attention. I am assured by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that my statement that the electric light has not been installed in some of the forts is correct. It may appear to be a simple matter, but it certainly ought to receive attention.
– In what fort is there no electric light?
– That is a secret. I have already mentioned that I propose to quote an authority which I trust will be accepted bv the honorable member for New England. I have pointed out that we ought not to rely too fully upon the British Navy’ for our protection, but that we should take care to see that our coasts are defended by torpedo boats, torpedo destroyers, and other vessels of that class. By thus taking steps to preserve the safety of’ our own country we shall do more to assist the Empire as a whole than we could by making contributions to either a British or an Imperial Navy. The Hon. A. J. Balfour, in the House of Commons on the nth May last, made a brilliant speech on the question of Imperial defence, and1 in
A battleship can drive’ another battleship from the sea ; but it cannot drive a fast cruiser, because a fast cruiser can always evade it. A strong and fast cruiser can drive a weak and slow cruiser from the ‘sea ; but neither cruisersnor battleships can- drive from the sea, or from the coast, I ought to say, either submarines or torpedo destroyers which have a safe shelter in neighbouring harbors, and can infest the coast altogether out of reach of the battleship, which is very. likely to be much more afraid of them than they have reason to be of her.
– Those small craft cannot keep sea. routes open, and yet that is the object which the honorable member has in view in proposing that we should purchase torpedo destroyers.
– That is not so. Any attack upon Australia must come from oversea, and from a cruiser or cruisers which succeed in evading the British Navy.. If Mr. Balfour be right, it is obvious that, in the event of several cruisers evading the British Fleet and making an attack upon our shores, we should be able to defend, ourselves by the possession of torpedo boats, torpedo-boat destroyers, submarines,, and submersibles.
– Then why build anything but torpedo boats and submarines?- Why have the Imperial authorities strengthened their battle fleets?
– Because the British Navy has to do something more than defend England’s hearths and homes.
– And so the honorable member would leave the defence of Australia to the old country ?
– No; I assert that we are performing our Imperial duty by maintaining Australia for the British races, by undertaking the whole of our local defence - by keeping our defence equipment up to date, and paying for the whole of it ourselves.
– In short, the’ honorable member contends that we are carrying out our Imperial duty in consenting to accept other people’s charity
– No. We are carrying out our Imperial duty- by maintaining our own local defence, and preserving Australia for the British race. I conceive our Imperial duty involves a division of responsiblity, and if it be divided in this way, all parties will be satisfied. That is my answer to the interjection made by the honorable member for Wentworth in regardto the necessity for battleships. If Great
Britain, by means of her fleet, keeps the trade routes open, and protects the shipping thereon, she does all that Australia can expect of her ; and if we, on the other hand, maintain a complete local defence, provide safe harbors of refuge for our shipping, protect our naval bases, coal supplies, and cities, and, in short, do all that can be done in Australian waters to resist an attack by cruisers which evade the vigilance of the British Fleet, we shall performour share of the Imperial duty.
– Should not we protect our own floating commerce on the high seas?
– We should, as far as possible, do so.
– Then we should require a sea-going Navy.
– Not necessarily.
– In what other way could we protect, for instance, our trade with Europe?
– I thought that the honorable member was referring to the protection of vessels trading between one Australian port and another.
– I was referring to our duty to ourselves. Does not that duty include the protection of our export trade?
– I hold that that is part of the Imperial duty.
– But its safety is a matter that concerns ourselves.
– As long as we remain a part of the Empire, it is the concern, not so much of Australia, as it is of the British people.
– But is it not our own concern ?
– It is of infinitely greater importance to Great Britain that she should obtain the food and other supplies that we send her. By reason of her peculiar position, both as to food and other supplies, she is much more interested than we are in keeping the sea routes open. If she keeps them open she performs her share of the Imperial duty, while we shall do our part by keeping Australia clean and free to theBritish or to other European races who can mix with us and honour our ideals. In view of our limited means, what more could we do? We should expend our money on the lines I have endeavoured to trace, with a view to helping the Empire as a whole, whilst at the same time helping, ourselves. We are not achieving this object by foolishly expending large sums on military armaments ; but we shall do so by de voting a large proportion of our defence expenditure to the naval side. It cannot be said that we are performing ourImperial duty by making contributions to the British Navy. Has Canada, or India, or any other part of the British Empire made any contribution to that Navy? Certainly not. Are they acting rightly or wrongly in withholding those contributions ? Some persons go to the length of saying - and the assertion has practically been made in this House - that those who hold that it is wrong for Australia to contribute to the British Navy are guilty of disloyalty. Nothing could be further from the thoughts of those who favour an increased expenditure on local naval defence. It is because they believe in the preservation of the Empire - Australia being a part of that Empire - that they ask for an expenditure along the lines I have indicated. As the time allotted to private members’ business has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 25th October, vide page 4097) :
– I propose to say a few words on these Estimates, mainly in regard to our policy of defence, or, to speak more correctly about our lack of a definite defence policy. But before dealing with that subject, I wish to refer to the proposed vote of £1,450 for gratuities,£1,391 to be debited to transferred expenditure, and £59 to other expenditure. It seems to me that the granting of gratuities to military officers is a very bad practice to commence, unless some very good reason can be given for it.
– Gratuities should be. given only in connexion with a. system of universal application,.
– I agree that if gratuities are to be given at all, they must be given in conformity with some general plan on a recognised system, applicable to every rank in the service; but I think that the practice of granting them should not be entered upon, or, if already in existence, should not be continued. Of course, under the ruling which you have given, Mr. Chairman, I am precluded from discussing this matter in detail, which is rather a pity, because it would tend to shorten our proceedings if we could have the whole matter threshed out now, instead of having to enter upon another debate when we come to the item. Speaking now, on the general question of defence, I should like to draw the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to a very able article which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 22nd October last year.
– Who is the author?
– I do not know. The article is unsigned. “Under the following sensational headings is given a graphic description of an attack on Australia from the sea -
The great raid. A dark page in Australia’s history. What befell an unprepared nation when the enemy came. A tale of the thrilling time of 1906.
If the writer is a true prophet, it will not be long before we are embroiled in warlike complications, and I regret to observe, from the disposition of the enemy’s fleet on a diagram accompanying the article, that the residence of the honorable member for Robertson will come directly within the range of the enemy’s guns. I do not propose to read the article, but I shall hand it to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and I hope that, in consideration of my generosity in thus sparing the time, and, possibly, the feelings of honorable members, he will do me the favour to peruse it. It contains a great deal of very valuable information, put together in a very interesting manner, and is well worthy of consideration.
– I shall be glad to see it.
– In going through the Estimates, I have discovered a wide disparity between the amounts proposed to be expended on fortifications in the various States. For instance, the expenditure in New South Wales is to be ^5,718; m Victoria, ,£4,726; in Queensland. £1,235; in South Australia, £549; in Tasmania. £30^; and in Western Australia, £2 1,292, so that the expenditure in Western Australia is to be nearly twice as large as that in all the other States put together.
– That expenditure is provided for in the Appropriation Works and Buildings Act, whish has recently been assented to.
– Unfortunately, that is so. I shall, therefore, content myself with having drawn attention to the disproportion, which is accentuated by the difference in peculation between a State like Western Australia, and States like New South Wales or Victoria. It seems to me, as a layman - and I claim no expert knowledge - that, while it is wise to give every care and attention to the proper equipment and organization of our land forces, so that they may be as efficient and effective as possible, we do not pay enough attention to coastal and harbor defence, which I look upon as even more important. Of course, the Imperial Navy is Australia’s first line of defence. What. Ave have to guard against, above all things, is the landing of an enemy on our shores. So long as the British Fleet remains within Australian waters, we shall not have much to fear, but if the necessities of warfare, or an enemy’s ruse, drew it to some distance from our coast, we should be practically at the mercy of raiding cruisers, acting either independently, or detached from an enemy’s fleet. We must remember that of late years our position, from the stand-point of defence, has undergone a considerable change. We can no longer rely upon our isolation, which, coupled with the protection afforded by the Imperial Navy, formerly secured us practically immunity from attack. At that time a great distance separated us from the nearest port that could be used by an enemy as a naval base. Within the last few years, however, several powers have established naval bases quite close to our doors, in the Pacific and elsewhere. There are at present no fewer than sixteen or seventeen foreign naval stations within easy striking distance of Australia. In order to convey to honorable members some idea of our position, and to show them that the danger to which I refer is not purely imaginery, I might mention some of the stations to which I refer. They are Port Arthur, Saigon, Shanghai, Yokohama, Manilla, Tamatave, Reunion, Bencoolen San Francisco, Mazatlan, Callao, Iquique, Honolulu, Tahiti, Samoa, and New Caledonia. There is also Simpson’s Harbor, in New Britain. Although that is not at present actually a naval base, we know that the German Government are spending large sums on the improvement of that harbor. There is no trade there, and no population, and yet the German Government have spent many thousands of pounds in providing wharfage accommodation and huge stores, ostensibly for the purpose of accommodating merchantmen - which never go there - but the obvious purpose in view is to provide for future naval requirements. The German naval policy has been one of continual expansion, and the ambition of that power is to dispute the position of Great Britain as the mistress of the seas. Whilst it is to be ardently hoped that we shall be able to maintain friendly relations with all foreign; powers, we must not shut our eyes to the possibility of being brought into conflict with them, or to the dangers to which! we should be exposed in such an event. We have been told that the best way to maintain peace is to prepare for war, and it is a matter of absolute necessity that we should put our defences upon a satisfactory footing without delay.
– Where is the necessity ?
– I .say that it is necessary for us to prepare ourselves against a possible attack by raiding forces belonging to one of the great naval powers which have bases within striking distance of Australia, and with which Great Britain might become embroiled at any time
– There is a lot of fiction about that.
– I admit that it is largely a matter of speculation, as all such contingencies affecting any nation must be. But we cannot ignore the lessons of history, nor should we shut our eyes to the probabilities of the future. I should like to quote the opinions expressed by gentlemen who are better qualified than I am to speak upon this matter. In September last, speaking at the annual dinner of officers of the Victorian Mounted Rifles, Colonel Price, after referring in terms of vigorous denunciation to some remarkable observations reported to have been made in Sydney by Brigadier-General Gordon, said -
The defences of Australia, from her immense seaboard, are in a deplorable state. If we were attacked, we would certainly not be found in a fit condition to repel the attack. . . .’I say, as an experienced man, that we could not fight for eighteen days. … I am not a pessimist, but I say that it ‘ is very necessary that Australia should look out for herself.
Colonel Price is a military expert, and I suppose his words are entitled to some weight.
– He was pushing his trade.
– I am, not prepared to view his utterances in that light, because, although there may be a scintilla of fact to support the honorable member’s statement, I give our military officers credit for a sincere desire to place the defences of Australia upon an effective footing from patriotic motives, apart from personal considerations. I find, from a return furnished to the order of the Senate on 31st August last, containing a report of the views expressed by the Prime Minister on the present condition of the defences of the Commonwealth, and communicated to the Melbourne Herald on 1.2th June, 1905, that the Prime Minister, in answer to an interrogation as to what he thought we had been doing in the matter of defence, said -
It seems to me that up to the present time we have been principally occupied here - more particularly for the last few years - with questions of organization, and little else. To such an extent has this been the case that the main purposes, and even the character of our defence forces, apart from organization, have not been as attentively studied as they required to be. We have become so absorbed in the form which we should adopt for the control of our defence forces that public discussion has been centred on questions arising out of that endeavour, and, therefore, We have only partially dealt with the examination of the efficiency of the forces which we have been organizing.
That is a serious statement, and I commend it to the consideration of the Minister of Defence. He said, further -
Speaking as a member of the public, without any pretence to expert knowledge, it appears to me that our achievements to-day are the establishment of a defence force, Inadequate in numbers, imperfectly supplied with war material, and exceptionally weak on the naval side.
That indorses the view I have already urged upon the Committee. Then, in reply to a question as to how we could mend our hand, the Prime Minister went on to say -
Only by kindling a public interest and waking those who control our representatives, and who control them almost invariably in the direction of economy, to the fact that in defence more than in any other department, to be penny wise is to be pound foolish. We can only satisfy the public of that if we convince ft of the risks and responsibilities that we have not realized in Australia in all the long period of peace, to which I referred, and which has left us with a feebler sense of our obligations than is required as an impetus to undertake the establishment of an effective force.
That statement was made, not under the influence of excitement due to a sudden military crisis, or to the exigencies of .a political campaign, but under circumstances conducive to a clear and calm: consideration of the facts. Then, referring to some of the incidents of the Russo-Japanese war, the Prime Minister said -
What we “have to learn is, that we require to be ready both to give and to receive just such blows. In Australia while we are, of course, quite unable to take the offensive ourselves, it is at least open to doubt whether we are able to resist such an onslaught. It is even very doubtful if we are properly prepared to meet a dash at our weak spots delivered by two or three fast cruisers.
Of course, so far as fleets are concerned, our best protection is the squadron to which we contribute about half the working cost, and the range of action of which is limited to the Indian Ocean and the ‘North Pacific. But the head-quarters of the three British squadrons operating in the East is in the China seas and, consequently, the Australian Squadron may have to perform its duties at a great distance from Mie Commonwealth.
That confirms my contention, and I can recommend those remarks to the serious consideration of the Minister of Defence. The Prime Minister went on to say -
Quite certainly we have no vessels belonging to the Commonwealth which could be used, even to attempt to protect our coastal trade’. The forts, for instance, about our principal cities are, in the first place, most of them of antiquated design, and very dangerous to the garrison who would hold them under the fire of modern missiles. Then, the guns in those forts are, many of them, old in type, and some of them quite obsolete. The Cerberus is merely a floating fort, without speed. The Protector and the other gunboats have all become very much out of date in respect of their armament. Provision for the manning of our forts, with necessary provision to meet inevitable losses in actual combat, is short of our requirements. We have no torpedo-boat destroyers, or what would be belter for calm waters, no submarines capable of intimidating any raiders who would run the gauntlet of the forts and endeavour to reach the shipping in Port Jackson or Port Phillip. If I recollect aright, our naval reserves are altogether smaller than they ought to be, and the men do not receive the necessary drill at sea.
That is a point which seems to me to have been entirely overlooked by both the present and previous Administrations.
– It ds a very difficult question to decide.
– I admit that. Before any definite action is taken in that direction. I freely acknowledge that it will be necessary to secure reports from experts experienced in such matters. I do not know whether any such reports have already been furnished to the Department, but if so, I should like to have an opportunity of perusing them. Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council inform me whether any have been supplied?
– I am prepared to give the honorable member any information he may desire in that connexion, but it is not advisable to make it public.
– I can quite understand that. For that reason, I have some diffidence in expressing myself as freely as I should like to do upon this question. I do not wish to say too much publicly, because, for obvious reasons, it is not desirable that we should expose our weakness. In connexion with the employment of submarines, of course, I realize that in rough water those vessels would be absolutely useless. Upon the testimony of the best authorities, submarines are useless as fighting machines one against another; but they may be effectively employed by cruisers, even if those cruisers do not enter cur ports. They may manage to evade any obstacles that we may place in their way, and enter our ports, doing an immense amount of damage to our wharfs and our shipping at anchor. As bearing upon this question, I wish to quote the following brief extract from an article by Mr. John P. Holland, which appeared in the North American Review for December, 1900 : -
You can pit sword against sword, rifle against rifle, cannon against cannon, ironclad against ironclad ; you can send torpedo-boat against torpedoboat ; and destroyers against destroyers but you can send nothing against the submarine boat, not even itself.
Consequently submarines are very valuable fighting machines for us to possess, inasmuch as we could send them against raiders who were in close proximity to our shores. The article continues : -
You cannot fight submarines with submarines. The fanciful descriptions of the submarine battleof the future have one fatal defect. You cannot see under water. Hence you cannot fight under water. Hence you cannot defend yourself against an attack under water except by running away. If you cannot run away, you are doomed. Wharves, shipping at anchor, the buildings inseaport towns cannot run away ; therefore the sending of a submarine against them means their inevitable destruction.
I do not know whether we are in a position to meet attacks of that kind, but fromthe statement of the Prime Minister, I conclude that we are not. The honorable and learned gentleman says: -
We have enough men for any requisite naval forces, and for naval reserves. We have thetestimony of the British officers as to- the class of sailors who are now undergoing training in their ships. The commendation passed on themis of the highest, and we certainly have enough of them to fulfil the task of adequately defend- ing our coast. From the point of view of population we are all right. From the point of view of area, I repeat, as I have often repeated, that a great influx of desirable settlers is necessary all round Australia, with a view to the efficient defence of the whole continent, of which at present only a part is even occupied.
I urge the Government to do their best to perfect this particular line of defence in conjunction with other lines.
– Our torpedo boats are obsolete.
– Yes. For all the use that they would be to us in time of emergency, they might as well be sold for scrap-iron. In view of the fact that the Vice-President of the Executive Council courteously agreed to my request for an adjournment of the debate last evening, I have compressed my remarks into as small a compass as possible, consistent with putting upon record a fair statement of my views.
– Very reluctantly I rise foi) the second time during the course of this .debate to make something in the nature of a personal explanation. Yesterday I asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council the following questions : -
The replies which I received were as follow : -
Upon their face, those questions appear very simple, and apparently they have been so interpreted. But I had an object in placing them upon the business-paper. At the end of last week, in company with two other members of this House, I paid a visit to Sydney. Upon Sunday evening, when we were upon the Redfern railway station, prior to the departure of the express, we found that a number of riflemen, who, I presume, are member’s of the Defence Force, were coming to Melbourne 10 take part in the association matches at Williamstown. They complained to us of the accommodation which had been provided for them. Thereupon we walked along to the end of the train, to satisfy ourselves as to the ground of their complaint. We found that the accommodation provided was not at all what is desirable upon a long journey. For example, there were no sanitary conveniences. Being an old railway employe myself, I realized the difficulty of the Department in providing suitable accommodation when there was such a rush of traffic.
– Was the accommodation afforded them different from that provided for the ordinary travelling public?
– No. I suppose that the Department had run short of the vehicles ordinarily used for the conveyance of passengers upon long journeys. The honorable member for Melbourne, the honorable member for Cowper, and myself then approached two officials upon the platform, one of whom, I think, was the stationmaster, and the other a traffic inspector. We asked them, civilly enough, whether better accommod’ation. could not be provided for these men, and they assured us that it could not. As a matter of fact, some of the riflemen had actually offered to pay the difference between the reduced fare, at which they were travelling as competitors in the rifle association matches, and the ordinary fare, in order that they might secure improved accommodation, and be better fitted to take part in the competitions. This fact was represented to the officials in question, and the senior officer then remarked, “ These vouchers have no cash value to us.” I was under the impression that they had ; and in a paragraph which appears in the Age this morning, it is stated that the answer to the questions which I put yesterday evoked laughter. Of course, the motive underlying any question is not always apparent. The remark of the officer to whom I have referred, was not addressed to me alone. Upon the platform there were a number of others who heard his statement that the Commonwealth vouchers upon which these riflemen were travelling- had no cash value to the New South Wales Railway Department. As a member of this Parliament, as one who was an earnest advocate of Federation, and is still a believer in it, I felt that the statement was an insult.
– It was absolutely incorrect.
– The Traffic Inspector endeavoured’ to smooth the matter over, but I said that I would! put a question to the Minister, in order to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of the assertion, and I did so. The Commonwealth ought not to go to the States cap in hand begging for concessions. I do not know that any of the States do anything for the Commonwealth for which they are not paid, or that the Commonwealth performs services for the States for which it is not remunerated. I presume that there is a reciprocal arrangement, and that an adjustment is made in respect of these services. If the Railway Departments require payment in full for the carriage of members of the Defence Forces, during the bookkeeping period the charge will be made upon the States concerned, arid even if they grant reduced fares to riflemen they will be making no concession to the Commonwealth. We are merely maintaining the Forces for the defence of the States generally. I wish now to bring before the Minister a matter relating to the equipment of the troops. Many of the companies in Queensland have been furnished with cartridge belts made of canvas, and it is found that when these belts become wet it is impossible to remove the cartridges from them. If our troops when entering into an engagement were overtaken by a storm they might be annihilated, owing to their inability to withdraw the cartridges from their wet belts. I believe that belts are usually made of a cheap class of leather, known as basil, which costs scarcely any more than canvas, and I think that, without any increased cost, belts made of this material might be substituted for the canvas goods. The only other observation I have to offer relates to the plea put forward by the honorable member for Maranoa in respect to the Victorian Rifle Association.. I wish to heartily indorse his request that some consideration should be shown to the association in regard to the work done at the Williamstown rifle ranges. I am sure that if the case is carefully considered by the Minister he will see that an injustice has been done.
– I looked up the papers after the matter had been referred to in Committee, and found that the Minister had undertaken to inquire into it.
– I am satisfied with that assurance.
– Judging by the tone of the debate, there is a desire on the part of some honorable members to promote what may be termed a military boom ; but I trust that the Government will not allow themselves to be led away by the cry that has been raised for an increased defence expenditure. It is singular that from time to time a sort of panic sets in. During the South African war our defence expenditure went up by leaps and bounds, but as soon as the people of Australia recognised its serious proportions they demanded that a reduction should be made. The assertion that we are in danger of invasion is mere bunkum.
– The honorable member may wake up some morning to find that it is a terrible reality.
– I do not think there is any possibility of an invasion, and I am satisfied that if we were attacked we should be able to hold our own. It took the strongest nation in the world four years to conquer a mere handful of men in the Transvaal.
– That was because the Boers had no seaboard to protect.
– It was because of the cost and difficulties of transporting troops from Great Britain to the Cape, and of keeping the men in the field supplied with’ the necessary equipment. In my opinion, the danger of Australia beings invaded by an enemy is far more remote to-day than it was at the time of the South African war. An attempt has doubtless been made by some honorable members to raise a scare for political purposes. It is said that, because we have decided to exclude the people of a certain nation, am endeavour will be made by them to take Australia. Such assertions are good enough for party purposes, but I trust that the Government will not allow themselves to be influenced by them. Our Defence Department is costing about twice as much as does the defence of Canada, and yet it ought to be more difficult for an enemy to invade Australia than to invade Canada.
– Very much easier.
– If trouble arose between Canada and the United States, the former country would have an extensive border to defend, and yet her military expenditure is not half as large as is that of Australia. When the first Defence Estimates were presented to this Parliament, quite a storm of opposition was raised, and the Government were obliged practically to remodel them.
– We are wiser now.
– I think that the people will indorse my view of the situation. The military expenditure in South Australia is practically double what it was prior to Federation, and I feel that we are obtaining but a poor return for our money. If we could effect a reform that would lead to our obtaining better results from the present expenditure, I should offer no objection to its continuance, but I shall certainly object to any increased expenditure on the lines suggested by some honorable members. It has been asserted that the defences are starved, and it seems to me that unless some opposition be shown to the demand for an increased expenditure in this direction, there may be a tendency on the part of Ministers to give way to it. I repeat that there is no possibility of an invasion. Has any honorable member suggested whence the attack would come? I venture to say that Japan will have her hands full for the next half-century. The same remark will apply to Russia. Is there any probability of an attack being made by China, or even by the United States? I think not. It took Great Britain four years to conquer the Boers, and I am sure that no other nation could have done better. That fortifies me in the opinion that there is no likelihood of an attempt to invade Australia. The cost of transit to this distant part of the world would be altogether too great. I agree that attention should be given to the defence of coaling stations and other places likely to be of value to an enemy in war time. We should, however, see that we get the best return possible for our expenditure on warlike preparations. Australia cannot afford to spend more on defence than she is now spending. She spends twice as much as Canada spends, though I think her danger is not half so great as that of the Dominion. In my opinion, there is no need for increasing our military expenditure. Of course, if the military authorities had their way they would spend nearly the whole of our revenue on defence preparations. Honorable members may remember tha’t the first Defence Estimates submitted to the late Treasurer after the Military Departments of the States had been handed over to the Commonwealth provided for an expenditure of nearly _£i, 250,000, some of the States having apparently the impression that payments made by the Commonwealth would not fall on the people of Australia. Those Estimates, on being submitted to Par liament, were reduced by something like ^100,000, but even then were not considered acceptable. I trust that no Ministry will ever be carried away by groundless fears of invasion to unnecessarily expend money on defence. It is mere claptrap to say that, because Ave have laws on our statute-book to keep out the Japanese, Chinese, and other coloured peoples, this country is likely! to be invaded.
– The defence of Australia is a subject to which politicians have given anxious consideration for the last twenty years, and I have never yet known a Minister to bring down Defence Estimates which were considered satisfactory by those to whom they were submitted. Before dealing with the present proposals of the Government, how.ever, I wish to say that no one Avith whom I am acquainted has given so much attention to the subject of defence as has the honorable and learned member for Corinella. He brought practical knowledge to bear on his administration of the Defence Department, and Avas desirous of carrying out reforms of a beneficial character. Unfortunately, the country Avas deprived of his services before he had time to give effect to all his proposals.
– The country lost a good Postmaster-General on the same occasion.
– Unfortunately, Parliament does not realize the great value of the experience of the honorable and learned member for Corio, and the country has therefore never had the advantage of his services as Minister of Defence. A few weeks ago the Vice-President of the
Executive Council visited Sydney, and there made an important speech, in which he said that the Government were prepared Avith an. improved defence scheme. I therefore expected, when he rose to address the Committee on Friday last, that he would give us some indication of the intentions of the Government in this direction, the honorable and learned member for Corinella having devoted his abilities to improving and carrying into effect a scheme which had been supported by the three previous Governments. The honorable member for Grey says that there is no fear of the invasion of Australia, and that we are well able to hold our own ; but I do not think that many of us share that view. Hitherto Ave have depended for our defence on Great Britain, and have allowed that country to spend millions in protecting our shores, our present contribution to the Imperial Navy being only £200,000 a year.
– England’s naval expenditure would be as great if Australia did not exist.
– Does my honorable friend think that we should go on living as peaceably as we do if lit were not for the protection of the old country?
– It seems to be argued that the great Powers are waiting to pounce on the smaller peoples of the earth. Why, then, have not the smaller States of South America been invaded by European Powers ?
– Because the United States would not allow it.
– It is . my opinion that, if it were not for the protection of the old country, we should soon have some great Power coming down on us. The honorable member for Grey says that Japan will have her hands full for many years to come; butI venture to think that if we were not protected by Great Britain, it would not be a difficult task for Japan to destroy our defences. I think, however, that the time has arrived when we should do something to protect ourselves.
– We are spending over 4s. per head on defence.
– I am disappointed with the result of our past expenditure on defence. This question should not be treated as a party one. In the British House of Commons, notwithstanding the strong party feeling there, defence matters are never discussed from the party point of view.
– Does the honorable member think that some one should have been shot as a return for our expenditure on defence?
– The best way to prevent any one from being shot is to show that we are prepared to defend ourselves. I think that honorable members would be interested to read, in this connexion, the report by Lord Elgin’s Commission on the state of England’s defences immediately prior to the South African campaign. That will show them the need for keeping our defences in good order. No doubt honorable members generally are agreed that the cadet movement should be encouraged as much as possible. In my view, military training should be compulsory in our schools. I do not believe in compelling every one to submit himself to a course of drill, though that idea seems to have the support of the Labour Party, because it has been put forward by their leader and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney.
– I know nothing of it; but it is a fashionable craze at the present time.
– Is it on the published platform of the party ?
– It is difficult to know what is on the party’s platform. In my opinion, we can largely increase the number of our cadets, and the late Minister of Defence submitted to the Hobart Conference proposals which, if adopted, would have that effect. It is also necessary to provide for the establishment of senior cadet corps everywhere throughout Australia. I believe that there are some in Victoria, and a very few in New South Wales. The senior cadets should be the connecting link between the junior cadets and the volunteers, and should attract boys who have left school, and who are not yet old enough to join the adult ranks. We should offer every encouragement to these youths to retain their connexion with our Defence Forces. We should then have available for service in the defence of the country the very cream of our young manhood.
– How would the honorable member offer them encouragement?
– I think that we should perform good work in that connexion if we placed rifles in their hands, and offered them inducements in the shape of prizes and otherwise to become efficient rifle shots. We should pay a great deal more attention to efficiency in rifle-shooting. If honorable members will take the trouble to look at the report to which I have referred, they will find that great stress was laid by a number of military experts upon the importance of rifle-shooting. Lord Methuen, in his evidence, said -
The shooting of the Regular troops was conducted under exceptional difficulties, on account of the clearness of the atmosphere, and because the enemy offered no good target, but my opinion, gained from my experience during the Tirah and South African campaigns, is that the shooting of our infantry is not worthy of the accuracy and the long range powers possessed by the present rifle. We require to devote far more time, money, and intelligent interest on musketry practice, especially at movable targets. We should see that the soldier, whilst shooting, takes care he does not offer a target to the enemy. Good shooting, accurate judging of distance, and intelligent use of ground, are the very essence of success in modern warfare, and well worth the purchase at a heavy price.
That view was supported by other high authorities, and Lord Roberts has also made most valuable suggestions upon the same subject. I think that we might obtain from this source information which would greatly assist us in our efforts to devise a satisfactory defence scheme. It has been clearly demonstrated that the mother country was ill-prepared for war when hostilities broke out in South Africa. It was pointed out in one of the reports that if the British Government had taken timely action by sending a sufficient number of troops to South Africa in the early stages of the dispute with the Transvaal Government, the war might have been prevented. Afterwards, through want of proper organization, and possibly owing to the lack of a sufficient number of efficient officers, large numbers of lives were sacrificed. There was undoubtedly room for improvement in nearly every branch of the British military organization. I think that our harbor and coastal defences might be considerably strengthened. I notice that a complaint has been received from South Australia that the guns mounted in the Largs Bay fort are not up to date, and should at once be replaced. If it is proposed to devote large sums of money to defence purposes, we should make sure that it is expended to the best advantage, and I trust that this matter, among others, will receive the earnest consideration of Ministers. We have adopted a new organization, which has met with the approval of three Governments. So far, however, it has not yet received a fair trial, and I think that we should for the present abstain from making any further changes. I do not know whether the Council of Defence have yet submitted any proposals to the Government, but I look forward with considerable interest to the result of their deliberations. Evidently the Council have made some recommendations, or otherwise the Vice-President of the Executive Council would not have gone out of his way recently to announce that the Government proposed to submit an entirely new scheme of defence which he thought would commend itself to the whole of the people of Australia. We have tried to induce the Minister to make some statement on the subject, but we have been unable to elicit any response. Year after year we are asked to vote £1,000,000 for defence purposes, and although it is generally admitted that our arrangements are incomplete and unsatisfactory, no improvements are being effected. Perhaps honorable members are not to be blamed for that, because the majority of them are not military men, and have to rely upon the advice of experts. Even in England, where the Government are able to command the advice of some of the best experts in theworld, it has been found necessary to appoint one or two Committees to take evidence and report upon military matters. Owing to the evidence submitted to these Committees, important changes have recently been decided upon. Referring once more to matters of coastal defence, we know that great improvements have recently taken place in heavy ordnance, and I think that we should take full advantage of the experience gained in the recent war between Russia and Japan. We must above all things insure the efficient protection of our shores against attacks from oversea. There must be something radically wrong with our volunteer system, because there has been a large reduction in the number of that branch of our Defence Force.
– Because its members do not receive any pay.
– In the old days no trouble was experienced in enrolling as volunteers men who were the very cream of Australia.
– They want a small honorarium.
– As honorable members are aware, no difficulty was encountered in securing volunteers for service in South Africa during the Boer war. When the Defence Estimates were under consideration in 1902, the honorable member for Hume filled the position of acting Minister of Defence in the absence of the present Treasurer in England. In that year the sum of £35,000 was provided for retiring allowances to officers and men under the retrenchment scheme of Major-General Hutton. Upon that occasion the honorable member for Hume, speaking of the policy of the Government in regard to those allowances, said -
It applies to officers and men who have been retired from the service, and I think it ought to commend itself to honorable members.
Before a vote is taken it should be definitely laid down that in making this proposal for a retiring allowance to the men who have been retrenched, we do not intend that it shall apply in the future. That should be clearly understood. It is not to be assumed that because we propose now to grant these retiring gratuities or pensions we contemplate the continuance of the system. But the present circumstances are exceptional.
It must be clearly understood that it is not intended to bring into vogue a system of pensions or retiring allowances to which the people so strongly object. But, in the exceptional circumstances of the present time, when vigorous retrenchment - to which I do not object - is required, I think it would be unfair simply to turn adrift, without any retiring gratuity, a number of men who understood that they would be likely to remain in the positions which they occupied for a considerable time to come.
– Were not the two officers to whom it is proposed to pay gratuities included in that vote?
– I do not think so.
– I am informed that it is so.
– I think that Colonel Price asked that he should be granted a retiring allowance.
– He would have received one had he retired at that” time.
– The actingMinister of Defence declined to pledge the Government to grant a retiring allowance to Colonel Price, if he remained in the service for another two years.
– Major-General Hutton said otherwise.
– When it suits the honorable member for Macquarie he quotes MajorGeneral Hutton as his authority, and when it does not, he quotes the utterances of the Minister.
– Surely this is a matter upon which there can be no party feeling whatever. Notwithstanding the strong pressure which was brought to bear upon the late Government-
– Who brought pressure to bear?
– At any rate numerous interviews were held at which the claims of these officers were pressed.
– I thought that the honorable member could not be “pressed?”
– The late Government refused to be pressed.
– The honorable member allowed the Orient Steam Navigation Company to press him.
– At any rate, the House has indorsed my action in respect of that matter. At the period to which I was referring, Colonel Price wished to retire, and I desire to show that a new principle is now being adopted by the Government.
– We can deal with that item when we reach it.
– I wish to deal with it now, because an important matter of principle is involved. If the principle of paying retiring allowances is to be recognised by this Parliament, I say that it should apply all round. Let us lay down some definite rule in that connexion. But we have already established a Council of Defence, whose principal function it is Vo advise the Government upon all matters of this character. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the question of retiring allowances has been submitted to that body, and if so, whether they have made any recommendation to the Minister? We are all aware that a Select Committee was appointed by the Senate to investigate the case of Major Carroll. Although I have read the evidence taken by that Committee, - 1 have no desire tq discuss the merits of the case. But we have a right to know whether the Council of Defence were asked for advice in regard to the reappointment of this officer. Have they made any recommendation upon the subject? We must recognise that in time of war it is necessary to enforce strict discipline;, and that it is equally essential that the troops shall have confidence in their leaders. I do not know whether the Minister of Defence was advised by the Military Board to reinstate this officer, but an explanation should certainly be made to the Committee. We placed the Public Service under a Commissioner in order that it might be free from political influence, and it is of even greater importance that appointments to the Defence Forces should be absolutely free from that element. I am inclined to think, however, that political influence has had something to do with the reinstatement of Major Carroll.
– There is something wrong with his name ?
– That is a most unworthy insinuation to make. The honorable member cannot accuse me of being, influenced by considerations of the kind1 which he suggests, and I sincerely trust that they will never arise. I do not know Major Carroll, but I do know that his case formed the subject of inquiry by a Select Committee, whose report I was careful to read. The late Minister of Defence gave careful consideration to the case, but felt that he could not conscientiously recommend the Cabinet to reinstate the officer.
– Major Carroll was informed during the term of office of the late Government that they did not propose to reinstate him.
– That is so. I know that the matter was carefully considered by the honorable and learned member, and that the late Government, with every desire to do justice to this officer, felt that, having regard to the public interests, they could not reinstate him.
– Was the honorable and learned member’s opinion of greater importance than the decision of thirty-six members of another place?
– The decision arrived at by another place was not a unanimous one.
– Upon whose recommendation was Major Carroll reinstated ?
– That is what I wish to learn.
– I desire to know whether the Military Board recommended Major Carroll’s reinstatement, or if it was even asked to give any advice on the matter?
– The honorable and learned member will hear all about it later on.
– I am sure that the Committee is prepared to do justice, but–
– Does not the honorable member think that this Government had just as great a sense of its responsibility in reinstating Major Carroll as the late Government had in refusing to do so?
– The Government which retired him from the service has really reinstated him.
– His retirement was due to retrenchment.
– But I wish to know whether his reinstatement was recommended by the Military Board?
– I am afraid that the honorable member will not obtain the information.
– We shall obtain it before these Estimates are passed.
– That is at threat.
– The honorable member may say that it is if it pleases him to do so. Why. this heat?
– I have displayed no heat. I do not know Major Carroll, even by sight.
– Nor do I. In dealing with questions of this kind, we should not allow ourselves to be influenced by personal considerations. If the Minister can show that the first Deakin Administration acted wrongly in retiring this officer, and that a proper course has been taken by the present Government in. reinstating him, we shall be glad to listen to his explanation.
– Why did the late Government refuse to carry out the recommendation of the Committee?
– Because we did not think that Major Carroll was a suitable man to reappoint.
– My attention has been drawn to the fact that provision is made for this officer in subdivision No. 1 of division 97, so that it will not be competent for the honorable member at this stage to refer in detail to his case.
– I think, sir, that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, instead of supplying that information to you, and suggesting that I be called to order, might well have answered my question.
– I may say that, for my own guidance, I asked the Minister whether provision was made on the Estimates for this officer. I think that the honorable member will recognise that it is not competent for him now to discuss the merits of the case, as he will have an opportunity later on to do so.
– The fullest information should be supplied to the Committee in regard to matters of this kind. When an officer is appointed, ha should be a competent man, so that those under him may have confidence in him.
– A number of our officers should be retired.
– We should be very careful in the selection of officers, and not allow political or social influence to bring about the appointment of unsuitable men.
– Then why did not the honorable member vote for my motion this afternoon ?
– I asked the honorable and learned member several questions in regard to it, to which he would not reply. I wished to know about the letter which he sent to the Minister of Defence, saying that he was satisfied with what had been done.
– That question is not now before the Committee.
– Of course, none of us is actuated by personal feeling towards individual officers, nor do we wish to do injury to any man. Where an officer is possessed of ability we should be only too glad to secure his services, and to place him in a position of trust. Those who have to serve in the ranks should have every reason for confidence in their officers, because in war time they have to obey their orders implicity, no matter what they may be told to do. If they do not obey orders, and go where their officers tell them to go, so strict is military discipline that they are shot.
– And if they do obey orders, and go where their officers tell them to go, they are also shot.
– Why suggest the existence of social or political influence?
– I admit” that we have too few good officers, and in the report from which I have already quoted it is stated that the British authorities found great difficulty in securing competent officers at the time of the South African war, they having to replace no fewer than 3,000 within a very short time. If Great Britain finds it difficult to secure competent men, notwithstanding her nearness to other military powers, from whose operations she can learn, and the opportunity she has for giving her soldiers training in actual warfare, is it surprising that Australia, which does not possess these advantages, should have a still greater difficulty?
– What is the honorable member’s opinion as to the advisability of sending Australian officers to India, so that they mav see service there?
– It was part of the scheme of the honorable and learned member for Corinella to exchange Australian officers with Indian officers.
– Yet only £600 is provided on the Estimates for it.
– I do not know what amount is required to carry out that scheme, but I consider it an excellent one, and should like to see it adopted, no matter what it may cost. If we get a sufficient number of good officers our difficulties will be practically solved, as we shall obtain a sufficient return for our expenditure in the valuable suggestions which they will be able to make to us on defence matters. It is admitted that our men did excellent ser vice fct South Africa, though at the same time it is pointed out that some of our officers were at a disadvantage from lack of experience.
– The same thing may be said of the British officers.
– No doubt some of the English generals were sent out to South Africa without a knowledge of the plan of campaign, and, never having been to the country before, had a great deal to learn after they arrived on the actual scene of operations. The exchange of officers which the honorable and learned member for Corinella wishes to bring about would be of advantage not to Australia only, but also to the old country, because, whereas our officers would be greatly improved by their training in England and in India, the British officers who came out here could learn a great deal about Australian conditions, and would be able to give the Home authorities good advice in regard to the defence of this part of the Empire. We shall, of course, in any case, still have to depend largely for our defence on the Imperial Navy, towards the maintenance of which we make a very scanty contribution.
– Has the honorable member heard that any nation intends to fight us?
– The report of Lord Elgin’s Commission shows, the need for being prepared beforehand. The British war authorities at the time of the outbreak of the South African war knew very little about the condition of affairs in that country. Had they been more prepared, probably the war would have terminated much sooner. We should learn their lesson by heart. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has told us that the Government intend to submit a new scheme of defence, and we have a right to know what their proposals really are. Honorable members will be only too pleased to welcome any change that will improve our defences. It must not be forgotten that even our producers benefit largely by the protection of the British Navy in the reduction of freights which, no doubt;, thev enjoy, by reason of the lower .rates of insurance which ship-owners have to pay in consequence of that protection.
– Is our defence system adequate ?
– I am certain that it is not. My late colleague devoted great attention to the subject, and his efforts produced very good results, so far as he was able to go. He was unable to complete the arrangements for carrying the new scheme into effect, and I am anxious to know whether the Government intend to adhere to the policy which has so far been approved of. A special Council was appointed to advise the Government upon Defence matters, and I should like to know whether anything has been done by that body. The Council have visited several States, and have made numerous inquiries, but so far we have not been able to ascertain whether they have furnished a report to the Government. In view of the importance of the functions of the Council, and of the weight which would attach to their recommendations, we should be placed in a position to judge whether they are performing their work with efficiency. I do not wish to condemn the present system, because so far it has not had a fair trial, and because a similar system to that adopted by us has received the approval of the most eminent experts in the motherland.
– The difficulty is that we do not possess the material necessary to constitute an efficient Council.
– If that be the case, the sooner we recognise the fact the better. That is one of the reasons why I am anxious to see the report of the Council.
– It is a good Council.
– I am perfectly prepared to accept the assurance of my honorable and learned friend, who is a practical man, and who, from his knowledge of military matters, should be competent to form a sound judgment. My contention is that, as the Council has been in existence for ten months, and has performed a certain amount of work, it is high time that we had some information as to the result of its investigations and deliberations. We should be placed in a position to judge whether it is performing the work intrusted to it. I trust that the Minister will give us some information upon the several matters to which I have referred.
– It seems to me that the people of Australia have gone mad upon the subject of defending this country against attack by an imaginary foe. The public are suffering from invasion delirium tremens. Where is the enemy whom we have to fear? Most of the nations of the world are friendly to Great Britain, and those which are not friendly will not dare to attack her. We are spending a million of money annually on absolutely unnecessary defences, whilst hundreds of our children cannot be educated for want of school accomodation, and hundreds of our settlers are denied postal facilities because no money is available for the purpose. We are continually talking about war. I never heard so much’ about war, even when I was living among the Yacki Indians, who were continually fighting the Mexican Government. Every pound that we spend upon defences would be better thrown into the sea. We do not want any theatrical Defence Department, nor do we need to train officers to become dancing masters and music teachers. We are apparently content with nothing but officers of pedigree and high military training ; but I would point out that the greatest generals the world has known had practically no military training. George Washington, who was the first man to haul down the British flag, was only a country surveyor. Yet we talk about bringing experts from Europe to teach us how to fight. In my judgment, there are too many fighting men in Australia. What we want to do in this country is to preach the gospel of peace and Christianity. To-day I have been searching the Bible to ascertain what the Scripture says of war. Is this a Christian or asavage country? If I had to fight to morrow I. would prefer to fight a military expert rather than a layman, because the latter would be sure to shoot me, if only by. accident. If we study the history of America we shall find that from its very inception the men who won the greatest battles were those who had never been inside a military school. Take Hickory Jackson, for example, who fought the battle of New Orleans on the 8th January, 181 5, against Sir Edward Pakenham, Lord Cockburn, and General Ross - three of the ablest soldiers whom Great Britain has produced, and who commanded 17,000 troops.
– Who was it that defeated Cornwallis at Saratoga?
– A man without a military training. Jackson had only 3,000 “ greenhorns “ under his command, and he cautioned them not to fire until they could see the whites of the eyes of the enemy. He was only a shoemaker. I say that every misfortune which Great Britain
– The honorable member has spoken the truth. The soldier is merely a trained human butcher. It amuses me to hear honorable members talking about the courage of some of these men. Why, the biggest coward in the place where I was born in Canada went to fight in the frontier war, and proved to be one of the best soldiers engaged in that campaign. The inducement offered him was a bounty of £200. I venture to say that if we were to offer a bounty tomorrow, we could secure the services of 50,000 men who would be eager to fight. Males of all descriptions are fighters. Even the males of the reptile world are fighters. I say that the gospel of the great Teacher of morality is opposed to war. Let us have war in trade, in commerce, but not war in blood.
– What about the Salvation Army ?
– That organization has done more for the world than has any other army, and without shedding one drop of blood. War is inseparable from a low state of civilization. It is in the same category as cannibalism, polygamy, and slavery. But we have abolished cannibalism and polygamy and slavery, and I hope that we shall soon abolish war. I intend to move that these Estimates be reduced bv £500,000. I want to draw a clear line of demarcation between those honorable members who believe in peace and those who believe in blood and thunder and glory. To-day this House denied the honorable and learned member for Corio an oppor- tunity for investigation into the practices of our military toffs and teachers - our dancing-music men, and popinjays and coxcombs. Nevertheless, we shall secure such an inquiry sooner or later. I trust that these Estimates will be reduced by a large sum. Half-a-million sterling is enough to spend .annually upon defence matters, especially when one considers that in Tasmania and Western Australia we want schools, post-offices, irrigation works, and telephone lines. Indeed, we want an increase to the present starvation salaries of honorable members, and we want the advantages of wireless telegraphy to be conferred upon the people. How can we secure these things if we spend £1,000,000 annually upon gilt-spurred military roosters - upon these coxcombs in peacock’s feathers? It is time that we protested against such an. expenditure. We have almost come to worship military men. If the Minister would only send some of these individuals along the eastern frontier of Western Australia to shoot the rabbits which have invaded that country, they would be more profitably employed. But I do not think that they are sufficiently expert to shoot rabbits. We may build our forts, and spend thousands of pounds in equipping them with uptodate guns, but those forts will be levelled to the ground if ever a hostile force should attack us. Is it to be supposed for a moment that an invading army would land at a spot where we were prepared to meet it? Would they attempt to effect a landing where our fortifications are adequate? Not a bit of it. Their attempts to effect a landing would be made at places where we have made no such provision. When we were fighting the Indians in Arizona, we did not think of going where they had prepared to meet us. We took them by surprise at four o’clock in the morning.
– That is why we need the transcontinental railway.
– Exactly. Money spent on the construction of that railway might well be described as defence expenditure. I wish to move that the proposed vote be reduced by £500,000
– That is in excess of the amount now before the Committee.
– That being so, I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by ^14.
I wish to indicate bv this motion .that, whilst I should be perfectly willing to de vote the money now proposed to defence, to the construction of a transcontinental railway, or to converting our railroads to a uniform gauge - believing that these are truly matters of national defence - I am not prepared to waste any more money on braid, spurs, peacocks’ feathers, or rusty guns.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The hour is rather late to commence a speech on so important a subject as that of military defence ; and, in view of the compact which has been made tq bring the general debate to a close as speedily as possible, I do not propose to do more now than to offer to the Committee a few observations on the subject. In looking through the Defence Estimates, one cannot help feeling surprised to find how poor is the return obtained for our large expenditure. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made many extravagant statements, but it is undeniable that we are not obtaining full value for the money we vote, and that our defence system is unsatisfactory. Probably no military expert whom we might bring to Australia to submit a proposal to improve our defences would do other than recommend the expenditure of an enormous sum of money, and there would be a great drain upon our resources to keep the improved system upon a proper footing. I was much struck by a paper recently issued by order of the Senate, containing the views expressed by the Prime Minister in regard .to the condition of the defences of the Commonwealth in an interview with a Herald reporter in June last. I presume that the honorable and learned gentleman had an opportunity to revise the report. It appears to me that he has arrived at the conclusion that, so far as our defences are concerned, we are living in, a fool’s paradise. It cannot be denied that our position is insecure, and that, by neglecting to improve our defences, we are practically extending an invitation to an enemy to attack us. Australian statesmen have from time to time pointed out the defects of our military system. I have no objection- to such criticism, because I remember that the information published by the Pall Mall Gazette in regard to the position of the British Navy - information which Mr. Stead had obtained from Lord Charles Beresford - led to that Navy being completely revolutionizeld. There have also been some outspoken utterances in regard to the condition of the British military forces. The report of the Committee ?ppointed to inquire into the South African war is sufficient evidence that much yet remains to be done if we are to have an efficient army- to defend ourselves in time of need. I think that our defence must always rest largely in the protection afforded us by the British Navy, which is the admiration of the world.
– And our isolation.
– There was a time when our isolation constituted our great defence ; but of recent years the Pacific has become an all-important centre of national activity, and is likely at some time or other to become the theatre of war. We have, within five days’ sail of Australia, a naval Power, which is at present one of England’s allies; “but if she were at war with Great Britain, her proximity to Australia would prove a serious menace to us. In the course of the Herald interview to which I have referred, the Prime Minister said that our forces are inadequate in number, that our war material is insufficient, that our guns are, obsolete, that our forts are of antiquated design, and that our Naval Reserve is not being drilled at sea. Lack of training at sea is a fatal defect in respect of any navy, and was the cause of the disasters which befel the Spanish Navy during the Spanish-American war. The Prime Minister went on to say that, except at Sydney, we make no proper provision for the training of our boys, that there is a deficiency in refitting and coaling stations, and that we have but few modern guns. All this is a most serious indictment against the administration of previous Ministers of Defence. “Rs a statesman, the honorable and learned gentleman felt it incumbent upon him to make known our defenceless condition to the people, and now that he is in office I expect him to come forward with a scheme against which’ such an indictment will not be possible. The one bright speck in the Government proposals so far submitted to the House is the intention to expend £24,000 in guns for harbor defence purposes, and £25,000 in the purchase of cordite. To my mind, our rifle clubs should receive greater encouragement. My constituents are most desirous of securing increased facilities for the establishment of such clubs, and I am pleased to learn that the Government propose to expend a sum of money in connexion with our rifle ranges. The cadet system, which is not an expensive one, should also receive increased attention. A Committee, presided over by SurgeonGeneral Williams, has reported upon the possibility of our securing at an early date, in connexion with the primary and secondary schools Of Australia, a force of 23,000 cadets, at a cost of something like £14,000 per annum. In a very able paper, written and submitted to the Hobart Conference by the ex-Minister of Defence, it was pointed out that at a cost of something like £50,000 per annum, we might secure a force of 60,000 cadets, thoroughly trained and proficient in the use of the rifle. The movement is one that ought to receive every encouragement. I trust that the Government, if it remains in power, will not hesitate to expend £50,000 upon the cadet system, so that we may have something to fall hack upon in our hour of need. Our cadets, as they grow up, will be able to defend Australia, just as citizen soldiers in other parts of the world have rendered good service in the hour of trouble. In view of the compact to which I have already referred, I shall not further occupy the time of the Committee at th’is stage, but trust that I shall have another opportunity before the Estimates are passed to refer to the Australian cadet forces and their organization.
– I am disposed to indorse much that has been said during, this debate. I believe that the taxpayers of Australia do not object to footing a military bill so long as they are satisfied that their money is being wisely expended. From my experience of the way in which Defence Estimates are dealt with, however, I am satisfied that our parliamentary institutions are absolutely the most unfitted to deal with our military system. Last year Parliament sanctioned what wasaltogether an innovation in regard to the control of our Military Forces- the establishment of a Council of Defence. According to those who advocated that system of control, great advantages were to result from its introduction; but we find, after an experience of twelve months, that the council has been unable to formulate any policy for the defence of the Commonwealth. I was altogether opposed to this innovation, and th*e present position of affairs confirms me in the belief that a mistake was made in establishing this body. What the public desire i!s to obtain effective defence foi? the money which they spend on military preparations, and if we had at the head of affairs to-day a military man in whom the people had confidence they would adopt any scheme which he considered- necessary for the placing of our defences on a sound and effective footing. No parliamentary bodycan do much in regard to the technical side of a defence scheme. Whenever! the Defence Estimates are under discussion, we have General Stickups and Admiral Blowups ready with all sorts of suggestions, but in the end it is very evident that the average member of Parliament knows very little about military matters. What Parliament should determine is the amount which Australia can afford to expend on defence. That having been decided, ve should ask the British authorities to send us out the best officer they have, and intrust to him the entire control of our military expenditure. I do not wish to say anything unpleasant ; but I ask if the present Council of Defence can be considered a competent body, having regard to those of whom it is composed - the Treasurer, the Minister of Defence, the Commandant of the Naval Forces, and the Inspector- General, whom I do not believe to be competent for his position? That leaves us only the Chief of the Intelligence Department. The public feel that our military system is not what it should be. Personally, I believe that our coastal and harbor defences are being neglected for our land forces, and that we could give greater assistance to the Imperial authorities by building up naval reserves than by increasing our contribution to the British Navy. There are at our seaports manymen who would be ready to join naval volunteer forces, but who will not join, land forces, and a large naval reserve would be of more service to the Imperial authorities than our contribution to the navy, which is like a drop in a bucket compared with the volume of the expenditure of Great Britain. Some honorable members seem to think that we have only to initiate a volunteer movement to get plenty of volunteers. No doubt when the country is feeling the effect of al war fever, there are always plenty of men ready to join the volunteers, and during the Boer war the volunteer regiments were at their full strength. But since then the numbers have decreased, chiefly because it is difficult to maintain the interest of our young men in military training. With regard to the proposal to establish conscription, my experience of the working classes tells me that, although in times of warlike excitement men are always ready to volunteer, they will not agree to any system of compulsory drill, even though it may be advocated by the Labour Party. The public do not wish us to carry out any cheeseparing policy in our military expenditure, but they wish to get value for their money. I have no confidence in those now at the head of military affairs, because I think that what was true in the past is still true, and that military officers regard their position largely as they would membership of a social club. Apparently the Council of Defence has not performed the work intrusted to it - that is to say, it has not evolved any policy. I am one of those who believe in placing the whole of the Forces under the control of one strong man. I do not approve of following the methods adopted in the old country, whose circumstances are so entirely different from ours. It may be alf very well for the Imperial authorities to appoint a military council, because they have a number of able experts to choose from. In Australia, however, we have no experts, trained or otherwise, competent to act as members of a council of advice upon defence matters. I should not object to a large expenditure upon defences if I could feel assured that our system was an effective one; but my impression is that we are not getting a good return for our money. I admit at once that a state of war alone would afford us a complete test of the efficiency of our organization, and no one desires to see our system subjected to any such trial. We are compelled by the force of circumstances to take a great deal for granted, and I should strongly prefer to see our defences placed under the control of an able Commandant, free from interference by the Parliament. Having once asserted our authority to the extent of deciding upon the amount of money to be devoted to defence purposes, we should allow the fullest control to be exercised by the military head of the. Forces. I trust that the Minister will tell us whether or not experience has shown Kim that it is desirable to retain the Council of Defence. I believe that the money which we contribute by way of subsidy towards the maintenance of an Austraiian Squadron could be more usefully expended in build- ing up an Australian Naval Reserve, which would not only be available for our own defence purposes, but would also be able to render valuable service to the Imperial Navy.
– I understand that, in connexion with the vote upon my motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into certain matters connected with the defence regulations, a number of honorable members were influenced by a promise, privately conveyed to them, that the Minister would carefully inquire into the whole matter. I would ask him now whether he can promise us that the regulations will be made the subject of full investigation, that any evidence that may be offered upon either side will be carefully considered, and that the persons named by me will !be permitted to give their testimony.
.- - I have on several occasions publicly stated that the fullest consideration will be given to the defence regulations. The honorable and learned member’s statement might create the impression that something had been done surreptitiously, although I know that he did not mean to convey that idea. I can assure the honorable and learned member that any abuse in connexion with the regulations, or any wrong inflicted upon any individual in connexion with the Department, will, if brought under my notice as representative of the Minister, or directly under that of the Minister of Defence, receive the fullest attention.
– Will the men affected by the inquiry have an opportunity to give evidence ? ,
– Every reasonable step will be made to inquire into any statements that may be. made, either by the honorable member or others. The Government recognise that the very basis of discipline is justice, and if the honorable member can aid the Government in doing justice to the humblest member of the Defence Forces, we shall be glad of his assistance. We have had our little differences with regard to various matters, but I can assure him that I shall do my best to repay him for any little unpleasantness to which he may have been subjected.
– That does not matter in the slightest.
– Something has been said with reference to am incident which recently occurred at Redfern station in connexion with some vouchers issued to riflemen. The honorable member for Moreton made a statement which I think conveyed rather a wrong impression. I am informed by the honorable member for Cowper that the men in question submitted their vouchers, and desired to pay an extra 30s., in order to secure a first-class, instead of a second-class, ticket. The station-master said he could not accept the vouchers as representing cash, and I can quite understand his difficulty in that regard. If the officer who had issued the original voucher had been present, and had been in a position to substitute one for a larger amount, the position would have been different.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- I trust that the Minister will, give ds some information with regard to the matters to which I have directed his attention. I desire to know whether the Council of Defence has held any meeting, and, if so, when; and, further, whether it has developed any policy, and whether the Minister considers that it is necessary to retain the services of that body ?
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).Honorable members of the Opposition have no desire to delay the passing of the Estimates. An arrangement has been made that certain votes shall be agreed to tonight, and that we shall endeavour to pass the remainder of the Defence Estimates to-morrow. I think, therefore, that the Minister might reasonably furnish the information desired by the honorable member for Dalley.
Mr. EWING (Richmond - VicePresident of the Executive Council). - I regret to inform the honorable member that, although I am aware of the large responsibilities which attach to the Council of Defence, I have no knowledge of any report having been recently made by that body. If, however, he wishes to ascertain how its members are discharging the functions relating to their office, I will make inquiries into the matter, and inform the Committee. As to the adjournment to-night, I understand that the agreement is that we shall pass the Estimates down to the end of division 42 to-night. Progress will then be reported, and the whole of the Estimates of the Department will be passed by 3 o’clock to-morrow afternoon?
– The Government are quite prepared to adhere to that compact.
– I wish to draw attention to the item “Military clerks,” which appears under the heading of “ Headquarters staff.” and in other places in these Estimates. From time to time I have seen statements in the press concerning a proposal to bring these officers under the provisions of the Public Service Act. To my mind that would be a mistake.
– Why are they better than officers in the Public Service?
– It is not a question of whether they are better or worse. The object of appointing military clerks is that they may be trained in a number of technical matters. If war were to break out, these men would have to serve as clerks in the field
– Then there is no provision governing their salaries?
– The honorable member does not know anything about the matter.
– There is nothing to govern their salaries.
– There is.
– These Estimates do not show it.
– If we bring them under the Public Service Act we shall have to introduce men from other Departments to do technical work, which they cannot be expected to perform.
– I know of one case in which the salary of a military clerk was increased from £70 to £170 in less than four years. There is no system governing increases of that character.
– The honorable member is speaking of an individual case, and is not paying due regard to the welfare of the service. When I assumed control of the Defence Department I found that my predecessors had not had time to get this matter settled. With the aid of my officers, I worked out a complete classification scheme for these men. As a matter of fact, they are all classified. The salary attaching to the lowest division ranges from £70 to £160; in the next grade from £170 to £210 ; in the next from £220 to £260 ; and in the highest from . £285 to £335. These military clerks obtain promotion in a fashion exactly similar to that provided for officers under the Public Service Act. The whole classification was gazetted about the month of April or May last. These clerks are now entitled to increases up to £335, which I think is a fair remuneration for the skilled work which they perform. Classes 2 and 3 of their classification are similar to the fourth division of the Public Service, and class 1 is similar to the two lowest grades in the third division of the service. These military clerks claim that they should be brought under the Public Service Act, in order that they may be eligible for transfer to better positions in the Public Service, but, in my opinion, men engaged in this class of work should be prepared to recognise the limitations of the Department. We must have clerks in the field–
– Did the Public Service Commissioner assess the value of their work?
– The Public Service Inspectors assessed the value of their offices > in every case, and where I differed from them I did not err on the side of niggardliness towards the clerks.
– Some of the officers refused to submit themselves to an examination by the Commissioner.
– The Commissioner made inquiries as to the work which they were performing, and stated what he regarded as a fair salary for their services. I had that information before me, as well as the actual salaries paid to the instructional staff, in determining their classification. I urge the Government to pause before making the change to which I have referred - a change which, I venture to say, will not be in the interests of the Department. It is essential that these men should be under the authority of senior officers, in the same way as are other members of the Defence Force. It would be just as anomalous to say that officers of the Head-quarters or Instructional Staffs should come under the Public Service Act, because they do not belong to any regiment, as to lay it down that military clerks should come under the operation of that Act.
Amendment (by Mr. O’Malley), by leave, withdrawn.
– What the honorable and learned member for Cori nella has so forcefully put before the Committee in regard to military clerks also applies to naval clerks. If military clerks cannot properly be brought under the operation of the Public Service Act, neither can naval clerks; but, in any case, I do hope that the same liberal treatment will be extended to these men that has been meted out to their confreres in the Public Service.
– - I do not know whether the Government have given attention to this question, but I understand that the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral has been obtained with respect to it. I think it would be well for the Minister to consider whether the placing of these officers under the Public Service Act would be conducive to proper military discipline. We do not desire to do an injustice to any officer, but we must take care to consider the public interest.’
– I do not know what is the intention of the Government in regard to the pay of military clerks, but I wish’ to point out that one of their number’ has been placed over the heads of a number of others who have longer service to their credit. On 3rd February, 1903, the salary received by this clerk was raised from £52 to £73; in November, 1903, it was increased to £110; in October, 1904, it was further increased to £135 ; and it is now proposed to raise it to £170 per annum. Up to the present time, promotion appears to have been by favour.
– All these clerks were classified.
– There was no justification for placing this clerk over the heads of others having longer service.
– He must be one of the pets.
– I know that heis. If he had been under the Public Service Commissioner this would not have occurred.
Mr. EWING (Richmond- VicePresident of the Executive Council). - I recognise the anomaly to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Wentworth. If it be right in one set of circumstances for clerks to be under the Public Service Act it ought to be right in the other.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that it is right that military clerks should be brought under the Act?
– I am prepared to say that there is no intention at present to deal with the matter. The honorable member willnot ask me to say more. I have a note of the case, and it will be considered.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I may say that I sympathize with the desire of honorable members opposite to criticise various items in these Estimates, but think that, except, perhaps, in regard to one or two minor matters, thatright has now been fully exercised. We have arrived at an understanding that we shall proceed tomorrow with the shortest possible debate to deal with any items that honorable members desire to challenge. Having in view the state of public business, and the necessity to place the Senate in a position to criticise the Estimates, as they now wish to do, in some detail, we are agreed that the remainder of the Defence Estimates shall be disposed of before the Inter-State trains leave to-morrow afternoon.
– And that the House shall adjourn as soon as we have disposed of the Defence Estimates.
– That the Defence Estimates shall be finished before the House rises.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051026_reps_2_28/>.