3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if the statement in. today’s Age, that no funds are available for the proposed trunk telephone line from Melbourne to Sale unless special provision is made, is correct. When the Estimates were before the House, the honorable gentleman laid on the table a memorandum showing that he had provided funds for the first section.
– Funds are available for the first section. I cannot understand the report in the Age, and will make inquiries about it.
Mr. WISE (for Mr. Chanter) asked the Attorney- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Department of Home Affairs. It is not usual to advise on such matters except at the request of the Department concerned.
Sir JOHN QUICK laid upon the table the following paper -
Post and Telegraph Act, Regulation amended, Transmission of telegrams by telephone. Statutory Rule 1909, No. 115.
Debate resumed from 1st December (vide page 6690), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I could not help contrasting the appeal to “ our Christian principles,” made by the honorable member for Darwin last night, with the closingperiods of a speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition a few days ago, in which he said that this was the last action, in a dying Parliament, of what he hoped was a dying Government. What a difference is there between the sentiment underlying the utterance of the Leader of the Opposition in reference to a measure which should be regarded as non-party, and the appeal to our broad Christian feeling, made by the honorable member for Darwin ! The more responsible members of the Labour party have already admitted that the proposed fleet unit is needed, and have assented to the ratification of the agreement concerning it. Some of them have even had the temerity to claim credit for initiating the proposal, even while they now say that the matter is “ not urgent “ ! If it is not urgent, why is a fleet unit required at all ? Is the proposal merely a peg on which to hang land-tax oratory? Is it merely an adjunct to the party propaganda, or is it required for a practical national purpose - the defence of Australia? If this fleet unit is necessary for the safety of our country, the urgency of this proposal must be gauged, not by our individual exigencies, or those of theparties to which we belong, but by the preparations of foreign powers - our possible foes. Applying that test,an honorable members opposite deny that the position is urgent, and that Australia has no time to lose. Do honorable gentlemen opposite believe that the earth-hungry nations of the world will cease their preparations while they do nothing but mouth their patriotic protestations ? The time has gone by for speechifying ; the timehas come for action. If they admit, as in their odd moments of sober reflection they must, the zeal of foreign powers in unceasingly preparing for the Armageddon that is to come, they must admit that there is no immediate way of providing funds for an Australian fleet unit but that now proposed. They know that, until the end of the next financial year, the Commonwealth will not have any surplus revenue at its disposal, and that, even if extra taxation were imposed, it could not he realized until then. Consequently, if we wish to have the keels of this unit laid down at once, we must raise a loan, which I hope will be redeemed at the earliest possible moment. I agree with my honorable friends that borrowing for defence is, generally speaking, a bad thing. But this is a time of crisis, and such times are occasions, not for generalizing, but for action. If honorable members opposite are sincere intheir patriotic protestations, they must help the Government to raise the necessary money, just as a few weeks ago they seemed ready to indorse a borrowing policy for any unprofitable railway programme that might be put before Parliament.
– In time of crisis, is the borrowing of money the only thing to be done?
– If my honorable friend can propose any other way of obtaining the necessary funds, let him place it before the House, but let him not do nothing but carp at the Government for its policy. What the Government says, and what we must all admit, is that we have no time to lose, and that, apparently, the only means of obtaining the necessary funds immediately is to borrow.
– The honorable member says “ apparently.”
– My honorable friends have done nothing but sneer since they left the Treasury bench. I ask them to say what other means can be employed? Whilst on this subject, I should like to say that I think that sufficient safeguards have not been provided in the measure to prevent the repetition of borrowing for defence preparations. The proposed loan is to be redeemed in sixteen years by the establishment of a 5 per cent. sinking fund. But, at the end of that time, the fleet will be practically valueless as a fighting unit, and we shall have to replace it, probably with a much larger one, which will mean more borrowing, unless we have made other special provision out of revenue in the meantime. I put this business suggestion before the Government that we should decide, in the first place, what the actual fighting life of the unit will probably be. For the sake of argument, let us take it at ten years.
– The Treasurer said twenty years.
– I do not put myself in opposition to the Admiralty authorities ; but in my opinion, these ships willbe practically out of date, though not obsolete, in ten years’ time. For the purposes of argument, let us assume that they will have a life of ten years. We ought, then, every year to put aside out of revenue one-tenth of the total capital value of the fleet, arid thus provide automatically for the construction, out of revenue, of the fleet which will have to succeed that now proposed.
– That provision will have to be made in addition to the proposed sinking fund and payment of interest on the proposed loan.
– Exactly. The sinking fund is only for the redemption of the proposed loan. But long before the end of sixteen years the fleet upon which the money will have been spent will be practically useless, and new ships will have to be provided out of new funds. I propose the establishment of a trust fund, into which money must be paid out of revenue every year. If necessary, we should impose further taxation, to raise the revenue required to do this. Then, when the time comes, we can renew, I hope increase, our fleet without borrowing. Probably the best thing to do would be to open a special trust fund account, crediting to it so much every year. Personally, I should like to see not less than one- tenth of the probable capital value of the new fleet unit paid to the credit of such a fund, automatically every year, in such a manner that the Treasurer of the day could not deal with it. The money should be taken automatically out of the Consolidated Revenue account and paid into the trust fund. I think that a Trust Fund Act will be required, and I hope that although the session is rapidly drawing to a close, the Government will see its way to immediately bring down a Bill in order that this Parliament may do something which will show the electors how baseless is the charge that we mean for all time to meet defence expenditure out of borrowed funds. I believe that every Minister and every honorable member on this side will unite in an effort to demonstrate that we believe that there could be no more suicidal policy than that of paying for national insurance with borrowed money. We only consent to adopt this course at the present juncture because we realize that a great crisis will face our Empire in1911, that it is essentially necessary to make a start, and that six weeks, let alone six months, may make all the difference betweensafety and disaster for Australia and the Empire to which we belong. I am afraid that some of my honorable friends on the other side - and I am reminded of it by the honorable member for Boothby appearing in the chamber - are almost too angry to do themselves justice. Last night, he began his speech by saying that he believed in the patriotism of the Australian people, and that he wished to test that feeling by meeting this expenditure by increased taxation. Some time later he said that he would not impose that taxation upon everybody, but would impose it upon the backs of those who were best able to bear it ! In the course of his remarks I interjected that in that case he only wished to test the patriotism of the well-to-do classes. His ‘reply was a singular one, which I commend to the close attention of all honorable members. He said that he wished to do nothing of the kind, that although he was prepared to place a tax on the shoulders of those -who were best able to bear it, any tax which was imposed on any section or class must eventually be borne by the wageearners. I tried hard to get in another interjection, but mv honorable friend scampered away from the delightful circle in which he had been arguing. I remind him that first he Proposed to test the patriotism of the Australian people, that next he proposed to test only the patriotism of a few of the Australian people, and that he wound up bv showing that his statement was onA at the best an idle pretext, a piece of hypocrisy which might deceive persons who were not immediately taxed into believing: that because they were not immediately taxed, therefore they were not going to bear t>e brunt of the taxation. Mv honorable^ friend also claimed credit to his party for initiating this scheme, which they now tell us there is no urgency to bring into effect. He tried to claim that it was identical - I mean in spirit, not in ships - with theirs. He sought to make out that underlying this proposal was the same ideal as underlay the proposal of the Fisher Government. T think that it would baffle the average political student to discover if he really were so innocent as to believe in his assumption. I remember my honorable friends’ programme of a few months ago. I remember their violent opposition to the Naval Agreement, which was really the initiation of this scheme.
– Oh, rubbish !
– The Naval Agreement, as I understand it, aimed at the training of Australians and New Zealanders in the finest school of seamanship which the world affords - the Imperial Navy. That training of seamen was to cost the Australian Government less than a third of what it was to cost the British Government. In other words, we were to train Australians and New Zealanders, as seamen, to take their place in a great unit such as this one is to be, interchangeable, ships and men, with the Royal navy. My honorable friends objected to that agreement. They objected to it in a frenzied way, with the same unanimity as compelled the Orangemen in that party to vote for Home Rule.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– Exactly what I said.
– It is - well, incorrect.
– I understand that the Orangemen in the honorable gentleman’s party were persuaded by some mysterious means to vote for Home Rule.
– By the just spirit of godliness and liberty.
– I do not see what this has to do with the question before the House.
– It has a great deal to do with it, sir.
– Will the honorable member point out the connexion to me?
– I wish to show, sir, that the difference between the Labour party’s proposal and the Government’s proposal is that, whereas we on this side aim at considering largely the safety of the whole Imperial structure, they on the other side aim purely at dissociating themselves in organization and general common action from the Empire’s naval policy.
– That is incorrect. It ought to be characterized more strongly.
– Ought it?
– Yes; it is stupid, as well as incorrect.
– The honorable gentleman has been intemperate, vehement, and angry ever since he was torn from the Treasury bench. I hope that he will allow me to proceed. He says that my statement is incorrect and stupid, and that it ought to be characterized more strongly. I would remind honorable members that, not only did the Labour party want to have a fleet owned, manned, and managed exclusively by Australians, but they also wanted to procure such a diminutive type of vessel that, if wanted, it would be unable to leave the coast of Australia. *
– That is not correct.
– They reserved the statement of their programme for Gympie, while the whole world waited to hear what wonderful structure of statesmanship was to be evolved. They told us then that they were going to put all their eggs into one basket ; thai we were to have a large torpedo flotilla, the mair* value of which, I have no doubt, would be that if any very serious crisis came they would be able to seek safety in shallow creeks. If my honorable .friends really believe, as the honorable gentleman now protests, as their past vote* on a number of questions, including also the proposal for a Queen Victoria memorial, seem to disprove, I would suggest to them that they help the Government to make this a truly Imperialistic proposal, to see that interchangeability of officers and men is a real thing.
– Was the Queen Victoria memorial for the national defence also?
– It helped to show one of the tendencies of the Labour party.
– It showed an absence of humbug.
– They voted against that proposal.
– Yes, they voted solidly against it, with one exception. They voted just as solidly against the naval agreement. They voted just as solidly, Orangemen and all, in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. And now they will vote just as solidly against anything that, would make this a truly Imperial proposal.
– To borrow money makes it Imperial.
– My honorable friend is positively ludicrous in .his efforts to discount this proposal. He says that he is in favour of it, but he is going to block it on the ground that the method adopted to bring it into effect is not the right one, though it is the only one available.
– Nonsense; that is the whole question.
– The honorable gentleman now tells us that we on this side are doing some injustice to the Mother Country in proposing to go to the world’s money market to raise this loan. Does he suggest that you do an injustice to any man who has money to lend by offering him good security for a loan of it?
– Who suggested that?
– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that the Commonwealth cannot offer good security for a loan of £3, 500,000. One might well think that he was the phonograph of the sort of economic nonsense which is turned out week by week by the Sydney Bulletin. Let the honorable gentleman put his shoulder to the wheel if he will, and help the Government to carry this proposal with such modifications and safeguards, if need be, as he and the House think necessary. But do not let him throw himself across the path of progress as a sort of carping critic, pleased with nothing, willing to help in nothing, now that he has lost the opportunity of getting credit for what is done. I cannot help saying that the policy of my Opposition friends is a policy of small ideas and small ships; and that the policy, of the Ministerial party is a policy which offers a large ideal and hard-hitting fleet.
– With the assistance of “ uncle.”
– I sincerely hope that my honorable friends will be able to set aside all questions of a party nature, and address themselves seriously and soberly to the consideration of how best to make this great unit efficient. What does it matter to us who gets the credit for bringing the thing into existence? Surely there is a sufficient number of honorable members who have come here .to get things done, not to get the credit for doing them. Surely we might well allow those to seek greedily for credit who find it most difficult to get credit. Let us consider solely the safety of the people committed to our charge, and the building up in Australia of a buttress of that great arch of Empire under which we live, and without which we would have no pledge of permanent security, and the Empire’s civilization no guarantee of peaceful progress.
.- It is. an old saying that, when a man has a bad case, one of the most handy, if not effective, weapons to use is abuse of the other side. The last ‘ speech has furnished an instance of that The honorable member insinuated a want of loyalty on the part of those who oppose this measure. Fortunately, the history of the past proves that there is not a scintilla of truth in his allegation. The sons of many men on this side went to South Africa to fight for the Empire. It was the agitation of the Labour party which brought about compulsory service in connexion with the new defence scheme. I venture to say that but for the efforts of the honorable member for West
Sydney, who for years had battled in that direction, it would have been impossible in this House to pass a measure for the institution of compulsory service. The best which can be said for the last speech is that it was an, apology for an extremely bad precedent which is being created, because the speaker admitted that it is a bad thing to have a loan policy for defence purposes. If any one had suggested a few years ago that the first loin Bill of the Commonwealth would be for the purpose of defence, (the suggestion would have been scouted on all sides of the Chamber. Of course, there is much to be said in justification for a loan policy for carrying out reproductive works. Some years ago, when a loan policy was proposed for certain reproductive works, I was one of very few who voted in its favour, believing then, as I do now, that there are large national undertakings which can never be entered upon if we have to depend solely on revenue. But to initiate a loan policy for defence is to write history with a vengeance ! If this measure be passed, and we enter upon, a loan policy for any such purpose, it will be regarded by future historians as a blot on our progress. I cannot believe that the patriotism we hear so much about is mere lip service. I may be wrong, but .1 believe that the propertyowners and wealthy members of the community generally have no desire to shirk their responsibility in the matter of defence. If this country has to be defended, it must be by the blood and bone and sinew of the masses. When we have submitted to compulsory service, which has always been regarded with abhorrence by Englishspeaking people, and thus thrown the bulk of the work on the masses, surely the well-to-do will willingly contribute a fair proportion?
– The well-to-do, as well as others, will be compelled to serve - there will be no distinction.
– I was not referring to that matter.
– The honorable member said that the masses would have to bear the whole burden of defence.
– What I said was that the masses would have to bear by far the larger share of the burden.
– The honorable member said that the masses would have to bear all.
– Young men will be torn away from their work in order to serve ; and if there were war to-morrow, the greater number of the defenders would be obtained from the masses. Not only do we ask the masses to contribute the greater proportion, of men, but by this Bill we compel them, through the Customs House, to bear the greater part of the cost. Do honorable members say that the burden will not fall more heavily on the masses than on the wealthy ?
– It is a pity the honorable member did not find that out before he voted for the Tariff !
– The honorable member, when the Tariff was before us, was a Free Trader, excepting when some item affected his own district, and then he became a Protectionist.
– That is not correct.
– The point is that we have the requisite funds now. Why should we impose further taxation?
– Then why, in the name of Heaven, is this Bill introduced?
– In order to get the capital at once.
– But it means that we shall have to pay interest for all time.
– Not for all time - only for sixteen years.
– The whole of the interest and sinking fund will have to be met out of Customs and Excise revenue ; and, under other circumstances, the Minister of Defence would have opposed a proposal of the kind with all the vehemence of his nature. We are led to believe that the primary reason for the introduction of the Bill is a danger which is closer at hand than some probably imagine. But panic legislation is always bad, and should be avoided. There is not the slightest difference of opinion as to the necessity for preparing for an emergency ; honorable members, by their support of the Defence Bill, show that they realize that we have for years been living in a fool’s paradise, and neglecting our duty in not establishing a permanent and efficient system of defence. The only difference of opinion now is as to the method by which the necessary money is to be raised. We are told that we cannot afford to wait, but must rush into the London market, and borrow £3,500,000. We must not forget, however, that under the financial agreement with the States, the Commonwealth will be something like £2,500,000 per annum better off than we were under the Braddon section; and as the proposal now before us cannot be given effect to in less than two or three years, I think we ought to be able to meet the cost out of our savings.
– It will be two years and a half at the outside.
– In that time, the Commonwealth will receive between £6,000,000 and ,£7,000,000 under the financial agreement with the States; and out of that I think we could well provide for defence.
– That money is already required for other services, including old-age pensions-
– Old-age pensions are already provided for.
– Out of the £2. 500,000.
– Is that so?
– A proportion of the cost of ‘old-age pensions was provided for out of our original surplus.
Colonel Foxton. - For one year.
– An extra £550,000 is provided for the land defences under the Estimates.
– That money will not be spent for a considerable time to come.
– I assure the honorable member that we are spending that money now.
– If so. T see no evidence of the fact. The amount spent, if any, under the new defence scheme, is very small.
– I am speaking of equipment for the present forces, which has nothing to do with the new scheme.
– In any case, the proposal now before us is rotten, to say the least ; and honorable members opposite are mere apologists for the scheme, for no one can justify it. It is cruel to pay the whole cost of our naval defence out of Customs and Excise revenue. Why should property escape its share of the burden? The honorable member for Fawkner, (some time ago, said he was quite satisfied that the wealthy and well-to-do would readily contribute towards the cost of the defence of the country ; but I ask him whether, under the scheme proposed, they do contribute a fair proportion ?
– The honorable member does not see that the money has already been levied and obtained - that we are not proposing to levy afresh on the masses.
– Does the Minister mean to say that the ,£3,500,000 will not have to be paid?
– It will have to be paid, of course.
– And how is it to be paid?
– Out of the moneys we have already levied.
– Through the Customs House?
– No one knows better than the Minister that the incidence of Customs taxation is very unfair.
– That is an entirely different question.
– I am sure that, if the Government went to the country and proposed some other method of taxation in order to provide defence, the people would readily respond. The iniquity of the present proposal lies in the fact that it is made on the eve of a general election, when there is no pressing necessity, and when the character of the Commonwealth can only be besmirched by the initiation of a defence policy on the strength ot a loan. This country is a wealthy one, and I have too high an opinion of the people to think that they would not respond readily to an invitation to contribute their quota. The objection I have is that 75 per cent, of the burden must fall on the masses. This Government, with their majority of ten to fourteen, and practically the whole of the press and other great influences behind them, have not the backbone to introduce some other method of taxation in order to meet this cost. There is nothing to justify the borrowing of money for this purpose. Ministers cannot point to any country that has adopted such a policy. No State in Australia before Federation borrowed for defence. Every loan we have had in Australia has been raised for some class of reproductive work.
Colonel Foxton. - On one occasion Victoria borrowed half-a-million for defence.
– I was not aware of that. I did not think that any Australian State had ever borrowed for that purpose.
– The Chamber of Commerce has decided that the Government must borrow, and, therefore, they are doing so.
– There may be something in that. Recently the Chamber of Commerce decided that certain proposed legislation then before the Senate was not to be proceeded with. Up to that stage, the Bill in question had been debated. The day after the decision of the Chamber of Commerce was arrived at, the measure was put on one side, and it is a singular fact that it has not been brought up again from that day to this. It may be that the Chamber of Commerce has influenced the policy of the Government on this occasion. I do not profess to know. What I do know is that this Parliament has hitherto prided itself on the fact that it has existed for nearly ten years, and has not borrowed one penny. What a sad falling off ! We have now to tell the electors, “It is quite true that for years we have taken credit for showing an example to the States by setting our faces against a loan policy. We have constructed works out of. revenue. But now we are inaugurating a change.”,
– Does not the honorable member think that we have done well in constructing works out of revenue?
– I think that if the Commonwealth had used the money to which it was entitled, instead of handing back nearly £7,000,000 to the States, it would have been very much better. But it is cer.tainly a good thing for the country that we have paid for several million pounds worth of works out of revenue. We have not increased the interest bill of Australia by one farthing. There are, I admit, many purposes for which loans are justified, but I cannot bring myself to believe that any honorable member can justify the Commonwealth in launching out on a loan policy for defence purposes. Can we claim that this is a reproductive work? Has any organization in Australia issued a programme or political manifesto expressing the view .’that it is desirable to borrow for defence? I have never noticed that any honorable member who has advocated borrowing for reproductive works has said a word in favour of borrowing for th’s purpose. We are now starting on very unsound’ lines. But that is not the worst of it. We are establishing a precedent. A spendthrift, whether individual or corporate, always finds it much more congenial to live on borrowed money than to pay his way out of current revenue.
– There is not only construction, but maintenance, to be provided for.
– The whole fabric of the Navy will have to be maintained out of loans. The warships will have to be replaced in a few years.
Colonel Foxton. - We are providing for construction, and nothing else.
– That is quite true, but I venture to predict that there will be another loan policy when the ships become obsolete ; and it will be just as justifiable as the present one. It cannot be argued by the Minister that it will not be necessary, in ten or twelve years, to replace the vessels by -up-to-date ships, nor can he argue that it will not then be quite’ as justifiable to borrow as on the present occasion.
Colonel Foxton. - Yes. I can.
– That is surely a remarkable line of reasoning. If it be justifiable to borrow for this purpose to-day, it will be equally justifiable then.
Colonel Foxton. - Not necessarily.
– The honorable gentleman may be able to convince himself, but were it not for party reasons, as the result of the Fusion, I venture to say that not twenty honorable members on the Ministerial side would support this policy. They can only defend it on grounds of panic. Why cannot they wait until the electors have been consulted, and until we ascertain whether they are patriotic in pocket as well as in sentiment? The cry behind this policy is that the enemy is practically at our gates, and that we cannot wait until the electors have been consulted. We must plunge into the money market, and besmirch the reputation of this Parliament as a non-borrower. We are to start our career of borrowing on the worst line we could have selected. History will say who is right and who is wrong on this occasion. To-day the Government have the numbers. Having spine enough to go to the country on this policy, they will probably win. But when the subject is looked into a few years hence, I venture to say that the unanimous verdict from every right-thinking person will be that this is one of the greatest blunders ever committed by the Commonwealth Parliament. Not an honorable member who has spoken from the Ministerial side has attempted to justify the policy. Why did the honorable member for Wentworth ask for different “reservations? Because he has to admit that the policy of borrowing for defence is unsound. Only on account of the urgency and the panic created can he justifv it. Later on, I am convinced it will be admitted that this policy is a serious mistake. I am very sorry, because I do not believe there is a scintilla of difference between the Ministry and the Opposition with regard to defence itself. We are just as patriotic, just as loyal, just as earnest in this matter, as are those who sometimes twit us with being disloyal. But we differ as to the means ot financing our policy of defence. My regret is that we could not come to a unanimous decision in favour of a scheme financed on sound lines.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane- Honorary Minister) [11.57]. - Honorable members will naturally expect to hear something from me on this question. I should have risen earlier except that I have been suffering from a severe cold. It was quite impossible for me to speak yesterday, and it may not be possible for me to speak at length this morning. But I feel that it is necessary that I should endeavour, at least, to place before the House my views as having represented Australia at the recent Imperial Conference. Before proceeding to the real question, I should like to “make a passing reference to matters which occurred just prior to, and immediately succeeding, my departure to the Old Country. One can easily understand that there appeared to some persons to be an opportunity afforded by my being thousands of miles away to make remarks to my detriment. I was alluded to on more than one occasion in a less than complimentary way. “
– Some wanted to know who the honorable gentleman was.
– The inquiry was made from the Minister’s own side of the House. It is just as well that he should know where the attack came from.
Colonel FOXTON.- I think I know where it came from. I can also well understand that some honorable members were unable to resist the temptation offered by so favorable an opportunity-
– The honorable member might explain who he is, in answer to the inquiry
Colonel FOXTON.- I hope that honorable members opposite will assist me as much as possible by refraining from interjections, because I cannot raise my voice. In some extraordinary way, my personal views in- regard to naval defence have been wonderfully distorted. I have not looked up any of my speeches on this subject, delivered in the Parliament of Queensland or elsewhere, prior to Federation. But if any one takes the trouble to do so, he will find that I have from the first consistently supported the payment of a cash subsidy to the Mother Country, but only as a tentative expedient, to be abandoned as soon as it was possible for us to do something in the nature of what is now proposed. That is the full extent of the support which I gave to the subsidy. I also thought that, according .both to population and to the proportional amount of our trade as a part of the Empire, we were not paying sufficient, but I always regarded the subsidy as being merely a makeshift. I am glad to think that I have had some hand in bringing about what I hope will prove to be a better state of things. During the whole course of the Conference, the consideration which was shown by the Imperial authorities, especially by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. McKenna, and by every official at the Admiralty, was most gratifying. The offers of Dreadnoughts .by New Zealand and Australia had naturally had a very marked effect not only on members of the Imperial Government and officials, but also on the public at large. No matter how we may disagree as to whether those offers should or should not have been .made, every one will admit .that the spirit -in which they were made was, from our point of view, correct, and that spirit prompted a reciprocal attitude on the part of the people in the Old Country. This rendered the whole Conference most pleasant in every way, and from beginning to end it was really not a question of bargaining, but a. question on either side of, “ How much can we do for you?” It is unnecessary for me to go over the ground which has already been so ably traversed by the Prime Minister. I could not do it half as well as he did it.
– The honorable member could put it so that we could understand it better, at any rate.
Colonel FOXTON.- I think not. At all events, it is unnecessary for me to go over the ground which has to be traversed in advocating this scheme, because, judging by the speeches delivered on both sides, there is practical unanimity as to the ad visableness of carrying out the agreement.
– It was adopted by a large majority - practically unanimously.
Colonel FOXTON. - I was saying that it was accepted practically unanimously as a very excellent scheme. It is therefore necessary to deal only, as a matter of controversy, with the method by which it is proposed to carry it into effect. Our position at this moment with regard to naval defence is that we pay a subsidy of £200,000 a year, and in return it is stipulated that certain vessels shall always be stationed in Australian waters. We pay for local naval defence, in addition, between £70,000 and £80,000 a year, making our total naval expenditure about £270,000 or £280,000 a year. The Treasurer spoke of our local naval expenditure as £80,000, but I have it in my mind that it is about £70,000, and at the Conference our total expenditure for naval purposes was ‘ mentioned as £270,000. Prior to the Conference, and during the early stages of the main Conference, it became evident, as it did at the Conference of 1907, that it would be- necessary, in considering any scheme of Imperial naval defence, to deal on separate lines with the various Dominions, which were anxious to come in and contribute more largely to the naval defence of the Empire, on account of their different geographical positions, their varying degrees of advancement, their differing populations, and other varying circumstances. At about the third meeting of the Conference, therefore, it became evident that Canada, Australia, and New Zealand would have to be dealt with on different lines, and matters of detail were then referred to the Admiralty, who were requested to deal separately and privately with the representatives of the three Dominions. I have now, of course, to deal, except in a very casual, way, only with those arrangements as they affect Australia. The offer of a Dreadnought by Australia had certainly this advantage in’ the negotiations, that it gave a clue .or indication- to the Admiralty as to the extent to which the Commonwealth was prepared to go in augmentation of its existing contribution to Imperial, naval defence. A Dreadnought would cost £2,000,000 or so, and that was an indication to the Admiralty that a considerable advance was contemplated and desired by us. On the strength of that, and possibly also on the strength of conversations which I had with various members of the Board of Admiralty before the Conference and during the first sittings, the Admiralty prepared suggestions for proposals. They very naturally desired that the proposals should come from the Commonwealth, because they would mean greater burdens to the Commonwealth. But they did not hesitate, on the strength of the offer of a Dreadnought. and the indication thereby conveyed of the extent to which Australia was prepared to go, to make practical suggestions as to the hest means of putting the desire of Australia into effect. On those suggestions, and after discussion and alteration of them, the final arrangement, which has been made public,’ was come to. I need not further allude to it except to say that, instead of a Dreadnought, it is; proposed that we should provide an improved Indomitable, known as the Indefatigable type, which will cost about the same, and is practically a cruising Dreadnought. That ship is regarded quite unanimously by the leading officials of the . Admiralty, from the First Lord downwards, as the head and front and principal portion of the unit which it is proposed that Australia should provide for itself. The other vessels, in due proportion as to numbers, are the attributes of that vessel. They are necessary, as being complementary to it, to make up what is understood as the fleet unit, which is to form one-third of the great Eastern fleet of the Empire in the Pacific, consisting of thirty-nine vessels. The great object attained, from our point of view, by the establishment of such a unit, is that we shall have within it practically every branch of specialized work which is to be found in the British Navy itself. It will be, so to speak, a segment of the British Navy, and it will not be necessary to go outside of it to obtain every class of training which is to be found in the Royal Navy itself. In it we shall have the training which is to be obtained on the Indomitable, exactly similar to that on the Dreadnought or any other battleship; we shall have the Bristol cruisers, the destroyers, the submarines, and, of course, our torpedo boats, as we have them here at present, and as they may be improved. We shall have every type of vessel and class of training, and the unit will be, in the opinion of the Admiralty, large enough to afford sufficient attraction to men to go into it and adopt the naval profession as a life’s career. This would not be the case if we had only a small number of vessels, or even a large number of small vessels. Tn the negotiations f.nd conversations which I had with the First Lord of the Admiralty, it very soon became a question of ways and means. He realised that it would he scarcely reasonable, at all events for the present, to ask that Australia should take upon -itself the whole additional burden which would be incurred in the construction, maintenance, management, and direction of the whole of the fleet unit in peace time, amounting, including sinking fund and interest on cost of construction, to about , £750,000 a year, or a considerable advance on our present, annual commitment of . £270,000 for naval defence purposes. One honorable member on the other side spoke during this debate as though we had gone cap-in-hand to the Admiralty to ask for aid to the extent of £250,000 per annum, as though we had, in fact, demanded it, but let me say here at once that, while the financial aspect of the scheme was being discussed, the suggestion that that payment should be made by the Imperial Government was made voluntarily by Mr. McKenna, who regarded it as necessary in our existing circumstances and present financial position in order to launch the scheme properly, but he did not” hesitate to say that he considered it very problematical that we should desire to continue to receive that assistance for any lengthened period. There are honorable members who believe that from the beginning we should endeavour to carry on by ourselves, and should refuse any such assistance. I do not agree with that. Each person is entitled to his own opinion in a matter of this sort. It is suggested in some quarters that it will be scarcely dignified for us to accept the assistance proffered. But I hold that if it was not beneath the dignity of the Imperial Government to accept our subsidy of £200,000 a year for many years, it is not beneath our dignity to accept from the Imperial authorities a voluntary offer of £250,000 for just so long as we may desire to avail ourselves of it. Financial considerations apart, I think it would be unwise for us to refuse such assistance, offered in so excellent a spirit. Though, to me, having had the opportunity of seeing how this matter was’ approached by the Admiralty, it was scarcely necessary, still, the offer was made and maybe regarded as a pledge of the intense desire on the part of the Admiralty to make this new development of naval defence, not only for Australia, but all the outlying Dominions, a success in every sense. I am quite sure that nothing will be wanting, in the later negotiations which must ensue between the two Governments in the consideration of minor details, to realize that intention. We can rely upon the most hearty co-operation in every possible way of the officials of the Admiralty. What was suggested and what the agreement actually provides for is this : That an estimate should be made of the annual cost of this fleet unit, including interest and sinking fund. Honorable members should always bear in mind that the£750,000 a year includes interest and sinking fund. It is customary with the Admiralty to allow for depreciation 4 per cent., covering a period of eighteen years or thereabouts). That is the principle adopted by the Admiralty, and if we do not go beyond that we shall be On safe lines. That is the principle on which they write off depreciation of all their war vessels.
– We should also have a renewal fund.
Colonel FOXTON. - I shall deal with that later. The life of a battleship is presumed to be eighteen years. Let me say, in this connexion, that some authorities put it as low as five years, and others think it should be stated at fifteen years; but it is quite impossible to do more than merely estimate what the life of a battleship is likely to be. The reason is that so much depends upon the progress that may be made in regard to new developments in naval construction. It is satisfactory for us to know that a new departure in naval construction has only quite recently been made. I refer to the construction of Dreadnoughts, and we shall have a vessel which will practically be a Dreadnought. It is unlikely that any very important new departure in naval construction will be made within a few years, at all events. We are therefore entering upon this undertaking at a very favorable time; that is tosay, at a period immediately succeeding great developments in naval construction, and we shall have the advantage of securing vessels built upon the most up-to-date lines. It will be agreed that, in the circumstances, the period which must elapse before those vessels can be considered fit for the scrap-heap is likely to be much longer than might otherwise be the case. I have said that the estimated annual cost of the fleet unit, including interest and sinking fund, is £750,000 a year. That is a good deal less than the annual cost of the present Australian Squadron, although the fleet unit will be infinitely stronger in every way than the present Australian Squadron. This is shown by the figures quoted bymy honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence, in another debate. The personnel of the fleet unit will be less than that of the Australian Squadron, and this will involve a lower expenditure for pay. The actual cost, so far as I could gather, of the present Australian Squadron is something over £800,000 a year. I was first informed that it was £900,000 a year, but that statement was modified. It is only fair to say that included in the £800,000 or ,£900,000 a year, which the present Australian Squadron costs, is a proportional amount of the cost of the central administration of the Admiralty in London and elsewhere. It is the practice of the Admiralty, and a very proper practice, to debit every squadron, and, indeed, every ship,, in estimating the annual cost of their upkeep, with a proportional share of the cost of the administration of the Admiralty. It is, therefore, right that I should remind honorable members that this charge adds a somewhat fictitious additional amount to the cost of the Australian Squadron. But, in any case, the new fleet unit will cost less per annum than does the Australian Squadron. I should add that the estimate I have given of the annual cost of the present Australian Squadron includes interest and sinking fund for all the vessels. It was agreed that the difference between ,£500,000 and the estimated annual cost of the fleet unit, whatever it may be, should be borne bv the Imperial Government. It was considered by Mr,. McKenna that a jump from £200,000, or, including our local expenditure, £270,000, to ,£500,000 a year would be quite sufficient for Australia to take at the present time. Hence the offer of ,£250^000 a year from the Imperial Government. The difference between £270,000 a year’ and £500,000 . is £230,000, and that will be the whole additional annual cost to Australia for this fleet unit, and the comparatively complete protection which it will afford, until such time as we are prepared to say to the Imperial authorities,” We will go on our own, J.nd do not require your subsidy any longer.” Honorable members will, therefore, see that the fleet unit will only cost us £230,000 a year more than we are pay- ing at the present time, because our local expenditure will be merged in the complete expenditure on the fleet unit. The £750,000 a year was estimated by the Admiralty, and one necessarily had to rely upon them and to accept their estimate. It is stated to be a liberal estimate, and “includes, as I said before, a. sinking fund at the rate of 4 per cent, and interest, as dis- tinguished ffrom 5 per cent, which we now propose in this Bill, which would increase it by £35,000 a year. It also, includes the auxiliary services, such as store ships and hospital ships, and a liberal allowance for training colleges. Some considerable interest centred in the question of training colleges. Canada was desirous of having continued access to the colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth. Honorable members will understand that a lad goes through a four-years’ course before he goes on board a ship. The first two years is put in at the Osborne College, which may be regarded as a preparatory school. At Dartmouth the lad is carried 011 further in his professional and technical duties for another two years. Australia is entitled to make, certain nominations for these colleges. ‘ But the distance of Australia from the Old Country is so great that mothers are loth to part with their boys at the age of twelve, and to send them so far away. It will be admitted that at twelve years of age a boy is too young to be sent to the other end of the world, unless there are friends or relatives to whom he can be sent. I did not, therefore, press any request that we should continue to send boys to Osborne and Dartmouth. If some parents prefer to send their boys to those colleges, well and good, but it was clear that it is necessary that we should establish colleges of the same kind here, and undertake the training of lads from the beginning. We should probably secure a much larger choice of boys for the fleet unit by having such colleges established in Australia. Our. position in the matter is, of course, very different from that of Canada, which is only five or six days distant from the Old Country. The new proposal is a complete reversal of the present position. The fleet unit will be our own, entirely under our control. We can please ourselves as to the rates of pay we shall offer. It will be under our complete direction, and remain so until the Government of the day decides to place it at the disposal of the Admiralty, in which case it will be immediately under the command of the Naval Commander-in-Chief. I stated by way of interjection, while the Treasurer was speaking yesterday, and was mentioning that our fleet unit will co-operate with the other two fleet units that will go to form the Eastern Fleet of the Empire, that whenever these fleet units, or any of the ships composing them, come together, the senior naval officer will command. It may not happen during the first ten or fifteen years, but I can quite conceive that should this agreement continue in force, we may yet have an Australian Admiral in command of the Eastern Fleet of the Empire.
– If there is a difference in the regulations, which regulations will cover the combined forces?
Colonel FOXTON. - I am obliged to the honorable member for the interjection, because it reminds me that I omitted to mention that it is a part of the agreement that, so far as possible, in view of varying conditions, our regulations shall be exactly assimilated to those of the Royal Navy. There will, therefore, be no difficulty on the point mentioned.
– Suppose the senior officer were an Australian officer. Would he be under the direct control of the Admiralty so long as he was in charge of the combined forces?
Colonel FOXTON. - Yes, even in peace time, I imagine, that would be so, but the question raises. matters which have yet to be thought out. It would probably depend upon the place where the vessels were assembled together. I have said that we can always rely upon the heartiest possible co-operation on the part of the Admiralty in making the scheme work smoothly. It is clearly their intense desire that it should do so. I think I need scarcely say anything more upon the scheme itself., as it is accepted with practical unanimity by all parties in the House. I thought that, although possibly traversing ground which had already been trodden, I might be able to add something which would be of interest to honorable members. I have now a few observations to make with regard to the question of financing the naval scheme. . It has been said by honorable members that this is the only occasion on which it has been proposed to borrow for naval purposes. That, I think, is not so. New Zealand has made an offer of a Dreadnought to the Mother Country, and must necessarily borrow the money to provide for its construction.
– She has not done so yet.
Colonel FOXTON. - But it is a necessary part of the scheme. New Zealand could not raise , £2,000,000 for the construction of a Dreadnought within the next two and a.-half years without resorting to borrowing, or anticipating revenue in some way.
– At any rate, she is a plunger.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is another matter. I am simply combating the statement that this is something entirely new. I understand that Canada will adopt the same course.
– She has already taken £600,000 out of her revenue for this purpose.
Colonel FOXTON.- I regret that the honorable member for Grey is not present, because he laid great stress upon the point, that the passing of this Bill would mean the creation of a dangerous precedent. I said that I should endeavour to show him that this need not, and should not, be a precedent for similar action. Honorable members have almost unanimously passed a resolution approving of the creation of a fleet unit, the construction of which is to be proceeded with immediately. I shall not labour the point as to the necessity of the work being, proceeded with at once, for its urgency ought to. be apparent to every one having a knowledge of current events. If any honorable member has a doubt on the point, I shall be glad to supply him with information, which, I am sure, will convince him that it is desirable that we should proceed at once to create this fleet unit.
– I think that is recognised.
Colonel FOXTON.- Very well. In the circumstances we shall have to provide thirteen vessels, one costing £2,000,000, in two and a-half years. When shall we be placed in a similar position? We shall be renewing and adding to our fleet, I hope, from time to time, and we ought to be able to provide for those renewals out of revenue ; but, when we are called upon to provide a whole fleet unit, which must be ready to relieve the present squadron on the Australian coast, say, on 1st January, 1913, the circumstances are altogether abnormal.
– The Ministry is making no provision for taxation for the future.
Colonel FOXTON. - I am not dealing with the future ; I am answering arguments as to the present situation forming a precedent for future borrowing for the same purpose. Unless the international situation becomes more serious than it is, I cannot conceive of it being necessary for us to expend on shipbuilding, for a generation to come, anything like a sum ranging from £3,500,000 to£4,000,000 in two and a-half years. That ought to dispose of the allegation that the adoption of this proposal will create a dangerous precedent. It has been said that we ought not to charge insurance to capital. Let us take, by way of illustration, the simple case of a man going into business in a small town where risks are not accepted. I know of mining towns where the risks are too great, and will not be undertaken by insurance companies. Starting business in such a town, this man provides a fire engine for himself. Would it not be fair - and I think the analogy is reasonably complete - for him to charge the cost of that fire engine to capital account?
– But he would get the full and immediate benefit of any profit from his business.
Colonel FOXTON. - Are we not deriving the full benefit of our workin Australia ?
– Not individually. Some get more than others.
Colonel FOXTON.- I think that the analogy is complete. I regard the naval scheme, not exactly in the nature of a small annual insurance premium, but much as is the provision of a fire engine by a man starting business where risks are not accepted.
– Does not the honorable member think that we could borrow this , £3,500,000 at a more satisfactory rate from the Imperial Government?
Colonel FOXTON. - I have information on the subject which I am not permitted to communicate now, but I can give it to the honorable member privately. All that I can say is that the honorable member’s suggestion is not practicable. I can assure him that the point has not been overlooked. The only point of difference between the Government and the Opposition is as to the period over which the payment for this fleet should extend.
– And also of who is to pay.
Colonel FOXTON.- I do not think that is much in dispute. The main question is : “ Shall the whole amount be raised in two and a half years, or shall it be spread over a period of fifteen years?” Is it fair to saddle one. two. or three years with the raising of money for such an abnormal expenditure as this undoubtedly is? I think that fifteen years is a sufficiently short period over which to spread it.
– But I understand that further expenditure will be necessary before the termination of that period.
Colonel FOXTON.- From capital? I have dealt with that point during the honorable member’s absence, and have shown that there will be no necessity, except in extraordinary circumstances, to resort to capital expenditure.
– Another scare, and we shall want two Dreadnoughts.
Colonel FOXTON.- It is unwise to wholly ignore so-called scares. We may ignore one too many, and find ourselves unprepared when the emergency arises. It is all very well for an Australian Government to say to the Imperial Government, “ The whole of the resources of Australia will be at your disposal when the day of trouble comes.” But what is the use of talking like that if we do not convert those resources into that which will enable us to do something when the emergency arises? It is idle to talk up to the last minute. We must make our preparations years in advance if our professions of good-will to the Motherland are to be of any value.
– Fifteen years hence this navy will probably be obsolete.
– And we shall have paid for it.
Colonel FOXTON.- Fifteen years hence we shall owe nothing for it, and if the honorable member for Gwydir happens to be Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, he will be able to put his views into operation in dealing with the next emergency.
– The honorable gentleman has said nothing yet about a renewal fund.
Colonel FOXTON. - There is no necessity at present to deal with the question of a renewal fund. All that we have to do is to make provision for the redemption of the loan we are going to float. No renewals will be required, at all events, for ten years. We. may add to our fleet, but we shall be able, I think, to provide out of revenue for additions. When we have to consider the question of renewals, it will be time enough to consider how they shall be paid for. In any event, we shall not have to simultaneously renew thirteen vessels, unless we leave the whole of the renewals untouched for fifteen years. If we did that, we should be faced with the position which now confronts us. We might then have an obsolete fleet, and be faced with the necessity of building within a short time an entirely new fleet unit to take its place. That would be an entirely abnormal expenditure, and the necessity for it would arise only from gross mismanagement on the part of the Australian Admiralty in failing to provide for renewals as they became necessary. In that connexion I would point out that renewals will necessarily be required at varying periods, because the lives of the smaller vessels are not as long as those of the larger ones.
– The only point of difference is as to the source of revenue to meet the interest charges.
Colonel FOXTON. - The money will come out of the consolidated revenue.
– And that is obtained today from Customs and Excise taxation.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is one point of view, but let me deal with another. I have explained that we are to receive, by the handsome and voluntary offer of the Mother Country, £250,000 a year as long as we choose to accept it.
– That is practically reversing the position of to-day.
Colonel FOXTON.- Yes. If we choose to receive that amount for fifteen years, the money so obtained will approximately cover the interest and sinking fund, and will practically pay for all our vessels. In other words, interest and sinking fund will practically be provided for by the contribution of £250,000 per annum, which the Mother Country is going to make to us.
– There is no Australian Navy about that.
– That is delightful patriotism.
Colonel FOXTON.- I think that there is patriotism in it, because the Mother Country can well afford to pay us that £250,000 a year. Why? Because after paying it she will still be saving £400,000 a year, besides encouraging us to build our own navy, find our own footing, and, a few years hence, become a greater buttress to her than we have ever been.
– In fifteen years we ought, practically, to have doubled our navy.
Colonel FOXTON.- Yes. Under this scheme, not only shall we save the Mother Country at least £350,000 or , £400,000 a year, but we shall also assume an, additional burden of . £230,000 a year ourselves, thus completely reversing the position as it exists to-day. I think that that is patriotic. At all events, whatever honorable members opposite may think, we are certainly regarded on the other side of the world as doing the handsome thing. There, those who are best able to judge think that in what we propose to do we give evidence that we are not lacking in Imperial spirit. The . £250,000 a year contributed by the Mother Country will - taking 4 per cent, as a basis, instead of the 5 per cent., which we propose - just about provide interest and sinking fund on the capital cost of the vessels. Personally, I think that it would have been a very excellent thing if New Zealand, instead of contributing an increased naval subsidy under the existing agreement, and providing for the gift of an Indomitable, had thrown in her lot with Australia for the establishment of what would have been an Australasian unit, perhaps of’ larger size even than that which we now propose to establish. In this connexion, it is rather curious to note that New Zealand will, I assume, have to borrow the money with which to pay for the Indomitable which she is presenting to the Mother Country, and which will be the flagship of the China fleet unit. That will cost New Zealand about £150,000 a year for about eighteen years. To ‘ that £150,000 must be added the , £100,000 which she will pay as subsidy to the Imperial Fleet. Assuming that she raises the money and pays it off gradually over a period of fifteen or eighteen years, New Zealand will pay the Mother Country exactly the sum which the Mother Country will pay to Australia by way of subsidy.
– We are better business men.
Colonel FOXTON.- One does not care to comment on what is being done by the Dominion. But that , £250,000 annually will, in a sense, be practically applied to pay for our ships.
– It is bad business for New Zealand.
Colonel FOXTON.- It may or may not be. The question has been raised as to when it will be necessary for the moneyto be paid to the contractors in connexion with the building of the ships. I think we all recognise that it is necessary to proceed with their construction at once. The Admiralty are prepared to superintend, their construction through contractors in exactly the same way as they would do if the vessels formed part of the British Navy itself. The only additional charge will be for extra supervision. The whole of the work done in connexion with the central administration of the Admiralty will be done quite gratuitously. Before I left England, I’ ascertained that it is the practice of the Admiralty, as the building of a battleship proceeds, to make about one hundred separate payments, so that if the construction of a vessel occupied two and a-half years, there would be on an average a weekly payment. But I also understand that it is possible to arrange for the payments to be made by five instalments extending over that period. If we adopt the latter plan, we shall undoubtedly have to pay an additional price. In my judgment, it is far better for us to face our interest bill in a business-like way, with a view to making the capital cost of the ships as low as possible. If we follow the practice of the Admiralty we shall require to find, during the first six months that the vessels are building - that is, between February of next year and the following August - something like £500,000, or possibly a sum which would represent one-fifth of the total expenditure. Honorable members will recognise the necessity for having that money if we are going to proceed with the construction of these vessels at all. That is all that I have to say oh the subject. I have not endeavoured to do more than give a businesslike exposition of the position as it presented itself to me at the Imperial Conference. I sincerely hope that the results of that Conference will not be barren. From my point of view, this is practically the only way in which we can finance the scheme at the present time. I feel very certain that to the great body of the public it will be a ‘ disappointment if anything is permitted to interfere with the adoption of this scheme.
– It is questionable whether the scheme will be indorsed by the country.
Colonel FOXTON.- At all events, it has been unanimously accepted by this House.
– What, the borrowing scheme ?
Colonel FOXTON. - I am not speaking of the borrowing scheme,’ but of the naval scheme. It will be a disappointment to the general public, and to a majority of honorable members, if we are precluded from proceeding with that scheme at once. As far as I can see, this is the only practical way in which it can be proceeded with. Further, our failurs to proceed with it will be a grievous disappointment to those in the Mother Country who are looking to its accomplishment, and I think that we owe something to them. They regard it asessential that the scheme should be carried out at once. The Admiralty authorties areabout to proceed immediately with the construction of their two fleet units in connexion with the Eastern Fleet, and it will not be to the credit of Australia if we fail1 to do our share in that great scheme.
.- It isto be regretted that in the’ closing hours of the session so much time should have beenoccupied in discussing a proposal whichwas practically unanimously agreed to a week or ten days ago. The greater portion of this debate has been occupied by Ministerial supporters in dealing with the scheme itself, which, as the Prime Minister has already pointed out, was unanimously agreed to some ten days ago. Consequently, there was no need to discuss it at all. Of course, these remarks do not apply to the Honorary Minister. I think that he was fairly entitled, as our representative at the Imperial Conference, to place before us hisown views on the subject. I only regret that out of the Ministerial party of forty he was never favoured with the presence of more than a dozen listeners’. It was a very poor compliment to pay him.
– There are fifteen Ministerial supporters present now.
– And the Honorary Minister has concluded his speech.
– There were only three’ members of the Opposition present while he was speaking.
– The Opposition are not bound to provide a House for the Honorary Minister. It was a poor compliment which his own side of the House paid to him. They paid a similarly poor compliment to members of their own party when the latter were discussing the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill. At one period during that discussion, only ten Ministerial supporters were present. Of course, they have to do as “they are told, but they might have paid the Honorary Minister, who was our representative at the Imperial Conference, the compliment of listening to him. I make no complaint about the Ministers having occupied any time to-day. He was entitled : LU put his views before us. But other honorable members were not entitled to waste time in debating a scheme which has already been approved by the House. It seems to me that the only question which we now have to consider is whether the proper method of raising this money is by loan. Had the debate been confined to that, it would have terminated last night. I regret that when we are about to start to build an Australian Navy we should have recourse to raising the necessary funds by loan. I was glad to hear the Honorary Minister frankly acknowledge that Great Britain was going to pay for this fleet. I think that in accepting their money we are adopting a very extraordinary method of taking upon ourselves our full share of Imperial responsibility in the matter of defence. The Treasurer stated that this proposal to strengthen the Fleet of the Empire was one which recognised to the full our Imperial responsibilities. But how are we recognising them ? We are asking the Mother Country to pay for the vessels of the Australian unit. The Treasurer has himself pointed out that, under this agreement, we shall get £250,000 a year from the Mother Country, in addition to which we shall be relieved of the payment of the naval subsidy of £200,000 annually for the future. That makes a total of £450,000 a year, so that, in reality, we shall be getting from the Imperial authorities more than sufficient to pay interest and provide a sinking fund upon the proposed loan. In, other words, the Mother Country is going to pay for the ships to which we proudly point as our contribution towards Imperial defence
– The honorable member misunderstood me.
– I did not. The HonoraryMinister made a similar statement. He did not attempt to cover it up, because he knew that he could not. He frankly stated the position.
– I said that the scheme would cost us £350,000 per annum more than we pay now.
– The Treasurer took credit in his figures for both the £250,000 and £200,000 ; he said that the cost of the scheme was £785,000 a year. He added -
When the annual Imperial contribution of £250,000 a year is allowed for, it would be seen that the amount the fleet unit would cost us was £535,000 a year, and allowing for the present contribution of £200,000 a year, it meant £335,000 a year more than was paid atpresent.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15p.m.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– As I have already said, it cannot be rightly contended that in the proposal before the House we are recognising to the full our Imperial responsibilities, seeing that, as the Honorary Minister has pointed out, the British Government is to contribute towards the upkeep of the proposed fleet £250,000 a year, which will more than pay interest and the contribution to the sinking fund. In my opinion, our people, as Australians, and as members of the British Empire, are enthusiastic patriots, and quite ready to provide for a fleet at their own expense. I have arrived at that conclusion from the expressions of opinion which I have heard in travelling through the country. During the last three years, and at the time of the last election, whenever I advocated provision for defence being made solely by direct taxation on all kinds of wealth, no one objected to the suggestion, and on one occasion, to my intense surprise, halfadozen very Conservative land-holders said that they would be prepared to pay a land tax if the proceeds were to be devoted wholly to defence purposes. Personally, I cannot see why other sources of wealth as well as land should not be taxed. I advocate direct taxation on all forms of wealth for defence purposes. The wealth of Australia is estimated at £1,200,000,000, and its oversea trade at from , £100,000,000 to£120,000,000. We should therefore be able to provide by direct taxation on that wealth for its defence, as well as for the defence of Our lives and institutions. There is no need for a loan. Ministers tell usthat only , £500,000 will be needed next year. They must have known weeks ago, by cablegram, what amount would be required, and surely have enough ability to propound a scheme of direct taxation to obtain the necessary funds. We were told that they came into office to re-establish responsible government, and they are supported by a large majority which, we know, they can compel to do anything, because we have seen their supporters voting for measures to which they had declared themselves opposed. Any proposal which Ministers might think fit to bring forward would therefore be adopted, and could be brought into operation before the end or next year. If £500,000 is required at once, it could easily be financed, but, according to the Honorary Minister, the first instalment will not have to be paid until August. We are taking a downward step in arranging to borrow for naval defence. All the speakers on the Government side, from the Prime Minister down, have apologized for this proposal. The honorable member for Wentworth hoped that the loan would not form a precedent, and the Honorary Minister said that it should not do so. But once a thing is done it is easy to make it a precedent. The Prime Minister said that, in his opinion, we should contribute more than 5 per cent, to a sinking fund. It is rather singular that the Original proposal of the Government, as shown by the Bill, was for a sinking fund of 4 per cent. Ministers must have changed their minds in regard to this matter between the printing of the Bill and its introduction. According to my calculations, it will require £298,000 to provide interest and a sinking fund of 5 per cent., though that leaves the statement of the Honorary Minister, that the British Government is virtually finding the money for “a fleet, practically correct. I do not think that the Commonwealth is likely to contribute more than 5 per cent, to the proposed sinking fund unless its taxation is increased. In view of the payment which must be made annually to the States, the Commonwealth will have difficulty in arranging for its ordinary needs out ‘of its share of the Customs and Excise revenue. I protest against the borrowing of money for naval defence. In my opinion, there is ample time to raise what we want in some other way. It is lamentable that it should be proposed to put a seventh Australian Government borrower upon the London money market. One of the objects of Federation was to substitute one national borrower for the six State borrowers; but now it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall borrow £3,500,000 for a purpose which will not be reproductive - the object of our expenditure will, as a matter of fact, quickly deteriorate in value - and there will still be the State borrowing. There is another reason for humiliation in connexion with the proposal. It has always been the boast of the Treasurer, amongst others, that the Commonwealth could borrow at a much lower rate of interest than is paid by the States ; but- the amount of interest provided for in the Bill is that at which the States are now borrowing, namely, 31 per cent., an acknowledgment that we cannot borrow any more cheaply than the States. According to the Honorary Minister, the Admiralty reckons eighteen years as the life of a warship, and writes off enough each year to wipe out its cost within that time; but he went on to say that the improvement in engines of warfare is so rapid that it is impossible to more than estimate the life of a war vessel. If we can judge by what has taken place in the past, our fleet will be obsolete within ten years, and it is admitted that the smaller vessels, which are to cost £1,500,000, will have a still shorter life than the large vessels. It is practically certain that the Navy will be obsolete some years before the loan is paid off, a position which we cannot regard with pride or pleasure. When told that no country except Germany has borrowed to build a navy, the Honorary Minister mentioned New Zealand. As a matter of fact, New Zealand has not taken this retrograde course. Canada, we have been informed, is .prepared to put aside this year out of revenue £600,000 for the construction of war vessels. Had our finances been properly arranged, we could have easily raised £500,000 for this purpose. As I have said, the people would, from patriotic motives, agree without murmuring to direct taxation for defence. The measure is crudely drawn, and seems to have been prepared in haste. There are several provisions to which X. shall refer in detail when we get to the Committee stage. The Bill is not such as we might reasonably have expected, seeing that it is the first of its kind. Arrangements should have been made for the appointment of trustees to manage the proposed sinking fund. No time has been fixed for the redemption of the loan ; and there is rather a peculiar provision in clause 8, which leaves it entirely to the Treasurer for the time being to decide when there has been sufficient money paid into the sinking fund. The Treasurer can vary his opinion to suit the occasion ; and probably, if he strikes a bad year, he will decide that, it is wise to utilize the money that would otherwise be paid into the fund. The whole proposal seems to have been rushed, and placed before us in a crude way, without adequate provision for a sinking fund, the investment and management of which should be placed in the hands of trustees. With such a provision, we should have had a little more hope of the loan being paid off in the quickest possible time. I am enthusiastically in favour of the defence scheme ; indeed, as the Prime Minister said, the House in this regard is practically unanimous. The only difference of opinion is as to whether or not the money should be raised by loan ; and, in my opinion, such a method is wrong and unnecessary, and could have bren avoided.
– Defence and finance are subjects in which I have always taken a good deal % of interest, an interest which is enhanced on the present occasion. Considering that we are near the end of the session, I anticipate that the debate will be brought to a close without that consideration which so far-reaching a policy as that proposed necessitates. There seems to be no division of opinion as between the Government and the Opposition as to the desirability of providing an Australian Navy. The Labour party, when in office, proposed that we should have a navy c-f our own, and we have heard something to that effect also from a prior Government. We now have the proposal of .the present Government, which, in regard to the class of vessel, only differs from that of the Fisher Government. When the policy of the Fisher Government was launched, the Admiral of the Fleet in Australia bent himself double in admiration of it; and he is quite as much in favour of the present proposal ; indeed, there has never been a scheme for an Australian Navy that has not met with the general approval of the Admiralty, as voiced by the Admiral here. The question now, therefore, is really one of ways and means; and I may say that, as to the scheme in its entirety, I disagree with it, because I regard it as contrary to the principle that was laid down by the States in conference before Federation was established. That principle was begun and continued for a number of years, until the policy of the Fisher Government was enunciated in Queensland. As far back as i86r Sir Henry Parkes proposed that there should be an Australian Navy, but, as he grew in experience, he abandoned that idea and favoured the policy of a squadron provided and maintained by the British Government, the people of Australia paying a subsidy in consideration of the squadron being added to and kept efficient. Under that plan, we could not be burdened by ships ineffective for defence - by ships which are known in the navy as vessels for showing the flag. It was not until 1886, when Admiral Tryon came to Australia, and advocated an Australian navy, that any serious attention was given to the question by the people of this country. The Admiral’s suggestion was not taken up with any enthusiasm, but the ultimate result was the establishment of an auxiliary squadron, for which Australia paid a subsidy of £126,000 a year. That plan was con tinued until Sir Edmund Barton, during the Coronation ceremonies in London, met Mr. Chamberlain and the Lords of the Admiralty, who propounded a scheme, under which the vessels of the Australian squadron might, at the will of the Home authorities, be removed from Australia. That was a reversal of the principle that the Australian auxiliary ships should not be removed from these shores ; but such was the step taken by the Barton Government, of which the present Prime Minister was a member. Sir Edmund Barton strongly urged! the necessity of such a provision in the agreement, and quoted authorities which proved up to the hilt that in naval warfare - and he went as far back as Nelson - the traditional policy of Great Britain had ever been to seek the enemy in the enemy’s waters. However, I merely refer to that in passing, in order to show that the present Government have gone back on the policy of Sir Edmund Barton. While in some respects the proposals before us may be said to be a contiunation of the previous policy, they are a reversal in regard to the power to remove ships from these shores. The Naval Agreement, which came into existence in 1903, at the instigation of Sir Edmund Barton, provided for vessels very similar to those we are to have under the proposed agreement. All the conditions for which the present Government take so much credit are, almost in every line and feature, identical with those already in operation, in regard to the manning of the ships, the ships themselves, and the expenditure in Australia. We are to have one armoured cruiser, as under the old agreement ; we are to have three unarmour’ed vessels of the Bristol type, as against two second-class cruisers; there are to be six destroyers, as compared with four cruisers of the third-class ; and there are to be three submarines of the C class, as compared with four sloops. Under the proposed .arrangement there are to be thirteen vessels as compared with eleven under the old agreement, which, I may say, will continue for a couple of years longer. Of the eleven ships, however, four of them were to be practically unfit for service, one to be held in reserve and three of them to be unmanned. We are told by the Honorary Minister that the proposed force is to be Infinitely greater than the old, so that there would seem to be no limit and, notwithstanding this, we are further told that the new unit is to cost less. That to my mind is absolutely” absurd. Under the former agreement Australia was to pay fivetwelfths of the cost and New Zealand onetwelfth of the cost, Great Britain paying the other half. It was estimated that as £40,000 would be one-twelfth, the whole cost would be £480,000 a year, while the maintenance would mean £355,000, .making a total of £835,000. This was the total cost as estimated ‘by the British Government, who urged on Sir Edmund Barton that Australia should pay half. To this proposal, however, Sir Edmund was afraid to pledge Australia; and I may say that on that occasion I looked into the question very carefully and fully. The Lords of the Admiralty fixed the capital cost of the squadron at £2,500,000. If the Government refer to my speech at that time they will see how very similar the suggestions I then made are to those which they now submit for acceptance by the House. I take no credit for any special technical knowledge, but simply say that I devoted much energy and industry to the investigation and consideration of the matter. I consulted the best authorities ; and I may further say that,- in private, Sir Edmund Barton gave me some credit for what I had done. However, T find that the present proposal is on the very lines that I then advocated, not as representing merely my own opinion, but as showing what was in the minds of those competent to express one, notably Captain Mahan - the world’s greatest naval expert and’ writer on naval warfare. It was computed that the cost, including everything, would be £934,000 ; and yet we are told that the proposed squadron, which is to be much greater in power and includes a first-class battleship of the Indomitable type, is .to be supplied for less, by £200,000. The British Government estimate the cost of naval defence on a system, taking into account the value of the trade they have to protect. Half of the Australian trade was with Great Britain, and the Home authorities took the view that, having equal interest with themselves, we should pay half the cost. Now, half the cost of the’ protection of half of our total trade is practically one-quarter of the cost of the British Fleet in Australian waters; and yet the British Government, under the new arrangement, have offered to pay us £250,000 per annum. Does it not show that the Admiralty estimates the annual cost at £1,000,000? No thanks are due to the British Government, who are simply defending the Britisher’s trade here as they would wherever the flag flies. That is their policy, but they say, and have said to us since 1886, when Admiral Tryon made a live question of naval defence in Australia: “The duty of Australia is to defend her trade to its full extent.” As, however, we were a young community, and it was urged that we were developing our country, and had many avenues awaiting our energies and resources, they added : “ But as you have so much to do in the way of making markets, we will provide more, although we do not think we should provide more than half the cost.” That has been their policy from the beginning and is their policy to-day. At the end of last year, and notably at the beginning of this, there was a wave of enthusiasm throughout Australia in favour of increasing the strength of the British Navy in the North Sea, because the Continental countries were waking up to the fact that if they could get more first class battleships they would make themselves really more powerful than Great Britain. I was astonished to find, in looking into this matter carefully, that when the first Naval Agreement was entered into, the ships in Australian waters were merely ships for showing the flag. They were subsequently scrapped ; in fact, the long list of ships which I gave in the speech to which I have referred were absolutely worthless for any purpose other than showing the flag. Up to the moment that Sir John Fisher went to the .Admiralty as First Sea Lord”, Great Britain was not equal to a great battle at sea to anything like the same degree that she became in the first twelve months after his advent. It was Sir Percy Scott whogave an impetus to the naval movement in Great Britain. He insisted, so far as ‘his ship was concerned, upon target practice, and it outstripped every other in the percentage of hits. It was’ said that that was a mere fluke, and he was removed to another ship that was most inefficient, but in next to no time that ship oustripped all the others, including the one that he had formerly commanded. The authorities then began to wake up to the fact that the British sailor was evidently not a marksman. Admiral Scott was placed in authority by Sir John Fisher to make the Navy efficient in marksmanship, and he eminently succeeded. The matter was investigated, and a newspaper was established in England to advocate the neces- sity for greater efficiency in target practice on British warships. The fact was disclosed that while a given period was allowed for target practice, it was the custom the moment that period expired to put overboard the shots not used. In fact, a most scandalous state of things came to light as the result of the movement in Great Britain for increased efficiency. In Australia, we were very far from having an efficient service, as I have shown. The Minister says that the new ships will have a life of eighteen years. Nonsense ! We are not a power like Great Britain. She would have a much longer life for her ships, because she has outposts where the flag must fly, and she can use her obsolete vessels for that purpose. The ships belonging to Continental powers that come here are merely for showing the flag, and are useless for war purposes. The ships that have, hitherto been stationed in Australia have been used merely for training officers and men, and for flying the flag. The flag when flown by an insignificant gunboat commands as much respect as if flown by a Dreadnought, because it represents the Dreadnought that is in other seas. It stands tor the power and prestige of Great Britain, but Australia requires no ships for showing the flag. She requires up-to-date and efficient war vessels. While I believe that we should have efficient defence, and an auxiliary squadron equal to any other wing of the fleet, I hold, at the same time, that the plan that has been adopted, of raising £3,500,000 in the money market on bonds in order to buy our own ships, which will soon become worthless old iron, is the wrong plan. lt is suicidal to borrow money to provide ships for which we shall have no use after a lapse of seven or eight years. It is the work of the prodigal in. finance.
– And the incompetent.
– .Yes. The case of the South American Republics, especially the Argentine, is on all-fours with that of Australia. The Argentine is the only place where the British were beaten, and never went back for their flag. We once owned the Argentine. That Republic now spends £1,000,000 odd a year on defence. The population is slightly greater than our own, but they have a country very similar to ours to defend. Including maintenance, it costs them more than £1,000,000 a year, but the reason they are satisfied with the expenditure of only £200,000 or ,£300,000 above the million is that they are protected under the Monroe doctrine of the United States. But for that it would be necessary for them to have greater naval defence, for under normal conditions they have only to consider the necessity of defending themselves against other Republics like Chili or Brazil. The Monroe doctrine will not allow even Great Britain to touch them. The South American Republics, therefore, are not in the position of small unprotected countries that must have expensive and extensive defence. The small European countries cannot be great naval as well as great military powers, because they have no use for their ships as they become obsolete. Great Britain, on the other hand, requires ships for showing the flag throughout her oversea Empire. We are in a position somewhat similar to that of the South American Republics, inasmuch as we have the protection of Great Britain. It would be quite sufficient if we continued the policy that was approved of by all the Colonies years ago. We should reaffirm the policy of having an auxiliary squadron in addition to the squadron which polices the Pacific. We had a squadron exclusively our own, which was not to leave Australia. That was the idea of Sir Henry Parkes, approved by every Colony in Australia. We could have said to Great Britain - and she almost, put the words into our mouths - “ We are prepared to pay a full half of the cost.” She said to us, “ We will pro* vide you with whatever you want, and tell you what we think you require. It will cost £900,000 for upkeep, and we think you should pay ‘half, we providing the ships and paying 4 per cent, into a sinking fund.” She could do it at 4 per cent., because she has a use for her obsolete ships, but we have no use for them, and consequently, so far as we are concerned, the life of a warship is more like eight than eighteen years, while for some of them it is not even that. The life of destroyers such as we are introducing now will be much less. The broad outline of the policy of having an auxiliary fleet for Australia - call it, if you like, an Australian unit - is really not to be changed. It is only playing with words to call it an Australian unit. The scheme is exactly the same as that now in existence, under which the main fleet is in Chinawaters, with one wing in the East Indies, and the other wing in Australian waters.
The sphere of influence of each wing was defined in the first agreement, and is,’ I presume, defined also. in the new agreement. The existing agreement is, in principle, simply the, agreement that we are now asked to affirm. -The sending of a representative from Australia to London, therefore, has accomplished absolutely nothing so far as naval defence is concerned. I have not looked fully into the question of what may have been done upon the military side, but upon the naval side the Government have achieved absolutely nothing that was not already done. No credit is due to the Government, for this is merely a continuation of the old policy of Great Britain of giving Australia a wing of her Eastern Fleet. The only new feature of the scheme is that, instead of Great Britain finding the money at 3 per cent., we say that we will find it at 3^ per cent., and, instead of Great Britain saying, “ We can use up the obsolete portions of the fleet, and can therefore finance the business at 4 per cent, for a sinking fund,” we say that we must put the vessels on the scrap-heap as they wear out, or sell them. When a warship is sold, it brings, according to the Admiralty estimate, only one-twentieth of its first cost, and, in cur circumstances, while Great Britain could finance the scheme at 4 per cent., we cannot do it for less than 10 per cent. The Government say that this more ambitious scheme will cost us but £750,000 a year, -but Great Britain, with all her advantages, says she cannot finance the present smaller fleet for less than £900,000 a year, which is the present cost. The first cost of the new squadron will be £3,500,000, which is £1, 000, 000 in excess of the cost of the existing fleet. The Admiralty estimates that it will cost ,£1,000,000 a year to maintain - in interest, sinking fund, and upkeep. What is more, in considering the defence of a country like Australia, Great Britain takes other powers as a criterion. What has she to defend us against? If we look to the experience of the Argentine Republic, we shall be able to form a very fair estimate of what the cost of this fleet will be. The Honorary Minister said to-day that the offer of a Dreadnought to Great Britain had a remarkable effect upon the people of the Old Country. That cannot be gainsaid. It showed that Australia was alive to the fact that Great Britain needed in the North Sea more Dreadnoughts than she had there. It was the policy of the Home Government to put no more warships on the stocks, and they were disinclined to accept even a Dreadnought from Australia, in view of their policy that more were not required. It was for that reason that they were at first chary about accepting our offer, but the correspondence shows that they allowed neither New Zealand nor Australia to drift in this matter. It has been said that we are giving Great Britain the equivalent of a Dreadnought, but that is not so.
Colonel Foxton. - The Admiralty think differently.
– The Admiralty will say “ Thank you” for whatever we propose or say. ‘ They told Sir Edmund Barton, in 1903, that they, thought Australia should contribute £450,000 per annum by way of a naval subsidy, but when he replied that he could not undertake to ask the Commonwealth Parliament to agree to a contribution of more than £200,000 per annum, they replied, ‘ ‘ Thank you ; we are satisfied.” Great Britain’s policy is not to offend Australia. She has 60 per cent, of our trade,, and would de- . fend Australia, even if we were not pre- ‘ pared to do so. But let Great Britain have a smaller proportion of our trade than have foreign countries, and she will say, “ We send our warships where our trade is.”
– The bondholders would complain.
– One cannot speak of trade without speaking of bonds.
– The honorable member thinks that patriotism is a matter, of trade.
– Not altogether, but the one is bound up with the other. The money lender represents trade; ships represent trade, and the prestige of Great Britain also represents trade. Who are the money lenders of Great Britain? They are in reality an aggregation of the poor, the lower middle, the middle, and the upper class, but the upper classes of Great Britain are not like the moneyed class of the United States of America. We -need not discuss such matters at this stage. This is one of the last speeches, if not the last speech, that I shall make in this Parliament, unless I again secure the confidence of my constituents.
– There is no doubt about that, is there?
– I think not. Parliament must dissolve by effluxion of time ; but greater men than we have left Parliament never to return. I expect to be returned, but this may be my last speech in the present Parliament, and I feel that I am discussing now one of the greatest questions that has engaged our attention. The British Admiralty say that the maintenance of the present squadron on this station costs £900,000 odd a year. The Honorary Minister told us that, compared with the new fleet, that squadron is insignificant, and yet in the same breath he says that the new naval unit would cost £150,000 per annum less than does the present squadron. That is nonsense. It will cost at least , £1,000,000 per annum, apart altogether from the contribution to the sinking fund. We have made no provision to “ police “ the sinking fund. The Treasurer may come along at any moment and grab the amount to the credit of the fund, saying, “ We have confidential information from the Admiralty which I cannot disclose, and I must have this money to provide for the construction of submarines,” and so on. In the end, we shall have a shortage amounting to millions.
– We ought to build most of these vessels here.
– That is a point to which I desire to refer. The Admiralty have freely assented to whatever we have proposed. Under the Barton Naval Agreement, we said that the ships must be manned by Australians, and that the money for their upkeep should be expended, as far as possible, in Australia. The Admiralty promptly replied, “ Very well. If we stipulated that as far as possible the vessels of the new squadron should be built in Australia, the Admiralty would say “ Very well, we shall do our best to give effect to your desire.”
– We should make such a stipulation merely to assist the Mother Country, and quite apart from any question of trade.
– That is so. The adoption of such a course would mean the creation of a new national outpost dock, large enough for all emergencies. Under this agreement the Admiralty say that all the docks in Australia are to be taken over by the Commonwealth, so that we shall become possessed of Garden Island. As the honorable member for Dalley has said, we ought to have told the Admiralty that, in our opinion, every small ship, and, indeed, every large vessel of the fleet should be built in Australia. Let us take up a national responsibility. In Great Britain there are many large shipbuilding firms who would readily establish branches here if they were told “ There is trade in Australia.” If there were in the agreement a provision that the vessels of the new fleet should be built here, they would be built here. The British Government would find the money at 3 per cent., and spend it here.
– Even now we could build a number of these vessels in Australia.
– That is so. After all, this is the policy of the Free Trader.
– What is?
– The policy that I advocate. The policy of the Free Trader is to make locallyeverything that can profitably be made locally, and I hold that we could build warships in Australia. The demand, once created, will be met. These vessels will have to be renewed from time to time, and Great Britain would take away the worthless ones, as she has done before. She is constantly “ scrapping.” In a few days one of the largest vessels on the Australian station will be sent away, and will be replaced, probably, by a more powerful one. Great Britain sent us more powerful ships than she engaged to do under the existing agreement.
– But in any event the vessels would ultimately have to be “ scrapped.”
– The delegates to the Conference of 1886 agreed that Australia should become responsible for the payment of £126,000 per annum in respect of interest and sinking fund charges on the cost of the Auxiliary Squadron. In that case, Great Britain found the money for the construction of the vessels, and we provided for the interest and sinking fund. That is what we ought to do now. Great Britain can borrow at 3 per cent., and “ scrap “ and maintain with a 4 per cent. sinking fund. We cannot do so. The Treasurer says that a 5 per cent. payment to the sinking fund will be sufficient, but any one who has looked into the matter will agree that it will require nothing less than a 10 per cent. contribution to maintain an effective naval squadron in Australian waters. The Government proposal does not call for much elation. The Prime Minister’s speech yesterday was a re-hash of a speech made by Sir Edmund Barton in connexion with the agreement that he asked this Parliament to accept. The figures of speech which the Prime Minister used were employed then by Sir Edmund Barton. He said that the new ships would be able to blow the auxiliary squadron out of the water. That is what Sir Edmund Barton said in comparing the present ships with the former squadron. The Prime Minister always speaks well, but his speech was a re-hash of that delivered ‘by Sir Edmund Barton in moving for the acceptance of the naval agreement. Sir Edmund Barton moved on that occasion with much trepidation. He could not trust the Opposition, and feared that his proposal would not be carried. He found, however, that we were as one man in favour of naval defence, as is this Opposition. The Government have nothing to fear in regard to defence proposals. When the Fisher Government announced its defence policy, it made a master stroke. Those who were members of that Government are as well able as others to read human nature. They knew that their scheme would receive the imprimatur of the Commonwealth. Let me now say a word or two regarding the question of cost. The Government will not be able to find the money which is needed to successfully finance this naval scheme. The expenditure on old-age pensions, to say nothing of that on invalid pensions, which Ministers must provide for if the Government are to continue in existence, will be £1,000,000 more than it is now. The expenditure on military defence will be from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 more than it is now, and the expenditure on naval defence will be, say, £800,000. That gives a total of approximately £3,300,000 ; while, under the financial agreement the revenue will be £2,273,000, showing that the Government will be short of £1,000,000 per annum on the present income.
– At the very least.
– I am confident that it is so. If the Minister is correct in his forecast, the deficiency should be reduced bv £500,000. The Government has been hoist with its own petard. Ministers adopted the proposals of the Opposition in regard to military and naval defence. I admit that the Prime Minister was formerly in favour of this course, but I was not. T favour the variation which T have explained, and which the Lords of the Admiralty were willing to continue.
However, the party closed its ranks. It said, ‘ 1 We will sink our differences and arrange for an Australian navy, borrowing the money. “ But they made their calculations without consulting the Treasurer. In big things the right honorable member for Swan is a big man, though in small things he is a failure. His water supply scheme will keep his memory green when some of us are dead and forgotten politically. Had he been consulted, he would have told the members of the party that they were on the wrong track. He would have said, “ Continue what the Premiers did in 1886. Then we shall be able to manage.”
– The honorable member voted for an arrangement for a term of years.
– I desired another shuffle of the cards with regard to the financial agreement referred to. I have on record a scheme which I could not get adopted, but if there were another shuffle of the cards, the public might accept it. . In that event justice could be done to the great State of New South Wales, whose interests I am proud to represent. The Treasurer will be able to tell us fairly enough next year that the Government will be ,£1,000,000 short. No doubt they think that many things will happen before then. They are reciprocating the action of the Fisher Government in throwing on their successors the responsibility of finding ,£1,000,000. It is the kind of , reciprocity which means financial ruin, and is sure to kill the Government in the end. They have still a deficiency of .£1,000,000 to face.
– They will propose duties on tea and kerosene.
– They have that proposal up their sleeve. No doubt in that way they could raise a large sum. But such a thing would not be popular. Nor will taxation on property generally, or on landed property, be popular. Ministers are face to face with financial confusion, and a deficiency which will continue over a. number of years. They have shown us how they handle millions. The sum of £600,000 is to be given to them by the States, to meet the present deficiency. Then they will take a mortgage on the revenue that will be in their hands. The Prime Minister admitted that in the florid speech which he made in moving the adoption of the financial agreement. If honorable members look through the finan- cial proposals of the Government, everything will be very clear to them. They will be £1,000,000 short, and the Treasurer proposes to tate it from the revenue which will be received, but not payable until after June. When he has got the country to adopt the agreement, and has £2,500,000 or a little less in his possession, he will be able to accommodate himself with £1,000,000 out of that. Peter will be made to pay Paul. It is that kind of juggling with figures that is proposed. A certain sum is required to pay to those who are going to build the proposed ships a ‘deposit which will enable them to start operations.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– The financial agreement is unsound. I showed that that is so. This proposal could be made sound by continuing the policy to which the Colonial Premiers were a party in ;i886, allowing the British Government to raise the money at 3 per cent., which would save us from having to pay 31 per cent.
– The honorable member proposes to put the burden on the Old Country. -
– We would pay the money as’ we do now, interest and principal together, in annual contributions. I do not agree with those who say that, because we are going under the Government proposal to pay back the money borrowed in a given number of years, the British Government is finding the money. Nothing of the kind. We are finding it; but shall take several years to pay it back. That was the position of the British Government. They had the responsibility of raising the money, and could still use their credit to better advantage than we can use ours.
– Does the honorable member think the British Government can get money more cheaply than we can?
– It can get money at 3 per cent.
Colonel Foxton. - If the honorable member means money for the ships, that is impracticable. I said so in my speech.
– A few months ago the financiers: of England offered the Government, millions free of interest for naval defence. Over £100,000,000 are being raised by Great Britain to-day at 3 per cent, to pay off the debt to the landowners of Ireland.
Colonel Foxton. - Does the honorable member know what the bonds are worth in the open market? They are at £85. i am talking of the same millions as the honorable member refers to.
– The Honorary Minister has not looked into this matter. The bonds I refer to are 3 per cents. The raising and finding of money are two different things. The man who finds the money is the underwriter. We pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to the underwriters. The Bank of England and the Westminister Bank will claim a percentage on the £3,500,000 which we propose to borrow, and if the debts of the States were transferred to us, they would, as they have already intimated, require a commission on £250,000,000. But Great Britain can get money at 3 per cent. She has been offered tens of millions of pounds for naval construction. They are in earnest there. That is why I say that Australia should have given a Dreadnought. Read the summary of what took place at the Conference. ‘ New Zealand said to the Admiralty, “ We have offered a Dreadnought, and a Dreadnought we will give.” The Australian representative said, “ We will give the equivalent of a Dreadnought.” I say that you have not done it. All you are going to do is to defend your own country. As a taxpayer, I would have given a Dreadnought costing £2,000,000, and provided for some scheme of defence like this in addition. That is what the people think should be done. I saw working men in moleskins, with straps round their trousers below their knees, walk up to a table and put down money for the Dreadnought fund. That shows the interest which the poorest in the community take in defence, and the spirit that animates them. At the time I proposed - and it was not popular - that the Government and not the people should find the money. I admired the spirit of the poor men who were ready to give money which they could not well afford to part with.
– Under what pressure?
– There was no pressure. This is too big a subject for the honorable member. There are honorable members who laugh to. scorn these people, who, if their lives were wanted, would say, “ They are in your hands..”’ As soon as we are convinced that there is: necessity for blood or gold, we are- prepared to give either, or both, in the interests of the Empire-. I am confident that in, the not far-distant future, the method of raising money will be once more reversed, and the Admiralty’s plan again embraced.
– The honorable member ought to try to stop the present method.
– It is too late in the session to talk of doing that. I suppose I am the only one here who has taken the particular line of thought to which I have given expression, though it is not mine alone, but was the unanimous thought, so to speak, of Australia up to within a very short period. I suppose it would be impossible to curb the present desire, for an Australian Navy, constructed out of borrowed money. We must remember, however, that to every tide there is an ebb - that though the tide is flowing now, it will ebb byandby, to the benefit, I hope, of Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that the whole of the cost should be met out of Customs revenue?
– A political economist, who had greater influence in Australia than any other, once said that we should never borrow ; and he was asked how the money should be obtained, he said he had a scheme by which money could otherwise be raised In a young country like Australia, ,£2,000,000 a year for naval defence is too much to raise from the taxpayer; and I shall oppose at every turn the idea of using the Customs House for this purpose. It seems to be the general opinion that the money should be raised in this way ; but I hope to see a reaction, and some method adopted more consistent with our requirements, and more equitable in its incidence. ‘Mr. CHANTER (Riverina) [3. 34].- I do not intend to take up any length of time, or to touch more than incidentally on the rival schemes, as they may be termed, of the Fisher Government and the present Government. ‘ I regard the Bill before us as representing the first fruits of the-financial agreement entered into with the States. I recollect with pleasure the time when the view was held that the Commonwealth Government should be a pattern to the State Governments. It was felt that, though the time might come when it would be absolutely necessary to borrow for reproductive works, there had been too much borrowing in the past, and, with the full approval, I believe, of Australia, it was resolved that the bad example of the States should1 not be followed. When the financial agreement was before us I could see that the result would be, not only to leg-rope or hobble the Commonwealth, but also to leg-rope or hobble the Government - that if the agreement were adopted it would be impossible at present, and still more in the future, to finance the Commonwealth without resorting to loans. The Government are crippled now, and, unless Providence intervenes, they must in the near future be slaughtered. We were told that the financial agreement would mean a gift to the Commonwealth from the States of ,£600,000, and we were further told by the Treasurer that, under the new arrangement, we shall save ,£2,500,000. No one knows better than, the Treasurer that, in view- of the requirements of the Commonwealth, the necessity for a different kind of agreement with the States could have been demonstrated to the people at the next election. The honorable member for Robertson, who gives more thought anc” study to these questions than most of us. and to whom I always listen with great pleasure, has pointed out some of the financial difficulties with which the Government have to cope; and I ask the Treasurer, where is the necessity to borrow £3,500,000, in view of the saving under the financial agreement, and also under the new naval arrangement?
– The honorable member has evidently not studied the balance-sheet !
– I have studied the balance-sheet, and I know that it shows a deficit of .£1, 200,000 to-day. As the honorable member for Robertson clearly pointed out, we are likely to land in a difficulty from which we shall hot easily extricate ourselves.
– We are in difficulties now.
– If so, there was all the more necessity for keeping control of the finances, instead of entering into the agreement with the States. If the ,£2,500,000 saved is not to be utilized for the purpose of naval defence, for what is it to be utilized? We have only the Treasurer’s statement’, and the documents laid before us, to guide us as to the financial position of the Commonwealth; but we all know that this saving of .£2,500,000 must be a decreasing one, owing to the fact that, with the addition of every unit to the population, there must be a payment of 25s. to the States. The Prime Minister last night told us that this Bill is absolutely necessary in order to save a loss of six months. As a matter of fact, however, the new Parliament will meet within the six months; and if ever there was a question that ought to be submitted to the people for the guidance of their representatives, it is this. But there is something more behind the proposal of the Government; and it is no wonder that we are suspicious.
– Dishing the Labour party, is that it?
– I am not now thinking of the Labour party or any other party. Would any delay be dangerous? Have not the ships been ordered?
Colonel Foxton. - No.
– Are they not on the stocks now ?
Colonel Foxton. - No.
– I think the honorable member is wrong. I recollect that, before the Fisher Government left office, they entered into a contract for a portion of the fleet which is on the stocks now.
Colonel Foxton. - Does the honorable member mean the three destroyers?
Colonel Foxton. - Of course, they are being completed, but they are very little ones.
-It does not matter whether they are small or large - the contract has been entered into, and the ships are being built.
Colonel Foxton. - No.
– The Honorary Minister a moment ago admitted that these vessels are being built, and said that they are only little ones. The fact remains that this contract has been entered into, and the nucleus of the fleet is being formed. This agreement, if entered into, will bind the country to the construction of this particular class of ships ; and I ask whether they are to be built to-morrow or next week, and whether ‘the money has to be found within the next six months? ‘
Colonel Foxton. - Some of it.
– Then I say that the money is already provided.
Colonel Foxton. - No.
– The order was given by the Fisher Government, and the money is ready now.
Colonel Foxton. - Will the honorable member permit me? The £250,000 will pay for the three destroyers which are now being built and nearing completion ; but these vessels have nothing to do with the rest. The Indomitable will take two and a half years to build ; and, if we go on with the agreement, we shall have to spend about £500,000 before the 30th June next.
– That exactly meets my statement that, as provision has already been made to meet the work entered into, it would not be possible for claims of any magnitude to be made upon the Commonwealth Treasury in connexion with the £3,500.000 within the next six months.
Colonel Foxton. - Yes; about half -a - million pounds.
– The honorable member has just said “before June next.” ‘
Colonel Foxton. - Call it eight months, then. I am not going to quibble over a matter of two months.
– Then the fact remains that the new Parliament will meet in this chamber early next year, before any money is required.
Colonel Foxton. - Yes; half-a-million.
– I fail to see it. There will be no money required before the new Parliament meets, other than what is already provided to meet the liabilities entered into by the Fisher Government.
Colonel Foxton. - Undoubtedly there will be. *
– I utterly fail, to see it.
Colonel Foxton. - I explained that in my speech.
– I was unable to be present when the honorable member spoke ; but I understand that the payments are to be spread over three years.
Colonel Foxton. - Two and a half years.
– Then it will be two and a half years before the whole liability is met.
Colonel Foxton. - At the rate of about * half-a-million per half-year, payable monthly.
– That would be a million a year. I say unhesitatingly, therefore, that the Government have no right to depart from the determination of the Commonwealth Parliament in the past by resorting to a loan to meet the cost of .a navy. On their own shoeing, by the financial agreement entered into with the States, they are saving £2,500,000 per annum, and out of that they could take £1,000,000 per annum to meet their liabilities in connexion with naval defence. On the other hand, they have to find, perhaps, another £500,000 for old-age pensions, and perhaps one or two other sums but, according to their own showing, they could have, and should have, financed this scheme without resorting to a loan. My contention must be right,, if figures and statements are worth anything, especially when they come from such an authority as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
– It is right ; they could have done it without raising the loan.
– What are the Government going to do with this money ? I agree with the honorable member for Robertson and others that if the question could be submitted, untrammelled by party ties or considerations, to the people, in a direct form, such as - “Are you in favour of defending Australia by means of contributions by yourselves, or do you favour borrowing money to meet the cost, and leaving posterity to pay for it?” - there would be an overwhelming majority in favour of the first course.
– That would not be a fair way to put it, unless it was intimated that it was intended to impose direct taxation.
– Everybody in Australia knows that expenditure means taxation of somekind. It would, therefore, have been fair to ask the people, “Are you in favour of borrowing money for this non-productive work, or. do you favour some form of taxation to meet the necessary expenditure? “ The Treasurer spoke of defence expenditure as a form of insurance. It certainly is an insurance, being a protection for the lives and property of Australia; but what property-holder would dream of borrowing money for the insurance of his property? Every man would so arrange his affairs that his property or business would find the amount necessary to pay the insurance upon it. In the first place, there is no necessity for the Government to resort to a loan, and in the second place, the fact that they have entered into an agreement with the State Premiers which, by their own showing, will give them command within this period of about £7,500,000, which otherwise thev could not have handled, intensifies and supports my argument that the scheme ought to be financed out of revenue. A few words in conclusion in regard to the two systems, and we must not forget that this question will be put to the people at the election. The Fisher Government submitted to the public a pro posal which I know met the views of every member of the old party with which I wasassociated. lt was that the navy should be an Australian Navy, for the Australian people, financed with Australian money, and under Australian control. But is this to be our navy at all? I am told that the honorable member for Brisbane said in his speech that, as a matter of finance, we are actually going to receive more from England in the shape of an annual grant of£250,000 than would meet the interest and sinking fund upon the cost of the navy. That, absolutely puts us in theposition of getting, not an Australian Navy at all. but a navysupplied by the money of the Old Country, to be placed and kept under the control of the British Admiralty, against the wishes of Australia.
Colonel Foxton. - No ; that is utterly at variance with the fact. It is to beabsolutely under the control of the Commonwealth.
– What is the use of quibbling about words? Of what value to us is the control of the Navv in time of peace ? The whole value of the control! is in time of war, when we want the ships to defend Australia.
Colonel Foxton. - We can keep it inAustralian waters in time of war. It is to be under the control of the Commonwealth until it is placed by the Commonwealth Government at the disposal of the Admiralty. The Commonwealth Government can do that or not, as thev choose.
– I am very glad to hear it.
Colonel Foxton. - It is in black and white in the agreement.
Mr.CHANTER.- I understand now that if the Australian Parliament says, “We want to keep these ships for defencepurposes,” the British Admiralty cannot take them away from us.
Colonel Foxton. - That is quite correct.
– If it is so, I waivethat objection to the scheme. I never had any objection to trusting the Australian Parliament, because I believe that, whenthe times comes, if Parliament recognises the necessity for the ships leaving our shores for some other part of the world, it will not hesitate five minutes before giving its consent.
Colonel Foxton. - Hear, hear ! And the Admiralty looks at the matter in the samelight.
– I am glad to know it. If this is to be an Australian Navv worthy of the name, it must be under the control of the people to whom it is supposed to belong. The Government might consider, even now, whether it would not be well ‘to withdraw the Bill and let the people consider it. Let the people weigh the whole consequences to them of the Commonwealth embarking on a loan policy. This will form a precedent, and we do not know where it will stop. If the people consider the whole issue from every point of view, then whatever Government is in power after the election will be armed a hundredfold, because they will know what the wishes of the people are. There has been no mandate on this question. The. only issue ever submitted to the people in regard to naval defence was that submitted bv the Fisher Government. The people approved of that, but the present Government have no mandate for entering upon a borrowing policy. The last Government did not propose to borrow. Through their Prime Minister they told the people throughout Australia - and the people approved of it - that the Australian Navy which was to be built was to be financed out of revenue, and that the necessary money was to be obtained by way of taxation.
Mr. Tilley Brown. Special taxation on a class.
– As defence is for. the protection of property as well as of lives, those who possess the most property ought to pay the most -towards the cost of defence. If the honorable member calls that class taxation he is welcome to his definition of it. Those that have the most to defend should contribute the most. It is cowardly on our part to say that in a matter of this kind we will load posterity with a further debt of .£3,500,000 in addition to the .£275,000,000 of indebtedness already incurred by the States. I believe the people will resent it. I believe, as the honorable member for Robertson put it, that on this occasion the Government have not correctly interpreted the feelings of the people.
– Did I say that?
– Yes”, I heard the honorable member say so.
– I think that in matters of defence the people will swallow almost anything
– In matters of defence, as in everything else, the people are intelligent when the question is intelligently put to them. My experience of the people of New South Wales is that they think it would be ruinous to their future interests to increase the loan obligations of the Commonwealth.
– To increase them unnecessarily. I think what is required could be done without borrowing.
– Undoubtedly. I am opposed to the loan proposal. I have always been opposed in the State as well as in the Commonwealth Parliament to an extravagant system of borrowing, and I am very sorry that we are now creating in the Commonwealth Parliament a precedent which will no doubt be followed in the future, against the real interests of the people. 1 only hope that at the last moment common sense will prevail and that either the Government will withdraw the measure or the representatives of the people in this Chamber will be patriotic enough to throw it out and leave the question to be submitted to the people.
– I had not intended to address myself to this question, because of my anxiety to see the business of the session dealt with as soon as possible; but in view of speeches made by honorable members opposite, I feel it necessary to state the other side. I am largely in accord with some of the remarks that have just been made by the honorable member for Riverina. I entered this Parliament absolutely pledged to oppose a borrowing policy, for I did not believe it wise to create in Australia a seventh borrowing power. It was said that, in all human probability, there would be a limitation of State borrowing; but that prophesy has not been fulfilled, and to-day we are called upon to launch a new form of indebtedness on the part of the’ Commonwealth. Whatever may have been my position two or three years ago in regard to a Commonwealth borrowing policy, we must all recognise that circumstances alter cases. I have closely watched the financial drift of the Commonwealth that has been going on for some time, and no one can say that it has been the fault of honorable members on this side of the House. The nation’s necessities have become more acute than they were a year or two ago. At any time, there may be a disruption in Europe, and it is necessary that we should make provision for our defence. Of late years the expenditure of the Commonwealth has been enormously increased. The payment of old-age pensions, the growing necessities of the various Departments, and the ‘assumption of new obligations on the part of the Commonwealth have made great demands upon our revenue. Our expenditure has increased by leaps and bounds, and it is idle to talk of our being able to provide out of revenue for a navy. The total expenditure of the Departments that we took over at the inception of Federation was £2,900,000. What is it to-day5 It has grown to such an extent that it is utterly impossible for us to provide for this naval unit out of revenue. The time is not inopportune for the Government proposals. It is necessary for us to put our. house in order, and to provide for a contingency, which, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, may be imminent. If the land tax proposed by honorable members opposite were carried into force, when would it be possible to obtain from it anything like the amount necessary to fit in with the requirements of to-day? If such a tax were imposed, what would it yield? I invite honorable members to consider for a moment what would be the cost of classifying the lands of the Commonwealth, and the time that it would take. Such a classification would be almost the work of a life time.
– The lands of New South Wales have been classified for the purposes of local taxation.
– I went through the Victorian land classification scheme, probably before the honorable member was born, and know that, even after the valuations had been completed, some years elapsed before the whole system was perfected. People have common law and other rights, and they would not permit even a Labour Government to confiscate their land. Time is the essence of this contract, and the nation that hesitated at this juncture to provide for its own defence would eventually suffer. The common honesty which honorable members must have possessed, in order to secure the confidence of their constituents, seems to have been overlooked in this discussion. Member after member has declared, “ If we had the control of our own finances there would be no difficulty about this matter.” A greater misstatement has never been uttered. To talk of this Parliament commandeering the finances of the States is to disregard the letter of the Constitution, Such a thing would be daylight robbery. The honorable member who advocated it would find himself in an awkward position when he went before con stituents consisting for the most part of those who would suffer most by the adoption of such a scheme. It would mean that the States would have to impose more direct taxation to enable them to pay their public creditors, whilst we should retain moneys that rightfully belonged to them. It would be not only disloyal to the States, but dishonest, and would be followed, in all probability, by a squandering of money on the part of the Commonwealth, such as has taken place from the inception of Federation until the present Government came into power.
– Are we not proposing to defend the property and the lives of the people of the States ?
– The honorable member misunderstands the position. I have studied the financial question for three years, and would like to ask the honorable member, “ Who crippled the finances of the Commonwealth?” I did not assist to do so, nor did my predecessor in the representation of Indi, nor any honorable member on this side of the House. We were absolutely powerless to stem the torrent of expenditure that took place whilst honorable members and others now on the Opposition side of theHouse supported a minority Government and compelled them to do much that was utterly unnecessary and absolutely opposed to the principles of the Constitution. The honorable member for Boothby said that in three years we could provide for the cost of this fleet out of revenue. Where could we obtain the necessary revenue? We have made an agreement with the Statesby which we shall effect an annual saving of£2,500,000 ; yet the honorable member for Riverina, in reply to an interjection by me, said that we should have this year a deficit of , £1,200,000. If the Government would permit my accountant to examine the books of the Commonwealth, I think I should be able to prove that the deficit, instead of being £1,200,000, was nearer £3,000,000. I hope that our business system in the future will be better than it has been, for at present it is almost impossible to say what our financial position is. Honorable members opposite, however limited as their knowledge of finance may be, ought to know that it would be impossible to provide for this fleet except in the way proposed by the Government. The honorable member for Dalley said that a loan to provide for reproductive works would be acceptable, and I should like to ask him, as the Prime Minister put it, “What more necessary work could there be in the present epoch than that of fitting ourselves to defend the Commonwealth against foreign aggression “ Our freedom and our prosperity must be an object lesson to the rest of the world, and I think that honorable members on consideration will admit that there is good reason for this proposal. I came into this House, as I have said, opposed to borrowing on the part of the CommonWealth, but circumstances do, and must for ever, alter cases. Whilst I am prepared to support this Bill I have no doubt that, should I return after the next general election to this exceedingly pleasant place - the most magnificent club in the world - my voice will be heard in opposition to. borrowing unless for reproductive purposes that commend themselves to my business mind. It is said that it is difficult for a member of Parliament to change his views, and I wish it to be understood that I have not changed mine in regard to the undesirableness of creating a seventh borrowing power in this community. But in the life of a nation from time to time special necessities arise, and in the present circumstances I shall have pleasure in supporting this Bill.
– I do not know whether there is one honorable member of the Fusion party who has not changed his opinions. The latest to speak from the Government side of the House has openly confessed that, although he intends to support this Bill, he declared at the last general election that he was opposed to borrowing. A noteworthy feature of this debate is the scanty attention that has been given to the provisions, of th’e Bill itself. The Government seem to get their measures passed either by resorting to coercion or by putting up some honorable members to draw a red herring across the path and to cloud the actual issues involved. During this debate we have had the sectarian question raised, we have had the whole history of these naval proposals discussed, and hours have been devoted to the consideration of matters concerning which there is no division of opinion. There has been little or no justification for the Bill under which it is proposed to do something which I never thought the Government would dare to do. This measure will degrade, the national life of Australia. It will be remembered that not long since honorable members opposite were opposed to the creation of an Australian Navy as proposed by the honorable member for South Sydney ; yet we now find them supporting that proposal.
– There are only four Ministerialists present. 1 think we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I have not much to say, but I wish to draw attention to matters which might be passed over altogether were it not for some of the speeches from this side of the chamber. I do not find fault with those who have been converted to a different way of thinking, because the change in their case is due to conviction. This is not the first occasion on which proposals first brought forward , at Labour Conferences have become live issues in practical politics. To two or three members of the Labour party must credit be paid for the adoption of the principle of military training. I am pleased to find Labour proposals being adopted. No doubt honorable members who have changed their views in regard to these subjects did so because they gave attention to matters which they had not previously considered. The breaking of pledges is a very different thing. For nine years the Commonwealth has set itself against borrowing, and should not change its policy until ari appeal has been made to the people. The Treasurer spoke mainly about naval defence, saying little as regards the Bill itself. What we need is a justification for the proposal to borrow to build a navy. No one has given that. We have heard a great deal about the desirability of naval defence, and the omission to justify the proposal to borrow leads me to believe that something has been hidden. I think that the honorable member for Indi let the cat out of the bag when he said that this proposal is being made to avoid the necessity for direct taxation. I am not surprised at what the honorable member said, but I was surprised to hear a politician of the experience which the Treasurer possesses say that we should borrow to build a navy because that is practically a reproductive work. By the same process of reasoning war, with all its horrors and losses, could also be regarded as reproductive. That is quite a new theory. The South Afrian war, which enabled the mine-owners of that country to bring in yellow men to work their properties, involved Great Britain in a debt of over .£200,000,000. No doubt many contractors benefited thereby, but I do not’ think that the expenditure could be said to be reproductive so far as the Old Country itself was concerned. The right honorable gentleman and the Prime Minister also spoke of the proposed expenditure as analogous to an insurance premium. Under the insurance system a number of persons contribute each a small amount from which, when losses occur, they are made good, and incidentally shareholders’ dividends are paid. The construction of a navy out of loan money is quite another thing. To make the provision for naval defence similar to insurance it would be necessary to ask the people to provide the necessary money directly. The Prime Minister, replying to an interjection of the Leader of the Opposition, spoke of the unwisdom of waiting until war occurred to borrow money. But by going into the market now we are lessening our chances of getting the assistance which we should be forced to ask for it war threatened. I should like to hear the views of Ministers regarding that contingency. The Prime Minister said that his expenditure is urgent, but did not produce satisfactory evidence of urgency. Australia has had constitutional government for more than half a century, and has existed as a Commonwealth for nine years. It is only recently, however, that her people have come to think that they should have a navy of their own. To bolster up a cause which requires a great deal of bolstering, and to coat a pill which needs a great deal of coating to make it palatable even to his followers, the Prime Minister spoke of the urgency of naval preparation, and referred to cablegrams which have been published in the newspapers. Wars have taken place even since the States federated; but if there is danger of war now, we should do more than build a naval unit. We should get ready to resist’ invasion. If we do not make our preparations now, what can we do when war comes? The Prime Minister’s statement that we could not borrow in war time contained the admission that we are not ready to defend ourselves. He certainly did not prove that this expenditure is urgent. When public opinion was becoming educated to the need of defending ourselves by the proper training and equipment of our land forces, and the establishment of a small arm and ammunition factory, the Fisher Government proposed making a commencement with the navy, and the people gave evidence of their readiness to assume these responsibilities. The honor - able member for Robertson told us of working men coming forward to subscribe to the Dreadnought fund money which they could not give without denying themselves. That is evidence that the people are prepared to pay for their own defence. We are told that the navy must be built within two and a half years. The Honorary Minister has told us how pleased they were in the Old World when it was announced that Australia had declared that she was ready to assist the Empire, and the Prime Minister of the day, the present Leader of the Opposition, cabled offering the whole of our resources. What will be said if the Government which is unfortunately in power now declares that we are too poor to do anything? The Government declare in effect that the Commonwealth is incapable of raising £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 by extra, taxation. It is admitted that only £500,000 will be required by the end of June next; and yet the Government confess, as a reason for the Bill, that the taxation could not be collected in time. We are always boasting of our magnificent, country and our go-ahead people, but it would seem that even now we are taxed up to our limit. In the debate on the financial question, when it was pointed out that in the notdistant future the agreement with the States would not leave sufficient to carry on the Government of the Commonwealth, we were assured that there were taxing powers in reserve; but as I have pointed out, we are given quite a different story now. When the first Tariff was before us, the Labour party, in the interests of the poorer classes, reduced taxation by ,£1,000,000, so that it would seem there was no objection on the part of the Barton Government, if they possibly could, to raise more than was required by that amount. Australia has advanced since then, and yet the Government have so little faith in the people that they are afraid to propose new taxation - not, be it remembered, for all time, but only for a year or two. Surely this is about the best invitation we could give to any country which happens to be casting envious eyes on Australia, and the position taken up by the Government appears to be simply silly. If we borrow money now, we shall only lessen our chances of successful loans in a time of real emergency. So far as we know, there is no provision for adding to the proposed fleet or replacing vessels ; and it surely cannot be understood that the present proposals represent all that is to be done for the naval defence of Australia. It would appear as though considerable influence had been exercised by money lenders, who see a splendid chance for advancing money to be spent on ships built by their friends. The Government have utterlyfailed to face the situation or to show any necessity for borrowing; they have succeeded only in degrading Australian nationhood, and advertising to the world that we are a helpless lot of people. This is a poor sort of story to go home to the Old Country, where the navy is provided out of revenue. Comparatively recently, the New South Wales Government abolished the income tax, which would have practically raised that State’s share of the cost of the proposed navy. That tax was abolished without any request from the well-to-do taxpayers ; and we know that in Great Britain this is the source which is always tapped when money is scarce for the navy. But apparently we can expect nothing from this helpless Fusion Government, who put up supporters to delay business until pressure is brought on others to cause them to vote against their convictions. The measure under discussion is a mere fooling of the country, and it initiates the bad policy of adopting the line of least resistance. We have not heard where the ships are to be built or by whom, and, as I have already suggested, the capitalists and their friends see a good, opportunity for profit. I suppose it is of no use making any suggestion to the Government, though I may say that the Labour Government would have carried out the work without borrowing. The sum required is not large, and no need has been proved for any haste in the building of the ships. If Australia is to prepare for its own defence, it is time we considered the advisability of starting a war chest. We remember that Germany very wisely put all the money she received as an indemnity from France into a war fund; and some step in that direction would be judicious. It is impossible to impose taxation hurriedly, or to borrow with any advantage when trouble arises, and it is unwise to borrow beforehand and have to pay interest for no return. I was utterly astonished when I heard that the Government proposed to borrow money in order to build a navy. In any case, we shall still be dependent on Great Britain for our naval defence. We know from previous experience of the steps taken by the Government to secure, a majority that this Bill must pass ; and we can only enter our protest, and appeal to the people to show their disapproval by casting out the present Administration.
.- I desire to say a few words in explanation of my position in regard to the proposal before the House. When Sir George Turner introduced a Loan Bill in June, 1902, it was for the purpose of raising money for reproductive works. I voted for that Bill ; and that is one of two votes in this Chamber that I have always regretted. I gave that vote, I may say, against my better judgment, simply on the ground that reproductive works were contemplated, and though I regard it as inexcusable, still, it might be justified on that ground. The proposal before us, however, is on quite a different plane, because defence works should always be paid out of revenue. In Great Britain, £60,000,000 odd is voted for defence purposes, and £28,000,000 for interest on old war loans, or a total of nearly £90,000,000, all out of revenue; and yet we in Australia are asked to resort to a loan for such purposes, although we are always boasting that thisis the richest country in the world. With resources only partially developed, we ought to be able to provide for all our defence requirements. It is unfortunate that our predecessors in- Australia did not tap some of those resources in a more direct way for the benefit of the community as a whole, instead of allowing them to pass into private hands. However, they were no more far-seeing than weare to-day, if this Parliament accept thepresent proposal. Had our predecessors in Australia not been very shortsighted, they would never have borrowed a single 6d. We are told now that we are in a parlous position - so parlous that we cannot defend ourselves without resorting toloan moneys. If the Government cannot devise some means without borrowing or imposing additional taxation on the poorer classes of the community, let them giveplace to a Government who can. We know that taxation will he imposed later on, when the elections are over. Up to the present, the Government have not dared to touch the question of taxation through theCustoms House - the Tariff question is dead. They promised us that all anomalies in the Tariff would be removed; but with ageneral election pending, they know that their forces being so divided, they darenot go before the country with any proposal of that nature. As scon, however, as the elections are over, we shall hear about the necessity for fresh taxation, because of our defence policy. The Government are borrowing now. A few months hence, if they have the good luck to come back with a majority - a position which I think quite impossible - they will talk about imposing extra taxation ; but that taxation will be put upon the backs of those least able to bear it, and not of those who ought to bear it. A man with a. wife and family of four children pays, at the rate of £2 10s. per head, a total sum of £15 per annum through the Customs. He is in a fairly good way of working if he gets . £150 a year. Tens of thousands are working and maintaining families on less. A man with an income of £150 a year pays, therefore, 10 per cent. of his income towards the Customs revenue in the form of indirect taxation. If honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House, who are getting £2,000 a year, were to pay 10 per cent. of their income through the Customs, they would be paying £200 per annum ; but how much do they really pay in addition to what the poor man pays ? Comparatively nothing, and some of them pay even less. The Minister of External Affairs, for instance, does not smoke or drink, so how does he contribute to the Customs? If he has three meals a day, the other fellow has the same. He may wear a little better raiment ; but he does not pay nearly as much Customs taxation as he ought to, and there are thousands of others in the same position. Those are the people from whom we should try to obtain something for this purpose. I find, from the States man’s Year-book for 1908, that the Argentine Republic, which has a population of 3,851,542, or less than that of Australia, pays about 14 per cent. of its total revenue for defence purposes, and I notice, from recent papers, that it. has lately ordered large additions to its fleet. I do not know whether any of that money is being provided from loan funds, but there is nothing to indicate that it is. I do not see why. Australia, which is in a much better position, and has much greater resources than the Argentine, should not be equally able to finance its own defence. We should do a. great deal more than we are doing. I am willing,at any time, to vote for a considerably larger amount for defence than any Government has yet asked for. I am not an alarmist; but I believe it is absolutely necessary that we should defend ourselves. A country which cannot, or is not prepared to defend itself will, sooner or later, deeply regret it. Had the Boers been prepared to defend themselves as they might have been if they had known what was coming, they would have been in a different position to-day. I do not say that they are in a bad position ; but they, would have been a free and independent people still. The same applies to Korea.
It has a population of about 20,000,000 ; but it has recently been practically captared by Japan, which is holding the reins of government very tightly, and using the people in such a w ay that even to read of the atrocities committed there, makes one’s blood boil. The Japanese are the people whom we are taught to fear as being our possible enemies and we should be prepared to meet them ; because we have thrown down the gauntlet to them - I think very properly - in preventing them from coming here. I do not think they will forget it ; and possibly they will not forgive it. We should make every preparation for defence, and spend a great deal more than we are doing. Great Britain spends£60,000,000 per annum on defence, or nearly 30s. per head of her population. We are going to spend now 14s. or 15s., and perhaps even 16s. per head, which is a comparative trifle.If the English agricultural labourer, the Scottish crofter, or the Trish peasant, can pay 30s. per annum, surely the Australian, who is in a very much better position, should be equally able to pay it. I have no sympathy with the proposal of the Government; and, although 1 know there is no hope of defeating them, with the brutal majority which they have at their back-
– Order !
– I will say that with their slavish majority they can carry this or anything else. We have had the spectacle in this House recently of measures going through, and men voting for them, who had declared that these measures were inimical to the best interests of Australia. When the whip was cracked and the division bell rang, they voted solidly with the Government. So when thismatter goes to a division, although men may in their hearts believe that it is a wrong policy for Australia to adopt, they will be found voting with Ministers.. I know that there is no hope of defeating the Government on the question ; but I intend to record my vote against the Bill, and I take this opportunity of expressing my deep regret that I should at any time in this
House have ever voted in any other direction than that in which I intend to vote to-day.
– Iamin favour of a perfect system of naval defence for Australia, but I intend to vote against the proposal of the Government to raise a loan for the purpose. Doubtless we shall be told that, in voting against the loan, we are voting against naval defence; but it is not so. The money should have been obtained in some other manner. There was no necessity for the immediate collection of £3,500,000. I believe thatthere is a possibility of international strife, but I do not believe it will come within the time which some of the alarmists predict. At any rate, I do not think there is any necessity for us to spend . £3,500,000 of loan money in the way proposed by the Government. This so-called National Government’ might have proposed to borrow £3,000,000 for a navy in such a way that it would be reproductive, although it may seem absurd at first blush to say so. If they borrowed money to establish national ship-yards for the building of a fleet, they would be on safer lines. They tell us that we may be able to build some of the small vessels, but could not possibly build a Dreadnought, because only certain yards in the world can do such work. I do not see the immediate necessity for a Dreadnought, or anything approaching it, and the money could have been well spent in establishing a national yard or yards. In that sense it would be reproductive, because it would establish the shipbuilding industry in our midst. If the Government had made a suggestion of that sort, I could have seen my way to vote for it. But to borrow , £3,500,000 from the British money lender, and spend it on the construction of ships in British yards is simply perpetuating the old order of things and piling up debt, with no advantage to Australia either immediate or remote. It seems impossible, however, to bring Australian Governments, State or Commonwealth, to a thorough understanding of the Protectionist policy which the majority of the people of Australia have demanded. The production in our own midst of our own warships is only another form of Protection-, and we should be establishing the soundest possible system of defence if we could make ourselves selfcontained; but we are far from that at present. The fact that we are making no provision for the payment even of the in terest on the £3,500,000, much less for paying it off in a short time, does not indicate statesmanship. It is not even the exercise of ordinary common sense ; hence I am compelled to vote against the proposition. Many of us may be frightened into accepting it, because of the plea of dire urgency ; but I fail to see the question in that light. I am certain that those whom I represent are in accord with me on the question. The vast majority of my constituents recognise that no money is ill spent which is spent to advance the interests of Australia. Although many of them are against militarism in a number of its phases, they recognise that defence is necessary; but they also know the possibilities of Australia from a manufacturing stand-point. We shall never have a real National Parliament until our publicmen grasp the necessity for constructing in Australia everything that is essential to Australia, so far as we possibly can. There are certain things the production of which we could not immediately undertake, and it may be argued that a navy is one of them ; but I am not of that opinion. I believe that if the manufacture of iron had been made a national undertaking for national necessities, the money that is being spent now to foster that industry would have been beneficial to the country. The same applies to our mail service. The last Deakin Government had an opportunity of establishing a national line of mail steamers, built in national yards; but they would not take it. They are going on the same methods now, and offer us as a palliative the construction of three of the small craft in Australia, in addition to the one which is to be put together here. I may have too high an opinion of the Australian workman, and of the genius of the Australian professional man, but I believe there is nothing that can be done in other countries that cannot be done here if we obtain the men to do it. I quite admit that it would cost more, because there is in it an element of experiment, and no slight experiment at that; but even if we were only partially successful, we should ultimately secure a higher standard of defence.
Colonel Foxton. - Of what class of vessels is the honorable member speaking?
– Vessels of any size. I believe it is possible. for the National Government to establish in Australia a shipyard where even a Dreadnought could be constructed.
Colonel Foxton. - The ship-yard itself would cost, perhaps, £2,000,000.
– But once it had been established we should be able to construct in the Commonwealth vessels of any dimensions. The project would toe largely experimental, but having regard to our isolated position I think it would be well worth undertaking. We shall not add to the stability of the Empire by borrowing money to construct warships in the Old Country. Great Britain can afford to pay for whatever warships she requires, and can build all that she needs. I am against this proposal to borrow to provide for the cost of this unit, and to have the vessels of the fleet constructed almost entirely in the Old Country. I am as strong an Empire man as is any honorable member - I was reared in an atmosphere that makes me an Empire man - but I recognise that my duty to Australia is to assist in making her, as. far as possible, self-contained. If that were done and we continued to have for the Old Country the feelings that we entertain towards her to-day, we should do something substantial for the cause of Empire. I recognise that my opposition to the Bill is useless ; that the Government have a majority behind them and will carry it; but I think that some of their supporters are at heart opposed to the scheme, and are prepared to accept it only because of the belief that it is thebest they can obtain.I am not going to take up such a stand ; for in my opinion this scheme has many weak features. I come now to the question of how this naval unit is to be employed. Having listened to the Prime Minister, I again declare without hesitation that it is possible for our coasts and our Inter-State trade to be left entirely unprotected on the outbreak of war between Great Britain and another country.
Colonel Foxton. - Oh, no !
– I disagree with the honorable member, although I recognise that it is quite possible to defend Australia in the China Seas. At the same time, it is demanded of the British taxpayers that they shall contribute to the cost of the defence of the trade of the Empire. As the honorable member for Robertson has pointed out. England has 60 per cent. of our trade, and has a right to pay a proportion of the cost of protecting that trade.
– She is willing to do so.
– I know that she is, and do not think that the British Govern ment will ever shirk their responsibility in this respect. Australia, too, is willing to pay her fair share; but I have no doubt that on the declaration of war between Great Britain and some other country, the Australian coasts, under this scheme, would be left unprotected. The party to which I belong rightly told the British Government that, in the event of war, the entire resources of Australia would be at their disposal ; but, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister and other members of the Government have said, I fear that not only our Inter-State trade, but our trade with the adjacent islands, and, indeed, with America, would be left unprotected on the outbreak of hostilities. When there is war in the air our fleet will be sent to that part of the Empire which is in the greatest danger, and our coasts will be open to a raid on the part, not of a fleetperhaps, but of one or two of the warships of the enemy. Under this arrangement we, as a portion of the Empire, will not secure adequate protection. The people of Australia are willing to join in a scheme of naval defence for the Empire, but naturally they desire that the interests of Australia, as a part of that Empire, shall be conserved. The Prime Minister will live to regret, politically, the stand that he took in regard to the financial agreement which has made it necessary for his Government to propose this loan for naval purposes. He was looked upon as a man who would always protect the interests of Australia, and I hope that he will never have cause, in a personal sense, to regret what he has done. I fear however, that he will. I doubt the sincerity of the Government and the majority behind them, so far as this measure is concerned. The Honorary Minister would lead us to believe that it will not be necessary to raise a further Joan for defence purposes ; but he cannot give us a guarantee that future Ministries will abstain from making similar proposals.
Colonel Foxton. - Cannot the honorable member trust this House?
– After what has been done this session by the Government and their supporters? Decidedly not. I doubt whether the people of Australia will be prepared to trust honorable membersopposite after what they have done. I am confident that there is a consensus of opinion that there has been too much borrowing, not only in Victoria, but in the other States. I shall not discuss the ques- tion of whether or not it is wise to have a seventh Australian borrower.
– There is not much in that argument.
– There may not be; but even the Government and their supporters must have doubts as to the wisdom of this proposal to borrow. I admit that we could not possibly raise, by taxation, within two years, the sum required for the new unit. Such taxation would press too harshly upon the people.
– We could secure it by means of a2½ per cent, tax on shipping.
– The wealthy people of Australiacould afford to raise the money ; but a tax for this purpose would be borne for the most part by those least able to bear it. .
– We could raise the money by taxation.
– No doubt ; but there are some honorable members opposite who, if such taxation were proposed, would take care that it was not such as would compel the wealthy to pay their full share. Every honorable member who votes for this Bill must doubt whether he is acting wisely in doing so. I hope that what is done will be that which is best for Australia; but I am confident that those who vote for this measure will live to regret their action in both a personal and a political sense.
.- I intend to vote against this Bill, although I do not agree with many of the arguments that have been used in opposition to it, Some honorable members have said that there has been returned to the States, surplus revenue to the extent of nearly £7,000,000, which ought to have been retained by the Commonwealth. I hold that we have to take into consideration the needs of the States as well as of the Commonwealth, for the people of the States are the people of the Commonwealth. The States needed the money and the Commonwealth acted wiselyin making as large a return as possible to them. The total public indebtedness of Australia is about £260,000,000, and of that amount, according to the honorable member for Darwin, only £170,000,000 has been expended on reproductive works such as railways. I contend, however, that roads, bridges, waterworks, and other public conveniences, are, in reality, remunerative. Although these works may not be producing a direct return, they give a large indirect return. Without them, Australia would be no better off than she was when populated by blackfellows. If we have regard to the value of our railways, roads, streets, bridges, and other public conveniences, we must admit that we are in a very sound position. The business man takes account, not only of the money to his credit in the bank, , but also of the value of his stock and of his premises.
– He also provides for depreciation.
– We spend a large sum annually in keeping our public works in good order, so that they are worth more than they cost. But, to listen to the speeches of some honorable members, one might think that because Australia owes £260,000,000 she is insolvent. Her public works are worth a great deal more than that. The honorable member for Indi, when in Opposition, used to speak of the extravagances of the Commonwealth Government, though he did not mention any individual case. Since he has been supporting a Ministry, he has not had anything to say on this head, and therefore his remarks this afternoon must be taken as an attempt to injure those who supported previous Governments. I am not an apologist for past Administrations, but I contend that they did good work for Australia. It has yet to be shown that money was spent extravagantly by them. The Commonwealth, if it must borrow at all, should borrow for reproductive works. We have spent a large sum out of revenue on such works, and it is only on such works that borrowed money should be spent. Money should not be raised by loan to pay for maintenance. No business man would ask for an overdraft to pay for keeping up his home. He is able to secure credit only by convincing his banker that he can employ the money in a manner which will return a profit. So the Commonwealth should apply to the money lenders only for loans for reproductive works. I would support such proposals, did I consider them necessary. But I cannot see my way clear to support this proposal. I think that we are inclined to spend extravagantly on defence, and may regret it in the future. If we follow the example of the nations of the earth, we shall impoverish our people by our defence expenditure, as they are impoverishing theirs.
– I hope that a division will soon be taken so that this business can be cleared out of the way, because it is almost useless to discuss matters here, in the present state of parties. An appeal to the people is needed to clear the atmosphere. The Government seem too tired to do anything worth while, and, propose to borrow, following the old easy method of drifting. . A Ministerialist spoke several times of the policy of drift. That word characterizes the policy of this Government. But the rocks are ahead, and Ministers will reach them, perhaps sooner than is expected. I have felt that the Commonwealth may one day be forced into the money market, but 1 hoped that this Parliament would not allow it to borrow until the States had ceased to do so. Now, however, it is proposed to create a seventh Australian Government borrower. The Commonwealth is asked to occupy a degrading position. No proposal for borrowing should have been put forward until the debts of the States had been transferred, making the Commonwealth the sole borrower. I cannot say I should be altogether opposed to borrowing for reproductive works, if necessity should make that imperative, but to contend that we are compelled to borrow to provide for our defence is sheer nonsense. The attempt to create a panic is intended to excuse the step which is proposed. The Treasurer justifies the proposal on the ground that the expenditure will be reproductive. That is a most amusing statement. It will be reproductive to those whose sign is three golden balls, to the “Ikey Mos” who ‘will lend us the money, and receive good interest in return. Time and again, I have told Ministers that they were sticking to their friends the financiers, and they are proving the- truth of the statement at every turn. They intend to stand by their friends to the end, which I trust will come next March or April. As a young Australian, I feel ashamed of the present position. It is a cruel thing that the great Australian champion, the Prime Minister, should have fallen from his high position to the deepest depths of political degradation. This is the last straw. We are now absolutely in the ditch. This young nation was going to fight its own battles, and show a strong front to the world. I am ashamed therefore that it should be proposed to borrow money for our defence. * The proposal must be abhorrent to all who have the spirit of fighting in them, as we must have when we think of the grand Commonwealth which we are called upon to defend. The Honorary Minister, who represented the’ Go- vernment at the Imperial Defence Conference, says that offers of the resources of the Commonwealth to the British Government ale empty unless we can do something effective. With that I thoroughly agree. That is why I opposed the Dreadnought offer. A scare was got up with which I did not sympathize. To give a Dreadnought to the Old Country, we should have had to borrow from those whom we were offering to help. The Fisher Government had a bold, straightforward, practical policy for the defence of Australia. When the time comes we shall have well-trained men to assist Great Britain. The British Fleet will protect us on the high seas, and we shall be ready to give a hot time to any enemy landing on Australian soil. It was said by Napoleon that it would be easy to get into England, but the devil to get out safely, and very hard to hold ground there. Invaders of Australia will find themselves similarly placed when every citizen is trained to bear arms. We are too young to establish a big navy. It has been said in the past by certain people that there is no need for us to defend ourselves, because the British Navy will defend us. Fortunately these people now recognise the need for Australian defence. But for many years all we shall be able to afford will be a small fleet for the protection of our ports, and the prevention of marauding by raiding cruisers. Our real defence, apart from the British Fleet, must ever remain in the strength of well-trained land forces. I feel, with a thrill of pleasure, that when the true inwardness of the whole financial position, which we have been fighting in the House during the last few months, comes before the public of Australia, there is only one answer that can be given. The position has been degrading in the extreme. We have, as it were, departed from our high standard of nationhood, and have dealt blow after blow at the dignity and standing of the Commonwealth. We have gone on our bended knees to the States in a parochial spirit unworthy of us ; and when the people have their turn, and are able to pronounce a verdict, the Government will get the deserts they have so justly earned by their folly, of which this proposal to borrow for defence is the crowning niece.
.- This proposal is quite in keeping with the reactionary composition of the Ministry. The reactionaries in the Government are the controlling force, and the legislation proposed recently has been certainly char- acterized by its reactionary tendencies. This proposal to begin borrowing for the purposes of defence is most objectionable and the least justifiable. Whatever might be said for borrowing for reproductive works, which would pay interest and provide a sinking fund from the beginning, nothing can be said for borrowng for the purpose of insuring the protection of the trade and commerce of Australia. At the opening of the Imperial Press Conference recently, at which delegates attended from all parts of the Empire, Lord Rosebery asked them in his opening address to take back a message to the people in the Dominions beyond the Seas. He said -
Take back to your young Dominions across the seas this message and this impression - that some personal duty and responsibilityfor national defence rests upon every man and citizen.
The Times military correspondent, referring to the same question, said -
Place before an Englishman or an Australian the duties of a man and he will act like a man. Confine him to the functions of a mouse and he will act like a mouse.
The Government are placing before the people of Australia a proposal, not to accept responsibility, but to shirk it. This is defence by deception; it is saying to the people,” We are going to provide for naval defence, but you shall not have to pay for it.” We have been leaning on Great Britain for many years past, and we have been told by certain leading members of this Government that we must take a greater portion of the burden on ourselves ; and yet, when opportunity arises, they desire to transfer the burden - our burden - from Great Britain to posterity. One of the strong marks of honorable parentage is a desire to leave the children with as few burdens as possible ; but we have a Government who, without any compunction, propose to lay all the burden on cur children. Surely the future generation will have sufficient burdens of their own in dealing with all the great interests which go to make up nationhood?Surely they will have their own peculiar difficulties with their increasing responsibilities? It should be our endeavour, not to place on our children such burdens as we ourselves have to bear, but to relieve them, and give them a better start in life than we ourselves had. This Government, however, propose the cowardly expedient of transfer ring the liabilites of to-day to the next generation. It is a most humiliating position for the Government, and for us as a Par liament. I can only hope that some method will be found, before this proposal has gone too far, to block it, and enable the people of Australia to accept their proper responsibilities. This is not a proposal for an expenditure which will give any money return ; it is a kind of dead expenditure, seeing that all its return is scrap iron. It may be regarded as productive in the sense that, . in a few years, it produces scrap iron from iron ore; but that, of course, means that we incur further capital expenditure. There is no doubtthat when a start is made with borrowing, it will be the expedient of future Governments, as the easiest way of providing for this further expenditure. I remember that only recently the Minister of Defence was talking all over the country about the necessity of Australia taking a greater share of the responsibilities of defence on itself. The honorable gentleman desired a. Dreadnought to be given to the Imperial authorities, and he was gibing at the idea that there was any necessity to borrow for that purpose. Here are words used by him, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9th April this year -
Australia was rich enough, not only to present the Mother Country with a Dreadnought, but to provide for her own defence as well. She ought to do both.
Now, when the honorable gentleman has an opportunity, he does not propose to do one or the other; he does not propose to offer a Dreadnought, or that we should shoulder the responsibility of defending ourselves. He proposes to lean on Great Britain to the extent of allowing the Imperial authorities to supply the money, and then he desires to place on posterity the task of repaying it. Further on, in the same speech, he said -
We had more at stake and more in prospect by comparison, being the most lightly taxed and prosperous in the world.
Yet the Government hesitate to impose the taxation necessary for an Australian Navy. It seems to me that there can be no justification for the attitude of the Government. It has been asked where the money will come from if we do not borrow. We know that the Government propose to obtain the money from Customs duties on the necessaries of life for other purposes. They estimate that they can obtain £3,000,000 a year by duties on cotton-piece goods, and they also have their eye on tea and kerosene.
It is from these sources that the interest and sinking fund on the proposed loan are to come ; and it is a most objectionable source, seeing that the purpose is to protect the trade and commerce of Australia. There is, however, another source from which it should be, and could be conveniently, raised. In the Commonwealth Y ear-Book for 1908, pages 647 and 648 are devoted to a record of the shipping of Australia. The shipping entered and cleared in 1907 was 8,822,866 tons. The export oversea trade in 1907 was £72,824,000, and the import oversea trade £51,809,000, or a total of £124,633,000. In addition, of course, there is the Inter-State trade by water, which in 1907 was £42,281,000, making a total trade of £^’66,9^,000. Now, 5 per cent, on the oversea trade of £1 24.633,000 would give £[6,231, 650 per annum, or, at i per cent., £[3,115,825, approximately what the Government propose to raise by loan. Surely it cannot be said that a tax of 2J per cent, on the total oversea trade of Australia for the purpose of a navy would be unfair or excessive? One per cent.- would yield ,£1,000,000 per annum. This is really the source from which the money should come, for the navy is to defend our trade on the seas. If we imposed a tax of 5 per cent, on the total oversea trade of ,£166,914,000, we should get £8,345,700, or, at 2½ per cent., £4,172,850 per annum. I do not see why the Inter-State shipping trade should not bear its proportion to the cost. Of course, it might be held that such taxation would fall on the producer in the last resort. That I quite admit ; but surely it is proper that it should be so? It would filter through natural channels back to those products and manufactures which were being protected on the high seas and around the Australian coast. Nothing that was consumed in Australia, except goods exchanged by Inter-State shipping, would be subject to this tax. That portion could be associated with military defence, and could be a matter for a land or income tax, or death and succession duties, or the whole of them combined, if necessary. For the purpose, however, of providing the funds for an Australian Navy, which is a defence and insurance of our trade upon the waters, a slight tax of t per cent, on the total shipping would provide in one year nearly £[1,000,000 more than is proposed to be raised- by loan by this Government. The Government however, are not prepared to face the right way of doing things. They think they would bring down upon themselves the odium of the Employers’ Federation and the shipping rings if they attempted to put any such charge as this in its rightful place, and so they resort to. the miserable expedient of calling upon the little girls and boys of Australia to bear this burden when they become men and women. We pay at present about 5s. 6d. per head for defence. As against that, Great Britain pays 23s. per head. According to the estimates of the Government, when their military, proposals are put into force, the cost of defence in Australia will be raised to 10s. 6d. per head. I am sure that with our wealth and resources, we are able, if necessary, to stand a little more than that. When the people of Great Britain, with their millions on the verge of starvation, can stand an average tax per head of 23s. for defence, surely we can stand .a rate sufficient to cover the whole of the proposals which are now in sight for both naval and military defence. This is the second effort that the present Government have made to enter upon a policy of borrowing. Their first proposal was to borrow to pay old-age pensions. They were not prepared to face their responsibilities even in that respect, but they have now invited the States to allow them a. certain sum during this year to save them from the task of borrowing for that purpose, and I understand the States have agreed to’ do it. Now the Government want to borrow for purposes of dofence. These instances only show how ready they are to shirk their responsibilities and fly to the easiest method of doing things for the present, leaving somebody else to clear up the mess after them. They will create all the trouble, but when the public of Australia awake to their responsibilities and opportunities,” and send in another Government to succeed them, that Government will have to try to place the rightful burdens upon the shoulders of the proper people of to-day. The Government say, “ Oh, but we are going to provide a sinking fund ; we are going to spread the expenditure over a number of years.” That is a very plausible argument, but it has been the statement of Governments throughout the States time after time. They have told us that they were going to create sinking funds to clear off the loans in a certain time, but we know how readily they have resorted to the expedient of taking those sinking funds and spending the money for other purposes. They have not stood by the provision that they made, and there is no doubt that this Government will do the same. There are Ministers in this Government who have held portfolios in the State Governments when the same thing has been done. When the first pinch comes, rather than go to the people to ask them to finance the measures that they are responsible for, they will say, ‘ We can do it by appropriating the sinking fund, and leaving a further burden to posterity.” I have no faith in the present Government in that respect. A number of their Ministers have done the same thing before in their States, and there is no doubt they will do it again in the Commonwealth.
Colonel Foxton. - To whom does the honorable member allude?
– To a number of the State Governments.
Colonel Foxton. - But to which Ministers in this Government does the honorable member allude?
– I understand that the honorable member himself has done his share.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member is quite mistaken. I was not in a Government that repudiated a sinking fund.
– Was the honorable member ever associated with a Government that established a sinking fund? The honorable member says “ No.” Although he was in a Government that borrowed largely, he had nothing to do with establishing a sinking fund. The honorable member for Kennedy, who has had some experience in Queensland politics, tells us that Trust Funds in connexion with certain loans have been repudiated in Queensland.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member has made a very serious charge.I think he ought to name the Ministers to whom he refers, and give particulars.
– The charge is quite correct.
– It is probably answered by the fact that, except in WesternAustralia, no Treasurers have ever established sinking funds, until quite recently.
– In New South Wales Sir William McMillan appropriated a sinking fund for other purposes.
– In New South Wales, as the -honorable member for Gwydir suggests, it was done when Sir William McMillan was Treasurer.
Colonel Foxton. - He is not a member of this Government. The honorable member said some members of this Government had participated in that practice.
– I believe the Minister of Defence was connected with those Governments.
– Not with one that did anything of that sort.
– It is well known to the Ministers who are quibbling over this matter that various State Governments have appropriated their sinking funds. I have absolutely no faith in this Government in that respect. A Government who shirk their responsibilities and put the burden of present defence on the children of Australia would be mean enough to appropriate a sinking fund for some other purpose, in order to shirk their responsibilities again. I should like to see the clause which provides for a sinking fund made so strong that it would be absolutely impossible for the Government to go back on it. The Government have no mandate to put this loan on the market. The people, when they have had an opportunity to decide, have been deliberately against the raising of loans by the Commonwealth.
– When did the people express that opinion?
– They have seen the folly of the huge loan expenditure of the various States on unproductive works without sinking funds, and wherever they have had the opportunity they have expressed themselves in opposition to the Commonwealth becoming a seventh borrower. Surely the honorable member for Wilmot will not say that his electors have given him a mandate for a loan for defence purposes?
– No; I asked the honorable member when they had expressed their opinion against it?
– I said they had done so whenever they had been appealed to. I also said that they had not given their sanction to it. But what do this Government care about the sanction of the people? Their very existence is a denial of the right of the people to express their opinion on public affairs.. They have thrown overboard the principles on which they were elected, and now they are going a step further and pawning the security of the Commonwealth without any reference to the people. They have been very ready to submit certain proposals to a referendum, and I do not see why this proposal should not also be referred to the people. We are on the eve of a general election, and if any question might safely be put to a simple referendum, by which a majority of the people could decide whether the Commonwealth shall inaugurate a borrowing policy or not, surely it is this. When the Bill reaches the Committee stage I shall take the opportunity of moving in the first clause the addition of the words, “ This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation after the people of Australia have given their sanction to it by referendum.” I propose also to move for the insertion of a second clause authorizing the Government to place the matter before the people by referendum at such time as the Governor-General may decide. That would enable the whole proposal to be put before our masters, who are the proper persons to decide whether they are to be committed to this mad policy of borrowing for defence. We shall then see who are the’ Democrats on the Government side prepared to trust the people. We shall find out whether they desire to sneak in something behind the backs of the people, or whether they are prepared to give them an opportunity of saying “yea” or “nay” to the inauguration by the Commonwealth of a loan policy. I have no doubt what they will do. If they desire to trust the people they will wait until the elections, and consult them. But they are pushing the proposal on now so as to tie the Commonwealth up -to a borrowing policy. They practically say to themselves, “ If the Labour party defeat us at the next election and we go out of office, we shall at least have saved our wealthy friends and the commerce and trade of Australia from paying their fair share for the defence of that trade and commerce upon the Inter-State waters and the high seas.” If they succeed they will have tied up the Democratic party to the extent of committing it to a loan policy, and very likely they will have raised this money before there is a possibility of the House, meeting again to place the veto of the electors upon the harebrained idea of the Commonwealth borrowing for defence purposes. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not necessarily committing myself to a denial of the expediency of borrowing for certain purposes. It may be that borrowing can be justified for certain purposes that would pay interest from the beginning and provide a sinking fund for renewals. But defence is not such a pur- pose. It is purely an insurance of the trade and commerce of Australia upon the waters, and that trade and commerce should be called upon to pay for such insurance. There is not a commercial man in the House who in conducting his own affairs would borrow money for insurance purposes. All the shipping of Australia is insured against damage or loss on the water, but is there one business man in the House who ‘would borrow money for the purpose of insuring it? Rather, every business man would make it a charge upon the goods - a present liability which would begin and end with the transaction. But when it comes to doing the business of the country and dealing with the shipping of Australia as a whole, instead of in single shiploads or ton lots, they depart altogether from the wholesome principles upon which their own business success has been founded. In the conduct of their own private affairs they recognise well-established business principles, but in the conduct of the business of the nation they propose to throw those principles overboard. And what is at the bottom of it? They are seeking by this means to secure some personal advantage to themselves, transferring their own liability to the backs of the people by Customs and Excise duties, and shifting portion of the burden of to-day on to the rising generation. I shall seize every opportunity to expose to the electors the rotten business administration of the present Government. I hope that when the people, have an opportunity of considering the sins of omission and commission of the Government, they will without hesitation send them about their own private business, and put into office a Government who believe in dealing as honestly with the business of the whole community as they would with their own private concerns. The Government propose to redeem this loan sixteen years hence. When only two-thirds of that time has elapsed, the vessels of the fleet will be practically scrap iron, and it will be necessary not only to pay off this indebtedness, but to raise a further sum to provide for the construction of more up-to-date vessels. As the honorable member for Robertson rightly pointed out, in this respect our position is different from that of Great Britain. When any of her warships become obsolete, Great Britain can send them to her various oversea dependencies to exhibit the flag, and to indicate to the people there the might and majesty of the Empire. For that purpose, they are as good as the most up-to-date vessels ; but our only dependency is Papua, and it is so close to our own shores that we do not needobsolete vessels for show purposes there. This is another reason why the burden of naval defence should be faced immediately, and made a. charge upon the trade and commerce of Australia. I hope that the people will not be gulled by side issues. No doubt, the Government will try to cloud the issue by associating with this loan the patriotism of local defence, which is altogether dissociated from it. We can obtain as good a local defence by providing for it out of revenue as we can by borrowing, and I trust that in the heat and excitement of the approaching general election, the people will not forget to differentiate between the scheme for an Austalian Navy and the means by which it is proposed to provide for it. The Government propose to raise the money by loan, and so to burden posterity. On the other hand, the Labour party propose that as this navy will be in the nature of an insurance to trade upon the waters, that trade should bear such an equitable tax as would provide, not only for the capital cost, but for the upkeep of the navy. This proposal on the part of the Government is in keeping with all their reactionary instincts. Such men as belong to the present Government ridicule Democratic proposals until they are popularized by the efforts of the Labour forces of Australia. They are then compelled to adopt them, but they associate with them some reactionary proposal which almost wholly discounts their value. At the Brisbane Labour Conference, which was attended by delegates from all parts of Australia, the policy of an Australian Navy was reaffirmed. At that time, certain members of the present Government were absolutely opposed to it, but the Labour ‘ forces of Australia having shown the utility and patriotism of an Australian Navy, they eventually came round to our way of thinking, and accepted our scheme. But instead of associating with it, as we proposed, a Democratic policy for providing the money necessary to carry out that scheme, they connect with it reactionary proposals which will tend to make it unpopular, and to detract very largely from its value. Whereas the Labour party would find the necessary money by direct taxation upon trade and commerce upon the waters, which will be protected by the navy, our opponents, the Conservatives of Australia, seek to fetter the rising generation, and to shirk their present responsibility by floating a loan. I hope that when the electors have an opportunity at the ballotbox, they will give this reactionary Government the short shrift it deserves. I hope they will replace it by an intelligent party, strong enough numerically to put forward Democratic, patriotic, and worthy schemes for the benefit of Australia, and to administer the public affairs of the Commonwealth in the interests of the people of to-day, and for the material benefit of the rising generation.
.- I cannot allow this Bill to pass without expressing my sincere regret that it has been thought necessary at this early stage in our history to resort to the pernicious system of. borrowing for naval purposes - a system which, so far as I am aware, has not been adopted by any Government as a general policy. During the last three or four months the Government have offered insults to the intelligence of the people, they have shirked their responsibilities and have shown a tendency to frustrate the democratic and honest administration of the affairs of the country. .They now propose to float a loan. My concern is not for the Government, but for the people, on whom this burden will fall. The Government have brought down this proposal to save their political scalps at the ensuing general election. They desire then to present a united front, and they recognise that they would not be able to do so- if they came forward with a naval defence scheme and said that the money was to be raised by direct taxation. The naval defence scheme would never have been submitted by this Government if they had not intended to introduce a Loan Bill to cover the expenditure which that scheme will involve. In the absence of such a Bill as this, they would have had to indicate to the electors that it would be necessary for them to raise more revenue, not by way of Customs and Excise taxation, but by a direct tax upon the land and wealth of Australia. In order to shirk that responsibility, and to avoid the fate which would inevitably befall them if they dared to make an honest proposition of that kind, they have introduced this Loan Bill; they are prepared to saddle posterity with this burden, rather than make the people who are best able to pay contribute towards this essential, expenditure on the part of a modern Government. They make no proposal for direct taxation to provide for the cost of this scheme, because they are almost face to face with a general election, and because the Prime Minister, as he told us when the financial agreement was before the House, allowed the contention of the State Premiers that land taxation should be left to the States. He made no practical arrangement with the Premiers for the transfer of the State debts. He has carried his financial scheme, but the debts are to remain as they are. The Government have indicated their weakness already by saying that they do not think we could provide for this fleet unit out of revenue. They dare not say that they would like to raise the necessary money by means of a land or an income tax, or that they would like to obtain it from Customs and Excise taxation, because they know that they have given away to the States more than they ought to have done. In the circumstances, therefore, they have taken refuge in a coward’s castle, and propose to initiate a system which has not been introduced in any other country, in time of peace, to provide for naval and military defence. What will England say when she learns of these proposals? Will not the people of England say, “ Prosperous Australia desires to float on our money market a £3,500,000 loan? Of that amount’ £2,000,000 is required to fulfil the promise that she would give us a Dreadnought, or its equivalent. She comes to England to borrow, not only the ,£2,000,000, but ‘ an additional sum of £[1,500,000 to enable her to create a naval unit” ? England has never resorted to this means of raising money for her Navy. Notwithstanding the heavy burdens of empire which England has to carry, notwithstanding the wars she has had to fight, and the provision she has had to make for defence as a reply to the menacing attitude of the other nations of Europe, she has never thought of borrowing for naval and military expenditure. Honorable members opposite sit dumb. They dare not address the House, because they cannot justify this proposal. The Prime Minister spoke with characteristic eloquence, but, as usual, there was only sentiment and empty platitude behind what he said. He did little more than apologise for the Bill. He said that he does not like .borrowing, and would rather do something else. Why does he not do something else? Because be is afraid to do what is right. Why is he not man enough to stand by the nonborrowing policy which he advocated in times past? It is because he is supported by the representatives of the wealthy. It is with their votes that he hopes to carry the Bill, as he carried the pernicious financial agreement. He dare not make any other provision for naval defence. Parliament has been placed in a most humiliating position. This is the result of what has been done in regard to finance. The utterances of Ministers in the past have shown that they were opposed to borrowing ; but in this, as in connexion with the financial agreement and other matters of grave importance to the Commonwealth, they are prepared to swallow their convictions. Not only are we asked to agree to the borrowing of £3,500,000 ; we are also asked to sanction the introduction of a pernicious system which will ultimately prove disastrous to the Commonwealth. Borrowing is, of course, the easiest method of obtaining money, but the easiest courses are generally fraught with danger. Had not Ministers, to save their political scalps, agreed with the Premiers to pay to the States a larger sum than should be paid to them for an indefinite period, they would not have been driven into their present position. The Honorary Minister told us that not more than £500,000 will be spent next year, and he said we shall go on spending by instalments spread over a number of years.
Colonel Foxton. - Certainly not. The money, will be spent within two and a half years.
– It is disgraceful to propose to borrow to pay for a naval unit. The Minister cannot mention an instance ip which a State has borrowed for defence purposes.
Colonel Foxton. - When the late Sir Frederick Sargood was Minister of Defence, Victoria borrowed £500,000 for defence purposes.
– I do not think that loanmoney was ever spent in Victoria on defence.
Colonel Foxton. - I am informed that lt was.
– At any rate, Victoria is the only State in which loan money has been spent on fortifications.
Colonel Foxton. - No. It has been so spent in Queensland.
– While the honorable member was a Minister?
Colonel Foxton. - I think before that time ; but I am not quite sure.
– At any rate, the Mother Country, whose obligations are so much heavier than ours, has never borrowed for defence preparations. The Government does not propose to pay for the naval unit out of revenue, because it knows that that would hasten the day when a land tax would have to be imposed. Ministers tell us that they desire ‘io’ do ‘many things which will involve the expenditure of large sums. If they are in earnest regarding the development of the Northern Territory, the construction of the Western Australian railway, and many of the other large schemes which have been put before us, they will find it difficult to pay their way, and, no doubt, will again propose to borrow, and to heap a load of debt on the Commonwealth. However, the day seems past for talking seriously on financial and national questions in this Chamber. All that is listened to is pretty sentiment. The Honorary Minister showed the worthlessness of mere verbal patriotism. He told us, too, that the ,£250,000 which Great Britain intends to contribute towards our navy will pay the interest on the proposed loan, and establish a sinking fund which will redeem it within sixteen years. Is that all that we can do for the Mother Country? While we are professing to help her, we are practically : letting her provide a navy for us. I do not think it likely that the Treasurer will tell us that the Government does not intend to take the money. As to the proposal to establish a sinking fund, I have seen such funds come to nought under State administration, and have little faith in them. Invariably, when the money is wanted for some other purpose, it is taken by the Treasurer of the day.
– The Audit Act controls our trust funds.
– Auditors-General have not prevented the State Treasurers from commandeering trust funds when they needed money. The Government should provide for the appointment of trustees to manage the proposed sinking fund in the interests of the people, if it intends to make honest provision for the redemption of the loan. We have been told that the revenue of the Commonwealth will increase by leaps and bounds. No doubt that would happen if a land tax were imposed which would make available for settlement land which is suitable, and accessible to markets. Such a tax would bring about an increase of population, and provide us, not only with revenue to pay for defence preparations, but also with men who could be armed and trained to fight for the country. The Government, however, will not allow a land tax to be imposed to make these things possible. As I said some time ago, the Conservative wing rules the Fusion party. This is really a Conservative Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.31 to 7.45 p.m.
– The Government are perpetrating a crime on the people of Australia, and their supporters have abandoned every principle they previously professed. The States have been given a first mortgage on the finances of the Commonwealth; and now the Government desire to mortgage the future of our children. The Minister of Defence, two or three years ago, would have no more thought of supporting a proposal to borrow money for the purposes of defence, naval or military, than he would have thought of flying. To-day, however, he is quite happy in assisting to make the most serious inroads on what have hitherto been regarded as the fundamentals of Australian finance, Federal or State. The day must come, however, when such conduct will reap its reward. Whether or not that day be near at hand, I am satisfied that when the people realize that this is the beginning of a policy which is most pernicious and must in the end be ruinous, they will take a keen vengeance. Of course I understand that the Government are in a corner. They have made one false start, and like others in their position, they have to continue the wrong-doing. They have handed over to the States revenue that is required for the Commonwealth ; and in this they have sacrificed’ the constitutional privileges of the Parliament. Absolute control of Commonwealth affairs has been put into the hands of the Premiers of the States; and now the Government find themselves compelled to raise a loan in order to relieve a possible pressure that may follow a change in our present prosperous condition. Throughout the debates honorable members seem to have closed their eyes to the condition of affairs six or seven years ago, when we were suffering all the terrible losses incidental to the severest of droughts. No one can deny that there may be a return of similar disastrous seasons; and, should that be so, our financial position is such that there must either be a revolution, or a return of the privileges we have sacrificed in the last few months. That sacrifice, as I have indicated, now compels the Government to borrow in order to establish only the unit of a navy ; because the Minister of Defence cannot possibly suggest that the vessels now contemplated will continue to meet our requirements, or that the proposed expenditure is all that will be involved in the next fifteen years. If Australia is to develop as we hope and anticipate, £3,500,000 will not suffice to provide us with naval defence; but, in view of the fleet foreshadowed by, the Treasurer, that expenditure will have to be increased at least three-fold. In my judgment, the Government are ill-advised in their present proposals; but that, of course, is their business. Personally, I ask no better than to be able togo before the electors and show them what this borrowing policy of the Government means. I fancy that the average elector will be able to understand what such a policy will involve to the country; even if, as suggested, he is not able to understand the full effects of the financial agreement. The Government have not yet answered the honorable member for Dalley, who last night, in his amiable way, asked whether it was proposed to pay the interest and sinking fund out of Customs and Excise revenue, or whether special provision was to be made by means of direct taxation.
– We say that we do not require any special provision.
– The Government say they have sufficient revenue; but, still, that revenue comes from Customs and Excise.
– The Government are estimating on present commitments - they are not taking into account the commitments that the honorable member for Mernda so ably indicated when he was fighting for the liberty of the people. The Government are, I think, making no provision in this regard; and, if that be so, their proposals cannot be taken as sincere, and the House and the country are left in the dark as to their intentions. Will the Minister of Defence now, before the vote is taken, say whether the Government will provide for the interest and sinking fund by direct taxation?
– The Government will raise no more money, so long as they have plenty.
– But if there should prove to be not sufficient, is the Minister of Defence prepared to assist the Government to impose land taxation?
– We say that at present we do not require any more revenue from either land or any other source.
– The whole question of finance has been bungled for years by the Federal Parliament, or the Post and Telegraph Department would never have been allowed to get into its present position, and there would have been no reason, to fear any deficit owing to legitimate expenditure. It is because we have paid back to the States money that we should have retained, that it is now found necessary to go to the loan market. The States now have control of our arrangement for all time, and are controlling the Government even in this proposal to float a loan. If such a position indicates the Government policy, we, of course, cannot alter it. Members behind the Government are absolutely dumb, and must vote as directed; they dare not speak or venture to express an opinion, for fear of compromising themselves in view of opinions expressed in the past. Those honorable members are told by the Government, “ This is our Bill, and, right or wrong, you must vote for it ; we have had to turn our coats and change our principles to get on the Treasury bench; and why should you not change yours in order to get returned to Parliament? Surely the risk we run is greater than your risk; and we claim that we should all hang together.” I am glad that, at any rate, I am free to express my opinions on a matter affecting the future of Australia, and that what I am saying now is in conformity with my former utterances. Had a Labour Government introduced a proposal of this kind, I can say sincerely that it would never have received my support, even though I had to leave Parliament.
– The honorable member would have done as the caucus told him.
– A caucus does not control anything I do, when my conscience dictates otherwise. I have shown in this House that I could leave the caucus, in order to accomplish a thing that I believed to be right - and that is what the honorable member has never done. If the honorable member feels the yoke upon him he has my sympathy. I do not like to see any member of Parliament bound to vote against his conscientious convictions as we have seen men on that side of the House do, and as we shall see them do again before this vote is over.
– Poor things !
– The poor things are on that side of the House - the poor pitiable things, who cannot give a vote according to their wishes.
– Order ! The honorable member must not apply such terms to any member of the House. I ask him to withdraw them.
– I withdraw the expression “ pitiable things,” and will say the helpless objects that we see in front of us. We have reached a stage in Australian politics which I never saw before. These are the boasted men of freedom. A man who is seeking to negotiate a loan is generally trying to take a loan of the people upon whose back he is placing tHe burden. The Ministerial party have already given the States a first mortgage on the finances of the Commonwealth, and now they are going to put a burden on the backs of the next generation by handing them over to the tender mercies of the loan mongers of London, in order to finance the naval defence of this country. What will this naval unit be in fifteen, or even ten, years’ time? It will- be as obsolete as the Powerful and Pyramus are now. Yet ten years ago these vessels were thought to reasonably approach modern war standards. In the meantime these gentlemen are reckoning that by this means they can effectively defend Australia, but they have made no provision for an aerial fleet. Where is the foresight and penetration of the Minister of Defence that he does not see that in the near future we shall have to be prepared for a. fight in the air, and not on the water ? The Government come forward with a scheme involving £3,500,000 for ships of war, never realizing that other nations are beginning to develop aerial navigation and study aerial defence. Those nations are up-to-date.
Colonel Foxton. - Killing themselves.
– If the honorable member had looked a little more -into modern developments he would not have claimed this as an up-to-date scheme. He would have realized that within the next ten years, if we are to defend Australia properly, we shall have to follow it up with a scheme for aerial defence. All that will have to be done, if we are not making only a pretence to help England in her hour of need.
Colonel Foxton. - Where does the honorable member think that invaders will come from by aerial machines?
– It is quite possible for a warship to stand a long way off the Heads and despatch .its aerial machines over Sydney, destroying more in five minutes than the honorable member would be able to save by this scheme in five years.
– They may come from Mars.
– Some of those on the opposite side of the House, judging by their appearance, must have come from that planet. The money to run this fleet has, when all has been paid, to be provided by “Ma,” because the Honorary Minister states that the Motherland is* to give us £250,000 per annum, which, he says, will be the exact sum necessary to provide interest and sinking fund.
Colonel Foxton. - I did not say it would be exactly the sum.
– The honorable member calculated the items, and said it just provided for the amount required for interest and sinking fund. I ,’distinctly heard the honorable member say so, but I thought at the time that he was wrong by about ,£50,000, according to his own figures. Be that as it may, the great patriotism which has been so eloquently descanted upon by the Prime Minister is represented, after all, by the fact that we are going to build a naval unit by means of British money contributed by the British taxpayer. That is the sort of thing which the honorable member regards as discharging our patriotic duty to the Mother Country. He claims ‘that we must help the Motherland to defend the Empire, but this is what it comes to !
– To help her by borrowing from her.
– Yes ; the Government borrow £3^500,000 from the Mother Country to build ships to defend this part of the Empire, and then accept ,£250,000 a year from the Mother Country to pay interest and provide a sinking fund on the loan. The Honorary Minister claims that Australia is building a navy, but Australia is doing nothing of the kind.
Colonel Foxton. - Then what is all the fuss about?
– About the hypocrisy practised by the men on that side of the House, and the dust they are trying to throw in the eyes of the people. Before the House met they were going to give a Dreadnought to the Mother Country, but as soon as they came to the House and assumed control they said, “ We will not give a Dreadnought, but an equivalent.” That equivalent is practically the Indomitable, which they are going’ to purchase by money borrowed from England, just as New Zealand is borrowing the money to obtain the Dreadnoughts that she promised. That is the way they are robbing Peter to pay Paul. They are handing the Commonwealth over for the first time into the hands of the Jew money lenders, in order to create in Australian waters a naval unit which is not to be used ‘for Australian defence alone, but which in a time of national peril may be called away to the ;North Seas or even to the North Pole if that be necessary ; and I hat, we are told is to be done to prevent the grand old Empire from being wiped off the face of the earth. While those thirteen ships were absent from these waters Japan could come down on us just as if we never had a navy. That is the very time when we should want our navy to defend our own interests. Every country hands itself over to the Jews sooner or later, and it seems that the Federal Parliament cannot take the advice that has so frequently been tendered to it - to keep out of the hands of the money lenders. We are handing our children into bondage. We are starting a system that will be a curse to this country, and there is no doubt that before the next fifteen years are over, a curse will fall on the heads of the men who are engineering this thing through. I hope the people will not indorse the proposition. The men who are .on the Ministerial side to-day, not by the will of the people, but acting in antagonism to public opinion, as it was expressed when they were returned, would impose this burden on the people without any respect to the mission which the people gave them to fulfil. If they are prepared to do it I hope the people, when appealed to within the’ next few months, will so seize the opportunity as to make it possible when the new Parliament meets to rescind this measure and end for all time the attempt to base the defence of Australia on a borrowing policy. I was amused at the attitude of the honorable member for Robertson, lt shows the plight into which a Fusionist can get. He is about the most peculiar product of the transformation that has lately taken place on that side of the House. In discussing this measure, he first criti- cised it, then he condemned it in toto ; next he said he was going to vote for it ; and then, after having promised to vote for it, he turned round in the most bare-faced fashion and said, “Even though I vote for it, I hope that the people will direct the new Parliament to rescind it.” He is going to put this burden on the backs of the people in the hope that the people will undo what he is doing. I hope the people will rescind him and all such men as he. The man who can make so many lightning changes in half-an-hour ought to be, not here, but on the variety stage, where he would entertain the public instead of throwing away his talents before a lot of hardheaded intelligent men like those who sit on this side of the House. I do not say that his position is much different from that of other honorable members opposite, but they have the wisdom to keep silent. The honorable member for Robertson is a variegated specimen of a kind that we do not often see.
– He is a loyal Fusionist
– I do not think that he is ; I believe that he would like to leave the party, but is afraid that if he did he would not be returned. Whether he does or does not break away from the party, the exhibition of inconsistency which he has given us during the last few weeks is such that the electors ought to be kicked if they return to this House men of his description. It is deplorable and humiliating to find honorable members of intelligence speaking as he has done. It is something that the average Australian cannot realize, and a conception of which cannot be conveyed to the people by even the most Imaginative pressman. I enter my protest against the treachery which the Government is practising in connexion with this measure. They are proposing to rush to the loan market to provide for legitimate expenditure, for which provision ought to be made by direct taxation. I enter my protest against the Government shirking a responsibility which is recognised by Governments in all other English-speaking communities. They shirk the responsibility of placing the burden of defence on the shoulders of those best able to bear it. In Great Britain the cost of defence is met by increasing the income tax and other direct taxes from time to time as the necessities of the naval and military service require. But this Government has refused to follow that example. We have never had to spend a penny on a .war, but as soon as it’ is proposed to create a small naval unit, the Government are so cowardly as to seek to avoid placing on the people who ought to bear it the burden which it entails. That burden is but a trifle compared with that which the taxpayers of the Old Country have to bear. Instead of placing this burden on the backs of the large land-holders, and thereby making it possible for the people to get on the land, they propose to saddle the poor with it. They are deliberately refusing an opportunity to attract more people to the Commonwealth. From time to time the Prime Minister has put before Australian audiences the necessity of filling the empty spaces of Australia, yet he now refuses to avail himself of an undoubted opportunity to do something that would help to people those empty spaces. Taxation for defence purposes has never been objected to by the wealthy classes of the Old Country. They have borne the burden of naval and military expenditure century after century, yet we have in power here a Government so recreant to itstrust, and so cowardly, as to be anxious to avoid placing this burden on the backs of those who should bear it. It is evidentthat when the time comes for increased expenditure for the maintenance of this naval unit, that expenditure will be met by the Government by duties on tea, kerosene, and cotton goods. The Government by their action in connexion with the financial agreement, have made it impossible to raise the money from any other source. They desire to save the large land-owners - to save the wealthy of the community - from taxation. I see before me the honorable member for Wilmot, a scion of the Australian aristocracy, who smiles when he thinks that those to whom his sympathies go are to be relieved from taxation such as the wealthy in other countries bear. Well mayhonorable members oppositesmile, well may they be pleased, when they know that they are supporting a Government so pliable as to be prepared to obey the behests of the wealthy merely in order that they may remain in office. But a day of reckoning is coming. I venture, to say that when the position is placed before the people, who can vote as their intelligence directs, and who are much more honest in casting their votes than some honorable members have been, they will refuse to return to this House many honorable members opposite. When we tell them that the Government and their supporters are handing over the interests of their children to the money lenders, and that the necessary consequence of this action on their part must mean the further taxation of the poor, and the relief of the rich, they will put them beyond the sphere of Australian Parliamentary life, and will substitute for them men who are truly patriotic. We have a right to consider the people of this country, , and not to be governed by considerations that sway some men when they are subjected to the glamour of Imperial influences. Our first duty is to the people of this country. That is the patriotism in which I believe. The Government are rushing a Loan Bill through the House before the people are really alive to what is being done. They are not prepared to give the people an opportunity to say whether or not this policy should be adopted.
– They will have to go to the people.
– After they have committed the crime. They ought to go to the people before they attempt it. I am confident that no honorable member sitting opposite was returned to this Parliament pledged to support a borrowing policy in connexion with Australian defence. If honorable members did not tell the people that they proposed to support such a policy, they ought not to support it until they have consulted the electors.
– The people will have a chance to punish us. The honorable member fears that they will not do so.
– I am confident that the punishment of the people will eventually fall upon the honorable member and his friends.
– Had the honorable member finished a few minutes ago, he would have done very well.
– The honorable member leans back in his seat and smiles. It is a characteristic of some men that they can smile while their country is being put into bondage. I am opposed to this proposal because it has not been submitted to the people. A few weeks ago no man. could have been more enthusiastic, eloquent, or earnest than the Prime Minister was in his appeal to honorable members, and especially those of his party, to trust the people. He said, “ The people of the Commonwealth and of the States are one and the same. It does not matter whom we tax, because the money comes out of one pocket and is put into the other. I am prepared to trust the people all the time; but the Opposition are not.” I ask : Is the Government trusting the people in connexion with this Bill ? It dares not withdraw the measure and ask the electors for permission to borrow to obtain money with which to build a navy. Ministers and their supporters are breaking their promises to the people. To avoid the necessity of imposing on the wealthy taxation which they should bear, they are practically bludgeoning the measure through Parliament. I say bludgeoning, because their supporters have been bludgeoned into silence. They are not allowed to speak. On that side of the Chamber we have the worst caucus-bound body of men that has ever existed in any part of the world. They are the slaves of a system. They dare not speak even when the initiation of a pernicious, objectionable, and, indeed, suicidal policy is being proposed. They are digging the graves of the people of this country. They are handing us over to the Jews. Honorable members opposite darenot say a word, lest the Government should be defeated, and they left to the mercy of the electors. Honorable members laugh. That is in keeping with their general attitude towards the suffering masses. They care not what burdens they put on the backs of the people. I believe that they would put them on the rack, and smile at them while they were suffering excruciating pain. If the men on the other side of the Chamber were free, there would be no chance of this Loan Bill passing, and the Government would be ignominiously defeated. Some of them have pronounced against borrowing, but they dare not act in accordance with their convictions, because to do so would mean the downfall of the Government, which, in its turn, would mean the ruin of the party, and of their personal ambitions. But if would be the salvation of the country, and the sooner it comes about the better. Honorable members are prepared, without a shudder, to place burdens on my children’s backs, and on the backs of their own children. We do not know to what magnitude our borrowing will increase. Whenever Governments need money for military or naval expenditure, they will rush into the moneymarket. I never knew a Government which, having started to borrow, did not find it easy to return to the pawnshop.. Once a Government begins to borrow, it gets into the habit of doing so, and does not stop until the country is mortgaged al most past recovery. Had Itime, were I inclined, and did I think that good could be done, I would speak at still greater length. If I felt that I could move two or three-
– The honorable member is moving them. They are leaving the chamber very fast.
– This is a foreshadowing of what is to come. They will presently leave the chamber once and for all. I would rather a thousand times lose my seat than be re-elected knowing that, like honorable members opposite, I had betrayed the people, been false to my convictions, and handed over the Commonwealth to a policy of borrowing for naval and military defence.
– The honorable member must not accuse others of betraying the people.
– I leave the matter to the electors.
– Amen !
– These are the inane interjections which come from representatives of capital. From the pig one expects nothing but a grunt, from the donkey nothing but a bray. I do not know to what other animals to refer when I hear such interjections. These are the men who are returned to defend the liberties of the people. Can we wonder when such men hand over the people to financial purgatory? They are prepared if necessary to lay the foundations of a system which means the damnation of the welfare of the people, and they are doing this to evade the performance of their just duty to the countrv.
.- The question before us is a simple one. I do not propose to discuss the merits of the defence scheme, of which the House has approved, and which I believe has the almost unanimous support, not only of the Parliament, but also of the people outside. The question which we are now discussing is one of finance and business. I find myself quite unable to agree with those who think that the Government is proposing to raise money for the new order of things by a method which is objectionable, either because, as the last speaker said, it involves a charge upon posterity, or because it will be in any way disadvantageous to the country. What we have to consider is this r A certain sum is required at once. Both parties are agreed that, in order to create the necessary naval defence force, a large amount of money must be found at once. That fact is the great element in the case.
– The Government alleges that only a small deposit on the contract need be paid.
– I ask honorable members, and especially those who have addressed themselves to the question, to allow the honorable member for Mernda to proceed in his. own way. There has been this evening a running fire of comments and interjections, which are neither creditable to the House, nor conducive to the proper conduct of business.
– My interjection was made merely to elucidate matters.
– I do not think that a lengthy speech would throw much more light on the subject now than can be emitted by the few considerations which I propose to put before honorable members. The fact that the proposed expenditure must take place within two or three years makes money an urgent and an immediate requirement. I ask honorable members who object to the proposals of the Government on the score that the expenditure should be provided for by a revised system of taxation or from the present sources of revenue, to remember that they are arguing about something of secondary importance, which is not pertinent to the situation. We need money at once. The last speaker spoke in vigorous terms about going to the Jews. 1 do not know that he is quite fair to them, because they are not the only race which has money to lend. The Commonwealth desires a fleet which will cost £3,500,000, which must be provided within two or three years. How then can we find the money ? Some honorable members have suggested a land tax. The imposition of a land tax is an important question of policy which I do not think will be very readily settled, especially in (he circumstances in which the Commonwealth Parliament is placed. We know quite well, as I had occasion to point out recently, that the unwritten understanding is that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, it shall confine itself to indirect taxation. That principle guides other Federations. *
– The Commonwealth has not control of all the revenue derived from indirect taxation.
– It has the supreme right to tax, as has the Federal power in Canada and the United States. But here as there it is recognised that the Federal power should confine itself to the imposition of indirect taxation. The imposition of a land tax is not a matter t o be considered in the last hours of a Parliament. If proposed it would have to be dealt with by a future Parliament. The desire is now ro finance the money at once, and we must either borrow, or at once impose heavy taxation, when we have not the necessary machinery, and when there will be an immense division of public opinion. While we settle these matters the enemy may be upon us.
– There would not be much difficulty about an income tax.
– An income tax is only another branch of direct taxation. We do not desire, especially when there is no immediate necessity, to interfere with the line of taxation which we have left to the States. I hope the day is far off when this Parliament will break through that rule, except- under stress of some grave contingency that I hope may not arise.
– An income tax is considered fair for war purposes.
– That is perfectly right, but we must consider that the States already levy income taxes which they have made an ordinary source of revenue. When Mr. Gladstone introduced the income tax, he said it was a war tax, which would cease as soon as the warlike purposes for which it was imposed had been fulfilled. As a matter of fact, however, the income tax at Home, which at first was a luxury, has become an everyday necessity; and I am sorry to say that the Australian States already use an income tax, not as an emergency tax for extreme occasions, but as a means of income for ordinary purposes. We desire, if possible, to confine the Commonwealth to ‘indirect taxation. That, I think, has been the understanding all along, and has been one of the great objectives of our Federal arrangements.
– That theory is not agreed to by honorable members on this side.
– I remind the honorable member that that arrangement was arrived at by the people of the country before there were members on that side.
– Nothing of the kind; the Commonwealth has unlimited power of taxation, direct or otherwise.
– Quite so; but I am pointing out that, as a matter of history, and not as a matter of contract, the Commonwealth Parliament has, on an understanding arrived at, met its necessities out of indirect taxation, leaving direct taxation to the States. I am not saying that we ought to confine ourselves to indirect taxation if the people of Australia ultimately decide to adopt a different principle; but we are now faced with the fact that we require £3,500,000, and require it at once. Any one who considers the present state of the world will admit that the sooner we have an effective navy, and effective means of defence generally, the better. Suppose we were to provide the £3,500,000 out of extra taxation during the next three years. Would it not very largely interfere with the whole finances of the States and the Commonwealth? It would create a strain which I do not think the people would submit ro for a moment; and if we acted on the suggestion of honorable members opposite, and waited until the money was raised in that way, I am afraid it would mean that we should never have any navy. In any. private business, if it is desired to make a development, and further capital is required, it is perfectly legitimate to borrow, and repay as quickly as possible. That is a matter of everyday occurrence; and it is the proposal of the Government, who spread the repayment of the loan over fifteen or sixteen years. If it were proposed to borrow £3,500,000, and never repay it, I could understand some of the arguments of the Opposition.
– That is exactly what is proposed ; no time is stipulated in the Bill.
– I admit that I have not gone through the Bill very closely ; but I understand that there is to be a 5 per cent. sinking fund, which will liquidate the debt in sixteen years.
– We are going to provide that the sinking fund shall be one of not less than 5 per cent.
– I think it should be a little more. The course proposed is one adopted in every well-regulated productive establishment, and it is good business. At the end of the sixteen years, supposing that peace and harmony prevail amongst the nations, the ships will be obsolete, either because there is no use for them, or because they are not equal to the ships of other nations; and the money by that time, of course, will have all been paid off. A question raised by honorable members opposite is, “ Shall we take this money from the poor, or shall we take it from the rich and those best able to pay it?” I submit, with all respect, that that question does not arise. Members returned to this Parliament at the next or subsequent elections, may alter the arrangement as they choose; and the money necessary to pay interest and principal may be raised in another way. What we have to settle just now is not how the money is to be repaid, but how it is to be raised in order to meet a necessity.
– Let the other chap worry about the paying !
– If the honorable member is again returned to the House, he will have full opportunity to advocate a different method to meet the position. At present, the Government are not asking us to do more than authorize them to borrow the money necessary to accomplish the object, and the question of repayment is one that a future Parliament may deal with as it thinks fit. I do not wish to go into the question at length ; but the arrangement detailed by the honorable member for Brisbane seems to me eminently fair, not only to this Commonwealth, but to the Mother Country. It practically amounts to an arrangement for a co-partnership. In the past, we have had arrangements, some satisfactory, and some unsatisfactory. Of course, I know that some honorable members objected to the Dreadnought offer ; but it came before the British people in such a form as to impress them with our sincerity in desiring to be, not merely a nominal, but an. integral part of the Empire.
– And we should have borrowed money for that purpose, I suppose?
– I suppose that the English Government borrow money when they require it.
– We should be vicariously generous !
– Stand or fall together - that was the point.
– It might have been, as some honorable members say, a paroxysm of feeling ; but whatever prompted the pffer of a Dreadnought, it had the result of impressing upon the Home Government and the British people our sincerity in desiring to take a hand in the affairs of the Empire. The result was that a Conference was called, and a co-operation or copartnery was established with the Dependencies of the Empire. In our case, we had been paying a subsidy of ,£200,000 a year, the Home Government providing the whole of the defence. When we intimated that we were prepared to do our part, the reply was, “ Very well, we shall meet you .in this matter; it will cost you £750,000 a year, towards which we shall contribute £250,000 ; in this way, we shall not onlyput you in the position to which you aspire, of being a partner in the Empire, but we shall save £400,000 or £[500,000 that we are now spending in defending Australia.” As a matter of fact, it is a good, sound business arrangement. While we are -settling the question as to whether it is desirable for the Commonwealth tq go beyond what are understood to be the limits of its taxing powers, the next two or three years may pass, and we may find that we mayhave “ missed the bus “ - that we are ready some time after the need for our navy has arisen. We cannot have a navy without paying for it, and we desire to order it at once. If we have not the money, why should we not borrow it?
– There is plenty of money in Australia.
– The honorable member is quite right; but, as I could point out if time permitted, and the subject were relevant, we have plenty of uses for the money in Australia. If we apply the money in Australia to the development of Australia through private enterprise, Ave shall find we have uses enough for it, and that we can borrow on far more satisfactory terms abroad. Honorable members should look at this, and I trust they will do so, as not in any way a party question. It is a simple matter of business. The idea of laying down a hard and fast rule in this country that you will not borrow money in any circumstances is foolish. It all depends on your financial ability to accomplish the objects you have in view. We want a fleet, and we want .it at once, and we must find the money at once to pay for it. That being- so, the question of repayment is the gravamen of the whole difference between us. My honorable friends say - “ We will finance it out of revenue,” which means increased taxation. The Government say - “ We will. borrow the money and, instead of making the burden on the people a million and a half for the next three years, make it about £[270,000 for fifteen years. That is the whole issue boiled down. We ought to pass the Bill. The honorable gentleman who last addressed Ihe House spoke of honorable members who were afraid to vote or speak, but I do not think he can apply that to me. I speak because I believe this is a sound business proposition, one that ought to commend itself to the House as reasonable, and as the only means available at present to enable us to complete the arrangement made with the Imperial Government - an arrangement which I think is an exceedingly good business proposition.
.- I am very glad that the Imperial Defence Conference, which the honorable member for Brisbane attended as the representative of Australia, arrived at a decision to establish auxiliary fleets in the various dominions. That decision is quite of a piece with the policy advocated for a considerable time past by the party to which I have the honour to belong. It is a good thing that at last the chief naval advisers of the Empire have been brought to see that it is possible to have something in the nature of Colonial fleets which will be of advantage from an Empire stand-point, and at the same time keep alive that local patriotism without which any fleet at all is impossible. While one cannot help ex- pressing pleasure at the turn events have taken in that direction, 1 must say that the means by which the Government propose to bring the auxiliary fleet into existence are absolutely beneath contempt. To hear the honorable member for Mernda talking, a stranger would gather the impression that we in Ausralia were so inordinately hard up that we could not afford to tax ourselves to the extent of £500, 000, or even £[100, coo a year. When the honorable member says that we must perforce borrow because we have no money, he is libelling Australia.
– I was speaking of the Government.’
– And what are the Government’s taxing powers for if not to be exercised? For what purpose are they intrusted under the Constitution with powers of taxation except to exercise them when occasion arises? I am not one of those who say that we must in no circumstances borrow, .because I can imagine emergencies when it would be compulsory for us to borrow in order to keep the national exchequer going. I therefore lay down no hard and fast rule with regard to borrowing, but to-day we are in no financial emergency. Australia is in as good a position as it ever was. It is at the high water mark of prosperity. It has had a succession of good seasons, and its people, speaking generally, are well off. Are those people who have been parading their patriotism from one end of Australia to the other going to baulk at helping to establish here a portion of the Empire Navy when they are asked to put up a few paltry pounds by way of taxation? Is that the extent of their patriotism? Is that all that they are prepared to do to hold together an Empire which guarantees that their property will continue in their possession ? Are they prepared only to borrow and let posterity pay the bill ? We have in this measure any number of promises from the Treasurer. We, are to put aside no less than 5 per cent, for interest and sinking fund, and the mere 4 per cent, is to be deleted as not being sufficient. Does not the House know that that pro vision can be overridden in five minutes by a strong Government, and will be if the Treasurer of the Commonwealth runs short? It will be open to any Government to say, “ Why should not posterity contribute something?” It is all very well for the honorable member for Mernda to shake his head, but does he not know that the Victorian Railway Accident Insurance Fund has been collared by the State Treasurer only lately ?
– If money is Taised under certain conditions, the agreement must be adhered to.
– The right honorable member knows that that is purely a matter of how the majority in Parliament feel.
– The right honorable member himself in Western Australia has overridden Acts of Parliament times out of number, and justified his action afterwards. Then he comes here and expects us to believe that all these conditions laid down in the Bill are going to be rigidly observed for the next fifteen years. Even if he has the very best intentions, how is he to govern the Treasurer of to-morrow?
– If you float a loan repayable at so much per annum-
– The honorable member knows that a loan is floated on the general credit of the Commonwealth.
– But if conditions are attached
– Conditions do not obtain with regard to debentures or loan issues of the Government.
– Yes they do.
– Order ! The honorable member has experienced the inconvenience of interjections, and I ask him not to interrupt.
– There are precedents without number of needy Treasurers taking possession of sinking funds, of course with the consent of Parliament, not merely in this State, but in every State of the group. It has been the commonest practice. It might, perhaps, be better if, following an unfortunate example that we have recently seen, the Government were prepared to put the provision for a sinking fund into the Constitution. There might then be a chance of its being observed. I object most strenuously to the borrowing of money to carry on the ordinary defence work of the community - not in the emergency of a war, and not to provide for contingencies that cannot be provided against to-day.
Colonel Foxton. - It would be too late then.
– Cannot money be borrowed then from our own citizens? Did not Japan borrow money when her war with Russia had begun? It is never too late to borrow money if your credit is good, but for defence provisions such as we are now proposing to make, let us tax ourselves. We are rich enough to tax ourselves ; let us do it.
– The Government say it is too early to do that.
– The Government have not the political pluck to appeal to the electors to back them up. They are afraid of what the electors will say, but I do not think there is the slightest need to fear an appeal to the electors on this question. I believe the electors of Australia, even the comparatively wealthy men who would have to pay a considerable amount, are prepared to contribute under an income tax or land tax, or some other form of direct taxation, the money necessary for defence purposes. I do not think there is a majority of the electors, even amongst those who would contribute largely, who would object to pay their quota. I have spoken to a great number of them in the last few years on the subject, and every one of them, irrespective of the value of his property, was quite willing to put down his share in order that an adequate defence scheme might be provided.
– They think it is a good business proposition.
– Yet the honorable member for Mernda says it is a good business proposition to borrow when you yourself are solvent. “
– A man may be very solvent, and yet borrow money.
– He may have securities which it is unwise to attempt to realize upon, but it is foolish for a man to borrow when he has money in his pocket, because he is simply making a present of the interest to those from whom he borrows.
– He has the use of the money for the interest.
– And his own money is lying idle all the time. The taxpayers’ money is at our disposal for this purpose as soon as we care to ask for it, and it will cost us nothing as a community, but the honorable member prefers to borrow.
– It will cost the community something.
– It will cost those who contribute something, but it will cost them Jess than it would cost the Commonwealth to borrow. It is a question of whether we are going to take the money which is at hand, and not have to be responsible for its redemption, or whether we shall go to the money lender and make ourselves and those who come after us responsible for the cost of assets which will disappear in a comparatively short time.
– Not if the redemption covers the time.
– The honorable member is trusting to an absolutely rotten reed when he trusts to the money specified in .the Bill being put into a sinking fund for sixteen years. Directly a needy Treasurer with a sufficient majority behind him comes along, the whole thing will be wiped out, and under the agreement lately arrived at with the States, we are going to have some needyTreasurers in the Commonwealth. I think the honorable member for Mernda will agree with me that we have undertaken to payjust a little more than we are capable of paying for some little time, unless heavytaxation is imposed. I believe that the provisions of the Bill with regard to a sinking fund will, within, a comparatively short time, be an absolutely dead letter.
– That can be altered in the Bill.
– What is the use of altering it? It will not bind future Parliaments.
Colonel Foxton. - The honorable member is predicting repudiation.
– I suppose the honorable member has seen the same thing done before now. Is he so dense, or does he see so little of what is going on around him, that he does not know that the Victorian Railway Accident Insurance Fund was collared by the State Treasurer only a few months ago? The Victorian Government announced with a flourish of trumpets that they were going to build up a reserve fund out of which compensation for great railway accidents would be paid, but the first time the Treasurer was in difficulties the whole fabric disappeared.
– No ; he took only a part.
– That is like the excuse of the young lady that “ It was only a little one.”
– Simply because they thought they had sufficient accumulated.
– But there was no more accumulated than the law provided for. The same excuse might be used in the case of this sinking fund. The Commonwealth Treasurer could say, “ We have a few hundred thousands in hand ; what more do we want ? There is quite sufficient accumulated.” I am afraid that clause 8 of this very Bill gives the Treasurer considerable latitude as to what he is to do. And the Treasurer may decide - I do not say the present Treasurer, but a future occupant of his office who knows not the ways of virtue - that it is time that this fund was used for a beneficent purpose, that beneficent purpose being to relieve the Treasury. I wish, therefore, to enter my protest against the manner in which the Government propose to raise this money. In all seriousness I believe- that the people of Australia would respond heartily to a suggestion that direct taxation of some sort should be levied for defence purposes. I do not believe in ear-marking revenue for a particular purpose, but I am sure that the people would not object to a reasonable direct tax for the specific purpose of helping forward such a naval scheme as that which we have before us.
.- I was pleased to have the privilege of listening once more to the honorable member for South Sydney while he denounced in his usual vigorous style the proposal of the Government to embark on a borrowing policy. I agree most heartily with the attitude that he has taken up. In yesterday morning’s newspapers we saw the statement that the Government had succeeded in passing a Bill providing for the Commonwealth making to the States for all time a per capita allowance of 25s, per annum. In the same newspapers there was a statement to the effect that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth finds it absolutely necessary to appeal to the money lenders of other countries for funds for the construction of ships to protect Australia. The Treasurer evidently feels that the payment to the States can be made for all time, yet he has not at his disposal sufficient money to meet liabilities that are about to be incurred by the Commonwealth. There is no serious disagreement amongst honorable members as to the main question before us. The only points of difference rela’te, in the first place, to the method of financing, and secondly, to the question of whether or not we are justified in embarking upon the construction of a navy of this description in view of the advances which are being made in the building of flying machines that may be used for defence purposes.
– The Government believe only in flying- kites.
– They would fly anything. They will have to fly to the electors on the 20th of February, and we may be sure that this House will not be dissolved until the 19th of the month. They broke their pledges to their constituents six months ago, and we sought a dissolution in order that they might pay the penalty for the repudiation of every pledge on which they were returned.
– Order !
– I admit that I have been temporarily drawn aside from the question immediately before the Chair. The only serious objection that can be taken to the proposal to construct this navy relates to the question of whether or not we are justified in embarking upon this policy in view of the extraordinary development that has taken place in aerial navigation.
– Has any country stopped its shipbuilding programme because of that advance?
– I do not know that there has been any serious stoppage yet, but there is certainly a growing tendency in that direction. There is a growing feeling that aerial navigation will revolutionize modern warfare. Flying machines have been navigated from a given point over a course extending from 100 to 180 miles. They have been steered between goalposts and brought back to the starting point, and when such* a stage has been reached in aerial navigation, we cannot overestimate the value of flying machines as instruments of warfare. In these circumstances does the Minister of Defence think that we ought to construct this navy on the lines laid down under the agreement made at the Imperial Defence Conference? Does he not think that we should, at all events, be setting aside at the same time a sum of money to enable experiments in’ connexion with aerial navigation for defence purposes to be made ?
– I do not think that the ‘one is involved in the other.
– I do. It is possible that within the next few years we may have perfected flying machines which may hover over our battleships, and from which bombs may be dropped upon our fleet and destroy it.
– That is possible,, but not likely.
– It is not only possible, but very probable.
– I do not think” that the honorable member is doing himself justice in attempting to lead the House to believe that we ought to postpone the naval defence scheme because of the advance that is being made in aerial navigation. I admit the importance of all that he says.
– My honorable friends opposite will admit anything that does not involve their doing something. I do not say that this is necessarily an argument against the acceptance of the naval scheme-
Colonel Foxton. - Then what is it leading up to?
– This loan policy is necessarily involved with the question of naval defence, although the two questions ought to have been dealt with separately.
– The debate on the naval policy was closured.
– Quite so, and if I do not discuss the naval scheme at this stage, I shall have no other opportunity to do so. The question of aerial navigation cannot be separated from the proposals now under consideration. A few years ago an armoured cruiser was one of the most formidable of warships; but since then improvement after improvement has been made until we have to-day an improvement on vessels even of the Dreadnought type.
No doubt further inventions will cause vessels of the Dreadnought type to be relegated to the scrap-heap long before we pay for these vessels.
– The armoured cruiser has not yet been superseded.
– No, but the honorable member will not say that an armoured cruiser could successfully fight a Dreadnought f
– It is a different type of vessel .for a different purpose.
– Naval architecture has developed so rapidly that we cannot say that a battleship that is up-to-date to-day will be of any value five years hence.
– Other people are building battleships out of loan moneys, and estimate that they have an eighteen years’ life.
– The honorable member urges that because some other country - and I think there is only one - is going to build warships out of loan money we must of necessity follow suit. We have a great country - one that is well worth defending - a country whose resources cannot be estimated. We need only to see that it is properly governed. We have mineral and other deposits of boundless possibilities, and the wealth of this country ought to pay the insurance.
– We have merely touched the fringe of the hidden wealth of Australia.
– I agree with the honorable member. We have had years of unexampled prosperity, and the most important industries on which Australia has to rely have experienced a continuation of good seasons. The money market was never more buoyant than it is to-day ; and the people of Australia were never in a better position to meet any just taxation that might be placed on their shoulders. Yet it is suggested by the Government that we have not the tax-carrying capacity to provide a million, a year for the next three years to meet a national emergency. The Government is prepared apparently to become the seventh Australian borrower. The States have already borrowed something like £250,000,000, the interest on which amounts to £[9,000,000 per annum, and they are relying .chiefly on Customs and Excise revenues to meet that interest bill. This precious Government is going to become another borrowing force in Australia, and to add to our already considerable public debt. At the last general elec tion the Prime Minister said that his Government proposed to consolidate the public debt of Australia, and to exercise reasonable control over reckless borrowing, such as had been indulged in by State Treasurers. That was the general policy of. I he Government which went before the people at the last election. They were going to exercise a reasonable discretionary power over the borrowing of the State Treasurers.
– In their wildest moments, they did not think of putting any proposal of this kind forward.
– They did not have any idea of borrowing money for naval defence. Were they not repudiators of their pledges, they would not dream of doing what is proposed until the electors had expressed their opinions on the subject. They have abandoned the idea of consolidating, the public debt of Australia whereby £[26,000,000 could be saved during the existence of the obligations already incurred. The ratification of the financial agreement will make that impossible; and, in place of six Government borrowers ora the London market, we shall have seven. The Bill is going to be whipped through by applying the lash to men who, in the face of an election, have not the courage to vote in. accordance with their convictions.
– If the electors do not ratify the agreement, this proposal will not be foisted on the country.
– The proposed loanwill be floated before the new Parliament meets.
– The Opposition ought to be satisfied. They have some fine cries to go to the country with.
– From the Oppositionpoint of view, things could not be more rosy than they are. Our only regret is that we could not force the Government to the country six months ago.
– Under the circumstances, the honorable member might be expected to look a little more pleasant.
– I do not think that my demeanour, now that I am in Opposition, differs much from what it was when I sat cn the Ministerial side of the chamber.
– The honorable member has become a regular political tiger since he crossed the chamber.
– I remember the way in which the present Minister of Defence used to fight during the seven years that he was here. I pay him the compliment of acknowledging that he was a good fighter. He is not prepared to deny that, had he remained in the Opposition, his voice would have been heard in denunciation of this proposal. Its iniquity would have appealed to him, and drawn from him an eloquent protest. Unfortunately, he is associated with those who say that the Bill must go through, that the money must be obtained to make a splash at the next election. Those who are against the project have been rounded up by the party Whip.
– Not all of them.
– Two or three honorable members opposite have asserted their right to be free.
– Only one.
– The honorable member for Dalley is not alone on that side. A strenuous effort has been made to obtain a compact vote from Ministerial followers, and the methods employed have not been very creditable.
– Does the honorable member mean in regard to the proposal now under discussion?
– I do not know of anything such as is suggested having been done.
– My honorable friend is not usually so innocent. No doubt his namesake could tell him something about the matter. But it is useless to bring arguments to bear against the proposal of the Government. They may be unanswerable; but no notice is taken of them. Ministers and their supporters receive them in silence. Probably the Minister of Defence has been so often quoted to his disadvantage that he intends to in future say as little as possible. The sum of £3,500,000 is to be borrowed, and the interest charged on the loan will be sent out of Australia, whereasa slight increase of taxation could pay for the ships without injuring any one.
– And most of them could be built here.
– I believe so. The Canadian Minister has intimated to the Imperial authorities that their vessels will be built in Canada.
– That is a national policy.
– Yes. I do not think we have the dock accommodation necessary to construct a Dreadnought in Australia at present; but cruisers, vessels of the River class, and submarines could be built here.
Colonel Foxton. - It is proposed to construct three destroyers here, if it can be done.
– What are we to understand by that ? Are the vessels to be constructed in Australia?
– I shall do my best to provide for their construction here.
– I suppose we must be satisfied with that statement. I hope that honorable members opposite will retrace their steps before it is too late. This is certainly a question upon which the opinion of the people of Australia should be obtained. If the honorable member for Cook movesin that direction, I shall vote for his proposal. Borrowing must end injuriously for the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney that there may be urgent reproductive works for which borrowing would be justified ; but defence expenditure is really insurance expenditure, and should be met out of revenue.
– What method does the honorable member suggest?
– On the expiration of the Braddon section, the Government could have retained a larger share of the Customs and Excise revenue, and applied it to this purpose. Apart from that, the Commonwealth has unlimited powers of taxation.
– The honorable member should formulate a proposal for obtaining £3,500,000 in two and a half years.
– My proposal would be to put this Government out of office, and replace it with one which would meet the responsibilities of the situation.
– It would have to formulate a scheme.
– That would be done.
– The honorable member should let us hear what he would do.
– The Minister wishes me to set forth a financial scheme before I have had time to give the matter the consideration which it deserves, so that he may be able to take advantage of my remarks at the election.
– The honorable member says that the Government is proposing the wrong method. What, in his opinion, is the right method?
– Borrowing is always abad policy. The Commonwealth has unlimited powers of taxation. There is nothing in the Constitution requiring it to confine its attention to indirect taxation, as the honorable member for Mernda suggests.
– One per cent, on our oversea shipping would give over 1,000,000 a year.
– That is a big sum.
– The honorable member should not write out his prescription until he has been called in.
– That is good policy.
– Half-a-dozen schemes have been spoken of by members of the Opposition, each of which conflicts with the others.
– The Minister said tonight that we do not need to raise additional revenue, that we have enoughmoney for all purposes.
– I think so.
– I have already indicated one direction in which money could advantageously be raised. The Commonwealth has unlimited powerof taxation. The monopolists of Australia should be compelled to yield up someof the wealth which now goes into their pockets. The large landed estates ought to be broken up to provide land for settlement, and revenue for the protection of property. There are other directions in which taxation could be imposed. I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney that to say that the Australian people could not, to meet a national emergency, raise £1,000,000 a year for three years is a slander on them.
– We require £3,500,000 in a little over two years.
– The money could be obtained. Many years ago the late Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone laid it down that a people is not justified in borrowing for the purposes of defence, except in time of war, or of great national emergency.
– Mr. Gladstone was a Liberal.
– He was a Liberal who was prepared to see the people of the present generation shoulder their proper responsibility. Contrast the attitude of this Government, in prosperous Australia, where the people, generally speaking, are wealthier than any on the face of the earth, with the attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is prepared to tax the wealth of Britain, and, I hope, to fight the House of Lords on the Budget. The British people are already taxed considerably over £1 a head for the naval defence of the
Home Country and the oversea Dominions, while in Australia the Government refuse to add to the taxation of people for defence purposes, though they now only pay a few paltry shillings per head, and are far better able to pay than those at Home.
– The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stopped his sinking fund contribution this year.
– The Chancellor of the Exchequer has to fight the House of Lords, composed of the landed aristocracy of England, who have always obstructed liberal and progressive legislation.
– Order !
– I think that what 1 am saying is relevant; however, I merely intended to make a passing reference to that phase of the question. Are the Government afraid that the Senate will not pass a taxation proposal?
– What I desire to make clear is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stopped the sinking fund contribution, so that he may appropriate the money to old-age pensions.
– I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in making provision for the necessities of the unfortunate poor in the Old Country, may have been driven to such a course.’ We must remember that, although the pension is only 5s. a week, there are millions involved in its payment ; and, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been, driven to the necessity of appropriating the sinking fund as a means of temporary assistance. We were told this afternoon by the Honorary Minister that the £250,000 per annum contributed by the Old Country, would in fifteen years pay the capital and interest involved in the creation of our navy, and he gloated over the fact. The honorable gentleman spoke of Australia’s patriotic effort, but, as we see, this show of assisting the Mother Country turns out to be a mere thimble and pea trick. He also informed us that, although the payment had to continue for fifteen years, there was nothing to prevent our continuing to accept it after that.
– And then there is the £200,000 which we have ceased to pay as subsidy.
– Quite so, and that makes the contribution of the Mother Country really £450,000 per annum. That is the result of the patriotic effort of the party brought into existence to establish responsible government.
– 1 believe that our Defence bill will be about £1,200,000 a year more than that indicated in the Gympie declaration.
– As to the Bill itself,I can see that it will require very stringent amendment in Committee. The currency of the bonds ought to be definitely fixed, so as to provide against the contingency mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney. It is rather striking that we should to-night have heard Ministers declaring the impossibility of a trust fund ever being appropriated toanother purpose by a Treasurer, and that the Minister of Defence should later tell us that that is exactly what has been done by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
– The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not appropriated the sinking fund, but has merely suspended further additions to it.
– That is a distinction which does not appeal very strongly to me, because there is robbery in either case. If a sinking fund is established for a certain purpose, and the Treasurer ceases to contribute to it, there is robbery and repudiation.
– Why not have a referendum on the question ?
– If the honorable member for Cook submits his motion to that effect I shall’’ vote for it. This Bill is certainly the worst that I have seen since I entered Parliament, and I hope I shall never see such another. If the Government succeed in passing it,I hope that, at the hands of the electors, they will suffer the penalty for starting Australia on the wrong track.
– I did not know that honorable members opposite were exhausted on this important question, and I had expected to hear one follow the last speaker. We are asked to accept a Bill authorizing the raising and expending of £3,500,000 for the purposes of naval defence; but I point out that honorable members, particularly on this side; have had no opportunity to express any views in regard to the principles or details of the defence scheme itself. I was amongst those desirous to speak when the Minister of Defence commenced to lay the matter before us, but, as we know, owing to the action of two or three members at the outside, entirely on their own responsibility, the proposal was passed in such a way as to preclude discussion by the application of the closure at the instance of the Minister in charge.
– The honorable member must not refer to that matter.
– If the scheme had been presented as legislation usually is, we should have been in a much better position to deal with it on its merits. As it is, we are asked to consider the financial aspect, without having considered the principles or details of the scheme; and that is a most unfortunate position for the Government to place the House in. It is a position which neither reflects credit on the Government, nor places Australia in a proper light before the people of the Old Country. If there is any question that appeals to the Empire as a whole, it is the question of defence; and leaders of thought in public life throughout the Empire are entitled to hear the opinions of the members of this Parliament. At the end of the last session of a dying Parliament, we are invited to consider a big proposal of this character, sprung on us without much previous information, and presented in a garbled and mangled form. I desire to enter my protest, and to say, at the same time, that I was prepared to give the question of naval defence fair consideration. Had I the advantage of knowing what the proposals of the Government are, I believe I should be prepared to afford them my support ; but the Government saw fit in what seemed to me to be a spirit of petty and despicable spleen-
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to that matter.
– It is quite in keeping with the action of the Government in the earlier stages of the discussion of this matter, that a Bill of this character should be now introduced. The leaders, if not the rank and file on the Government side, had no desire to permit Australia to have a naval defence on Australian lines. They desired, and, to a certain extent, in the earlier life of the Commonwealth, gave effect to that desire, to contribute a mere pittance in the form of a subsidy, throwing on the Mother Country the whole responsibility for the naval defence of Australia. Such a policy does not represent Australian sentiment. The people of Australia recognise that, in addition to territorial defence,a certain measure of naval defence is necessary, and are prepared to provide it ; but, unfornately, there have been, and are, in this Chamber members who think that anything of that character bespeaks enmity to the Empire. Their ideas are so narrow and despicable that they regard nothing but some limited defence expenditure under the control of the Mother Country as genuine Australian patriotism. Anything else they consider to be tainted with disloyalty, and they have persistently endeavoured to belittle the desire of Australians to build up a system of naval defence suitable to Australian conditions and adequate for Australian needs. The late Labour Government placed the Commonwealth under a debt of gratitude by initiating a true Australian naval defence scheme which became so popular thai .the other side, despite their hostility to it, have felt themselves compelled to adopt it. It was owing to the representations of that Government to the Home authorities that the scheme now before us had an opportunity of being considered, and is now being actively initiated as a wise’ and substantial part of the wider defence scheme of the Empire. During the time that this matter was under consideration honorable members on the other side, who took the narrower view, charged those on this side with being actuated by disloyal motives. They claimed that our scheme was put forward in order to give effect, in an underhand way, to anti-Imperial designs. In the early stages their cry was for the presentation of a Dreadnought or nothing. That was the original policy of those little Australians ; but when public opinion did not respond in the way they expected, it became’ a Dreadnought or its equivalent. When, finally, they got into touch with British sentiment, and realized that the sound common sense of the political leaders of the Empire was against them, and in favour of the Fisher policy, they- changed their tune to “An Australian unit.” We, therefore, have this proposal submitted to us. When we consider the utterances of some members of the Ministry and of the Fusion party during the early stages of the discussion of the question when it was to be a ” Dreadnought or nothing” ; when we read again some of their strong expressions of opinion against an Australian Navy, we cease to wonder why the motion submitted last week by the Minister of Defence was forced through the Chamber without debate. I have armed myself with the opinions of a number of leading authori ties on the question of Australian defence. I do not propose to quote from them all : but every one must recognise that the opinion of British statesmen is that Australian defence can be best effected, managed, and controlled by Australians, and that the old system favoured by a number of the Fusionists of throwing on the British Government the responsibility of providing for Australian naval defence, and making a contribution to the Imperial Exchequer, was op-posed to sound principles of responsible government. They recognised that the old Liberal cry of “ No taxation without representation “ applied in that matter as forcibly as it had ever done, and that it would not be long before those parts of the Empire which were asked to contribute largely to the cost of the British Navy would demand a voice in the expenditure of the money which they contributed. They ‘knew that when, as in all large concerns of this character, exposures of abuses were made, the Australian taxpayer would ask for a voice in remedying the abuses and punishing those responsible. Notable authorities such as Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, and others, expressed that view with no uncertain sound. I have here a short quotation from that eminent British Admiral to this effect -
The £elf -governing Dominions can best help us, not by spending ^2,000,000 in the construction of battleships to serve in British quarters, but by making efforts to ‘defend themselves. The only way the Dominions oversea can be hurt is by the cutting off the trade routes. . . . The investment of £2,000,000 in home defence and cruisers which would protect the trade routes would be a better investment than helping to defend Great Britain’s shores.
He there says, in effect, that the outlying portions of the Empire, including Australia, can spend their money better in local defence than in presenting Dreadnoughts to the Mother Country ; but in the following quotation he touches on the possibility that, if the offer was accepted, Australia would want a voice in the expenditure -
There is one point that the English-speaking nations are very determined upon, and they will argue upon it considerably, and that is that whenever they spend money they like to “have control of it.
The Manchester Guardian, in an article published on the 2nd June last, dealing with the Imperial Defence Conference, published the following criticism upon the question of the presentation of
Dreadnoughts to the Mother Country, as against locally controlled defence : -
The Conference will find Australia strongly and Canada mildly interested in the formation of navies of their own, New Zealand committed on imperfect knowledge of the facts and without consultation of the Parliament to a huge subsidy, and South Africa with no desire to possess a navy of her own, and no power to increase her subsidy to the Imperial Navy. The New Zealand precedent, though most generous, is. not on the lines of ‘ true progress, and, so far from encouraging other colonies to follow it, we ought at the Conference to give New Zealand every opportunity of transforming her offer into something of more permanent value. The ideal to aim at, alike for military and for political reasons, is that each colony should make itself capable of defending itself at sea as on land for military reasons, because the whole tendency of the time is towards localizing naval defence and towards greater concentration ‘of fleets; and for political reasons, because it is impossible, to accept colonial contributions to the Imperial fleet on any considerable scale without also giving the colonies a voice in Imperial policy. It is a common belief that our fleet is larger than it need be, because we have to defend the colonies as well as -our own shores, and that if the colonies did their share. in naval defence ours would be much less ; but there is little evidence in support of it. The naval defence of Canada can hardly be said to cost us anything, for she is already protected against attack from any European power bv the Monroe Doctrine, and the United States Navy is left out of our calculations of naval competition. W keep a small squadron in Australian waters, of which Australia Days about five-twelfths of the cost, but if she kept four battleships there, it would make not the smallest difference in our requirements in home waters.
The defence of our colonies then has nothing to do with the size of our Naval Budgets. But would Estimates be less if the colonies gave Dreadnoughts and made no conditions about where they should be stationed? We doubt even that Why has no one suggested that one Dreadnought should be knocked off our programme because of New Zealand’s offer? Because every “gift” creates a corresponding obligation. No number of Dreadnoughts in the North Sea would dispense with the need of local defence in the South Seas on the outbreak of war, and whatever New Zealand has added to our strength would then have to be given back. If we did not give it back the Colony would have a just grievance. Our naval position would be no stronger, but rather weaker : on the other hand, the political risk would be very serious. A party in the colonies would raise the cry that they were being taxed without representation or control ; but no representation could be given without increasing the responsibilities of the Navy, at least to the extent of the colonial contributions, and impairing the independence of its action in war. Colonial gifts are esteemed as symbols of unity, and in time of real danger they may have very great practical value. But the value should not be discounted in advance, nor is it possible to found a permanent policy upon them. The true permanent policy is for the colonies to develop their own resources and to relieve our fleet of all responsibilities outside European waters. If, when they have done that, they have the disposition to do more, then their gifts will be gifts in effect as well as intention, and not loans at interest which we may have to repay at inconvenient seasons. . . . The colonies . . can perfect their fixed defences, and they can develop in time fleets capable of keeping their own seas free from stray marauders detached from the main theatre of war. The service rendered in this way will have much greater and more permanent value than occasional gifts of Dreadnoughts to the Imperial Navy, gratifying as the spirit which dictates these is. Such gifts are soon consumed ; but the value of a sound system of naval defence, with all the pride of nationality to draw upon, will increase with time. Nor need it be feared that the local navies thus created would not be placed at the disposal of this country in time of serious war.
– That paper is worth subscribing to.
– It expresses a large measure of British sentiment. It is one of the leading organs of the Liberal party in Great Britain, and in matters of national policy is conducted with a great deal of ability, displaying a good insight into the needs and conditions of the Empire. The quotation I have made gives a clear and concise statement of what should be the relations between Great Britain and the outlying portions of the Empire. It gives also a clear and concise statement of the difficulties that would constantly present themselves if some honorable members opposite had had their way in the early stages of the Dreadnought scare. In view of their recent attitude, which is still fresh in the public mind, it is not surprising that the Naval resolution was carried last week under extraordinary conditions.
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.”]
– Honorable members opposite seized upon the Dreadnought scare as a convenient lever to dislodge the Labour Government, to whose policy, as the result of educated public opinion, they now propose to give effect. This is what the Review of Reviews in its May number had to say with regard to the conditions which then prevailed -
Rarely has there been a wilder attempt to whip up public opinion than the proposal to present Britain with a Dreadnought. To an extent the effort has been successful. The proposal originated simultaneously with a Melbourne and Sydney newspaper, and was worked for ail it was worth. Flaring headlines proclaimed the need of Britain for help, and trie insinuation, and often more, that the German nation was waiting an opportunity to fly at the throat of the Mother Country. In Victoria and NewSouth Wales the question was made the paramount one, and in several instances men who were taking a serious and thoughtful view of the question, anxious to do the right thing, were hurled by the press into the maelstrom.. Indeed, it was as much as the public life of many a man was worth to have quietly stated that they thought that the better plan of helping the Mother Country was to do something else than present a battleship to her. In the two States named, one of those paroxysms of blind fanaticism that shuts up legitimate opinion to one, and brands every other as spurious, seized the press. That the fact that the Commonwealth Government did not approve of the proposal made the question revolve around a new centre, and men who did not approve of the Dreadnought proposal lent their voices to the press cry to save a suspicion that they were friendly to the Labour Government. The Fisher Government was loudly proclaimed as being “ the best friends the Germans had,” with similar bosh ad infinitum. … it has, unfortunately come to be a question of for or against the Labour movement.
That was the position which obtained until British common sensecameto the rescue, and made it imperative that the Labour policy should be the policy of the Empire Honorable members opposite who fomented this feeling with a view of securing a political advantage, are now seeking to carry out the very policy which they then condemned so strongly. I approve of their conversion. The policy is a move in the right direction, and if the Fisher Government did nothing more for Australia than make it possible, it has certainly placed the Commonwealth and the people under an obligation to it. Indeed, I go further, and say that, according, to Lord Charles Beresford and the Manchester Guardian, it has placed the Empire under an obligation to it.
– What did Lord Charles Beresford say? …
– He very heartily condemned, for one thing, the small vessels.
– Let me put before the House a statement made by the Minister of Defence a little while ago. The honorable member, when he got away from his cry of, “A Dreadnought or nothing,” and raised the cry of, “A Dreadnought or its equivalent,” delivered an address in Sydney which” was reported in the Daily Telegraph under the following headlines: “If War Came”; “Australia Not Ready”; “Stirring Speech By Defence Minister”; “Something Must Be Done For Riflemen” ; “ Stacks of Money Wanted.” A little while ago, the honorable member, with others of his party, de clared that the Commonwealth had too much money at its disposal, and determined that we should for all time make a per capita return of 25s. per annum to the States. In the course of this speech he had something to say of the Labour party -
He would like to say that the more he thought over the question the more amazed he was at the Labour leaders objecting to this proposal.
That was the proposed offer of a Dreadnought or its equivalent -
He meant this. Here in Australia they had adopted the eight hour principle to a large extent. Their leaders proposed that the working men at Home who did not enjoy it, should defend ours for us. We had established here the principle of a living wage. Were we to sponge on the working man at Home, who had not got it, for its preservation?
The honorable gentleman did not do justice to himself or to the people of Australia when he put the matter in that light -
We had here a. White Australia. It must be preserved. At Home their gates were wide open to the coloured races of the Empire. Were we to rely on the workers at Home to defend our White Australia? This was practically what their attitude meant. They wanted all the privileges and all the security, while their hardpressed toiling brethren in the Old Country footed the bill for the preservation of it all. He did not believe the working men of Australia would take any such view. This, however, was the attutude of those who opposed the offer and denounced it as a piece of hysteria.
I put that alongside the very wise words of Lord Charles Beresford, and the statement in the Manchester Guardian. The Minister of Defence, in urging that the Commonwealth should present to the Mother Country a Dreadnought, or its equivalent, instead of proposing the formation of an Australian naval unit, did not do justice to himself, and did not interpret the opinions and sentiments of his fellow citizens.
– I object to the honorable member saving that I proposed to offer a Dreadnought as an alternative to the formation of an Australian naval unit.
– The honorable member did not makeany mention of an Australian naval unit; or, if he did, the press did not report the fact. I am glad that he has now come to a sounder view.
– I have never held any other.
– The question before the House is, not the offer to Great Britain of a Dreadnought or its equivalent, but the formation of an Australian navy.
– The big ship of the proposed unit will be a cruiser of the Dreadnought type.
– According to the report of the Imperial Defence Conference, it will be a cruiser of the Indomitable type. I congratulate the Minister on his change of view.
– There has not been one.
– I refer the honorable member to his public utterances during the time that the Fisher Government was endeavouring to formulate an Australian policy. If he can harmonize the criticism which he levelled at their proposals with his action to-day in supporting that before the House, he is capable of more ingenuity than I give him credit for.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the formation of the proposed unit was the proposal of the Fisher Government ?
– The proposal submitted to us is thus set forth in the report of the Defence Conference -
The Australian Fleet unit shall form part of the Eastern Fleet of the Empire to be composed of similar units of the Royal Navy, to be known as the China and the East Indies units respectively and the Australian Unit.
The initial cost of such a Fleet Unit was estimated to be approximately : -
The annual expenditure in connexion with the maintenance of the Fleet Unit,pay ofpersonnel and interest on first cost and sinking fund, was estimated to be about £600,000, to which amount a further additional sum would have to be added in view of the higher rates of pay in Australia and the cost of training and subsidiary establishments, making an estimated total of £750,000 a year.
The Minister of Defence has told us that when his proposed scheme is in operation, the Commonwealth will be spending £1,742,000 on land defence, and . £750,000 on naval defence, a total of £2,500,000. Whilst, no doubt, it is desirable to have a vessel of the Indomitable type as part of the Australian fleet, it is apparently not contemplated to have more than one such vessel, it being thought that our defence can be better provided for by lighter and swifter steamers. A glance at our situation shows the wisdom of that. It is improbable that a large fleet would be sent from the waters of the Old World to operate against Australia. What we have to fear are what are known as commerce destroyers. When there was trouble between Russia and Japan, the Russian commerce destroyers - not their large fighting vessels - began to overhaul British merchantmen, and to act in a manner calculated to provoke a breach of the peace. Had war broken out, the efforts of Russia would have been directed to doing as much damage as possible in crippling our commerce. Apparently, the intention is to provide against this. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has pointed out that, while vessels of the Dreadnought type are now popular, they may become obsolete at no distant date. Naval and military experts hold that view. Recently. I read an article in a leading American magazine, in which Sir Hiram Maxim, whose knowledge of these matters is unquestioned, expressed the opinion that ten years from now, the methods of defence and attack will be so revolutionized that Dreadnoughts will be obsolete and useless as weapons. He considered that the invention of swift torpedo boats of a new class, armed with more effective projectiles than are at present in general use. would be a reason for putting the Dreadnoughts on the scrap-heap within tenyears. But we must also take into account the marvellous discoveries in aerial navigation. Even one not intimately acquainted with defence matters can readily see from the articles in the magazines, and from recent wonderful achievements that a new field of defence and attack has been opened up.It would be most unwise to launch forthvery extensively in providing means of defence which may prove unsuitable under the rapidly changing conditions.In an article in the American Review of Revieivs. headed “ Aerial Battleships- The End of War,” is the following paragraph -
A Zeppelin airship is not a balloon, but a true shio - exactly corresponding to an iron ocean ship. It has a strong rigid hull ; it is sustained by displacing more than its own weight in the fluid that supports it; it will sinkonly if it leaks badly. Neither the airship nor the iron ocean ship is in the slightest danger of sinking except by grounding or collision. … It is protected by a cover of tough rubber-cloth, stretched over aluminium rings and ribs, each strong enough to support a man’s weight ; and the whole is greatly strengthenedby the upward pressure of the hydrogen in its inside balloons. It is fully as strong for its purposes as an iron steam-ship. The airship is never strained by rolling or pitching, like the steamer, because the air acts upon it as a current and not as waves.
– What is the object of the honorable member in reading that extract?
– To show the unwisdom of committing the Commonwealth to a large expenditure on older methods of defence, particularly in the form of Dreadnoughts.
– It is only right that J. should remind the honorable member of the fact that that matter has already been settled this session, and it would not be possible to make an alteration without rescinding the motion already carried.
– All the more pity that the question should have been so settled. My only desire is to show the unwisdom of entering on a large expenditure for Dreadnoughts while newer methods are creating fresh conditions. While, under present conditions, ft may be advisable for the Commonwealth to commit itself to the construction of one large vessel, it would be most unwise to spend money in constructing many of the same character. Our real defence is to be found in newer vessels, more particularly the swifter, smaller, and less expensive River class and torpedo boats. The Government no longer appeal to the country to present a Dreadnought or its equivalent to the Mother Country j but have really adopted the Fisher programme for the creation of an Australian naval defence scheme. The Government, however, have not followed the Fisher programme altogether, because the latter not only set forth a scheme, but indicated the method by which it was proposed to finance it, as shown in the Gympie statement of policy. The present Government, in order to protect its wealthy friends, propose to establish an Australian unit by asking the Mother Country not merely to contribute £250,000 per annum, but to provide all the necessary money in the form of a loan. Is Australia to “sponge” on the Mother Country in that manner? That is not a nice epithet to use, but it is far more justifiable under present circumstances than it was when the Minister of Defence used it. Australia, with all its wealth, instead of shouldering her share of the burden, proposes to ask the Mother Country for a loan ; and that is a most despicable way of dealing with this Australian question. As between the proposed method and that formulated by the Fisher Government, the comparison tells altogether, from the patriotic Australian stand-point, against the proposal now submitted. The scheme is practically to have these vessels constructed with English money. There may be circumstances under which a borrowing policy is justified, particularly in time of stress and trial as the outcome of war ; but under conditions of peace and prosperity, such as at present obtain, it is neither patriotic nor in accord with Australian sentiment that our defence should be so provided. There are other reasons why the proposals of the Government should not be adopted at the present time. When the Commonwealth was in its youth, there was a proposal to initiate a policy of borrowing in order to carry out certain works which had been taken over from the States, and which, under State control, had been provided for out of loan moneys. This Parliament rejected the proposal, though it was far more justified then than it is on the present occasion. Parliament decided in the interests of sound finance that the Commonwealth should not be committed to a borrowing policy. The decision which was then arrived at has been respected ever since, and I think that the wisdom of the course which was adopted upon that occasion must be patent to all. At the time it was considered that our public works could not be constructed out of current revenue. But experience has falsified that idea, because during the period which has since elapsed ti.i Commonwealth has actually returned to the States £[6,000,000 in addition to the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue, to which they were entitled under the Braddon section of the Constitution. The Commonwealth has thus been able to carry out important public works without resort to the money market of the Old World. But in addition to the general undesirableness of the Commonwealth invading the London money market to enable itto undertake other than reproductive works, it must be recognised that any such step would introduce a seventh Australian competitor into that market - a competitor which would have only the same asset upon which to borrow. Each of the States borrowed largely in the past, and is still borrowing for the purpose of carrying out public undertakings. As a result they are very heavily committed to the bond-holders of the Old Country. If the Commonwealth enters the London’ money ma/ket and pledges the same asset, it is obvious that either the States or itself must suffer. The States do not now occupy the position which they occupied a few years ago, when they borrowed solely for new undertakings. Every year they are compelled to enter the money market, not for the purpose of raising loans with which to construct new public works, but largely for the purpose of enabling them to liquidate their maturing indebtedness. This circumstance presents to the States an entirely new problem. I learn from Mr. Knibbs’ informative statistics that during the next five years, 1.910- 15, the States will be required to liquidate £46,188,300 worth of existing indebtedness. That money must be provided to meet maturing loan obligations Within the next ten years, 1916-20, a further sum of £33,571,120 must be provided for the same purpose ; within the next fifteen years, 1921-25, an additional sum of £48,748,728, and within the next twenty years, 1926- 30 - not a very long period in the history of a nation - a further sum of £17, 597, 937, making a total of £146,106,085, maturing between the years 1910-30. In the face of this great financial problem it is seriously proposed that the Commonwealth should enter the London money market as a competitor with the States. Thus, instead of the indebtedness of the States being consolidated and placed under a central authority, we shall have the lamentable spectacle of seven Australian competitors in the money markets of the world. That would mean that Australia would be at the mercy of the money lenders. Expenditure upon defence does not appeal to me as a legitimate reason why we should enter the London money market. I have always laid it down as a sound axiom that our expenditure under that heading should be provided by the wealthy rather than by the poor of the community. If the former are to contribute in that connexion they can do so only by means of direct taxation. But the proposal to borrow money for defence purposes, and to make the interest upon it a charge upon the ConsoliMated Revenue will lay a heavy burden upon the shoulders of the poor rather than upon those of the rich. The wealth of Australia is in the hands of comparatively few of its people. It is estimated that the accumulated wealth of New South Wales represents from £375,000,000 to £400,000,000 . and ‘ the whole of that accumulated wealth is in the hands of not more than 200.000 persons. There are 1,000 holders, who own £130,000,000 of that enormous amount of accumulated wealth, and 550,000 or 600,000 adult persons who practically have no part or lot therein. If that wealth which is so vitally concerned is to contribute its fair share towards the cost pf defence, the taking of the money by indirect taxation will not place the burden evenly on those who derive the most benefit in this connexion. It is asking the holders of that enormous amount of wealth to contribute a mere fraction towards defence purposes, and placing practically the whole burden upon the toiling wealthless masses. Is that fair or reasonable? The Labour Government when it promulgated its policy of defence, indicated that the wealth of Australia would be asked to contribute a fair share towards its cost. The Fusion Government; under the stress of public opinion in Australia and the Mother Country, has adopted the Labour defence programme to the extent of providing a naval unit, but it has shirked the obligation of charging the cost of it on the wealth of Australia. It has stood by the wealthy classes which it represents, because the Fusion itself was the outcome of the pressure in politics which demanded that wealth and special privilege should be defended by the joining of those who had been politically sundered, and whose views on most political questions had differed. So, whilst taking the Fisher programme in regard to the unit, they are protecting their wealthy friends by placing the burden of financing it on the shoulders of the masses and allowing the wealthy of the community to practically escape. I regard this question as being one purely of defence and not of defiance. I do not think that Australia desires to be at enmity with any of the peoples outside her borders. On the contrary, she desires to be on terms of friendliness, and to have a good commercial relationship with them. The commercial relations of Australia are rapidly growing. They, are not now confined to the Mother Country. The big powers of Europe, notably Germany and France, are entering into close commercial relations with Australia, and we desire to preserve that advantage. It will be remembered that because during the stress and storm of the Dreadnought scare I had expressed similar views I was denounced by my political opponents on the other side as being disloyal to the Empire. I believe that modern civilization owes a great deal to the talent, the energy, and the progressiveness of the British and the German peoples. I hope that in the years to come that contribution to civilization will foe in an increasing ratio. I know of nothing that will put back the hands of progress and good fellowship to a greater extent than will a big war between those two great peoples. Some of the best of our farmers and agriculturists have been drawn from Germany, and whilst they have a keen love for the Fatherland, they are not unpatriotic Australians. They have cast in their lot with us, and are prepared to let Australian conditions, if need be, determine their future. Whilst that is so,. I think that anything in the nature of promoting adisagreement between the two peoples should be deplored rather than encouraged, and the people of Australia and the people of the Mother Country will be well advised to do everything in their power to maintain the good feeling and the good relationship which have hitherto existed. It was said in the Old Country that the late trouble was largely fomented for political reasons, but I believe that it was largely the outcome of a feeling of commercial rivalry, and also a feeling of uncertainty with respect to a few individuals who control the destinies of the great German Empire. But apart from that, I think that there is no great feeling of bitterness or vindictiveness between the two great peoples. It is not the building of Dreadnoughts, and the fomenting of ill-will, which may lead up to a great war, which is going to secure to Great Britain her commercial supremacy. She must be prepared to adopt modern methods, to hold her own with her competitorby legitimate competition, rather than by the building of Dreadnoughts and fomenting ill-will between two great peoples. Whilst we in Australia are prepared to take a hand in defence purposes, we regard our provision as defence, not as defiance, or for the purpose of aggression. Defence is an expression of national preservation and patriotism. Australian selfpreservation and patriotism are not necessarily antagonistic to British or Empire preservation or patriotism ; but may, and should be, their complement. There is no justification for the innuendo, and. in some cases, the direct statement that Australian patriotism means or spells disloyalty to the Empire, and that the desire to build an Australian navy, and to provide for Australian defence, is necessarily antagonistic to the best interests of the. Empire. Finally, Australian naval defence should be -(a)paid for by Australian money:
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority …. … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and considered in Committee pro forma.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from the Senate, stating that it did not insist upon its amendment disagreed with by the House of Representatives ; and that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether it is proposed that the House should sit on Saturday and Monday ? I heard a rumour to thai effect. If the honorable gentleman has made up his mind as to the arrangements which are. to be made for next week, he should give the House early notice of them.
– Notice of a motion dealing with the matter has been given for to-morrow.
– A couple of days ago I brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General the fact that owing to the strike the people living in a large district of New South Wales are not receiving their mails regularly. The service from Goulburn to Cooma has been cut down by one-half. The residents of the whole of the Monaro district, at Cooma, Bombala, Dalgety, and Eden are left without their regular mails. I understood that the Postmaster-General would make some inquiries into the matter, but, so far as I can learn, no inquiries have yet been made. There does not appear to be the slightest disposition on the part of the honorable gentleman to make inquiry in order that the people of the district. I have referred to may be supplied with the mail service which they have enjoyed in the past. I do not say that it is always possible for the Government to rush in and employ motor cars for the carriage of mails. That might in some cases be found to be impracticable, but surely in an urgent case of this kind it is possible for the PostmasterGeneral to discover how much it would cost to carry out the service by using motor cars? If it is found to be a practicable scheme, it should be put into operation at once. I trust that the Postmaster-General will not allow this matter to remain in abeyance. He has already received wires assuring him that there are people who are prepared to give the Department a price for the work. If the work can be done at a reasonable price, these people should be no longer denied the service. I refer to the matter now in order to impress the Postmaster-General with its importance..
– Mail services have been considerably reduced in other districts in New South Wales, and also in Victoria. In many cases the reductions have been serious, and have involved great inconvenience to the public. In others less inconvenience has been caused. It would be scarcely fair to select one particular service such as that mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa and give specially favorable treatment to that district by supplying a substituted service. Other districts are entitled -o equal consideration. I promised to make inquiries, but I could not make inquiries and come to a decision upon an important matter like this in a day or two. One is hopeful, also, that the unfortunate strike may terminate before it becomes necessary to resort to heroic measures. If it is to be prolonged, the Department will, of course, have to consider the necessity of providing substituted services, but I do not think that we should rush into new arrangements unless specal and urgent circumstances would justify us in doing so.
– 1 wish to ask the Treasurer whether he can give the House any information- with regard to the appointment of. the High Commissioner, and whether he can say who is likely to be appointed ? I feel that now that the Bill has been passed by both Houses, we are entitled to know what the Government intend to do. We are anxious that the High Commissioner should take up the duties of his office as early as possible. We know that the Government were anxious to get the Bill through, and it occurred to me that in ‘ the circumstances they would have so far completed their arrangements that by the time the measure was passed they would be in a position to tell the House who is to be appointed to the office, and when the Commissioner is to take up his duties.
– I have no information on the matter, and I have never made any inquiry in regard to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091202_reps_3_54/>.