8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.., and read prayers.
– (By leave.)- I desire to make astatement to the House in reference to the new wheat crop, and the Wheat Pool. I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible. Honorable members will recollect the position taken up by the
Government during the last generalelection.The Government then said it would not place an embargo on the exportation of wheat, but would assist the farmers to obtain the world’s parity. The subject has arisenin this House, both astheresult of questions addressed to me, and by way ofstatements made, and the policy of the Government has been made quite clear. At different Conferences held with the Premiers, the wheat-growing States approached the Commonwealth Government to ascertain what would be its attitude in regard to the Wheat Pool. I replied on the linesIhave just indicated, but said what I have repeated in this House - that if the wheat-producing States introduced legislation by which, ineffect, they would acquire the wheat, the Commonwealth would consider itself in adifferent position, and would deal with the question on its merits. Since then further Conferences have taken place, and, as honorable members probably know, in the four wheat-producing States legislation is proceeding, concurrently, onpractically identical lines,whereby the. States prohibit private trading in wheat, and also prohibit any wheat being carried on State railways except such as receives a permit, and no permit) will be given save in respect of wheat proceeding to a State Pool. About a month ago, as the result of inquiries - to which I have previously referred in this House -made tomeby the representative of the Egyptian Government for a firmoffer for a supply of Australian wheat for the purposes of the Egyptian Government, I summoned a Conference of the four wheatproducing States. At this Conference the Premiers of some States and the Ministers of Agriculture of other States were present. Iplaced before themthe position as it then existed. Shortly put, the position wasthat therepresentative of the Egyptian Government wanted a firm offer of 300,000 tons of wheat, of which 260,000 tons was to be ground into flour in Australia and shipped as such. He wanted the option to take 70 or 80 per cent. flour. Wewereto make a firm offer, on a c.i.f. basis, delivered at Egyptian ports. I emphasized theimportance, and, as I saw it, the necessity, of taking advantage of this opportunityofselling a considerable portion of ournew wheat crop . It was then felt, however, by the representatives of the various wheat-pro ducingStates and the representatives of the old Board -the honorable member for Echuca (Mr . Hill) waspresent-that untiltheStates had introduced and made progress with legislationby which they should acquire the wheat, it was premature toenter into negotiations forthe sale of thenew crop.It was decided thatthe Conference should adjourn for onemonth, when the matter should againbe discussed. In the interval thatelapsed, the States having introduced legislationand made some progress with it,therepresentative of the Egyptian Government intimated to me that he was unable to prolong his stay in Australia, and ‘that unless we gave him an opportunity to notify his Governmentthat we were prepared to sell next season’s wheat, he would have to leaveAustralia. I, accordingly, got in touchwiththe wheat-producing States to considerthe position, as it then stood. I metthe Victorian Minister of Agriculture,and therepresentative ofthe Wheat Board (Mr. Pitt) on Friday last. As a result of that meeting a fullConference was summoned on Tuesday last, at which therepresentatives of three of the wheatproducing States were present. The re presentative of WesternAustralia was unable to attend, but the New South Wales, Victorian, and SouthAustralian Ministers of Agriculture were present, while representatives of the farmers of three of the States and the experts - that is to say, the selling agents - also attended. Atthat Conference it was stated that legislation had been introduced, and we were informed ofthe exact position atwhich it stood in the various State Parliaments. The Commonwealth Government was formally invitedby the representatives of the various States present to enter the Pool, and take a position on the Board. Without prejudice, and subject to the approval of my colleagues and of my party, Istated that I was prepared, in those circumstances,tofavorably consider the invitation. I recognised that the position taken upby the Governmentduringthe elections had been fairly met by the Legislatures ofthe Stateswhich had,for all practical purposes,acquired the wheat in the four producing States, for although the wheat hasnotbeende factoacquired yet as privatetrading hasbeen prohibited, and traffic on the railways de nied, excepting under permits to wheat proceeding to the Pool, the’ question -of… prohibition of export did not, and could not, arise. The Conference unanimously supported the invitation^ issued by - the wheat-producing States^ and I took ‘the earliest opportunity of ‘placing the matter before my colleagues, and have since had” an opportunity of discussing it with my honorable friends on ibis side of the House. We are all agreed ‘that it will be in the best .interests of Australia for the. Commonwealth to participate in the Pool, and accept the invitation of . the wheatproducing States to become a member thereof.
In regard to the negotiations with the representative of the Egyptian’ Government; I invited Mr. Sanders to come to Melbourne, and, as authorized by the Conference on Tuesday,- I laid the facts before him. I was authorized, with the other members of the Wheat Fool Executive and the selling agents, to negotiate with him. I discussed the .matter at large with him yesterday, and made an appointment for 11 o’clock this morning for him to discuss the business side of the transaction with the selling agents. That is now being done.
I wish to refer now to the position of the Commonmealth in regard to certain other aspects of the position, and as I understand the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) proposes to move the adjournment of the House on this matter, I ‘ shall not detain honorable members at any length. But, as a result of the .5s. guarantee which the Government have made to the farmers, which applies, not only to the exportable surplus; but to all wheat, the Common-‘ wealth is under a liability which may be variously estimated at from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000. It is impossible to state the amount in exact figures, because we do not yet know, precisely ‘how much wheat will’ be produced. ‘ I think, however, that we may fairly, say that, in all human probability, a very large quantity will he produced. That being the case, the Government, realizing that if it were called upon to finance an obligation of ‘£’40,000,000, it would be to the last degree important that sales should be- commenced at the earliest possible, moment, entirely indorsed my action in’ regard to the Egyptian contract. They and the. Board entirely agreed with me that, subject to a fair, price being obtained, it was- important to make this and all sales as early as possible. I wish to emphasize two phases in regard ‘to this, and I hope that the farmers and the citizens generally will take due notice of thom. The first is that if we have, as is quite possible, a surplus of 2,500,000’ tons of wheat, -it will be impossible to export that to the world’s markets in which we could realize under any shorter period than the whole twelve months of 1920-21. Last year, 3,500,000 tons of shipping came to ‘the Commonwealth. That, of course, was the total tonnage available for all our products. Honorable members will, not forget that a very great deal of freight has been diverted tff this country by the British Government to lift its. own wool as well as -its own wheat and meat, to say nothing of our other products, which, happily, are very numerous, and which have been disposed of in the ordinary way. This shows the probable amount of tonnage ‘that may be expected during the coming year. A farmer, therefore, who has wheat to sell in January, cannot hope to realize the world’s parity on that wheatfor a very considerable time. The key to the situation now, as always, is freight. Honorable members will understand that all wheat has to be sold, not as it was during the war, on a f.o.b. basis - the money being available before the wheat, was shifted - but on bottoms, on freight that has been secured. Each cargo has to be sold on a ship, and the ship must first be secured. ‘ When I tell honorable members and the farmers of this country that no freight has yet been secured, and that probably 2,500,000 tons of freight will be required to ship the wheat that will be produced, they will agree with me that the key to the situation is freight, and that it is in the last degree important that our energies should be concentrated on obtaining that freight. When I tell them, too, that the only freight now offering in anything like a large quantity is quoted at £7 per ton, which means a- little less than 4s. a bushel, the farmers will see that, with wheat being sold on a c.i.f . basis, the situation is full of - difficulties. I do not pretend for a. moment that these are insurmountable; I merely catalogue them in order that the farmers may not underestimate the obstacles in. the way. It is for this, reason that the Commonwealth Government considered it to be their duty to come into the Pool. With a liability - such as I have pointed out - ranging anywhere between £20,000,000 and £40,000,000, it is of the first importance that sales should be made promptly and the wheat shifted at the earliest possible moment. The farmers want something more than a 5s guarantee - although that would be very useful, because they would get their advance a long while before the world’s parity was available for the whole of their product. The Common wealth Government, being confronted with the position that they would be unable to finance a matter of £40,000,000 unless with the aid of sales to lighten the burden, felt that they ought to come into the Pool. They felt thatthey should do so, having been invited by the wheatproducing States; and that they should do their boat to conduct this gigantic enterprise on a business-like footing. I speak now on behalf of the Board. Wehave secured the best expert advice and assistance at our disposal. I want to say again that freights form the key to the situation. Despite what honorable members may read in the press, there is no prospect of freights falling very materially during the next twelve months. The cost of runningships has enormously increased. The great shipping companies of the world cannot afford, therefore, even if they desired to do so - and I do not pretend to say that they do - to allow freights to fallto pre-war rates. There is, indeed, no possibility of that. But I hope we shall get freights at a more reasonable rate than £7 per ton, which is the priceat present quoted.
I think I have covered nearly the whole of the ground which I had intended to traverse. I wanted to tell the House exactly what the policy of. the Government was, the circumstances under which they entered the Pool, and the position in which the new Pool finds itself. I wanted to emphasize to the farmers the fundamental difference between the world’s parity price andthat of wheat in Australia which cannot beshifted unless we are able to secure two and a-half million tons of freight - if that amount of tonnage should be actually representative of the harvest to be reaped this season. I desire specially to stress the point that, in my opinion, the key to the situation is freight, and that every effort must be madeto obtain freight at the earliest moment, so as to get rid of our wheat as quickly as is humanly possible.
Mr.gregory. - In connexion with the Commonwealth Government coming into this Pool, has the arrangement been arrived at only for this season’s crop ?
– That is all this particular Pool was established for.
– Yes; for one year only. I think the principal question agitating the minds of the farmers is, “ What is the first payment going to be?”
– That is a matter upon which the Government cannot offer any definite statement. The whole subject depends, to a great extent, on the rapidity with which we can get going, because it would be clearly impossible for us to throw £40,000,000 upon the market. The position would be the same as in respect to the payment of £30,000,000, by way of gratuity, to our soldiers. As we pour the money in so must money be coming back to us. The Government realize how very important it is to the farmer that he should get as much as possible at the earliest possible date; but the question of how much he will get must, in a great degree, depend upon early Bales of wheat. I am hopeful that, in regard to the Egyptian sale, which will involve a matter of £7,000,000 to £9,000,000, that transaction will materially help the Government in their financial arrangements.
– It is reported in this morning’s press that Mr. J. R. Collins, Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, and Colonel Campbell, of New Zealand, are about to leave for Brussels to attend the Financial Conference, and that the principal work of the Conference will have to do with the stabilizing of international exchange. Since Mr. Collins is not a Minister of the Crown, I would like to know whether he has received instructions from the Government to take part in the Conference deliberations upon this subject, or whether he is acting on his own initiative.
– I announced in the course of the Budget speech last week that, in the absence of Mr. Watt, Mr. Collins had been instructed to represent the Commonwealth Government at the Brussels Financial Conference.
Mr. McWILLIAMS.HastheMinister forthe Navy any information in connexion with the overdue ship Amelia J., bound from Newcastle to Hobart?And can he say whether steps have been taken in the matter of searching for that vessel?
– I have some information to give to the House. I may say that not only has the honorable member for Franklin (Mr.McWilliams) interested himself in the matter of the overdue AmeliaJ., but that other members from Tasmania, as well as the Tasmanian senators, have conferred with me, and kept constantly in touch- with my Department. I think it necessary, therefore, to make a rather long and complete answer to thehonorable member’s question. I do not know of any missing ship in respect to which more public attention hag been turned. For instance, on the 14th September a message from Captain Davis, Director of Navigation, was received by the Navy Department to the effect that the Amelia J. was missing. Immediately instructions were sent to the wireless stations at Brisbane, Garden Island, Melbourne, Flinders Island, and Hobart, requiring those stations to send on messages to all ships, instructing them to keep a sharp look out for the missing vessel. It is customary for ships at sea to take their time daily from our wireless stations. Therefore every vessel in the waters in which this ship is supposed to be lost would be in touch with our wireless stations, and naturally, on receipt of our message, would maintain a strict look-out for her. On Friday I received a telegram from one of my constituents, asking me whether a destroyer could not be sent out.I immediately got into communication with the Naval Board, and realized that, for the time being, it was necessary to send the following message: -
Referring your wire re search Amelia J., regret no vessel available,but have wirelessed all ships and stations to keep look-out.
On Tuesday last I received another message, very late at night, asking that a search should be made by aeroplane. I was in the House at. the time, and immediately got into touch with the Acting Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). It was too late for him to. communicate with any of his officers that night, but we met next morning, and discussed the matter. Within an hour the Minister had an aeroplane off the coast. That machine can operate 100 miles off the coast, and, travelling at a height of up to 8,000 feet, can maintain a better look-out than could all the vessels of the Australian Fleet if they had been sent out to look for this missing vessel. This morning I received a radio message from Flinders’ Island, stating that unusual lights had been seen on a certain part of the island known as Settlement Point, and I immediately instructed the First Naval Member to despatch the nearest warship to the locality. The Platypus, which happened to be the nearest warship, is now on the high seas for the purpose of searching the vicinity of Settlement Point. I think I have said sufficient to demonstrate that every attention has been given to this important matter, and. that the Director of Navigation took an early interest in it. The service which can thus be rendered by the aeroplane service we have established in Australia speaks volumes for it.
-Colonel Williams has just sent a message to me intimating that two aeroplanes left Point Cook at 11.55 this morning, with instructions to proceed viâ Wilson’s Promontory, the Kent Group, Flinders Island, and other islands in that vicinity, down the east coast of Tasmania, to Hobart, searching for the Amelia J.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
– Yesterday I submitted a question to the Minister who, for the time being, was representing the Prime Minister, with reference to a complaint from South African bakers and. merchants as to the quality of B grade Australian flour, and the alleged unreliability of Commonwealth Wheat Board certificates. The Minister promised to make a reply, with a view to protecting Australia’s good name, and I would like to know now whether the Prime Minister can give me information as to the resalt of any investigations he may have made in regard to this subject?
– I spoke to Mr. Oman about this matter at the conference to which I have already referred. Iri the first place, the Wheat Pool is not responsible for the sale of the flour. It sells wheat; it does not sell flour. The millers sold this flour. In the second place, the flour, which had been gristed from, damaged Victorian second-quality wheat, which had been reconditioned, and was described as B grade, was sold upon sample, a parcel of 270 tons having been sent as a sample, and subsequent shipments were up to that sample. But it was sold’ up to sample by the millers, and not by the Wheat Pool. Of course, I am sorry for the Bake of the credit of Australian flour that there should have been any occasion for complaints, but there, is in the transaction no reflection on “the Wheat Pool. _ I regret that it is not the only occasion on which Australians have done Australia incalculable injury. I recall an Eastern transaction in which some bolts and nuts were sold, and when the shipment was opened the belts and nuts had no relation one to the other. Those who do this sort of thing are really guilty towards this country of a crime infinitely worse than those crimes for which men are punished in the ordinary way.
– Hear, hear! Surely we have the power under our Commerce Act to control exports so that no bad stuff if exported?
– I am not saying that’ we have not the power, hut the honorable member must remember the circumstances in which this flour was bought by South Africa, In that country there was a great shortage of wheat, and they were perilously near the starvation border. We must also not lose sight of the fact that flour made from inferior wheat will spoil very much more readily than that which is gristed from high-grade wheat. For instance, TO per cent, flour will keep very much longer than 80 per cent, flour. Weevils would begin to breed more speedily in the former than in the latter, and -some time has elapsed since this particular flour was gristed.
However, South Africa bought to sample. But I am dealing with this matter ‘ generally. We here are the guardians of the good name of Australia, no matter what party we .belong to, and we want to sco that goods sent out from this country are ‘true to sample, and that’ the samples are the very best we have. The good name of ‘ Australia is all we have to live on.
– Yesterday the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) could not inform me what would be the approximate amount required for the purpose of completing the War ‘Service Homes scheme. I would like to how whether the Treasurer has an estimate of the total amount which is likely to be expended in this direction ?
– I am afraid that I cannot give the honorable member accurate figures, but. my last information was that about 27,000 applications for houses had been received, and just how many more will come in I do not know. If every soldier and his dependants is to get a home, I am afraid we have’ a big task in front of us, which it will take a very long time to carry out,
– Having regard to the urgent necessity for encouraging the discovery of payable oil in the Commonwealth, I should like the Prime Minister to say whether . the Government have decided to increase the reward in this connexion from £10,000 up to £50,000, divided into five separate rewards of £10,000 each ?
– Some little time ago I corrected a statement I had made in regard to this matter, and my answer to the honorable member’s question is that the offer of this reward of £50,000 is to those who find payable oil on the mainland of Australia, and does not apply to New Guinea. I’ am now asked whether the Government will divide the reward up into five different sums of £10,000 each. What we contemplate is, of course, a reward of £50,000 for those who find oil in commercial payable quantities. If we were so fortunate as to have simultaneous findings -of oil in five different places in payable quantities, the Government would have to consider a division of the prize, much in the same way as newspapers divide prizes in competitions they promote in order to increase their circulation. The idea is to offer such a substantial amount as will pay people to incur the expense of conducting the necessary operations. I think I can promise the honorable member that this reward of £50,000 is now definite; it has not to be made, but is made now. I read the other day that oil had been found in payable quantities, in the form of. gas, at Roma; but the same might be said of this place. However, the Government have not as yet contemplated splitting up the reward, and it will be sufficient when operations have proved successful, and applications are made, to consider how the reward shall be paid.
– In view of the statement made by the Treasurer the other day to the effect that he had consulted leading bankers of Australia in relation to the note issue, has that right honorable gentleman any objection to informing the House who the leading bankers were?
– I do not care to mention names, but I have seen quite a. number of the Best Bankers in Australia on the subject.
Planting of Trees
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether he is aware that from what purports to be a report by the Chief Commonwealth Surveyor on the necessity, during the summer, of watering trees and plants in the streets and avenues of Canberra, the following important sentence is omitted -
Unless the Melbourne park and street trees were watered: during the summer months they would die; and it is, therefore, quite reasonable to expect that similar treatment will be required in a place where there is less rainfall than in Melbourne.
Will the Minister take steps to correct this misrepresentation of the Chief Commonwealth Surveyor’s views?
– I wish to make it quite clear that the question then under discussion was not that referred to by the honorable member, but was whether the land at Canberra was suitable for affor estation purposes. I cannot conceive of land which requires watering as being suitable for such purposes. The beautification of a place is quite a different proposition, and it is possible that for a little time operations in this connexion may have to be carried on with a wateringcan.
– The report was on the planting of trees for the beau tification of the streets and avenues.
Wheat Harvest 1920-21: Guaranteed Price at Railway Sidings.
-Ihavereceivedan intimation from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The present unsatisfactory position of the promised guarantee of 5s. per bushel for wheat delivered at railway sidings for the 1920-21 harvest.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- At a meeting of the Labour party yesterday morning, it was decided that I should move the adjournment of the House to-day, on the question of the price guaranteed at railway sidings for the wheat harvest 1920-21, in order to draw attention to the unsatisfactory position of affairs in view of the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech at Bendigo last year. Last Friday, in reply to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), the Prime Minister, notwithstanding, that he gave a fairly lengthy answer, did not throw much light on the question beyond stating that the Government intended to consider the position. I believe it is possible there may be a harvest of 140,000,000 bushels this year. We all hope that there may be a good harvest, and, further, that the Australian people may obtain some advantage from the fact that there will be a large harvest in the Commonwealth. None of us begrudge a bumper harvest to the farmers, particularly those who have gone through hard times in recent years. I say that as a city representative, in whose constituency not a grain of wheat is produced. The Prime Minister this afternoon said that the payment would depend largely on the sale of wheat as it comes in. I point out, however, that, in the Bendigo speech the right honorable gentleman said nothing to that effect; and I have -no doubt that the farmers and others who ‘ read that speech understood it, as I did, as meaning a guaranteed advance for the 1920-21 crop. In that speech the Prime Minister said that in order to help the’ wheatgrowers, the Government, in addition to the guarantee for the earning crop, would guarantee 5s. at railway sidings for the 1920-21 harvest. If that means anythings it means an advance, and I suppose the farmers thought that when they took their wheat to the railway sidings they would receive that amount of money.
– Is the honorable member not usurping the functions of the Country party?
– Strange to say, on this side of the House there are as many wheat-growers, and representatives of wheat-growing districts, as I believe there are in the Government party or in the Country party.
– Every wheat-growing district of New South Wales except one is represented on this side.
– And New South Wales is called the premier State, although perhaps neither the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) nor myself would admit that to be the truth. I realize that every one should have an opportunity to discuss this question, and that being so, I sh’all not speak at length. The farmers are complaining of the attitude taken up by the Government in regard to the promise made by the ‘Prime Minister in his Bendigo speech, guaranteeing them 5s. per bushel. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), who represents a wheat-growing constituency, has received the following letter from the President of the Delungra branch of the Primary Producers Union: - 11th September, 1020.
Dear Sir, - I have been requested by the farmers of the Delungra branch of the Primary Producers Union to write to you re the unsatisfactory position of the wheat-growers, and the guarantee of 5s. per bushel given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
As you are well aware, farmers of this State have had a very hard time during the past two or three years, and are now, very many of them, in a difficult position financially, and will be unable to carry on unless they can have financial assistance until such time as their wheat is paid for by the Wheat Board. . . . The Prime Minister stated, at Bendigo, 30th October, 1919, That in order to help the wheat-grower, the Government, in addition to its guarantee for the coming crop, will guarantee 5s. at railway siding for the 1920-21 harvest.”
Now, unless the Federal Government honours its promise, and makes the payment 5s. per bushel on delivery at railway siding, farmers will certainly be placed in a most difficult position, even if the State Government does not press for repayment of advances made under the Rural Industries Board. The State Government states that it will pay 2s. (id. per bushel, as guaranteed on delivery, which equals 7s 6d. per bag, which will barely pay the expense of harvesting.
However, I believe that you are well aware of the position of the farmers, and know how much they ave in need of financial assistance. Therefore, I am requested to ask you to use your best endeavours to induce the Prime Minister to make the 5s. per bushel guarantee payable on the wheat being delivered to the agent appointed to receive the grain. This is’ a very important mattter, and I would Suggest that you would confer with your Leader as to the best method of obtaining this fulfilment of the Prime Minister’s promise. This, however, I will leave to your judgment; but it is extremely necessary for the farmers to obtain at least the full guarantee of 5s. per bushel on delivery if they are to be enabled to carry on their occupation.
I have no doubt that representatives qf other farming constituencies have received similar communications. The farmers want to know exactly what the guarantee means. Does it mean that the payment, of 5s. per bushel will not be made to them until the wheat is sold ? We have been told this afternoon by the Prime Minister that 300,000 tons of next season’s wheat have been sold to the Egyptian Government.-
– I did not say that. I said that I had put the representative of the Egyptian Government in touch with.’ the selling agents, and that negotiations were now proceeding.
– Then I misunderstood the right honorable gentleman.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not champion the cause of the primary- producers to the same extent when they were receiving only 2s. 6d. per bushel in respect of the first payment.
– The honorable member on one occasion endeavoured to put into my ‘mouth words which I had never uttered, and he was compelled to admit that’ he was wrong. I was denouncing manu- facturers, warehousemen, and every one else who indulged in profiteering; but at the Farmers Convention the honorable member said that I had singled out the primary producers for myspecial condemnation. He is not going to put words into my mouth.
– I proved conclusively that the honorable member did make the statement that I attributed to him.
-Thehonorablemember proved nothing of the kind. He was glad enough to crawl down.
– I did not crawl down.
– I repeat that the honorable member was glad enough to “ climb down,” and he is not going to put words into my mouth; much though he and his predecessor would like to do so. He cannot prove that I have ever said or done anything contrary to the best interests of Australia and the whole of the Australian people.
I am anxious not to import any heat into the debate, and I shall not refer further to that matter. My desire is that the primary producers, like every other section of the community, shall get a fair return for their labour. That has always been my attitude. Apparently the negotiations for the sale of 300,000 tons of wheat to the Egyptian Government have not been completed. The Prime Minister said that the sale would mean anything from £7,000,000 to £9,000,000, which would mean from 12s. to 15s. 8d. per bushel.
– Of that 300,000 tons, 260,000 tons are to be gristed into flour in Australia.
– That is a good thing.
Mr.hughes.- We shall be paid for the gristing here.
– It is most important that we should grist as much wheat as possible, not only for the sake of providing employment, but in order that the offal may be made available for our stock. If the farmers have to wait until the whole transaction is completed before the Prime Minister’s guarantee is honoured, then I think, to use the memorable words of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), they will declare that they have “ been sold a pup.” They will have been deceived.
– It will be a very good “ pup.”
– If they have to wait until the whole transaction is completed it will be a mongrel. The farmers, in common with every one else, interpreted the Prime Minister’s statement as meaning that on delivery of their wheat at a railway siding they would receive an advance of 5s. per bushel. No other construction could be put upon the statement. If the farmers are to wait until the wheat has been sold they may well say to the Government, “Thank you, for nothing; if you are going to sell our wheat at from 12s. to 15s. per bushel and merely give us an advance of 5s. per bushel after the transaction is completed ; we have nothing for which to thank you. We can do that for ourselves.”
I am glad that the Wheat Pool with Commonwealth representation is to be re-created. In its new form it will be a good thing for the farmers and for the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, and should aid materially in the shipping of wheat. I trust that the Government will make as good a deal in respect of the whole of the coming season’s crop as is contemplated in connexion with the sale to the Egyptian Government. The farmers, however, should not have to wait for the honouring of the guarantee of 5s. per bushel until the whole deal is consummated. No one could read into the Prime Minister’s Bendigo speech any such intention. His statement was -
In order to help the wheat-grower, the Government, in addition to its guarantee for the coming crop, will guarantee 5s. at railway sidings for the 1920-21 harvest.
There was no suggestion in. that statement that the farmers would have to wait for their money until the sales had been completed. The statement meant, if it meant anything at all, that they would receive an advance of 5s. per bushel. Some of them will have to wait a long time for their money if they are not to receive a dividend until the whole of the 2,500,000 tons or 3,000,000 tons is sent away. It is quite possible that we shall have a repetition of our experience in respect of the 1915-16 harvest, when we had something like 1,500,000 tons of wheat stacked at Brooklyn, where it was attacked by mice and weevils. The Government, at the earliestmoment, should let the farmers know whether they intend to honour their guarantee by making an advance of 5s. per bushel to them as soon as they deliver their wheat at a railway siding. If that is not to be done - if the Government merely intend to make a cash payment to the farmers after the wheat has been sold - the primary producers will have reason to complain that the guarantee has not been honoured, and that they have been “ sold a pup “ that is an absolute mongrel.
– I listened very carefully to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and. as one who knowsthe facts of the case, I am in entire agreement with it up to the point at which we ask for information in regard to the first payment. I am not wholly in agreement with the view taken by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the guarantee of 5s. per bushel. I think I can at least speak for the farmers of Victoria-
– And of Australia.
– The honorable member cannot speak for the farmers in my electorate.
– I can at least speak for the farmers of Victoria, and I desire to be absolutely fair to the Prime Minister. I, and the great bulk of the farmers of this State, understood that the guarantee of 5s. a bushel was given by the Prime Minister with a view to encourage the growers to increase the area under wheal to the greatest possible extent. The farmers, however, want to know what the first payment is going to be. I, for one, shall not press for a first payment of 5s. per bushel unless it can be shown that the money may be easily raised. Ifour farmers could manage to carry on with a first payment of, say, 4s. per bushel, they would be much better off than if they received 5s. per bushel, assuming that it was difficult to raise the money. I think that they could’ carry on with a payment of 4s. per bushel for a little time, pending a further dividend on the sales made.
– How does the honorable member interpret the promise made at Bendigo by the Prime Minister?
– I regarded it as a guarantee that if, in the final realization, our wheat brought only 4s. or 4s. 6d. per bushel, the Commonwealth was bound to pay the farmers 5s. a bushel for it.
– Hear, hear ! That is the guarantee.
– At a very large conference of farmers at Bendigo last week, I put before the delegates the view I have just expressed, and I think it was generally accepted. The farmers desire that the first payment should be as large as possible.
– Hear, hear! I agree with that.
– It is very difficult to make an estimate where such large figures are involved, but it is quite likely that we shall have this season a crop of 45,000,000 bushels in Victoria, 40,000,000 bushels in New South Wales, 35,000,000 bushels in South Australia, and 17,000,000 bushels in Western Australia, or a total of 137,000,000 bushels. That, I think, is a very moderate estimate. To finance such a crop at 5s. a bushel would mean that the Commonwealth would have to advance £34,250,000 . I am rather inclined to think that that is too much to ask of the Government. Even 4s. per bushel on 137,000,000 bushels - for the guarantee applies to all wheat, whether grown for export or for home consumption - would mean a cash payment of £27,000,000. I think that if the Prime Minister were to announce at an early date that the farmers would receive 4s. as a first advance, they would be fairly well satisfied. Some of them arein dire straits, and we are anxious to help them as much as possible. Having regard to the good crops which the bulk of the farmers are likely to get, provided they are not visited by fire, food or drought, it is probable that a first payment of 4s. for this year willbeequal to about 7s. or 8s. on an ordinary crop. I hope that honorable members opposite will not press this motion. I am perfectly satisfied that the Wheat Board and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) are doing all they possibly can.. Probably one reason why the Prime Minister has not madean announcement in regard to the first payment is that he hopes to see the sale to the Egyptian Government finalized at an early date. Probably if that is done, and another sale, which is pending, is completed, about £10,000,000 will be received, and the Government will have some money in hand tostart with.
– I entirely agree with what the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) has said. ff .am sorry that “the Leader of .the Opposition -(Mr. Tudor) .’should have endeavoured to ‘twist my /Bendigo speech -to mean anything but what it obviously <does mean. -If I say that “I will guarantee the payment of a cheque I mean that if mo one else will pay 1 will. My statement at Bendigo must , be interpreted according to .the .ordinary .meaning of ‘the terms employed. I .know no party in this matter.; how can there be any party in wheat-growing ? But we cannot ;get blood out of a stone, and the farmers ‘cannot get £34,000,000 in a lump sum out of the Commonwealth, which has had to strain all its resources in order to borrow £25,000,000. So honora’ble members must have regard to all the circumstances. Subject to freight, the outlook .for the wheat-grower was never brighter than it is ito-day. I am not attempting to .lessen the freight difficulty - =on the -contrary, I emphasize it - but I say that it is no’t insuperable. Let me show what has been done during the last five or six years. In the years 1915-16, 1916-17, 1917-18, 19(18-19, and .1920, the Commonwealth gave the wheat-grower a guarantee. In those years we sold most of our wheat f.o.b. Of course, “the ‘circumstances -were entirely different, because then -the wheat was sold ‘before it was shifted. That made it very much easier for -the guarantor, because he received his money ; he was, in fact, actually guaranteeing the buyers’ promise to pay. In the year T915-16, in pursuance of ‘a policy ‘to “-which -every member .on the .’Opposition side who was then in the House was a party, we Started ‘the Pool. It ‘has ‘had its -critics, and ‘they -‘and .’the -‘Government ‘have lad their -little differences ; but, on the ‘whole, the system proved its usefulness during a period -of great turmoil, when it was impossible ‘for- wheat to flow along the normal channels. In 1915-16 the paymerits, as a result o’f the guarantee, were 2s. 6d. down, then ‘6a., ls., 6d., ‘3d., and I’d. ; in 1916-17, -2s. -6d. .down, then 6d. and .-3d.; in !l’917-‘-I8, 3s. -down, then 3d. and 9d. ; in 1918-19, 4s. -4d. down -(that was, of course, on a very small -crop) ; in 19T9-20, ;5s. -down, on a very meagre crop. We ‘have ‘each year adjusted ourselves to the circumstances as they arose.
As to the present, I ‘entirely sympathize with the farmer who says that he requires the 5s. which the Government have guaranteed. We ;shall honour out guarantee whether the wheat is sold -or mot. But ‘unless we can sell the wheat quickly we cannot pay him the 5s. -a bushel in one sum. We shall .not get the money for the Egyptian wheat or for the wheat to be sold under another contract that is being negotiated, but we shall get .credit, and we can go to any -financial institution and ask for a loan of money to be advanced to the farmer before the wheat is actually sold. We have not to wait until the wheat is realized; we can get credit as soon as the sale is made. In any case., the farmer is infinitely .better off with the guarantee than without it. because every banker and storekeeper reckons his wheat as good -enough security for an advance of 5s.
– Will the Prime Minister venture to name the sum which may probably be paid for the wheat’?
– This is a business proposition, and we are -dealing with conditions which are. yet in a state of flux. If the deals of which I have spoken are consummated, we shall be in an incompara’b’ly better position, because one will involve an amount of from £7,000,000 to £9,000,000, and the other a ‘smaller amount. ‘Taking the total of the two at £13,000,000, that would mean an advance of 2s. per -bushel, and if the Commonwealth found a further £7,000,000 an advance of -3s. per bushel -would be possible. The advance becomes compassable once -we get lover the first obstacle. I understand the position of the farmer, and I sympathize with -him, particularly the farmer .in areas that have been drought stricken. In that -respect .all States did not suffer equally., but it is only right to_.say that the New South Wales Government have promised to advance another 2s. -6d. per ‘bushel. I have not spoken to Mr. Storey or Mr. Dunne on this question, but I assume that the New South Wales Government will make every effort to pay that money as ‘soon as possible.
– They propose to pay on delivery.
– They must first get the money, and as a wholesale borrower, I .may tell honorable members that that is not quite as easily done as they may imagine. I repeat that I sympathize with the fanners’ position. I do not object to the Leader of the Opposition moving the adjournment of the House but I <do take -exception to his statement that my promise at Bendigo deceived the farmer. It did nothing of the sort. The Government gave a guarantee which we shall honour, and it is worth a great deal to the farmer. As soon as we are able to roughly estimate what we can pay by way of advance, I shall make an announcement in ‘this House. That will be done at the earliest possible moment.
.- I listened with great attention to the two statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and also to the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). I am sorry that the farmers are not sitting in the galleries this afternoon, to witness the demonstration of how the Country party, or, at least, one of its members, looks after the interests of the wheat-growers. The Prime Minister failed to make any statement that would give satisfaction to the wheat farmers. From end to end of New South Wales, and I suppose from end to enid of Australia, the minds of the farmers are exercised as to the amount of advance they will receive on delivery, and as to whether or not they will receive the full 5s. when the wheat is taken to the railway siding. Although it has been stated that the farmers do not expect or desire to be paid the whole 5s., I say that that statement is not correct. The farmers do desire and expect the payment of the full amount guaranteed.
– Would the honorable member mind indicating where the £34,000,000 can be obtained?
– If the Labour party were on the Treasury bench, and I were occupying the position of Treasurer, I could soon tell the House where the money could be found.
– The honorable member would set the printing machines going.
– Last week I attended the show at Cowra, in my electorate. Every farmer with whom I was acquainted, and many others, approached me with a request that I should endeavour to get a definite announcement from the Prime Minister as to his intentions in regard to the guarantee, and as to whether the amount would be paid in cash. I asked the Prime Minister a question, but he was unable to state any thing definite. He said he was not yet in a position to make a statement, but that he would do so as soon as possible. Every farmer with whom I came into touch expressed the view that that was entirely unsatisfactory. In the course of his policy speech at Bendigo nearly a year ago, the Prime Minister said it was intended to guarantee 5s. per bushel at railway sidings for the 1920-21 crop. Despite what the Prime Minister has said to-day, and notwithstanding the remarks of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), that statementmade in the course of the policy speech - conveyed to the minds of Australian farmers that it was the intention of the Federal Government to pay 5s. per bushel on delivery. But it was purely an electioneering cry. The Prime Minister merely talked about 5s. in order to obtain the votes of the farmers ; and, after twelve months, the Government are still undecided as to how to redeem their promise; indeed, concerning what to do at all. Wheat-growers in my electorate, and in those surrounding, now that they are faced with a bountiful harvest, are wondering whether to cut their crops for Hay or to harvest for grain.
– There need be no doubt about what to do.
– Surely not, with a guarantee of 7s. 6d.
– I repeat that the farmers are undecided what to do. They have had enough of receiving money for their crops in dribs and drabs. They have had enough of Wheat Pools run by selling agents, gentlemen to whom the Prime Minister referred as experts. They were experts, he said, so far as selling wheat was concerned. They are experts, I say, so far as selling the farmers is concerned; and if the Prime Minister had said so. he would have been nearer the mark. The farmers have had enough of this business.
– Hear, hear ! Labour is the only friend of the farmer.
– Absolutely . Tn New South Wales nearly every farming electorate has returned a Labour member to this House, and I venture to predict that after the next general elections there will be a Labour representative of every farming electorate in that State.
– And in Victoria, too.
– The Commonwealth Government are talking of their guarantee of 5s; but, in New South Wales, owing to the fact that there is a Labour Government in power, the farmers have a guarantee of 7s. 6d. The Government in that State know how they are going to get their money, and the farmers know that they are going to receive 2s. 6d. per bushel on delivery. The State Government have guaranteed it. and that is sufficient for the farmers; they know they will get it. It is in the matter of the Commonwealth guarantee that the farmers want to know something definite. We have had enough of the Prime Minister interfering with oversea sales during the past two or three seasons, and we have had more than enough of these wheat-selling, farmerselling experts. We say that all Pools should be kept out of the hands of the agents and brokers, in the best interests of producers and consumers. If the Pool were formed “and controlled by representatives of the producers and consumers, and the wheat-selling agents were excluded, satisfaction might be looked for; but, as things are, we demand that the Government shall state definitely how they propose to make their payment of 5s., and when.
– Then, since the honorable member demands it, here it is.
– The Treasurer waves his hand as the Prime Minister has been airily doing ; yet, eleven months after the promise was made at Bendigo, the Prime Minister still says he does not know how the promise is to be kept. The farmers are expecting the 5s. to be paid, and if they do not receive it they will have something to say at the next elections.
.- I strongly support the motion. If it is to’ be expected - as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has indicated to-day - that our wheat will sell considerably in excess of 5s. per bushel, there* should be no difficulty in making an advance of 5s. on delivery. In fact, if the farmers are to be required to put their wheat into the Pool, and if matters turn out as the Prime Minister hopes, there should be no difficulty in giving farmers at least half the sum which their wheat will realize.
– That would involve £30,000,000. Will the honorable member tell me where we are going to get it ?
– The advance could be made by extending the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, and by opening cash credits to the farmers in country branches in respect of the wheat which the Government take; and, as the Government receive the payments for the wheat, they could carteel the cash credits in the banks. It could all be done as simply as possible.
– I quite realize that, but still I do not know where the money is to come from.
– How much money does the Treasurer really think changes hands in a great national transaction involving £30,000,000? There would not be £10,000’ in actual cash ever transferred. It is all a matter of the transfer of credits from one set of individuals to another, and if the Treasurer does not know that, it amounts to a serious admission.
– Nevertheless, I do make that, admission.
– The Prime Minister said to-day that the Government could not make a statement about this matter. During the election campaign he was able to make any number of statements. He could talk about the huge indemnity which we were to expect; but now he knows nothing about it. At election time he would promise not merely 5s., but 20s., for the farmers’ wheat, if he thought that that would help him and his colleagues back to the Treasury bench. Now, however, he says he does not know anything. He cannot carry out either his definite promises or fulfil his obligations to the struggling primary pro- ducers. We are told that the advice of the best wheat experts has been secured. Are these experts like the gentleman who was appointed Controller of the first Wheat Pool in New South Wales? The only time he ever saw wheat was when he had to do a little parcelling out of seed to the needy farmers. What qualifications have these experts? Why should the middlemen be represented?
– One of the gentlemen to whom the honorable member refers was appointed by the Government of New South Wales, and he has’ nothing to do with the central administration of this Pool.
– The whole business of creating another Pool, and of repaying the farmer in dribs and drabs, is nothing more nor less than a scheme to perpetuate stock exchange gambling in wheat scrip. The Government are merely carrying out the policy which they have advanced on any and every occasion since they came into power. They will do all they possibly oan to boost and bolster up the middleman and the profiteer, at the expense of the producer and the general community. If the farmer is to be given an opportunity to balance his financial obligations - particularly since, in New South “Wales, he has been badly hit by drought - the Government must guarantee a cash payment of 5s. per bushel as soon as the wheat has been delivered at a railway siding.
.– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon made two long, rambling statements, which contained very little information. He wandered all over the hemisphere, but it was not till the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) asked him for information regarding a cash advance that there was elicited a refusal to mention any sum whatever. The Government of New South Wales have definitely, bound themselves to pay 2s. 6d. per bushel cash down upon delivery at a railway siding.
– And the Queensland Government are guaranteeing 3s. per bushel over and above the amount of the Commonwealth guarantee.
– That 2s. 6d. means a great deal to the farmers of New South Wales, but will not be nearly sufficient to allow them to meet their obligations, because for the last three seasons, and, in some parts of the State, four seasons, the crops have been absolute failures. There are very few farmers who are not mortgaged right up to the last penny of the value of their property. I suppose similar conditions apply to the farmers in all the wheat-producing States, and the only possible way in which their anxieties can be relieved is by a definite pronouncement from the Commonwealth Government on the lines of that made by the New South Wales Government. The 2s. 6d. advance by the State Government will at any rate give the farmers the opportunity of .gauging their liabilities and chances of paying off their mortgages.
– If a man delivers 1,000 bushels of wheat at a siding, and his delivery-note is indorsed at 5s. per bushel, is it not as good as a payment in cash ?
– Yes, if the Government would arrange a system of credit, but not when the farmer is ob liged to take his indorsed note to a bank or other financial institution, which get3 its “ cut “ for negotiating it. It would merely be repeating, the unsatisfactory routine of payments of Id., 4d., 5d., or 6d. on various wheat scrip, by which the farmers have been despoiled for the last four years, and which has resulted in all sorts of gambling, much of it of a very sinister nature. In fact, many of the operations of the different Wheat Pools have, to say the very least of them, been rather smellsome. It is within the power of the Commonwealth Government, acting in conjunction with the Wheat Board, to prevent all gambling in wheat scrip. The farmer should not be obliged to dispose of his scrip at under its value. It could be avoided, but when we seek to obtain the assistance of the Country party to prevent it, we find that they are at one with the Government, and. firmly believe that the only possible way in which the Wheat Pool can be conducted is on the old bad lines of the past. According to the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), it is impossible to give an advance of 5s. per bushel, because it would represent an advance of about £34,000,000. Yet in the same breath the honorable member says, “We want 4s. per bushel.”
– I did not say that we wanted it. I said that we would very much like to have it.
– The honorable member pooh-poohed the idea of a cash advance of 5s. per bushel, but expressed the hope, and possibly anticipated, that an advance of 4s. per bushel would be made, which would represent a total advance of about - £27,000,000, only £7,000,000 less than would be required for an advance of 5s. The greatest factor to be taken into consideration is the financial situation of the farmers. If the State Government of New South Wales can afford, a cash payment of 2s. 6d. per bushel, surely the Commonwealth Government, with all its possibilities and opportunities, could arrange to advance another 2s. 6d. per bushel immediately upon delivery of the wheat at a railway siding. I urge the Government to do it. One good reason why we should endeavour to give some stability to agriculture is the fact that during the last seven years the area under crop in Australia has been de- creased by over 3,200,000 acres, or 33 per cent, of the total area previously under cultivation. In the face of these appalling figures, honorable members will realize that unless something is done quickly in order to give some greater stability to the industry, many more farmers will cease to follow the calling of wheatgrowing. As the question of arranging freights is most important, I hope the “Wheat Board, acting in co-operation with the Government, will at once make the necessary shipping arrangements. Although by December next our wheat will be piling up in its millions of tons, no step has yet been taken to arrange freights to get the harvest away.
– The honorable member could not expect the Commonwealth Government to have done very much so far, seeing that it has only just come into the arrangement.
– The Government knew the position.
– But -they did not know that they were to enter into this special arrangement:
– The Government have a responsibility to the people of Australia, which they have not realized, but have contented themselves by saying, “ We will wait until such and such circumstances arise; we will wait until the Wheat Board is established.” But, although we are now within three months of the harvesting of the whole of these millions of tons of wheat, we are told by the Prime Minister that not one step has been taken to arrange for freight to remove it to the overseas markets. I hope that at a very early date the Government will tell the farmers that they will receive 2s. 6d. or 3s. per bushel immediately on the delivery of the wheat at the railway siding. That offer, in conjunction with, the State Government’s cash payment of 2s. 6d. per bushel, would enable the. farmers of New South Wales to carry on for a certain time; but, so -far as the farmers of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia are concerned, the amount should be increased.
– In the past, the Government have been blamed because, during the w(ar period, there has come about a diminution in the area under agricul- ture in Australia; but the present is an appropriate time for reminding honorable members that this country has in sight what pre-harvest estimates indicate will be the second biggest crop ever garnered in its history. The greatest Australian harvest, of course, was in the season 1915-16, following a drought, when there was brought under cultivation the whole of the land that had failed iu the previous season, as well as the area that had been fallowed during the drought period. I am pleased to recognise the reasonable attitude of the direct representatives of the farmers in this Chamber, particularly that of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill).
– I am as much a representative of the farmers as is the honorable member for Echuca.
– That is not so, because the honorable member for Echuca was specially selected by the Australian farmers to represent them on the Wheat Board. He takes up the reasonable attitude, that, owing to the prospect of Australia having a harvest of 135,000,000 bushels, an expenditure of, roughly, £37,000,000 would be involved in the payment of a guarantee of 5s. per bushel immediately upon delivery.
I take quite a contrary view to that of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle), that so’ much wheat will be cut for hay. I believe that very little will be cut for hay. I think that the farmers will be only too anxious to get the benefit of the world’s prices for wheat, particularly in New South Wales, where there would possibly be a total guarantee of fs. 6d. per bushel. Of course, I recognise that the farmers of that State have had a bad time. . They did not benefit last year by the high prices obtained for the wheat grown in other more fortunate States, and it is possible that, on account of this, the State Government has guaranteed them a payment of 2s. 6d. per bushel. This, on a 45,000,000-bushel crop- the most sanguine estimates in New South Wales prophesy that - will mean a payment of £5,625,000 on wheat that, immediately on* delivery, will pass from the New South Wales Government to the control of the Australian Wheat Board, and be available for the purpose of financing whatever payment is made by the Commonwealth Government. How the New
South Wales Government propose to finance this £5,625,000 is no concern of this Chamber, but I would remind them that the wheat will not be available for them for their own direct financing; and it will probably be found, when it is boiled down, that the Commonwealth Government and the Australian Wheat Board will be obliged to give material assistance in meeting the State guarantee.
– Do the New South Wales Government propose to pay the 2s. 6d. per bushel on delivery?
– Yes. In regard to this matter of a guarantee to the farmers, there was a difference between the policies put before the electors by the different parties at the last general election. The Labour party promised to pay 5s. per bushel upon delivery of the wheat. The National party promised a guarantee of 5s. per bushel, and the Prime Minister has kept his promise, and hispledge, that his Government would not compel the farmers to take on the Pool, but that if the wheat States decided to establish one, the Commonwealth Government would lend them all their assistance and organization for the purpose of financing the scheme and realizing on the sale of the harvest overseas. I take this opportunity of urging upon the Board, what I am sure they will recognise, the great necessity for moving by forward sales some of theearly wheat. Our capacity to finance will be greatly assisted by selling as quickly as possible, and getting the advantage of the world’s high prices today, which no one can guarantee will continue for the whole year. I urge the Board to sell as much as they consider reasonable should be sold at this stage, and, if possible, to secure the necessary freight. If the Board will confine themselves to these two channels, they will render the Australian farmers very great service, and make sure of, at least, a fair average price. It must be borne in mind that a portion of the harvest will have to be held in hand until the new season declares itself.
– At whose cost?
-Idonotproposeto go into that question, but the Board no doubt recognise that they could not, in the early stages, sell the whole of the wheat brought into the Pool. Looking at the magnitude of the harvest in sight, it isalmost impossible to anticipate paying in January a lump sum of from £32,000,000 to £37,000,000; but if substantial sales are made in the meantime, it will greatly facilitate matters, and, if we are able to make substantial sales, and secure adequate shipping, that may put the Board and the Government in a better position to pay a large sum. At this stage I urge members not to press for an immediate declaration as to the amount, because it is in the interests of the farmers to wait until the operations of the Board are further advanced.
– We have had two Ministerial speeches, but, unfortunately, neither has thrown much light on the subject. Is the Honorary Minister in favour of giving special consideration to, at any rate, the farmers of New South Wales, who, as he knows, have just come through a three years’ drought?
– I think that the farmers in the States where there has been drought deserve consideration, and their cases should be looked into. If an arrangement can be made between the Commonwealth and the States to increase the advance, every facility will be afforded by the Commonwealth to the States, but I do not say that as a matter of policy, the Commonwealth can differentiate in the first payment.
– That is practically a refusal.
– It is nothing of the kind.
-Iregret that we cannot get something more definite. There are hundreds of fanners in New South Wales who have been ruined by drought.
– And through the operations of the Wheat Pool.
– That goes without saying. I can assure the Government that numbers of farmers interpreted the words used by the Prime Minister at Bendigo in the sense I am suggesting, and have a right to expect a payment of 5s. a bushel for their wheat at railway sidings.
– They have a technical meaning.
– It is no use talking about technicalities to the man on the land, who has not the time to devote to them that the honorable member has. The farmer wants cash, not technicalities.
– After five years’ experience of the Wheat Pool, the farmers know what the words mean.
– Permit me to finish. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) has assured me, and if he had time would tell the House, that he put in his present crop on the distinct understanding that he was going to be paid 5s. per bushel at the railway siding.
– I thought the same thing.
-Inthe face of that, what is the good ofthe honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) saying what he has said.
-It was never said that the farmers would get the payment in one lump.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.Theinterpretation put on the words by the men on the land is a reasonable one.
– Very many farmers have put that interpretation on them.
– There is no doubt about that, and it is no use the Prime Minister telling us that that was not what was meant. I believe the words were used on the hustings in order to convey that impression to the farmers.
– Ours is a guarantee.
– It was a guarantee to pay 5s. on delivery at the railway siding.
– Not on delivery.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.Thehonorable member for Echuca went to some trouble to-day in order to assist and support the Prime Minister in his statement to the House - a statement which is the direct antithesis of what he said on the platform at Bendigo when opening his election campaign.
– You cannot accuse me of holding any brief for the Prime Minister, but I am going to be fair.
-Iam speaking of to-day’s proceedings. I must admit that in the past the honorable member has not given me the impression of trying to assist the Prime Minister, and I was rather surprised to-day to hear his endeavour to help the right honorable gentleman in his difficult position, out of which it would be hard for him to get without assistance.
– You want the honorable member to make a deliberately false statement ?
– The Minister may interpret the position as he likes, but I know of hundreds of farmers in my electorate who believed that when they delivered their wheat at the railway siding they would get 5s. per bushel. Other honorable members may interpret the Prime Minister’s words as they choose, but, in any case, the right honorable gentleman should have been more guarded than to make a statement admitting of two meanings.
– You must admit that it was a clever statement.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.Certainly; I believe it was made for votecatching purposes, and it served its purpose. If the Government are not going to adhere to the definite promise made at Bendigo, then, at any rate, some special treatment should be given to the wheatgrowers of New South Wales. Many of these men have been ruined and have had to go off the land altogether, while others, on the strength of the promise, have made a supreme effort to carry on, and to-day, in consequence, are living under heavy mortgages. They were looking forward for relief when they delivered their harvest at the railway siding, and, in anticipation, they ran heavily into debt in order to continue production.
– I can give you one definite promise, and that is that the Bendigo promise will be fulfilled.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.According to the farmers’ interpretation - according to the interpretation of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart)? I understand that there are other honorable members who wish to address themselves to this question and, under the circumstances, it would be reasonable if an extension of time were granted.
– According to the Standing Orders, the time has already expired for a motion of this kind. It is, therefore, too late to move for an extension. The orders of the day should now be called on, unless by leave of the House, which can only be given unanimously. Questions on the business-paper are permitted to be disposed of first.
Debateinterruptedunder standing order 119.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– If anybreach of Commonwealth law is disclosed, the Government will take such proceedings as are called for.
Generation of Electricity
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1: The whole of Mr. Brett’s mills and areas at Killarney, Samford, Blackbutt, and Beau desert, comprising 10,057 acres of freehold land, and the timber rights over an additional area of 7,380 acres, were purchased as a going concern, the price asked being £245,000, free from Federal and State income tax, and the price agreed upon £220,000, the proviso regarding exemption from taxation being deleted. There is no evidence that Mr. Brett paid only a few hundred pounds for the Killarney areas, as stated by the honorable member.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What does he intend to do, if prohibition is carried in Victoria, to make up for the loss of revenue on alcohol from Customs and Excise?
– It is not usual to answerhypothetical queries. The question will be considered when the necessity arises.
Investigation by Dominions.
– On the 15th September the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked the following questions: -
My colleague then promised that inquiries would bemade. I now desire to furnish the honorable member with the following reply: - 1 and 2. The British Government appointed a Committee of the Conjoint Board of Scientific Societies to report upon what was being done to ascertain the amount of distribution of water-power in the British Empire. That Committee recommended the British Government to bring before the notice of the Indian Government and of the various Dominion Governments and of the governing bodies of the Crown Colonies the necessity for a close, systematic investigation of the economic possibilities; but the Commonwealth Government has not yet received any communication on the matter.
The following paper was presented : -
Naval Defence - Statement by the Minister for the Navy explanatory of the Navy Estimates 1920-21.
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 22nd September, vide page 4843) :
Proposed vote, £1,302,153.
Upon which Mr. Riley had moved -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) instances of what I regard as waste and mismanagement in connexion with the Department of Defence. In my own electorate some £15,000 was expended upon the establishment of a camp at Adamstown, immediately alongside one of the best ranges in Australia. The Camp was sewered and elaborately fitted up, but it suddenly dawned on the Department that, although the population of the district is increasing more rapidly than that of any other part of the Commonwealth, the camp should be closed as a training ground for boys; and that the buildings should be dismantled and removed, at a cost of something like £10,000, to Rutherford, 25 miles distant, in order to combine the training operations of two distinct districts. I am not going to argue that there should not be a camp at Rutherford. As time goes on it will be found that the population is sufficiently large to warrant the provision of separate camps, and I certainly think a mistake has been made in deciding to close down the camp at Adamstown. It appears that the matter was first reported on’ by an officer from Melbourne, who declared that the Adamstown site was one of the best that could be selected. It is connected up with Newcastle, and can be supplied for less than it would be possible to supply any other camp in any other part of the country, yet it is to be closed and the sons of artisans - boys out of the mines - are to be compelled to travel 25 miles to the Rutherford camp, which is some miles away from the range at which they will have to do their shooting.
The decision to dismantle the camp at Adamstown was the result of inquiries made by a Business Board. I do not know whether the members of that Board visited the camp, and I am at a loss to understand how they could estimate the progress that the district is making without a personal inspection. There can be no doubt that the district is rapidly developing. That is the opinion of members who recently saw it and who expressed their astonishment at the progress that was being made. The Business Board referred the whole matter to a Board of three, two of whom live in the district to which these buildings are to be removed. In fairness to them, however, I should say that they urged that there was room for two separate camps. To dismantle the Adamstown camp will be to make a serious mistake. I am convinced that, within- the next few years, it will be found necessary to re-build it. We were told yesterday that compulsory training is designed not only to fit our boys for military service, but to develop them physically. The Adamstown camp is peculiarly fitted for the training of boys. It is situated on healthy, undulating country, and is within a few minutes’ walk of the sea beach, where trainees can enjoy a refreshing bath. This case illustrates the ineptitude of some people connected with the Department. Money is to be absolutely wasted. It will cost more to remove the buildings from Adamstown to Rutherford, which is a timber district, than it would do to erect at the latter place new buildings constructed with locally-grown timber. I ask the Minister, before definite action is taken, to carefully examine the report of the Board of three. They are reliable military men, one of whom saw service abroad, and they reported that the necessities of the case would warrant the provision of two distinct camps.
– I shall look into the matter.
– I draw the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to the fact that we are to have at the end of this year a visit from a Bisley team, and that there is no rifle range in Western Australia which provides for the maximum range of 1,000 yards. At Osborne, which is the official military range, and is used also by members of most of the metropolitan rifle clubs, the maximum range is 800 yards. For some months the National Rifle Association of Western Australia has been in communication with the Minister for Defence as to the desirableness of increasing the range to the maximum of 1,000 yards. I understand that the chief difficulty is due to a dispute between departmental officers and the executive of the National Rifle Association as to the cost of making the extension. The Association estimates the cost at only a few hundred pounds, whereas the estimate of the military authorities is about £2,500. This is an urgent matter. We cannot allow it to stand over, since, if the Bisley team is to fire in matches in Western Australia, the maximum firing range of 1,000 yards will be requisite.’ 1 would point out to the Minister that any difference between the estimate of the Association and that of his executive officers is probably due to the fact that the military officials desire to provide what I might term a complete and permanent 1,000 yards range, with all the necessary mounds and .fittings. The construction of such a range on the ordinary military scale would probably cost the amount estimated by the Department. Such a range, however, is not essential. It is very seldom that, under the military curriculum, there is any necessity for military units to fire over more than 500 or 600 yards. If the
Minister could see his way to an agreement whereby a temporary extension of the range to 1,000 yards could be secured for the series of meetings and matches which the National Rifle* Association of Western Australia is anxious to arrange for the visiting Bisley team, the circumstances of the moment would be met. I am not anxious to add unnecessarily to the expenditure of the Commonwealth at the present time, but a grave injustice will be done to the riflemen of Western Australia if, owing to lack of adequate range accommodation, they are not given an opportunity to compete with’ the Bisley team. Knowing that the Minister will be familiar with the military training as well as the rifle club point of view, I ask him to give serious consideration to my suggestion, that temporary provision should be made to assist in the conduct of these matches at the end of the year.
.- I think if the Minister in charge of a Department were to explain the items contained in his Estimates, he would avoid a lot of opposition, and delay due to misunderstanding. There are some items in- these Estimates, to which not even the most fanatical anti-militarist could object. There are, for instance, the amount for the cordite factory,’ and another sum for the clothing factory. Honorable members have been urging the Government to increase the production of cloth knowing, that if the production is in excess of military requirements the public will purchase the balance. The cloth is of good quality, and suitable for the climate, and it could be sold at a price which is within the means of the average citizen. There is also provision for the purchase of heavy guns. Whether or not we are opposed to militarism, Australia must necessarily have on hand some instruments of protection and destruction, even if it abandons the system of compulsory training. If the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) would explain some of these items he would secure a quicker passage for his Estimates. None of us desire to encourage war, and I am of opinion that if democratic rule in other parts of the world were advanced to even the standard obtained in Australia wars would cease. No truly democratic nation would go to war except by a resolution of the Parliament, and I do not think any Parliament would agree to a resolution which would mean the murdering of its own citizens. Some of the items contained in the Estimates are based on the idea that they will act as an insurance against attacks upon us by others. If a person knows that you are able to use your fists he takes care not to be too saucy.
There is one item for expenditure on barracks. In East Sydney there are large barracks occupying an area of 40 acres of land. They have been an eyesore for a number of years.- In 1910 I urged that the land on which the barracks stood should be made available for residential purposes, thus removing an eyesore, and overcoming an obstacle to the obtaining of residental areas near to the large centres of employment. Government property cannot be rated by the municipalities, and some years ago I tried to induce the Commonwealth Government to follow the example of the New South Wales Government by voting to each municipality a lump sum to compensate for. the loss of rates on Governmentowned property. I nearly succeeded in inducing the then Treasurer, who was a Scotchman, to adopt my suggestion, but when he ascertained the extent of property owned by the Commonwealth throughout Australia, and the amount of money that would be involved each year, he rejected the proposal. The whole of the barracks area at East Sydney is not utilized by the military authorities, and the municipality of Paddington has asked me to urge ‘ the Government to erect office accommodation for the Defence Department elsewhere, in the city if necessary, and to shift the training operations to Liverpool.
– Are the barracks situated in a residential area or a business area ?
– The area occupied by the barracks is suitable for both purposes. It comprises 40 acres in one of the finest localities about Sydney. It has frontages to four Toads. It is intended that a deputation shall wait upon the Prime Minister at the earliest possible moment to urge that military office accommodation be erected elsewhere, and the barracks area made available for residential purposes. One of the roads to which the barracks area has a frontage is virtually in the city, because the boundary of Sydney proper is on the opposite side of the road. But the other three roads are in the municipality of Paddington. That is one of the smallest municipalities in New South Wales, and this large unrateable area is a great burden to it. One of the three roads is woodblocked, and it and a wide path must be kept in repair. The grade of one of the other roads is such that in wet weather the road becomes badly cut up, and requires a considerable expenditure on repairs. The Fisher Government proposed to sell the Oxford-street frontage to a depth of 100 feet. The area thus disposed of would become rateable, and the municipality would gain hundreds of pounds per annum. After I brought this matter forward in 1910 negotiations were proceeding favorably, but they lapsed when war broke out, and during the war period there was great activity at the barracks. Now that we have returned to normal times, it is thought that such a valuable site should be returned to the citizens. Originally it was held by the British Government, but on the grant of responsible government it was handed over to New South Wales. I do not think the fee-simple has ever been taken away from the State authorities; therefore, the Common-wealth cannot use the area except for military barracks. In the case of Garden Island the State Government refused to allow the Commonwealth Government to receive that property from the British Admiralty, even in exchange. I think the barracks are in like case. There is a general consensus of opinion amongst the residents of East Sydney that the barracks site should be surrendered and another site selected on which better omeo accommodation for the Defence Department could be erected. The existing buildings are very old, some of them are out of repair, and the majority are entirely unsuited for military purposes. T hope the Department will not spend any further money there until the Government have dealt with this question. What is the trouble at Duntroon ? Cadets cannot be attracted to enter upon their course there nowadays. Does not the Minister think the establishment ought to be closed down? ‘
– Never fear; they will come again.
– The. honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) raised a question connected with the rifle ranges of the Western Australian National Rifle Association, which had to do with an alteration of the ranges SOl as to extend them up to 1,000 yards. So far as the Defence Department is concerned, we have practically severed our connexion with the rifle associations, as regards expenditure upon upkeep and improvement of ranges, by placing an amount of £50,000 upon the Estimates. This sum is to be allotted to the rifle associations of the Commonwealth, and it will be for those bodies to use the money as they think best. I cannot definitely commit the Department to an expenditure upon the Western Australian range; but, in view of the projected visit of a team of riflemen from England, and believing that it is desirable that our Australian riflemen should be encouraged to meet the visitors, I think some arrangement might be made whereby the Department could give assistance to the Western Australian Association to carry out the necessary alterations. I am prepared to suggest to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that the Western Australian Rifle Association undertake to carry out the necessary work. Such jobs can be done far more economically by a body which is not associated with a Government Department. There is much extravagant work done by Government Departments. If they set out to make an alteration, even though it may be of a temporary character, they insist upon inspections of the locality and the preparation of elaborate plans and specifications, and, altogether, upon the work being done so that it will last for a lengthy period. If the Western Australian body chooses to anticipate its share of the vote set down in the Estimates. I think I might recommend to the Minister that the Department augment the effort of the association on a £1 for £1 basis. I will do my best in that direction, without definitely committing the Minister for Defence.
– I desire to call attention to one or two specific matters regarding which the Committee is entitled to more information than has vet been furnished. I refer to the items - “ Towards supply of heavy guns and reserve of gun ammunition, £262,000”; “Reserve of rifles, £266,000”; “General Arsenal - machinery and plant -towards cost, £248,651 “; and “ To be paid to the credit of Trust Fund Small Arms Ammunition Account for Reserve of Small Arms Ammunition, £287,048.” Upon those lines, involving, as they do, large sums of money, there should be Ministerial explanations. Honorable members should be given particulars of the manufacture of rifles at Lithgow. We should know whether those weapons were, according to the last report, costing between £7 to £9 each - which is about double the estimated cost at the time when the machinery was installed there. Honorable members would like to have information, also, regarding the number of rifles in stock in Australia, the number taken away during the war, and the number returned; and we should be told whether the type of rifle now being manufactured at Lithgow is up to date or obsolete.
– The honorable member would not suggest publishing the number of rifles in stock in Australia?
– Why not? There is considerable talk about our not doing wisely in publishing details which might beof interest to a potential enemy, but the probability is that most of the information is known a great deal earlier and more completely to outside sources than to members of this Parliament. Honorable members should be informed whether any alteration has been effected to the design of the Lithgow rifle, and whether it is proposed to continue the manufacture of rifles at more than double the price at which they are being turned out in other parts of the world to-day.
– One cannot buy an English rifle now for twice its previous price.
– The Commonwealth authorities can buy all the rifles they want for about one-fourth the price being paid for their manufacture at Lithgow. There are in Great Britain to-day hundreds of thousands of rifles which will never be used again, and which any Dominion Government can buy at an exceedingly low figure. I think offers in that direction have been made. I know that the bigger guns are being offered at considerably less than half the price of their actual manufacture. Some guns can be bought almost for the cost of taking them away. In France, the other day, there was a sale of guns, including rifles, which were distributed practically for a song. There are stacked to-day in England thousands upon thousands of up-to-daterifles, which the Australian Government may purchase for an exceedingly low figure. The type of rifle which we produced before the war is not such as can now be called an uptodate arm. Honorable members should be made acquainted with the type of weapon being manufactured, and with the class of ammunition being turned out. We should know the whole policy of the Government respecting these matters. Without question, the manufacture of rifles at Lithgow has been, to put it very mildly, far from a success. Some of those arms were used in Palestine; but, in Europe, they were discarded, as they were regarded as being far from modern.
– All rifles had to be changed during the war, because of the higher grade of ammunition which came into use. It was not the fault of the Lithgow rifle.
– I do not say that it was the fault of the Lithgow rifle, but, if we are turning out a weapon which is not suited for the up-to-date ammunition now employed, the mistake is ours. We should also have some information about the Cordite Factory, upon which it is proposed to expend money, and also about the Woollen and Cloth Factory.
– That factory has been a success.
– I am not saying that it has not been a success, but surely, when the Committee is considering proposals of expenditure on these undertakings, it is not too much to ask that the items should be explained even briefly. There is also the proposed expenditure of about £50,000 on providing houses at Lithgow.
– That money was voted on last year’s Estimates.
– I do not intend to deal with the Budget now. I merely rise to ask for information before being asked to agree to the votes.
.- Most of the discussion hitherto has been of a general nature, and very little has been said about the specific items in this division of the Estimates; but, like the honorable member (Mr. Mcwilliams) who has just spoken, I think it is time we were given some information about them. Some Minister ought to explain how the undertakings in which we have already engaged- in our military operations and their projected extensions will fit in with the new scheme of Defence. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has very rightly raised the question of the quality of the rifle turned out by the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts for some years, I have had a special opportunity of going into the history of this establishment. It has not realized anticipations. I remember the occasion on which the money for the provision of the Factory was first voted. The item appeared on the Estimates as these items are before us to-day. A few honorable members spoke briefly about it, and the then Minister for Defence (Sir Thomas Ewing) made a statement as to what was expected of the Factory. But things have not happened as were anticipated. We secured machinery from America, but we are obliged to employ on it twice* as many men as could work a similar plant in America. That is to say, the number of men employed is greatly in excess of the number it was supposed would turn out the estimated output; and it took a long time before the establishment approached anything like the output it was expected would be produced within a reasonable time. No one would expect the full output all at once. Men had to be trained,, and much had to be done, excusable in the initial stages of an undertaking, but it was a very long time before the Lithgow Factory could turn out anything like a reasonable number of rifles. If we are to continue making them there it is very important that they should be up to date, and, certainly, that they should be suitable for use with the latest ammunition devised.” The honorable member for Franklin has touched on other items to which I intended to call attention - for instance, the proposed expenditure of £267,000 on heavy guns and a reserve of gun ammunition. This is a new item about which we ought to be given some information. Although this year’s estimated expenditure on Defence works is about ten times last year’s estimate, I can understand the reason for this. Last year the war was practically still on, and the very necessary extensions of these factories had to ‘be left in abeyance, but now that the war is quite over it is necessary to put our defence system in order, and re-tackle the question of carrying out the necessary extensions to existing plants. However, there are many items which the Minister should explain, particularly in order to show how all this expenditure will fit in with the _ new order of things in the Defence Department.
– I understand that the Cordite Factory is erected on a large area of land which is well suited for the manufacture of explosives that are used in very large quantities throughout Australia, and I see no reason why it should not be used for this purpose. We impose a big duty on explosives to compel their manufacture in Australia, but we have no hope of having them manufactured here for use in coal mining unless we establish a testing station, which will enable them to be pla’ced on the “ permitted explosives list.” It is essential that no explosive that is liable to cause a fire should be used in coal mining. For that purpose all explosives used in coal mining must be first tested and put on the “ permitted explosives list.” The obstacle to local manufacture is the absence of a testing station in Australia. When the right honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook) was Prime Minister in 1914 he agreed to have explosives tested in Australia, but shortly afterwards he went out of office, and the war commenced, and, of course, nothing was done in the matter. But, as I understand from the figures supplied at that time, that such a station would not cost more than £10,000, it occurs to me that in connexion with the Cordite Factory, where it is proposed to spend so much money, we could expend a little more for the purpose of establishing a plant for testing explosives, and thus enable the manufacture of these explosives to be undertaken in Australia. If we are to develop our resources we must do something of the kind. A gentleman in the Maitland district spent money in the erection of a plant for making explosives, but overlooked the fact that before his explosives could be used in the coal mines it was necessary to have them tested and placed upon the “ permitted explosives list.” When he sought to dispose of his output the mine-owners found that they could not use his explosives unless they had been previously sent to Great Britain to be tested. Every one knows that if a box of explosives is sent to Great Britain to be tested it deteriorates, and has not the same chance as a box tested immediately after manufacture, and even then it has to run the risk of being turned down by some person anxious to keep the local commodity out of the market. In my opinion, the time has arrived for the establishment of a testing station in Australia. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is fully seized with the necessity for it.
– When we sent an expert to Great Britain to inquire into this matter the war started, and the British Government commandeered his services.
– That is true. So far as I know, all that is required is a gallery built sufficiently strong to show whether an explosive, when tested, gives off fire. The Government couldmake a small charge to cover expenses, and could confine themslves to the testing operations, if they did not desire to undertake the manufacture. We use an enormous quantity of explosives in Australia, but there is no inducement held out for its manufacture here. In my own district this industry would have been a going concern to-day, if there had been proper means of testing; and it is owing to the absence of those means that the enterprise is a failure. Prior to the war explosives could be purchased at from 8d. to 9d. per lb., whereas, to-day, they cost over double that, and, at the same time, are very difficult to obtain. Very often mines are without explosives, and work has to be stopped on that account. It will be seen that it is absolutely necessary to do something in the direction I have suggested, especially in view of the fact that a high duty has been placed on explosives, although, at the same time, we cannot manufacture them here. It is only necessary, of course, to test samples of the explosives.
– Why do the manufacturers of explosives here not have testing arrangements of their own ?
– I think the State Government insist that there should be some independent guarantee that the explosives used are absolutely safe, and a test by the manufacturer would not give that guarantee. There is one capable manI know of who could form a company to start operations to-morrow, if there was any prospect ofsuccess, and such a company would be formed at once but for the prevailing conditions.
.- This is an important question, particularly in the district represented by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and myself; and I agree with him that the time has come when there should be a testing station established by the Commonwealth. At the present time the miners have to buy their own powder in considerable quantities, and, according to the Coal Mines Regulation Act of the State, only such explosives are authorized as’ appear on the permitted list of England. It might happen, though I do not say that it has happened, that an explosive on the permitted list, which had been tested in England a long time ago, would be sent out here and used without a second test, or an inferior explosive sent bearing a superior brand. Under all the circumstances it would be infinitely better to have a testing station here, not only to insure quality and safety, but also to give some encouragement to local manufacture. At present a person desiring to manufacture explosives has to get a permit from the State authority, and no matter how good that explosive may prove to be on analysis, it must be sent to England to be tested, there to come into conflict with the rings and combinations of British manufacturers. This question has been brought up in the House by the honorable member for Hunter and myself at different times throughout the history of this Parliament. 1 am sure that the erection of a testing station would not prove by any means a costly undertaking, and, in my opinion, it would pay its way if a small charge were made for the service rendered.
– The rifles manufactured at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory are costing over £13 each at the present time, and the large sum on the Estimates is to provide 20,000. The rifles that were manufactured at the Factory, and were used overseas, were, taking them all round, excellent. It has been contended in the House that the rifles turned out at Lithgow for thewar were not serviceable, but I can assure honorable members that that contention is unfounded. For four years, in Egypt and Palestine, all my men used these rifles, and everybody knows that those men gave a good account of themselves. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) asked whether the rifles will take the mark 7 ammunition, and I have to inform him that they will.
-Idonotthinkthatwas the case with the earlier rifles.
– The honorable member is quite right ; but it is the case with the rifles we are turning out now. There was some difficulty overseas in changing from mark 6 to mark 7 ammunition. The first rifles manufactured here would take mark 7 ammunition, but the results werenot satisfactory.
– I raised that point in the House at the time, but I was “bluffed” by one Minister after another.
– With regard to heavy guns and ammunition, I may say that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is negotiating with the Imperial authorities with a view to obtaining, if not as a free gift, at all events at a veryreduced cost, a fair quantity of this armament.
– Was a similar effort made as to rifles?
– As to that, I may say that we are now getting 101,000 rifles from the Imperial authorities. It will be remembered that we sent over five divisions, and, under an agreement with the Imperial authorities, fully equipped them with rifles in the field. In return, the Imperial authorities undertook to return to us a full serviceable equipment for five divisions after the war, and the 101,000 rifles are a part of that equipment.
– What about the Light Horse equipment?
– I do not know of any differentiation between the Light Horse equipment and any other.
The rifles that are being sent by the Imperial Government are not necessarily now, but they are serviceable, and they can be supplied to us at something like £67s. 6d. each. As I said before, they are not new rifles,but, from what I can gather, I believe that we could not get new rifles from the Imperial authorities or elsewhere overseas for less than we are now making them at the Lithgow Factory.
– The rifles to be supplied from overseas are of the latest pattern?
– Yes, they are good rifles, though not new. A certain number of long new barrels were required, and the second lot, at any rate, was turned out at Lithgow at from 25s. to 30s. each, as compared with 35s. for similar barrels made in England.
– Is the Department getting all the steel locally?
– Yes, from the Broken Hill Company. With regard to the Cordite Factory, I could not do better than read a statement supplied by the manager, Mr. Leighton, on the ammunition supply. He is the man to whom we look for the supervision and management of our enterprises in connexion with the manufacture of munitions -
In regard to the amount provided for machinery and plant for the general arsenal and munition supply factories, the following explanation of the munition supply policy is furnished: - “ In the direction of munition supply the policy of the Defence Department is to provide the means which will make it possible to utilize the industrial resources of Australia in time of war. As a first step, the Department is proceeding with the construction of an adequately equipped research laboratory for the purpose of examining raw material, stores, and articles used in war.”
That should meetthe contention put forward by some of my honorable friends opposite with regard to research work in connexion with the manufacture of explosives.
– It will not meet the want of a testing station.
– The report continues - “The laboratory will enable the policy of self-containment to be extended by determining the conditions under which Australian material can be used in substitution of imported material. Further, the laboratory will be used for devising processes for manufacturing chemical and other products - such as poison gas, anti-gas composition, or new explosive composition - essential under war conditions, but not manufactured under normal economic conditions.”
– What is there to prevent the provision of a testing station under normal conditions in order to permit of the local manufacture of explosives ?
– I do not know that there is any thing to prevent the establishment of such a station. The report continues - “ The next step will be the organization and equipment of an inspection department. The main work of this department is the systematic examination and proof of war materiel for issue to forces, and, further, the proper custody and storage of all standards for manufacture of war materiel. It is on the inspection department that will fall the issue of all working, drawings, drawings of gauges, and the organization of inspection of factories, Government or private.
The policy of the Department is to provide as funds permit for the erection and equipment of such additional shops and factories as are required to meet the peace demands of the Forces for war materiel, and its repair and upkeep. At the present time Australia possesses no establishment capable of making ammunition, high explosives, or fuses, nor is there ‘any provision for filling ammunition with explosives or gas even if the several components were procurable from outside establishments. These outside establishments, such as engineering shops or chemical factories, can only be brought to function in war if the Government possesses facilities for rapidly training masters and foremen, and is possessed of the necessary technical information in a form readily available, and which will make quite clear what is exactly wanted.”
It is along the lines briefly sot out above that the Department is creating a nucleus organization for dealing with the problem of munition supply. Without such an organization Australia must remain dependent for war materiel upon the maintenance of British control of the seas, and, in these circumstances, the description of our army as “ a Defence Force” is a fallacy which deceives no one but ourselves.
I desire to emphasize that point. It is put very clearly in this report that unless we can manufacture munitions it is futile for us to train our men. It is futile for us to have a Small Arms Factory where we can manufacture rifles if we cannot manufacture the ammunition for them’.
In such circumstances all our efforts in the event of war would be absolutely futile.
– Would not that remark apply also to the supply of coal to keep our industries going? If we could not get a supply of explosives required in connexion with the coal mining industry, what would be our position? In the event of war we could not manufacture explosives for such purposes unless we had a testing station.
– Quite so. That should be one of the functions of the Commonwealth. We must manufacture everything that is requisite for an army in the field. If there are things which we cannot at present manufacture we cannot help it. But we should do our best to produce as speedily as possible all our requirements in this regard. Honorable members must realize that if we are to have a Defence Force, it is essential that, so far. as its requirements are concerned, we should be self-contained. We cannot say that the seas will be open to us in war time, and that we shall be able to obtain supplies from abroad. We must have big guns and supplies of ammunition for those guns. Honorable members who. have’ had military experience know that a force without artillery has no chance whatever against a force with artillery. The force possessing big guns could shell the other side, which would have no means of retaliation. By the time that it got close enough to engage the opposing army otherwise than by artillery, its ranks would be decimated. When you are being shelled by an opposing force, and you want to advance, you must be able to shell the enemy’s gun positions with the object of stopping then or keeping their fire down. If the enemy’s artillery can put its guns wherever it pleases, and shell your advancing force, which has no artillery to retaliate, the position of that advancing force is absolutely hopeless.. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that we should manufacture munitions of war in Australia, and make ourselves as selfcontained as possible in regard to army supplies. ‘ I have here some detailed information with regard to general arsenal machinery and plant, which may be of interest to honorable members who do not realize what is involved in the creation of an arsenal and a big supply depot.
The following are the details of the items relating to munition supply activities under this Division: -
– Can the honorable gentleman promise us that a testing station for explosives will be established?
– I shall put the matter before the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and the responsible officers of the Department; but I cannot promise “ off my own bat “ that a testing station will be established.
– It would pay for itself from the day of its opening.
– I shall put the matter before the Minister. I hope that honorable .members will allow the Estimates of the Department to pass without further discussion. We had the very greatest difficulty in paring them down to their present level. The only reason why more rifles are not being made at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory today is the want of funds. The sum of £260,000 which appears on these Estimates in connexion with the reserve of rifles to be supplied by that factory would have been increased, but that we were forced to cut down that and many other items in order to bring down the Esti mates to the total of £3,200,000. Having regard to the fact that the purchasing power of the sovereign to-day is only onehalf what it was before the war, and in view of the necessity of building up our defence system, I hope honorable members will recognise that the proposed total vote of £3,200,000 should not be cavilled at.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by fi (Mr. Riley’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I am not in the least interested in the vote which has just been taken on the proposal to reduce the amount by £1. I am opposed to not merely the £1, but to every penny of this expenditure. I am against every line of these defence estimates, and against every item contained in them. As a matter of fact, I am not in the least interested in these items at all. I intend to take up a few minutes in continuing from last night, as briefly as I can, my survey of the defence position. The item, before the Committee, and the two subsequent items, represent a proposed vote of £2,000,000 for the purposes of defence. I have distinctly stated before that I have no objection to votes for purposes of defence under ordinary circumstances. But these are not ordinary circumstances. This vote is not only for the maintenance of the existing system of defence; it is a proposal for the augmentation of our defence expenditure by millions of pounds per annum. Before I conclude, I shall have something to say in regard to the attitude of the so-called Economy party. In this matter there are only two things in view - either peace or war. It has been said by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) that whosoever states during this debate that the present is a period of peace, and that there will be no further war, is talking bosh and nonsense.
– I did not say that. I did not use the word “ bosh.”
– I apologize to the Assistant Minister. Of course, he would not use such a word. He said that this talk of peace was an absurdity, and that, in any case, anybody who spoke of there being no more war spoke nonsense. I shall read only one statement to the Committee -
There will be no more war. This great war has fulfilled its purpose. We have climbed out oi the pit into the green pastures of perpetual peace. The peace that has come is a peace that will endure.
– Who said that ?
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). The Assistant Minister says he is a liar. Leave it at that. What the Prime Minister said is not true. There is no peace. The war was not fought in order to bring about peace. We have not entered the green pastures. We have not entered upon a peace that will endure. We have come out of one
Avar to enter into another. We have conquered a white race, 16,000 miles away in order to build up preparations against another enemy close to our shores. If we are to make preparations for war with another nation, which nation is it to be? The Assistant Minister for Defence told us that we have to protect the White Australia policy. He believes in that policy; he has always believed in it. If we have to defend the White Australia policy we must defend i t against some other people. The Prime Minister told us that, whosoever, in this Chamber or elsewhere, utters one word which may arouse the hostility of any particular nation, does, by that word, incite to the very evil and danger he professes to deplore. The Assistant Minister for Defence (.Sir Granville Ryrie) has said that we are confronted with a menace to our White Australia unless we make the necessary defence preparations. He has said the very thing that his chief, the Prime Minister, has denounced. We are told that if we mention the name when seeking to discover our possible enemy, we are doing something injurious to our country, and we are asked to believe that, while this potential enemy has ears with which to hear our words, he is so blind as not to be .able to see what we are doing. We are told that we must prepare to fight against a possible enemy with armed forces, and that enemy is presumed to be Japan. It is useless to blink that fact. The militarists appeal to the public by saying that the White Australia policy must be defended, leaving it to be inferred that our potential enemy is Japan, and against her we have to prepare for the defence of our country. If that is so, we should not blink the issue. Is there any possibility of Japan becoming our enemy ? Yes, or no? Some say yes; others say no. In the early part of the war, I distinctly pointed out the possibilities of Japan. I said that while she was an ally of Great Britain, and while Great Britain and the Allied Powers were fighting for their existence against the Germanic Empire, Japan was in a position to make a claim for compensation or concessions. It has been stated sub rosa that she did make claims. Whether she did or did not it is quite evident that from the beginning to the end of the war she kept her compact with the Allied Powers. Whatever chance she had of causing trouble was when Germany was supreme, when victory appeared to be with our enemies, and when she could have stated her terms as a condition of the support she was rendering to the Allied Powers. It is evident that Japan could, with justice, have said that if she was good enough to protect our shores and convoy our troops, if she was good enough to be our ally, at least she was good enough for all the advantage which could be given to a nation or individual that was helping us at that juncture. She could justly have said that if she was doing all those things she was at least good enough to be admitted as an inmate of the house in which we live.
– Would the honorable member have agreed to that?
– No ; those were the grounds upon which she could have based her claims. Morally, she had the right to make those claims, and we could have had no logical answer to them.
– We have to admit that Japan “ played the game.”
– I admit that. Now I come to the existing situation. Since Germany has been defeated and the conditions have altered in Russia, she has been able to open up what is .practically a new Empire. She has been able to enter Siberia, and to control the whole area between Vladivostock and Lake Baikal, an immense territory rich in minerals, and timber, and intersected by great rivers. And if she can hold that country with armed forces she has an immense Empire, the development of which will require all her .energies for many years to come. If she cannot by armed forces maintain herself in eastern Siberia, which is in close proximity to Japan, and has a white population of less than 2,000,000 people, surely Australia is perfectly safe at a much greater distance. If, on the other hand, turning from the policy of armed force, she enters the sphere of peaceful economic penetration, even then, apart from the great natural resources of that country which has been the cradle of nations, she has a vast field for her energies for centuries ahead. If . by neither armed force nor peaceful penetration she can maintain herself in Siberia, if out of Soviet Russia there comes a mighty force that sweeps her out of the country, even then she will be no menace to Australia, for in eastern Siberia, at her own door, she will have a power that will gnaw like a rat at the very vitals of her civilization. Then, upon what grounds do honorable members say that J apan at this hour threatens, our civilization ? Whatever may have been her opportunities from 1914 to 1917, she did not take advantage of them. To-day, having regard to her situation in Siberia, bearing in mind the trouble with which she is confronted in America, whosoever says that Japan is our enemy violates the sentiments of the Allied Powers, and uses her as a bogy to aid in building up a military caste in oar own country. It is not those of us who go upon the public platform and state our views who do anything that is detrimental to the White Australia; it is those men who, while repudiating our words, seek to utilize the funds of the people in building up dockyards and arsenals, under the pretence that they are seeking to protect us against an Asiatic Power, and who ask us to believe that that nation is so blind as not to see what we are doing to incite the fears and timidity of our people. There is either a real and potential enemy, or there is an imaginary one. If it is only an imaginary one, how fearful it is that we should be exhausting the resources, substance, and industrial capacity of our people in preparing against nobody! If there is a real enemy, which country is it? It can be no country in Europe. That enemy cannot come from wardevastated Europe, bathed in blood, to which no peace has come, where destitution walks abroad, and where hunger and famine are eating into the very vitals of the people, Not from a white man’s Europe does danger menace us. Even if it did, it could not threaten our White Australia, for although Australia were to be the victim in a war against a European Power it would still be white, because it would be conquered by a white race. The danger must come from an Asiatic race, and only can come from one, namely, Japan. We are asked to be silent, and yet, under the pretence of silence, they say, “ Beware of Japan,” and they ask us to bleed ourselves of more millions in order to build up an immense military power against an imaginary enemy. They say, however, that the enemy is not imaginary, but real and actual. But when will the enemy come? To-morrow? Is there any man who will say that Japan, confronted^ with its problems in Northern China, with all the possibilities of development in Siberia, and with the troubles that threaten her in America, is the race that menaces us? The militarists say, “ Yes; it will be our turn to-morrow.” Then what will we do? They talk about it being merely sufficient for us to put armed men into the field. They do not seem to realize that behind those armed men must stand the economic resources of the country. After every long fight - be it a pugilistic encounter in which men are engaged for twenty or forty rounds, or be it a conflict between nations for four or forty years - there must be a period of recuperation. Neither man nor nation has that in reserve which will provide driving force and equipment to forthwith re-enter the fray. They talk of the immense burden heaped upon the shoulders of this country to-day. What will happen to us if, in the immediate future, another great war should occur ? What would happen to us if upon the thousands and millions of our present war indebtedness we were burdened - having been confronted with another terrific struggle for the preservation of our existence - with millions and millions of additional war debt ? All that would be left for us to do would be to carry on for hundreds of years, paying interest, and we should be ground down as slaves as abject to our bondholders as though we were the vassals of a conquering foreign power. What we have to consider is the reduction of our enormous indebtedness. If it be true that out of Japan there is to come the enemy who will threaten our future, then ;our ‘main object at this moment should be, not so much to build up new armed forces - so bringing about an early exhaustion of our energies and the squandering of our resources - as to turn our activities to the fields of industry. For there alone can we recoup ourselves and rid our country of its tremendous load of war debt. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) himself pointed out that there can be no salvation for Australia unless it rids itself or its burden of unproductive debt. That statement” furnishes the crux of the whole problem. I am not troubled at this moment about details. If the Government are going to spend this money, let them, spend it. We are already loaded with our hundreds of millions or debt. Why stick at a few millions more? But how are these additional millions cut up ? First, there is the expenditure upon the Public Service of this country. This is an economic Government, having carried the country with the battle cry of economy. What do the Government intend to do to wipe out the unproductive debt of which they speak? What about the millions annually to be raised for the payment of interest? Those millions cannot be found or saved under the existing system of government. Only by the adoption of new methods, only by the transformation of the things in which the Government believe into the things in which they do not believe can the item of annual interest be saved. The pensions paid to soldiers, the Government dare not touch. The money being expended upon the housing of soldiers, the Government dare not assail. The enormous sums devoted to the repatriation of soldiers, the Government dare not encroach upon. The only line of obligation which, the Government can attack is the unproductive debt - the many millions which it is now proposed to add to by launching out upon increased defence expenditure, to provide against a potential enemy at the very moment of our deepest exhaustion, at the conclusion of the greatest of all struggles. But the Treasurer says, “ My sinking fund will redeem it “ ; and .while he is saying those very words he is stating, “ Here is £3,000,000 to be expended upon nonproductive works, and it is taken from loan money, and poured into the revenue of the country in order to fill our depleted coffers.”
– It does not happen to be taken from loan money at all.
– That does not matter a bit. The Treasurer told us last night that this money, which we are now called upon to vote, was being transferred for the particular purposes mentioned from loan money into the revenue account. This baneful and iniquitous system of administration makes one shudder. And, as for the economy members in the corner opposite, they have not one word to say concerning this odious system of conducting the affairs of the country.
– Does the honorable member call it an odious system to pay our debts from revenue?
– No; I said it was an odious system - although I have availed myself -of it - to borrow on the one hand in order to pay somebody else on the other. Incidentally, it is very convenient to be able to do this; it postpones the day of judgment. And that is what the Government are doing.
– But we are not borrowing at all this year in the matter of our unproductive debt.
– Never mind; we are dealing with the fact that the Treasurer has to finance £100,000,000 this year.
– Not quite, but that is near enough.
– Of course; what is a million ? Some £60,000,000 is going out, in one form and another, to the soldiers. The only possible hope for Australia is in the sweeping away of the unproductive load of debt. I have been reading in the papers that expenditure upon various civil Departments of this country has risen by about 50 per cent. I cannot help thinking about the newspapers themselves, and about their magnificent proprietaries. I cannot help recalling that they have raised the price of their daily papers by 50 per cent., and by at least 100 per cent. on Saturdays. As for the price of advertisements, they have gone up 120 per cent. ; and even the prices charged for soldiers’ memorial notices have risen in like proportion. But if I were to say to these great newspaper proprietors, “ Why have you raised your prices?” they would answer, “It is not due to red tape; it is not to be set down to waste in departmental expenditure ‘ ‘ - for these gentlemen would not permit any waste in their business; they are so anxious to rake everything into their own pockets that they take mighty fine care not to keep wasteful servants. No; they would explain the rise in the price of their commodities by pointing to the enormous increases in cost of materials - as a result of the war, of course - and in the scale of wages demanded by labour. What is true for them, as private individuals, however, is equally true of every Department of States and Commonwealth. Not along those lines can one hope to economize. But, here are these honorable gentlemen of the Country party, who came into this Chamber from among their simple rural constituents. When I lay at home, sick, I read that a majority of honorable members in this Chamber were about to increase their remuneration. I was delighted. I knew that the project would be carried to victory; and I knew that these honorable members in the Corner, although they were fighting the proposal most vigorously - there never was such a band of heroes - while they went forward and forced the conflict, were fired with the sincere and honest belief, and with the holy joy of knowledge in their hearts, that they were bound to be de feated. How magnificent was their courage! See how they fought for these few thousands ! And now rises a question involving millions. I want to see them defend the proposal to save those millions. Why should this country proceed to spend millions more upon its defence, after years of warfare, than before the war? Can any honorable member justify it? Honorable members to whom I am addressing myself do not reply. They are driven to ignominious silence. Will they support our proposition ? Or will they uphold the Government in piling up the defence expenditure of Australia by millions upon our pre-war undertakings?
Sitting suspended from 6.31 to 8 p.m.
– My remarks are being cut up and dislocated in a very bad way, as I understand I have but a few minutes longer. It has been suggested to me that I could have saidwhat I have said on the general Defence Estimates, but I think that the appropriate occasion for making them is upon these Estimates upon which the Committee is now asked to give a vote, when the question is not one of maintaining the defence system as it was before the war, but one of incurring an expenditure far in excess of what previously existed, and for which there is no justification whatever. Here we have an opportunity to cut it down, not by a few thousand pounds, but by a couple of million pounds, and yet there are honorable members in this Chamber who claim to be neither abject followers of the Government nor their definite opponents, and who are pledged to a policy of economy, although all the time their party has been in existence they have done nothing but make protests about infinitesimal items of expenditure, and propose to do nothing where the Estimates could easily be curtailed by £2,000,000.
– We can justify all our actions since we have been here.
– I have never known any one who has been in this House who has not been able to justify every action he has taken. I have done nothing that I could not justify.
– To your own satisfaction.
– Yes, and also to the satisfaction of those who hitherto have voted for me. The honorable member says that he can justify his actions. It would be far better for him to do so, rather than to give abject votes for the Government without one single word of explanation. On what grounds do honorable members of his party support this particular vote, upon which they have an opportunity of curtailing the expenditure of Australia by a couple of million pounds ? The least they can do is to voice their support of the Government’s proposals. There is a newspaper in this country, which I shall quote, not because I always believe in what it says, but because it suits my book to do so. I know full well that the same journal, when an election crisis comes, will denounce and seek to drive out of public life every man who voices the opinions it has supported prior to the election and that it is its policy to denounce the Government, in between elections, and support it at election time.
– What is this mysterious paper?
– The paper that most men worship, and follow, when they think it convenient to do so. At any rate, this great daily newspaper, on the 4th November, 1919, made this affirmation -
Is Australia’s danger greater than before Germany was beaten?
If I had made use of these words, the statement would have been used against me, but I quote it now, because it has been said by a paper which no Victorian dare controvert. When I tell honorable members that this statement appeared in the Age, they will remain silent. However this is what it says: -
Is Australia’s danger greater than it was before Germany was beaten? If so, the appalling sacrifices of the war have been made by this generation in vain. It will be hard to convince the people that we need defences greater than those which sufficed to win “ the war to end war.”
Yet we are told that no preparation is being made for the lean days in front of us. When we have a dead weight of indebtedness weighing us down into the slough of depression, our only hope is to curtail our expenditure wherever possible.
– Anstey quoting the Age reminds me of the devil quoting Scripture.
– I merely quote the Age because it voices my opinion, and because honorable members cannot denounce an opinion which they know must also be their own. I conclude this disconnected speech by taking the opportunity of saying two things. Last night the Minis ter representing the Minister for Defence interpolated a remark about a gentleman named Jerger. It had nothing to do with the subject under discussion, and it had no application to myself, but I know the purpose for which it was made. My family connexions were English before any German King sat upon the throne of Britain, and whatever may have been the merits or demerits of this Father Jerger, I have no desire to discuss him or the question of Catholics versus nonCatholics, or matters concerning any man’s religion or nationality; but I do desire to discuss an odious law in its application to men of the working class of British origin. Great as is the power of the Church of Rome, with its ramifications throughout Australia, apparently it was not sufficient or powerful enough to keep Father Jerger in Australia; but there are other gentlemen who can be kept here. While Father Jerger was being exported, Mr. Hirschfeld could sun himself on the sands of Coogee. He was a man who came here in full-blown manhood. He was a supporter of the German Empire, and he did not confine himself to words only, but his actions were inimical to the interests of this country. What influence had he behind him ? He has no church to keep him here. Then what order of black masonry of wealth enables him to silence justice and the Administration of this country ? The other day the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) mentioned the case of another German named Herz, who, apparently, is not a member of the Catholic Church, but yet is able so to direct influences here as to silence the Administration and justice, and maintain himself here. Perhaps, later on, we shall be able to have some light thrown upon the merits of these men.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I had thought that after the speech of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) one of the Country party would have justified what I anticipate will be their vote upon this expenditure. It amazes me to think that any member of the party whose chief plank is a platform of economy can be found voting for increased expenditure on military and naval establishments after our experience of the war, and I cannot comprehend what their answer will be when their constituents ask for an explanation of their support of this increased expenditure.
– We will attend to all that.
– I hope you will. You will find it a difficult task. I have just returned from an election campaign where a farmers’ candidate had the pleasure of paying £50 into the Consolidated Revenue, and in that campaign on every platform I spoke against the creation of a military class in this country. We were told that the war was to end wars, and was to make Democracy safe, and establish peace for all time; that if we only conquered Germany, as explained by the article from the Age quoted by the honorable member for Bourke, Australia would be in a much safer position. Well, Germany has been conquered; yet I believe that in a few years’ time it will be victorious; at least, it will not be obliged to pay for military and naval establishments. On the other hand, those who went to the war had one set purpose, and that was to defeat the Prussian Junkers. They little thought that in defeating the military caste of Germany they were creating a military class in Australia. There would not be many Australians anxious to go away again if they thought that their doing so would be merely for the purpose of adding to the millitary fetters on the people of this country. What this Government sought but failed to do by conscription, it is now seeking to do by means of this Budget. By means of conscription it sought to impose militarism on the people, and any one who dared to say a word against conscription was charged with being a pro-German, or with being disloyal to the British Empire.
– And any one who said a word in favour of it was charged with being an anti-Labourite.
– If he were charged with being an anti-Australian it would have been truth, but, as a matter of fact, any one who said a word in favour of conscription was an anti-Labourite. I cannot understand how men who at one time professed to be Labourites could support a proposal for conscription. If they had seen something of the war they would not have been so anxious to send any one to fight. What would have been the national debt of Australia if the people had accepted conscription ? Our burden is bad enough as it is, but we would have been faced with financial ruin. Had members on the benches opposite had their way they would have bled Australia white of its manhood. They proposed to send away 16,000 men per month. There would have been hardly a young man left in the country. Thank God they failed at both their referendums to conscript the manhood of this country. But, although they failed then to create a military class, this Budget will do it. I shall vote on every occasion against increased expenditure on military and naval items. It is unnecessary to have military training. If the war proved anything it proved that young Australians, many of whom had not previously known one end of a rifle from another, were after training for a month or two equal to, if not superior to, any other troops engaged in the fighting.
– Surely the honorable member is not arguing that an untrained Australian is better than a trained Australian ?
– I am arguing that we are wasting the lives of our boys by training them to turn to the right and turn to the left. I have been where the honorable member has not been, and no one can deny that when they are marching up the lines of communication the officers do not care a rap whether the men are in step or out of step. All they care about is that the men get up to the front the best way they can. The fault of the British Army was that they were splendid on parade. The very life was driven out of them by continuous drilling, with being taught how to click their heels together, and salute. Our lads could not do that so well as the soldiers in other armies, but they could do the real thing much better in the fighting in the trenches.
– The Tommies did some pretty good work!
– No army could have put up a better fight in 1914 than the regular British Army; nobody will deny that for one moment, in view of the trials they had to undergo.
– And they were the most trained men.
– They were men who were well fed; but, unfortunately, later on, England had to go into the slums of the Old World for recruits. It was be cause of the fine physical condition of the British men in the early stages that they did so well; it was not simply because they had been taught to salute and click their heels together. Our boys themselves demonstrated the truth of that view again and again; they proved that without training they could acquit themselves against the best troops in the world; and they can do it again if Australia is ever pressed. When I hear a proposition to take lads for ten weeks at a time, and throw them into a military camp for 3s. or 4s. a day-
– They will not go.
– They will not go; make no mistake, the youth of this country will not go, for ten weeks a year, into a camp for three and four shillings a day.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself for making such a suggestion J
– I guarantee that if I can prevent youths from going, I shall do so. I will do anything I can to prevent them being taken away for ten weeks in one year. Many of the men affected are married, and I wonder how their wives and families are going to live during that time.
Apart from the matter of pay, it is my belief that preparations for war never prevented war. The whole reading of history teaches us that every nation that is prepared for war has -a war brought about; the more preparations are made for war, the greater certainty there is of another war. If Germany and France had not been led by the junkers of both countries, this war would never have occurred. And, then, as soon as the war is over, the Commonwealth Government bring out Lord Jellicoe and Sir William Birdwood, with a view to gigantic preparations in the Military Force and the Navy. As the1 honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) pointed out, there will be no war here for the next twenty years. Honorable members forget that there is another class arising in -this country who will have a say as to war. That class will not allow politicians to talk, as in the past, about the abolition of secret diplomacy, and then, as soon as war is over, resort to it, for it is that method of diplomacy that brings about war. Only the other day the leader of trade unionism in England said to Mr. Lloyd George, “ At your peril, touch the Russian workmen, and you will have to deal with the workmen of the .United Kingdom.” The same spirit that prevented the capitalistic classes of England going to war with Soviet Russia will prevent any other war in this world. In Australia many of the military class, who have pretty good comfortable jobs, desire another war. These men took care that they did not place their lives in jeopardy, and did not make any financial sacrifices because of the war; they know, as has often been said”, that war means promotion, and, therefore,, they wish to create a military caste or class here. As an - Australian, I trust that Australia will mind her own business, for if she does not seek to steal the oil of somebody else, or to attain some commercial supremacy, the chances are that our boys will never have to undergo another war. I am going to vote to-night, and I shall vote when the Defence Estimates are before us, to reduce expenditure down to that of pre-war days. There is no necessity for building new battleships and creating an Army of 130,000, with five divisions, in a young country like this. We ought not to fill the minds of our children with hatred of the people of other countries ; it is a most cruel thing to instil such an idea into the minds of young people; and if we do it we shall certainly bring about another war.
– Do you realize that if we reduce the Estimates to their prewar dimensions we must have very much less efficiency than in those days?
– The Government have nothing to thank themselves for in connexion with what was done in pre-war days, so far as concerns the war itself. There was not much efficiency then, I admit, for there were not many on the permanent staff of much use. The best men we have had in the Australian Imperial Force were volunteers, and any efficiency was not created by the staff that existed previously. if we look up the records of some of the members of that staff, we find names of those who are figuring largely to-day as so-called military leaders, but they were, in some cases, returned from the war because their services were no longer required. Now it is proposed to create another large permanent staff. Duntroon is being used to turn out lads who are superseding the men now on the instructional staff, men who did good work at the war. Sergeant-majors, who, because they did not belong to a certain class, could not get commissions, had to go abroad to earn them on the field. When they return as captains and majors they are superseded and reduced to their old rank of sergeant-major. As I say, boys are being turned out at Duntroon and sent into the instructional schools or drill halls with the rank of lieutenant, and many men who won their spurs as majors abroad have to salute them. That is what is going on to-day, and it will inevitably grow if we vote this largelyincreased expenditure.
I hope that honorable members who came here mouthing economy will take advantage of the opportunity now .presented to them. They can demonstrate their faith in the principles they espoused on the public platform. There is no fear that the efficiency of Australia to defend herself will be impaired if this expenditure is reduced. As Australians have defended themselves in the past without any training, so they will in the future. We at least know that the one enemy we were told to guard against, namely, Germany, lies crippled to-day, and cannot, for twenty or thirty years, be a military nation. I am hopeful that the German workmen will abide by the terms of the Peace Treaty. They ought to be thankful for those terms, for they mean that their Army and Navy are done away with. Germany will be the gainer by that step. While we are piling up taxation to increase our Army and Navy, Germany has nothing to fear, for no nation will attack her. She will not be seeking for new markets abroad, and neither she nor Australia need fear the Russian workmen.
On the Estimates, and on the Defence Bill to be introduced, we shall have further opportunities to discuss these matters. No doubt the Bill will contain provision for the proposed ten weeks’ training, and then we shall see whether the youth of this country is to be conscripted against their will.
.- Honorable members opposite are ignoring the very strong feeling in the country in regard to the huge expenditure on military and naval defence ; but they will find out before many days are over, however, that the people will refuse to sanction it. The same cry is being raised in every country. Last night, in my humble way, I submitted a set of figures which were replied to cavalierly by the
Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who said that the Allied peoples had discovered that Germany was hiding a great number of rifles, and this, in the right honorable gentleman’s opinion, proves that Germany is not, as Mr. Lloyd George said in the House of Commons she was, “shattered, down and out,” with a nonexistent army and her navy at the bottom of the sea. If honorable members will read the discussion on the Army and Navy Estimates in the House of Commons they will see what statesmen and; thinkers are doing in regard to defence expenditure. Mr. Neill Maclean, who led the Liberal party while Mr. Asquith was not in the House, used these words -
We went into the war with the great battle- cry that we must enter it to end war and toend militarism.
– Was he not a pacifist before the war?
– Not so far as I know. Instead of the war ending militarism in Australia, which is supposedly the most democratic country in the world, we are getting more militarist than is, I believe, any other country in the world to-day.
– Oh. no !
– When the Government bring down their measure for the compulsory training they will find what the homes of Australia think of the proposal.
– What good is there in exaggerating like that?
– There is no exaggeration.. The so-called Country party, which flies the flag of economy, are absolutely silent when there is an opportunity to act upon, their principles. Mr. Maclean in the same speech says -
Do honorable and right honorable members realize that the great body of workers of this country have a horrible detestation of war, and that we are up against any inflated armaments, and against the voting of more money for the prosecution of slaughter either in the Near, the Far, or the Middle Bast? They must realize that amongst the working people of this country there is a desire to put an end to the military system, not only abroad, but in our own country.
That and other speeches of the same tone were delivered on a similar occasion to this.
– I can imagine that..
– The honorable member is an Imperialist of the very worst type.
– I would rather be one of that type than one of your type.
– I am glad I have roused the honorable member to something like a little feeling. The men from whose speeches I have quoted are just as good as he is, and perhaps know more about the position of that part of the Empire than he does. Major-General Sir John Davidson, speaking in the House of Commons, said that in 1919 provision was made for an expenditure of £405,000,000; that in 1920, that expenditure was cut down to £125,000,000, and that there was a continuous clamour to reduce it to a normal year’s expenditure of £60,000,000. Brigadier-General Cockerill, speaking in the House of Commons on the 22nd March last, said that the number of combatants before the war - infantry, artillery, engineers, and cavalry - was 150,000, and that today provision was being made for 170,000. It is well known that before the war Great Britain had only about 150,000 trained troops. Its Army of nearly 5,000,000 strong was ‘built up in a few years, which shows that it does not take long to convert a civilian into a well-trained soldier. If that was possible in Great Britain, then i may say, without offence to the Old Country, that it would be a much easier task in Australia. The Australian is a man of vast initiative, and no people could more quickly make themselves ready to defend their country than could the people of the Commonwealth.
The Government are piling up a vast expenditure on the Army and Navy, and this after a war which we were told was waged to end all war and to destroy militarism. When honorable members opposite stood on the recruiting platforms of the country, they said, “We are out to fight German militarism.” Yet to-day we find them prepared to fasten on the people of Australia an enormous naval and military expenditure. An already overladen people are clamouring for relief, and their clamouring will probably take, very soon, a more definite shape. As I said just now, with due deliberation, they will refuse to obey the orders given in connexion with a lot of the compulsory military training which the Government desire to bring about. Although this is one of the richest countries in the world, it is so hard - for thousands of people here to live that they are going to refuse any longer to bear the burdens of the rich man. Taxation is passed on to them by the rich. Will the rich bear the cost of this heavy expenditure ? No ! It will be passed on to the rank and file, and the workers and their wives and children are going to refuse to be squeezed any longer. They have gone through enough of recent years.
– What would have been their position had Germany won?
– ‘Would it not be better for the honorable member to make a statement of his own views?
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) referred just now to Japan. In that country to-day there is a strong feeling against the military system - a feeling that, after the recent election on a limited franchise, is growing every day. I am going to make a quotation from the New York Times of 11th July last, in which there appears a message from the Associated Press in regard to the position in Tokio. In this article references are made to speeches delivered in the Japanese Diet by men who were objecting, as the Labour party of Aus tralia are objecting to-day, to excessive naval and military expenditure. There is such a thing as a Democracy in Japan at the present time, and it is going to insist, upon enjoying rights which are at present the privilege of the wealthy. Referring to the proceedings of the Diet, which was then sitting, the article sets out that -
Repeated allegations that the Government was controlled by the military, especially with regard to its Siberian policy, were followed by the sensational announcement of Yukio Ozaki, former Minister of Justice, who recently returned to Tokio from a visit to America and Europe, that henceforth he would abandon all parties and wage an independent fight to defeat militarism.
Ozaki declared that only bv the overthrow of militarism could the good repute of Japan in the world be restored to its former lustre. He said he had abandoned the KenseiKai Opposition party because his new attitude conflicted with the policy adopted by the party several years ago, when it supported the naval extension policy at present in operation. “ The introduction of a Budget of which onethird is devoted to a bloated increase of armaments is the height of absurdity,” M. Ozaki asserted. “ Japan will never win her rightful place among the nations until she throws off the tyranny of the military clique. World suspicion has turned against us because the world sees in Japan an aggressively Imperialistic and militaristic country.”
These were the words of a statesman of Japan, who warned his fellow countrymen that they must desist from their militaristic and Imperialistic system if they wished the world to trust their country. He was followed by a young and eminent professor of the Japanese University, who spoke in a similar strain. It is stated in this Associated Press message that never has there been such political turmoil in Japan as in recent times, owing firstly to the franchise having been denied the great bulk of the people, and secondly because of opposition to the military class in power.
Very strong views are being expressed in practically every Parliament of the world in opposition to excessive militarism and increased naval and military expenditure. On every hand we hear it said that a halt must be called, and that excessive naval and military expenditure such as we have before us to-night must be denounced. I shall do what I can to cut down these Estimates. I know that the vote will be against us, but I hope the division list will be published far and wide, so that the people will know that the Labour party, at all events, is trying to relieve them of the cursed military caste by which this country is being governed at the present time.
.- I should not have addressed myself to the consideration of the Estimates to-night but for certain observations- made by honorable members opposite. I feel, however, that I ought to express my own view, which I believe is the view generally held by the people of Australia. I was surprised and amused by the remarks made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), in view of the fact that they were, and. are still, members of a party which was responsible for the introduction of the Military Defence Bill, and took a very great deal of credit for having passed it.
– Only they did not pass it.
– They claimed credit for it.
– I put the Bill through, but they carried an amendment providing for longer military service than I had intended.
– I am sure we were all edified by the rhetorical effort of the honorable member for Bourke. I am satisfied, however, that the time has arrived when we should face things as they are, and not as we would like them to be. No one desires that we should embark upon another War such as that through which we have recently passed. Even military officers to whom reference has been made by honorable members opposite would not desire anything of the kind. The war has left on many of the people of this country a mark which can never be effaced.
I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Ballarat denouncing the policy of conscription, remembering as I did that he, with others, stood side by side with the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, and cheered to the echo the statement made in his own city of Ballarat as to what Australia was going to do in the Great War.
– The statement to which the honorable member refers was not made in Ballarat by Mr. Fisher.
– The statement made by him, that Australia was going to stand behind the Mother Country to the last man and the last shilling was repeated by every member of the Labour party in the 1914 campaign. The Labour party stood for that principle. Even the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) stood for it.
– Do not include the whole of us.
– The honorable member supported his leader in the desire that Australia should do her part in the war. We know that she did well, but some Australians did more than their part, while others did nothing.
– It is just a question of what her part was.
– I knew what my part was; I do not know whether the honorable member recognised what his part was. The Naval and Military expenditure that the Government propose to incur represents the very safest form of insurance that we could adopt. Reference has been made by honorable members opposite to the unpreparedness of Great Britain when war broke out. We have only to take back our minds a decade - to the time when in the House of Commons, as well as throughout Great Britain, there was a strong agitation for a reduction of armaments. It is very significant that the very people who are so strongly advocating the reduction of armaments are those who were opposed to Great Britain doing anything during the war. Had the advice which they gave been followed, had Great Britain ten years ago reduced her armaments, we should not be in our present happy position. There would have been a considerable decrease in the expenditure on the British Navy, and we would have weakened our main bulwark of defence. We are thankful that those people, although possibly their intentions were of the best, did not have their way, and that, instead, naval and military expenditure was incurred which made it possible for Great Britain to play a great part in preserving the Empire intact, and. with the assistance of her Allies, bringing the war to a victorious conclusion. Sarcastic reference has been made by members of the Opposition to the Corner party and their economy policy. The truest economy is in getting a pound’s worth of value for every pound expended.
– We do not get that from naval and military expenditure.
– I should like to see the present vote increased, because many men employed in the Navy and Defence Departments are receiving a wage which I consider inadequate. I refer particularly to permanent employees in the Garrison Artillery, the Engineers, and the Naval “Forces. I am sure that no honorable member opposite will dissent from that view.
– These Estimates will not give those men anything.
– I should like to see the vote increased in order that their wages might be improved. I shall not urge any reduction of the vote, but I desire that every pound spent in this Department shall be utilized to the best advantage.
.- I had no intention of speaking on this item, but the repeated references to the attitude of myself and my colleagues in this corner call for a brief reply. I cannot speak for the whole of my colleagues, but I can speak for myself. Honorable members opposite have dwelt at length upon the horrors of war. I do not think any of us will dispute that war is a crime and a horror.
– Hear, hear !
– Does the Assistant Minister say that war is a crime?
– Of course it is.
– Honorable members opposite suggest that the correct policy is to spend no money on defence, to trust ourselves to the mercy of the world, and adopt the ideal outlined in the League of Nations, regardless of whether or not other nations adopt it. That is a policy to which I cannot subscribe. Every one of us knows that many foolish and absurd statements were made in connexion with the late war. I refer particularly to the oft-repeated phrase that we were engaged in a war to end war. I believe that many of those who used that phrase . honestly believed in it then; unfortunately, I do not think many people believe in it to-day. During the war we saw the flower of our manhood march through the streets, and bid us farewell at the ship’s side. Many of them, alas, never to return. Many homes are saddened to-day by the losses sustained during the war. There is not one honorable member who would care to go through another such war. The whole question at present is - What is the correct attitude for Australia as a nation to adopt in future ? As far as the organized farmers of Australia are concerned-
– Only a small section of the farmers is organized.
– I speak for the section that is organized, and the defence plank of the Country party’s platform reads -
Defence expenditure to be kept within the lowest limits consistent with national safety in the light of international developments.
There is no better plank in the platform of any Australian political party. The consideration before us is not what we would like to do but what are the other nations of the world doing? I think I can safely speak for the whole of the organized farmers of Australia when I say that, if the ideals of the League of Nations were accepted by the other nations of the world, Australia should gladly accept them. The Government would be wise if they gave a lead to the world, if possible, in carrying out the ideals of the League of Nations.
– They start by doubling the defence expenditure.
– They start by taking precautions which I believe are necessary. I do not say that I agree to every item of expenditure proposed by the Ministry. I do not; and before the whole of the Estimates are passed I shall probably be found voting against some items. But I believe that certain defence precautions are absolutely necessary, and I am convinced that some honorable members opposite in their hearts believe the same thing.
– If any justification were required by the Country party for cutting down this vote it was supplied by the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). In effect, the plank of the party which the honorable member read, means that the defence expenditure should be the lowest possible compatible with national safety.
– In the light of international developments.
– The honorable member for Wimmera said that we should be advised by the League of Nations in regard to future expenditure, but he did not ask the Government to enlighten him as to the international developments that have thrown upon Australia the responsibility of increasing her defence provisions. In his speech last night, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) did not tell us what the menace to Australia is. Instead of giving the information which the Committee desired, he cunningly occupied most of his time in dealing with a speech which I made about ten years ago.
– If the honorable member does not go easy I shall have to rake up his Wagga speech ‘during the last election.
– The Treasurer stated during the elections, “ Alone I built the Navy.”
– The honorable member said that he did.
– When the Labour party was creating the Australian Navy the right honorable gentleman referred to it as “ a tin-pot affair,’’ but during the last election he claimed that he had built it.
– Did not the honorable member claim at Wagga, during the election, that he had built the Navy?
– What I was most emphatic in saying was that whoever else created the Australian Navy, the right honorable gentleman did not. If I were to follow the example of the Assistant Minister, and dig into ancient history, I could give the Committee an evening’s entertainment by reading the observations of the Treasurer about the River class of destroyers.
The honorable member for Wimmera said that the members of the Country party were prepared to shoulder its responsibility in regard to this vote, but the defence plank of the platform to which they are pledged provides that the defence expenditure should be the lowest possible compatible with national safety in the light of international developments. He made no effort to ascertain from the Government the latest international developments and the menace that throws upon this Parliament the onus of increasing its pre-war defence expenditure. Honorable members in the corner cannot vote for this expenditure unless they are satisfied that the international developments justify them in so doing. It was all very well for the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) to say that in urging the increase of this vote he spoke for the whole of the people of Australia.
– He did not say that.
– I do not say that the honorable member may not- have heard enough in his electorate to lead him to the belief that the people desired such .an increase; but his electorate is not the whole of Australia. If I am able to gauge the opinion- of the people, they are opposed to this policy of doubling the pre-war expenditure for naval and military purposes. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) said this afternoon that it meant an expenditure of £3,200,000. I have gone carefully through the Budgetpapers, and have taken out a series of items which, when aggregated, prove that the Minister under-estimated the actual facts by more than half. I call the attention of the Treasurer, and of the Assistant Minister for Defence, as well as of honorable members generally, to the following items contained in the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure : - Page 158, “ Military - not including war services,”’ £1,550,000; page 343, “ Military- additions, new works, buildings, &c,” £1,302,153; page 328, “War services payable out of revenue - total under control of Department of Defence - Military,” £1,547,924. These three items make a grand total of £4,400,077. On page 369 there will be found still another item, under the heading, “ Estimates of Expenditure out of Loan Fund for works - Department of Defence - Military,” £328,204. Thus, the grand total becomes £4,728,281. Then there should be added to that the amount proposed in connexion with Naval and Air Force expenditure.
– The honorable member is going over the whole of the expenditure upon defence.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEYThat is quibbling. The Committee is dealing with one item j but I want to show that, taking the whole of the items which I have indicated, and adding the Naval and Air Force expenditure, the total becomes more than £8,220,000- which is double the prewar expenditure.
– That total is sheer nonsense.
-The figures are compiled from items which I have quoted; I have given the actual pages. I am quite prepared to believe, of course, that since the Treasurer’s officers were largely responsible for framing the Estimates, the Treasurer himself does not know these things.
– Insulting, as usual; the honorable member cannot help it. As I told him. last night, “It is the nature of the beast.”
– I do not want to insult the Treasurer; but I am telling him what is in the pages of his own Budget documents.
– The figures do not show any such thing.
– Then the Treasurer is free to examine them for himself, and to show me where I am wrong. When the Assistant Minister for Defence stated, earlier in the present sitting, that defence expenditure involved a matter of £3,200,000, he was underestimating - consciously or -unconsciously. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has stated that he is prepared to take the responsibility for voting in acceptance of these Estimates. Is he still prepared to take the responsibility of making our vote double what it was in pre-war days ? I do not know one person among my constituents, or elsewhere, whom I have met during the past six months, who is prepared to agree that now, after the completion of a war which was to end wars, we should double our pre-war expenditure.
– Defence is to cost this year £7,101,000.
-The Treasurer has now got up to £7,000,000; that is very different from what the Assistant Minister for Defence told us.
– It is not at all different.
– The Minister said the total vote was £3,200,000.
– That is the military vote. The honorable member forgets the Navy and the Air Force. The total military vote is £3,200,000. We are now dealing with the Military Estimates.
– But, when it is’ said that our total defence obligations amount to only £3,200,000 -
– Does the honorable member still suggest, in the face of what the Minister has just pointed out, that the Minister made any such statement at all?
– I have said that, consciously or unconsciously, the Minister did say so; he left a false impression on the minds of honorable members.
– In your own mind, perhaps. <
– I am satisfied that the honorable member has not studied the Estimates, and that he will vote upon this matter, as on everything else - in the dark. He knows he has a duty to perform, and that that is to keep the Government in power. I merely desire to eradicate from the minds of honorable members the false impression that the total vote for defence purposes is £3,200,000, seeing that, as a matter of fact, it is more than £8,000,000.
– It is not.
– It is, and I will leave it at that. I have picked out the items, and have cited them one by one; and if the Treasurer can make the total any different from that which I have compiled, he is welcome to try. I repeat, that the aggregate is more than £8,220,000.
– That is rubbish.
– Does the Treasurer want me to quote the lines, page by page, again? Every honorable member who votes for the particular item under discussion must realize that he will be voting to double Australia’s pre-war expenditure. I remarked, last night, that it was not fair to the people to saddle them with this enormous increase. The Assistant Minister for Defence said that we must not let it go forth that this war had been fought in vain. I repeat, that it will go forth that the war was fought in vain if the .best we have to tell the kith and kin of those who fought and fell is that they must be prepared some day, sooner or later, to make still greater sacrifices. We cannot say that the war was not fought in vain when we have no better prospect ahead than this enormously enhanced Defence expenditure. The Treasurer said, in the course of his Budget speech, that Australia played a greater part in the war than had any other portion of the Empire. Honorable members on this side were saying the same thing during the conscription campaigns, and then we were called disloyalists and pro- Germans. Two years after the war has ended the Treasurer says that everything we said is true. All honour to Australia that it should be true ! But we should be able to offer to the people who made the sacrifices, and to the men who actually fought, something better than to threaten to burden them with double Australia’s pre-war expenditure. It is all a sham and a fraud.
– The honorable member wants us to tell those who lost their sons that now we are going to abandon Australia to the first foreign Power which cares to come along and take it.
– No ; I want the Minister to tell us where are these dark forces which are threatening this country. When I asked him last night, he said, mysteriously, “ One cannot say what one thinks and feels “ ; and he continued that I ought to be able to imagine where these secret forces were located. Well, I cannot imagine the locality. I do not think the danger is real. It merely furnishes an excuse for the heaping up of further warlike expenditure.
– The honorable member says the Country party should not vote for this amount. What amount does he consider would be adequate?
– It should he sufficient to satisfy the Country party, at any rate, if the item were cut down to the pre-war basis.
– On the basis of the decreased value of the sovereign, the amount would have to be double the prewar total to be, in fact, equal to it.
– The fair thing, even from the Government standpoint, would be to cut down the proposed expenditure to what it was in pre-war days.
– Then the honorable member admits that some precautions are necessary ?
– I will go quite that far, if it is not possible to get all I want.
– Will the honorable member point out one item in these Estimates which is unnecessary?
– Every item which I have quoted to-night is in excess of what it should be.
Upon a motion for the formal adjournment of the House this afternoon, honorable members on this side asked that same provision should be made in regard to the fulfilment of the promise of the Prime Minister during the election campaign that the farmers would be paid 5s. per bushel at railway sidings. If the Government were to cut down this item by one-fourth there would be more than sufficient saved to pay interest on the sum necessary to make good that promise. But the Government do not propose to cut down the amount by one penny. Country members were sent into this House’ pledged to economy. Are they prepared to take the word of the Assistant Minister that the expenditure will be £3,200,000, when it is really going to be more than £8,000,000 ?
– The honorable member is not suggesting that we are about to pass a proposed vote of £8,000,000 now?
– Honorable members are about to put through a very big lump of it straight away, and they are committing themselves to acquiescence in the expenditure of the whole of the £8,000,000.
– The honorable member cannot say that we are violating our platform.
– It is for the honorable member to stand to his pledge; it is no business of mine. But, if I were in his shoes, I would not like to be called upon by my constituents to explain my actions. If I had come into this House pledged, as is the honorable member, to grant to the Government only the lowest possible limit of funds compatible with national safety, I would feel in a hopeless position. I would not like to face the task of explaining to my constituents why I had voted to double Australia’s pre-war expenditure.
When the Prime Minister returned from the Peace Conference we were told what excellent work he had done. We were going to be granted a huge sum by way of indemnity. I think we were to get it this month, and that it was to amount to some £20.000,000. We do not hear a word about it now. What has become of the German indemnity ? We are told that the securing of our share was one of the great triumphs of the Prime Minister.
– Why, they said they would send it out to Australia, but you would not have it. “ No annexation, no indemnity,” was your cry.
– That remark ig quite characteristic of the Treasurer. I know that right through the last election he went about saying that our policy was “No indemnities,” omitting but one word. Our platform was “ No penal indemnities.” I am only concerned about the indemnity in showing how unreliable the statements were when we were told of the great work of the Prime Minister at the Peace Conference. When we come to reflect on the great work which we are told was done by the Prime Minister at the Peace Conference, and upon the fact that the great indemnity which Australia was to get has vanished into thin air, we are rather inclined to doubt that the right honorable gentleman was something that Australia should be proud of, or that he stood out at Versailles as the one great figure among the representatives of the nations of the world. Every time the Treasurer is asked for money, he cannot find it; he does not see how it can be got. Even this afternoon, when asked that the farmers should get 5s. per bushel in cash, he said, “ Where is the money to come from?” He does not say to the heads of the Defence Department, “ Where are we to get this £8,000,000?”
In conclusion, I have only to say to members of the Corner party, in all kindness, that it would be fair to cut down this expenditure by an amount equivalent to the interest on whatever sum would be necessary to redeem the promise made bo the farmers by the Prime Minister at Bendigo that they would get 5s. per bushel for their wheat at the railway siding. But, as no one in the Farmers’ party proposes to do anything, I hope that they will realize their difficulties when- they have to explain to their constituents the attitude they have taken up on this matter.
– I cannot allow this pernicious stuff to go without telling the Committee the facts. The honorable member has included items of expenditure which were incurred last year, but which have to be paid for this year, and which, ordinarily. would have been paid out of loan funds, but are now being paid out of revenue. In that way he makes a total of over £8,000,000, whereas the Defence Estimates for this year total £7,101,000 for Navy, Air and Land Forces; no more and no less.
– What about the pages I have mentioned?
– I would be glad if the honorable member would hand them to me so that I could check them. The vote for 1913-14 was nearly £5,000,000. To-day it . is £7,000,000. Where, then, has it doubled ? Is it not a pity that we cannot get an accurate statement from honorable members opposite? The one honorable member who has proved the case for the moderation of this item is the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who quoted the last military vote at Home, which was £125.000,000.
– I also quoted the fact that it was about to be reduced to £60,000,000.
– The honorable member was correct in stating that the British military expenditure was £125,000,000, to which figure it had been reduced from £400,000,000. As our population is just one-ninth that of Great Britain, our quota of expenditure on the same basis would be about £14,000,000 for land forces only.
– The British expenditure is coming down, but ours is going up.
– What a statement for the honorable member to make ! If our expenditure were anything like last year’s Imperial expenditure, it would be about six or seven times the amount provided. What good does it do to the honorable member to distort the figures? May I suggest that the item upon which we are asked to vote is not £3,000,000? Every honorable member opposite who has spoken has declared his intention to say what he has said all over again when we are considering the votes on the main Estimates, and why the question of the general defence of Australia should be debated onthese Works Estimates, I do not know.We have not done very much work this week, and I suggest that we should now proceed to a vote upon this matter. Of course, I know that these items are important, but the proper occasion on which to discuss the general question of the defence of Australia is when we deal with the main Estimates.
– The right honorable gentleman will then be one of the first to say that we have already passed the main items of expenditure.
– I shall not say so. I asked the Committee to deal with these Estimates speedily, so that we could begin the public works for which they make provision. The item before the Committee is not £3,000,000, but £1,300,000 for works and I ask honorable members to leave the general question alone now and take a vote so that we may get on with these works.
.- The right honorable gentleman has doubted the accuracy of the figures given by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), who gave chapter and verse to indicate where they could be found in the Estimates. For the benefit of honorable members I shall repeat them. When the honorable member was speaking, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) claimed thathe had included expenditure upon Expeditionary Forces £700,000.
– Yes, upon transports.
– The honorable member deliberately omitted these figures, and he did not include the Navy items of £356,000 for Miscellaneous, and £10,000 for trading vessels. The three items, Transport Services, Miscellaneous, and Trading Vessels represent £1,066,000, which he omitted from his calculations. Apart from that expenditure the total provision on these Estimates for military, naval and air defence is over £8,000,000. On page 158 of the Estimates the total military expenditure, not including war services, is £1,550,000. On page 343 the total expenditure on additions, new works and buildings for the Defence Department is £1,302,153. On page 369 there is a total of £318,204 for expenditure from loan funds for Defence works. On page 328 is an item of £1,547,924 representing War services payable out of revenue. These items of military defence amount to £4,718,281. Then we turn to the Navy. On page 195 of the Estimates we find that the total expenditure on the Navy, not including war services, is £2,279,238. On page 344 we find an item of £313,214 for additions, new works, buildings, &c., for the Navy Department. On page 370 the expenditure out of loan funds for works for the Navy is set down as £302,100. That gives a total of £2,849,000 for naval expenditure, apart from the £1,066,000 to which I have just referred. On page 345 we find an item of £294,000 for new works for military air services, and on page 196 the sum of £305,833 is set down for air services, generally, giving a total of £590,000 for this branch of defence. The grand total of expenditure under these headings is thus £8,222,000, apart from the £1,066,000 which I have just mentioned, and which would increase the total to £9,288,866, as set out in the Estimates introduced by the Treasurer.
– Here is the explanation.
– Were the figures given right or wrong?
– They were right, but entirely wrong in the application made. Take the item of £1,190,000, appearing on page 327 of the Estimates, which the honorable member has included in his calculations. It has nothing whatever to do with the expenditure on defence for this year, but is in for the payment of expenditure incurred last year.
– In what way?
– Upon Expeditionary Forces. The item reads as follows : -
Expeditionary forces, including pay, allotments of pay for periods not exceeding two months after date of notification of decease of soldiers, rations, horses, mechanical transport, equipment, clothing and kit, forage, ammunition and incidentals.
That is a liability of last year; the accounts are coming in, and we are paying this year. On the same page, a little lower down, is another item of £348,000 - will it be believed that honorable members can be guilty of this stupidity? - and in that item, which the honorable member quoted with so much gusto, is a sum of £210,000 for the graves of soldiers. This sum the honorable member directly includes in the Defence Estimates for this year. Nothing could be more miserable than conduct of that kind.
– The honorable member for Hume would not have said that if he had known the facts.
– He could not have quoted the figures without having read the facts, which are there for anybody to see. I repeat that the defence vote for this year is £7,101,000.
Question - That the proposed vote be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed vote, £313,214.
– I should like to say a few words on the Navy Estimates also; but, before I start, I wish to know whether these are votes of expenditure that is to be incurred this year, or expenditure that was incurred some years previously. I do not wish to be told, after I assert that it is expenditure for this year, that it belongs to some other year.
– The explanation is there - it was the Expeditionary Forces. Surely that could not relate to this year.
– Is there anything to show clearly and definitely that this money is to be disbursed on account of something last year or the year before?
– Show it to me.
– “ Expeditionary Forces “ carries its own meaning.
– Why ?
– There are no Expeditionary Forces to be provided for this year.
– I should like this debate conducted without personalities or ill-feeling ; but I venture to say that that is pretty difficult under the circumstances. Last night when I was speaking I noticed the same thing; when any statement is made there is a constant, monotonous, and inaccurate reiteration that it is “ not true,” or not “ founded on fact.”
– Quite so.
– That reminds me of an incident when I was a member of the State Parliament of Victoria. One night Sir Thomas Bent, the Premier, when I was speaking, kept interjecting, “ Not true”, “What you are saying is quite wrong”, and so on. Afterwards, when we were sitting in the lobby, I said to him, “ Sir Thomas, what was wrong about that statement of mine?” He touched a bell and said, “ Have a drink; every word you said was true, but I was not going to let you get it in.” Knowing the Treasurer’s principles, I would not accuse him of being ready to act on the first words of Sir Thomas Bent, but, as for the rest, I leave honorable members to judge. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) was asked, after making a broad statement, to give details, and he did so, but because, on one of the pages to which he referred there was included an item-
– Of £1,500,000.
– I am not talking about the £1,500,000, but about the statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) - because there happened to be included an item of expenditure on the graves of dead soldiers.
– The honorable member for Hume mentioned’ the item of £1,500,000.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has now come into the scuffle, although I find it hard enough to handle one man a.t a time. The Treasurer was not fair, even to himself, when he imputed base motives to the honorable member for Hume, simply because the latter had complied with the request for details. Neither the honorable member for Hume nor anybody else objects to that particular item of expenditure. What I oppose is not expenditure on our Expeditionary Forces, or in connexion with our dead soldiers.
– Hear, hear ! I commend the honorable member for that. His colleagues are not game to do what he is doing.
– There the Treasurer goes again ! In any case, whatever may be the diversities of opinion between the Treasurer and my colleagues, he and I can at least say that we stand on a most fraternal basis. I am objecting to the items before us, just as I objected to the £1,300,000, not because they are for the maintenance of any existing form of defence, but because, under various pleas, additional expenditure is proposed at the very hour in the history of our country when the Treasurer says it is in a critical position. I do not oppose any expenditure which goes to the men-of-war’s men and soldiers of the country; and I have said so repeatedly; but there is a constant switching away from that standpoint.
– The honorable member’s position is ‘ perfectly clear and straightforward .
– There is one thing which may not seem to be so clear as to my reasons. Permit me to read a quotation so as to get it into Hansard, a publication which people interested in the welfare of the country may sometimes read. The Prime Minister - I quote him in order to exhibit my reverence for him - made this statement -
We cannot hope to be ‘the same as before the war. We have great and crushing burdens, which we must bear.
The Treasurer will indorse that -
We have a debt as great as Canada and South Africa put together. The firm foundations upon .which the world rested before the war have been undermined, and we are now living in a world rocking and tumbling with violent convulsions.
Of course, that is somewhat in conflict with what the right honorable gentleman had said a few days previously, namely, that we were in the “ green fields of perpetual peace.’’ How we can be “ rocking and tumbling with violent convulsions “ in the “ green fields of perpetual peace ‘’ is a conundrum. The Prime Minister also said -
The nations impoverished by war are confronted with a new set of financial, national, and industrial circumstances. Humanity has indulged in a terrible orgy of destruction - it must pay the price.
The Treasurer says that also; and it supplies my reason for opposing these items, though, as I say, there is a persistent attempt’ to switch off to other motives, which are implied in such questions as, “ Do we not need defence?” or “ What would have happened to us if Germany had won?’-‘ The same question might just as well be put to German workmen. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that members of the Country party were quite prepared to defend themselves. I do not object to their attitude. They cause me no worry. I am only pointing out that while they profess to be in favour of economy they are prepared to give their support to a proposal to expend millions of pounds on the Army and Navy. The honorable member has quoted from the platform of his party one of those nebulous general statements-
– A very good one.
– I would have nothing better. It is a principle that will fit any set of circumstances, any country, any politician. The statement which he quotedwas to the effect that the Country party are” prepared to support the lowest possible expenditure for the adequate defence of the Commonwealth, after taking into consideration all recent international developments. Every one could suit that policy to his own requirements.
– The honorable member is not envious of it?
– Not in the least. If apart from party and partisanship - if in the interests of the country generally - the Country party believe that to be a sound policy, what to them are “ international developments”? What to them is the “lowest estimate”? What to them is “ an adequate system of defence “ ? What do they think is the maximum expenditure that they should support in respect of defence? The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) yesterday quoted statements in regard to the Naval and Military expenditure of Great Britain. Is Great Britain to-day on a peace basis ? She has on her hands not one war but a dozen.
– Can the honorable member point to a nation that is a peacemaker ?
Mr. ANSTEY.No.Theyallprofess the principle, but not one is able to live up to it.
Do honorable members think I am deadly anxious for any form of economy ? Do they think that my innermost desires are in accordance with my professions ?
– I do not know what to think about the honorable member.
-Idonetbelievethe honorable member does, but I would say to him that I am not anxious as to the outlook of the Country party in regard to the world generally. It is their worry. What they will not do to-day their constituents will be deadly anxious to do a couple of years hence. The honorable member might do something now to save Australia from the crisis into which it is being precipitated.
– He intends to do that by the vote which he casts on this question.
-Ishetryingtosave his country from the crisis into which it is being precipitated, owing to the enormous burden that is being imposed on it, by voting for an annual expenditure running from £60,000,000 to £100,000,000? In doing that the honorable member for Indi says that he will be trying to save his country. One of those newspapers to which I always reverently refer described the Treasurer’s financial statement as a “ Knock Out Budget,” and declared that it would hasten the crisis to which this country was moving. I do not blame the Treasurer. I do not blame the Government. It is not the Government, not this party or that party, but the whole country that is pursuing a course, with the acquiescence of the press, and the approval of the general public - blind to every circumstance and fact - that is precipitating a crisis which must lead to inevitable ruin and disaster. It is this sort of thing that is hastening the day when the people, instead of using their brains, will be compelled to reason by the impulse of their stomachs. So much for the statement which a newspaper has made concerning the Budget recently delivered by the Treasurer. I do not say that he is responsible for anything of the kind. He is but a cork upon the stream of events. “We all are. Those of us who have some definite outlook, who can see what is necessary in connexion with the enormous expenditure of this country-
– Does not the honorable member think that the Treasurer is fairly sound on the paper currency question ?
-Iamnotgoingto bestow any compliments without compensation.
– It is nearly ten o’clock. Let us have a vote.
Mr. ANSTEY.Ihavenearlycompleted my speech. I have not had a spasm for months, and I might as well have one now and again. From my point of view this country, as the result of the war, is doomed like every country in Europe. Europe is but an illustration of what this country, if it is wise, will avoid. The war has precipitated every European country into the mire of misery and degradation from -which apparently it can escape only -by the painful process of revolution. Apparently the Old Land in spite of its best Tory traditions is being rushed along the same path. The Prime Minister himself has said that the aftermath of every -war is misery, degradation, and privation. Europe cannot go into the pit, it cannot rush into disaster without also involving us in the crisis in which the rest of the world is involved. Now is the time - before that crisis is pushed on this country, before the hour of our destiny arrives - when wise men cognisant of the facts, recognising that Australia, with its vast territory, and a population of only 5,000,000, is called upon to bear an expenditure of £100,000,000 per annum, should ask themselves how and by what means we shall be able to save ourselves. Honorable members opposite say, “ Let things drift.” They, at least, are in possession of the Treasury benches, and should recognise that in their hands rests the destiny of Australia. We find them, however, doing nothing to avert the crisis. I do not blame them for the attitude they take up since it is due to- the state of the public mind. The public mind is absolutely indifferent and callous. It refuses to look upon the responsibilities imposed upon “the nation as the result of the war. And so the Government do nothing. Anxious to see the system under which we live precipitated into the dust, I am not very desirous that the Government and their supporters shall pursue a course of economy. It will probably suit my book if they pile up expenditure to the extent of another £10,000,000 or £50,000~000 per year, since by doing SO, they will precipitate the crisis instead of allowing the process to be dragged out. The Country party, who are ready to argue over some little expenditure of a few thousand pounds, have to-night an opportunity to say to the Government, “ The Commonwealth must return to its prewar expenditure. Neither on naval nor military .defence, neither on dockyards nor arsenals, shall there be spent an additional penny until the Com-‘ monwealth has recovered its economic and financial balance, and by the reconstruction of its industries, the strengthening of its financial resources, the building up of its factories, provided for its adequate defence, not merely by giving a man a gun- -“
– But what about protecting our people while all this is being done ?
– What! Prom an imaginary enemy ? I am not going to spend my life in constantly looking under the national bed or behind the national window curtains for a burglar. If a man asked me how I was going to protect myself against a “Jack Johnson,” when I did not know the science of boxing, I should say, “ I shall commence by building up my body and developing my science.” As Wellington once said, it is wise at times for every army to retreat. Australia has come out of this war blood-clotted, with 60,000 dead, with nearly 200,000 who call upon the generosity of its people. It is wise that we should say, “ From this expenditure on defence turn back. Let us develop our economic resources, develop our country, increase our natural energies, build up our industries and factories, out of which skilled artisans will be able to march for the defence of their country.” By constantly living on our fears, by spending what little money we have on some trumpery scheme of defence, we shall but fritter away ten or fifteen years of valuable time. We shall find that we have been building ships which will have to be scrapped, and buying guns which will soon become obsolete. What we need to do is to build. up a virile people. Behind them we need, first of all, finance-
– And guns.
– But not guns forty years old.
– Can the honorable member tell the Government when the hour of destiny of which he speaks is going to strike?
– If it is not going to strike for another twenty years, I will not vote for a penny of this expenditure.
– Then, take my word, it will not strike for another twenty years.
– I placed on the table of the House to-day a statement which I would have read but for the fact that I realized that honorable members were being called upon to engage in lengthy sittings, and desired as far as possible to economize their time. The honorable member .for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has asked for certain information, which
I shall be very glad to give the Committee, since I believe that it will place this matterin a different light. I am prepared to admit a proposed expenditure of only £3,265,870 on the Navy in respect of the current financial year. That amount is largely made up of increased wages paid to the men in the Navy, becauseof the increase in the cost of living, and increases in the cost of fueland other naval requirements. Only a short time ago we had a quotation of £7 10s. per ton for fuel oil, which is largely used in the Navy, but recently when wecalled for quotations the price at which it was offered to us was more than double the amount. The increase in prices is largely responsible for what appear to be inflated Estimates. In reality, they are not so. Then, again, provision is made on these Estimates for a great deal of machinery to be used, not only in the construction of warships, but in the building of ordinary mercantile vessels at Cockatoo Island. Honorable members will see the totals set out on page 370 of the Estimates, and I have here the detailed items.
I feel sure that protracted discussion is due only to the fact that honorable members desire certain information. I amprepared to give it in detail.
– The Minister is dealing with loan expenditure, which we have not reached yet.
– I shall state first the principal details of the proposed expenditure from revenue. Amongst the items are - machinery and plant at Garden Island, £10,000; Garden Island, amount required to complete the purchase and installation of machines now in hand, £1,168; Spectacle Island, electric cable to connect with Cockatoo Island, £900; purchase of oil tanks from the British Imperial Oil Company, £1,000. I shall pass over other smaller items, and come to the big ones. We are providing £132,330 for the completion of the cruiser Adelaide, which, I hope, will be in commission early next year. For the steamer Biloola, which is absolutely essential in time of peace as well as in time of war, and which can be used in an emergency to carry fuel, we are allotting £6,400. The provision for a coal storage vessel amounts to £58,150. This storage is absolutely essential in any country at all times. London orders, to which we were committed in past years, account for £94,500. There is also a liability to the Admiralty of £87,000. The total expenditure from revenue for which we have provided is £378,000; but we do not expect to expend the whole of it. I hope, by careful administration, to save about £78,380, reducing the total expenditure from revenue to £300,000. If honorable members will permit me, I shall deal very briefly with the items of loan expenditure also, in order to save the time of the Committee.
Honorable Members. - That will not save time.
. -The very gravest consideration is required in dealing with these Naval Estimates. The proposals in connexion with the land Forces were by no means as extravagant as some honorable members have stated; but I think that, before the Committee approves of the expenditure of even one shilling on the Navy, we should consider the whole question of naval defence. The Minister has told us that he proposes to spend a considerable sum on the completion of the cruiser Adelaide. That vessel is obsolete before she is completed, and the Committee must consider that fact.
– It is not a fact.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy how many ships of the types of those of the Australian Navy are being retained in the Imperial Navy? If my information is correct, every one. except the New Zealand hasbeen scrapped as obsolete and useless.
– That is quite right.
– It is quite wrong.
– Before we vote one shilling for the Navy, Parliament ought to decide upon the broad principles of the naval defence of the Commonwealth. Our principal ship of war, the Australia, is actually out of commission to-day.
– She is to be turned into a training ship.
-Iaminformed on very good authority that the whole of the Imperial vessels of the type of those in the Australian Navy are out of commission.
-What isthe point of this criticism?
– Is Parliament to spend £2,500,000 per annum on a fleet that is absolutely obsolete? ‘Before dealing with the Naval Estimates, the Committee will have to decide what the fighting forces of the Australian Fleet shall be.
– In the meantime may I suggest that the expenditure on the Adelaide has been already incurred, and that the Committee is merely asked to vote the necessary amount to pay for the vessel?
– That is the same old story. There are other items to which that objection does not apply. For instance, coal storage, although it may be absolutely essential, should not come under the direct heading of Naval Works.
-That is the unfortunate feature. Under our system it must be placed in these Estimates.
– I hope that the Committee, before dealing with the Naval Estimates, will make a complete division between naval items and what may be termed the commercial side of the Department.
– Hear, hear!
– I do not wish to allow this vote to pass without question lest my silence be construed as an indication that I and the party with which I am associated are prepared to accept the naval programme submitted by the Government before the whole problem has been thoroughly explained to the Committee, and we are in a position bo know the real value of the works for which we are making provision. May I repeat that, as far as the land forces are concerned, the expenditure is not in excess of what I anticipated. I yield to none in the matter of economy. Personally, I think the question of rifle manufacture at Lithgow will have to be considered very closely . by this House, and more expert information than we have had in the past will have to be obtained. In connexion with the Naval vote, I wish’ it to be thoroughly and clearly understood that, as far as I am personally concerned, I am not prepared to vote for the payment of two and a quarter millions per annum for the main tenance of a fleet, which, according to my information, is obsolete.
– We are not dealing with that question.
– Yes, with an item of £300,000 for Fleet construction and maintenance, and I do net wish it to be said that, because that item is passed, I am prepared to sanction any expenditure on ships, which, according to the information given to me, are quite obsolete and would be of no use in a naval engagement. It has been said that statements of this character should not be made publicly ; but there is not a nation in the world interested in Australia which is not in possession of these facts long before we are.
– What is the £300,000 for? I asked the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), and he could not inform me.
– A portion of it is for the completion of the Adelaide.
– What is the Adelaide?
– She is a vessel under construction, and, which, according to the particulars supplied to me, will be obsolete and of no use as a fighting ship when she is placed in the water.
– She is in the water at present. She was launched some time ago.
– Yes, she is in the water, but not in commission. Before that ship is completed and manned, according to information I have received from most excellent authorities, she will be absolutely useless as a fighting unit. Before we vote a single shilling for naval expenditure the House should thoroughly and completely understand the policy of the Government.
– Is not the whole of our Navy obsolete?
– So far as I have been informed, it is.
– That is an argument in favour of no defence at all.
– Quite recently the battleshipRenown was in Australian waters, and it would be interesting to know how many fleets such as Australia possesses would be required to intercept such a vessel. We would need to multiply the whole number by ten, and even that combination would not be able to get close enough to brush off her paint.
– We have nothing in that class.
– Of course not. When we commenced to build an Australian Navy, the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) with myself and others drew attention to what is actually happening. We said that in a few years the boats we built would become obsolete, and that Australia would be called upon to maintain a fleet - which we knew would be a farce - which would plunge her heavily into debt.
– Does the honorable member suggest building a few ships like the Renown?
-No. When the opportunity comes, I shall place my views before the Committee. We are called upon to pass a vote of £2,250,000 for the maintenance of our Navy, and there is not an honorable member in this chamber who does not know that, as a means of opposing invading forces, it would be an absolute farce and a sham. It may be said that I am using somewhat strong language, but I believe it to be justified. In conclusion, I may say that, in passing this vote, it must not be said that I am acquiescing in a continuation of the present naval policy of Australia.
– I think that something should be said in answer to the statements made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams). They are most mischievous, and should not have been made in an assembly suchas this. If the honorable member really means what he says, he should not vote for one penny on these Estimates, because any man who says that our presentNavy is useless should not contribute one penny towards its upkeep. May I remind the honorable member how idle it is to say that our Fleet cannot defend Australia in and by itself? A schoolboy knows that. But is there nothing more to be said? Have we not any right to make any contribution to that great Fleet which defends the whole Empire? Surely, because we cannot do everything, it cannot be said that we should do nothing at all. Does the honorable member think that, because we cannot defend 12,000 miles of coastline by ourselves, we should not do anything ? The honorable member says that our Navy is a farce, and that we are wasting money upon it; but surely he is not serious.
– I am, quite.
– Does he believe that, until we can get a Navy which will make us absolutely self-contained in the matter of naval defence,we should not spend anything at all? It is a preposterous argument.
– I have not altered the opinion I held when I was in company with the Treasurer on the other side of the House.
– Such a statement does not count for very much, and theman who glories in the fact that war has not changed his opinions in the slightest degree is suggestive of Rip Van Winkle. It is timethe honorable member aroused himself. The whole world holds different views to-day as a result of the tremendous catastrophe through which we have passed.
– The late war has taught us that our ships are obsolete.
– I am afraid I shall still have to rely for my naval direction and final judgment on those who are experts, and who have devoted their whole time to naval matters. These authorities do not suggest that our ships are obsolete in any sense of the term, and they inform me that they can be made a very useful addition to the great British Navy. The honorable member’s argument is fatal to any Navy, and fatal to the expenditure of any money. It is our duty to make as full a contribution as our finances will permit towards the development of as large a naval force as, in conjunction with the British Navy, will give us a reasonable chance of defending our shores from attack. That is the position, in a nutshell. I admit that we cannot defend Australia by ourselves. Our Navy is not big enough to do that; but we can do our duty and make an adequate contribution to the sum of those forces which, next year, are to be considered by the Imperial Conference, and which will, in the end, I believe, give us a naval defence in the Pacific which will save us from any predatory designs that may be entertained. But I beg the honorable member not to raise those issues now. There is really only one thing to do in connexion with this item, and that is to pay our debts. Thismoney has been spent.
– The same old story !
– The House has authorized it, and it has been spent; and now we come to vote it. Why should questions of a fundamental character be raised on a mere matter of this kind ?
.- The remarks of the Treasurer, if they mean anything at all, indicate thatwe should not waste a minute over the Estimates.
– Do not all Governments take that view?
– Did not your Government ?
– Yes, they did. They brought their Estimates in in the following year.
– That statement is not correct. The naval policy of Australia has been a matter which has given rise to very many discussions in this House.I remember a famous speech delivered by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in Adelaide, I think, wherein he referred to the boats of the River class - the vessels which were really the nucleus of the Australian Navy. I refer to those destroyers which were named after the river running through the Treasurer’s constituency - that is to say, the Parramatta - and the river which runs through my constituency, namely, the Yarra.
– Those names were given in order to create good relations between yourself and the Treasurer.
– That may have been so. I remember that speech of the Treasurer concerning the River class of vessels; but I do not propose to do, as was done last night, namely, to turn up the records of utterances ten years old. I intend, rather, to refer to the actions of some honorable members, who are still in this Chamber, when they put out a Government of which I was a member, not because they would not agree to the formation of an Australian Navy, but because they would not give a Dreadnought to the Mother Country. Those honorable members were glad enough of the actions taken by the Government at the inception of the war in regard to the Australia, when the German warships, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, were known to be in Australian waters.
– You had nothing whatever to do with the Australia.
– We were put out of office because we would not give a Dreadnought to the Mother Country.
Following earlier remarks of mine this evening, the Treasurer stated that I was right and that I was also wrong : I was right in the figures which I quoted; I was wrong in not putting them all in. Since the Minister spoke previously, I have found another item, of £1,210,000. I do not say, even now, that the total is complete, because these items can be found all through the Estimates. This sum of £1,210,000 is set out on page 361. Of course, it is an item which has to do with last year. No financial year has ever passed in which we have not been called upon to consider belated Estimates, after the money has been spent. The amount represented in this item has probably also been spent. Then, there is still another matter for addition to our grand total. A new defence system is being inaugurated. ‘The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has reminded us of that. Where is the expenditure set forth in these Estimates to deal with the creation of the new citizen army? I presume the figure will be put on to next year’s Estimates. So, the total of £10,678,866 will be still greater. Even then, I repeat that I will not say that the aggregate sumis a complete statement of our expenditure.
– The honorable member has overlooked the War Debt.
– I am taking the annual expenditure - money which we are called upon to vote for this year. If the money was spent last year, and was not shown in last year’s Estimates, honorable members cannot be blamed. We know just how supplementary estimates are brought forward. In the past we have been called on to vote on supplementary estimates dealing with items which were years old. In addition to the present grand total of £10,478,866 it must be remembered that that sum isquite apart from any supplementary estimates which may be brought down.What is the use of talking about an expenditure of £3,000,000 upon defence, and £3,000,000 upon the navy? We have been told something about a certain vessel which has been in the water for two years. I can only say that, if that is a fact, the date of her being put into commission does not pleasantly reflect upon the management of the construction works.
– The honorable member should be fair. That vessel was under construction during the war, when it was most difficult to secure material.
– So far as the Navy is concerned, I have always taken the view that it is better for us to have an Australian owned and controlled navy; but, unless we can have our navy sufficient in force and sufficiently efficient, it will be better to trust to such vessels as, for example, the Renown, to keep our shores inviolate. It is far better still, however, to have battleships of that type on the spot by way of recompense for the millions which we are called upon to pay. Our warships should be here rather thanin the North Sea. Both the New Zealand and the Canadian Minister, with whom I was once in conference, expressed to me the private view that if the Dominions were to have their own navies it was the better policy to keep them at our back doors. New Zealand gave a Dreadnought to England. That Dominion had the vessel built in Great Britain, and owed the money to Great Britain. That was New Zealand’s contribution. We decided that it would be better to have an Australian navy.
– The New Zealand people are “ whales “ at leaving the matter to the Empire, and it. cost them last year about £50,000.
– If I was wrong in quoting certain figures, I was wrong in not stating the full amount of the ex’penditure which I have since ascertained.
– What are the other items, to which the honorable member refers ?
– I shall be pleased to supply the Treasurer with the figures which I have taken from the Estimates, and with the pages upon which they may be found. If the right honorable gentleman will do me the honour of reading my speech in Mansard, he will find them all there. Regarding the amount of £210,000 which he mentioned as expenditure for graves upon Gallipoli, he can wipe that off, and there will still remain an expenditure of £10,266,000.
.- Like the Leader of the Country party (Mr. McWilliams), I desired to address the Committee at some length upon the naval . programme of the Government. But having regard to the statement of the Treasurer that this is not the proper time to indulge in a lone review of defence matters - that the opportunity to do so will come when the general Estimates are being considered - I shall reserve my remarks for a future occasion. The honorable member for Franklin has made rather a good point in connexion with the construction of the warship Adelaide. Now, the life of a vessel of that type, according to naval experts, and particularly of Lord Jellicoe, is about fifteen years. The last information which I had from Home was to the effect that these ships were not being absolutely scrapped, but that, for the sake of economy, and to enable a number of men to be paid off, they are being laid up. My opinion is that we should complete the building of the Adelaide, seeing that her construction has already proceeded so far, because she will prove a useful ship in many other directions, and it would be a pity to waste the money which hag been expended upon her, seeing that she can be completed for an additional expenditure of £130,000. The Leader of the Country party has suggested that H.M.S. Renown could wipe out the whole of our fleet. Of course she could, because we have not that type of vessel out here. However, I shall deal with that phase of the matter upon another occasion. So far as the construction of the Adelaide is concerned I am of opinion that the necessary money to complete her should be expended.
.- I should like to know when the honorable member who has just spoken will be af- forded an opportunity to discuss the matter to which he has referred upon the general Estimates. Will the Treasurer be good enough to tell us when those Estimates will come up for consideration?
– I think that the honorable member has had a very good innings to-night.
– I have no doubt about it. But, speaking as one kind friend to another, I ask the Treasurer to tell us when the discussion upon the general Estimates will take place, because I do not wish the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) to be deprived of their opportunity to discuss naval matters in the most exhaustive fashion.
– I hope that it will be at an early date.
– Is that anything more than the expression of a pious hope? As there is no answer from the Treasurer, it is a case of God help the honorable mem- bers to whom I have referred, because in my opinion they will never be afforded an opportunity of discussing the question to which they desire to address themselves.
Question - That the proposed vote be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes (Departments of Navy and Defence - Air Services), £294,200; (Department of Trade and Customs), £42,031; (Department of Works and Railways), £392; (Postmaster-General’s Department), £1,074,864, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending of a sum of £4,286,490 for certain purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Sir Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and read a first and second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
– I wish to know when there will be an opportunity to discuss the schedule of the Bill?
– I have asked whether it is the pleasure of the Committee to take the Bill as a whole, and there was no objection.
– I want to say something about an item which is not connected with Canberra.
– The honorable member may do so now.
– Then, without further waste of time, I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), and also the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to the item of £187,000 set down for Naval Base construction. In answer to a question I put the other day, I was informed that that amount includes £30,000 proposed to be expended on the
Henderson Naval Base, in Western Australia. I have since that date received telegrams from Western Australia informing me that the staff at the Henderson Naval Base has received a month’s notice, which expires on the 31st October. There is a general feeling of alarm amongst the residents of Fremantle, because it is anticipated that this particular Commonwealth work is likely to be closed down. I want to know from the Minister in charge of the Bill just what work is intended to be undertaken there during the ensuing twelve months?
If we review the Naval Base situation throughout the Commonwealth, we shall realize that during the last seven or eight years we have completed what was ‘intended to be very small and minor sub-bases at Flinders, and that in respect to the major Bases, which were to be provided, for under the original report of Admiral Henderson, namely, those at Cockburn Sound and Port Stephens, nothing has been accomplished. Making due allowance for the fact that we have passed through years of war, and that money has been very difficult to obtain, there has been a sufficient lapse of time to have enabled the officers of the Department and the Government to determine what their policy is to be. In the answer given to my question, I was told that it was proposed to expend £30,000 on survey work at the Henderson Naval Base, but the history and records concerning that Base demonstrate that surveys have been made there from time to time, but that the work has been delayed and postponed. Speaking as the representative of the constituency most vitally affected, I want to enter a protest against any further postponement of this important work. We have had investigations by Admiral Henderson, by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, and by Lord Jellicoe, and now, apparently as the result of their concentrated wisdom., it is intended to postpone the development of the Henderson Naval Base indefinitely.
I cannot allow this measure to pass without voicing in the strongest possible terms the objection of the people of Western Australia, and particularly of my own constituency, to this method of doing business. I should be glad if the Minister in charge of the- Bill can give me any information as to what work will be continued at this Base. I remind the honorable gentleman that work has been done in connexion with the dredging of the Pamela and Success banks, and unless those works are maintained they are likely to deteriorate. I remind the honorable gentleman, also, that it took years to procure the necessary staff for this particular Base, and if it is now intended to scatter the members of that staff throughout Australia, whenever it is the intention of the Government to resume work at the Henderson Naval Base, it will be necessary to again go through the trouble of securing the right type of men for the job. I appeal to the Minister to make some statement which will throw some light upon what is proposed in connexion with this particular work, and in connexion with the Naval Base policy , of the Government generally. I have mentioned. Port Stephens, and on looking through the Loan Estimates I find that the only provision made in respect of that place is a vote of £23,000 for land resumption.
– I think the honorable member is wrong there. The amount to be appropriated under this Bill is only £8,926.
– I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that in the second column of the schedule there appears an amount of £14,074, which is already available under appropriations made under previous Acts, and this, with the amount to which he has referred, brings the total vote for the resumption of land for the Port Stephens Naval Base to the amount of £23,000, which I have mentioned. I do not wish to detain the Committee, and if the Minister will consent to make some statement as to what is proposed to be done at the Henderson Naval Base, I shall resume my seat. I do desire that the honorable gentleman should make public the intention of the Government in regard to that particular Base, as I am being deluged with wires on the subject from Western Australia, and the people there are very anxious to know what is in the mind of the Government.
– I think it will be more convenient if the clauses of the Bill are first dealt with, as it seems that the discussion is likely to be confined to the schedule.
Clauses 1, 2, and 3 agreed to.
– In reply to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) I have to say that the question of the construction of the Naval Bases came under the review of the Naval Board, and the members of the Board had to consider it in the light of the money available. Of the amount of £187,000 set down for the Naval Bases, £27,635 represents the expenditure for the Naval works staff, and an amount of £84,431 is made available for the Flinders Naval Base to complete the work there. The Department has already gone into occupation of the Base, and the sums set down are simply to complete the work there. As regardsthe Henderson Naval Base, it was some time ago decided by the Board to curtail the work to a great extent. All excavations and works of that kind were stopped, and only a certain amount of preservative work continued. Dredging was gone on with for a time, but now the Board has decided to cease operations. The vessels will be brought in for overhaul, and sufficient of the staff will be kept on for that purpose. In the meantime a special marine survey, which has already been started, will be completed.
– Was there not a survey previously ?
– Not of this kind, and the special survey is the result of a recommendation of Lord Jellicoe. The question of the whole naval policy will come up for review later on. Of course, a number of the members of the staff will ‘be dispensed with, but a few will be kept on for the work I have mentioned.
– T move -
That the following items be left out: - “ Federal Capital Territory - Initial settlement, £90,000; preparatory works, £60,000 ; railways, completion of construction line,Federal Capital Territory, £250.”
I am sorry that owing to the hubbub in the chamber it was impossible to raise an objection to this expenditure earlier in the evening. Some honorable members say that this money is being invested in reproductive works; but if there is one item on the schedule on which we can econo mize, it is in relation to Canberra. The removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra to-day is a proposal I strenuously oppose. I think the time might be ripe for a change ten years hence, when our burden of debt is considerably less than it is now; and I can say that there is a considerable backing for the opinion I am now expressing. This question has been sufficiently debated, and I shall not detain the Committee, by, as it were, dragging out ghosts, or opening up old sores.
.- A good deal has been said about honorable members preaching economy during the election campaign. I was not prepared to cut down absolutely essential expenditure on defence; but there is not the least doubt inmy mind, nor, I think, in the minds of honorable members generally, that the people of the country, as a whole, are opposed to spending money on the Federal Capital at the present time, whatever may be decided in this connexion in the future. It would be a waste of money to undertake such a work when money is dear, material and workmen scarce, especially in view of the fact that there is a dearth of houses throughout Australia. Like the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) I shall not detain the Committee with any lengthy remarks. There is no need to debate the question, because I am sure that every honorable member has made up his mind. I do not think that there is an honorable member who can truly say that to build this Capital now is to undertake useful work.
.- I desire to support the amendment, and I should like to have some explanation of the item, “ Land in Federal Capital Territory, £10,800.” I am not opposed to the building of the capital at Canberra when money is available, and we have returned to normal times; but at present I think that such a work would be a great mistake. The Country party stands for efficiency and economy, and this is certainly a matter in which we can economize with efficiency. Even if we do spend £150,000 on the Federal Capital, in the next ten years we shall not have a place to which we can shift the Seat of Government. In the meantime we shall have to keep up the buildings, and a lot of work will have been done there for no purpose. If this matter is deferred until normal times we may be able to spend a sufficient sum to put up buildings which would accommodate all those whose services are necessary to carry on the work of the Federal Capital. The Government cannot shift a solitary Department from any of the capital cities at present if they are going to spend only the amount proposed here over a period of five or six years. Every member who stands for economy should oppose the spending of. this money at the present time. I support the amendment of the honorable member for Bass for a reduction of the Estimates by the amounts mentioned.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Bass, but I am lost in amazement at the conspiracy of silence of those who are prepared to commit the people of Australia to such an expenditure at this juncture in our affairs. Day after day, our party in this corner has listened with delight to the eloquence of honorable members on the other side, even when they have been denouncing what they consider to be the extravagance ‘ of the Government in various directions.
– And we have noticed how consistently you have voted for them.
– I have voted, as the honorable member truly says, consistently according to my belief and judgment, and to the responsibilities that attach to a member of this Parliament. It is obvious that there has been a conspiracy to rush this thing through in the quickest possible time, without members being given an opportunity to debate a matter which is of the utmost importance to the whole of the people of Australia. At this late hour I should like the consent of the Minister in charge of the business to continue my remarks to-morrow. It would be an absolute disgrace if this item were to be passed at the midnight hour without members opposed to it being given a real opportunity of placing their views before the House and the people.
– I should like to make an explanation.
– Can I sit down without losing my opportunity to speak?
– There is not the slightest desire on the part of the Government to rush this proposal through without reasonable debate, but we have done very little work this week, and I am anxious to get on with a Taxation Bill, which means revenue to the Government.
– To help to pay for this proposal 1
– Will honorable members help us to put the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill through to-night T I am suggesting the discussion of that Bill, in place of the debate on the Federal Capital, which can be taken tomorrow.
– We are not agreeable to taking the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill to-night. We intend to debate it.
– Do you think you will get that Bill through to-night ?
– Not unless you sit all night.
– I think we ought to sit all night, as we have done no work this week. Yesterday was only a half day. The only object I have is to get the work done. I do not want to refuse the request of the honorable member for Grampians, because the matter before the Committee is important, and I take it that there is no desire to rush it through without proper consideration. Nothing can be gained by appearing even to burke discussion on it.
– It has had fifteen years’ consideration.
– It has had twenty years’ consideration, but a number of members who. are here for the first time apparently want to debate it. Can we get an agreement to get the Loan Bill through to-morrow ?
– What about the Post and Telegraph Bates Bill?
– I want one thing settled at a time- I suggest that we go on to-night. I do not care if honorable members continue the debate until H o’clock to-morrow.
.- We have no desire to prolong the debate, but our view is that a measure of such importance to the whole of the people should not be rushed through without adequate discussion. It is obvious that there can ‘be no adequate discussion on the item at this hour of the night. So far as I am concerned, I think that we can get through to-morrow.
– You arc not the Leader?
– I know I am not.
– Then sit down.
.- I want to know where we stand, and T remind the right honorable the Treasurer that there is another side to this question besides that put by honorable members of the Corner party. My Leader has gone home on the understanding that we would put the Estimates through tonight; and it would not be fair to those members of our party who have gone home, to deal with the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill.
-Cannot we agree to decide this matter by 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon ?
– I do not mind what arrangement is made, so long as we do not take the Post and TelegraphRates Bill to-night, because we are going to fight that measure. We are prepared to allow the schedule, including the Canberra vote, to go through without delay ; but we are not prepared to take the Postal Bill.
– Very well; let that go.
– I rise for the purpose of supporting the amendment, and wish to say-
– Mr. Chairman, have I forfeited my right to speak?
-The honorable member suggested that the Treasurer should report progress, and the honorable member for Lilley has now risen for the purpose of discussing the amendment.
– Subject to this Bill going through by 3 o’ clock to-morrow, I shall adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Grampians.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200923_reps_8_93/>.