8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to refer to a statement in this morning’s Argus, purporting to be a report of what I said yesterday. As the matter is of some importance, and the report is inaccurate, I think that I should correct it. This is the passage in the Argus to which I take exception - lt was while in America that Mr. Hughes was impressed, by the belief that the Commonwealth would profit greatly if it bought a number of wooden ships, and for himself and hisMinistry (which acted on his advice), he says: “‘Wo felt impelled by inexorable circumstances to place an order for eighteen wooden ships.” The result was that a loss of £2,815,000 was suffered, and there was no compensation in service rendered by them. On the other hand, a profit of £1,734,843 was made by the Commonwealth Line.
All of those statements are incorrect. 2 did not say that it was while I was in America that I placed that order. The order was- placed by the Government as a whole, after most careful consideration, and fourteen,not eighteen, ships were ordered. It is not a fact that the Commonwealth Line made a profit of £1,734,843 ; it made a profit of £3,290,000, including commissions, brokerage, and the chartering of three Bailers.
Acquirement of OilRights.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the statement that this Government hae purchased from the British Government certain oil rights in New Guinea? Is he in a position to give the House any information on the subject?
– The honorable member, no doubt, refers to a statement by my honorable colleague, the Minister for Home and Territories, who, in reply to a question, said that no such arrangement had been made. Yesterday, having ascertained the position, he corrected his statement. The facts are these : An arrangement was made in 1919 between this Government and the British Government relating to boring for oil in Papua, under which this Government and the Admiralty each contributed £50,000 towards the cost of the enterprise.When in England recently, I found that the £100,000 had been spent, and between £20,000 and £30,000 of additional liabilities incurred. The results obtained from the experiments in Papua being disappointing, it was decided to transfer the boring apparatus to British NewGuinea, where indications were considered more promising. This transfer has been made, and operations have been going on there for some time. We were, however, incurring obligations far in excess of the original £100,000 which we had agreed to spend. The British Government approached me to know the intentions of this Government in the matter. Two courses were open. One was that the additional expense, whatever it might be, should continue to be shared, and the other that the British Government should relinquish its interests to us. The greater part of the expenditure had been for machinery, which, of course, is still toeing used. After protracted negotiations, the Secretary of State for the Colonies intimated, through Sir Henry Lambert, that his Government was prepared to sell its interests for £29,000. As the machinery was worth over £100,000, and there were good reasons for believing that oil might be obtained in. New Guinea, we considered it advisable to continue boring on our own
Miscount, more especially as the British Government declined to share any further expense. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company offered to share with us, but I did not think, that this Parliament would approve of such an arrangement. Subject, therefore, to parliamentary ratification, I agreed that we should buy the British Government’s interests for £25,000, and continue boring operations, being of the opinion that Parliament and the country is thoroughly seized of the vast importance to Australia of oil, and would agree that it was worth spending money iu order to secure it. Having made that arrangement, subject to the ratification of this and the British Parliament, I communicated to my Government what had been done, but the information was not passed on to my honorable colleague, the Minister for Homo and’ Territories. This is responsible for the misunderstanding. Honorable members are now in .possession of all the facts, and when we come to deal with the Estimates which provide for the administration of Kew Guinea, will be able to express their opinions as to whether we ought to continue boring on our own account, and whether we should share the cost with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
Remission of Sentences
– In accordance with sentences of varying severity, numbers of former members of the Australian Imperial Force are still undergoing imprisonment in different Australian, gaolsIn view of the significance of - that great gathering at Washington, and on the approach of peaceful Christmastide, I_ ask if the Minister representing the Minister for Defence will place before the Cabinet the: question whether they can see ‘their way clear to give their freedom, before
Christmastide, to all these former soldiers, who fought and imperilled their lives for Australia and the Empire.
– So far as concerns ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who are undergoing terms of imprisonment at Pentridge, I can give the honorable member a certain amount of information. The sentence imposed on one young mam., named Lloyd, will have expired in January next year. I think I am correct in saying that he will be released before Christmas. I have submitted the matter to the AttorneyGeneral.
(By leave). - In order that the particulars shall be officially recorded, I desire to declare .to the House the conditions which are to govern tho voluntary Wheat Pool, 1921-1922, which has been established under the auspices of tho Commonwealth Government. I gave these details to the press, but it ,is proper that they should come in official form before honorable members. The particulars are as follow : -
A Committee of three to be appointed by tho farmers from each State.
A Central’ Committee of one member of’ each State Committee to manage the Fool.
Farmers to. sign a proper charge transfering the wheat to the Committee.
Fanners to get a certificate for wheat delivered, and an advance of 3s. per bushel at railway siding to be made by banks.
Certificate to have coupons for farther payments to farmers, which are only to be made as wheat is sold.
Sight .pence, for expenses and the cost of transport to .the sea-board, to be the first charge on tho wheat.
Committees are to arrange for. tHe care and storage of wheat and insurance and transport to sea-board and overseas.
Tho Committees shall arrange for one selling agent or group of selling agents in Great Britain.
The Committee in each State to give the Commonwealth Bank a proper mortgage ‘.over the wheat.’ Bank to have no responsibility in regard to the wheat or the realization, and to exercise proper authority in dealing’ with the wheat and sales.
The Commonwealth Government to guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank the repayment of advances made up .to 3s. per bushel to fanners after all expenses paid, up to 83. per bushel.
No wheat to be received in the Fool alter 14th March, 1922.
Commonwealth Line of Steamers to act as chartering agents.
Commonwealth Bank will ask the other banks to take their share of the financing as in the past.
The agreement has been drawn up. I think I am correct in saying that the parties, the farmers of New SouthWales and South Australia, have been consulted. They are in accord, and the agreement has been despatched to those two States this afternoon, in order that the necessary signatures may be attached. If honorable members desire any further information, I shall be glad to give it in answer to questions.
– Will the Prime Minister, when making suggestions for the assistance of the voluntary Wheat Pool, take into consideration the necessity for extending the time within which wheat will be received into the Pool? . I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that no wheat would be received into the Pool after 14th March next. Those who represent country constituencies will agree withme that a number of farmers will not have threshed their wheat by March next, and that others who use harvesters will not be able to deliver before the end of March.
– The honorable member wishes to know whether I will reconsider the date?
– The date was fixed not by me, but by the Bank, and the farmers of New South Wales and South Australia. I cannot make any alteration. I am not responsible for the agreement; but I shall pass on to those who are the parties to the contract any representations that may be madeto me. We cannot allow wheat-growers an indefinite option as to whether they shall go into the Pool or remain outside. We have to make our arrangements for chartering, and also for finance. If, at the last moment, some millions of bushels of wheat came into the Pool - when, for example, there may be a slump - finance would be rendered more difficult, and freight might prove an almost insuperable obstacle. I shall, however, pass on the information. With the exception of those districts which thresh wheat, I hardly think that the matter is of serious importance. I know, from experience, that the whole of the wheat grown in the districts which the honorable member represents is not threshed, but only a portion of it ; and that nine out of ten, or even a greater proportion, of the bushels of wheat produced in Australia are stripped. If the honorable member’s proposal could be narrowed down to threshed wheat, we might be able to get over the difficulty.
– I desire to be informed what method has been decided upon by the Government in regard to the allotment of those excess-cost houses which have been built under the War Service Homes Department, and are still unallotted.
Mr.RODGERS. - A policy has been determined upon, and the necessary machinery has already been arranged. An Adjustments Board is to be formed. It will consist of an independent chairman, a representative of the Commission, and a representative of the returned soldiers. The last-mentioned will be selected from a panel furnished by the Returned Soldiers’ Associations. These bodies, in all of the States, have been asked to supply a selected list of names; and so soon as the panel is available, the Board will become operative.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware that the Public Service Arbitrator gave a decision, on 1st November, respecting working conditions at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, and that such decision has not yet been made known ? Will the Assistant Minister see that the matter is attended to at once?
-I am not aware of the fact; but I shall have inquiries made, and shall see that attention is given to the matter of the award.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to furnish any information concerning various statements which have been made alleging serious happenings recently at Rabaul, and elsewhere in the mandated Territories? I would remind the Prime Minister that ha promised to make a statement on the subject.
– I am having inquiries made, but, so far, no information has come to hand. Taking the question of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) along with another asked by the honorable member for South Sydney (M;r. Riley) some days ago, I may say that I am not casting doubt upon the statements which form the basis of those questions, but that I wish honorable members to understand that certain interests in New Guinea and the neighbouring territories find themselves very much disturbed by the actions of the Government. What these interests are the honorable member for Hunter may easily surmise. I do not think it is probable that natives have been treated cruelly; but, if such has been the case, those who are guilty will be dealt with. I hope, however, that certain reports which have been published concerning administration in New Guinea - allegations uttered by interested persons - will be accepted by this House and the country generally, “with a grain of salt.”
Kidman and Mayoh Contract
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a’ question, which I have already put more’ than once, but without satisfaction, to the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) . !As the Prime Minister knows, the matter of the Kidman and Mayoh shipbuilding contract was submitted to the Public “Works Committee, which reported upon it some months ago. A sum of more than ‘ £100.000 is involved. “Will the Prime Minister make known the attitude of the Government, and undertake to see that the whole business is speedily finalized?
– I am concerned only in my capacity as Attorney-General ; that is to say, it has been my duty to interest myself in the matter from the legal point of view. The solicitors for Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh have made representations with a view to securing a settlement of the case, but the negotiations have not yet reached a stage at which it would be possible for me to make a definite announcement. I am not attempting to justify or extenuate the law’s delays; I merely state the facts. I shall have further inquiries made with a view to ascertaining exactly how the situation stands, and I shall take an early opportunity to furnish the House with all. particulars available.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Trade and Customs in the interests of the health of the whole Australian community. I, learned in a newspaper named the Patriot, published in Brisbane, that there was very recently a case of death from the virulent type of plague, and that, at the time, no serum was procurable. Will the Minister make urgent investigations in order to insure that necessary supplies of. serum shall be made available?
– As soon as the Health Department was aware that bubonic plague had broken out in Australia action was taken for the preparation of the necessary serum. That involved, of course, the getting of smears from the north to start its manufacture. It takes a considerable time to complete, but no time is being lost in providing the serum.
Leasing of Lands in the Federal Territory.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories been called to a paragraph in this morning’s issue of the Age in which it is stated that-
– I must again remind honorable, members that it is not in order to ask a question founded on a newspaper statement unless the honorable member takes the responsibility for its accuracy.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories state whether it is a fact that he has invited applications for leases of land1 in the Federal Capital Territory, and that no applications have been received?
– It is absolutely incorrect.
(By leave). - It is within the knowledge of the House that I have recently attended, as the senior Australian delegate, the second Assembly of the- League of Nations, which- was held at Geneva. I think it will be the pleasure of honorable members that I should report to them upon what took place there, and what my actions were. It is desirable that the activities of the League of Nations at the present moment should be known as fully as possible throughout Australia. With that object in view I have prepared a statement which I shall lay on the table, and it will be for the House to determine what shall be done with it. The report that I have prepared covers all the subjects dealt with at the Assembly, but deals with them only on the basis ofa summary, with a few explanatory notes by myself. To have dealt in detail with all the activities of the League would have involved the preparation of a document running into hundreds of pages, and the inclusion of details that are quite unnecessary from the point of view of those who desire merely to become informed as to the activities of the League, and as to the steps that were taken at the last Assembly to give effect to them. As it is, my report, although in a summarized form, covers about eighty typewritten pages of foolsoap. In it I have attended to every subject, and have given the necessary references to all documents, so that it will.be perfectly simple for any one who is interested in a particular activity to obtain the most complete information as to what has been done with regard to it from the inception of the League. I have all these documents here, and shall also lay them on the table.
If I might venture to make a suggestion, it would be that this summary should be kept up to date, and that all future documents which come to hand should be added, so that there shall be a means by which Australia’s future delegates will be able to inform themselves of what their task is, and what is the position they have to handle, without having to undertake the almost monumental work that we had to do on this occasion. The carrying out of this suggestion would be simple, and would involve practically no expense. It has only to be definitely understood that all questions relating to the League of Nations are being handled by a particular Minister, and a very small part of the time of one of his efficient clerks would be occupied in keeping all the information up to date. Such a person would be in a position to give necessary information to any member of tho House who might desire to ascertain the exact particulars with regard to some special question.
In addition to the report, I should like to summarize the information I have to give to the House with regard to the League of Nations. I am afraid I cannot do this in a very short time, but I shall be as brief as possible. Before doing so, may I remind honorable members of exactly what is contained in the Covenant, which is the guiding constitution of the League of Nations in all its activities? I trust the House will forgive me for doing this, but it is impossible to keep these things as present in our minds as they ought to be.
We all know the history of the formation of the League, and the ideas that it was designed to carry out. But its actual significance has been very well expressed; and I should like to borrow the words then used instead of using my. own -
The Covenant was framed With the idea of promoting international co-operation and achieving international peace and security by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just and honorable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the. understandings of international law as tho actual rule of conduct among Governments and by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all Treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with pne another.
I do not think the actualobjects of the League could be better expressed, and a great effort has been made to carry out the ideas there laid down. There are two sides to the Covenant. In the first place, its primary object is to substitute international justice for the hideous arbitrament of war; in the second place, to carry out great humanitarian objectives which will improve the condition of mankind and add to the health, happiness, and prosperity of the people of the world.The first primary object-the doing away withwar - is particularly covered by articles12,13,and15 of theCovenant; and while I do not (propose to read the whole of those Articles, I wish to read odd paragraphs in which the particular methods that the League endeavoured to employ areset out, and set out very clearly. In Article 12, this paragraph appears -
The Members of theLeague Agree that if there should arise between them any dispute likely to lead to a rupture, theywill submit the matter either to arbitration or to inquiry by the Council, and they agree in no case to resort to war until threemonths after the award by the arbitrators or (the report by the Council.
In Article 13, we read -
The Members of the League agree that whenever any dispute; shall arise betweenthemwhich they recognise to be suitable for submission to arbitration, and which cannot be satisfactorily settled by diplomacy, they will submit the whole subject-matter to arbitration.
Another partof Article 13 reads -
The Members of the League agree that they will carry out in full good faith any award that maybe rendered, and that they will not resort to wor against a Member ofthe League which complies therewith.
In Article 15, we read -
Ifthere should arise batmen Members of the League any dispute likely to lead to a rupture which is not submitted to arbitration in accordance with Article 13, the Members of the League agree that they will submit the matter to the Council. Any party to the dispute may effect such submission by giving notice of the existence of the dispute to theSecretaryGeneral, who will make all necessary arrangements for a fullinvestigation and consideration thereof.
The rest of the paragraphs run on the same lines, and amount tothis - the nations’ signatories to the Peace Treaty, andtothe Pact or Covenant, agree that they willsubmit their disputes either to arbitration or to the Council of the League ofNations forsettlement. That is the great effort that was made to carry outthefirst of the primary objectsof the League.
The next object, because thereare several, is the establishment of a Permanent Court of International Justice, which comesunderArticle14. As Ishall havetodeal with that mattor in telling honorablemembersoftheactivitiesofthe Second Assembly, I shall not. touch further on itnow.
Another ob ject isthe” economic sanction.” It means that where any State in breach of its Covenant under this document proceeds to war, the other nations will cut off all commercial, financial, and other intercourse. That, again, is a matter I shall have to deal with further, and I shall not labour it here.
Then there was what is called an attempt toabolish secret diplomacy. Article 18, which is very short, provides -
Every Treaty or International engagement entered into hereafter try any memberof the League shall be forthwith registered withthe Secretariat, and shall, as soon as possible, bepublished by it.No such Treaty or Internationalengagement shall be binding until so registered.
That, again,. I shall have to dealwith, because it was very much discussedat the last Assembly, but I shall not dealwith, it just at the moment.
Another Article designed to carry out the intention ofavoiding war, deals with the reconsideration of Treaties, Treaties of peace may be made, but may, infuture years, become a menace, and the League contemplatesdealing with such Treaties under Article 19 as follows : -
The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by members of theLeague ofTreaties which havebecome inapplicable, and the consideration of Internationalconditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world.
That Article was very much discussed at the meeting.
The other great effort of the League was in ‘the direction of disarmament, which comes under Article 8. That is a long Article, and I shall merely now give an idea. of what its provisions are: - Armaments tobe reduced to the lowest point . consistent with national safety; no private manufacture of munitions and implements of : war ; the Council to. formulate plans for carrying out.sug- gested reductions; members to undertake to exchange full. information,; and apermanent Commission tobe appointedto advise the Council onquestions concerningdisarmament. Thequestionofdisarmament was threshed, out at great length at the Assembly, and asIshallhaveto deal withit later, I, shall leave it for the moment:
Theother side, of the League’sactiviities ishumanitarian ..and,roughlythe points mentioned in the Covenant are - Fair and humane conditions for labour, as a result of which the International Labour Bureau has been established; the just treatment of native inhabitants in all the countries under the mandatory powers of a member of the League; traffic in women and children; traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs ; the prevention and control of disease, and the encouragement of Bed Cross organizations and similar enterprises. That represents the humanitarian side of the activities, and I shall have to refer to them later.
There is only one other point with which I should like to deal in connexion with the League itself, and that is the positions of the Assembly and the Council. I think there is no matter on which people, generally, are less informed than the relative positions of these two bodies, and the spheres in which their respective activities are employed. If one refers to the Covenant he gets surprisingly little information, but I think that is a good thing. These two bodies have ‘been created, and both have great activities, which they are carrying on, but the actual relations between them have been left to be defined in the future, and to grow as time passes and ‘ precedents are established. Whilst some nations might object to that, I think that we who are of British descent, and know how every one of our constitutional (institutions is founded upon just such a basis, will accept it as a hopeful augury for the future. The Assembly might be described as, in a sense, equivalent to a Parliament, and the Council to the Executive. That description is by no means exact, but it more or less describes the relationship of the two bodies. At .the recent gathering the Assembly took a further step forward by managing to establish clearly and unequivocally its right to vote the annual budget and approve the ‘ accounts of the League. In that way the Assembly has established for itself financial control over the League. As to the membership of these two bodies, the Council is composed at the moment of the representatives of eight countries. The four permanent members are the British Empire, France, Japan, and Italy, and the four non-permanent members are, at the moment, Brazil, Belgium, China, and Spain.
Under the Covenant the permanent members were to number five, but, unfortunately, the United States of America is not a member of the League, and does no.t take its position on the Council to-day. The first four non-permanent members who are still in office were appointed under the Covenant, and it was intended that they should ‘be changed from time to time. Many suggestions were made at the recent gathering as to an exact basis for the election of non-permanent members to. the Council, but it was finally decided to re-elect for another year the original four I have named, and leave it to the next Assembly to determine exactly upon what basis the non-permanent members shall be elected in future. The “League took the. view that it was very possible that the permanent members “might be increased from four to five, and if that took place it would probably be advisable to . increase the representation of the non-permanent members. This matter will be dealt with next year; but it was clear from the tone of the present Assembly - and I am confident that the next Assembly will take the same view - that some system of representation by which the Assembly itself elects the nonpermanent members will be adopted. They will hold office for a certain period, and then retire, and will not be eligible for re-election within a stipulated period. The only definition contained in the Covenant of the powers of the Assembly and the Council is a provision that both may deal with any matter within the sphere of action of the League and affecting the peace of the world.
I should like to deal now with the actual work done at the meeting of the Assembly which I have recently attended. The Assembly met on 5 th September, and remained in session until 5 th October, a period of four weeks and four days. It sat continuously on six days in the week, morning and afternoon, and for the last three weeks of the session on most nights. So while I extend my grateful thanks to the Commonwealth for having sent me there, and whilst I admit that the gathering was of intense interest, still while I and my co-delegate were at Geneva we had to do a considerable amount of work. I stress this fact, so that it may be realized that the League of Nations is to-day functioning seriously. It is not a gathering which people attend for the purpose of making eloquent and brilliant speeches of an utterly unpractical character. In the Committees the work is short, crisp and business-like, but even in the Assembly, which is the only place where Speeches are made, I heard not one speech in which eloquence predominated over practical sense. Another fact which I think I should point out is that very little speaking is done at all. The representatives of many nations at Geneva never spoke in the Assembly. Their efforts were confined to the very useful work Which they did on the various committees, and there was no atmosphere but that of hard common sense in the endeavour to arrive at a solution of problems exceeding in magnitude any ever previously approached by a gathering of men.
The countries represented at the As sembly were forty-three in number at the beginning, and, after the admission of Lithuania and Esthonia, forty-five. Six nations - Argentine, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, and Salvador, did not send representatives. Australia was represented by myself and (Mr. Shepherd, the Acting High Commissioner. I was not in Australia at the time when the appointments were made, arid I have not read the newspapers of that date. Therefore, I do not know what atmosphere surrounded the appointments, but I gather that it was the opinion of many people in this country that it was a mistake to send a civil servant to Geneva to represent Australia.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– That view, after having been to Geneva, I entirely and heartily indorse. I care not what the merits or ability of any civil servant may be; this is not a position that can be held satisfactorily in the interests of Australia by anybody Who is a paid servant of the Government. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not reflecting in any way on any qualifications Mr. Shepherd may have had for the position. He served with me for the whole period of the sitting of the Assembly, and gave me the most loyal and complete support, and did everything in his power to assist me. Therefore, anything I say in criticism on this subject has no reference to Mr. Shepherd personally. I would stress my criticism by reminding the House of the personnel of the delegations of other nations. Amongst the papers I have brought back is a list of delegates which anybody who is interested may study at leisure, but I would point out that the Motherland sent Mr. Balfour as the leader of its delegation. And may I take this opportunity to say that, having worked in very close contact with him for the whole of the period during which ! was at Geneva, I am convinced that there is no other living Englishman better qualified to go to America to do the great work that confronts Mr. Balfour to-day? Great Britain’s representative at the Washington Conference is the best who could have been obtained, and the interests of the whole of the Empire are safe in his hands. The other delegates from Great Britain to Geneva were Mr. Fisher, Minister for Education, and Sir James Bennell Rodd, one of the most distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps, who is best known by the work he did during the war as British Ambassador to Italy. South Africa waa represented by Sir Edgar Walton, its High Commissioner, Lord Robert Cecil, and Professor Gilbert Murray, of Oxford, an Australian. Here I would like to correct the misunderstanding that, ^appears to have arisen in Australia - that Lord Robert Cecil was one of Great Britain’s representatives. India was represented by Sir William Meyer, its High Commissioner in London, the Maharajah of Kutch, representing the Indian princes, and Mr. Sastri’, a member of the Indian Parliament, representing the people of India. France was represented directly bv M. Viviani, M. Bourgeois, and M. Hanotaux, but they had in addition alternative delegates, so that no less than six of the most distinguished names in France were on the roll of that Assembly. Japan was represented by Viscount Ishii, Baron Hayashi and Dr. Adatchi, its Ambassador in Belgium.. Sweden was represented by M. Bran ting, and Norway by Dr. Nanson, the well-known explorer, who is one of the leading statesmen of Norway to-day. Two ex-Presidents of the Republic of Switzerland represented their State. I mention these names because I wish to urge the plea that at these great Conferences Australia should be represented by three of its best men. Mr. Shepherd and I did our best for this country, and I venture to say that we did reasonably well, but we had a fairly difficult task to maintain the prestige of Australia when we compared the strength of the Commonwealth’s delegation with that of so many other nations.
There were only two matters dealt with in the Assembly without being referred to Committees to be considered and reported on. The decisions of these Committees merely came up afterwards for indorsement or alteration. The first matter dealt with by the Assembly itself was the report by the Council on the work of the League during the past year, and after some debate it was considered advisable to retain that matter in the Assembly, so that’ there would be on the agenda-paper an item on which speeches of a general character could be made, and also so that the whole of the proceedings might not be confined simply to dealing with questions that came back to it from the Committees and upon which debate would necessarily be concentrated. In the general debate to which I have referred very few spoke, but, realizing that the Australian delegates had travelled a very long way to attend the Assembly, I thought it well to let every one know that Australia was represented. I had, naturally, a slight difficulty in speaking. I did not regard myself as being the servant of any Government, party, or section in Australia. Here we may be divided upon many questions, but upon this great question of the primary objects of the League of Nations, which transcend all other matters, all parties are, I take it, in accord, and in that light I spoke for Australia. I shall not worry honorable members by giving them details of what I said. I have included the verbatim report of my speech in the summary I have made, and any one who is interested may see in it exactly what views I put forward when I, for one moment, happened to be the mouthpiece of the people of Australia.
The other matter dealt with in the Assembly itself was the election of Judges of the Permanent Court of International Justice which had been established during the preceding year. In the past many unsuccessful attempts have been made to bring about the formation of such a tribunal. At the Hague Conference in 1907 a particularly determined effort waa made to form a Court of International Justice, but in the then state of world politics it was found quite impossible to do so. That Conference certainly established Arbitration Courts, but in a minute or two I shall show the difference between an Arbitration Court and a Court of International Justice. After 1907 the matter fell into abeyance, and was not again dealt with until, after the war, the Covenant of the League of Nations was drawn up, Article 14 of which reads as follows : -
The Council shall formulate and submit to the members of the League for adoption plans for the settlement of a Permanent Court of International Justice. The Court shall be com- , petent to hear and determine any dispute of. an international character, which the parties thereto submit to it. The Court may also give an advisory opinion upon any dispute or question referred to it by the Council orby the Assembly.
In order to carry out that article ofthe Covenant, a committee of jurists was.appointed in February, 1920, to prepare a draft scheme for the constitutionof such a Court, and they propoundeda scheme which was submitted to thefirst Assembly of the League, and approved by it, and subsequently referred back to the Council. In the early days of the present year it was finalized and embodied ina protocol, which was signed by the fortythree nations who were at that time in the League. One point very strenuously debated during the period in which the constitution of the Court was under consideration was the question of its compulsory jurisdiction. The greatest underlying principle of the League of Nations, and one of the things that allowed, and will in the future permit, it to function,is the fact that there is not a line in the Covenant which can be interpreted as an interference with the sovereign rights of any State. However, after strenuously debating the question of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court of International Justice, the Assembly decided to include a second protocol accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court. To date this has been accepted and signed by sixteen nations. The difficulty which in this regard exists among the great nations is owing to the fact that America is not in the League. If America were in the League of Nations, I think we would find that the whole world would be ripe for the acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of this Court of International Justice. However, a considerable start has been made by the fact that sixteen nations have agreed to refer compulsorily all disputes of an international character to the Court, and that the Judges have been elected by the Assembly of the League. An earnest attempt was made by the League of Nations - and it is to its credit - to insure that the Judges should be drawn in fair proportion from the five great schools of law. Many persons were doubtful if that result could be achieved, but a great deal of work was done by Sir Cecil Hurst, the legal adviser of the British Foreign Office, to get the nations to realize how essential it was that every school of law should be represented, and the result of the elections proved that what it was hoped would be achieved had come about. Every school of law was represented, and that representation was on a very fair basis, having regard to the nations which live and exist under the different schools. The Judges who were elected come from Spain, Italy, Brazil, Cuba, Great Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States of America, Denmark, Japan, and France, and the deputy judges from Roumania, China, the SerbCroatSlovene States, and Norway. That shows the representative character- of the Court. “ May I try to indicate to honorable members the distinctions between the Court of International Justice and the Arbitration Courts that were established under The Hague Convention? The Hague Convention provided for the settlement of disputes, purely and simply by arbitration. When ‘a dispute between two nations was referred to The Hague for settlement, arbitrators were appointed by each side, and. a chairman was placed between them; but the arbitrators were really advocates of the two sets of interests that were in conflict, and the decision, when it was arrived at, was merely the best compromise that could be made, taking into account the circumstances of the two parties at the moment. Settlement by arbitration is not settlement in accordance with the rules of law; it is only the adoption of the best arrangement that can be come to for avoiding trouble. A Court of International Justice goes much further; it is a Court of law in the same sense that every Court in this land is a Court of law. Its procedure is governed by the rules of justice and of international law. It will not consider how best to settle a dispute with the least friction, or what it can get the parties to *agree to. Those who submit to its jurisdiction must observe the rules of international law and of right conduct. Again, under The Hague Convention, the parties to a dispute determined under what law their dispute should be adjudicated; in the Court of International Justice it will be the rules of international law that will be applied. I hope that honorable members see that the establishment of this Court is a great step forward.’ To my mind, had the League of Nations so far done’ nothing else, it would have fully justified its existence by having created this institution.
– Is any method provided for enforcing the judgments of the International Court of Justice?
– The methods of enforcing the judgments of the Court are exactly the same as those which the League of Nations can employ against any of its members who do anything in breach of the Covenant; there is the economic sanction, and the physical sanction - for which the world is not yet ready. I have to deal with the powers of the League of Nations to preserve discipline within its ranks, and I shall defer until I have done so any fuller answer to the honorable member’s question.
– From the International Court of Justice we shall get an authoritative statement of what is the international law and the rights in regard to any question in dispute.
– Absolutely. I must now pass on to the matters that were referred to Committees, and came back to the Assembly for decision. The most important, almost, was the Covenant itself and the alteration of it. In regard to that matter we found ourselves faced with what appeared to be almost insuperable difficulties. The framers of the Covenant had it in their minds that it should be possible to alter it in certain respects without requiring unanimity. But, unfortunately, it was - so worded that ex- pression was not given to that intention. Of the intention, there is no doubt. There are the speeches by nearly every statesman concerned in the framing of the Covenant, including President Wilson and General Smuts; and. there are the interpretations of the Covenant that were issued by all the great nations, all of which state emphatically that it could be altered. But when we considered the matter we found that Article 26 says that amendments to the Covenant will take effect when ratified by the members of the League whose representatives composed the Council, and by a majority of the members of the League whose representatives composed the Assembly. But nowhere in the document does it say how you are to pass alterations, either in the Council or in the Assembly. We were thrown back on Article 5, which says that you must have unanimity. The only place in the Covenant where it is suggested that there need not be unanimity is the passage in Article 26 dealing with ratification. The difficulty was a lawyer’* one, and gave us more trouble than anything else. I would have given a fortune to have a good legal adviser behind me who could say what was meant. The lawyers quibbled . and argued for weeks over the matter, and while they did so the Committee to which it was referred paid, “ We have to solve this question somehow, whatever the lawyers may say.” It laid down a basis upon which several alterations which were imperative and necessary have been .made; that basis being that all the representatives on the Council must vote in the affirmative, and two-thirds of the members of the Assembly. It would have been disastrous had there been no way of altering the Covenant except with unanimity, so that one nation could have vetoed any proposal for alteration. Under the present arrangement, the sovereign rights of all the States are safeguarded. If a country does not like an amendment which has been carried against it, that country may retire from the League, but it must give two years’ notice of its intention to bo “retire. It is inconceivable that any country would be forced to do that, because every country which has a direct representative in the Council, which includes all the great Powers, the small ones being represented jointly, must unanimously accept an amendment before it can be submitted to the Assembly. Therefore, I think that a very difficult position was got over without in any way interfering with the sovereign rights of States, for whose preservation we are so jealous.
Article 16 was amended. It deals with the economic sanction. If a nation breaks faith in respect of an agreement entered into under the Covenant, it is to be ostracised by all the other nations which are members of the League ; they will discontinue all commercial and other relations with it. But it can be very difficult to do this. Suppose that a great nation is a defaulter, and that it has a very little nation on its borders which tries to carry out its duties under this Article, the probability is that the great defaulting nation will be given a tolerable excuse to seize some strategic point which it wants in the territories of the other without putting itself in the wrong. After strenuous debates, certain amendments were made which get over the difficulties ; but I ask members to whom the subject is interesting to look at the report and the related documents; it is too big to deal with in detail here.
It has been said that the economic sanction is of no value; but with that statement I do not agree. At this moment it is of very great value; and it is a serious thing for any nation to contemplate in the future. The world today is in a state of chaos. Europe is in a particularly unfortunate position. The exchanges have fallen into such confusion that no man knows where he is. The great problem, with which we are faced is now to regulate again the exchanges of the world, so that the various countries may trade with one another. When that has been done there will be such an interlocking of the nations that the mere threat or possibility that relations with other countries may be cut off will paralyze the most adventurous and unscrupulous nation. I believe that the economic sanction is of the greatest value, and the backbone of the Covenant of the ‘League of Nations.
Another article which, it was desired to amend, and which was not amended, was the difficult and. disputed Article 10, under which all the members of the1 League undertake tol respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all the members of the League. That article is difficult beyond words, for the reason that America, in particular, when she waa interested in the League, said that it meant an interference with sovereign rights, and asked her to guarantee the territorial integrity of every small nation of Europe, which would lead to her perpetual interference in European affairs. Canada has taken more or less the same view. The subject was argued at very great length in the Committees, particularly by Mr. Doherty, one of the Canadian delegates. Eventually it was decided to leave it over for settlement until the next Assembly, but it is to be taken then before any other question is dealt with. Any gentleman who proposes to be the next delegate from Australia to the Assembly should go into training now, so that he may be able to grapple with the legal points involved. The thing is complicated and difficult beyond words. In contrast with America’s position is that of half the small nations, which regard it as their greatest safeguard and guarantee, and it would do the greatest harm> to the League if it were to disappear without some similar provision being substituted for it. That opinion was generally felt by the members of the League, and it was therefore agreed, the representatives of Canada consenting, that the subject should be put off for another year, when it should be finally dealt with.
Another provision of considerable importance which was dealt with was Article 18, governing the regular registration of treaties, which it is imperative should be maintained. But certain difficulties have to be got over. Under its existing wording, the Article means that every treaty, no matter what may be its character, must bo registered. It would not matter whether it were a small commercial convention, a minor financial agreement between two nations, or a great Peace treaty involving the whole world. With respect to the smaller affairs, such as commercial conventions, it would probably defeat the whole object of the parties entering into them if particulars were published as has been suggested. And- as for financial treaties, it would probably strike a staggering blow ‘at some nation’s credit - some nation which another nation was endeavouring to help, for instance - if .the particulars were published broadcast. So the League took what I think was a balanced and eminently sane view. It was not prepared to make an alteration in the Article under review ‘ unless it saw that such alteration would still guarantee the making known of certain treaties which the world ought to see and must be made acquainted with in the future. The whole matter, therefore, has been referred, purely for drafting, to a Committee, and it will be dealt with at a later stage. For the time being, the Article exists as at present, with certain interpretations put upon it, however, by the Assembly of the League. The great factor governing this Article is that the world is desirous, nay, determined, that secret treaties shall not be entered into which could in any way affect the peace of the world. I think that the League, as a body, and, indeed, the individual representatives of nearly every nation present, were fully determined in this regard. If any alteration is made to the verbiage of the Article, therefore, it will be only to cover such matters as I have just touched upon, namely, ordinary minor commercial conventions and financial arrangements.
The alterations which I have indicated were the only changes made in the Covenant, although very many were presented by representatives of the different nations.
– Honorable members are to understand that there was no actual alteration made iri the last Article to which the honorable member has been referring?
– That is so. The Assembly has said, for what it may be worth, that the nations are entitled to understand that the Article means, in effect, what the Assembly has interpreted it to mean. And I repeat that what the Assembly said it means is that there must be published any and every treaty possessed of real force or magnitude, but that the question of publication does not necessarily apply to commercial and minor financial conventions and arrangements.
– Did the Assembly take any steps to enforce the publication of military treaties such as that which’ has been entered into between France and Poland?
– There has been a great number of treaties which have been through the hands of the Secretariat and have been published. The League has had notice of numbers more, in addition. Further, the League is in a position to take steps, if it has reason to believe that there is a certain treaty in existence, to ask the nations involved, directly, for the facts, and to secure a denial. The important point is that the League is taking every action possible in this regard. If the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) suggests that France and Poland, or any other nations, have “been making treaties or are about to do so; and if the honorable member desires to know what action the League may take in the circumstances, I can only say that it may make its investigations and ask a direct question, but that if the nations concerned say, “No, we are making no such treaty,” the League has thereafter no means of following up the matter. It would be impossible, indeed, for the League to carry its investigations beyond such a stage. It certainly has no power to do so.
There are certain other matters which I must briefly touch upon. Under the auspices of the League there is a financial and economic committee. The subjectmatter covered by its activities was dealt with at the Brussels Financial Conference in September, 1920, at which Australia was represented by the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Collins). At that Conference certain resolutions were agreed to, and a very clear statement of the world’s financial position was set out. The position and the attitude of every nation with respect to its financial affairs were plainly demonstrated. I regret that, from what I have heard and seen since, not all of the nations have seen fit to follow the advice tendered at the Brussels Conference. However, the question of the formation of a definite organization to deal with financial and economic subjects was considered, and the establishment of the Committee as a permanent organization was contemplated. Meanwhile, a provisional committee was formed. This body is costing very little, while, at the same time, it has done extraordinarily important work.
Its greatest achievements so far have probably been in the direction of the reorganization of the finances of Austria. Any one who has taken an interest in the tragic state of the financial affairs of Austria must realize that they are so dangerous and altogether chaotic as to constitute a menace to Europe, and, thus, to the whole world. The Committee went into this question, and the Austrian Government gave every assistance in its power. The result has been that the Committee has prepared a working plan, based very closely upon the Ter Meulan scheme. All the creditor nations of Austria have agreed to! forego their claims, to give up their liens, and to allow fresh moneys to be raised for the assistance of that country. These sums are to be spent in certain specified directions, with a view to restoring Austria’s economic position, of re-creating her transport organization, and, in fact, of helping her generally to get out of her desperate position and stand upon her feet again. This task has been completed right up to the stage of the matter of the bonds to be issued. Seventeen nations have agreed to forego their liens; but, up to date, it has been impossible for the United States of America to make the necessary arrangements which would permit her to give her consent. As soon as the United States of America has done so the task of financial rehabilitation will proceed to its fruition ; and, whether or not the outcome shall be to completely restore the situation in Austria, it is bound to vastly relieve the terrible suffering which has prevailed, and still exists, in that country. The outcome must be to still further afford a great deal of help to the situation and outlook of the whole of the States in that part- of Europe.
– Is the position of those nations which have agreed to forgo their liens to be of a preferential character?
– They will take up preferential loans, while the other nations will stand behind them. I should add that the work being done in regard to the financial reinstatement of Austria is being closely watched by the representatives of the League. These latter are stationed in Vienna, and they are actually in control of Austria’s finances. There is no question of promiscuously giving out great sums of money to various countries and letting them do what they like with the funds. Every safeguard is being, and will continue to be, taken. There are numbers of countries which are prepared and anxious, in fact, to accept the League’s financial assistance. I believe that the question of this Economic and Financial Committee being expanded into a permanent department of the League of Nations is certain to be raised at the Assembly of the League next year. It is well that the delegates who will attend’ on behalf of Australia should be informed concerning the views of the Government. I emphasize that this is one of the features of the League’s control which must be carried on. It is imperative that the exchanges of Europe should be righted in some way. There is no body in existence but the League of Nations which can take the enormously difficult subject in hand, create the necessary organization, and provide the essential monetary assistance. Only the League of Nations is in such a position. It will be for the League to try to take, one by one, all the countries which are asking for such aid. It is of no use for the League to be foolishly optimistic and imagine that it can take the whole world forthwith and put it right. This task must be performed piece by piece. Austria has been dealt with. The affairs of another country will follow. But, apart from the main procedure just indicated, much can be, and is being, done. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that most of the members of our various British Parliaments imagine that there is nothing concerning finance with which they are not on familiar terms. But there are other types of statesmen in the world who are rather more frank, and have no hesitation in admitting that they know nothing about finance. I spoke to the representatives of quite a number of the smaller countries which have been created as an outcome of the world conflict, and which are now struggling in their national infancy. They have discovered - as they have admitted1 - that their finances are beyond the ability of their statesmen to handle. These smaller nations, many of them, are appealing to the League to secure financial experts who will help them to put their houses in order financially, and set their feet upon a path at the end of which they may hope to reach prosperity. The achievement of such an end, in respect even of these lesser proposals, will help the wholeworld; the interests of the little nations themselves are not solely involved.
I have already indicated that I fought against the permanent establishment of the Financial Committee at the present stage. I considered that all. essential purposes would be served for the time being if the Committee carried’ on upon its temporary basis. I propounded the view that the time was not ripe for the establishment of the permanent body, and that the provisional Committee could do all that was necessary, at any rate, for some months to come. At the next Assembly of the League, however, the subject is bound to be brought forward; and, no doubt, the organization will ultimately be made a permanent one.
The next matter with which I desire to deal is the health organization. It was in respect of this body that Australia’s representatives were involved in a strenuous fight to avoid a very unnecessary expenditure being undertaken in the name of the League. The position concerning health is that there has been, and is at this moment, an International Bureau with its head-quarters in Paris. To this body practically all the nations belong. The view was expressed, however that the League of Nations had more power and authority - that it went a little further in the matter of world-wide controlBased upon the actual wording of the Covenant, the suggestion was made that all such international bureaux should be taken over by the League. All the nations which were a party to the Paris organization accepted the proposition with the exception of the United States of America, whose delegates did not agree. Unless all the countries were prepared to fall into line it would be obviously impossible for international health affairs to be taken over by the League. There were many optimists present at the Assembly who were prepared, even so, to go ahead. They expressed the view that there was wonderful work waiting to be done in the realm of international health - work which was nob being touched by the Paris Bureau. These delegates pressed for the establishment of a great organization within the League; but I. person- ally, did everything in my power to prevent it, and I am glad to say that eventually the proposal was defeated. A great deal of evidence was placed before the Assembly. It was obvious, however, that those who took the view that something more could be done, if a League organization were formed to govern international health matters, were seeing rather further than the facts warranted. Upon the evidence before the delegates it was clear that, if a Bureau under the auspices of the League were established, the two international bodies would continue in existence side by side, and overlap. The proposition for the establishment of a permanent organization was turned down, but a temporary organization has been created. It has a director, and there are several officials and members pf staff, numbering in all ten or a dozen. This staff is doing the necessary work of linking up matters of health control between the various unit3 of the League and the international Bureau in Paris; and it will similarly place itself in contact with any other such health organization throughout the world. The object of the whole scheme will be to draw up, at one point, under the protection of the League of Nations, the oversight of the health of the peoples.
– Where is the centre of this temporary organization?
– It is part of the League of Nations, and therefore has its headquarters at Geneva. Most cf its work so far has been concentrated upon the Russion frontier and in Poland, where there is the constant threat of typhus outbreaks:
With regard to armaments, I have already touched lightly upon the subject, but I find that I must say something further. I have informed the House of what the Covenant provides. In endeavouring to carry out the intentions of the Covenant the Council appointed a temporary mixed Commission, composed of six persons of recognised competence in political, social, and economic matters, six. members of the permanent advisory Commission for naval, military, and air questions selected by the Commission, and four members of the governing body “of th© International Labour Office. This temporary Commission ‘was formed, and considered many matters, and eventually had prepared a questionnaire, to he seat to all the nations, asking for certain specific information. That questionnaire was never sent out. During the year just passed, while a certain amount had been done; nothing like all that might have been done was achieved by the Council acting on the instructions that had been given to it by the previous Assembly. In the speech that I made on the general question in the Assembly, a’s well as in that which I delivered on the question of armaments - and which I feel I must read to the House, for the reason that, in it, I expressed views which should b,e within the knowledge of honorable members as to what Australia thought about the subject - I stressed the fact that it appeared to me that the Council had been a little overwhelmed by the difficulties with which it was faced. Unquestionably those difficulties were great, and almost beyond words to describe. With the United States of America outside, with Russia still outside, and all the other factors of which we are aware, it w’as difficult for it to really set about the task of disarmament. But my chief point is that, with all the good-will in the world, it would be impossible to bring about disarmament to-morrow unless we had the necessary information enabling us to determine how it could be brought about. Volumes of statistics and other information would be necessary to enable land, armaments, which are not so easy to handle as naval armaments, to be dealt with. In the absence of such information, it would be a matter of great research and difficulty, and I think that more of the spade-work might have been done last year. The present Assembly took very much that view, and it made very strong recommendations. I summarize some of these as follow: -
During the last few days we have heard the most wonderful and almost unexpected news from the Conference which has met at Washington. There would appear to be some prospect of great results accruing from that gathering. While it is no part of mine to say anything about it, I suggest that what has happened there merely points more and more to the necessity of the League of Nations being ready to do the work that undoubtedly will lie to its hands if the Washington Conference shall achieve the work which it is at present engaged upon. The Washington Conference was regarded by every one at the Assembly of the League of Nations with the most friendly eye. Expressions of the utmost good-will towards it and hope for its success were continually made in speeches that were delivered in the Assembly. I believe that the League of Nations itself looks to the Washington Conference to solve the one question which it cannot handle, namely, naval armaments, together with the position in the Pacific. If they can be got out of the way, I ‘believe the League of Nations feels that it can accomplish a great deal towards the diminution, at all events, of armaments.
The actual debate on armaments which took place in the Assembly was a very interesting one, but represents only a small part of what was done in regard to the subject. For four weeks prior to the matter coining before the Assembly, where it was disposed of in two or three hours, it had been dealt with by a Committee sitting practically continuously. I feel, as I have already remarked, that I ought to read to the House the speech that I made on the subject in the Assembly. I apologize for doing so, but, since I expressed in it views which in some sense might be interpreted as being those of Australia, I think honorable members should hear what I said. The verbatim report of my speech is as follows : -
Mr. President, I do not think that I shall in airy way abuse the ten-minute rule which has now been established. I feel, however, that it is my duty to say a few words on this question, because my Government attaches more importance to it than to any other question that can come before the League of Nations -Assembly. The other day, when speaking on the Report of the Council’s work,- 1 ventured -to suggest .that it appeared to me that the Council had been, somewhat overwhelmed by the difficulties of this question, and with all the surrounding circumstances. The report, which has now been presented to us, I think confirms that view. Twelve months ago this Assembly expressed very much the same views that we are expressing to-day, though not in quite so much detail; but during the year that has gone by very little has happened. Now, in my opinion, that year which has been wasted is, if not disastrous, certainly very serious. 1 base my reason for that view upon this fact: We have all great hopes of the Washington Conference, and. that something, may come of it that will remove those difficulties with which the Council has been faced. Supposing the Conference succeeds beyond our expectations, and the way were open for a real and substantial reduction of armaments, how far are we prepared to do anything? Would it not take months, aye, and possibly years, to arrive at what basis we can suggest by which an immediate reduction could be brought about? For that reason, I am entirely in accord with the report which has been presented by the Third Committee. It does not go too far, but it does suggest a practical way by which we can prepare for the time which we all hope will arrive, when the nations of the world will be prepared to agree to some basis upon which they will reduce armaments.
The main work that this Committee has got to do is the collection of statistics and information. Without those statistics and information we are helpless to make any proposal for the reduction that we all hope to sec brought .about, and for that reason I would place that part of our work far in advance of any of the other duties that they have to meet.
There are other subsidiary questions, such as the private manufacture and trade in arms. Those are important, and, as, far as my own country is concerned, we have very clear and definite views about them. We signed the Convention of St. Germain, and we desire, above all things, to see it carried out. The manufacture of arms in Australia is either done by the Government or is controlled by the Government, and we have no intention of altering that rule. Those steps we hope tosee taken by all the other nations.
One other point I want to put. and that is again to remind the Assembly what the position is going to be if we continue to do nothing. If we do nothing, it means that within the next few years the whole of the world’s civilization is going into chaos, for one main reason that the finances of every nation will sink into such a hopeless state that there will have to be almost a complete reorganization of the world.
Take the- case of my own country, Australia. We have got 12,000 miles of seaboard, and we have a great and wonderful possession in the land we inhabit. If we are to live under the fear of its being taken from us, we are going on - we are going to increase our armaments, and to take every step to protect ourselves. And I venture to say that we will be able to do much. During the war we managed, from no munitions at all, to build up a munitions industry that could supply the wants of an army, which amounted to 400,000 men. That will go on, and will be duplicated and triplicated, and even further. But the point I want to emphasize is that, if we have to do that then, then the whole of our future prosperity and development is gone. We can do nothing else except endeavour to protect ourselves. From Australia’s point of view, that is, above all things, important; but I venture to say that, from the point of view of Europe also, it would bc a great disaster if Australia has got to follow a programme of that nature. Australia is one of the countries of the world that produces primary wealth, and practically nothing else. And you have got to remember that it is to Australia and countries such as her that you have to look for the production of tho new wealth which is going to restore the financial stability of the world so largely destroyed by the expenditure on destructive armaments during the past few years. For that reason, I say, above all things, that it will be disastrous if we cannot now turn our efforts to producing new wealth, but have got to go on in this competition of armaments to preserve our own country for ourselves. Australia’s position on this question is perfectly clear and definite; she wants to see the whole traffic in arms controlled, and to see some agreement come to at once for the limitation of armaments, and she wants to see, in the future, a gradual reduction until there is nothing beyond such armaments as are necessary for internal discipline, and for protection against aggression from uncivilized countries outside.
There is one other point, and I will make it briefly. If I may make an appeal, I would ask every delegate here to try to look at this question a little bit differently from the way in which it has been regarded up to now. Those countries who were engaged in the war have felt the effects of the war, and I think most of their citizens, excluding for the moment the combatants, would say that they know what war means. They look at the suffering . and the sacrifices that have been made, at the numbers of their dead, and they imagine that they know. Well, I would suggest that that is not so. To the mother who has lost her son, to the wife who has lost her husband, there is always the compensating fact of a great and glorious pride that the man has laid down his life for his country, and for a cause that they believe to be just. But I want you to think for a moment of what it means to the soldier - and, if I may say so, I am now speaking of something that I know. I want you to realize what it does mean to the soldier to see his dearest and best friend shot down beside him, to see the whole of his com- pany, or even the whole of his battalion, wiped out practically to a man, for no result exsept that it is all part of the great strategy of war to make men attempt the impossible. If you had seen men mutilated and dying without the possibility of being helped, if you had ever heard the cry of a wounded man out between the lines, with no possibility of assistance being given to him, and with a likelihood that he may lie there dying for days, if you had seen hundreds of men gasping their lives out, their faces discoloured because of some hideous and frightful gas, then, I venture to say that you would look on this question with a different eye. And I would appeal to those who guide the destinies of the countries of the world to try to cast aside their political prudence and their diplomatic caution, and think of the matter from the point of view of the man who has got to go and suffer and endure these things if you will continue to have these ghastly and dreadful wars.
In that speech I was trying to express what I believed to be the views of Australia. Whether I was right or wrong, I do not know. The two points I had in mind were that, above all things, we desired a reduction of armaments, but that, if that could not be secured, we were determined to go on, and that nothing would prevent us from guarding and” preserving this country to ourselves, and preventing any nation from wresting it from us.
The next subject on which I must touch, although briefly, is that of the organization of the Secretariat and International Labour Office. Last year, when Senator E. D. Millen was at the Conference, he gave a great deal of attention to the question of the organization of both the Secretariat and Labour Office,’ and did extremely good work in pointing out the weak spots and insisting upon their removal. This year, the whole matter was again gone into very fully. In the interval we had had the advantage of a report from five representatives of member countries of the League who had benn in Geneva and had gone into the whole question. They made a report for the consideration’ of the Fourth Committee - which is the financial onn - on the present occasion. The Committee was presided over by Mr. Noblemaire, a Frenchman, and the work done by it was quite invaluable. They tore to pieces, so to speak, the whole of the organization of the Secretariat and International Labour Office. They suggested remedies, and I believe that what they have recommended has put the Secretariat itself and the International Labour Bureau on as business-like a footing as one could ask for in respect of any institution. That certainly was not the case twelve months ago, when Senator E. D. Millen attended the first meeting of the Assembly. Since then, the whole position has been dealt with. The staff, the numbers of the staff, its salaries and travelling allowances, together with every other feature relating to it, not excluding staff organization and the library and statistical branch, have been dealt with. Any one who is interested in the subject may, by reference to the report of the Fourth Committee, obtain all the facts. All I wish to do at the. moment is to assure the House that everything that Senator Millen fought for last year has now been put into operation. Both these institutions have been put on a thoroughly business-like basis, and we in Australia need have no fear that, the moneys we pay are wasted and thrown away. Aa to the financial side, the Assembly, as I told honorable members, insists on controlling the, position. Up to the present we have been in a hopeless difficulty, which will appeal to all honorable members who deal with financial matters on the basis of Estimates, Budget speeches, and so forth; they will realize how hard it is to follow such documents, and see exactly what they mean. At the meetings of the Assembly, and the Fourth Committee, arrangements were made for the appointment of a Committee of five members to meet in Geneva in May, when all the figures for the past year would be finalized, and the) estimates for the coming year prepared. That Committee will have one financial expert supplied by one of the Governments which is a member of the League. He will ga to Geneva in advance of the other four members, and all the accounts for the past year, and the’ estimates for the coming year, will be submitted to him in order that the Committee may have the benefit of his views. All the papers will be forwarded to every Government of a nation which is a member of the League in ample time for their representatives to have considered them with their own financial advisers before they leave for the final meeting of the Assembly at Geneva in September. I think this will go a long way to assist in keeping proper financial control over the operations of the League.
From a; practical point of view, we now come to that most burning question - the allocation of the expenses. While we had a good many fights on various questions, the fight on the question of expenses was by far the most intense, hardest fought, and most protracted. I do not know whether honorable members are familiar with the position, but under the Cove- nant the expenses of the League are shared on the basis of the Postal Union. The expenses of the Postal Union, however, are practically nothing. All countries insist on being first class nations in relation to the Postal Union, because it costs nothing to claim the privilege. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to the expenses of the League of Nations, this enthusiasm to be a first class country gets rather chilled. Up to date Australia has paid towards the expenses of the League exactly the same amount as Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and the other great countries of the world. That obviously could not go on, because it was so unjust. At the last Assembly this question was raised, but it was found impracticable to do anything, and it was referred to a Committee to arrive at a better basis for the allocation of expenses. That Committee consisted of five members, who met at Brussels and they made a report which, I think, was satisfactory to very few. That was not the fault of the Committee, because they had not the necessary information on which to arrive at a decision. It will be realized that it is difficult to collect all the information about the position of fifty countries scattered from one end of the world to the other, and the Committee had only three weeks in which to do the work. However, they acted, and their suggestion was a temporary scheme to last during the present year and until the Covenant itself was altered, a final and permanent scheme to come into operation at the end of 1922. I shall deal only with the position of Australia, which under the Postal Union arrangement pays about 4.9 per cent, of the expenses; while under the temporary scheme the proportion is 2.5, and under the final scheme about 1.53 per cent. The temporary scheme had very few friends, and it had to be fought very hard. It was very noticeable .that the few friends the temporary scheme had were the six great nations, which were a little better off under it than under the final arrangement. After a considerable fight, we secured an ar- ‘rangement on a temporary, basis; and thus our proportion is 1.53. The Committee is continuing its operations, and is to prepare a scheme for a final allocation on the basis of capacity to pay, the determining factors of capacity being revenue and population. There is a pro*vision in regard to population to the- effect that in the case of a country with a vast native population, such as India, it is not to be regarded as having a population exceeding 5 per cent, of the total population of the States Members of the League. Eventually that agreement was arrived at, and there was only one other matter to be considered. Last year Senator Millen pointed out the hideous injustice of Australia being placed on the same basis as the Great Powers. An arrangement was made that when the final allocation was arrived at any amount that a nation might have overpaid should be returned, and any amount that any nation had underpaid should be made up. There were two difficulties in the way of this arrangement. The first one was that the previous Assembly did not bind the next one any more than this Parliament binds its successor; the other was that it is almost hopeless, in countries where the expenses of the League have to be voted by Parliament, to induce a Parliament to pay up for back years just at the moment when its allocation of expenses is being increased. We thus found ourselves in great difficulty. I may say that only now, for the first time, have I admitted that any difficulties existed, because there was an agreement made with Australia by which she should pay, on condition that she got a refund. Unfortunately, I could not establish the fact that this was a binding agreement, and the best I could do was to get the French representative to say that, in any case, there was a “ gentleman’s agreement.” When we got so far, we managed to come to a compromise. I do not suggest that the compromise was a valuable one; but it was the best I could get. It was that as soon as the financial basis is established - which we hope may be next year - the position of all the countries is to be weighed to find out what has been paid by each. Any’ amount in excess that a country may have paid, that country is entitled to have refunded out of any surpluses . that are shown year- by year; which means that if there is any money to be refunded it will be paid partly out of our own money, because, obviously, we shall have contributed to the amount which forms a surplus. With regard to nations that have underpaid, it was impossible to get any recommendation that they should be made to pay in respect of the past-. The pious hope that we might deduct it from a surplus was all we had. I am sorry I could not make a better arrangement; frankly, I do not think much of the one I did make. In the Committee the fight was conducted by Sir Edgar Walton, of South Africa, and myself. We had no supporters at the beginning, and we eventually insisted on the question going to a vote, and were defeated, I think, by 31 to 5. It was only by the most industrious work and by urging that in view of the “ gentleman’s agreement,” the whole honour of the League of Nations was at stake, that we got the matter reconsidered. However, the best we could get was the arrangement I have mentioned.
The agreement, under which Australia pays 1.53 per cent, of the expenses means that we are getting off very lightly indeed. I do not hold out any real hope that that proportion can be maintained, and I ask honorable members to be just to any future Australian delegate who may have to submit to an increase. At the moment we have an arrangement under which, at all events, we certainly do not pay any more than we ought.
As to the expenses of the League generally, those who are interested can easily get the facts, of which I can only call attention to two or three. As submitted, the estimates for 1922 contemplated an increase of 2,518,846 gold francs over the estimates of 21,250,000 gold francs for 1921 - an increase of ll? per cent. The actual position is that for the year 1922 the estimate was 23,768,846 gold francs. I dare say that honorable members think that they scrutinize pretty closely the Estimates in this Parliament, but the Estimates of the League are looked at more closely than any here. The result of the discussion was that the original estimate has been reduced to 20,758,945 gold francs. The reduction was brought about in connexion with the economic and financial estimates, which were reduced from 2,310,000 gold francs to 1,574,000 gold francs, owing to the abandonment of the immediate establishment of a permanent organization. The capital expenditure estimates were reduced from 1,572,800 gold francs to 1,486,910 gold francs; the working capital fund estimates from 500,000 gold francs to nil; and the International Labour Bureau estimates were reduced from 8,245,946 gold francs to 5,135,618 gold francs. The reduction in the case of the last item was brought about by employing a very large surplus of 1,364,000 gold francs from last year. It was desired to put this surplus into reserve funds, but we finalized the reserve fund at 5,000,000 gold francs as enough to go into working capital, and determined that any further moneys must go to the reduction of the current expenses to each of the members. The accounts were dealt with very carefully, and a new basis of presenting them was agreed upon. I need not go into that matter now. I visited the premises of the (Labour. Bureau, and I became a close personal friend of M. Albert Thomas, who exercised a dominating influence, and used to come to the meetings of the Fourth Committee and make impassioned appeals to us on every subject. I do not think that it is quite my province to deal with the matter of the International Bureau; the only points we touched on directly were financial. A Conference is now being held at Geneva attended by an Australian delegate, and that matter is more for him to deal with than myself.
I shall pass over very quickly other matters dealt with, including the traffic in opium, in regard to which a very useful conclusion was come to, and the deportation of women and children in Turkey, for whom much has been done in the way of rescue and restoration to their own country. This latter, however, is rather a large question on which honorable members can obtain the facts for themselves. The traffic in women and children was a subject in the discussion of which Australia’s representatives took a considerable part. The position was that the first Assembly last year had dealt with this matter and asked for a questionnaire to be sent out to all the Governments signatory to the International Conventions of 1904 and 1910.
That was done, a reply was received, and a Convention was held in Geneva in June of the present year. Representatives of thirty-four countries, attended. They went into the whole question, and finally drew up an Act embodying all their recommendations. That was submitted by the Council to the Assembly, and ‘after consideration in committee, was debated at some length. In the end the proposals of the June Convention were carried, and all the countries that were represented, with the exception of five, signed the Convention. I signed on behalf of Australia, after cabling to the Commonwealth Government for instructions. This matter of the treatment of women and children was one in which a great deal of interest was taken by all the nations represented at Geneva, and I assure the House that a great work is being done and a substantial advance is being made. Above all things, steps are being taken to prevent a revival in this trade which, the indications showed, was likely to happen after the termination of the war. Communications and transit were the subject-matter of a Convention held at Barcelona this year, and anybody who is interested in this question, and believes that the economic salvation of the world depends upon greater facilities being provided for communications and transport, should study the documents bearing upon this matter.
The organization of international statistics was considered, but it was determined that it was unnecessary to do anything in this direction, as there were already three Bureaux in existence, at Rome, Brussels, and Berne, and action by the League would mean duplication of work already being done without yielding any great result.
The typhus campaign in Poland and on the borders of Russia was fully discussed, and I frankly say that the impression left on my mind was that the countries directly concerned were not showing nearly enough initiative and were not prepared to play their own part in assisting the sufferers. When I was approached upon £he matter, I said that I was certain that the Australian Government would do anything within its power so soon as it saw that some serious effort to provide relief was being made by the countries directly concerned. When I tell honorable members that the proposal was to raise £2,000,000 for this purpose, and that subscription; to date total £156,000, including £50,000 from the British Government and £46,000 from the Canadian Government, the latter contribution being explained by the fact Chat the financial director of the campaign is a Canadian, and visited Canada at the time the appeal was opened, they will, I think, agree that Australia cannot be expected at present to do anything in the matter. Other subjects dealt with were the international co-ordination of intellectual work, the protection of .minorities, relief work in Russia, the dispute between Bolivia and Chili, the status of Eastern Galicia the A and B mandates, and certain other matters which are set out in detail in the long report I have prepared.
– Was the admission of Germany and other ex-enemy States discussed.
– Austria “and Bulgaria were admitted to the League last year, and at one stage a rumour was current that the admission of Germany was about to be considered. But no application was made by Germany, and the matter did not come up for consideration. Both Austria and Bulgaria are taking an active part in the affairs of the League, and no distinction is made between the allied Powers and those that were hostile or friendly to them during the late war.
Before concluding I should say a few words in regard to the present position of tho League and the prospect of its continuing a career of usefulness. There are a great number of sceptics in this world; there are many people who say, through ignorance, that the League of Nations is no good, and will do nothing. There are other people who, throughout life, suffer from a dread of appearing to take an idealistic view of anything, instead of the practical view of a hardheaded, common-sense person, and those people have not the courage to say what they really think. But any man who gives careful consideration to the whole question, and has regard to what the League has already done, can come to no other conclusion than that it has justified its existence up to date, and it is beyond the power of man to say what a factor for good it may $>rove in the future history of the world. To substantiate my statement that the League has already done some good, I commend to the notice of the House some of its achievements.
During the past year the League has settled the dispute regarding the Aaland Islands, and thus prevented war between Finland’ and Sweden. If the League of Nations -had not been in existence there would have been no authority to which this question could have been referred. To-day the League is administering two important territories, which -involve the most difficult diplomatic questions. I refer to the Saar Valley and the free city of Danzig. Without the League of Nations, what would the Supreme Council have done with the Saar Valley? Who could have administered it? The Supreme Council, would’ have been in a terrible difficulty. The free city of Danzig is closely bound up with Poland’s interests in getting an outlet to the sea. If the administration of that territory had been intrusted to any authority but the League of Nations, trouble would have arisen in a moment. If the League had done nothing else, the administration of these two territories is a valuable and continuing work, and Heaven alone knows what other territories it may be necessary to ask the League to administer in the future. At present the League is handling a dispute between Poland and Lithuania. It bias not settled the dispute, but for nearly two years i’t has prevented war, and there is every prospect that a settlement will be reached. At the last meeting of the Assembly representatives of Poland and Lithuania were present. A basis of agreement has been prepared by M. Hymans, a Belgian, who was deputed by the Council to go into the question and suggest a method of settlement. Both parties came before the League of Nations and stated their views, and’ without exception the -members of the Assembly who spoke on the subject - and they were the men who carried most weight, including Mr. Balfour for Great Britain; and M. Bourgeois for France - told the disputants that they had to settle their trouble, that they had behaved very badly, and that if they hoped to get help from anybody to continue the dispute over the Vilna territory, they would be disappointed. Not having actually settled the dispute, the duty devolved upon the Council and Assembly to publish to the world the facts as they have ascertained them, so that everybody may know the rights and wrongs of the case. Prom our knowledge of past history, we may readily believe that many countries would have hesitated to do what they did, if the actual facts had been published to the whole world and everybody knew tho part they were playing. I believe that publication has had a considerable influence on both Poland and Lithuania, and the efforts of the League, besides preventing war for the last two years, will probably bring about a settlement of the dispute. Another great achievement, and probably the greatest vindication to date of the League of Nations, was the handing over to it by the Allied Powers of the Upper Silesian question. Over this matter two of the greatest nations of the world1 had developed very strained relations, and if the League of Nations had not bean in existence how could the impasse have been overcome? To whom could the dispute have been referred for settlement in a way that would have allowed both parties to retire with dignity and honour ? There was no authority, and there could be no authority to decide between them. To-day the League of Nations is handling the dispute between Albania, Greece, and the Serb-Croat-Slovene States. This is not in itself a serious quarrel the boundaries between the countries have not been settled, and, consequently, a few men go across from Serbia and attack people in Albania, and in retaliation Albanian bandits raid Serbia. The dispute, though small in itself, is fraught with danger, inasmuch as it is one of those things which, happening in the Balkans before the war, as likely as not led to the European conflagration. To-day every body knows the facts of this dispute, and it has been threshed out by the representatives of the three countries concerned stating their points of view before the Assembly. They were told plainly what their people should do; they have returned to their homes, and the’ League of Nations has, at the request of the Assembly, and with the concurrence of the disputants, sent a - commission of three independent persons to keep the peoples quiescent for the time being, and as soon as the boundaries have been adjusted by ihe Council of Ambassadors, to whom the matter has been referred, the three contending parties will be collected within their own boundaries, and we shall pro- 3f /. Bruce. bably have no more trouble. But anybody who remembers what took place in the Balkans before the war will realize what a meance this small dispute would have been if there had been no League of Nations, before whose Assembly it could be threshed out, and given such publicity that the whole world might know what was happening. Apart from the achievements I have mentioned, I should tell the House, what I think it does not know, that the whole of the prisoners of war in Russia were repatriated through the League of Nations. The transport and all other arrangements for bringing 350,000 men out of Russia were organized by the League. That, I think, is a matter for considerable congratulation. Certainly, if the League had not undertaken the task it would1 have taken years to repatriate those unfortunate men.
– Did the League repatriate the Russian prisoners, too?
– They have been repatriated. I have detained honorable members for a long time, but I felt that it was my duty to make a statement to the House, and, certainly, to submit a report. I have stated as well as I am. able to do what took place at the Assembly, and I have expressed to honorable members the views I have formed in regard to the League of Nations. I am absolutely certain that the League has done a great deal of good up to date. I am hopeful that it will do a great deal in the future, but even if I believed neither of .those things, I ‘ would still say that we must not abolish the League of Nations. If we destroy it there is nothing in the world to take its place, and the position then will be very much worse than it is now, inasmuch as we shall have attempted and failed, and that failure will discourage others from this great humanitarian effort, which, it seems to me, there is a great prospect ofthe present generation carrying to success.
– What are the prospects of bringing Russia and Germany within the League of Nations? “ Mr. BRUCE. - I should say there are immediate prospects of bringing Germany within the League, but I know nothing of the prospects of bringing Russia into it. I lay on the table the report I have prepared, with a’ll the attendant documents, and as the summary I have also prepared may serve as an index to them, I think it would be of advantage to have it printed. Accordingly I move -
That the paper be printed.
.- I am sure I am expressing Ohe feelings of the House when I say that Australia is grateful to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) for the very fine manner in which (he represented! Australia at the Assembly of the League of Nations, and that honorable members are indebted to the honorable member for the speech he has delivered this afternoon setting out the high ideals of the League of Nations and demonstrating how they ave within the realm of international politics. I feel sure that honorable members would like . to place on record their appreciation of the services the honorable member has rendered to his country and the report he has submitted to them; and, in order that this may be done, I suggest thatthe debate should be adjourned until the paper is printed, and the summary to which the honorable member has referred is in the hands of honorable members. It is a matter which should have the greatest publicity in order to create throughout Australia that earnest spirit without which the League of Nations cannot become effective. I ask leave to continue my speech at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Steamer “ Maggie “ : Dismissal of Mr. Trower
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, uponnotice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the Library all papers in connexion with the employment and dismissal of Mr. H. M. Trower?
– If the honorable member can make it convenient to call at the Department, I shall be pleased to afford him facilities for perusing the papers there.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Trayning, Western Australia, for postal purposes.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at Ashfield,. Auburn, and Kempsey.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 16th November, vide page 12861) :
Proposed vote, £1,134,251.
– Last night, when the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Charlton) for the reduction of this vote by £500,000 was defeated, the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) notified his intention of moving an amendment to reduce the vote by £400,000. I have had a statement prepared which will give honorable members some idea of the effect of reducing a total vote of £1,134,251 by a sum of £400,000 upon some of the preparations we are endeavouring to make for the defence of Australia. First of all I shall mention the actual commitments from which we cannot escape.
In Division 7 these commitments amount to £275,233. In item 1, “ Warlike Stores, &c, £17,460,” an amount of £8,000 is an actual commitment. In regard to item 2, “ Field Artillery and Engineers, £25,743,” I have already informed the Committee that £12,845 represents liabilities on London orders and that the balance of £12,898 represented the cost of equipping mobile workshops and minor items, but inquiries in the Department show that this balance is also a commitment from which we cannot escape. Portion of these mobile workshops have been erected, and it is useless to have a part of the workshop unless we complete the whole, on the principle that an anvil is not of much use without a hammer. Therefore the whole item of £25,743 is an actual commitment. Item 3, “ Armament and Stores for fixed defences, £5,532,” is a liability on London orders. In item 4, “Arm Racks, &c, £450,” there is an amount of £100 to which the Department is committed. Item 5, “ Appliances, tools and gauges for Inspection Branch, &c, £530,” is for liabilities on London orders. In item 6, “Reserve of rifles, £281,000,” there is an amount of £160,000 which is an actual commitment for payments to be made to the Lithgow Small Arms Factory for rifles. The total amount the Committee is asked to vote is £281,000 for 17,000 rifles and cases for holding rifles. Item 7 represents a payment of £77,328 to the credit of the Small Arms Ammunition Trust Fund. This amount must be paid. The Department is absolutely committed to it. It is chiefly for the payment of stores and material taken over with the Small Arms Ammunition Factory at Footscray. The total commitments under the heading of Division 7 amount to £275,233 out of a total amount of £550,990 on the Estimates.
In Division 8, item 3 is an amount of £196,839 for munitions supply, machinery and plant, and of this item £40,000 is required for an outstanding liability on the shipment of machinery from London, while £20,000 represents liabilities to contractors carried forward from the 30th June last. In item 5, “ Small Arms Factory Reserve Stores, £20,000,” an amount of £15,400 represents liabilities carried forward from the 30th June last. In item. 6, “ Cordite Factory, Reserve Stores, £40,000,” an amount of £16,000 is also for liabilities carried forward from the 30th June last.
– What does the Minister mean by ‘ ‘ liabilities carried forward from the 30th June last “ ?
– They represent expenditure upon reserves to which the Department was definitely pledged before the 30th June last.
– They are liabilities for contracts entered into before the 30th June last.
– Item 8- “ Small Arms Ammunition Factory, to recoup advances made to the Trust Fund “ - a sum of £100,000 is a definite commitment, just as is the amount of £77,328 to be paid to the credit of the Small Arms Ammunition Trust Fund, to which I have just referred. All the factories in connexion with the Defence Department are worked under the system of trust accounts. This particular Trust Fund was established many years ago, and advances are made from that Trust Fund for the purchase of stocks. The sum of £73,000 was advanced for brass and nickel, to give an example.
– If you did not pay back that advance it would not matter, providing that you stopped manufacturing. .
– The total commitments under Division 8 amount to £191,400. Under Division 10, subdivision 1, the commitments are £15,792, practically the whole of the subdivision being a re-vote, and under subdivision 2, £12,535. The details of the re-votes are shown against the items. The amounts proposed for new services total £32,778. The total sum set down in the Estimates is £1,134,251; and the total commitments, if the operation of the Small Arms Factory and the Small Arms Ammunition Factory are discontinued at once, £494,960, leaving £639,291 in respect of which there are no commitments; but if the operation of those Factories be continued, the commitments for the year will amount to £765,960, and the amount for which there are no commitments will be only £368,291. Yet some honorable members wish to reduce the Estimates -by £400,000. When I was at school, I was taught that you cannot take the greater from the lesser sum.
– Has any one suggested the discontinuance of the operations of the Factories you have mentioned?
– I shall deal with that in a moment. If it is determined to continue to run those Factories, we shall have only £368,291 to cover new works, the supply of munitions, and any reductions that may be decided upon. Therefore, I hold that the proposition to reduce the vote by £400,000 is ridiculous. I ask honorable members to be fair to me. I am not the Minister for Defence, but am merely acting for Sena- is tor Pearce, who is in America. Were I Minister, I would probably take a different stand, and tell my opponents to go ahead and do their worst. Whatever reduction may be made, I shall not willingly submit to a reduction in the vote for big guns and ammunition ; because an army is absolutely useless if it has only small arms and small arms ammunition. An army is helpless without artillery.
– Do you mean siege guns?
– No ; I mean big guns. We must have howitzers and sixty-pounders.
– Surely these are obtainable in England in any quantity!
– The honorable member has been very persistent with that suggestion, though, of course, it is a fair one; but I think that I can satisfy him on the point.
– What is the heaviest calibre of the guns in the mobilization stores ?
– A 4.2 howitzer. Other than that we have only eighteen-pounders, except, of course, at, the forts manned by the Garrison Artillery.
– What is the calibre of the guns you need?
– We want sixty-pounders and some 4.9 howitzers.
– Would you be prepared to reduce your Estimates by the sum of £300,000 odd, for which you say there are no commitments?
– I shall not make any definite statement now in regard to reductions. Let me, in this connexion, quote a passage from a speech made by Senator Pearce before he left for America -
An Army, no matter how well organized, staffed, and trained, will be powerless, nay, even worse, is liable to be sacrificed, if it is not provided adequately with equipment and munitions. The recent war has shown very clearly the tendency to save man power by the use of mechanical contrivance. Success in war is not to tho big battalions, and everything that conserves man power is vital to success. We have coming to us as the equipment of the Australian Imperial Force for which we paid, considerable quantities qf equipment and less considerable quantities of guns and ammunition. In the interests alike of the Army and the nation, and despite the cost, it has been deemed necessary to make certain provision for the augmentation of our artillery and ammunition. We have not hitherto in this country included heavy artillery as a requirement. The recent war “has shown us clearly that the neglect of it may easily be disastrous. Unfortunately^ .such munitions are costly, and the Government cannot nt once see its way financially to provide all that security demands. A beginning is being made, however, and we ore in communication with the Home Government to see if more adequate quantities are obtainable upon terms compatible with the present financial situation.
Parliament affirmed the expediency of establishing an arsenal, and -we must hesitate before disregarding its decision. To continue my quotation - The long continuance of the war has seriously hampered the development of all that was proposed. It is now intended earnestly to prosecute,our plans. An Arsenal will be established which it is hoped will gradually be able to supply our peace requirements. It will be established more in the form of a munitions supply branch, aiming rather at insuring that Australian trade shall be able to supply our war needs than that Government-owned factories shall be designed on the scale necessary for the purpose.
– The idea of establishing an arsenal was abandoned, and you were going to start a laboratory.
– That would have been part of a munitions supply scheme. Let me inform honorable members of the cost of providing artillery for five divisions of infantry. The new scheme contemplates five divisions of infantry, composed chiefly of citizen soldiers, and two divisions of light horse. To provide ammunition for 252 quickfiring 18-pounder guns and 78 quickfiring 4.5 howitzer guns, 1,000 and 800 rounds per gun respectively, would cost £1,200,000. Yet it is said that the relatively small amount that we have set down on the Estimates is an extravagant one. To provide 54 quick-firing 18- pounder guns, and 12 quick-firing 4.5 howitzers with complete brigade and column equipment, 1,000 and 800 rounds per gun . respectively, would cost £481,000. The guns, howitzers, and equipment are calculated at one half rates, and the ammunition at full rates. The complete equipment of signal units would cost £30,000, and that of sixty Vickers machine guns £9,000, or a total of £1,725,000 for divisional units.
– You have not given us the cost of the artillery itself. The total sum would be very interesting.
– These figures relate to the scheme recommended by the Military Board and the Conference of Senior Officers, all of whom were not brass hats, three being permanent, and three being citizen force officers. The latter were Generals Monash, Hobbs and McCay, and the former, Generals White, Legge and Chauvel. These six are our senior officers, and it is to them, or to men of their calibre, to whom we must go for advice on matters of this kind. If members say, “They know nothing about these things,” I ask to whom then shall we go for advice. It would be necessary to provide the following guns and howitzers - 90 Q.F. 18-pounder guns; 30 Q.F. 4.5-inch howitzers. 42 B.L. 60-pounder guns; 126 B.L. (Pinch howitzers, with complete equipments and ammunition to complete the above guns and howitzers, £1,932,054.
Those are divisional units. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) asked for particulars concerning other than divisional units. They are as follow : -
To provide 306-inch medium trench mortars, with complete equipment and ammunition for 90 medium trench mortars up to authorized reserve, at full cost, £206,500.
To provide instructional and drill stores for above armaments, £2,500.
The total for these munitions, which the conference of senior military officers has stated to be essential, and which the Military Board has recommended as urgently required, although recognising that it is beyond the financial resources of Australia to meet at once, involves £3,310,000. Nevertheless, this Committee, in dealing with Estimates totalling. £1,134,000, asks the Government to cut out a sum of £400,000. It would be absolutely absurd to attempt it. I desire to point out,to the honorable member tor Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) that the Government made earnest endeavours to procure these big guns and their ammunition supplies from the Imperial authorities. I shall quote first a communication from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to the Prime Minister, in England, as follows : -
With reference to our conversation prior to your departure for London as to the artillery and other equipment necessary to complete our requirements, and your intention to communicate with the War Office to ascertain whether any, or all, of such requirements can be obtained from surplus Imperial stocks, either at reduced rate or under an arrangement for extended terms of payment, I now forward herewith a list compiled by the Military Board. I would suggest, if you are able to obtain an offer from the War Office in regard to this matter, that you cable us if urgent action should be necessary.
Subsequently the Minister for Defence despatched the following cablegram to the Prime Minister: -
Desire invite attention my letter June 21 relative additional artillery and other equipment necessary to complete our requirements. Would appreciate earliest advice result your negotiations.
To that message the Prime Minister replied : -
After conference with Imperial Defence Committee, body appointed act advisory capacity to Admiralty and War Office, re equipment, asset out in your memorandum to me, covering gun, ammunition, uniforms, signals, wireless telegraph, position now War Office want me to state definitely what it is you have not yet got. I find Beavis, whom you appointed, is on recreation leave, and nobody else knows what he has done, if anything, and if I am to get you what you want I must know quite definitely what it is. Will you give me schedule form, class of guns, &c, you now want. Very urgent.
These communications reveal that a strong effort was made on the part of the Commonwealth authorities to secure these requirements, either as a gift or as cheaply as possible, from the Imperial Government. [Extension of time granted.] I shall now quote the message which was sent in response to the request of the Prime Minister to be given precise particulars of our actual requirements: -
Your cable 15th August re equipment, we have no CO-pounder guns, 6-inch howitzers or anti-aircraft guns. No ammunition for any of these and very limited supply of ammunition for lS-pounder and 4.5-inch howitzers. List supplied to you sets out what we yet need. Estimated prices on list require checking by War Office. Guns and ammunition first in order of importance. Recent communications with High Commissioner’s Office intended
Only to authorize preliminary negotiations and inspection certain 60-pounder guns and equipment. These 00-pounder guns are included in list with you, and no deduction that list can be made by reason of negotiations mentioned. ‘
– This was after the Estimates had been framed.
– The correspondence deals with activities of recent date. The Prime Minister has authorized me to make these statements. He informed me that he was prepared to
Ret out exactly what he did in the course of his endeavours to procure munitions and supplies generally in England. The Prime Minister has assured me that he was unable to make any satisfactory arrangements, and he is willing at thi9 moment to give the full particulars to honorable members.
– Were not any at- tempts made before this year to secure these guns?
– I have before me another bulky file dealing with the same subject-matter. I have not had an opportunity, however, to go through that correspondence. I have acquainted honorable members with the most, recent phases of thu negotiations.
– In making these efforts to purchase secondhand guns ths Government were merely setting out to buy a pig in a poke. What is the good of buying ordnance which has had all the life shot out of it?
– I do not know what arguments or circumstances prevented the Prime Minister from securing the details of armaments and munitions sought by the Commonwealth Government, but the right honorable gentleman is ready to tell honorable members.
– I am surprised to learn of these suggestions to purchase secondhand guns, the life of which would be an unknown quantity.
– Some) honorable members would have the Government buy nothing but new material. Others prefer that we should expend less, and buy secondhand guns. Still other honorable members want us to buy no guns at all. I do not know at this moment what the Prime Minister may agree to cut out of these Estimates; but, so far as I am personally concerned, acting for the time being as Minister for Defence, I refuse to allow our big guns and munitions to be cut out of this essential list of supplies. What we can best do without at the present time is the manufacture of small arms and smallarms ammunition.
– Is that a threat?
– The honorable member may take it as he pleases. We are now nearing the reserve of rifle requirements. The cost of the Australian weapon is high, but that for the moment may be left out of the question. I made an error when I furnished honorable members the other evening with the number of rifles on hand in Australia to-day. The correct total of these weapons is 280,000. We can very well do without any more rifles this year. I have hitherto refrained from saying so, because the Government do not wish to interfere with that splendid establishment, the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. We certainly do not want to precipitate more unemployment. Numbers of men have been put off at the factory, but there are still 600 or more actively engaged. It would be a very serious thing to close down the Lithgow Small Arms Works, but the only way in which the Government can .accomplish the reduction of this vote by £400,000 is to close down activities at Lithgow; and, as far as possible, to close the Maribyrnong and Footscray Works, and the Acetate of Lime Factory.
– Close the lot down. The money can be spent to better purpose.
– If the Committee thinks that these factories can be shut, and should be shut, it ought not to hesitate to authorize the Government to do so.
– Can the Government employ the men elsewhere?
– That is another and a very serious matter, which would require deep consideration. But, so long as I remain Acting Minister for Defence, I shall refuse to do anything which I think may menace the safety of this country. We can cut down expenses connected with the manufacture of rifles and the manufacture of small arms ammunition at the present time without endangering the safety of Australia.
– And close the Woollen Mills?
– I would not say that. I ask the Committee to hesitate before voting for such a drastic reduction as is now proposed. The Committee should be satisfied to reduce the proposed vote by far less than £400,000. I am surprised that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and others like him should be gulled into allying themselves with honorable members of the Labour party to bring disaster upon Australia. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister, when speaking recently of a suggested alliance between the Country party and the Labour party, used the solemn words, “ I forbid the banns.” Imagine for a moment such a political combination as that of Earle Page, Considine, Blakeley, and Company. Is it not a grotesque proposition ? I shall be interested to note how the constituents of honorable members opposite record their votes at the next general election. It may not be very long before they have an opportunity to do so, and I for one shall welcome it. I have no fear as to what will be the verdict of North Sydney.
Several honorable members interject- ing.
– It is manifestly unfair to the Committee as well as to the Assistant Minister for Defence himself that when the honorable gentleman is called upon to give information he should be prevented from doing so by constant interruptions. I ask honorable members to restrain themselves and to avail tihemselves of the opportunities that will offer at the proper time to reply to the Minister’s
– I can hardly believe that any honorable member on this side will ally himself with the forces to which I have just referred; but I am led to understand that some of them contemplate voting for this amendment. There are some honorable members of the Opposition who would not vote a farthing for the defence of Australia, because they do not care whether Australia is defended or not. They would not° vote to protect Australia because it is bound up with the rest of the Empire by ties of kinship and patriotism.
– The honorable gentleman should have a little flag here.
– The only flag which the honorable member favours is of the colour of the flower in his buttonhole. He would not vote a sixpence for the defence of Australia. Would the honorable member do so?
– Give notice.
– The reason why he would not vote anything for the defence of the Commonwealth is that it is bound up with the rest of the Empire, and there burns in his breast a fire of implacable and unquenchable hatred for the Empire to which he ascribes, because of the intensity of his bitter intolerance, the wrongs-
– Order !
– The wrongs which are said to have happened more than a century ago to the people of Ireland.
.- I move -
That the vote be reduced by £400,000.
Having listened to the peroration of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) and the personalities that have obtained in this debate, I feel justified in making one or two personal references to my own position in connexion with this matter. In the first place, let me say that I have been abroad with the Australian Expeditionary Forces, and that every single relative of mine enlisted for active service. I belong to a partnership, of four doctors the whole of whose members volunteered for active service abroad, and had a record almost without parallel in theBritish Empire. Thus, any imputation that I am allying myself, either now or in the future, with anybody who has a desire to disrupt the Empire, or to interfere in any way with its safety, bears on its face its own refutation.
– I said that I could not believe that the honorable member would ally himself with such a body.
– I am glad that before the Minister made his statement this afternoon we had an opportunity to hear the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) give a resume of his representation of Australia at the Second Assembly of the League of Nations, which met recently at Geneva. I should like to congratulate the honorable member on the very vivid and impressive way in which he has brought before us the actual happenings of the Assembly. Especially would I thank him, as I am sure, all Australia does, for his promptness in stepping into the breach and adequately and worthily representing the Commonwealth at that Conference. I have referred to the honorable member because of his allusions to the desire for open diplomacy on the part of the nations and the putting of all their cards on the table. It seems remarkable that when this should be the attitude of the nations it cannot be the attitude adopted by a Government in its dealings with the Parliament which it controls. We have now been discussing for four days the Military Works Estimates. On each succeeding day additional information has been grudgingly vouchsafed us as to what these Military Works Estimates really mean and as to their relationship to the safety of the Empire. If the Government which first of all prepared these Estimates is able now to cut them down to the extent of £250,000 without interfering with the defence of Australia, surely there must have been something wrong with their original preparation. When we examine the conduct of the Defence Department, what do we find? While the Assistant Minister for Defence has made a song as to this proposed vote being imperatively necessary for the security and preservation of Australia, the fact remains that although last year this Parliament, without question, voted these several sums for the very purposes for which we are now asked to pass them, the Government failed to expend them. Surely these works were then just as urgent as they are to-day. It seems to me that the position then was even more urgent, since at that time there was no Washington Conference discussing the question of disarmament and endeavouring to ascertain if it were not possible to call a Naval and Military holiday throughout the world. For two days we have discussed a motion upon which every honorable member has been anxious to obtain the fullest information. All who have spoken have not condemned, but certainly have asked, the Minister to supply information as to the actual meaning of these proposed votes. We have been seeking enlightenment to enable us to vote rightly. Our very presence here, the very badges that we wear, show that we have the preservation of Australia very close to our hearts. Honorable members, however, were allowed to proceed to a division on an amendment to reduce the Military Works Estimates by £500,000 without being supplied with information as to what would be the consequence of such a reduction. It is only now with an amendment before us providing for a reduction of £400,000 that the Minister comes down with a detailed statement as to what are really the commitments, from which there is no escape, that are covered by this proposed vote.
– Practically the whole of that information was given by the Assistant Minister for Defence in his original speech.
– It was not given until to-day. I defy any one to show me by a reference to Hansard that detailed information was given by the Minister in his original speech as to the actual commitments for last year, or in respect of the current financial year.
– Then the honorable member should read Hansard for himself. If he does, he will find the information.
– I listened most carefully to the Assistant Minister for Defence when he first discussed the Estimates. I asked him questions as to certain expenditure, and was given, whether intentionally or not, I cannot say, misleading answers. Information then supplied by him in answer to my inquiries has since been correctedby him in reply to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory).
– Nevertheless, practically the whole of the information was given in the Minister’s original speech, although not exactly in the form in which it was supplied to-day.
– If it was, if was put in such a way that no one could rightly interpret it. I should like to see a proof of the Hansard report of the speech made by the Assistant Minister for Defence. If it shows that I am wrong, I shall promptly withdraw my statement, but I repeat that the honorable gentleman made no statement showing that out of the proposed vote of £1,134,000 there waa a total of £494,960 in respect of which there were definite commitments.
– He did not add up the items for the honorable member, that is true.
– No. The Minister, on the ground that there is only this balance on which a reduction can be made, asks honorable members not to vote for my amendment. As to the Small Arms Factory, it is common knowledge that it costs practically twice as much to manufacture a rifle there that it does eleswhere, and under the circumstances surely we are justified in suggesting that, if the works are not closed down altogether, steps should be taken to there effect a saving towards the proposed reduction of £400,000.
– I do not feel inclined to give a silent vote on the question before us. I have listened carefully to almost all the arguments that have been advanced from either side throughout the whole of the discussion on these Defence Estimates, and I think that on this, as on every other, subject honorable members are inclined to accept the evidence of experts. I give first place to no man in this Chamber, or in Australia, in my desire to see war done away with, or in my hope that Australia may never have to take part in hostilities again. I think, however, that the vision of many honorable members is not broad enough from a Defence stand-point. We have an immense coast-line to defend, and for that we require more than a navy. During the last five months we have been discussing the Tariff and the future of industries in Australia, and a gteat diversity of opinion has been ex pressed, and honorable members, or at any rate the majority of honorable members, have expressed their desire to see Australia industrially prosperous. The Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), when asked for further information about his Estimates, stated definitely that the Government had entered into commitments, and that he was not justified in consenting to a reduction in the Estimates any further than intimated in the first place. I admit that no specific amount was mentioned, but the Minister made it clear that there were two alternatives - either to vote for a reduction by £250,000, or abolish the factories altogether - and that, in view of commitments that had been entered into, he could see his way to go so far but no further. That statement was made after he had heard the opinions of his experts, who, after all, are notbad experts from a military point of view, as was shown during the late war. There has been a great deal of talk about “ brass hats,” and so forth, and it seems bo me that people who indulge in such expressions know nothing whatever of the subject. Many of these so-called “ brass hats ‘ ‘ are working for all of us at wages that a shearer’s rouseabout would not accept.
– Do you know what the wages are - about £1,500 a year ?
– And I say that if some were paid £3,000 they would not be overpaid. It would not be good if our defence system were conducted by men who merely wished to perpetuate militarism but there are many at the head of affairs, to whom I have spoken both privately and officially, and who have no wish whatever to see such a spirit extended. I realize,” however, even after listening to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), that the League of Nations has not even yet laid the foundation of disarmament or of the limitation of armaments. Germany, America, and Russia are still outside the League, and the very nations that talk of disarmament are those which are keeping that movement back. As to America, I believe that, if thev could be asked, ninety-nine people out of every hundred would prefer an alliance with Great Britain to one with any other country. But America, as I say, is outside the League, which, in my opinion, can do nothing without the co-operation of the countries I have mentioned.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I do. Australia is part of the British Empire, as I hope she will always remain, and I contend that, under the circumstances, we must not abandon our defences.’ So long as we have universal training, the vote now under discussion is, in my opinion, necessary.
– Oh, dear !
– The honorable member may be entitled to think that it would be a good idea to do away with the system, but I remind him that universal training has beau favoured by every member of the Labour party since its inception. If universal training be continued, we must have drill halls, accoutrements, ammunition, and so forth, in order to carry it out. When the war broke out we experienced a great lack of men who understood how to train others, but that difficulty has now been got over; but it is no good having an army of 300,000 or 400,000 men unless we can supply them with the necessary arms and ammunition. If instead of manufacturing this material in Australia at exorbitant prices it can be imported from Great Britain at a considerable saving, the Minister might be able to see his way clear to economize in that way. If we withdrew the assistance to rifle clubs, and abolished universal training and the Defence Force generally, we should not require any rifles; and, in that event, I should be prepared to vote for the closing down of any works that are engaged in their manufacture. If these Estimates are reduced to the extent proposed, the Government must do the best they can with the money available by purchasing munitions from other parts of the British Empire.
– The moment the honorable member does that he will get his walking ticket. He cannot economize at the expense of the workers.
– I speak as a responsible representative of my constituents; but if I felt that the reduction of these Estimates would involve a weakening of Australia’s defences, and cause a greater menace to this continent, I would, regardless of what my constituents thought, oppose even the proposal of the Assistant Minister to reduce the Estimates by £250,000. I suggest that the Assistant
Minister might discuss the Estimates with his departmental experts, with a view to economizing as much as possible in respect of new buildings. There are some districts that have a great many buildings for defence purposes, and the sight of them leads some honorable members to believe that other portions of Australia are equally as well provided for. That is far from being the case. Recently very serious trouble occurred in the north-west of Western Australia, and but for the fact that the white citizens were possessed of sufficient private rifles, it might have developed into a calamity such as none of us desire to happen in Australia.
– It would not be bad if all the people had a rifle.
– A rifle without the knowledge of how to use it is not much good to any man. I ‘am opposed to any reduction beyond the £250,000 promised by the Minister, firstly, because the military experts WhO served Australia well during the war have said that the proposals contained in the Estimates arc necessary; and, secondly, because I know from personal observation that, outside the big cities, no big defensive measures have been taken. If we are to defend Australia against attack, we must train our men and have adequate supplies of munitions’, and that involves the expenditure of money. In some portions of Australia economy is a popular cry, but when the people are consulted - and they will be consulted at a later date by individual members when seeking re-election - they will agree that the proposals submitted by the Minister are fair. If any reduction is made in these Estimates, it should be applied to increasing the provision for the air service. They include two items for that service; but I believe that the Committee would act wisely if it were to accept the Minister’s promised reduction by £250,000 for this year; and next year, if investigation in the meantime justifies it, expend a greater amount on the air service. In the near future we shall have to rely almost wholly upon the air service to defend Australia against invasion.
– Some remarks were made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to which. I think a reply should be made. He is in the habit of making statements - in this chamber that are without foundation. I do not know whether he weighs his words before he speaks, or merely voices any thought that comes into his head. He stated in the most emphatic fashion that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) had told the Committee nothing about our. liabilities in respect of last year, and he repeated the statement, although I drew attention to the fact that practically the whole of the information had been already given to the Committee. He even defied me to quote a line from Hansard in support of my statement. An honorable member occupying a responsible position in the House should be sure of his facts before he makes such sweeping statements. In my opinion the Assistant Minister went to too much trouble to give detailed information to the Committee.
– That is very nice!
– What I mean is that, as a general rule, such information is given in a more condensed form. The Assistant Minister gave most detailed information to the Committee, and all that he failed to do was to add up the details.
– He gave a detailed list of what was proposed, hut he did not tell the Committee to what the Government are committed.
– He read a statement to the Committee, and it is reproduced in Hansard. I will quote portion of his statement -
Division No. 7. - Item No. 1. - Warlike stores, &c, £17,460. - Of the amount provided under this item, £7,580 is for liabilities to 30th June on London orders placed last financial year, and the balance, £0,880, is for the purchase of rifle grenades and minor items.
Item No. 2. Field artillery and engineers, &c. £25,423. - £12,845 of this sum is for liabilities up to 30th June on London orders placed last financial year, £12,000 is towards ….
Item No. 3. Armament and stores for fixed defences, £5,532. - £3,532 is for liabilities up to 30th June on London orders placed last financial year. . . .
And so he continued right through his statement, giving details, item by item. It is true that, in dealing with the factories, he did ‘not state the amount that had been actually expended this year, and is now necessarily a commitment, because he naturally supposed that every honorable member would understand that, as nearly five months of the financial year had expired, money must have been expended in due proportion to the amount provided for the complete year. The honorable member for Cowper is in the habit of lecturing the Government, and making statements which have not a scintilla of foundation in fact. The honorable member defied me to prove that the Assistant Minister had given this detailed information to the Committee. For all practical purposes, the only thing my honorable1 colleague failed to do was to add up the details. He assumed the honorable member to be capable of doing that for himself ; presumably he is. For all practical purposes, the whole of the information that was necessary to enable honorable members to understand the effect of their vote was given in detail to the Committee, and it is outrageous that the honorable member should, in order to justify his position - and he did it solely for that purpose - state that no information had been given: That is playing the game low down. The only thing the Assistant Minister omitted to do was to gather up the details which he had given and state them in concrete form. Once the information had been given, it was competent for any honorable member to get the details from Hansard. What is the position? The total amount for the Defence Department in these Estimates is £1,134,251. The total commitments to date are £494,960- The balance of the estimated expenditure, for which no commitments have been made, is £639,291, and if honorable members opposite had carried their amendment last night for a reduction of that amount by £500,000 it would have left only £139,291, actually less than the amount of £142,000 which the Government have placed on the Estimates for the heavy guns and ammunition our military experts declare to be the one vital thing in this portion of the Estimates. Had the amendment been carried, the Government could have done nothing else this morning than close down every ammunition factory in Australia.
– I thought you were about to say that they would have resigned.
– No. The Government have given a definite pledge that they will carry out the desires of the Committee to reduce expenditure so long as they can give effect to their policy.
– If the Committee comes to a conclusion that a reduction must be made which, in the opinion of the Government, will imperil the safety of Australia, will Ministers carry it out?
– I did not say that.
– The Assistant Minister for Defence said it.
– The Assistant Minister said very clearly that he believes a certain amount of this expenditure can be avoided within the year without imperilling the safety of Australia, but he declares that we must have these heavy guns and ammunition.
– We could have obtained these guns for nothing.
– No. Later on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) will tell the Committee the exact position in regard to these heavy guns and ammunition, but I can say now that we cannot get them for nothing.
– Could we have got them for nothing, also rifles?
– The honorable member is probably speaking on the assumption that at the end of the war so many guns were available. I presume that he does not suggest that we should bring out used guns. He is probably suggesting that in the huge stocks which necessarily had to be built up during the war there were new guns not issued ready for use. If they were in existence at the time of the Armistice we may be sure that the British Government has net destroyed them. Consequently they will be in existence to-day. If we could get them then we can get them now. But the Prime Minister will tell the Committee the position in regard to these guns.
The net amount, after meeting commitments, from which there is no escape, is £639,291, ‘ and the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has moved to reduce that amount by £400,000. leaving the sum of £239,291; and, if we take out of this the amount of £142,000 set out in the Estimates for heavy guns and ammunition, it leaves, roughly, £97,000. But it takes £271,000 to carry on the factories. It is very doubtful whether we can cease expenditure in other directions immediately.
– One would think so from the expenditure on the Colonial Ammunition Company’s factory. Probably £240,000 could easily have been saved there.
– I have not tie full particulars in regard to that matter, but from my general knowledge of what is going on I can give the Committee an outline of what that transaction really means. However, before doing so I wish, to finish the argument I was submitting. Out of the £239,291 balance which would be left if the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cowper were carried, the sum of £142,000 must be devoted to the purchase of heavy guns and ammunition, leaving, roughly, £97,000. It is very doubtful if we could cease expenditure in other directions immediately, but presuming that we could do so, the Acetate of Lime Factory, the Maribyrnong Cordite Factory, the Small Arms Ammunition Works, and the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, which can only be run for the remainder of the financial year at an expenditure of £271,000, must close down after Christmas.
– Also the Woollen Mills.
– They are on a rather different footing. They are making cloth and selling it to other Departments, which is quite a different matter to building up military stores. They are earning a constant revenue. The main thing honorable members must realize is that if we reduce these Estimates by £400,000, as suggested, all* the factories must close down after Christmas.
The honorable member for Cowper has said that, inasmuch as the Government did not spend all the money that Parliament voted last year, it could not have recognised the. urgency of the defence situation of Australia. He says that it ought to have spent the whole of the money voted. I do not know whether the honorable member has had any business experience or not, but I think he must know that Parliament did not pass the last Estimates until close on the end of the last calendar year. I presume that he will agree with me that until Parliament has approved of the Estimates the Government, except under very special circumstances, are not entitled to anticipate the approval of new expenditure, whatever they may do in regard to the ordinary current services which it is necessary to carry on. The constitutional procedure of responsible Ministers in regard to new expenditure is to await the passage of the Estimates through Parliamentbefore proceeding to spend any money. No honorable member would contend that that is not the correct attitude to take up. But it means, of course, that a Department must wait until the Estimates are through before it can proceed to call for tenders, get its orders out, and finalize its mind as to what it intends to do. And, ultimately, when orders are placed, it takes a little time before there can be deliveries of goods. It may be six months, eight months, nine months, or twelve months from the time an order is actually placed in London before many articles are put on board ship in London. Therefore it is quite natural that at the end of the year commitments are built up, those, for instance, about which the honorable member has been told. The honorable member suggests that the Government do not know what they are talking about when they ask Parliament for all this money, and that they ought to have spent it all last year; but if he has any knowledge of the circumstances he must appreciate the fact that it is unavoidable to have unspent moneys in any year in Tegard to items for which Parliament has made provision.
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has referred to the
Ammunition Factory. We had an arrangement with the Colonial Ammunition Company under which we purchased the whole of their output. It was a standing arrangement which existed for many years, and a Trust Fund was created so that as the goods came from the factory they were automatically paid for at a rate of payment which was definitely laid down on a certain basis. I cannot give honorable members the details, and in any case they have no bearing on the question. However, there came a time when the Company were unable to carry on operations - I need not enter into the reasons for this - and the Government had to determine whether they would enter into some arrangement whereby the factory could be continued and its output made available for Commonwealth requirements by the Commonwealth practically taking control of the management and conduct of it under a leasing agreement. They decided to do so, and have now become owners of the material in the factory. Instead of taking over the whole of the output of the plant and paying for it at certain defined rates, the Defence Department are now running the concern to all intents and purposes under a leasing agreement.
– Are the Department running the whole plant?
– I suppose the Minister is aware that the company were rolling copper sheets.
– The Department have given up the commercial rolling of metal. I understand that there were some contracts which had to be completed, but no new work is being undertaken in this direction, and at present there is no metal rolling done other than is required for the purposes of the Department. The Defence officers tell me that the net result of the change is that they are getting ammunition at a cost which is a little less than the price they were paying for it previously.
– They published the statement that the Lithgow Small Arms Factory was working at a profit.
– In this particular case, at all events, they know what they were previously paying for the ammunition, and they tell me - I have not seen the figures - that the net result of the operations at the factory under Commonwealth control is that they are getting the ammunition a little cheaper than before.
Sitting suspendedfrom 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- The speech of the Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) this afternoon places me in a very awkward position.
– In no worse position than vou occupied last night.
Mr.NICHOLLS- The circumstances then were entirely different from those under which we are now considering the Military vote. I have no apology to make for anything that has happened so far, but the Minister, being threatened with an amendment for the reduction of his vote, now holds a revolver at the heads of the men employed in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and says, “If the amendment is carried, the only course open to me will be to close the Factory immediately.” Whenever retrenchment takes place, it is the lower-paid men who are made to suffer, and the Government is deliberately setting itself to force members on this side to vote against the amendment by the threat that, if it is carried, between 600 and 700 men now employed at the Factory will be thrown out of work.
– It is not in order to say that the Minister has made a threat.
– Then what was it?
– A promise.
– I hope that the Minister will not take action until he has carefully considered all its consequences. There are scores of items in other Departments which might be reduced.
– But the amendment is for the reduction of the Military vote.
– It is not for the reduction of the vote for the maintenance of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow.
– It is for the reduction of the Military Works Estimates.
– We are not now discussing the general Estimates.
– We are discussing the Estimates for New Works, Buildings, &c. No new works or buildings are contemplated at Lithgow, and therefore the Minister would appear to have been out of order in stating that he would close the Small Arms Factory there if the amendment were carried, and you, Mr. Chairman, should have drawn his attention to the fact.
Mr.Greene. - The whole of the provision for the carrying on of the Factory at Lithgow is contained in the vote which it is proposed to reduce.
– However that may be, I am in this predicament: that in view of the Minister’s statement, I shall, if I vote for the amendment, vote for the throwing out of employment of a large number of men, and’ for doing that I should be greatly criticised. If to vote for the amendment will mean that the Factory will be closed, I shall certainly not vote for it. I cannot be a party to the throwing out of work of 600 or 700 men, which is what the Government say is intended if the amendment is carried.
– If the men are thrown out of employment, it will be because of the action taken by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page).
– I take no notice of the Country party, which, to my mind, is insignificant. Last night, when its members had the opportunity to vote for what seemed a sane amendment, they refrained from doing so.
– It is not in order to canvass the votes given by honorable members last night.
– My concern is not with what took place last night, but with what may ‘ happen in the future. Surely if the Government wishes to reduce expenditure, it can do so in other ways than the closing of the Small Arms Factory. That Factory has been in trouble from the very first, and, directly hostilities ceased, scores of men who had been employed there were retrenched. The Government said that they had not sufficient money to carry on the Factory as it was being carried on. Yet there was £16,000 that could have been spent last year, and would have provided a great deal of employment, which was not spent. The Minister has no desire to keep men at work. What he and his colleagues desire is to provide positions for highly-paid officials, and to keep the “ brass hats” polished. He has told the Committee that the supply of rifles on hand is practically sufficient for our immediate necessities. The party to which I belong has no wish to continue the manufacture of rifles if the Government will allow the Small Arms Factory to be used for the manufacture of more useful articles. We believe that the Factory could well be utilized to manufacture things that the community needs; but the Minister has said that the Government will not allow it to be so used, because it does not wish to interfere with private enterprise. The Government has hitherto stood for assistance to returned soldiers, and Ministers are pledged to do all in their power to help such men. Between “400 and 500 returned soldiers are employed in this Factory. Yet the Minister deliberately proposes to throw them out of work if the amendment is carried. Do not the promises that were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to our soldiers still hold good? The Factory could be used for the manufacture of other things than rifles. It must not he forgotten that the Government has built a number of houses at Lithgow, at an expenditure of some tens of thousand of pounds. What will become of these houses if the Factory is closed ? They cannot be removed elsewhere.
– The honorable member should address the question to the Leader of the Country party, who has moved the amendment.
– I regard the members of the Country party as not accountable for their actions. That party has never yet taken the initiative. It has always attempted to score off the bats of the Labour party. Our concern is as to the action th at the Government propose to take. I represent the electorate in which this Factory is situated.
-You will not represent it long, if you vote for the amendment.
– I have considered that; and you may be sure that I do not intend to commit political suicide. A close examination of the Estimates would show scores of items in which reductions could be made.
– And which would affect men in other electorates.
– The reductions of which I speak would not have the effect of throwing any one out of employment. There are, for instance, these items -
To be paid to the credit of Trust Fund Small Arms Ammunition Account for reserve of small arms ammunition, £77,328.
Cordite factory - reserve stores, £40,000.
Munitions supply - experimental fuse manufacture and filling, £6,270.
-It is the money voted under those headings that employs the men who are working in the Small Arms Ammunition Factory.
– That cannot be so, because this is proposed new expenditure. Money was not spent last year under those headings. If the items are not passed, no men will be thrown out of employment.
– If those particular items are cut out, the number of men thrown out of employment will be greater than the number that would be thrown out of employment at Lithgow.
– Does the Minister say that, if the amendment is carried, he will immediately order the Lithgow Factory to close ?
– That is what I expected of the honorable gentleman. Suppose that the Committee says, “ You must not close the Factory,” what position will he then take up? Never before was such, a threat made.
– We shall not be able to help ourselves. If the amendment is carried, weshall be forced to close the Factory.
– In fairness to the employees of that Factory, and quite irrespective of my own predilections, I shall have to consider the way in which I shall record my vote. I have not yet come to a definite decision.
– May I remind the honorable member that, although a lot of returned men were dismissed from the Small Arms Factory last year on the ground of want of funds, a sum of £16,000 on last year’s Estimates for the Factory was unexpended?
– That was pointed out to the Assistant Minister for Defence on a previous occasion, but he disregarded it. In the Small Arms Factory there are returned soldiers who have been employed there for ten and twelve years, and who have five or six children. The honorable gentleman cannot have much regard for their position, or he would not talk of closing down the industry. The closing of the Factory would be particularly serious to the men to whom I have referred. The Prime Minister has hitherto given very favorable consideration to the claims of returned soldiers, and perhaps even now, at the eleventh hour, I may successfully appealto him to come to the rescue of these men. He may be able to propound a scheme whereby the Factory can be kept going, and these returned soldiers continued in employment, so that they may provide their wives and families with food and clothing. It is a. most uncomfortable thing for a man with a wife and several children to be thrown suddenly on the streets, and compelled to put a swag on his back and set out in search of employment.
– I have not had an opportunity before to take part in this discussion, nor did I have the advantage of hearing the speech made by the Leader of the Country party (Dr.
Earle Page) in submitting his amendment. On the other hand, I did not hear the speech made by my honorable colleague the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). I, therefore, enter this discussion with an open mind.
What is it that we are asked to do, and who asks us to do it? We are asked to cut down this branch of the Military Estimates by £400,000. That is to say, this Committee is asked to vote for a reduction of more than one-third of the total sum for which provision is made. The items before the Committee are few in number, and the purpose for which the money is required is set out quite clearly, so that every honorable member may know to what use it will be put if the vote be agreed to. The Assistant Minister for Defence gave a clear explanation of the details of those items. In the face of that explanation, which I feel sure from what he has told me, ‘was very full, and ought to have been satisfactory, we find the Leader of the Country party again posturing in his favorite role of a fervent worshipper at the shrine of economy. Now, economy is a good thing, but during the interval that has elapsed since the honorable member moved his previous amendment for a reduction of the Estimates, it has been my good fortune to meet no less than three what I may describe as major deputations, the leading members of which were members of the honorable member’s party. The object of those deputations, to set it out in terms of money, was to obtain somewhere about £3,000,000 sterling. Shall I be accused of dulness of intellect if I confess that I am unable to explain the attitude of the honorable member and his party? The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), who has just sat down, said something about the Country party with which I quite agree. I could add to the observations many things that he did not say.
I am told that in the full flood of his eloquence the Assistant Minister for Defence was cut short, and was unable to do full justice to the occasion. I, too, am handicapped, although not so severely as he was; but I shall do what I can. The Leader of the Country party, in the recent encounter in which he entered the lists to couch a lance for economy, came off very badly. It was perfectly clear that, under cover of effecting economies, he proposed to ally himself with a party that is pledged to reckless extravagance. That much is known to every elector in this country. On this occasion, under cover of an attack on the Defence Estimates, the honorable member, who is now an anti-militarist - what he will be tomorrow night no one can say - looks naturally to those honorable members of the Opposition who, during the greater part of the war, were loud in their denunciation of both the cause of the Allies and the methods they took to achieve success. He again allies himself with them.
– As to that-
– He allies himself with the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), who has said that if he has to swim in blood it will be only the blood of his fellow citizens shed in the great class war; and another honorable member, who, when the war had been carried on for about eighteen months, said that we had gone far enough, and had not a good word for our soldiers. The Leader of the Country party comes here wearing the badge of a great and distinguished order - the badge of returned soldiers - and allies himself with a party whose one cry during the greater part of the war was that they were opposed to the war and all its works.
How does the honorable member come into this business-like assembly to effect his ostensible purpose of economy? Does he come here as a man who wishes to succeed in cutting down expenditure? He does not. If that were his position he would have accepted the promise made on behalf of the Government that we ourselves would reduce the Estimates by £500,000. In the face of that plain declaration, we take the full responsibility for the reduction itself, and for its allocation, avoiding the Scylla of extravagance and the Charybdis of unemployment, of which the honorable member for Macquarie spoke just now - the honorable member proposes to reduce by £400,000 the Works Estimates of one Department. When he makes that proposal, and my honorable colleague tells him that the inevitable effect of carrying it will be that we shall have to close down those factories which are responsible, as honorable members can see for themselves if they look at these Estimates, for a great deal of this expenditure, what is his attitude? Now that it has been pointed out that by cutting cut the amount allocated to those factories, we would nearly be able to do what the Leader of the Country party demands, honorable members are becoming a little alarmed. The honorable member for Macquarie says, “ There are hundreds of items. “Why select that relating to the Small Arms Factory ?” Will the honorable member join with me in going through the Estimates and show me where we can cut out £400,000 of the proposed expenditure without absolutely crippling the defence resources of this country and making barren and impossible all pretence of defence? Honorable members must understand that this Government is responsible for the defence of Australia. Upon its shoulders is thrown the responsibility of seeing, as long as it is a Government, that no act is done that will leave Australia wholly unprotected. With a full sense of the great responsibility resting upon me, I say that if the Committee insists upon carrying this amendment, the reduction can be effected only by the closing up of those Factories.
One other item has been mentioned. I refer to the item of £142,947 towards the supply of heavy guns and reserves of gun ammunition. I want to say, because I am seized of the facts, that we shall not agree in any circumstances at all to that item being struck out. I ought not to be compelled to make the statement in this place, but it is possible, without imperilling the safety of the Commonwealth, to carry on with the number of rifles that we now have. It is not possible, however, to defend this country unless these heavy guns and reserves of ammunition are obtained. When I was in England recently I was commissioned by the Government to endeavour to obtain this equipment from the British Government. That I did. I had many conferences with those in authority. I saw the Imperial Defence Committee, and made application set out in schedule form for the guns we require and the ammunition we must have. It was impossible to get them. That is the present position. If we want them we shall have to buy them. If it should turn out later in the year that we can get this ammunition and guns, either on deferred payment or free, I shall be willing to strike out that item ; but we have been told quite plainly that it is impossible to get them. In the circumstances who among my fellow citizens or fellow members will blame the Government for insisting on having that without which an army is only a thing whose name is written in water? It is my distinguished privilege to be Chairman of the Defence Committee. On that Committee there are expert advisers, both naval and military, who say what is essential for the defence of Australia. Their advice, which has been given, covers this point and emphasizes it with all the force of which they are capable. In the face of that I cannot, and will not, agree to strike out that item. I desire it to be plainly understood that the effect of carrying this amendment - which the Government will ‘accept if it be forced on them - will be just as I have said. I also wish to make it perfectly clear that there is no alternative’ in these Estimates, because the commitments, which this Committee has no power to control, amount to £496,960, even if the Small Arms Factory and the Small Arms Ammunition Factory are discontinued at once. That is to say, under ^ one item, and under another item, if the operations of the Small Arms Factory and the Ammunition Factory are to continue, our commitments are £705,960. There is therefore no escape; if we reduce this branch of the Estimates by £400,000, there can be only one’ result. Let me say what I think the Committee should dcn. I stated that the Government would itself effect savings, over the whole Estimates, of £500,000. Applying myself now to the Defence Estimates, I say that the Government will, if this amendment is not carried, effect a saving ‘ on- the Military vote of £250,000, and on the Naval vote, a saving of £130,000. It is very obvious- that nothing that this Committee may do can carry reductions with safety far beyond what I have said. I do not say that a few pounds on this or that vote will matter1 very much, but this wholesale, reckless, ‘and ignorant chopping down of a tree which only requires careful pruning, is something which this country and this Parliament ought to oppose with all the*ir heart and strength. The Government showed its readiness to consider any reasonable suggestion. I appeal now . to the reason of honorable members to show us what we can do with safety, and we will do it. But we are asked to do that which, we know, in the doing will render the defences of the country barren and useless. Without guns and ammunition, what is the good of an army? Do honorable members think we can carry on a war with rifles ? Guns and ammunition are absolutely essential. I have only to add that the Government decline absolutely to take responsibility for this vote. The Government will see to it that the responsibility is fastened on the shoulders of those who are responsible; that is to say, those who, in the face of what has been said by myself and my colleagues, record their vote in favour “ of the amendment. It is useless for those who represent industrial constituencies to endeavour to embarrass the Government, and while taking what kudos is to be got by showing (heir anti-militarism, at the same time put thousands of men out of employment, and then attempt to shift the responsibility on to the Government. I tell that to the honorable member for Macquarie, and, what is more, I shall see that the soldiers in the Factory are told the truth. If any soldier is dismissed from his employment, those honorable members who record their votes in favour of the amendment are responsible. It is curious to hear such sentiments from a party that long ago “scrapped” any pretence to giving preference to soldiers; honorable members opposite belong to a party which has put aside all idea of preference. But if soldiers are rendered unemployed, as a result of the vote to-night, we shall endeavour to see that they are not left without some alternative employment. For the rest, the Government take no responsibility whatever. I hope that honorable members, in the face of what has been said, will act reasonably, and accept the offer of the Government to reduce the Military Estimates by £250,000, and the Naval Estimates by £130,000, and effect such other savings as in « the aggregate will make £500,000.
.-I had not the slightest intention of speaking on this subject, because I feel there are many others who know more about it than myself. Nor am I particularly interested in speaking on the subject even now, except in reply to some of the remarks of the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman, in the first place, says it is not the duty of members representing industrial districts to embarrass the Government. Permit me to say that it is the duty of every Opposition to embarrass the Government, and there has never been an Opposition which has not endeavoured to do so. The Prime Minister has told us that it is the intention of the Government to cut down the Estimates by £500,000, though he has not indicated how he proposes to do so. He has told us that it is proposed to cut down the Military Estimates by £250,000, but not what the reductions are to consist of; nor does he tell us how, or in what particular, the Naval Estimates are to be reduced by £130,000. I did notice - and this is primarily my reason for rising - that the votes before us involve about £1,134,000, which is an increase of £400,000 on last year’s expenditure, an increase which some gentlemen who speak of economy are opposing, presumably because they do not wish the Government to be embarrassed. But if it be true that the Opposition is not anxious for economy, and that their object is really to embarrass the Government, what about it? That, I say, is a function of every Opposition; and if the Prime Minister were on this side, and the Labour party on the other, the same tactics would be pursued.
– I do not object to your doing it; I object to their doing it.
– In any case, somebody, from the mere stand-point of political tactics, if nothing more, thinking it would serve their- party and embarrass the Government, proposed to cut down these Estimates by £500,000. We failed to carry that motion because there was a number of gentlemen whose virtue went only to the extent of £400,000. The additional £100,000 marked the difference between their virtue and their detestation of the party with whom they refuse to ally themselves. But if they can embarrass the Government by moving a reduction of £400,000, while not associated with the Opposition, they are prepared to abandon the £100, 000.
Glancing over the-,Estimates, I see two items that do not affect wages in any shape or form. One item is £197,000 for machinery and plant for the manufacture of ammunition. I presume that this plant is an importation, and whether the money is spent or not, it will neither provide employment nor throw any out of employment.
– Will the plant not keep men employed ?
– I am dealing with the argument of the Prime Minister that the Estimates cannot be reduced without throwing men out of employment. The second item is one of £250,000 which is to be appropriated out of revenue, and does not affect the employment of any individual.
– That is to recoup the Trust Fund, is it not?
– I do not care what it is to recoup. I have referred to the item of £197,000 for plant.
– The position is that some £60,000 has been spent already, and the rest of it is for installing the plant here; that is to say, it will be spent in wages.
– I am dealing with the argument that the proposed reduction of the Estimates will throw men out of work. The £60,000, if spent in wages, is gone, and it cannot affect other wages.
– The answer to that is that this is for ammunition, which we want. I told you we have enough rifles.
– We have enough rifles, but we require more guns! However, the other item of £250,000 does not affect the employment of labour in any degree.
– That is a matter of refund.
– It does not go in wages, but only to a Trust Fund.
– It is for the Small Arms Ammunition Factory.
– As a matter of fact, certain moneys have been taken out of Trust Fund and already spent, and this is a proposal to reimburse the fund. My point is that the £250,000 and the £197,000 make up £400,000. I am not dealing with this matter from the standpoint of economy, but only saying that these two items affect no unemployment. If we stand on thebasis of last year, the Government need not pay this money into Trust Fund, or augment the supply of machines for the manufacture of ammuni tion. The Government refuse to discuss these two items, but turn round and say to the men who represent industrial districts, “If you dareto vote against the Government on this proposition we will not strike out the £250,000 which should be paid into a Trust Fund, we will not refrain from spending £196,000 on the purchase of guns, but we will paralyze the industry in your district and tell your constituents that the reason they are out of work is that you voted for this amendment.” That is not fair tactics.
– Oh ! Does the honorable member remember what he said a few moments ago?
– Yes; but I am making this statement for the public. I do not say it is morally correct for the Opposition to do what it is doing, but it is in keeping with the dirty political tactics that have been practised ever since responsible government has been in existence. Everything is fair in love and politics. Nothing is clean. The only consideration is as to how best to gain one’s end. Nevertheless, it was not sound policy on the part of the Government to. threaten the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), and I rose to point out that the honorable member need not be intimidated, because the Government can strike off these Estimates £450,000 without depriving any man in this country of one day’s work. Upon that ground I am prepared to vote for the reduction of these Estimates by £400,000. What else the Government spend in other directions is no concern of mine. I am not moralizing.
The Prime Minister told the Committee a few moments ago that the party on this side is one that advocates the greatest extravagance. Whether or not that be so, as we are hostile to the building up of a great military establishment, we are justified in voting for reduction of military expenditure whenever possible. 1 do not know whether the Prime Minister was in order in saying what he did, and I do not care, so long as I can pursue the same disorderly course. He says we on this side are a party favouring reckless extravagance. I will not contradict him. I have known him for many years and always as an absolutely truthful man. He was connected with the Labour party for many years, and no man should know more about it than he. If it is a party of reckless extravagance, as he says, and he should know, he is partly responsible for the fact. He told us that Australia needs munitions and soldiers for its defence, and that members on this side, including myself, were always opposed to the late war. I followed the right honorable gentleman for three years during the war.
– The honorable member did. I remember that. If I had many followers such as he-
– The right honorable gentleman would be dead.. But the right honorable gentleman attacked all honorable members on this side. So far as the general policy in regard to the war was concerned, they adhered to” the Government. Putting myself aside, I remind the Prime Minister that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) followed him ; he was loyal, so was the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley).
– Yes, but I was talking about the honorable member.
– I am pretty rotten; but those other honorable members who were loyal are classed by the Prime Minister in the same category as myself.
– I followed him - but he always escaped me.
– Some honorable members changed their opinions. Others did not; they continued to follow the Prime Minister. But in any case, what is the good, after so many years have elapsed since the war terminated, of continually throwing this sort of “cagmag. “ from one side of the Committee to the other? I remember that when the Prime Minister spoke in Perth on his return from the Peace Conference he said that the war had not been fought in vain. It had been a magnificent war to end war, and we were now entering the field’s of perpetual peace. Suppose we accept the right honorable member’s dictum that we are entering the fields of perpetual peace, and that we have conquered the. greatest military nation in the world, why need’ this country, after its bloody struggle and sacrifices, commence, at this stage, enormous expenditure upon armaments?
– If one may adduce anything from the honorable member’s remarks, he is against the maintenance of an army or navy at all.
– The right honorable gentleman knows in what I believe. It is. what he once believed in - the armed’ nation, a gun for every man.
– The honorable member votes against it every time he has the chance. He was in favour of conscription, but he foundan easy way of getting out of it when his’‘tail was twisted’’’ at the Trades Hall.
– The right honorable. member was once in favour of an armed. nation: - every man a gun.
– I proposed that myself.
– I havea perfect right to take this opportunity of pointing out the divergencies that exist between the opinions’ of some men on this side and, those of the Prime Minister, and I complain that years after the war ended ha still reiterates the old statement that every man who disagrees from him upon some question is an enemy to his country and race. Is that a fair accusation ? We have a perfect right to resent it and’ to explain the position clearly and distinctly. As the Prime Minister was permitted to occupy the time of the Committee in making these affirmations so long after the finish of the war, we have a perfect right to answer them. No man. has a greater love for his country and race. than. I have, but I stand where the Prime Minister once stood - upon the basis of the. socialized state. He and I have dreamed together of a new order of society, an orderwhich, probably, will never come, but will continue to be merely a dream. Nevertheless, at one stage of our lives it dominated our political policies, and dictated our utterances and actions. If, later, one of us has arrived at a stage when he believes that our earlier Hopes and’ visions are- only dead sea fruit, that is no reason, why he should abuse the friends of past years. I believe in fidelity to race and country, but I believe also in, a country based on the solidarity of the working classes. I said at the beginning of the war that I believed there was a definite line of policy to be pursued. On these discussions upon comparatively trivial matters involving the expenditure of £300,000 or £400,000, whether in connexion with the Postal Estimates or the Defence Estimates, I object to repeated slanders upon men by accusations of’ lack of love of country or race. I shall support the proposal for a reduction, of the Estimates’ by £400,000. If it were a proposal for the reduction of an amount to be expended upon a structure for the production of the munitions necessary to enable this country to defend itself against a foreign foe I would not consent to it. But it is legitimate to ask that £250,000 shall not be paid into a Trust Fund and that £196,000 shall not be expended upon the purchase of a plant from abroad. If the Prime Minister does not agree with that view is it not fair to state upon what items the reduction by £250,000 is to be effected? He desires a majority in the Committee to support him. Why not take the Committee into his confidence? Why not- say, “We propose to save £250,000 here,” and indicate the place? If he did that, would he not be likely to carry the Committee with him ?
– That would have no effect upon the votes.
– How does the right honorable gentleman know ? He does not know the extent to which the great love and affection that exists between the two tactions on the Ministerial side is likely to be helpful to the Government. Why dot try the course I have suggested?
– I cannot do that. That is for the Minister in charge of the Estimates. I do not profess to be able to single out individual items for reduction, but I think I can promise that before the general Estimates are concluded we will be able to indicate those items.
– The Ministry is anxious to live, and there are members in this chamber - I am not one of them - that are anxious the Government shall not die. They would like to see it perpetuated, but the Prime Minister will not perpetuate his Ministry if he pursues a policy of assaulting everybody who disagrees with him. He should try a policy of peaceful conversion. If the Minister in charge of the Estimates, and the Prime Minister who has come to his assistance, have not yet made up their minds as to where they are to save the £250,000 by which they have promised to reduce these Estimates, let them postpone this division and proceed with another. Meanwhile, Ministers may make up their minds, and. having done that, they can take the Committee into their confidence and make a number of converts, thus strengthening the position of the Government.
– I would very much prefer the honorable member to convert himself.
– I did that long ago. I wish to convert the Prime Minister. I am anxious to know what he proposes to do. If he desires my vote he had better come to a decision and take the Committee into his confidence as to just where the economy of £250,000 is to be effected.
.- I do not think that anybody who has been acquainted with me during the last few years -
– Will take much notice of you.
– Will characterize me as a pacifist. I decline to be within 100 miles of the honorable member’s camp in that regard. I remind the Committee that on several occasions during the years preceding the war I spoke of the necessity for strengthening our forces in preparation for the day that was rapidly approaching. During the progress of the war my difficulty was’ that the Government were not doing their part in prosecuting Australia’s share in the struggle with the energy and thoroughness which I considered the situation demanded. The war being over, the civilized nations of the world have been steadily scrapping their armaments. They have realized that even for the victors in modern war the price is too much to pay, and the people of all civilized nations have come to the conclusion that if they can prevent it there shall be no more war. That is what is behind the movement of the League of Nations, and the proceedings of the Washington Conference which is now in session. The politicians of the United States of America turned down the League of Nations. Later, they awoke to the fact that the people of America insisted on having a peace compact of one kind or another - if not the League of Nations, something else - and so the very President who was elected as an opponent of the League of Nations has perforce been compelled by public opinion to convene the most remarkable International Peace Conference that the world has known. At that Conference the three ‘greatest nations of the world are putting their cards on the table. The peoples of those nations are determined if their opinions can prevail that there shall be no more war between them, and I believe their effort will be thoroughly successful. But while this is being done by the nations, in whose hands are the issues of peace or war for the world, Australia is straining every nerve, and emptying the national pocket by preparations for immediate war. Whence is that immediate war coming? I know that it is hinted at as likely to come from one particular direction. Our Prime Minister has lived on that suggestion politically for some years. He has had triumphal receptions in Australia in connexion with that alleged menace, and to-day there is a suggestion in the policy of the Government that we must still look out for danger from that quarter. I do not believe for a moment that Japan has gone into the Washington Conference with a knife down her leg, specially sharpened to cut Australia’s throat. I do not think that she has ever had any serious intentions against us. I have said so time and again ia this House. There is not the slightest proof of it in any direction, and there is less than ever an indication of that kind in ‘the recent actions of Japan . I cannot imagine any nation going out of its way to make an unprovoked attack upon this country. I do not think any nation would profit by an attack upon us. Therefore I fail to see the necessity for the inflated expenditure that has been going on in our Defence Department. Ever since the war came to an end we have had feverish preparations for another and impending war, which I want to knock on the head if I can, because I believe that at the pre; . sent time the best policy for the safety’1–’ of Australia is to reduce our defence expenditure to a minimum and invest some . of the money thus saved in a national policy that will supply our vacant spaces with the right kind of settlers. Nothing has been more clearly indicated to the Government by the press and the public of Australia since the war concluded than has been the fact that this huge expenditure of money on alleged defence purposes should come to an end, but, so far, all these warnings and requests have been disregarded by the Government. I shall take this opportunity of recording a vote for the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) as an indication that I consider that the Defence Estimates could very well be reduced to an even greater extent than the amount proposed.
.- Without going into the politics of the defence movement in Australia or endeavouring to distinguish between the schools of thought represented, on the one hand by the Prime Minister (Mr Hughes), and on the other hand by those who believe in scrapping the Army and Navy, I believe that there is a reasonable and sane position this Committee can take up in regard to the Defence Estimates. Three Ministers have spoken to-day. I did not hear the whole three, but I heard the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), who is acting for the Minister (Senator Pearce), and I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and their speeches left honorable members exactly where they were previously. I had expected from one of the Ministers a. more definite and clear statement as to where reductions were to be made, not only in this section of the Defence Estimates, but also in the other, which contains a very much larger estimated expenditure. However, beyond the statement that we were committed in certain specific directions on each individual item, and the announcement that the amount of £250,000 would come off the Military Estimates and £130,000 off the Naval Estimates, honorable members were left without any information. I take leave to say, as an old student of methods in Committee of Supply, that that is a position in which the Committee should not find itself. I can well understand that a large number of honorable members are in a difficulty to-night as to how to vote. For example, I do not believe that Australia is in any immediate danger, but nevertheless I am not prepared to take the responsibility of scrapping all the Defence machinery of this country, although during this marktime period, when the world’s best minds are endeavouring to find some solution of the armaments question, I would like to see Australia mark time by not adding to its Defence expenditure. The Estimates before us show substantial increases upon certain items, and I believe that if the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Defence, spent a day with the Assistant Minister .for Defence on both branches of the Military Defence Estimates, he could take off £500,000 without doing any injury to the real policy of the Government or the safety of the country. I would like to be in a position with or without the concurrence of the Government to vote for two distinct proposals, one to reduce the New Works section of the Estimates on which we are, now engaged by £250,000, and another to reduce the general Military Defence Estimates by a similar amount.
– Would the reduction the honorable member proposes should be effected include also the Naval expenditure ?
– I would leave the saving which the Minister for the Navy anight think could be effectively made in his branch of the Estimates to be added to the saving on land defence. Whether the Ministry are agreeable to that course or not I am not able to say, but I believe the Committee would be well satisfied if the Government would undertake to cut down the Defence Estimates as I have suggested. Some honorable members may wish for a greater reduction, but I am endeavouring to balance in my mind the responsibility which is felt by the Government and by individual members of the Committee, irrespective of party, I do not think I need go into details, but if the Prime Minister will glance at two pages of the Estimates I think he will find wheTe substantial savings amounting to £250,000 could be effected on new works.
– Does the honorable member’s suggestion represent a middle line between patriotism on the one side’ and Bolshevism on the other?
– I do notthink there is a middle line, and I do not think that Bolshevism is an entity we need consider in Australia. At one time there was danger of a wrong feeling arising among the Anglo-Saxon communities, but their balance fortunately has been restored, and the people now fully recognise the hollowness of Bolshevism. I shall vote against the proposed reduction of these Estimates by £400,000, because I do not think a reduction of that size could effectively be made on this section of the Estimates. At alater stage, however., I hope that I shall have an opportunity either of supporting or moving a reduction of £250,000 on this section, and another £250,000 on the other section of the Military Defence Estimates.
.- We : have had a discussion to-night which is long overdue. For years past the
Defence Estimates have been rushed through without proper discussion. Yet there isno Department in which so little regard is paid to the spending of money. Many returned soldiers will agree with me that the Department has been most extravagant in its methods of expenditure, as is amply proved by the fact that the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) can immediately offer to reduce the Estimates of his Department by £250,000, demonstrating how extravagantly they must have been framed in the first instance. This is a question that ought to be discussed without the introduction of questions of loyalty, and without insinuations being hurled at members who happen to be hostile to increased expenditure on armaments. I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) every time he speaks endeavours to set the Country party against the Labour party by charging the latter with disloyalty. He ought to be the last to talk about any one’s loyalty when we know that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and Senator Russell, although of military age, did not volunteer for service.
– I volunteered three times, and was rejected.
– I was not aware of that fact; but, in any case, it is time such questions were dropped. I am not anxious to introduce personalities, but I venture to say that the respective families of honorable members of the Opposition had as many representatives at the Front as had the families of honorable members sitting on the Government side of the chamber. Throughout the world to-day there is a desire for the decrease of armaments. I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that Australia is in no danger, and that a considerable reduction in our Defence expenditure can be made without imperilling the safety of the country. Since the war, iowever, the Defence Department has done its level best to impair the efficiency of the Army. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), who was at the Front, will know that the backbone of the Australian Imperial Force were the sergeants-major, many of whom won very high rank abroad only to find on their return to Australia that they had to go back to their old positions as sergeants-major in the Permanent Forces. Some of them have been obliged to leave the Force and follow other occupations. These are the men, instead of cadets from Duntroon College, upon whom we should rely for instructing our Army.
– Not the stay-at-homes.
– No. The permanent staff to-clay have a decided set against sergeants-major, who demonstrated their ability on the battlefields of Europe, and every one of whom received promotion on the battlefield.
– Order! I called the Prime Minister to order for making personal reflections, and, in fairness, I allowed the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) to reply to him, but I think that in doing so I have gone as far as my duty will permit. Therefore, I now ask the honorable member for Ballarat to confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair. An opportunity of dealing with the administration of the Military Forces will be afforded when the Committee reaches the general Estimates. The Committee is now considering new works and buildings, and I ask the honorable member not to introduce matter upon which other honorable members will also endeavour to follow him.
– My point is that if the sergeants-major had been treated fairly upon their return, and not been made subordinate to the stay-at-homes in the Permanent Forces, there would be nos need for spending ls. upon Duntroon College. A dozen good men who were in our Permanent Forces were permitted, after a year or two, to go to the Front, and there they won promotion and distinctions. These men could do the work of those that came from Duntroon College; but they have received no consideration. Some of them became colonels abroad, but on their return to Australia they were reduced in rank, and reverted to the position of sergeant-major. Although they had won promotion on the battlefield, they were required to salute lieutenants who had never been away from these shores. Of course, such men have left the Army when they could. Every one knows that the sergeant-major is the foundation stone of every army. At Duntroon there is a staff of from 160 to 180 officers and others, and only seventy or eighty pupils, whose education costs about £1,000 per annum each. It is about time that we considered whether we should permit this state of things to continue. We know the methods that the military class will adopt. When the nation was fighting for its very existence, and the. Prime Minister and his followers were trying to conscript our youth, our officers in France had 60,000 batmen attending them. No fewer than 60,000 men who might have been fighting were cleaning boots and looking after the domestic wants of officers, and every mounted officer, in addition to a batman, had an orderly to look after his horse. No doubt, a similar state of things exists at Duntroon, and accounts for the largeness of the’ staff there.
– Quite a number of the officers at Duntroon fought well at the Front and won decorations. Why traduce good men who have served the country well?
– I do not traduce them, though I say that scores of thousands of privates did the same thing. I tm pointing out the evils of the military system. Then there is the Naval College, where the proportion of staff to pupils is similar to that at Duntroon. It is not needed.
– The honorable member is dealing purely with matters of administration.
– Then I shall refer again to these matters later. A big saving could be effected in the expenditure on drill halls for cadets. I do not believe in compulsory training, and think that it should be abolished. Every soldier who went abroad knows that to train men to “ right turn “ and “ left turn,” and to kee]3 step is of no value in modern warfare. “bur system, of compulsory training merely wastes so many hours per annum of the lives of our youth, and tends to give them a military feeling which is not beneficial to them. We should save a considerable sum by abolishing it. Physical training for the development of our youth might be beneficial to them, but the worst thing that a country can do is to inculcate a love of militarism.
– As a rule, military training has not that effect.
– At all events, it creates positions for men whose livelihood depends upon it, and thus brings into existence a military class whose members look to war to give them promotion, and are desirous of bringing about war.
– Do you doubt the value of discipline?
– The Australian soldier was considered the most undisciplined of all, as we understand discipline.
– In contrast, the British soldier was the best disciplined. He could spring to attention and toss his hand to the salute with any soldier in the world.
– The honorable gentleman may not discuss these matters on the question before the Committee.
– My point is that this training is unnecessary, and, therefore, we need not spend money on the building of drill halls.. At Washington there is a Conference sitting to discuss the reduction of armaments, and we are told that the military expenditure of the nations is to be decreased. This seems to be the only country in which military expenditure is increasing. We are not spending more money than we did during the war, but it is proposed to spend more on defence this year than was spent last year. I am prepared to cut the Defence Estimates to the bone. I have no faith in the military officials. I believe that they are reckless in the expenditure of Government money. The working classes throughout the world have determined that there shall be no more war, and war will be prevented in the future, not as the result of conferences like that at Washington, but by the men and women who toil refusing to fight againstthe toilers of other countries. As a representative of the working classes, I shall always vote to reduce military expenditure. It hurts me to think that reductions may mean the throwing of men out of employment; but it must not be forgotten that the cessation of the war threw millions out of employment, and yet no one would say that it would have been a good thing to continue the war. I trust that the Leader of the Country party will stick to his amendment, which I shall support, as I should support any other proposal for reducing our defence expenditure to the minimum.
.- I was pleased to hear from the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) this afternoon a definite statement of the commitments embodied in these Estimates. In spite of what the Minister for Customs (Mr. Greene) has said, we had not previously been given that information or, if we had, I must share the blame which has been showered on the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for not understanding what we have been told. I certainly did not gather from the previous utterances of the Minister any definite information regarding the Government commitments in connexion with this vote, or any definite mention of items which would have tobe struck out if a considerable reduction were insisted on by the Committee.
– Nearly five months of the financial year have gone, and that has reduced the opportunity for works expenditure.
– But there can have been no new commitments in the present financial year. Obviously, the so-called commitments include unexpended balances of last year. But it is to be remembered that every year these unexpended balances are carried forward, and, probably; next year there will again be such balances for the reasons that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) mentioned this evening. The Prime Minister did not tell us anything that we had not already heard from the Assistant Minister for Defence. He told us that the Government would definitely promise to reduce the Defence expenditure by £250,000; but the Assistant Minister for Defence had already done that in effect, if not, indeed, in so many words. I did not like the tone in which the right honorable gentleman upbraided the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for wearing a returned soldier’s badge and allying himself with anti-militarists. Quite a number of honorable members wear that badge, although they do not boast of it; but that is no reason why they should not hold independent views on the subject of economy. As one of them I assert my right to do so. I consider myself free to associate with any person in this chamber, though no one would accuse me of disloyalty, or with being an anti-militarist. Language like that used by the Prime Minister does not advance any cause. I am not going to follow the Prime Minister into the mire. I shall keep as far away from it as possible, so as to avoid even its splash. With regard to the Military Works Estimates, and the amount which, if they are agreed to, will be expended on arsenals, munition, arms, &c, I have always been of the opinion that it is of first importance that we should have in Australia sufficient arms to arm all able-bodied men, and munitions to supply them for a reasonable time until we can manufacture our own. I do not agree with what the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has said with’ regard to military training. The training necessary to make a man a good soldier - to turn out a soldier capable of being handled in battle - is most important, and the provision of arms and ammunition is of absolutely first importance. It would be appalling if this country of ours were invaded, and those who are willing and able to fight had not the arms and ammunition wherewith to defend it. In dealing with these Works Estimates, I shall vote on every occasion for every reduction that can properly be made, because I am very much in earnest as to the necessity foi’ cutting down, expenditure, believing that Australia will have a great struggle in meeting its obligations within the next few years. After carefully examining the Estimates, and hearing what the Assistant Minister for Defence has said, I , am of the opinion that a fairly substantial reduction can be made in the Estimates now before us. The Minister himself has admitted that. I should like him, however, to say more definitely which of these items he is prepared to curtail or cut out. We are entitled to that information. If we are to cast a vote that will be in accordance with our views on the question of defence, we ought to know in what way the reductions will be effected. We ought to know whether the honorable gentleman is going, for example, to discharge all the men employed >at the Small Arms Factory. He has already said that he does not think that we could cut out the vote relating to the Commonwealth Woollen Factory at Geelong, but he has said most definitely that if the amendment’ proposed by the Leader of the Country party to reduce this vote by £400,000 be carried, the Small Arms Factory must be closed. There is a big difference between the Estimates as submitted by the Government and their reduction as proposed by £400,000, and I am convinced that this Committee is determined to insist upon a considerable reduction.
– The honorable member is referring to the general Estimates ?
– I am dealing with the Works Estimates immediately before us, and believe that the Committee is determined to reduce them by a considerable amount.- I think, however, that the Leader of.the Country party has gone too far. A reduction of £400,000 would be too drastic. I have come to that conclusion after a careful examination of these Estimates. The item relating to the Small Arms Ammunition Factory provides for an expenditure of £250,000. I presume to differ from the statement made by the Prime Minister that there are sufficient rifles in Australia, although I agree with him that if we are to defend this- country it is imperative that we should have the heavy guns for which provision is made. If what the Prime Minister said regarding the supply of rifles be true, then every employee of the Small Arms Factory could be discharged to-morrow. I am not concerned with the employment of’ the men in the Factory merely for the sake of employing them. Obviously, if we have sufficient arms in Australia it is anything but economical to continue the employment of those men in the production of rifles. There is much other useful work on which they could be engaged. I gather that there are about 200,00fr rifles in Australia.
– The Minister said that we had 280,000 rifles.
– Even if we have 280,000, that, in my opinion, is insufficient. I do not think the Assistant Minister for Defence would consider that that number even approached the necessary reserve of rifles. If every man employed at the Small Arms Factory were discharged tomorrow we should still have the Factory and could manufacture arms, and could, if necessary, resume the manufacture of rifles at short notice. As I said earlier in my remarks, we should have a sufficient supply to arm every able-bodied man in Australia. That is the first essential to the defence of this country. It would be very costly at the present time to make that provision, especially if we had to pay £16 for every rifle manufactured at Lithgow when we could obtain rifles for a trifle over £7 each in England. That, however, is quite another question. I believe that the cost of production could be reduced very materially, and in that respect I differ from many honorable members. What I criticise is the management of the Factory. It is the application of methods of economy to every Department, the cutting down of expenditure, and the getting of good value for every shilling spent, that I desire rather than the cutting out of an expenditure of £100,000 here and £100,000 there.
Returning to the question of what items might be struck out without unduly bringing about inefficiency of defence, it appears to me that the £250,000 which we are asked to- vote for the Small Arms Ammunition Factory might reasonably be curtailed. The Assistant Minister has said that the commitments in respect of the Military Works Estimates amount to £494,960, which leaves a sum of £639,291 with which we may deal. If all the men now employed at the Factory were discharged, that would leave some £94,000 in respect of that item. I should like the honorable gentleman to state, for the information of those sitting behind the Government, whether he cannot see his way to reduce the item relating to the Factory instead of cutting it out altogether. He could go on making rifles at Lithgow, but I do not think it is necessary to continue the employment of 600 men. I know something about rifles, but I do not pretend to have the mechanical knowledge necessary to say what the cost of a rifle should be, or to what extent we would render the Factory inefficient by cutting down some of the proposed expenditure upon it. That is a subject upon which the Committee should be able to get some information. I say most definitely that I think the Leader of the Country party has moved for too great a reduction. I do not be- lieve the Committee will agree to it; but we expect the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to announce the limit to which he can go in cutting down these Estimates. It is all very well for him to say that he will cut down by £250,000 the whole of the Estimates relating to defence. That might mean that no reduction whatever would be made in respect of the Military Works Estimates. We want to know as we go along what is to be done. We want to know what is to be done with the Estimates which are at present under our control. The honorable gentleman should meet this desire on the part of the Committee.
I feel inclined to favour the suggestion made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that this proposed vote should be reduced by £250,000. I believe that those who sit behind the Go- *vernment, as well as honorable members of the Country party, are in favour of such a reduction. It has been said that we would not support the ‘amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) because it eni anated from the Labour party. That is no fair. The reduction proposed by the hor orable member was far too drastic. We should effect such economies as can be made with safety without impairing the efficiency of our defences. Apart from certain honorable members of the Opposition” who openly say that they would not spend a farthing on defence, I believe that honorable members opposite, a . well as honorable members generally on this’ side, are in favour of spending all that is really necessary at the moment to -make our Defence Force efficient, while at the same time taking into consideration the ability of Australia to bear the burden at the present juncture.
– We do not object to spending money - we object to allowing you people to spend it.
– That is another aspect of the question. I was under the impression that the honorable member, together with several others on the Opposition benches, was opposed to any expenditure on defence. I am very pleased to learn that the honorable member is not so ignorant of what the effect of war might be on the land in which he lives as to say that he would not spend a penny on defence. I understood him, however, to make that statement on more than one occasion. It is useless to talk of Australia sending out the dove of peace.
– The Assistant Minister challenged us to “ trot out the dogs of war,” and we said we preferred to send out the dove of peace.
– The honorable member the other day said that Australia should send out the “white dove of peace,” but it is not of much use to do that when the big war birds are flying overhead, and the air is filled with poisonous gas. If the “white dove of peace” were ever sent from the enemy lines to Australian lines, I am sure it would be cordially received; but never, while I was in command in the fighting line, would I send out the “ white dove of peace,” or the white flag, for they really mean the same thing -it must come from the enemy.
I hope the Minister will understand what I mean when I ask him to inform the Committee to what extent in detail he can reduce these particular Estimates. I do not wish the honorable gentleman to generalize by simply saying he will reduce the Estimates by £250,000. The Estimates regarding compulsory training, Citizen Forces, and Administration generally are on quite a different footing from expenditure on arsenals, factories, and so forth. If the Minister can meet the Committee in this regard, I think we shall in all probability have’ peace in the Committee to-night, if not in the world.
– I do not wish to give a silent vote, because I think every honorable member should take full responsibility for his action on the amendment before us. I regret very much that in the course of the discussion it has been suggested that, because an honorable member, like his constituents, is in favour of a definite reduction in the Military Works Estimates, and, to carry out his desire, finds that he has to vote with honorable members opposite, he is disloyal. That is not a fair way in which to discuss such questions ; the Committee and the Government have no right to “ put the acid “ on members in that way; and as for myself, I refuse to be so influenced.
Mr.Nicholls. - You made a statement to the same effect in regard to the loyalty of honorable members some time ago.
– The honorable member is not correct; at any rate, I am prepared to take the full responsibility for my votes. Honorable members opposite may vote as they choose, and if their opinion and mine on this occasion happen to be the same, there need be no question of loyalty or disloyalty. I do not agree with honorable members who are of opinion that the whole of the Estimates, so far as the naval and military votes are concerned, should be wiped out. But Australia to-day is spending a great deal more money that we can really afford. After the division on the amendment of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), I shall be asked to discuss the whole of the Estimates frankly and freely, quite irrespective of any party consideration; and the same freedom should be allowed now.
In 1920 the Estimates that we are now discussing showed votes amounting, in round figures, to £1,300,000, and of that the Government spent £600,000, leaving £700,000 unexpended. To my view, the amendment of the honorable member for Cowper does not quite meet the position, in so far as it goes too far. We must remember that we cannot, on one branch of the Defence Department, make the whole of the savings desired, and should take care to leave sufficient money to effectively carry on the work to which it is devoted. We must remember that we are not now dealing with the whole of the Defence Estimates, but only with those that affect works and buildings.
– What do you suggest?
– The Minister has told us that the military votes will be reduced by £250,000, But I am not prepared to accept that statement unless it is embodied in a resolution and passed by this Chamber. There is a vast difference between works in connexion with defence) and the general Defence Estimates. In regard to the latter, I have some strong feelings, which, however, do not come into the discussion on the) particular item before us. I have no desire to unnecessarily throw men out of employment. I realize that in connexion with defence certain works and departmental establishments generally must be carried on, and it is from that point of view that I think the honorable member for Cowper goes too far. If bis amendment were carried, the effects might he really worse than the present position. As a private member I cannot undertake to . say on what particular items in these Estimates money can be saved. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and others have endeavoured to place before us the whole position, and it is they, in consultation with their officers, who must take the responsibility. “We private members have only general statements, without details and other information before us.
I repeat that I think the amendment of the honorable member for Cowper goes too far ; but if the Government are not prepared to accept a more moderate amendment I shall record my vote in favour of that honorable member’s proposal. My constituents expect me in regard to these Estimates - and, I suppose, other honorable members are in the same position - to endeavour to reduce them, and I will not go back to them and say that I have voted against any proposed reduction hecause of a promise from the Government. Such an undertaking, if it is to have my support, must, as I say, be in the form of an actual resolution passed by this Chamber. If that is not done I must, with reluctance, record my vote for the amendment as the next best step.
– I have addressed myself to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and pointed out that the Government are unable to effect such reductions as he suggests without taking action along the lines I indicated - that is to say, without closing down our factories. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who followed me, said that such a course would not be necessary, and pointed to an item of £196,000 and another of £250,000, on which he rested his argument. He said that on these two items reductions could safely be made because they would not result in throwing men out of employment or imperilling the defences of the Commonwealth. I have since looked into the matter carefully, and I find that of the item of £196,000 for machinery and plant for the manufacture of ammunition, the sum of £60,000 has already been spent, and the machinery is here. That leaves £136,000, the whole of which is required for the installation of the machinery, the erection of buildings, and so forth. It is perfectly obvious that if this £136,000 is spent it will be in providing employment for our citizens, and I take it that if, after all, we only have to decide between one class of workmen and another, we shall be creating employment. The item of £250,000 is to be paid to .a trust fund for the Small Arms Ammunition Factory, and the honorable member for Bourke took the view that this would give no employment. The fact is that the money is paid into trust fund, and comes out of that fund to buy the ammunition that is made at the Factory. A portion of the money has already been expended, because five months of the year have passed, and five-twelfths of it must be gene. If we cut out that item we shall inevitably shut up the Factory, because it is by means of that £250,000 that the Factory is kept going, and we should be no . better off by cutting out the item than we should be by shutting the doors of the Factory. So much for the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Bourke. I turn now to the suggestion that we should indicate the items upon which the Government propose to effect a reduction. I should have preferred that that had been left to the discretion of the Government, but, in order that I might meet any reasonable request, I have been looking into the matter, and on the Estimates now before the Committee we are prepared to vote for a reduction of £200,000. The various items over which the reduction is to be spread will not put anybody out of employment. They are as follow : Division No. 7 - item No.. 1 (warlike stores, including machine guns, vehicles, harness and saddlery, accoutrements and other regimental and personal equipment, £17,460), a. saving of £9,000; item No. 3 (armament and stores for fixed defences, £5,532) a saving of £2,000. Division No. 8: item No. 1 (woollen cloth factory, additional machinery and plant, £45,000), a saving of £40,000 ; item No. 3 (munitions supply, machinery and plant, towards cost, £196,839), a saving of £109,000; item No. 5 “(Small Arms Factory, reserve stores, £20,000), a saving of £10,000; item No. 6 (Cordite Factory, reserve stores, £40,000), a saving of £10,000. And on the last page of the Defence Estimates the amount estimated to remain unexpended at the close of the year will be increased from £19,000 to £39,000, thus effecting an additional saving of £20,000 and increasing the aggregate saving to £200,000. The Government have met the Committee fairly. We have allocated the reductions in a way to which, I think, the .Committee can hardly take exception. I do not think the majority of honorable members desire such reductions as will either imperil the safety of the Commonwealth or create unemployment. Therefore, I put this forward as a fair and reasonable proposition that the Committee should accept. We shall look into the genera] Defence Estimates and see what further reductions can be made there, and when we reach the Works and Buildings Estimates for the Department of the Navy we shall indicate what reductions, if any, we are prepared to make in them. I think this undertaking meets the whole of the real objections that have been urged, and should disarm criticism. As Parliament has a great deal to do and only a few weeks in which to dG it, I ask that, the Government having made this most reasonable attempt to meet the wishes of the Committee, the matter be disposed of without further delay.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [10.51.- I rise to deal with certain statements that have been made during the debate by the Prime Minister and other Ministers. If one thing more than another has been demonstrated during this debate it is the necessity for the presence in this Chamber of the Minister for Defence. He should be a member of this House, which has the power of the purse. To-day the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) excused, to some extent, his attitude towards these Estimates on the ground that they had been prepared and submitted by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who is now absent from the Commonwealth. As regards the charges that have been levelled against me personally, I have nothing to say other than that, whatever personalities the Prime Minister or his colleagues mav apply to me or the things I wear, I shall never be led into making ‘such vulgar and gratuitous attacks upon them.
It has been said that I have made certain wild statements regarding the figures presented to the Committee, because I said that the Minister had told us to-day something quite different from what he told us last week. On that account I am accused of having made an . incorrect statement, but I was glad that the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) corroborated what I said. He declared that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) did not last week deal with these Estimates as he did to-day, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) cannot show me in Hansard, or anywhere else, a detailed statement such as the Assistant Minister for Defence submitted to-day. The Minister for Trade and Customs, in his reply to me, made certain incorrect statements as I shall proceed to show. It is remarkable that statements should have been made, first of all by the Assistant Minister for Defence, and later by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and that then the Prime Minister should coolly tell us that off certain’ items, in respect of which we are assured there are definite commitments, he is prepared to cut £200,000.
– That is quite incorrect.
– In the statement made by the Assistant Minister for Defence on the 15th November, the items mentioned as definite commitments were as follow: - Division No. 7, Item No. 1, warlike stores, £17,460, of which the London commitments totalled £7,580. Today he stated that the London commitments totalled £8,000. On Item No. 2, vehicles, harness, equipment, and stores for field artillery and engineers, £25,743, we were told on Tuesday that the London commitments were £12,845. To-day tho Minister says they are £25,743. On Item No. 3, armaments and stores for fixed defences, we were told that £3,532 of the amount of £5,532 was for London commitments. The whole of Item No. 5, £530, was also a London liability. That is the whole of the London commitments mentioned on Tuesday in connexion with Division No. 7. In regard to Division No. 8, he said that the London commitment on Item No. 3, £196,839, for machinery and plant for the supply of amunitions was £39,125; to-day it is apparently £60,000. He proceeded to refer to the Small Arms Factory -
Item No. 5 is £20,000 for reserve stores at Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The details are: - Rifle steel (balance of Hoskin’s contract), £.14,170; rifle steel (balance of Eagle-Globe contract), £450; scabbards, leather, £500; tabin bronze, £700; hygrometers (2), £100; miscellaneous, £3,000; rifle steel from Ministry of Munitions, £3,680; small stores. £188; steel for Vickers’ gun barrel, £600; total, £23,338. This total has been reduced to a round figure of £20,000.
If the balance of the contracts for rifle steel are not to be regarded as a definite commitment, what is? Yet the Prime Minister says that out of a total of £20,000 for Item No. 5 he is .prepared to save £10,000, which is more than is left after the balances of those two contracts are paid.
– The honorable member must have known that all these factories have been running for five months.
– A definite charge of mala fides was made against me today. I listened carefully to the Assistant Minister when he made- his speech, and I read the Hansard proof, and I came to the conclusion, which I ask honorable members to say was fair and reasonable, that the items mentioned by the Minister to-day differ in a substantial degree from the items mentioned on Tuesday. Because of that, I do not feel able to put myself completely in the hands of the Government in regard to these proposals, and I shall insist that my amendment for the reduction of these Estimates by £400,000 be put to the decision of the Committee, so that the Committee itself may accept the responsibility and all members who vote against the proposed reduction may be answerable for their action. We have heard in varied language from different Ministers to-day that the reduction of these Estimates by £100,000 or £200,000 would seriously cripple the Defence Department. Now the Prime Minister tells us that it is possible to take £200,000 from the Estima’tes without seriously crippling the Department. Last year the Government failed to expend £700,000 of the amounts voted, and that did not cripple the Department. Everybody knows that if the Government should come to the House in three or four months’ time and say that circumstances had arisen which necessitated an increase of the vote, the House would be prepared to pass supplementary Estimates, if it agreed that it was necessary to carry out immediately Defence works of any magnitude.
– That sort of thing cost the lives of a few hundred thousand British soldiers during the big war.
– On these Estimates is an item of £196,859 towards the cost of machinery and plant for munitions supply. We have been told definitely to-day on two occasions that £60,000 of that money, which has not been voted, has .been actually expended. If a condition arises when Parliament is not sitting necessitating, in the opinion of the Government, an expenditure of any amount, even as much as £100,000, it seems to me that they can make provision to carry on. In these circumstances, I think the Committee would be well advised not to accept the assurance of the Government that there will be a reduction of £200,000, but to vote to reduce these Estimates by £400,000.
– The honorable member is astray in regard to that expenditure of £60,000. -He will find lower down on the same page of the Estimates an item, “ General Arsenal - machinery and plant, £248,561,” a vote for last year, out of which that commitment of £60,000 was incurred. This is now a transfer of that particular amount to another item.
– I followed very carefully the description given by the Assistant Minister on the 15th inst. of the destination of this particular expenditure, and I think it will be. found that he said that it was required for works at Footscray.
– Yes; but it was incurred last year under the item “General Arsenal - machinery and plant.”
– I think that the amount is still on the Estimates for that purpose.
– No; it expires as an unexpended vote, and is not re-voted under that item.
– At any rate, there is a new item of £250,000 for the Small Arms’ Ammunition Factory, and we are’ told that £100,000 of this amount is a commitment. There seems to be plenty of room for what I suggest may take place, allowing the Government to come down later on with Supplementary Estimates, if necessary.
Question - That the vote be reduced by the sum of £400,000- put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Sir Granville Ryrie) proposed -
That the vote he reduced by £200,000.
.- I am sorry that the Government cannot see their way clear to reduce this section of the Defence Estimates by another £50,000.
– We went through the items very carefully; and did not see our way clear to do so.
– I have no doubt that within the limited time they had at their disposal Ministers might not have been able to comb these items as fully as they would have been able to do in the Departments with their advisers alongside them. In half-an-hour in his Department the Assistant Minister could do more in this direction than he could doin an hour here without his advisers.
– I have been at the task for a week.
– The Minister is showing signs of wear and tear. I suggest that another £50,000 could be saved on the items “ Reserve of Rifles, £281,000,”- and “ Small Arms Ammunition Factory - small arms ammunition account to recoup advances to Trust Fund, £250,000.”
– The item “Reserve of Rifles” means the Lithgow Small Arms Factory.
– Butthe Prime Minister has said that that item could be reduced without endangering the land Forces of Australia. I suggest that £25,000 could be cut off it without endangering the reserve of rifles appreciably, or the operations at the Small Arms Factory. I should say, also, that another £25,000 could be saved on the £250,000 which is to be voted to recoup expenditure already authorized, and to replenish the Trust Fund for small arms ammunition.
– Why not take the full £50,000 from the later item, and not interfere with the Small Arms Factory?
– I am not particular whether the saving be effected in one lump from either item or in two amounts from both items.
– The honorable member was not in the chamber when I explained that the item of £250,000 is to keep the Small Arms Ammunition Factory open and the people in it employed. The purchases of ammunition are made out of that amount.
– I can understand that. I do not know the state of the small arms stores or reserves; but, if we are to treat the employment of men as the paramount consideration, I am afraid we shall never get to the disarmament conception in this Committee which all, parties desire.
– It would be quite easy to save the unexpended balance of that £250,000 by not buying any more ammunition for this year.
– A 10 per cent. reduction of the ammunition vote at this stage of our disarmament effort .would not be excessive, and to take £25,000 out of £250,000 would be an earnest of our desire to economize in that direction, as it would be also if we reduced our reserve of rifles to the same extent.- I do not propose to embarrass the Government by moving an amendment, but if, after consideration, Ministers cannot see their way clear to take another £50,000 off these Works Estimates, I think that they should consent to a reduction of the general Defence Estimates by £300,000, making the total Defence reduction £500,000.
– It is from the general Estimates that the saving should be made.
– I am not able to judge of that.
– I hope that the right honorable gentleman will not commit himself to any definite amount. To say that £300,000 must come off the general Defence Estimates may be a counsel of perfection which we may not be able to follow. It would be better to regard it as an ideal at which we should aim.
– I admit that. But I started with the postulate that we are voting for defence, apart from the Navy, £2,600,000, and: that we should be able to reduce that amount by £500,000. I suggested a reduction of the Military Works Estimates by £250,000, and a reduction of the general Military Estimates by the same amount. Ministers say now that they will reduce these Works Estimates by £200,000, and I reply that if you cannot reduce them by £250,000, I hope that the general Defence Estimates may be reduced by £300,000. The Prime Minister has promised to reduce the Naval expenditure by £130,000, and that promise must be considered when we come to deal with the Naval Estimates.
– As no one else has moved to increase the reduction to £250,000, I propose to do so.
– There is already before the Chair an amendment to reduce the vote by £200.000.
.- May I suggest that as this is a vital matter, and as we have had a hot and long day, progress should be reported to give Ministers an opportunity to consider where they can reduce this vote by another £50,000.
– That would make for the safety of the Government.
– I am thinking, not of that, but of the satisfactory discharge of public business.
.- The Government has endeavoured to meet the wishes of the Committee, and, I think, has done so to a reasonable extent. It was asked to indicate the items on which reductions would be made, and it has done that. I read the list of them to the Committee. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) hasmoved to reduce this vote by £200,000, and it is now suggested that it should be still further reduced by £50,000. I say,, frankly, that I do not know whether that reduction can be made without destroying our Defence scheme. My honorable colleague, who, as we know, has given a great deal of time to this matter, doubts that the reduction can be safely made. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) suggests, as an alternative, the reduction of the general Military Estimates by £300,000. I have already said that I was not in Australia when the Estimates were framed, and though, of course, officially responsible for them, I am not sufficiently acquainted with their details to be able to> say now whether the reductions proposed would not make our Defence scheme a mere sham. The right honorable member drew attention: to item 8 of Division 8, but when, by way of interjection, I said that to reduce the .amount set out in that item would inevitably throw men out of employment, he quite properly replied that we shall never get disarmament if that is not to happen’. The nations of the earth will never browse in the sweet green pastures of peace if their military establishments and the personnel of their arsenals and workshops are not to be reduced. To-night, however, I have listened to both sides. My friends opposite tell vue that reductions can be made, but not on certain items, and other members point out those items as providing special opportunities for retrenchment. Under these circumstances it is difficult to know what to do. I shall not allow any one to pose as a champion of peace to the exclusion of my advocacy of it. I believe in peace, and I believe whole-heartedly in the possibility of the restoration of the world to healthy conditions; but we must take things as they are, and it would be prudent to await the completion of the Washington Conference before dealing drastically with our land defences. So far that Conference has made no suggestions for the reduction of military establishments, though we hope that it will go far on the lines on which it has started. I do not like to accept the alternative suggestion ‘of the right honorable member off-hand, because I do not know where it might lead me ; but I would suggest as a way out of the present difficulty that 1 should be given an opportunity to consult with my honorable colleague as to the possibility of further reducing this vote by £25,000 or £50,000. As to the general Military Estimates, we shall endeavour to meet the wishes of honorable members by reducing them by £250,000; but it must be distinctly understood that I do not pledge myself, in the event of inability to further reduce this vote by £25,000 or £50,000, to reduce the general Military Estimates by £300,000. With my scant knowledge of the details of those Estimates, I do not say that it cannot be done; and if it can be done, it will be done. I propose; therefore, that as soon as possible after we meet to-morrow, a statement shall be made of what we think we can do in the matter of retrenchment. We. shall certainly try to meet honorable- members, and I hope that if they think that on the whole we have done that, they will proceed more rapidly with the consideration of the Estimates. Honorable gentlemen must remember that there is yet to be dealt with, in addition to the general Estimates, the Convention Bill and a Bill to amend the Arbitration Act, and only four weeks of the session remain. I saw a big deputation on the subject this afternoon, and I feel that we must have regard to the position of the Arbitration Court.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211117_reps_8_97/>.