House of Representatives
30 July 1923

9th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mir. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 1763



– I wish to ask the Prime Ministerwhether he will make the order of leave for the proposed Bill to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act sufficiently wide to enable honorable members, if they so desire, to move for a greater increase in the pension than the amount of 2s. 6d. which was mentioned by the Treasurer in the Budget statement ?

Minister for External Affairs · FLINDERS, VICTORIA · NAT

– I will look into the question. No action has yet been taken in framing the measure.

page 1763




asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that the winter uniforms for the postmen of Australia, due on1st May, 1923, were not issued till the middle of July?
  2. Ifso, is it a fact that the reason of the delay is that the Commonwealth Clothing Factory contracts for railway, tramway, and police uniforms to the detriment of those officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who are supplied with uniforms?
  3. Will he cause an instruction to he issued to the Commonwealth Clothing Factory that uniforms required for his Department are to be supplied on the due dates, viz,, winter uniforms on 1st May, andsummer uniforms on 1st November in each year, respectively?
Postmaster-General · CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA · CP

– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.

page 1763


Motion Mr. Bruce), by leave, agreed to-

That during the unavoidable absence of Mr. Deputy Speaker, Mr. Speaker be authorized to call upon any of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to temporarily relieve himin the chair.

page 1764


Second Reading

VicePresident of the Executive Council · Wilmot · CP

– I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The thanks of the House are due to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for his action on the 29th J une last, in moving the adjourn ment of the House to call attention to the questions involved in the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance, and thus bringing them prominently before honorable members. The Bill now under consideration cornea before the House in a somewhat unusual form. The Ordinance to which I have referred appears as a schedule to the Bill. It is not proposed to pass the measure as it stands into law. It is proposed that when honorable members have had an opportunity to determine the terms of the Ordinance, the Bill shall be withdrawn, and the Ordinance, as finally determined, thereupon promulgated in the ordinary way.

Mr Charlton:

– Is the Ordinance, as set out in the schedule, the same as that originally tabled?


– Yes; subject to such amendments as were made in another place.

Mr Mathews:

– We are to have an Ordinance, and no Act of this Parliament dealing with the matter?


– The reason is that, under the Northern Territory Administration Act, it is provided that the Territory shall be legislated for by means of Ordinances. It would be a breach of that provision, and the uniformity of the practice adopted under it, to pass a Land Act for the Territory in the usual way in which Acts of this Parliament are passed. The course it is proposed to adopt will make no difference in practical effect, because the law will be the same whether enacted in an Ordinance or otherwise. It is considered better, in the circumstances, that the form of procedure I have mentioned should be adopted. This will permit of the fullest discussion of the Ordinance. When Parliament has decided what its terms shall be, it will be promulgated in the ordinary way as an Ordinance for the

Northern Territory. When the honorable member for the Northern Territory moved the adjournment of the House to call attention to this Ordinance, some honorable members appeared to think that some secrecy in the matter was being observed by the Government. That is not so. The Ordinance was published in quite the usual way. Ordinances have to he on the table for a certain time, and if, within that time, no objection is taken to them, and no motion is carried for their disallowance, they become law. So far from the issue of this particular Ordinance being a secret matter, it was particularly well known. Months ago a reference to it appeared in the press, and during the recent elections it was referred to as the policy to be adopted by the Government,if returned, for dealing with lands in the Northern Territory. If honorable members think that the Government have anything to hide in the matter, they are labouring under a misapprehension. I hope that, now they have seen the Ordinance, they realize that it is an ordinary piece of legislation, and will acquit the Government of any desire for secrecy in the matter. Not only has this Ordinance had more than usual publicity, but the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) has been very careful to collect all the information he possibly could to enable him to deal with the subject. He has not relied solely upon the officers of his Department. He has sought information from all sources from which it could be obtained. He has consulted with the lessees of the great pastoral leases in the Territory, and has come to more or less of an arrangement with them. Whilst he has sought the advice of the pastoralists, that advice has not necessarily been followed in every respect in the Ordinance, nor are they securing under it what they would like to have. But I think a fair arrangement has been come to; and, as I proceed, I hope to be able to support that statement. We have to remember that lessees in the Northern Territory have rights under South Australian Acts and under our own Ordinances which have to be respected. We are not in a position to deal with them as we please, but must make the best arrangements we can. If honorable members will bear in mind the- backward condition of the Territory, which includes large areas of high-class pastoral land held under leases which still have from eighteen to twenty-one years to. run, and will look impartially at all the circumstances, they will admit that the proposed Ordinance represents a common-sense attempt to encourage settlement. The Government intends, after the Ordinance has been approved, to provide better transport facilities. Every one seems to be satisfied that the Territory is worth developing, and that there are large tracts of land there which, with proper treatment, will yield a rich harvest. The Commonwealth has accepted responsibility for developing the Territory, and must do its best to discharge that obligation by attracting a white population to this now empty portion of Australia. 1 By doing that, we shall materially assist in the prosperity and the defence of the whole continent. Some military experts say that if an army were landed in the Northern Territory, it would not be able to inflict any damage upon the rest of the country. I do not pose as a military expert, but there are other military experts, ‘and they are men of good standing, who oppose that view, and hold that if a strong mobile force were landed in the Territory, it would be very difficult for Australia to expel it. It would apparently not be difficult for an army, once landed at Port Darwin, to travel to Newcastle Waters. That seems to be an easy ^country for motor traffic. For six or seven months in the year the weather is dry, and during that period the more the roads are used the better they become.

Mr Mathews:

– General White says that it would be impossible for an army to land in the Northern Territory and travel overland to the south of the continent.


– Some experts say one thing, and some another. It seems to me that a mobile force could make its way to Newcastle Waters without much difficulty. There would be plenty of food available on the route. The residents would probably not be able to muster their cattle in time to get out of the way of the advancing army, which, if it was in the country for long, could plant much of the coastal area with rice.

Mr Maxwell:

– It would be best not to give a hostile army an opportunity to attempt to cross the continent.


– Prevention ‘ is better than cure. The Territory is admittedly in a backward condition. The principal reason for this appears to be want of transport facilities, and not climatic conditions or poverty of soil. After having observed what previous Governments have attempted to do in the Territory, the present Government has come to the conclusion that the first essential is to develop it along the lines followed in the rest of Australia. That is to say, pastoral development must come first. Most of the land of Australia was settled first by pastoralists, and was divided later into smaller holdings, and later still into closer settlement blocks.

Mr Charlton:

– Does the Minister not think that more could be done by assisting mining prospectors than by providing for land settlement?


– I am not prepared to say. It is no good talking of mining or any other industry in the Territory, while transport facilities are lacking. If we provide for the development of the land, mines may be opened and give an extra fillip to progress, as they have done in other parts of Australia. Experiments have been tried from time to time in the Territory, but the results of them have not come up to expectations. The parts of the Territory of which we know most - the Barkly Tablelands and the Victoria River country - are used only for cattle. The Government want to alter that state of affairs and make the Territory, if possible, a sheep country. That is the first and most natural step to take, and it is the one that is most likely to succeed. When the Ordinance has been passed, the Government intend to provide telegraphic, railway, and shipping facilities. In this great Territory there appear to be two distinct classes. of land. If a line be drawn from the Queensland border to Western Australia, the land to the north of it is coastal, and more or less low-lying. The rainfall in that portion varies from 40 inches in the south to 60 inches near the coast. If another line be drawn from Western Australia, south qf Newcastle Waters, to the Queensland border, to a point near the

Lake Nash Station, there is a belt of country- in which the rainfall is from 20 inches in the south to 40 inches in the north.

Mr Maxwell:

– What would be the width of that strip?


– It would include what we know as the Victoria River country and the Barkly Tablelands. The rainfall in those areas is regular and reliable, even in seasons when other portions of Australia to the east and west are not getting their usual rainfall. That factor alone supports the argument that this country is capable of development, if provided with proper means of communication. As one proceeds southward the rainfall diminishes, but I understand that in the Alice Springs district, and even in the Macdonnell Ranges, there is a good rainfall, although not so reliable as in the belt further north to which I have just referred. At the present time sheep cannot be pastured in even the best areas, because the country is infested with wild dogs. No sensible man will attempt to raise sheep in an area where that pest is prevalent.

Mr Mathews:

– Has the .Commonwealth offered to hand the Territory back to South Australia ?


– I am not aware of any such offer having been made to South Australia. Sheep could be run in the Territory only with the protection of dog-proof fencing, and the costs of the material, transport, and labour are prohibitive. The Northern Territory is poorly limbered; consequently, all timber required for fencing or building has to be transported considerable distances. These difficulties of transport explain why the various holdings have not been developed to any great extent. The distance from Darwin to Emungalan is 200 miles, and to Newcastle Waters, 400 miles. From the railhead goods have to be carted by donkeys, camels, or horses. If goods are shipped to Burketown the difficulties of handling are equally great. The port is a poor one, and ships have to lie 8 or 9 miles out from the shore. If rough weather blows up they have to weigh anchor and go further out to sea until the weather moderates. From the roadstead the goods have to be lightered -ashore, and then must be transported great distances by donkeys and camels. The people living in the southern part of the Terri tory get their goods from Oodnadatta over very poor roads, whilst residents in the Victoria River district obtain their supplies from either Katherine or Wyndham, in Western Australia. By either route the cost of transport is heavy. I am told that the transport is frequently 2s. 9d. per ton per mile, and that by the time the goods are delivered at the homestead from £25 to £40 per ton has been added to their original cost. The Government propose to overcome some of these difficulties by building railways .

Mr Makin:

– The Government made a bad start last week.


– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) informed us that an extension of 100 miles from Daly Waters to- Newcastle Waters will tap the Barkly Tablelands, and give considerable relief to the people living in one of the best portions of the Territory. Not only are goods costly to transport, but they must be ordered in large quantities, and from the time the order is placed the settler may have to wait five or six months for delivery. The Government are anxious to remove that disability, and this Ordinance is a step in the right direction. Even if it were possible to raise sheep in the Territory there would be almost insuperable difficulties in carting the wool 4 to the coast. Therefore, cattle-raising seems the only form of pastoralism that is practicable at the present time. Cattle will forage further from the waterholes than will sheep, and, moreover, they have not to be shifted from area to area so often. But even for cattle-raising the settler must provide water supplies, and boring is very expensive. Not only is the transport of material costly, but the prices of labour and material are very high. I am told that the fuel required to operate an engine for boring and pumping costs from £8 to £12. per week. The conversion of the country from cattleraising to sheep-growing will not be easy, but the Government hope to be able to do it, and I am satisfied that they are taking the right steps to that end. A large expenditure will be necessary to fit the Territory for the carrying of stock, especially sheep. The facilities for shipping at Darwin and at Burketown are totally inadequate. Honorable members will shortly have before them a proposition for providing improved facilities at

Darwin. According to reports, the country could well carry sheep. The manager of Avon Downs Station, who has had wide experience, is satisfied that it would he a great sheep country if proper means of protection for the sheep were provided, and a sufficient number of bores were put down. Apparently, water is very easily obtained, and it is invariably of good quality. The cattle men are experiencing anything but a good time, the small men particularly being in a precarious position. If the present conditions continue much longer, many of the smaller men will probably have to leave their selections. Both the Barkly Tablelands and theVictoria River country, we are assured, are excellent for sheep. If we can convert the Territory from a cattle to a sheep-raising country, beneficent results will follow. In Western Queensland there are thriving country towns, such as Winton and Longreach, which are dependent solely on the sheep and cattle industry. If the Territory can be developed in the same manner, and the pastoralists become satisfied with their lot, there is no reason why similar towns should not spring up there. Population undoubtedly would be attracted, and the prospector would have a better chance than he has to-day of unearthing the mineral wealth of the country. To enable the Territory to advance, it must be treated as other parts of Australia have been treated. The Government intend providing proper means of telegraph and other communication in addition to harbor and shipping facilities.

Mr Yates:

-Can the Minister tell us what the result will be of the proposed extension of the railway from Newcastle Waters to the Pellew Islands?


– I am unable to say. Even though the line cannot be taken as far as the McArthur River, if it is constructed as far as Borroloola, leaving the produce to be lightered to Pellew islands, or wherever the harbor is situated, it will be an excellent thing, because it will mean the tapping of the Barkly Tablelands country, and it will provide an outlet superior to anything that exists to-day. That is one of the proposals that the Government are now considering. If it is found to be practicable, it will not be long before a Bill will be brought before the House giving effect to it. If the Commonwealth is to stand up to its responsibilities steps will have to be taken as soon as possible to provide better means of communication. I am satisfied that if that is done, this country will have such a chance as it has never had before. The Government intend to promulgate a special Ordinance dealing with agricultural and town lands as soon as possible. Before that can be done, however, the Northern Territory Administration Act will have to be amended; otherwise the Government would not be able to grant any tenure except leasehold, and it is the intention of the Government to place itself in the position to grant freehold tenure. An important matter, which was touched on during a previous debate, is the accommo- dation provided for employees. While many land-holders appear to have made the necessary provision, some are deficient in their provision. That is to be remedied under the operation of a special Ordinance. To understand the position of the Territory, we must study the land laws relating to it. Before dealing with the South Australian Acts, I desire to remind honorable members that “the Northern Territory Acceptance Act compels the Government to recognise the conditions that existed at the time the Territory was taken over. To make himself acquainted with those provisions, one has to look at the Acts of the South Australian Parliament. South Australia acquired the Northern Territory as far back as 1863. The first Act which has a direct bearing on. the Ordinance, and which affects the position as it exists to-day, was passed by the South Australian Parliament in 1890, in an endeavour to revive the pastoral industry of the Northern Territory by liberalizing its land laws. Under the Act of 1890, it was provided that leases could be granted for periods not exceeding forty-two years, and that the rentals should be: For. the first period of seven years, not less than 6d. per square mile; for the second period of seven years, not less than1s. per square mile; for the third period of seven years, 2s. per square mile; and for the remainder of the term, on a valuation approved by the Minister, irrespective of the improvements effected by the lessee. At that period conditions concerning improvements were not imposed; but stocking conditions were insisted upon. A person taking up a pastoral lease under the Act of 1890 was expected to carry one head of cattle or five head of sheep per square mile during the first three years of his lease, and before the end of the seventh year and up to the expiry of his lease two head of cattle or ten head of sheep per square mile. The Act of 1890 also contained the power to resume for public or mineral purposes, and the land resumed for public purposes was to be used only for railways, post-offices, and such other public services. When land was resumed under that Act for public purposes the lessee was compensated for his improvements, and for any loss he had incurred. A lessee could also surrender his lease for a new lease, in which case he could obtain an additional fourteen years’ tenancy. The next South Australian Act which has a bearing on the Ordinance was passed in 1896, wherein it was provided that -

The rent to be fixed by valuation for the remainder of the term of the lease shall not be more than 50 per cent, above or below the rent payable during the last year of the third period of seven years.

Under the Act of 1899, which has a direct bearing on the conditions as they exist to-day, a section in the Act of 1890 concerning the granting of pastoral leases and fixing the term was repealed and this provision substituted: - “The term of any pastoral .lease shall not exceed forty-two years.” Rents for the first period of twenty-one years were fixed as they had been in the 1890 Act, but for the balance of the term the rent was not fixed by the Minister, but by two arbitrators, one of whom was appointed by the Government and one by the lessee. Under the 1896 Act the rent fixed was not to be 50 per cent, above or below that payable during the twentyfirst year, and powers of resumption for special purposes were allowed. The lessee, if he desired, could within three years of the passing of the Act surrender his lease and obtain a new lease for a period of forty-two years at a rental to be agreed upon by the Minister and the lessee. . In 1901 an Act curtailing the powers of resumption which existed under the Acts of 1890 and 1899 was passed; and in that Act it was provided that the Government could resume land for public purposes on giving three months’ notice, or for agricultural or other purposes on giving two years’- notice. If honorable members will refer to the South Australian legislation they will see that the whole of the Northern Territory was treated by the South Australian Parliament as if it were of the same producing capacity in different districts. No allowance was made for the difference in the quality of the ‘ soil or the carrying capacity of the land, and consequently the same rents and stocking conditions applied all over the Territory. In. these circumstances, many anomalies have arisen which have yet to be reckoned with. When the Northern Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth on the 1st January, 1911, 265 pastoral leases were in existence, representing a total area of 108,048^ square miles, and the annual revenue derived from these leases was £6,803 9s. lid. There were also 161 pastoral permits, comprising an area of 43,632 square miles, and returning an annual revenue of £2,181 12s. The total area of pastoral leases and permits was therefore 15 1,680 J square miles, and the total revenue £8,985 ls. lid., equal to an average return in rental of ls. 2d. per square mile.

It appears that when, in 1902, there was some idea of transferring the Territory to the Commonwealth, these occupation permits were granted from year to year, the licensee having the right of first preference when the land was let. This Parliament has passed the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, and I invite the attention of honorable members to section 7, sub-section 1, which reads -

All laws in force in the Northern Territory at the time of the acceptance shall continue in force, but may be altered or repealed by or under any law of the Commonwealth.

Then we passed the Northern Territory Administration Act.

Mr Gabb:

– Why does the Government keep to one part of the agreement, and not to all of it? I mean the Northern Territory Agreement.


– I quoted a section of our own Act, and was about to quote section 13, sub-section 1, of the Northern

Territory Administration Act, which is as follows : -

Until the Parliament makes other provision for the government of the Territory, the Governor-General may make Ordinances having the force of law in the Territory.

So far as the occupation of the land is concerned, the application of the sections in the Acts quoted is limited by section 10 of the Acceptance Act, which says -

All estates and interests held by any person from the State of South Australia within the Northern Territory at the time of the acceptance shall continue to be held from the Commonwealth on the same terms and conditions as they were held from the State.

Mr Gabb:

– The Government honours that part of the agreement, but not all of it.


– You mean the Northern Territory Acceptance Agreement?

Mr Gabb:

– Yes.

Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:

– Will the Minister address the Chair, and not the honorable member for Angas.


– I did not understand the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) to be referring to the agreement between South Australia and the Commonwealth. I am now indicating what the Government is attempting in the Northern Territory, and showing the handicap under which it labours through not having a freer hand. I wish honorable members to know the actual position in which we are placed, so that they may realize that we are taking a sensible step, and the only possible step that has any chance of success. I should like honorable members to remember that the areas to which 1 have referred are some of the biggest stations in the Territory, and contain some of the best land, and leases have eighteen to twenty-one years, practically, to run before we can do anything with them.. What has this Parliament done in the way of legislating for the Territory ? When the Fisher Government was in power, Ordinance No. 3 of 1912 was passed to deal with Crown lands. Some honorable members seem to take exception to the term of forty-two years as too long, but that Ordinance proposed to grant leases in perpetuity.

Mr Gabb:

– With periodical reappraisement.


– I shall deal with that presently. The Ordinance divided the pastoral lands into three classes, with maximum areas of 500 square miles in class 1, 1,000 square miles in class 2, and 3,000 square miles in class 3, and provision was made for re-appraisement of the rent every twenty-ono years. That Ordinance was so severely criticised that the Government withdrew it, and substituted Ordinance No. 8 of 1912, which is still in force, though it has been amended from time to time. This Ordinance fixed the maximum area in class 1 at 300 square miles, in class 2 at 600 square miles, and in class 3 at 1,500 square miles, and the term of the lease was fixed for land of the first class at twenty-one years, and for land of the second and third classes at forty-two years. Compensation was provided in case the land was resumed, and also for the loss of the lease. The Ordinance was administered by the Classification Board, which sits at Darwin, being still in existence. This Board has had rather difficult problems to face, owing to the depressed state of the cattle market. It is not in a position, under the Ordinance, to grant concessions or release to pastoralists who find themselves in difficulties, and, therefore, the pastoralists have had to apply to the Minister. Such strong cases have been made out for relief, by postponement of the payment of rent, and so forth, that the Minister has frequently had to waive the administrative part of the Act. If that had not been done the probability is that many men would have been forced off the land. The small holders, as I said before, are placed in a very precarious position. The chief reason why the Classification Board has been unable to assist the pastoralists is that the Ordinance passed in 1912 contained an improvement clause, under which lessees had to make a cash expenditure of £10 per square mile in 14 years. That was found to be a most onerous condition, and the Government has now taken another step. It is proposed to eliminate the improvement conditions, and to revert to the South Australian idea of stocking conditions. If the Ordinance is carried, these stocking conditions will place all leases on a common basis in that respect. I remind honorable members that stocking conditions are not so easy to comply with as one might imagine. The Government thinks it is better to impose fair stocking conditions, and allow a man to employ his capital as h’e thinks fit in the development of his property, believing that in his own interests he will spend his money to the best advantage at the time which suits him best. A man, to comply with the stocking conditions, will be put to heavy expense. He must have permanent water for his stock, and also fencing; buildings, yards, and so forth. 1

Mr Charlton:

– These are really improvements.


– I am showing that these stocking conditions will be onerous enough for the people who go out into this country. The minimum stocking conditions have to be met within five years, and in this connexion I have some figures which owners in the Territory, and other experienced people, agree are correct. I am informed that a lessee would require at least two bores, each of which would cost him £2,000. If a man has a block of 400 square miles, that means that he must lay out £4,000 upon it in sinking two bores. The Commonwealth Government has in some cases had to pay more than £2,000 for the sinking of a bore. Lessees under the existing Ordinance suffer from the conditions laid down. The Classification Board can resume . the areas in fourteen years, and, as a consequence, the pastoralists in the Territory have not felt secure, and have failed to work their properties to the best advantage. They are afraid to launch out and make the improvements which should be made in their own interests. Under the existing Ordinance, the Classification Board may impose impossible conditions, and there is no appeal against its decision, and no means of having it reviewed” in any way. The effect of past legislation is shown by the fact that only 8,581 square mile3 out of 108,048 square miles, held under South Australian Acts when the Northern Territory was transferred to the Commonwealth, have been surrendered for leases under our Ordinances. That shows that they have not presented an inviting proposition to pastoralists. The Government are anxious that the pastoralists shall surrender their leases, and one of the main objects of the Ordinance now under consideration is to induce them to do . so. Coming to the Ordinance to which we are asking the House to agree, I should like to say that, its object is to overcome the difficulties and anomalies created by the Ordinance of 1912, and at the same time to offer a business proposition to the lessees to induce them to exchange their leases for others under the new Ordinance, with a view to promoting the development of the Territory. How is it hoped to achieve these objects? In the first place, this Ordinance provides for the division of the Territory into four districts - District A, the Darwin and Gulf district,, which contains the area at present served by the existing railway and the tropical coastal area east of the overland telegraph line, to the north of the 17th parallel of latitude; district B, the Victoria River district. containing the area drained by the Victoria River and its tributaries, and extending from the “Western Australian border to approximately the overland telegraph line on the east, and as far south as the 20th parallel of south latitude; district O, the Barkly Tablelands district, containing the area covered by the Barkly Table-‘ lands; and district D, the Alice Springs district, containing the area bounded on the north by the south boundary of the Victoria River district and portion of the southern boundary of the Barkly Tablelands district, to a point approximately half way between the overland telegraph line and the Queensland border, turning south to the 24th parallel of south latitude, and thence east to the Queensland border. These boundaries have not been decided upon in any haphazard fashion. The Government have considered certain conditions, including the geographical position, the stockcarrying capacity of the country, the facilities afforded by railways or rivers, and other features affecting the value of the land for pastoral occupation. I hope that this will commend itself to honorable members as an attempt to classify various parts of this great Territory. The number of leases issued up to the present, under the South Australian Acts are as follow: - Under the Act of 1890, 12 leases containing 36,216 square miles. The total annual rental is £2,014 6s. lOd; the average area of the leaseholds 299 square miles ; the average annual rental ls. Id. per square mile; and the period for which the leases have to run is from ten to eighteen years. Under the 1899 Act there are ninety leases which cover an area of 58,129 square miles; the total annual rental is £5,987 ; the average area of lease 646 square miles; the average annual rental 2s.1d. per square mile, and the term of lease to run from eighteen to twenty -one years. If the lessees will meet the Commonwealth Government and surrender their leases, as provided for in the Ordinance under consideration, what will they get? They will receive new leases running from 1923 for forty-two years, but when they are given those new leases they will immediately come under the provisions of the Ordinance.. The Commonwealth will retain the right to the resumption of onequarter of the land in twelve years, that is to say in 1935, and of another quarter ten years later, in 1945. The lessees will also immediately come under the stocking conditions, new rentals, and reappraisement conditions set out in the Ordinance. The. pastoralists have promised that if this Ordinance is passed into law they will surrender their leases and come under it without waiting until the Commonwealth Government is in a position by force of law to exercise its right of resumption. The total area occupied under the South Australian Acts is 94,345 square miles, and under the proposed Ordinance the Commonwealth Government would be in a posi- tion in 1935 to resume 23,000 square miles of country and a similar area in 1945, or. something like 30,000,000 acres of land in all. When that land is resumed this Parliament will have full power to deal with it as it thinks fit. and to impose such conditions as it considers desirable. When the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) dealt with this subject on the 29th June, he contended that this Ordinance would tie up the Territory for the next fortytwo years. In saying so the honorable member was speaking somewhat hastily. Honorable members will remember that the Ordinance had not been circulated at the time, and they had not an opportunity to study its contents. I can quite understand an honorable member reading one of its clauses and coming to a wrong conclusion. It is clear that the . right of resumption, which is provided for under the Ordinance, will prevent the. tying up of the land for forty-two years to say nothing of the promise of the pastoralists to hand in their existing leases and take out new ones.

Mr Fenton:

– Are there any of the leases under the South Australian Acts which still have twenty years to run?


– Some have stiff twenty-one years to run, and they are some of the biggest and best leaseholds in the Territory. That is one of our troubles in connexion with this matter. If this Ordinance is not passed the existing lessees will be able to retain the whole of the lands leased to them under the South Australian Acts for the unexpired terms of their leases without any alteration as to tenure or re-appraisement of rent. That will mean that 94,000 square miles of the best pastoral country will be tied up for varying periods. If that should occur what will be the position of the Northern Territory when those leases fall in? If the land is in the same position in 1942 that it is in at the present time, this Parliament will have to re-let it on terms which cannot be anything like so advantageous as those proposed by this Ordinance. We should have to allow longer leases and extremely low rentals.

Mr Gabb:

– The leases might be very much more valuable then.


– What is there, apart from some unforeseen mineral development, to give the country a start and so increase the value of these runs?

Mr Yates:

– The North-South railway.


– No Government could contemplate the expenditure of large sums of money on public works in the Territory if it could not anticipate better prospects of its development than are possible under existing conditions. Under our Crown Lands Ordinances we have granted 259 leases, covering a total area of 87,254 square miles; the total annual rent is £10,423 16s. 6d. ; the average area of these leases is 337 square miles, and the average annual rental 2s. 5d. per square mile. The total number of leases in existence at present in the Northern, Territory is 470. The total area covered by those leases is 181,599 square miles. The total annual rental we receive amounts to £18,425 3s. 8d. The average area of the leases works out at 427 square miles, and the average. rental at1s.10d. per square mile. I say confidently that the proposed Ordinance promises to improve this condition of affairs immediately. It will repeal all land Ordinances now in force, and all future leases will be issued under it. One of its main features is the provision for a Land Board to replace the present Classification Board. The pastoralists will have a representative on that Board, and there will be two other members appointed by the Government.

Mr O’Keefe:

– From Melbourne?


– That will depend upon the Government.

Mr Charlton:

– It is proposed merely to invite nominations from the pastoralists. The Government will appoint members of the Board. The election of the pastoralists’ representative will not be by a ballot of the pastoralists.


– The pastoralists will select a panel of three men, from which the Government will choose one. The Lands Board will administer the land in the Territory, and will have power to classify the land, and to deter- ‘ mine the rents to be charged, the areas to be included in leases, the purchase price of improvements, and the areas to be resumed when new leases are granted. It will also deal with applications for leases. Its powers will be fairly comprehensive. The usual reservation to the Crown is made in respect of minerals, and in case of non-payment of rent leases will be forfeited.

Mr Jackson:

– What are the stocking conditions ?


– I have already mentioned them. The conditions have to be fully complied with within five years.

Mr Jackson:

– Will the Government enforce the provisions of this Ordinance as well as past Governments have carried out previous Ordinances?


– Can any one say five or six years ahead what will happen in these troublous and changing times?

Mr Brennan:

– The Government cannot, in any case.


– That is quite true, and I have never known any Government that could. The Board will determine the minimum stocking conditions. It will fix the rent to be charged in each district. When a man takes up land, not only will he have to comply, within five years, with the full stocking conditions, but he will have to render a return of his stock every three years. Every possible precaution is taken to insure that lessees shall comply with the conditions. If a lessee is not satisfied with a decision of the Board, he may appeal to the Minister, and, if not satisfied with the Minister’s ruling, he may have the matter in dispute dealt with by the Supreme Court at Darwin. If a lessee remains on the land after the expiration of his lease, he must maintain the improvements, and pay rent.

Mr Gabb:

– Regarding leases surrendered, will the lessees receive mile for mile?


– Yes. The Crown guarantees to pay for improvements. I now come to a very important part of the Ordinance, wherein provision is made for the surrender of pastoral leases. If a man intends to take advantage of this provision, he must give the Minister three years’ notice that he will surrenderhis lease-. If he does that, he will be entitled to a lease for a term of forty-two years. All leases will expire by the 30th June, 1965. When a new lease is granted there will be no change in the rent uutil 1928, after which date the reappraisements will be made. If a man holds a lease under the South Australian Acts, he may be granted a lease at a certain rate per mile, according to the district in which the land is located. If he holds a lease under the Ordinance of 1912; the Board, according to a specified scale for each district, will fix the rent he must pay, but in poor country . the Board may fix a rent lower than the prescribed minimum.

Mr Yates:

– Why is that alteration made? Under the South Australian Acts the rent was 2s. per square mile, and it runs from 2s. to 6s. per square mile under the 1912 and 1918 Ordinances.


– The object is to keep the rent near the average amount paid under the South Australian Acts. The Commonwealth is not a free agent in this matter. It has had to act fairly to existing lessees. The amount of the rent is not troubling the Government very much, and I do not think that, provided it is kept within reasonable bounds, it will worry the lessees. The first object of the Government is to create settlement, and give the Territory a real start. Another notable feature of the Government’s proposals is that the Minister may permit lessees who wish to do so to subdivide for closer settlement the whole or portion of their leases. The man who takes portion of a subdivided area will pay rent and be subject to the same conditions as the original lessee. I believe that before long a large number of lessees will be anxious to subdivide their properties if they can find persons willing to take the smaller areas. Unless increased settlement takes place, can any Government be expected to expend huge sums of money in developing that part of the country, and providing means of communication ? Objection has been taken to this provision. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) said he regarded it as a very objectionable proposal. I hope that, as a result of three weeks’ reflection, he now views the matter in another light. Some perturbation was also felt by some of the members of another place. The Government regards it as one of the most desirable provisions in the Bill, because it will provide a ready means of promoting settlement. In this huge territory there are 523,000 square miles, of which 181,000 square miles have been leased. It is probably the most backward part of the Commonwealth. To find country in a similarly unfortunate state one must go into some of the back parts of Queensland, the west of New South Wales small areas of South Australia, and the north-west ofWestern Australia. The Government is anxious to proceed with necessary works in the Northern Territory as soon as it can bo assured that the Ordinance is achieving the end for which it has been designed, and that the leasees, who have virtually promised to come under it, and to do all they can to assist settlement, are doing their part. As soon as settlement starts, the Government will lose no time in supplying all the means of communication that can reasonably be expected of it. This should not be a party question. The Territory has been handed over to the Commonwealth, and all parties in this Parliament are responsible for its progress and good government. I hope that honorable members will realise their responsibility. The more honorable members consider this proposal, the more it will commend itself to their appreciation. I earnestly appeal to them to take an impartial survey of the whole of the circumstances of the Northern Territory. If they do, they will agree that the step proposed in the Bill is a proper one; and, if the measure be passed, this Parliament may enjoy the gratitude of future generations for having been the first to really do something to start the Northern Territory on the road of progress. Many attempts to do this have been made in the past, but, so far, the results have been practically nil. To-day another opportunity is presented to us, and I appeal to honorable members to study the whole position and . ask themselves whether they cansuggest any policy better than that contained in the Bill. If they do, they will be bound to admit that they cannot. I therefore confidently request the House to give this measure a speedy passage.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.

page 1773


Subjects Listed for Discussion

Debate resumed from 27th July (vide page . 1756), on motion by Mr. Bruce -

That the papers be printed.

North Sydney

– Under cover of this motion the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has reviewed at length Empire relations, foreign policy, and cognate matters. The subjects are so vast and complex that adequate treatment of them is impossible in the time at our disposal, but they are also so fascinating that one turns with reluctance to the consideration of the points raised by the right honorable gentleman in his speech. I shall, therefore, deal with Empire relations only so far as may be necessary to reply to the statements made by the Prime Minister, and to make clear the actual position. With what the right honorable gentleman said regarding the necessity for unityof Empire, I am in cordial agreement. I have done what lay within my power to make such unity possible. And I have worked diligently to insure the component parts of the Empire being united and speaking with one voice on foreign policy. With all that the Prime Minister has said on this point I am quite in accord. It is necessary, however, at the outset, to remove some misconceptions that may arise put of the speech of the right honorable gentleman. He has stated that it is essential that there should be closer consultation between the Dominions and Great Britain, and that there should be agreement upon a common foreign policy and a scheme for Empire defence. That, of course, is not a new ideal. It has long been the aspiration of this country, and the Governments which I have had the honour to lead have done their best to- give practical effect to it. And the British Government, so far as I know, has done all that lay in its power to give the Dominions an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon foreign policy. As to Empire defence, a common policy is so obviously desirable that men in the position of leaders in any part of the great British Empire can hold only one opinion in regard thereto. But the right honorable gentleman spoke as if these were things yet to be attained, rather than things that had been actually achieved. I must, therefore, recall to his mind what the actual position is in regard to Empire foreign policy and defence.. He has adjured us to speak frankly upon these issues, and,, even had he not done so, it would have been our plain duty so to do. Unhappily he gave us no lead j he did not tell us what he would have us do, although I take it that that was what the House was particularly looking for. Consider for a moment the position of the right honorable gentleman. An Imperial Conference is to be held, and it is his bounden duty to attend it. He will go to the centre of the Empire to represent the opinions of the Australian people in the consideration of matters of great moment. And as he has told us that the Conference is of almost immeasurable importance, it would have been well if he had indicated his opinions in regard to those matters which are to be discussed. That he has not done. It is comparatively easy to roam at will over the whole field of Empire relations, and to speak of the necessity for a united front in regard to both foreign policy and Empire defence. That one may do with absolute safety; it commits one to nothing to which he- is not already committed by declarations on the hustings, and by his whole political life.

But I hope that the -Imperial Conference will not discuss mere abstract questions, but will deal with real and pressing problems. The right honorable gentleman has given us no indication of his opinions regarding those problems.

Let us consider the agenda-paper of the Imperial Conference. Foreign policy is a term as wide as the world itself, it covers the circumstances of almost every nation, and upon such a subject it is competent for one to speak at large. But this country has its own opinions on foreign policy, and it were well for Australia, and, indeed, for the Empire, if those ‘ opinions were crystallized so that we might know exactly what should be the attitude of the Australian delegates towards those great questions which mean so much to the Empire. But the right honorable gentleman has given us no indication of his views. On defence, particularly naval defence, he has told us that -unless and until the Imperial Conference has dealt with this matter, it is impossible for us in Australia to round off our policy, or, indeed, to know what that policy should be. But what are his opinions upon Empire defence ? What scheme does he propose to advocate ? He does not tell us.

Turning now for a moment to the agenda-paper of the Economic Conference, we find ourselves in a similar position. That Conference is to deal with many things, including oversea settlement, co-operation and assistance in Imperial development, trade development, and Imperial ‘communications. To these has been added, at the suggestion of the Australian Prime Minister, the question of the Tariff preference accorded by the United Kingdom. I invite the attention of the House to the fact that this subject was not included in the agenda originally suggested by the British Government; but it is, in the opinion of the Leader of this House, the most important item to be discussed under the heading of Economics. What are the precise proposals relating to the Tariff’ that he intends to submit?. Migration is a matter of vital importance, but what the right honorable gentleman intends to propose to the Conference we are not told. Migration is one of those subjects upon which a speaker could roam at large; it is possible to talk much about it without saying anything. But this is a matter which concerns us very closely, and it would have been proper foi the right honorable gentleman to tell the House what he has in his mind, and what proposals he intends to lay before the Imperial Government. That has not been done. We are without guidance in a sea of difficulties, compelled, without a chart, to make port as best we can.

I have dealt with some of the main items on the agenda-papers. There are others - to some of which I shall refer later - but they are relatively unimportant.

Let us turn to a consideration of foreign policy. The right honorable gentleman told us how very important this was; and, although he did not say so in express terms, the impression left by his utterance was that some difference of opinion exists between Britain and the Dominions regarding their right to be consulted and to have a full and equal voice in the moulding of foreign policy. To insist upon this right, the right honorable gentleman proposes to < proceed to England. If there exists a misconception on this subject in the minds of any persons, it must be removed. So far as there can be equality between partners where such disparity naturally exists, Britain long ago recognised our right to an equal share in moulding foreign policy. In the 1917 Conference - at which Australia was not represented - and in the 1918, 1919 and the 1921 Conferences, this right was formally recognised by British statesmen; and is now enshrined in that vague and nebulous, but wonderfully effective, instrument to which men refer as the “ Constitution.” Our right to a voice in the moulding of foreign policy is as clear as is our right to govern ourselves in domestic matters. On that subject there is no difference between Britain and the Dominions. Nor is there any denial of our right to be informed regarding the progress of those events upon which foreign policy has to be based. The right honorable gentleman, indeed, admitted so much when he said that, notwithstanding these facts, there was still something lacking. There is, indeed, very much that is lacking. For, although we are informed of what goes on, the information usually comes too late to be of use. He referred, by .way of example, to the trouble that occurred in September or October of last year, when we were pushed, willy-nilly, to the very edge of the arena of war. It is unfortunate that he did not make the facts quite clear to the House and to the country. He could have done so had he quoted from my telegrams to the then Prime Minister of Great Britain. He has rightly said that there was nothing that we could have done except what we did. I agree with him’ entirely that, when Britain is at war, we are at war. It is, however, necessary to say that this view is- not entertained by all of the Dominions. The right honorable gentleman has said that it is immaterial whether we, by any act or word, declare ourselves at war or do not; if Britain were at war, an enemy would not draw nice distinctions in our favour. Other nations hold Britain to be, as it were, our overlord, involving us in war or peace at will. Since the right honorable gentleman has expressed the desire for the fullest publicity for communications between Britain and ourselves in relation to such matters, in order that’ the people of this country may, by feeding upon this pabulum, be educated in foreign affairs, I regret that he did not think it proper to make available the communications which were sent by me to the exPrime Minister of Great Britain. They would inform the people of this country of the position in which we were placed, and the views of the Government in regard thereto. We were, indeed, so nearly engulfed by the maelstrom of war, that but for a miracle we should have been drawn down. What happened last year may happen again. Therefore, when the right honorable gentleman says that the conditions ate not satisfactory, I entirely agree with him. It is not there that I join issue with him, but as to the remedy that he proposes to apply. The difficulties in regard to foreign policy arise entirely out of our geographical and other circumstances. Never in this world has there been an Empire like ours. The Empires of the past were but provinces in comparison. During the late war we sent - and necessity would have supplied the spur, had the promptings of duty been insufficient - 400,000 troops 12,000 miles from their base, a thing which, in the history of the world, had never been done by any nation, no matter how great. That war was precipitated by a dispute over a treaty the very existence of which was unknown to us, and in relation to a country of which our people knew little. As it was in 1914, so it may be in 1923, or any succeeding year. Anything that would give us continuous control of the foreign policy of the Empire would be of the utmost importance to this country. There are some things, however, which defy the puny efforts of man. He may shorten distance, but he cannot annihilate it. We may create what machinery we like, but those who in the very nature of things are compelled to determine the foreign policy of the Empire, live 12,000 miles away. I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman does not appreciate that fact. When honorable members consider what foreign policy is they will realize how utterly impossible it is that we should under existing circumstances effectively control it. This is our place. We manage our domestic affairs as we please. Doing this, we cannot deny the same right to the Parliaments at Ottawa, Capetown, Wellington, and London. But the Dominions are equally involved with Great Britain in any trouble that may lead to war. What then is to be done? How reconcile autonomy of the parts of this great Empire with unity of the whole ? Let me quote something thatI said in 1921 which bears closely upon this matter. It was necessary that it should be said then, and it is necessary that it should be said now. Canada desired to have a Constitutional Conference, in order to draw up the conditions upon which this Empire should be governed. I opposed that proposal. I did so because, to those who have everything nothing more can be given. Speaking here on the 30th September, 1921 *(Hansard, page 11,642), I said -

It has been suggested that a Constitutional Conference should be held next year. It may be that I am very dense, but I am totally at a loss to understand what it is that this Constitutional Conference proposes to do. Is it that the Dominions are seeking new powers, or is the Conference to draw up a declaration of rights, to set down in black and white the relations between Great Britain and the Dominions? What is the Conference to do? What is the reason for calling it together? I know, of course the terms of the resolution of the 1917 Conference. But much water has run under the bridges since then. Surely this Conference is not intended to limit the rights we now have. Yet. what new right, what further extension of power, can it give us? What is there that we cannot do now ? What limitation isnow imposed upon the self-governing powers of the Dominions? What can they not do, even to encompass their own destruction by sundering the bonds that bind them to the Empire ? What yet do they lack ? Canada has asserted her rights to make Treaties. She has made Treaties. She is asserting her right to appoint an Ambassador at Washington. Are these the marks of Slave States or of quasi-sovereign ty ?

In what essential thing does any one of the great self-governing Dominions differ from independent nations ?

It is true that there is the British Parliament which theoretically has unlimited power in respect of the whole Empire. It is by virtue of a British Statute that the Commonwealth exists, and by the British Parliament that Statute could be repealed, or amended. But as I pointed out when as Prime Minister I represented this country there, Britain possesses these powers only upon the condition that she does not exercise them. But, putting aside this academic limitation upon our own powers, there are none that we do . not possess at this present hour, and none that are beyond our grasp. As I have said, there is no dispute between Great Britain and the Dominions on the right of the Dominions to have an effective share in shaping foreign policy; but . there are practical difficulties in the way of exercising this right. The right honorable gentleman has mentioned the necessity for regular Imperial Conferences. He seems not to realize that at the 1921 Conference it was decided that -

The Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and the Dominions, having carefully considered the recommendation of the Imperial War Conference 1917, that a special Imperial Conference should be summoned as soon as possible after the war, to consider the constitutional relation of the component parts of the Empire, we have reached the following conclusions : -

Continuous consultation, to which the Prime Ministers attach no less importance than the Imperial War Conference of 1917, can only be secured by a substantial improvement in the communications between the component parts of the Empire.

Having regard to the constitutional development since 1917, no advantage is to be gained by hold ing a Constitutional Conference.

The Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and the representatives of India, should aim at meeting annually, or at such longer intervals as may prove feasible.

That is a declaration of rights. There are to be annual Conferences. Communications are to proceed direct from the head of the British Government to the head of the Commonwealth Government; they are not to pass through the circuitous channels of the Colonial Office. That is a recognition of our quasi-sovereignty, if such a term be permissible. The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is ex-officio a member of the Imperial Cabinet. He cannot attend its meetings unless in Great Britain, but he is always a member. Incidentally I tate exception to such terms ae the “ Imperial “ Parliament, the “ Imperial “ Government, the “ Imperial “ Navy, and the “ Imperial “ Army. There are no such things. In this connexion the word “ Imperial “ grates upon me. There is the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the British Government, the Royal Navy and the British Army. But the only Imperial instrument of government is the Imperial Cabinet, a body of which our Prime Minister is a member equally with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Therefore the equality of the Dominions with Great Britain in the government of the’ Empire has, so far as human power can secure it, been recognised. The representatives of ‘the Dominions and of Great Britain are to meet annually, and the Dominions are to be kept regularly informed of what is passing in foreign affairs. The right honorable gentleman has suggested the appointment of a Minister to reside in London, and although he did not say so, he submitted in support of it answers to arguments that I have used at various times. Such representation as he suggests, must, in the nature of things, fall far short of what is necessary. The right honorable the Prime Minister has said that such a man, if attached to the Imperial Cabinet, could do vitally important work. If that be so, there is no need for the right honorable gentleman to proceed to London. A Minister can be appointed .at any time the right honorable gentleman decides, and he can proceed to London, there to express his opinions whenever questions affecting foreign relations or Imperial concerns may be under discussion. He would be as much a Minister of the Crown as any other Minister of the British Cabinet. Members of the British Cabinet would be called together when purely domestic matters were being considered, and our resident Minister summoned whenever foreign policy or Imperial matters were to be discussed, together with such British Ministers as the Prime Minister of Great Britain might think proper to summon. ‘I have pointed out elsewhere what is fairly obvious, that an Australian Minister resident in London would soon get out of touch with Australian affairs. .There is no environment in the world so fatal to the sturdy Democracy which characterizes this country as that of Downing-street. Unwittingly, aor representative would begin to look on life from the English instead of the Australian stand-point. But says the right honorable the Prime Minister, a resident Minister might be appointed for a short term ! Let honorable members consider what that would mean. Let me give honorable members some idea of what the position of our Minister abroad would be. Every morning there comes into the Foreign Office from Australia, India, Japan, China, Russia, the United States of America, South America, and other parts of the world, a veritable avalanche of documents. The .eyes of Britain are all over the world. The channels through which Great Britain derives her information are not second-rate ones; there is no better-served Foreign Office in the world. Some may think it would be a very simple matter to go through these communications, and say, “’ This is from Persia. This is from Budapesth, or from Rio Janiero, or from Tokio,” and place on one side those documents that are not of importance. But the actual position is not quite so simple. Some obscure reference in a paper from Archangel may be’ of the highest importance. Questions of foreign policy .must be handled with great care. A bolt comes out of a perfectly blue sky, and that which appears to mean ‘ nothing may, as the wheel of circumstance revolves, come to mean everything. Therefore, unless our Minister looked at everything; he would be of little use. But no human being could go through those documents and say that he had selected everything from amongst them that might conceivably interest Australia. One needs to realize the way in which’ various events are interwoven in the drama played upon the stage of foreign affairs in order to understand something of the difficulties of the position. This stage is as vast as the world itself. There is no country in the world whose doings do not affect the Empire in some way. The world is our library, and it would be incumbent upon our Minister in London to keep his eye upon and to know something of every volume of it. If appointed for only a short term, before .he got into his stride he would have to return to Australia. The proposition stands condemned for two reasons. If our Minister stayed in London for a long term he would become Anglicized, and if he remained only a little while his services would be of little use. I want honorable members to look at this proposal as at an ordinary business proposition. A man does that work best to which long use has accustomed him; an amateur cannot take the, place of a professional in such a business. There is no Foreign Office more efficient than the British Foreign Office. Any representative of Australia would have to be of a mental calibre and training as would fit him to work amidst such surroundings. I am opposed to the appointment of a resident Minister, although I do not say that he might not from time to time tell us something that we should otherwise not. know. Yet the chances are that he would not. If we leave to him business, the responsibility for which rests on ourselves, that responsibility will prove too great for him, and we should be better without him. Australia must be governed here, and not from anywhere else. That is the rock on which we may split - the rock on which we are on the point of shipwreck in regard to foreign policy. Consider the circumstances of. this Empire. Every part of it is jealously insistent upon managing its own affairs in its own way. The right honorable gentleman proposes to go to England and tell them there how they . shall manage their own business, and when he comes back he will tell us what they said to him about it. The people there are as jealous of their own rights and liberties as any people on earth. We are chicks out of the same nest, and we demand the right to govern ourselves in our own way, and at the same time to have a voice in worldwide affairs which no man can understand unless he lives in the midst of them. After the most mature reflection, after exhausting all those possibilities to which the right honorable gentleman referred, I have said that there is only one way by which we can get control of foreign policy. That is, by such an improvement in the means of communication as set out in the resolution - such means as, in effect, will annihilate distance and bring us into touch with every part of the Empire. On the day when Downingstreet can speak to the Government of this country, and tell us the events of the day - when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom can consult with Canada, with South Africa, with India, and with New Zealand, and each can communicate with the others, then a foreign policy which has really been shaped by the Empire will be within reach, but until then it will not. It is that which makes me so insistent on pressing on the attention of this House the importance of improved communication. In a little while it will be possible to have the most improved telephonic communication with Britain. Before long it will be possible for Downingstreet to speak to Melbourne, and Melbourne to speak to South Africa and Canada. When that day comes it will be possible to get an understanding in regard to foreign policy, upon facts that are fresh, that have suddenly take”n on themselves a shape menacing to us and to the world, and to deal with them. Until then nothing effective can be done.

The right honorable gentleman told us that the foreign policy of the Empire ought to be dealt with at every Conference. But it is so dealt with. In 1921 all these matters were set out at very great length. For example, I said -

Now, Mr. Prime Minister, amongst the great problems that are to be considered, three stand out. You referred to all of them yesterday. They are - Foreign policy in general, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty in particular, and Naval Defence.

These things were discussed at length. Foreign policy was reviewed, and the whole canvas covered. Commenting upon the speech of the Foreign Secretary I said -

As the great canvas of foreign policy waa slowly unrolled by the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues, and we saw the immensity of the stage on which it moves, we were able to appreciate to the full the greatness and majesty of the British Empire, and to realize still more vividly how great a privilege it is to be able to claim its citizenship.

Everything was dealt with; the position in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in Russia, in Turkey, the relations with America wore discussed in detail. Our policy was determined on each one df these matters. That is the practice at every Conference; so that when the right honorable gentleman speaks of his suggestion as an innovation, he does himself and us a wrong. It is no innovation; it is a settled practice, and has been for some time.

Then the right honorable gentleman, in a casual way, mentions, as amongst the methods for effectively enabling us to speak with one voice ‘ on foreign policy, an Empire Parliament. He says that that idea does not commend itself to him. That seems to me a rather half-hearted condemnation. An Empire Parliament is, in my opinion, an idea that cannot be entertained for a moment; it is fundamentally opposed to our very conception of Government. It was my privilege, on one occasion, to visit the French Chamber of Deputies, and there I saw three or four figures huddled together on the back benches, and covered with some curious Oriental garb: They were, I believe, the representatives of Algiers and Morocco. They sat in the French Chamber. but their influence there was no greater than the influence of this glass of water in this Chamber. The influence of Australian representatives in a British Empire Parliament would, so far as foreign policy was concerned, be of that character. But in this conception of an Empire Parliament there is something oven more objectionable. This is not an Empire at all in the ordinary sense of the term; it is a Commonwealth of British nations; that is the fundamental distinction between this Empire and any other. I have heard people speak about this Empire until I, who have been one of its chief eulogists, have felt inclined to smite them hip and thigh. Those people seem to think that the Empire is mainly concerned with the domination of the world - with ‘ the waving of banners, the beating of drums, and swashbuckling all over the earth. That is not the conception of Empire which animates tha groat mass of the people who call themselves citizens of the Empire. For that reason, and for the reason I gave just now, I am very much opposed to an Empire Parliament.

The right honorable gentleman also spoke of the establishment of a small secretariat at the Foreign Office. I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman does not quite understand what the Foreign Office is like. 3 But if it were suggested by, say, the State of Victoria, that there should be a small Victorian secretariat in the Prime Minister’s office, I wonder how he would regard the idea. How would he like people poking their noses into his business, acting partly as spies, partly as blots on the fair surface of creation, ignorant alike of everything but their own existence, and not quite sure about that? This does not appear to me an idea likely to commend itself to the Foreign Office. After all, the business of this great office has to be done discreetly and confidentially, and it would hesitate- or, at any rate, I should - before sanctioning a small secretariat thrust into my holy of holies, persons over whom I had no control, but whom I must allow to wander at their own sweet will. However, I shall say nothing more on that point. It is a suggestion that the right honorable gentleman can make in England, and he can tell us all about it when he comes back.

The right honorable gentleman told us that the position in regard to foreign policy is unsatisfactory, and that the only remedy is a resident Minister. But that, and the other suggestions made, are all accomplished facts. It has been settled that there shall be annual Conferences, when possible, or, at any rate, as frequently as may be. It is settled that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is esa officio a member of the Imperial Cabinet. It is settled that a resident Minister may now be appointed at any time, and ‘ that he also will become a member of the Imperial Cabinet. The only new suggestion is, therefore, the secretariat. Surely this, standing by itself, cannot be seriously regarded as a remedy for the evils of the present position.

Let us now look for one moment at the matters to be settled at this Conference. The right honorable gentleman referred to the Ruhr and Reparations. But he stopped short at that. The Ruhr situation is not a question at large; it is a state of war. It is necessary, instead of dealing with this matter by talking platitudes, to declare our attitude. There is no room for a man to straddle in this matter; he must take up some definite position. The right honorable gentleman says in regard to Reparations that we ought to be consulted. Yes, we ought. We regard the position of the reparation question as ‘most unsatisfactory. It was settled definitely by the Versailles Treaty. The right honorable gentleman says that things have changed, and, of course they have, but the Treaty remains. The Treaty, which was signed by the Germans, defines the conditions under which reparation is to be made. These conditions have not been fulfilled. The Reparations Commission determined the amount of reparations, but the Germans have not paid. I say nothing as to the movement of the French to the Ruhr. They are there, and we have to deal with the facts. What is the attitude of the right honorable gentleman towards the occupation of the Ruhr by the French ? Is he against it or for it? We ought to know. I, for one, have very definite opinions on the subject, but I naturally hesitate to publish my opinion when I find that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth declines to give his opinion. It is for him to say where Australia is in the matter, and, when he has done so, I will tell him whether, in my opinion, he has interpreted the feeling of Australia rightly. The amount of reparations was determined by a competent tribunal, and under its decision we were entitled to some £60,000,000. Of course, £60,000,000 is nothing to people like us. Still, there is the decision. It may be said that we shall never get the money. There is no evidence that we shall ever get any part of that to which we are entitled. With the German mark as it is now, it would appear that that does not matter very much, but I remind honorable members that, according to the Versailles Treaty and the Reparations Commission, we were to be paid in gold, and consequently the antics of the German mark really affect us not at all. After all, whether the value of the mark goes up or down,’ that has nothing to do with the wealth of the country, which consists in its men, ‘ their energy, and the wealth they create. Germany is where it always

Mr. W. AT. Hughes. was, and there are 70,000,000 of the most enterprising and energetic people iH the world in Germany. Nothing that the world can do can prevent them being a great nation. But naturally they do not want to pay. When they see their creditors taking things very easily, and perfectly willing to listen again and again to fresh modifications of the original agreement of claims, they hope for the best, and the best for them is to pay as little as possible, or to pay nothing. What does the Prime Minister think is fair that Germany should pay to us, or to France or Great Britain? Honorable members must remember that it cost us £400,000,000 to wage the war, and that the war, if it did not push Great Britain from her firm place, at least made her totter on her pedestal. When we speak, in terms of pity, of Germany crushed by a cruel and bowelless world, with her mark continually falling,, we should remember that pity, like charity, should begin at home. Our £400,000,000 and Great Britain are to be considered. I should like to know where the Prime Minister stands on this question, and what he stands for. Let me remind honorable members that it is very necessary to have’ a definite opinion upon this matter. When I was Chairman of the Reparations Commission appointed by the Imperial Cabinet, opinions as to what Germany could pay differed very ‘ widely. ‘ Mr. Keynes appeared before the Commission, and said that Germany could pay only £3,000,000,000. But the ex-Governor of the Bank of England said that she could pay £25,000,000,000. She was asked to pay some £11,000,000,000, and that amount was subsequently reduced to £6,600,000,000. France thinks that Germany ought to pay. I also think that she ought to pay. How much she should pay is a matter of opinion. I have mine, but I consider that the Prime Minister should tell us what he thinks would be a fair thing for Germany to pay by way of reparations. We want to know what ishis attitude, for out of this question may come war. The right honorable gentleman is going to London to discuss foreign policy, and I ask what are his opinions,, and what his attitude is going to be on these questions. Why did he lay the papers on the table, and invite this discussion if we are not to get some idea of what he proposes to do when he gets to London ? I must say that I have been intensely disappointed that he did not tell us these things. I am a man who has opinions of bis own. Sometimes they do not suit everybody, but having them I declare them. The Prime Minister should declare his opinion. We ought to know where the right honorable gentleman stands, because these are matters, as he said himself, of life and death. Where does he stand on the occupation of the Ruhr by France, and where does he stand on the question of reparations?

The Prime Minister referred to naval defence. It is a matter of very great importance. From a perusal of his. speech one hardly gathers that this question was discussed at great length at the last Imperial Conference, that a policy was there laid down, and that it was agreed to unanimously. This was prior to the Washington Conference. In the circumstances it was decided that no declaration other than that it was imperative that the Empire should have a Navy adequate for its protection should be made public. That was conceived to be a one-Power standard Navy. The size of that Navy was naturally to be determined by the outcome of the Washington Conference. It was decided at that Conference that the suicidal rivalry then going on between America and Japan should cease, the Empire’s one-Power Navy would not require to be so large, and there would consequently be a smaller drain upon the taxpayers than would otherwise be necessary. But that the Empireshould have a Navy adequate for its defence was admitted by all, and agreed to by all. Further, all were agreed that the defence of the Empire was a responsibility upon all, and not only upon some. That is to say, that it was no longer Great Britain’s business to defend the Empire, but the business of the Empire as a whole to defend itself. That, I take it, was the natural and inevitable corollary of government by a commonwealth of free nations, every one of which insists upon the right to govern itself in its own way, but to have an equal share in shaping foreign policy. We are masters in our own household, but we are members of the Empire and the defence of the Empire is the concern of all its members. - [Extension of time granted.’] - I have said that the defence of the Empire is a responsibility that rests upon us all. The question which was not settled at the last Imperial Conference was not whether the defence of the Empire was the responsibility of all. It was not whether there should or should not be a Naval Base established at Singapore - and I shall emphasize that point in a moment - but what was to be the contribution which each part of the Empire should pay. That and that alone was the point not decided. In view of what the Prime Minister has said that is most important, and I direct the attention of the House to it. >

Once we have established the fact that the defence of the Empire is a common responsibility, it becomes the business of all to decide the best means of providing for it. Two of the highest authorities in the world have expressed their opinions on this point. One of them is Lord J Jellicoe, who is now GovernorGeneral of Now Zealand, and who commanded the British Naval Forces in what was incomparably the greatest naval battle the world has ever seen. He said that Australia and New Zealand could not be effectively defended unless there was a base at Singapore. He was led to that opinion as a result of ripe experience and a most careful examination of the position. The other authority was Lord Beatty, First Naval Lord, whose name will live through the ages. Addressing the Conference of Prime Ministers in camera, he stated the reasons why the base must be there, and nowhere else. He told us, too - a fact which I think will be fairly obvious to honorable members if they will look at a map - that, if it is not there, Australia will be helpless if attacked. I say nothing at all to those who believe that the world has beaten its swords into ploughshares. I only hope they are right; but it is obvious, as the right honorable gentleman has said, that the only countries that have given effect to the decisions of the Washington Conference are Great Britain and. ourselves. America, Japan, and all the other parties to the agreement have not yet done so. If there be any virtue in setting an example, we, and the Empire as a whole, are entitled to all the credit. Britain has scrapped many of her ships, and is reducing the strength of her Navy as prescribed. Other nations have not; they are waiting for the ratification of the Treaty, as they are entitled to do.

Britain has anticipated the ratification of the Treaty. If we accept the position as it is in the world to-day, and if we recognise that there is a. danger to us, no matter how remote, it is obvious that the danger can only be met by a base at such a place as Singapore, which is in a unique position.

Without going into such details as I am not permitted to disclose, I want to remove from the minds of honorable members any belief that some other power can help us. There is, for instance, that great republic across the Pacific Ocean. She, too, like ourselves, is a Pacific power. She has a great navy; and I do not doubt for one moment that, if we were in peril, we could look to the United States of America, and she would be willing to help us. But America could not help us in any great naval trouble. Naval strength is not expressed merely in terms of ships. The striking power of a ship is determined by the distance she can travel from her strategic bases. America, without bases in these seas, can no more mass a fleet in these waters than she can fly. If war be declared to-morrow, or at any time during the next few years, there will ‘ be only one Power able to protect us, and, if she cannot be here in time, our end will be at hand, unless, by some magic of valour by achieving a miracle we do what, on the face of things, appears impossible for men to do. Lord Beatty says definitely that the base must be at Singapore, and Great Britain and the whole of the Dominions agreed that it should be so. That point then has not to be settled, although the Conference may re-affirm its previous decision. But the point which was not determined, and upon which I insist that the -right honorable gentleman should express an opinion, was whether the cost of defending the Empire should be defrayed by doles or definite contributions determined upon some equitable basis. The defence of the Empire is not only a duty, but a business, which we are compelled to undertake by virtue of our circumstances. We are one of several equal partners in this Empire, and wealth, not geographical circumstances, should be the measure of our contribution. To-day our position is such that, most likely, we shall be in the vanguard when

Mr. IT’, M. Hughes. an enemy strikes; but to-morrow another part of the Empire might be the most vulnerable spot. The contributions to Empire defence should be fixed on the basis of the white population of the different parts of the Empire outside Great Britain. I have always held that Great Britain should pay more per head than we; she has India and her other Dependencies to protect, but I object most strongly to our paying, as we are doing this year, 8s.’ 2d. per head of our population, while New Zealand is paying only 4s. 7d., Canada ls. 4d., and Africa nothing. I take the strongest possible exception to contributions being made on that basis. In no circumstances can I agree to it. Every part of the Empire should contribute upon an equitable basis. There was a time when we paid more for naval .defence in one year than the rest of the Dominions had paid in all their history. That is an intolerable state of affairs. 1

It is necessary that I should emphasize one point bearing upon what the right honorable gentleman has said. He said that we could not complete our Naval policy because we did not know what Great Britain intended to do. He says he does know what Great Britain intends to do. It is true that we need not pay a penny towards the construction of the Singapore base, but whether we do or not, Great Britain must establish a base there. If we choose to sit back and, in the exercise of our sovereign rights, pay nothing, no one can compel us to contribute. The centre of the world’s naval gravity has shifted. It is no longer as it was in the North Sea. The mighty Pacific Ocean is the stage upon which the world’s naval events will be decided in the future. Circumstances compel the naval policy of the Empire to proceed along certain lines. For Great Britain . there is no escape. As the guardian, the spokesman, and the senior partner in the Empire, she must have a navy adequate for its protection. She must do that, no matter how far disarmament may go, unless some modern Savonarola shall, by the magic of his words, so charm the nations that all lethal weapons will be thrown upon a pyre. The naval policy of the Empire is then quite clear. It has been decided. Circumstances have shaped it. Our naval advisers have told us quite definitely what must be done. The only questions to be determined at the Conference are how much Australia shall pay towards the defence of the Empire; whether we ‘ shall pay in a lump sum as New Zealand did, or pay upon a fixed basis, and whether our contribution shall be made regardless of what may be paid by the other Dominions. The making of that contribution, however, will not lessen the necessity for making provision for local defence. I have heard one honorable gentleman suggest that Australia should have battleships. He might as well have told me that it would be better for me to travel to Sassafras by aeroplane than by car. I have no aeroplane. I cannot pilot one, and if I had one there would be no landing ground for it. Australia has no battleships, and cannot get them. The cost is beyond her means. It is ridiculous to think of having merely one great battleship. A battleship by itself is useless. It is emblematical of much, but without a train of attendant cruisers, submarines, airships, and carriers, it is helpless. Australia cannot have battleships, but we know the kind of naval defence that we must have; circumstances have determined that. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) told us on Friday that Australia must have some surface ships, some submarines, and an aerial fleet. But they will be for local defence only, and they do not lessen the need for a base at Singapore. I do not speak as one who pretends to expert knowledge of naval affairs, but I repeat that which the greatest experts on naval strategy in the world have declared to me is the need of this country. Therefore, I do not understand the Prime Minister when he says that Australia cannot evolve a naval defence policy until Great Britain has declared at the Imperial Conference what she proposes to do. There is only one thing which Great Britain can do, and there is only one thing Australia can do. The question to be determined at the Imperial Conference is only this: How much Australia shall contribute towards the cost of naval defence, and upon what basis that contribution shall be. made? The right honorable gentleman has not informed us upon that point; perhaps he will.

The Prime Minister referred to the power of one Dominion to make treaties without consulting Great Britain or the other .Dominions, and he expressed grave doubt whether the making of such treaties is compatible with Empire unity. He proposes to lay his views before Canada in the hope of inducing her to see the error of her ways. Canada is as much determined upon making treaties as we are upon maintaining the White Australia policy. At the different Conferences which I have attended I have listened for hours to a number of eminent gentlemen talking to me about the iniquity of the White Australia policy, and their remarks slid off my mind like stones from a tin roof. Australia has set her course. Canada, too, will follow her own course. What that course will lead to I do not know. When Canada proposed to appoint a separate ambassador at Washington, I think I may claim some credit for inducing her Government to change its mind by saying to the then Prime Minister of Canada, “ If you appoint an ambassador to Washington, so will Aus- tralia.” Whilst we are quite prepared to allow a British ambassador to speak for us in a foreign country, I should not be satisfied to allow a Canadian to do so. An ambassador of Great Britain may be able to deal fairly with the different Dominions, but the representative of one Dominion could not. Recently, Canada has agreed, so it is stated in the press, to a treaty with the United States of America which binds the Empire. It is well for mankind that everything one reads in the newspapers is not correct. Whatever treaty Canada has signed, it does not bind the Empire; it might bind somebody, but it certainly does not bind Australia. Not even a treaty by Great Britain, much less one by Canada, is binding upon Australia, for we have the right to say whether or not Ave shall abide by it.

I turn now to the agenda-paper for the Economic Conference. The Prime Minister said, quite rightly, that it is. of enormous importance to Australia that we should find markets for our produce. In respect of two commodities - beef and dried fruits - that is becoming, if it has not become already, a vital necessity. But in our primary industries generally production has expanded so rapidly that the finding of additional markets abroad is a condition precedent to any further development of this country. Amidst so many proposals that are important it is difficult to accord to any one particular item pre-eminence, but, if I had to do so, I should be compelled to say that the finding of new markets for Australian products is more important to us than anything else. When the late Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Bonar Law) proposed this Economic Conference, it was not very clear what he intended the Conference to do, but it is easy to understand why he convened it. The circumstances of Great Britain are, if not desperate, at any rate, very serious. Europe, which was one of her great markets, is now so demoralized, Russia and Germany having almost ceased the importation of British goods, that the Mother Country is at her wits’ end to know what to do. When the agenda for the Conference was communicated by the British authorities to the Commonwealth Prime Minister, he suggested the addition of British preference to Australian goods. Doubtless that is a short cut to greatness. It would be the same as if, instead of threading one’s way round the labyrinth, one were simply to hew a straight- track through. That would be a very much easier way if we are permitted to walk along it. The right honorable gentleman proposes to tell the people of Britain that they must give preference to Australian goods. Although I never ventured quite so far as that, I admit that in a roundabout way I did something of the same kind. I think I did it, too, at a time when public opinion was more malleable than it is likely to be now. In war all things are possible. It must have struck everybody in this country that an Imperial Conference is not the place at which Britain can be induced to give preference to Australian goods. The determination of the question is for Britain alone; it is clearly a domestic problem. The right honorable gentleman has suggested that these conferences should be held in different portions of the Empire. Some day that will happen. If Britishers came to Australia and said to us, “We think you ought to give a higher preference to British goods,” we should listen to them most politely, but we should not give that preference unless we were satisfied that it would be a good thing for us. We must give Britain credit for knowing something about her own business.

Far hundreds of years she was a protectionist country, but for the last eighty years or so she has been a freetrade country, and the duties she now levies are almost negligible. I should hail with almost frantic delight the news that Britain had decided to give substantial preference to our goods. I must confess, however, that I do not entertain the faintest hope that she will do so. At the last British elections a greater number of votes were cast against the Government supporters than for them; but by the manipulation of constituencies the Government was returned with a majority. It may be taken for granted that most, if not all, of those who east their votes against the Government are opposed to preference. The whole of the members of the Labour party and the Asquithians are opposed to it. It appears to me that the Englishman believes that Protection means ruin to him and to Britain. Any attempt to, . as it were, coerce Britain; above all, any attempt to threaten her - as the right honorable gentleman unfortunately has tried to do - will make her still more resolute. That brings me to the point which I wish to stress. I do not know why he should have done so; but the right honorable gentleman ‘ has said that many nations are desirous of entering into reciprocal Treaties with us, and that Britain ought to be told quite plainly what the position is, so that, if we make Treaties with other countries, she shall have no reason to complain, because we are, as most people know, Britain’s second best customer, and very shortly we shall be her best customer. I confess that I do not know of any nations which hay,e offered to enter into reciprocal treaties with us ; I mean nations that matter, nations that can buy what we have to sell. We are one of the most wonderful countries in the world. We sell such a prodigious amount that nations whose names have become historic in Europe are only hucksters compared with us. We are rapidly becoming one of the greatest wheat exporting countries in the world. We are now the greatest lead and wool exporting country. What other nation, except Great Britain, can take our commodities? Let us look at the matter as business men would do. If we go to our best customer, and say, “ If you do not give us what we want we shall not deal with you any more,” we must be prepared for the answer, “Very well.” But if Britain says that, there Is nobody else who can buy our goods. Perhaps the right honorable gentleman will give us the names of the nations which have offered to enter into reciprocal treaties with us. America could not do so; nor France; nor Germany; nor could Russia or Japan. There is no country that can take our goods in the quantity taken by Britain. Therefore, we must not go to Britain with threats or with one hand offering gifts and the other holding a stiletto. When he threatened Britain, the right honorable gentleman did that which, was very unwise. What is more, he knows that he could not give effect to his threat, as this country would not stand it. If the right honorable gentleman came down to-morrow with a proposal to give preference to some other country and not to Britain, he would cease to be Prime Minister. Britain has to be approached very cannily. If we are able to congratulate the right honorable gentleman on having secured extended preference in regard to sugar goods, dried fruits, and one or two other lines, we shall indeed have much for which to be thankful. In her own interests, Britain ought to give us preference on our wheat and meat ; it would be a sensible thing for her to do. But we are the sellers of these things, and we must try to convert her, not threaten that if she does not buy from us we shall take our custom elsewhere. No one else can buy our goods, or they would have been taken long ago.

I agree entirely with what the right honorable gentleman said in regard to migration. He did not, however, tell us what he proposes. Does he propose to say to Britain, “ What is the use of dealing with this great matter in this tin-pot way ; what is the use of giving £3,000,00:) when we want £100,000,000?” Britain could not spend £100,000,000 or £200,000,000 in any better way than on great public works here, on which her streams of immigrants and our own citizens would be employed. It would solidify the Empire, strengthen her credit, and make it certain that Australia would be her best customer; because every man she sends here is a potential buyer of British goods. £100,000,000 or even £200,000,000 are small sums to spend on the development of such a vast continent as this. Let the right honorable gentleman speak boldly. This is the psychological moment for pressing for Australia’s development. There is room here for ‘ many millions if an active public works policy can be entered upon. Every one who comes to Australia from Great Britain becomes at once . a defender and a customer of that country.

The Prime Minister has said that the forthcoming Conference is to be the most important ‘ever held. That has been said of other similar gatherings. Many of the matters to which he has referred have been settled long ago. It is the duty of the right honorable gentleman to attend the Imperial Conference because these gatherings strengthen the ties of Empire, and enable the representatives of the different Dominions to become well informed on questions of Empire concern. This Conference, like former assemblies of the kind, has been summoned to consider questions of great importance.

It is proposed that this Parliament should go into recess while the Prime Minister is absent in England. But why should it not be allowed to continue at work? If it was my duty to remain here to carry on when Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister, during what was probably the most strenuous session Parliament has ever experienced, it is the duty of the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to lead this Parliament while the right honorable member for Flinders is away. In 1916, after the outbreak of war, I visited Great Britain, and Parliament remained in session during my absence; in 1919, Parliament sat while I was away. I was absent for fourteen months. In 1921 I again visited England, and this Parliament continued at work. It is true that my presence here was urgently needed, and some of the supporters of the present Government, the gentlemen’ who are now on the Corner benches, sent me a telegram to return home. They felt that without me this Parliament was a bleak and desolate place. But the Parliament was open, and the work of the country was being carried on. I have given briefly the history of previous Conferences, which shows that it has been the hitherto unbroken practice for Parliament to remain in session while the Prime Minister is absent. Now it is to be closed. We are naturally a little anxious - at least I am - to know why this should be. This is a new era, and, curiously, it coincides with the “ restoration of responsible government!” We were informed not long ago that the odious condition of affairs which had so long existed in the country was to cease, and that the days of government by one man had passed. How vain are human hopes and aspirations ! Eight months of this year have passed away, and Parliament has sat for only two months, and is now on the verge of recess. We were elected to do many things. How little. we have done is self-evident. Now Parliament is to be prorogued, and we are to go to our constituents, and put to them the best case for it we can. All we can tell them is that the Prime Minister has gone to Great Britain, and that an. Administration whose policy was the restoration of’ parliamentary government has decided to go into recess. We are mere cyphers and pawns in the game, and are to be sent to our homes. We are to dwell in these Elysian fields no longer. We are much in the position of that Parliament which Cromwell dismissed when he strode into the chamber, and shouting “. Take away that bauble,” closed the Parliament. The right honorable gentleman is to go Home, and we to our humble dwellings. Why? I know what I was elected to do, and the work every other honorable member was expected to perform, and I cannot for the life of me understand why we should not do it. There are so many things to be done. Some of these could be more ably handled if the present Treasurer were leading the House, because he came to Parliament with the express intention of getting them done. Here is his golden opportunity. He was to lead the way in the New State movement, to remodel the Constitution, and set in order the House which for years has been inhabited by bandits and men of no reputation at all. Now that he has the opportunity for performing this useful work, the Prime Minister goes to England, and he goes or is sent home. And the right honorable gentleman, although he is the head of the Government, professes profound regret for the action, he is about to take. Yet it is he, and not his colleagues, who shuts up this Parliament. This is a coalition Government, of which there are two heads. The one who has authority has bade the other be silent, and he opens not his mouth. As I have said, Parliament has always remained at work under such circumstances, and I think it ought to remain at work now. I protest against the rushing through of legislation, which is only excusable when we come towards the natural end of the session. In the present case we have hardly begun our work. I saw the other day that Mr.- Wignail. a member of the House of Commons, who is visiting Australia, wa3 astounded at the suggestion that this Parliament should close in August, and. remain closed until the Greek Kalends, because we have not been informed when we are to meet again. No doubt we shall be informed, but as yet we have not. The Prime Minister says that this cup, of attending the Conference, has come to him, although he prayed it might pass - that it has come to him in spite of his most desperate efforts. He tells us that he has done everything he could to postpone this Conference. Well, supposing he has, that is no reason why Parliament should be closed during his absence. But has he done all he could to postponed? The right honorable gentleman read a number of cables from General Smuts and others. I. am sorry that he did not read a cable that would have introduced all the others, and thrown a flood of light on them. That was the cable that I myself sent to Mr. Bonar Law in reference to the Conference. The Prime Minister began his story in what I consider to be the middle; but I hope he will give the House an opportunity of hearing that cable read, and also the cable I sent to Mr. Lloyd George in reference to the Turkish trouble. The right honorable gentleman has made the other cables public, and as those refer to myself, and, in a way reflect on me, I think it is only proper that he should make the other two available. Had he done so, I think he would hardly say that he had done everything he could to postpone, the Conference. I think it can be said, on a quiet and careful examination of the whole of the documents, that but for the right honorable gentleman this Conference would not have been held this year at all. So far from censuring the right honorable gentleman for having the Conference fixed at a time to suit himself, I say that that was quite a proper thing for him to do. It is proper that a great Dominion like this should have its convenience consulted, just as the convenience of Great Britain herself is considered. If the time suggested was inconvenient for the right honorable gentleman, it was quite right to have it fixed for a suitable time. But having done that, as he did, I do not think he should then put the fact forward as a reason why the House is not to meet on account of the time fixed for the Conference. The right honorable gentleman was perfectly within his rights in having his convenience consulted, and declaring that he was going to visit England at a certain time - that if they at Home did not like it they could “” I should have done so myself j but, while the circumstances show sufficient reason for his going to England, they do not justify the closing of Parliament.

I apologize to the House for the length of time I have occupied its attention. The debate is one of the utmost possible importance. I have endeavoured in the time at my disposal to cover the ground, and some repetition has been inevitable. It has been quite impossible to deal in due proportion with all the subjects set out in the agenda-paper, but I have done what I could. .. I hope that the Prime Minister, when he goes to England, will sec to it that everything ls done in such a way as to make impossible a recurrence of those unfortunate troubles that have in the past nearly led us to war. I can only repeat unless and until there is such improved communication as will enable Australia and England to be in touch with one another, so that events may be immediately known throughout the Empire, no effective remedy can be found.

Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.

Mr Gabb:

– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.”]


.- This afternoon honorable members were obliged to listen to the declaration of a policy of gloom, in connexion with international matters, from the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). The speech delivered by the Prime Minister ‘ (Mr. Bruce) last week was equally uninspiring and depressing. The statement of their views concerning the subjects to be discussed at the Imperial and Economic Conferences may be regarded as convincing evidence that they can offer the world nothing better than war, and more war, involving greater sacrifices of life, heavier burdens of debt, tears, and anguish for mankind, and, afterwards, difficulties and chaos in our social life. The policy propounded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), on the other hand, is one of hope and an inspiration to a greater nationhood. It is a declaration to the world that, whilst we are prepared to provide adequately for the defence of this country against aggression, we do not desire to adopt the Old World’s conception of National advancement by the power of military might, but prefer rather to advance by the noble example of an industrious and peaceloving people; . It is my intention to place on record some of the glaringly inconsistent statements made by both the Prime Minister and the right honorable member for North Sydney, and at the same time to emphasize the attitude taken up by the Australian Labour party concerning the future of the Commonwealth in its relation to Empire problems. The right honorable member for North ‘Sydney said that it had long been recognised by the British Government that the Commonwealth had a right to an equal voice in Empire affairs. He declared, in fact, that we have in the Councils of Empire an influence equal to that which we have in our own domestic concerns. It is a fact, however, that in many respects Australia is not master of its own destiny. There is- a limitation of the powers of self-government which, unfortunately, certain of our leading public men of to-day have permitted, and for which they are solely responsible. On occasions this Parliament has been required to accept, without qualification and without the opportunity of introducing amendments, legislation dictated by the British Government. We have been obliged, in certain circumstances, to abrogate our self-governing privileges and the freedom which we were supposed to enjoy as one of the Dominions of the British

Empire. The Prime Minister last week unduly laboured the case for the Empire. He seemed to be influenced by a desire to serve the interests of the Empire rather than the special and urgent needs of Australia. Before I resume my seat I hope to be able to prove to the satisfaction of all honorable members that if we follow the course outlined by the Prime Minister the interests of Australia will be subordinated to the cause of Imperialism. As an Australian, I do not in tend to permit the intrusion of Imperial concerns, if they are likely to impair the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister in his opening statement concerning the manner in which we became involved in the war of 1914 clearly showed how little we really count in the affairs of Empire.

The Empire - he said - went into the war in August, 1914, without warning, and without consultation with the Dominions. . . . The request made to us and to the other Dominions to send troops to aid in the common cause wasframed as a “ request,” but it was obvious to every citizen of the Empire that Great Britain in declaring war inevitably involved all the Dominions. We knew that as soon as Great Britain was at war, Australia was at war also. As long as Australia remains a part of the British Empire that will be ourposi- tion. . . I stress the point that if one part of the Empire is involved in war the whole of the Empire is involved. … I think it is unnecessary to emphasize that point to any greater length. To my mind, constituted as the Empire is to-day, there is no possible escape from the position.

All I can say is that if the position is as the Prime Minister stated there is no security for the future peace of the Commonwealth. We are to be chained to the Imperial chariot, and to be compelled to participate in the mad career of secret diplomacy. If I know the feeling of the people aright, there is a general desire to live on terms of peace and good-will with our fellow men, and not to be subject to the indiscretions of agencies many thousands of miles from our own shores. This policy is quite in keeping with that of a progressive Democracy. Many of the events leading up to the war of 1914 were not known even to some members of the British Cabinet. In view of these facts, we cannot place very much reliance upon the Prime Minister’s declaration that if we have an equal voice in the direction of Imperial foreign policy we shall enjoy a feeling of greater security. A statement by the late John Bright, although made many years ago, is specially applicable to the position of the Commonwealth to-day. It probably was fully justified at that time, but it is a thousand times more justified to-day. It more firmly confirms me in my opinion of the position in which we find ourselves. It also gives the Australian people an idea of the conception that even leading British statesmen in those times had of what would be a sane, logical, and justifiable policy for the Dominions to pursue. Mr. John Bright was one of the greatest and most revered of British statesmen. I quote from a speech he delivered on 28th March,1888. He said-

Now I should like to ask the Federation people whether the Colonies of this country - Canada and the many Colonies,the great Colonies that cluster in the South Pacific, the Australian Colonies - whether they think that these Colonies will be willing to bind themselves to the stupid foreign policy of the Governments of this country? Will they be willing to undertake the responsibility of entering into war, the seat of which is 10,000 miles away, andin which they cannot have the slightest influence or interest, and when they maynothave been in the least consulted as to the cause of quarrel for which this country was rushing into war? In my opinion, the Colonies will never stand a policy of that kind If I was a Canadian, orVictorian, or New South Wales man, or Queenslander, or New Zealander, I would take good care, asfar as I was concerned, that my voice should never go in favour of any connexion whatever with those complications in the foreign policy of the Government of the Mother Country. Let them endeavour to maintain their own honour, and not take part in the miserable quarrels, contests, and wars which for a long time past have disfigured the history of the kingdom in which we live.

Those words should be taken to heart by the public men of this country. The opinion therein expressed would be indorsed, I believe, by the people of Australia. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) this afternoon asked what were the privileges to be desired that we did not now enjoy, and what were the powers required that we did not now possess. My answer is that we have no power and no effective voice in the formulation of the Imperial policy on foreign affairs, nor can we anticipate it, because those who are in the secret conclave which determines British foreign policy are not prepared to allow even the most trusted members of their own Government to know what their intentions are. That being so, is it likely that they will permit the Dominions of the Empire to learn their views. The formulation of foreign policy is at present effectively directed by the agents of big commercial and financial concerns of Great Britain, in which they are interested, and they are determined that they shall retain full power to enable these concerns to exploit, not only the English-speaking race, but also the people of foreign countries when the opportunity offers. These British financiers and controllers of commercial interests have proved time after time that they are prepared to invest’ their capital and place their trade in foreign countries, without giving thought to the desirableness of supporting Australia or the other Dominions, if by so doing they can obtain extra profits and dividends, or a higher rate of interest than they can obtain in the British Dominions. This was especially instanced in the case in which Austria was afforded by British financiers prior consideration to the claims of Queensland. It is for these reasons that the makers and breakers of foreign, policies are not prepared to give to a young Democracy such as Australia any opportunity of effective consultations. We must face this position. I feel that we should have the opportunity, as a free people, to determine our own. course without entering into the entanglements of the foreign policy fixed by the British Government. When the right honorable member for North Sydney was Prime Minister, he went to Great Britain to attend an Imperial Conference to try to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs, so that Australia might have, an effective voice in the settlement of the Imperial foreign policy. At the last Conference attended by him, it was agreed that Australia and the other Dominions should be consulted as to, and informed of, the lines Great Britain proposed to follow in fixing her foreign treaties and agreements. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in discuss ing this aspect of the situation last week, said -

The importance of this was realized at the Conference of 1921. Mr. Hughes, then Prime Minister of Australia, stressed that view more than anybody else, and it was owing to his representations, to a great extent, that action was taken to endeavour to evolve a method of keeping the Dominions informed of the proposals of the Imperial Government. The decision was reached that the Dominions should be regularly advised by the British Government on all matters of foreign policy, particularly those which might involve the Empire in war. The principle was laid down at that Conference that the Dominions must be kept fully informed, especially when the peace of the Empire was involved. The British Government undertook to supply information regularly to the Prime Minister of each Dominion, and it has done so. Unfortunately, the system has not proved quite satisfactory.

My reply to that statement is that the system was most unsatisfactory. Our experience last year with respect to the Near East proved the absurdity of the agreement reached at the 1921 Imperial Conference. We became involved in a serious international indiscretion committed by the ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain. The indiscretion was countenanced and indorsed by the right honorable member for North Sydney, who was then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. This afternoon the right honorable gentleman expressed a .sham indignation that certain papers relating to the Near Eastern situation had not been tabled by the Prime Minister, in order that the whole facts could be placed before honorable members. I concur in the view that the cablegrams should be tabled and made available to honorable members; but the attitude adopted by the right honorable member for North Sydney this afternoon is most inconsistent with his attitude of 22nd September of last year. The right honorable member attempted to-day to obtain a point of vantage against the present Prime Minister, because honorable members were denied the opportunity to peruse the file of papers dealing with the Near Eastern complications of last year. I refer honorable members to Hansard of 1922, page 2,612, to show what the right honorable member for North Sydney did when he was Prime Minister. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked him on that date for information about the cablegrams, respecting the Near East, re- ceived by him. The reply recorded in

Hansard was -

I tell the honorable member and tha House once more that I have no objection whatever to the Leader of the Opposition seeing these cablegrams, but I am not going to take the responsibility of running counter to the direct instruction -

Mr Brennan:

– Instruction !


– That I have received from the Foreign Office that these cables are not to be read by anybody. They are not read by my own staff, and I am not going to make them public.

Mr Charlton:

– Yet they were made public in South Africa.


– I understand that honorable gentlemen occupying positions of public trusts in the Parliaments of South Africa and Canada were afforded an opportunity to peruse the files dealing with the Near Eastern situation. It ill became the right honorable member for North Sydney this afternoon to pose as one who desired to give honorable members of this Parliament an opportunity to see such documents, because when he was Prime Minister he did not. Why did he not allow us to do so? He gave us the reason. He told us he had received a direct instruction from the British Foreign Office that the information was not to be made available, even to a trusted Parliament such as this is, but was to be treated as confidential as between himself and the Foreign Office. When honorable members realise that such . circumstances as these have occurred, they will know that we are not the masters of our own business, and that we do not determine, to the extent that is generally understood, the conditions of international policy and foreign relationship. The right honorable the Prime Minister, and also the right honorable member for North Sydney, who are declared Imperialists, endeavoured to make US believe that we were our own masters. The facts prove that we are nob. It was proposed that these Imperial Conferences should be held annually, or as frequently as would suit the convenience of the Prime Ministers of the various Dominions. I am afraid that they may ultimately merge into a form of Imperial Parliament that will possess all the features of Imperial Federation. We should realize that Imperial Federation is conceived out of a passion for ostentation and aggrandizement. The Prime Minister and the right honorable member for North Sydney would both be prepared to lend a willing ear to special pleadings for an Imperial Federation, even if it meant sacrificing or subordinating many of the glorious principles of the Australian Democracy. It is regrettable that the right honorable the Prime Minister was not courageous enough to give us some definite statement last week. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney in this respect, that we had a right to expect a lead from the Government as to what should be their attitude towards many of the great questions that will engage the attention of the Imperial Conference. At least, we might have expected some declaration as to the policy of the Government in this respect, but apparently the right honorable gentleman is1 fearful of the consequences of openly declaring his adherence to the principles of Imperial Federation, with all its entanglements, for which Australia would have to pay dearly. He has avoided the issue. He will proceed to London to do his own sweet will, or rather that of a Government which, as we know, is required to obey the dictates of the commercial and financial interests of Australia, just as the British Government is required to do the bidding of Imperial financiers and men of commerce. Our first duty is to be loyal to our own country, - which gives us breath, sustenance, and sheltering homes. Instead of concerning ourselves with problems affecting Australia, Parliament is expected to go into recess and wait until the Prime Minister, after settling all the questions of Empire, returns to devote the fag end of his time to the difficulties with which the Government and Parliament of Australia have to contend. When we realize the heavy burdens placed on us by the war, the difficulties under which we are labouring to-day, and the great injustices which exist even in this enlightened Democracy, it should be our concern, first of all, to set our own house in order, for only then can we give a lead or set an example to other nations. The Imperialism expressed by the Prime Minister and the right honorable member for North Sydney is the very antithesis of Democracy. That is a cardinal truth we should never forget. The trusted public men of the eighties were more pronounced in their beliefs as to the possibilities of

Australia than are our public men of today. They ‘faced the question of the defence of Australia with a better . spirit. They declared its right to proceed with its development, free from the entanglement of foreign policies, and free to determine its own future according to the desires of its own people. Among the trusted men who gave expression to pronounced views in this regard were the late Chief Justice Higinbotham and the late Mr. J. L. Purves, Q.C. With many others, they were outspoken in their declaration that the interests of Australia were paramount, and must not be subordinated to those of Imperialism. Even Sir Henry Parkes, whom I shall quote a little later, declared that Australia was well fitted to work out its own destiny, and that it would be to its advantage to keep away from the entanglements of Imperial foreign relations. At this stage I shall quote the views of a journal that formerly had great influence in the political concerns of the Commonwealth. I do not know that it has the same influence to-day, although at times it makes desperate efforts to reassert its importance. I speak of the Melbourne Age. In its columns on the 15th June, 1888, appeared the following: -

So far, indeed, from receiving any commercial advantages from the (English) connexion, it would not be difficult to show that commercially speaking, the colonies would be better off without it, for as long as we are involved in the wars of the Empire we shall be exposed to the risks and interruptions of trade which they inevitably bring in their train.

The Agc ,in those days even went further than many of us are prepared to go today. The article proceeded -

Pecuniarily speaking, it may be doubted whether separation would not be ultimately the most profitable policy for all parties; for the Mother Country would then be spared the expense of defending the colonies, and the colonies would not be put to the trouble .of defending themselves.

In other words, the Age declared that as the result of separation we should not be- required to defend any indiscretions that might be committed by Imperial statesmen.

Mr Yates:

– That was a “ cutthepainter “ article.


– It was, and when we compare the attitude adopted by the Age at that time with its present attitude we can see that not only many public men of this continent, but also certain sections of the press, are drifting to-day towards Imperial Federation. I do not profess to subscribe to the whole’ of the declaration of the Age in 1888, but I say that there is some wholesome truth in the paragraph I have read.

Mr West:

– David Syme, the King of Victoria, was alive at that time.


– In to-day’s article the Age is getting back again to its former attitude.


– I confess that I was agreeably surprised when I read in its leading article this morning its declaration of hostility to any policy that would involve Australia in any form of Imperial defence, and its assertion that any defence system of Australia should be Australian armed and Australian controlled. However, it is well to place on record the view it expressed in earlier years.

The Prime Minister is going to England to an Imperial Conference allegedly to determine matters of foreign policy. In a moment of crisis we shall be expected to swallow without protest what has been done, and if a blundering Imperial statesman involves us in war we shall be expected to make contributions in men and money. The Prime Minister is to discuss with Imperial statesmen and the statesmen of other Dominions the question of Imperial defence.. Last week he told us that at one time there was a suggestion that a Dominion unit should operate in the Pacific, and that all the Dominions should contribute towards its cost and maintenance. It was at least one direction, in which the House had a slight indication of the policy of the Government, because the right honorable gentleman said, “I think Australia would welcome that to-day.” That is to say, he thinks we should participate in a Dominion scheme of defence for the Pacific. In this connexion I believe the Melbourne Age this morning closely voiced the opinion of the people of Australia. It would be well for the right honorable gentleman to realize that while the people of Australia are willing to accept the responsibility for defending their country, the provision in that regard must be entirely Australian owned and controlled. The people themselves have definitely expressed their opinion in favour of this policy. The right honorable gentleman must realize the heavy burden that the people of the Commonwealth carry because of their unmistakable loyalty and manifest devotion to the Empire. The taxation required to liquidate the war debt must be paid by many generations to come. But the sacrifice the people made in their loyalty to the Empire was not only a financial one; thousands of our bravest and best citizens sacrified their lives. It would be wrong to place Australia under an obligation to take part in any upheavals likely to arise from the chaotic and volcanic conditions of Europe to-day. I should like to place on record Australia’s financial obligations as the result of the Great War; but before any financial circumstance is considered there should always be held in mind that sacrifice of Australia’s youth, for which no form of monetary compensation can ever be regarded as adequate. . Those who left these shores at that time were very desirable and acceptable citizens of Australia. Comparing the position of the Commonwealth to-day with that of 1914, the figures are startling, and surely should compel us to decline to become involved in wars in other parts of the world except with the approval of the people of the Commonwealth. In 1914, the total debt of the Commonwealth and States was £336,781,121; and in 1922 it was £922,951;136. The total amount of taxation per head of population in 1914 was £4 13s. 9d., and in 1922, £125s.1d. We have come to the limit of those financial obligations that can be accepted if the Australian people are to continue to enjoy any measure of comfort and obtain the advantages of the existing economic conditions. Australia, as far as her obligation to participate in any scheme of Empire defence is concerned, is undertaking her full share, to the extent that she is prepared to defend Australia, which comprises, I understand, one-third of the Empire. If the Australian people are prepared to fully protect their country against the aggression of foreign nations they will more than comply with their rightful obligations. I hope that the Prime Minister will not be prepared to involve Australia in any further expenditure of money, such as would be occasioned if we accepted the proposal to make

Australia a unit in a scheme of Empire defence in the Pacific, to the cost of which she should subscribe a quota. The statement by the Prime Minister that the Washington Conference was not the success that was anticipated is an absolute condemnation of the present-day system by anticipating the renewal of war. While the right honorable gentleman may endeavour to make Australian people believe that some great service will be rendered to this country by the establishment of the Singapore Base and the consequent obligation to contribute to its cost, I feel that this move on the part of Imperial statesmen is likely to strain the cordial relations existing between Great Britain and certain foreign Powers. Japan is not without justification for her declaration of fear as to the intention of Great Britain in proposing to place at Singapore a Naval Base to govern the Pacific. It can have significance to only one country, that great nation of Japan, with which England is allied. To-day, in spirit, we are continuing for an indefinite period the advantages of the AngloJapanese Alliance. Right in the very face of this friendly association we are inspiring fear and suspicion by this proposal. Japan is justified in feeling that it is a direct insult to her, and a reflection on her integrity and honesty of purpose, so far as the British race is concerned. I hope that our statesmen, before it is too late,- will realize the indiscretion of such a proposal. It shouldbe more becoming of Great Britain and the Dominions to devote their influence to a further extension of the scheme of international arbitration provided for by the League of Nations, and the inauguration of other international gatherings, to bring about a. better understanding between nation and nation, rather than to build up fortifications and armaments, which inevitably must bring war, sacrifice, distress, and also heavy burdens on those who have to accept the consequences. The course being pursued is due to avarice. Imperial commercialism has turned to the task of economic mobilization with multiplied enthusiasm, which will precipitate its victims into the whirlwind of war, bringing in its train disaster, tears, and anguish. The workers are subject to the sacrifices and difficulties at all times occasioned by war. That is the reason why Labour places on record its policy that it is desirable to promote world peace, and, consistently with Australia’s good-will to her kindred overseas, declares its readiness to take full responsibility for Australia’s defence, but is opposed to the raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth, or promise of participation in future overseas wars except by a decision of the people.

Mr Stewart:

– In what way would the honorable member get the decision of the people? What has he in mind?


– As we now have an obvious Prime Minister-

Mr Bruce:

– I do not like that word.


– The reason whyI made use of the words “ obvious Prime Minister” is that the right honorable gentleman used the word “ obvious “ so frequently in his speech last week that I felt that everything would be quite obvious to him, and to some of his obvious supporters. The words “ by a decision of the people,” are surely selfexplanatory. I desire to place on record a declaration of the Parliament of Canada in respect of defence. I find, in the Journal of Parliaments of the Empire, volume 4, No. 2, page 285, the following resolution: -

In the opinion of this House it is expedient to declare that, save in the case of actual invasion, the Dominion of Canada shall not be committed to participation in any war without the consent of the Parliament of Canada.

That is akin to the declaration made by the Leader of the Labour party in this House, and consistent with the pronouncement of the British Parliamentary Labour party. The spirit of Canada is in keeping with that of the Australian Democracy, and I am pleased that we are in such excellent company. Our desire is, not to participate in oversea war, but rather to promote principles of peace and good-will. The great father of Federation, the late Sir Henry Parkes, was able to effectively deal with the defence requirements of Australia. He did not approve of placing Australia, in respect of its defence and protection, under any obligation to, or subject to the dictation of, the Imperial Government. After returning from one of his famous European tours, he referred to Australia in this wise: -

Distance from other Powers would alone be to her the element of immense strength. She has already learnt to rely on herself for the means of armed defence. Unitedly she could pour upon any point large bodies of enthusiastic defenders without being under the necessity pi burdening herself with standing armies. She could easily create a navy adequate to her wants. Within her own shores she would possess all that is necessary to keep the machinery of civilized society going with the minimum of privation and inconvenience. In the possible case of being cut off from the rest of the world - a very remote probability - she could, better than any other country on the face of the globe, sustain herself.

Those words were most prophetic, and they justify the opinion of the Labour party, that if Australia had to defend itself against foreign aggression it would be able to do so.

I now turn to the question of Imperial preference. I take it that this is the “star” item of the Prime Minister’s list of subjects for discussion at the Imperial Conference. It was not the desire of the British statesmen that it should be placed on the agenda-paper, but, in consequence of the urgent request of the right honorable gentleman, it was listed for discussion. It may be well to remind some of the most rabid Imperialists that Great Britain’s consideration for Australia was observed simultaneously with the increased prosperity of this country and the decreased export trade of Britain. Australia is now Britain’s second best customer, and Britain, therefore, has begun to take some little notice of the concerns of the Commonwealth. You, Mr. Speaker, are not altogether unfamiliar with what Imperial Federation might mean to Australia, because at one time you were associated with the general council of the Imperial Federation League in Victoria. That organization declared emphatically its views concerning the subordination of Australia’s interests to those of Great Britain. In January, 1911, the Imperial Federation League issued a pamphlet, to which Mr. E. Morris Miller contributed, and, in the course of an article on the subject of Imperial preference and colonial policy, Mr. Miller stated -

Indeed, as Mr. Garvin puts it, preference will prove to be the true growing spot of Imperial Federation.

Australia is most generous to Great Britain in the matter of trade preference. Britain has the advantage of preference to the extent of £8,750,000 with respect to imports from the United Kingdom, while Australia enjoys a preference from Great Britain amounting to only £1,660,000.

Mr Bruce:

– The honorable member is not correct in making that comparison. Those are not the comparable figures.


– The Prime Minister’s own words were -

On the basis of the imports for 1920-21 preference was given in respect of 95 per cent. of the imports of a United Kingdom origin. The preference for that year amounted to £8,750,000. . . . To-daywe have a certain preference. It amounted in 1921 to £1,660,000. . . In the same year we gave Britain a preference of £8,750,000 on £68,000,000 worth of imports.

Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:

– The honorable member’s time has expired.

Mr Charlton:

– I move - “That the honorable member be granted an extension of time.”


– I wish to direct the attention of the House to the fact that five of the six honorable members who have addressed themselves to this question have been granted an extension of time.

Mr Charlton:

– This is a very important debate.


– It may be; but the Standing Orders must in future be observed. Is it the unanimous wish of the House that the honorable member shall have an extension of time ?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !


– I am grateful for the consideration that has been extended to me, the subject of Imperial preference is one of the most important aspects of the whole matter, and it is of vital concern to Australia. Great Britain’s actual interest in this country has synchronized with the development of our trade with Britain. I recall the letter sent by Benjamin Disraeli to Lord Malmesbury, on 13th August, 1852. It contained, inter alia, the following words : -

These wretched colonies will all be independent, too, in a few years, and are’ a millstone round our necks. If I were you, I would push matters with Fillmore, who has no interest to pander to the populace like Webster, and make an honorable and speedy settlement.

It is interesting to discover that such a distinguished statesman as Disraeli considered that such countries as Australia were merely a millstone round the neck of Great Britain, and that it would be a good thing when Britain was rid of us. It now happens, however, that we are the second best customers of Great Britain, and certain Imperial statesmen are prepared to take some interest; but unfortunately that interest far too often is calculated on the sordid basis of trade. Little sentiment has entered into Britain’s trade relationship with Australia. If it came to a choice between Australia and India, I should not be surprised if preference were shown to India, because it is Great Britain’s best customer.

Mr Thompson:

– Does the honorable member believe that Britain’s interest in us is purely commercial ?


– To a considerable extent; and the fact is shown by the declarations of British statesmen from time to time. Britain expects a full return when she offers trade arrangements to Australia. I desire now to refer to a remark made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). I realize that it is characteristic of the right honorable member to be inconsistent, but I wish to draw attention to his latest inconsistency. It is well to remember that the right honorable gentleman does not possess all the logic with which he would like honorable members and the people of Australia to credit him. In this matter I trust that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will not regard me as holding a political brief for him.

Mr Bruce:

– I shall not be misled.


– Very well. In his statement last week the Prime Minister emphasized the point that there had been opportunities for Australia to enter into trade agreements with other countries. He said -

We have been offered trade treaties by practically every country of any standing in the world. Those countries are quite prepared to give us preferential treatment of our primary produce in exchange for preference for their manufactured goods which come into Australia. We can enter into treaties of that character without altering in any way our present basis of production.

The right honorable member for North Sydney remarked that the Prime Minister, in stating that Australia could enter into trade treaties with this or that country, had conveyed a wrong idea. He said that if the Prime Minister went to the country with a policy like that, he would not have come back as Prime Minister because the people had pronounced in favour of full preference being given to Great Britain. In his concluding remarks, the right honorable gentleman declared that, if the position was as the Prime Minister had stated, it was the duty of the Government to avail themselves of the opportunities that had been presented. The right honorable ‘member cannot have it both ways; either he supports trade arrangements with other countries or he does not. His attitude is illogical and inconsistent. I say definitely that, if the countries indicated by the Prime Minister were prepared to accept our products, it was the duty of the Government, in the interests of our primary, producers, to conclude trade agreements with them. If we are not unduly influenced by Imperial statesmen in connexion with foreign policy, Australia may ultimately become master of her own business. Canada, by effecting a trade agreement with the United States of America, has set an example. It should be possible for the Commonwealth to conclude trade agreements with other countries without prejudicing her position as a self-governing Dominion. I hope that something in this direction may be done, and that it may be possible to say of Australia, if not of the Empire -

God bless our native land ;

May Heaven’s protecting hand

Still guard our shore;

May peace her powers extend,

Foe be transformed to friend;

And Britain’s rights depend

On war no more.

May just and righteous laws

Uphold the public cause,

And bless our isle.

Home of the brave and free :

The land of Liberty;

We pray that still on thee

Kind Heaven may smile.


.- The speech made by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) last week was one of the gloomiest to which I have listened in this Chamber. It appeared to be concerned only with the eternal question of war, and still more war. Honorable members were led to believe, early in the session, that they would be afforded an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon certain definite principles to be advocated by the Prime Minister, as the mouth-piece of Australia, at the forthcoming Conferences. We were given to understand that the Leader of the Government would place definite proposals before the House. That has not been done. I cannot see how the Prime Minister can claim to represent Australian sentiment at the Conferences, because honorable members have had no opportunity of registering their opinions upon the questions that will be dealt with in London. The Prime Minister has admitted that, as to the things that really count, he is not sure of his position. He mentioned as one of the probabilities, that, in future, Australia might have a resident Minister in Great Britain, or that there should be a secretariat at the War Office. His speech last week was somewhat similar to his remarks in the short session earlier in the year when replying to the censure motion. On that occasion, he mentioned about 250 problems which, he said, had to be solved, but he offered no solution to any of them. We are in much the same position to-day concerning the matters to be dealt with at the approaching Imperial Conferences. Judged by former gatherings of this nature, Australia is not likely to reap any substantial benefit from the Imperial Conferences this year. We have been told that if we remain within the Empire, we cannot avoid the responsibility of participating in its foreign policy, and that the alternative is to get out of the Empire. I am not going to express an opinion about the latter course, because I do not think that question is involved. I believe that the Dominions, as part and parcel of a far-flung Empire, can function satisfactorily, and at the same time keep clear of the entangling effects of British foreign policy. If the position is as the Prime Minister states it - I do not admit that it is - there may be very good reason why Australia should stand clear, and not be in any sense responsible for the Empire foreign policy. If the Prime Minister had come to this House with a definite statement of policy for the solution of our difficulties, honorable members could have debated the position on its merits. We have been told, however, that if we do not become identified with Empire foreign policy, we might as well get out of the Empire altogether. J do not agree that the Prime Minister’s diagnosis of the Imperial position is correct. He told us that the component parts of the Empire must grow closer together, and he then mentioned the possibility of the Government appointing a resident Minister in London. I cannot see how we can grow closer together without taking a definite step in the direction of Imperial Federation. I point out, however, that when the test came, in 1914, the Empire, without the existence then of definite Imperial relationships, now suggested as necessary, stood solidly together. I should like to know what the Prime Minister means by his references to this phase of our Imperial relations. His statement, like opinions expressed by interested statesmen in Great Britain, lacks frankness. It would have been much better if the Prime Minister had come to this House with a definite policy concerning our association with Imperial foreign policy, and had intimated that he intended to advocate a certain course of action at the forthcoming Conferences. I believe there is something more in this proposal than merely commercial interests. The tendency in all the debates in the British Parliament is towards some system of Imperial Federation. I quote the following from a speech by Lord Strathspey in the British Parliament on 1st March: -

Every Home question was an Empire question. Every Empire question was a Home question. That was why he wanted to see the English Houses’ of Parliament in reality Imperial Chambers, just as the race was Imperial in blood and ideals. Colonial members permanently living in this country and representing the great Colonies could save the Empire from the catastrophe of misunderstanding. He pleaded, therefore, for the establishment of a truly Imperial Parliament, and not merely an English Parliament.

Many of the speeches in the Hansard from which I took that extract are on the same lines. I believe the purpose behind this move is ultimately to bring about some form of Imperial Federation. Great Britain cannot be concerned only with commercial interests, for she has now all the concessions that are possible to her under any form of Imperial relationship. I see behind this the mark of militarism. For that reason I wish the Prime Minister would be more definite, and tell us exactly what he means when he speaks of the necessity for a closer unity and a tightening of relations between Great Britain and the Dominions. I was astounded’ to hear the remark of the right honorable member -for North Sydney - a remark which was applauded - that, in his opinion, it was inconceivable that Great Britain could go to war without this country automatically becoming engaged in that war. Let honorable members realize what that means. The Prime Minister told us frankly the other day that, a little while ago, owing to an unfortunate mistake by the then British Prime Minister, we were very nearly at war again. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that only by a miracle was war averted. Miracles very seldom happen, but we are told that a miracle prevented this war. We must realize, therefore, that, except for a miracle, we should once more have been engaged in bloodshed in the Near East. And why? Not simply because a Prime Minister blundered, but because there were valuable oil wells in the Near East. Lord Curzon, who was closely in touch with matters at that time, told the people that the object for which we might have been at war was not worth the firing of a shot, the spending of a shilling, or the killing of a man. He said it was a frivolous matter altogether. Yet what appeared to him to be paltry reasons might have involved this country in ali the bloodshed and sacrifices of another war. The’ right honorable member for North Sydney tells us that, had Great Britain gone to war, then ipso facto this country also would have had to go to war. That doctrine is monstrous. Australia cannot afford to adopt such a policy. We ought surely to know something about the causes that lead to a war, and we should have some reasonable purpose in our minds before we pledge the country to support a war. Because the Labour party believe that, it is not willing to pledge Australia to take part in any war outside Australia in which the Empire is concerned. We are told that Imperial money is being spent to save us from trouble ; we, therefore, should be prepared to fight. If this country is prepared to make sufficient sacrifice, and contribute sufficient wealth to defend itself on its own shores, that should be a sufficient contribution to Imperial defence. Relatively this country made greater sacrifices and lost more men in the late war than any other part of the Empire. Although our resources are being strained at present, we are prepared to defend Australia from all foreign aggression.

Speeches such as those of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) and the Prime Minister will cause disruption here. If the general public of Australia realized what such speeches really meant they would become restive in regard to not only the present Imperial system, but any Imperial ties. The honorable member for Wentworth made a statement a few days ago, which’ the Prime Minister reiterated, that there was no necessity for any foreign foe to invade Australia. Japan, he said, could come here with one warship, and fire a few shells on any of our capitals, and we would haul down our flag. The Prime Minister also said that if a foreign foe came here, and made any sort of a demonstration, we would wave the white flag, and give our country over to the enemy. That was my inference from the Prime Minister’s speech. Tt was the bold statement of tide honorable member for Wentworth. Surely the honorable gentlemen concerned can promote their Imperialistic ideas without decrying Australia in this fashion. Those statements are an insult to the people of this country, and’ a double insult to the memory of the 60,000 men who laid down their lives 12,000 miles away in a war which they believed was being fought for the defence of Australia. It is time that such statements ceased. Australia has surely shown that she is ready to defend herself at all costs, and to make any sacrifice to face an aggressive foe. I do not believe our people are willing, without strong reasons, to enter into a war on foreign soil. If many of the facts now known about the great war had been generally known on 4th August, 1914, there would have been no war.

The Prime Minister has told us that this Parliament cannot deal with foreign relationships. That, is the old story upon which our system of secret’ diplomacy ha3 grown up. It is the only thing which can possibly justify secret diplomacy. Wo were told by many statesmen, by those interested in the formation of a League of Nations, and by other gentlemen at various international gatherings while the war was in progress, that secret diplomacy had to go. It was admitted ‘that secret diplomacy had caused the war. Mr. Lloyd George, one of the greatest figures on the war stage, made the astounding statement in the House of Commons some time ago that no nation in Europe had caused the war. He was behind the scenes, and should know. He said Europe had simply blundered and staggered into the war. I believe Europe staggered into the war because of the guilt of secret diplomats. They did things behind the backs of the people which the people knew nothing whatever about. After their deeds had been done they tried to cover up their tracks. They appealed to national sentiment, and to every other emotion possible, to force the people to carry on the war. Is this the dismal doctrine to which we must still subscribe? Are we still to be thrown into the hurlyburly of secret diplomacy with its intrigues and machinations? If so, the war was not a war to end war. It has resulted in a continuation of the policy which caused it, and which will create a thousand little wars.

Have we reached such a position in the British Empire to-day that the Dominions cannot make separate treaties ? The Prime Minister led us to believe that we had. I asked him by interjection while he was speaking whether he was referring to commercial or business treaties. He did not reply to me. Perhaps he did not hear. Perhaps he did not want to hear. The right honorable member for North Sydney, however, made the position clear to-day. He said first of all that Australia had everything she wanted, and could not be freer. He said that nothing we could get would give us more, because we already had all we required. Then he told us that it would be preposterous to think >of making an arrangement with another country to enable our producers to get rid of a surplus production, which otherwise they would be unable to dispose of, because Australia could not enter into a commercial treaty. I quite agree that, under an Imperial arrangement for an offensive and defensive war, we could not enter into a commercial treaty with another country.

Such treaties lead to Avar more often than do others. In this connexion, General Foch, writing in the United Service Magazine in 1918, said- ^

What do we all seek? New outlook for an increasing, and ever increasing, commerce, and for industries which are producing far more than they can consume or sell, and are constantly hampered toy an increasing competition.

Further on, he said - °

New areas for trade are opened toy -cannon shots. Even the Bourse, for reasons of interest, can cause armies to enter into campaigns. What caused the Boer Avar? Not the Queen of England, but the merchants of the city.

Even such an innocent little treaty as that in which Canada assigned some fishing grounds to the United States of America had to be handled with the greatest care. The British Government took exception to the step taken by Canada, and it was only after a great deal of correspondence that the matter was finalized by a half-and-half arrangement. We cannot enter into a harmless business arrangement with some other country because it might involve the Empire, and therefore it is useless for the right honorable member to say that Australia has all it requires from the point of view of self-government. We should have had from the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) something more than vague ramblings as to what he proposes to do when he reaches England. He certainly cannot attend the Conference to express the opinions of Parliament or of Australia. Nothing has been put before this House beyond/ ‘the agenda-paper. No principle has been laid down. No definite policy has been propounded upon which honorable members can express an opinion. The maze of speeches here and in Great Britain about Imperial relations is nothing but a smoke screen-I was about to call it a poison gas attack - to cloud the minds of the public so that, later on, something spectacular may take place, and a definite arrangement binding the Dominions to an Imperial Federation will be slipped through the different Parliaments. The Prime Minister made a definite point as to the failure of the League of Nations. He said he had great hopes of the League of Nations, but that neither Australia nor any other country could look to it for protection. In my opinion, it is a mistake to talk of a League of Nations. We have nothing so far but a league of some nations. While some countries refuse to join the League, and others are not permitted to join it, the so-called League of Nations is nothing but an alliance or entente between a few of the leading nations of the world . President Wilson’s conception was that it was to be a league of- all the nations of the world, including the victors as well as the defeated, in the GreatWar. The United States of America was’ all-powerful at the end of the war, inasmuch as it had not suffered from the ravages of war as the other nations had. If it had chosen to join the League, we could have got rid- of war. If the nations which were victorious in the war had honestly desired to get rid of war, they would have guaranteed disarmament. Unfortunately, this was not done, and now we are told that we must continue the mad rush for armaments. Against whom must we arm ourselves 1 Against our Allies in the late war ? If so, what can we fight about ? Is there dissatisfaction as to how the spoils were divided ? If the nations that proved victors in the late war are not arming against one another, surely we have no need to fear any other nation. During last Parliament the Hughes Government permitted a reduction in the Defence Estimates, and I thought that the temper of ‘ the ‘ world , as displayed at the Washington Conference would have induced the present Government to make still further reductions in those Estimates, but, after hearing the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) the other day, one would think that the war spirit in Australia was becoming more strongly pronounced than ever, and that we must still go on in the rush for armaments. It is proposed that the British Empire shall unite so that its Forces will operate jointly under one plan or scheme in any future war. When the German Government started on its mad rush to build up a navy, and the other nations realized that the pressure was becoming too, a Disarmament Conference was held at The Hague. At that Conference the German delegates held that the naval strength of the colonies of Great Britain should be taken into consideration’ in arriving at the naval strength of the British Empire. Mr.

Winston Churchill refused to consider such a proposal, and upon that bone of contention the negotiations broke down, and the Conference ended in failure. Germany then proceeded on her mad rush for armaments, and as a result war broke out in 1914. The struggle for the balance of power is once more in progress, and assuredly it will lead us to war, as it did in 1914. In support of my contention in this regard, I shall quote from the Round Table, a British magazine which cannot be said to be anti-British, or to be a carping critic, or even anti-imperialistic. On the contrary, some of its articles are highly Imperialistic, and in every respect the magazine is intensely British. The. article I shall quote has a bearing on Mr. Lloyd George’s statement in regard to war, and shows that the mad rush for armaments, and all this talk of united action for war, can serve only to accelerate that mad rush, and eventually lead us into war, as the balance of power- struggle did in 1914. This article is dealing with the state of Europe before 1914, and says. -

As every Continental Power under the prewar system of the balance of power became more highly organized for war, as the whole of every nation was conscribed and put in training down to the last button and the last man, time became an increasingly important factor. Military numbers ceased to be the most important thing. The army which could mobilize quickest, and strike an effective blow first, would win the war, because it would destroy its opponent’s capacity to fight before it was ready for action. Thus it was, as was pointed out in this review in 191.5, that the terrible time-table of the European General Staffs had far more to do with the actual outbreak of the world war than the deliberate decision of any man or Government. Europe had become an armed camp under the impulse of German ambition. The crisis was precipitated by the decision of the Cabinets of Vienna and Berlin to take the- opportunity afforded by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand to attempt, by means of a forty-eight hours ultimatum, to win a diplomatic victory, which would mean the establishment ‘of an hegemony over Serbia and the Balkans.

There, .again, we see the dangerous nature of the game of bluff played by the diplomats. The Governments of Austria and Germany were not deliberately planning war, but were attempting to carry out a huge piece of diplomatic bluff - which would not have been attempted if the negotiations had not been carried on in secret. They bluffed to gain a diplo matic victory, and their attempt led to war. The article proceeds -

But it is almost certain that no one, politician or general, deliberately decided to start the world war. It was the military timetable itself which swept .them, like everybody ‘ else, headlong into the struggle once the first button had been pressed. This was the march of events- At the same time that the ultimatum was presented in Belgrade, the AustroHungarian Government ordered the mobilization of the southern part of the Austrian Army in order to prove that they meant business in their ultimatum, and would, if necessary, enforce it by occupying Belgrade: No sooner did the Austro-Hungarian Army mobilize than the Hussion General Staff went to the Czar and pointed out that, if AustriaHungary were allowed’ a start, and a general war grew out of the crisis, Russia would start at an .immense disadvantage. They insisted, therefore, that there must be a preliminary mobilization of the southern section of the Russian Army as a parallel move.

This was still bluff-

Immediately there was the utmost excitement in Berlin.

The time-table moved on -

If the Russian army were allowed to mobilize, what would happen to the German - plan for victory in the event of war? That plan depended entirely on the capacity of the German army to mobilize a few days faster than the French, and upon its being able to defeat .the French army before the Russians could .take the field in France.

It. goes on to refer to frantic telegrams with which I will not weary the House. The writer concludes by saying -

And this is a situation which must always arise where national security is based upon competitive armaments. The time will inevitably come when the deliberations of diplomats and statesmen will be rudely broken into by considerations of military necessity, and nations will be rushed headlong into war whether they want it or not.

The article then elaborates the sequence of these happenings., showing clearly that the statement is true. No one will question the honesty of the magazine itself. The article was compiled from Blue-Books and from different secret documents relating to the war. We see clearly that the Great War of 1914 was the result, as are most wars, of secret diplomacy, For that reason, I regret that the Prime Minister has definitely stated that the Government cannot depart in any way from the policy of secret ‘diplomacy, and that it must continue.

The policy of immigration will be extensively -dealt” with at the Imperial

Conference. I understand, from inspired articles in the press, that during his stay in Great Britain the Prime Min.ister intends to visit many important centres in the British Isles on a. mission of immigration. “When the Premier of New South Wales recently visited England, statements made by him had to be contradicted. They were proved to be incorrect by a member of the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Mark Gosling, who happened to be in Great Britain at that’ time. If the Prime Minister intends to take part in a mission on immigration, we should send some one from this House to accompany him in order to put the other side of the question. The British view-point in respect of immigration is alarming. One gleans from reports published in the press of the debates of the House of Commons, that many British statesmen are earnestly looking to Australia as an outlet for, not only people who wish to settle on its lands, but also Britain’s surplus’ population. I shall read extracts from speeches in order to show that I have some reason for making this statement. The Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department, Lieut. Colonel A. Buckley, on 27th March last, speaking of the best type of immigrant to send to Australia, and dealing with the sending out of boys, single men, and married men with families, said -

The last class is the married men with families, and here you have the ideal person to settle in a new country. The husband and wife take the children out with memories of the Old Country and look after them and bring them up, not so much as citizens of the new Dominions, but with closer feelings towards the Old Country than orphan children and other young people will have.

That statement emphasizes the fact that families are to be sent out to Australia in order that the children will be brought up, not so much as patriots of Australia, but imbued with British Imperialistic ideas. In the House of Commons on 27th March, Colonel Alexander, National Liberal member, said -

The master key to the .solution, of Empire settlement and unemployment rested, first, in the transfer of a certain section of their industrial population at Home from industry to agriculture. And, secondly, in the transfer of a large number of their unemployable surplus .population from this country to the overseas Dominions. ‘

Lieut.-Colonel H. Page Croft, Unionist member in the House of Commons, on 27th March, said -

There were in this country (England) 1,000,000 unemployed people, and another 1,000,000 between the ages of fourteen to eighteen years who would shortly be entering the labour market. In addition to that, the excess of births over deaths was 300,000 per annum. That constituted the greatest internal problem they had ever had to’ consider. If normal emigration were likely to start again .the problem would be largely settled.

Those statements clearly show the trend of thought and the nature of the propaganda existing in Great Britain. We know from the result of debates which have taken place in this House, and the declarations and statements made by many of the immigrants who come to this country, that the present scheme of immigration is meant to tickle the ears of the people. The. policy of immigration for land settlement is so much camouflage in order to obtain funds from this Parliament and the State Parliaments to bring out any one who will help to reduce the existing economic conditions of the workers of this country. The right honorable member for North Sydney, in his speech this afternoon, when expressing regret for some features of the war, referred only to the monetary loss. He spoke of the condition of Germany, and had pity for the German people. He said that there ought to have been some regret for the £400,000,000 which this country spent on the war. It has come to this - that cold cash is the only consideration.

Mr Maxwell:

– Is that fair to the right honorable member for North Sydney ?


– The honorable member should make his own speech. I am putting my own interpretation on the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney. In making that statement, he made no reference to the 60,000 soldiers who died for the Empire. His pity was for the £400,000,000 spent, and not for the wounded and fallen. Not much pity has been extended to those who came back maimed, if one may judge by the nature of their treatment. The right honorable member made a statement to the effect that this country had its freedom. In effect, he said that the British Parliament could take that freedom from us, and that it held that right only by the non-exercise of it. I cannot understand -what he means. In a speech at Bendigo just prior to leaving for the last Imperial Conference, he made a definite statement which was reported in the press, -and which has been referred to in this House. It was to the effect that Australia had self-governing powers, and its people could make any laws they pleased; but that a Parliament existed that could take all these rights from us, and no man could deny it. We are told to-day that there is a power that can take that right from us, and that that power is held only by the non-exercise of it. It would be interesting to know what is the attitude of the Prime Minister on this question. What position will the right honorable gentleman take up if there is an attempt in , future to exercise any such power ? It is very important that the people of Australia should know the exact position. It is absurd to ask us to believe that the power is held only because we know that it will not be exercised; It is well known that the Government have been” interfered with at different times. As has been admitted by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), the Government have, without murmur, taken direct instructions from the Imperial authorities. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), too, confessed’ that he had caused certain items to be excised from the official statistics of Australia on instruction from the Imperial Government, When the war was in progress, a Tariff was framed to deal with certain goods coming to Australia, but that Tariff never saw the light of day, because the Government were advised that it might interfere with the diplomatic negotiations of the Empire, and might offend an Allied Power. Tt is obviously idle to say that Australia has all the power it requires. The Government should not be hampered as they evidently are.

Debate (on motion by Mr.Blakeley) adjourned.

page 1801


Motion (by Mr.Bruce) agreed to- - That the Ho=4 at it* rising, adjourn until 2.30 p.m. to-morrow.

House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.