9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon.W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer say whether or not it is a fact, as reported in this morning’s press, that the Commonwealth has issued in London £5,000,000 worth of Treasury Bills at a discount of £3 3s. 9d. per cent.? If so, what interest is being paid, and for what purpose is this further credit required?
– Treasury bills for the amount stated by the honorable member have been issued in London to provide money for the carrying out of the programme of developmental works included in the last Budget, and sanctioned by Parliament. The principal works are extensions of the telephone system throughout the Commonwealth. The rate of interest to be paid is Three and three-sixteenths pounds per cent. per annum, and as the bills are issued for a period of only three months one quarter of that amount is the discount.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to explain the delay that has occurred in supplying wire netting to those farmers in New South Wales who have applied for it?
– If any delay has occurred, the responsibility lies with the New South Wales Government. No applications have yet been received by the Commonwealth Government from thatState. Immediately any are received the Commonwealth Government will find the money necessary to provide the wire netting.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways inform the House when the actual work of constructing the lock on the Murray River below Wentworth will bo commenced ? Having regard to the very acute water shortage along the river in that locality last year, will the Government take steps to expedite the construction of the lock, and so obviate a recurrence of too shortage?
– Everything that the Commonwealth can do to expedite the construction of that lock, or any other works along the Murray River, will be done.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House when award No. 1, 1924, of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, will be laid on the table?
– I understand it was laid on the table yesterday.
– Ishall inquire into the matter.
– In view of the uncertainty amongst sugar growers regarding the price they will get for their next crop, will the Prime Minister indicate when the proposed tribunal will be established? Does the Prime Minister think it fair that that tribunal should be limited to a price of £27 per ton when the world’s parity to-day is £6 per ton higher ?
– Arrangements are practicallycomplete for the appointment of a Board. The second question is merely an argumentative statement, which the honorable member should take another opportunity to make.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the decision of the Imperial Government is that Russia must recognise her existing liabilities to other countries before trade relations with Great Britain can he resumed ?
– I refer the honorable gentleman to the speech I delivered yesterday in regard to the Imperial and Economic Conferences. Great Britain’s recognition of the Russian Soviet Government is conditional, the principal conditions being the recognition by Russia of its financial obligations to other countries, and a complete cessation of political propaganda in all British Dominions and countries.
Mr.PARKER MOLONEY. - Asthe wheat-growers desire to know the prospects in regard to financing the next season’s yield, will the Prime Minister say whether ornot the Government has decidedto offer another guarantee?
– No decision upon that matter has yet been arrived at. discontentinnavy.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that discontent exists in the Royal AustralianNavy owing to the promulgating ofNavy Orders which act retrospectivelyand deprive performed of rights to which they otherwise would have been entitled?
– I do not know to what the honorable member refers, but ifhe will bring specific cases to my notice they will becarefully inquired into.
asked the Prime Minister,upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice-
Seeing that visiting warships from France and Italy have used Australian coal, why was it necessary to import some thousands of tons of Welsh coal for the use of the Australian Fleet, at considerable cost, particularly seeing that the mines producing bunkering coal are not working regularly through want of trade?
– The Australian Fleet uses Australian coal for ordinary purposes, but higher speed can be obtained from Welsh coal, which is therefore held as a war reserve only.
asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether residentialand business areas are now available ‘to the public at Canberra; if so, what are the conditions of tenure and rents attached thereto?
– It has been decided that residential and business sites in the city area of the Territory for the Seat of Government shall be made available to the public. Conditions of tenure and rentals and method of disposal of leases are at present under consideration, and an announcement in regard thereto will shortly be made.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the dissatisfaction- which exists in regard to the reported transfer on 1st April of those sailors and soldiers at present domiciled in the Mont Park Mental Institution, from Federal control to State control, will the Minister issue immediate instructions that the proposed action be deferred, in order that further representations may bo made against the transfer of what should be a Federal responsibility to a State Department?
– It is not proposed to transfer a Federal responsibility to the State. The responsibility for the care and treatment of ex-soldier patients whose condition is due to war service is always the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The action being taken in Victoria involves only a slight modification of the existing arrangement, and is in line with what obtains and always has obtained in the other States, i.e., the State undertakes the care and treatment of those patients under conditions laid down by the Repatriation Commission, and at the cost of the Commission, which has full rights of inspection at any time. As the action being taken will immediately result in a distinct improvement in numbers of classifications and methods of treatment of soldier patients, it is not proposed to defer action as suggested.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
(a) £491,35113s.1d. (b) Messrs. Lahey Limited, £247,750; Mr. J. F. Brett, £240,000: subsequent purchases of stores, plant. Killar- ney mill site. &c. £3.601 13s.1d. Total. £491,35113s.1d. 2. (a) Canungra (sold by public tender) - Brisbane Timbers Limited, £116,000. (b) Beaudesert (sold by public auction) - H. A. Lahey, £4,500: Jas. Campbell and Sons. £13,350; W. E. Houston. £2,200; H. Hunter, £260.Total £20,310. (c) Killarney (sold at public auction ) - J. McDaniell, £3,000; W. L. Boldery, £30,970; Carricks Limited, £3,250; Brosnan and Foster. £2,925; R.R. Medhurst, £200; D. J. Watts, £1,300; D.A.Mercer, £2,000; M. Brosnan, £220. Total, £44,965. (d) Samford (sold at public auction) - A. McNeven, £150; Jas. Campbell and Sons, £2,100; M. Harland, £2,573 6s. 3d.; Brisbane Implement Handle Factory Limited, £1,455. Total, £6,278 6s. 3d. The properties at Blackbutt, on which a conservative value of £40,000has been placed, have been held for disposal in the future. Other sales approved prior to’ the recent disposals realized £8,874. In addition, the timber on certain blocks held on lease at Beandesert and Killarney were sold some time ago on a royalty basis, but these latter areas have not yet been cleared . The total realizations to February, 1924, including proceeds from sale of standing timber on royalty, equalled £220,799 l5s. 3d., including amount received on resale of one block at Blackbutt after forfeiture of tender.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What steps has ho taken to give effect to his promise made to the House on 10th August, 1923, that military staff clerks would be placed on the same footing as other members of the Public Service with regard to the operation of the Superannuation Act?
– A committee of Defence officers was appointed to formulate a scheme for the extension of the provisions of the Superannuation Act to all members of the Permanent Forces, including Military Staff Clerks. The scheme submitted by this Committee has been referred for investigation by . the Common wealth Actuaries. On receipt of the Actuaries’ report the matter will be finally dealt with by the Government.
Appointmentof Royal Commission
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the wide feeling of unsafety throughout the coal industry since the Bell Bird disaster, and in view of the constant friction permeating that industry, will he appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into every feature of the coal industry, from the point of production to the point of consumption?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon, notice -
In regard to answer number six to my question of yesterday that the banks, on 30th June, 1920, owed to the’ Commonwealth “nil”; and answer number two, that the obligations of the banks on that date totalled £5,426,000, what is the explanation of these apparently contradictory answers?
– The replies given by me yesterday were correct, and in accord with the questions asked by the honorable member. Question No. 2 related to the total value of Commonwealth, notes loaned to the banks in connexion with war gratuity advances, as well as all other advances. Question No. 6 related only to the notes loaned to the banks in connexion with war gratuity advances.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether any reciprocal arrangements have been made with the Dominion of New Zealand relative to old-age pensions, invalid pensions, and war pensions; if so, will he inform (he House what the arrangements are?
– Arrangements have been made with the Government of New Zealand whereby the pensions of New Zealand war pensioners resident in Australia are paid by the Commonwealth, and the pensions of Australian war pensioners resident in New Zealand are paid by the Dominion. The necessity for making similar arrangements in regard to the payment of invalid and old-age pensions does not exist.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– All pensioners who become inmates of hospitals or sana toria are granted pensions of 3s. per week after 28 days’ residence therein. .All inmates of hospitals or sanatoria who apply for pensions and who would be eligible for pensions, if resident outside, are granted pensions of 3s. per week, whilst resident in the institutions. In no cases are these payments withheld.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I am not aware that congestion in the Post-offices, Haymarket and Queen Victoria Markets, Sydney, is acute. I shall make inquiries into the matter.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be available on next sitting day.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice. -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Position of Secretary
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will consider the advisability of amending the proposed Postal Regulations, which are to come into force on the 1st July next, with a view to allowing a distance of 25 feet, in lieu of 12 feet as at present proposed, before the provision of a letter-box is made necessary?
– The limiting of the distance from the street alignment to which delivery would be made by postman to
Debate resumed from 27th March(vide page 79), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the Summary of Proceedings of the Imperial Conference, 1923, and the Resolutions of the Imperial Economic Conference, 1923, be printed.
That this House approves of the conclusions of the Imperial Conference, as set out in the Summary of Proceedings, relating to -
Negotiation, signature, and ratification of treaties;
That this House approves of the Resolutions of the Imperial Economic Conference relating to -
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved -
That in paragraph 2, all the words after “That” be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words: - “ This House approves of the foreign policy of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain, as indorsed by a majority of the representatives of the British people in the Mouse of Commons; aiming, as such policy does, to bring about good-will between nations and advance the peace of the world.”
.- The one outstanding and rather astonishing feature of this debate on the resolutions arrived at by the Imperial and Economic Conferences is the silence of the members of the Opposition and their evident reluctance to express any opinion upon the most important subjects that are at present before this House. What is the reason of their silence ? Is it because they have no policy upon these important questions ? Certainly two or three things stand out with startling clearness. Either the Opposition have no policy at all on these important subjects, or they have a policy, but the present is not a convenient time to enunciate it; or it may be that they have a policy which they are afraid to enunciate at all. At the Imperial Conference in 1923, a discussion took place on matters of vital importance to not only the people of Australia and of the Empire, but also the people of the world. Had this Government given no opportunity to discuss the matters that are mentioned in the report before the
House, we would have heard a howl from the Opposition about the “ gag,” and about the restriction of the right of free speech. Now that they have been given a full opportunity to discuss these things, we find that not one of them wants to speak, and, judging by the empty benches which confront us, but few of them want to listen. There are in this report recommendations of most far-reaching effect, one concerning the Colonies, the Protectorates, and the Mandated Territories, and another foreign relations. Have the Labour party no interest in or policy on foreign relations ? One recommendation refers to the ratification of treaties. Have the Labour party no interest in the ratification or the carrying out of treaties ? There is a reference to the condominium in the New Hebrides and also to the subject of defence. Have the Labour party any policy regarding defence ? The Opposition are silent. Not only members on this side of the House, but also the people of Australia, want to know what is the Labour party’s policy. Why are they silent on these important matters? Are- they silent in the interests of Australia or in the interests of the Empire? No, they are silent because they believe that it is in their own interests to remain so. To them the interests of their party come before all, before even the interests of their country. Although it were for the good of Australia that they should talk, they would remain dumb if it were in the interests of the party that they should not talk. This, then, is the attitude of a party that announces with a loud blare of trumpets that the day is near when they will, occupy the Treasury bench and rule the destinies of Australia. I say to them that the people will ask them some definite questions as to where the party stands on this and other important issues. The people will want to know the attitude of the party towards the problems discussed at the Imperial Conference, and the reason, for their mysterious silence on this important occasion. I quite understand the reason for their present attitude. The members of the Labour party are in a. most, embarrassing position, and have my deepest sympathy. They are torn with conflicting’ emotions. They are ready to talk on any subject except the resolutions now before the House.
They have to endeavour to reconcile the high Protectionist traditions of the Labour party in Australia with the low Tariff ideals of the Labour party in Great Britain. They are faced with the task of justifying the extraordinary action of the British Labour Government in arming to the teeth for the defence of the heart of the Empire, and refusing to take any steps at all for the defence of the outlying Dominions. They are also Bet another task. They must attempt to reconcile the desire of the primary pr0.ducers of Australia for preference in the markets of Great Britain with the re-
Sorted objection of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, the British Prime Minister, and his Government to any “ nibbling “ at the Free Trade policy of Great Britain. And so members opposite met in their party room, where, I have nef doubt, they had a long and earnest discussion behind locked doors, until finally some genius conceived the brilliant idea that the best way out of their difficulty was to remain silent when these resolutions were placed before the House by the Prime Minister. Thus we have the spectacle of the Opposition sitting dumb in their places while the people of Australia are asking where they stand in regard to these matters. They realized that it would be best, in the interests of their party, not to disclose their views upon the issues raised by the Prime Minister’s statement. Instead of debating those important subjects, they have submitted a puerile amendment referring not to the foreign policy of the Australian Labour party, but to the foreign policy of the present British Labour Government. This puerile amendment is, of course, merely a red herring drawn across the trail. This House and the country want to know what is the foreign policy, not of the British Labour Government, but of the Australian Labour party. We on this side of the House: definitely ask that question, and I am confident that the people of Australia will continue to ask it until honorable members opposite give them an answer.
– If you are prepared to go to the country, we will soon give you the answer.
– That is the very last thing that honorable members opposite want to do. Let me endeavour to penetrate, this mysterious veil of silence, and, by a process of inquiry and deduction, to ascertain, if possible, what is the present defence policy of the Australian Labour party Of course, my deductions may be wrong, and I unconsciously may be doing honorable members an injustice by them.
– Oh, that does not matter.
– I am quite’ sure that, if I err, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) will be only too pleased to rise and deliver one of those fiery speeches with which, sometimes, he entertains the House. Perhaps, too, he will then show us where he and his friends stand on this important issue. It is comforting to think that if ever the Labour party obtain possession of the Treasury bench, aud if the defence policy fail and our ships are gone, we shall still have the honorable member for Bourke left. Armed with a soap-box he will go forth to meet the enemy and talk to them about the sisterhood of woman and the brotherhood of man. The defence policy enunciated last year by certain honorable members opposite was not to send troops overseas to defend the interests of Australia except after the taking of a referendum of the people. Is that still their policy ? If it is, I can assure them that, if ever the Mother Country is engaged in a life-and-death struggle, hundreds of thousands of the manhood of Australia will go overseas to fight, referendum or no referendum, Labour party or 310 Labour party. It is extraordinary that a party representing a large section of the people should advocate the taking of a referendum of the people to decide whether Australia should participate in a war in which the Mother Country was involved. Of . all the outrageous and absurd policies for defence, I venture to say there is not its equal in the history of the world. Imagine spending two or three months in the taking of a referendum while the enemy was striking at the vitals of the Empire? Is it likely that we should find an enemy obliging enough to stand off until, by means of a referendum, we had decided whether Australia was to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Mother Country in her hour of trial ? Consider the practical results of such a policy. We can imagine the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), with others of his party, dodging shells on their way to the polling booth in order to register their votes.
– And Mr. Stewart would be in the box, or anywhere else out of trouble.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Bourke is interjecting. I know from experience that he interrupts only when he is being hit pretty hard. When rubbed on the raw he talks freely. When he remains silent, I know that no damage is being done to his convictions.
– Is that so? Then I shall be silent. The Minister’s only chance of a good speech has now gone.
– During the debate last evening there were sneering interjections from some honorable members opposite at all references to our attachment to the Motherland, and to what they were pleased to call “ Imperial sentiment.” I do’ not know where all honorable members opposite stand on that issue, but I do know where I and the majority of members on this side of the House stand. We believe, in spite of all this talk about putting Australia first, that no party or individual can be disloyal to the Empire and at the same time be true to. the best interests of this country. We cannot at one and the same time be loyal and patriotic Australians and traitors to the Empire. What do we owe to the British people? I say to this party that sneer and make mock of what they lightly call “ this Imperial sentiment “ that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Mother Country for all that we ha.ve achieved up to this stage in our national development. The early history of Australia . is the history of intrepid navigators and brave-hearted men and women from the British Isles - Britishers such as Captain James Cook, Captain Arthur Phillips, Surgeon George Bass and many others of that, notable band of heroes whose names are indelibly written in our records. Following them came the pioneers who tore themselves from the homes of their ancestors to come here to develop this country. They pioneered Australia well, but not on a forty- four hours’ week, nor under the protection of Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards. They opened up the country and left behind them stock which, years afterwards, in the great war went overseas to fight for the Motherland. The thousands of gravestones in the war zones are monuments which indicate that our ancestors left a progeny prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for what honorable members on the other side of this House choose sneeringly to term “ Imperial sentiment.” Those honorable members will need to explain to the Australian people many things respecting their attitude on this matter, and to make their Empire policy perfectly clear before they again go to the electors, and we shall see that they do it. The people of Australia will want something more than a policy of silence. The primary producers and the electors generally will want particularly to know the Labour party policy on Imperial preference for Australian primary products.
– And they will want to know what the Composite Government intend to do in view of the Bendigo vote.
– In the absence of the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), we have the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), taking up the part of chief interjector. Evidently we are rubbing him on the raw too. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition said last night that the Labour party had done nothing to harm the proposal for Imperial preference. I, and other honorable members on this side of the House, as well as the ‘primary producers all through the country, want to know what the Labour party has done or is doing to help the cause of Imperial preference. All they have done so far is to sit in this Chamber, and gloatingly refer to what they call the failure of the Prime Minister because he came back, as they say, empty handed. The Labour party used their influence with the British Labour party to cause the abandonment of the Singapore Base project, but I challenge them to show us in what way they have used their influence with the British Labour party to influence the vote which will shortly be taken in the House of Commons on Imperial preference. Near to where I live in the country, between 700 and 800 soldiers have settled on virgin land ! I refer to the Bed Cliff Settlement. These men are living right alongside my property, and I have watched them at work clearing the land, planting their vines, and doing a full share of pioneering. They do not work only forty-four hours a week. I have seen them working all day long, and far in to the night by their fires. They work as long as flesh and blood can work. Both men and women are doing their utmost to try to make homes for themselves in this outback land. During the visit of the Bight Honorable the Prime Minister to Great Britain, the one topic of conversation among them was whether he would be able to induce the British people to give Australia some protection against cheap Mediterranean labour in the dried fruit industry. The obtaining of preference for this industry will mean a very great deal to it. We are dealing with a question that involves the whole future of the dried fruit industry. I ask honorable members opposite what they are doing to help in this fight. A vote on the Preference issue will be taken in the British House of Commons in the next few days. Do the Labour party intend to do anything to influence that vote? They have done nothing so far, and they could, if they would, use their influence with the British Labour party and so assist our primary producers and pioneers. So far, they are content to sit in their places in this House and gloatingly refer to what they call the failure of the right honorable the Prime Minister to help these pioneers. The Labour party talks about ruling this country. They say the pendulum is swinging their way, and that, before very long, they will be occupying the Treasury bench. Yet, while we are discussing this most important question, we find that the Deputy Leader of the party has disappeared from the chamber, its Leader has now faded away, and we have but a handful of the faithful remaining to listen.
– If you say one word more about me I shall go too.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) interjects that he is about to leave. Before he goes I will ask him what be is saying and doing to help the people whom he represents in the Murray Valley, who are pioneering that country? Many of his constituents are dependent upon irrigation, and the fate of the dried-fruit industry is of the utmost importance to them. What is he doing to preserve and assist this industry?
– If the Minister will sit down I will tell him.
– The honorable member for Hume, and other honorable members on that side of the House, have had an opportunity to speak on this subject, and when I have finished my address I shall be very pleased to listen to him, and other honorable members opposite, answer some of the questions I am asking on behalf of our primary producers. The Labour party go into our rural districts and tell the people that neither the Nationalist party nor the so-called Country party is any good to the country. They say that the Labour party is the only one which has the interests of the producers at heart, and they expect the. producers to believe them. The fact is, however, that the Labour party, as it exists to-day, and with the ideals it holds, is not big enough for the people of Australia. They are not big enough to guide our destinies. There is too much mysterious silence about them. The electors will not tolerate them, nor give to them the reins of government. The party which is to govern Australia must have some definite, clear, and concise policy on the questions to which I am referring. “We want to know what the Labour policy is on foreign relations, the ratification of treaties, defence, overseas settlement, interImperial preference, and economic defence. We also want to know what further steps they propose to take to improve imperial trade. When an opportunity is given them in this House to express their mind on these problems they are silent. They almost demanded last year that this opportunity should be afforded them. The Government has kept its promise then made, and, at the very earliest possible moment after the return of the Prime Minister, a statement has been placed before Parliament indicating what the right honorable gentleman did, and attempted to do, while in Great Britain. He has made a clear and concise statement, and more than ample opportunity is being given to debate the questions involved.
– The Labour party say that the subjects are too important to deal with in one debate. They want two.
– As a matter of fact, they do not wish to debate these matters at all. It would be too embarrassing for them to engage in such a discussion at present. That is the real reason for their silence. Later on we shall have floods of oratory from them about matters of much less concern to the country, but on these questions, which are of the most transcendent importance to us and to the Empire, they are as silent as the grave.
– Then we had better let judgment go by default.
– The honorable member is a pacifist Free Trader.
– Like the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
– I can understand a pacifist Free Trader, though I cannot understand a pacifist Protectionist, and I will say for the honorable member for Batman that he at least is logical and consistent in his attitude. That is more than I can say for other honorable members opposite, and particularly for the honorable the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition showed, however, that he is a good Free Trader when it came to dealing with explosives. On behalf of the people in my electorate, who are engaged in the dried fruits industry - and I believe I can speak on behalf of the primary producers of Victoria and Australia - I say that we admire the fight made for the primary producers of Australia by the right honorable the Prime Minister when he was in Great Britain. If it be true that he has come back empty-handed it is through no fault of his, nor is it because of any lack of ability on his part. We believe that the message he preached in Great Britain will yet bring untold benefits to our primary producers. I think that the very least honorable members opposite might do, if they have the interests of the primary producers at heart in the remotest degree, is to acknowledge in a sportsmanlike way that the Prime Minister made a great fight. They might at least join with honorable members on this side in expressing regret that a policy of Imperial trade preference has not yet been ratified by the British Parliament. They might also use their influence to sway the impending vote on this subject in the British House of Commons. The actions of our Prime Minister overseas meet with the approval of the great majority of the people of this country, even if they do not meet with the approval of honorable members opposite, and the fight that he made to help our primary producers is not likely soon to be forgotten by them.
– I am very glad to have this early opportunity to express my appreciation of tho very fine way in which the right honorable the Prime Minister conducted the fight on our behalf while he was in Great Britain. Like “other honorable members, especially those cn this side of the House, I followed with the closest interest the cabled accounts of the Prime Minister’s doings, and I read with interest the reports of his speeches. As far as possible, I read the reports which appeared in -the English press, as well as those which were cabled to Australia. Unfortunately, the election which came while the right honorable gentleman was in England overshadowed, to some extent, the work which he was doing, and gave our opponents in this House an opportunity to misinterpret his actions and to place blame upon him for matters with which he had nothing whatever to do. The English elections, we now know, were not fought on the issue of Imperial preference, but on issues altogether apart from that. The Prime Minister laid it down that, no matter what might be the result of those elections, there was to be no alteration in the taxation of foodstuffs, but only respecting raw materials. I have heard it said in this House that it is a wonderful thing, considering the position he occupied a year ago, that Mr. Ramsay Macdonald should have been returned at the last British elections with a following which has enabled him to become Prime Minister of Great Britain. But when we realize how conservative the public mind is in Great Britain, and how slowly the British people make any great change, and when we cast our minds back 1q. the importance attached to the policy of Free Trade in Great Britain for so many long years, so far from marvelling that the Baldwin Government was defeated at the elections, we should rather marvel at the wonderful change in public opinion in favour of its policy, as indicated by the vote recorded for the supporters of that Government. They formed easily the most numerous party returned to the present Imperial Parliament, and if in that Parliament a direct vote had been taken aside from party considerations, a majority vote would have been cast in favour of the policy advocated by Mr. Baldwin. We ha vo been told that the result of the British elections was an ansWer to the application made by Australia for preference to Australian goods.- Previous speakers have emphasized the silence of the Opposition in connexion with the important matters now under consideration. I think we can say it has been an eloquent silence, and to use an Hibernianism, I may say that it is a silence that speaks for itself, and will re-echo around this Commonwealth. Judging by the faces of honorable members opposite when their Leader was speaking here yesterday, one might have thought that it was a comic opera performance they were attending, out I believe that when the next election takes place the comic opera will prove to have been a political tragedy for the Opposition .
– Do the results of . the election in Western Australia point to that?
– Unfortunately, the Western Australian elections took place a week or two too soon. Had the exhibition given by the Labour party in this Chamber yesterday been given in time to be appreciated by the electors of Western Australia, the voting at the election there would have been very different.
– Will the honorable member put his faith in the result of the South Australian elections ?
– I will not put my faith in silence, as honorable members opposite do. The position they have taken up in this matter is entirely unprecedented. They hoped to pull off a surprise attack. In warfare, a surprise attack is often successful, and success is its only justification. Where it fails it is disastrous, and it has in this instance failed ignominiously. I am reminded by what has taken place, that during the war on many occasions, when bombs were thrown into our ranks they were returned by our men before they exploded and burst amongst those who threw them. The members of the Opposition said before the Prime Minister went away, that the mission he was going upon was unworthy of consideration, and they say the same thing now that he has returned. We have to .realize that honorable members opposite have no Imperial policy. We know that when the decision of the present Imperial Government not to proceed with the Singapore Base, a decision which will have very far-reaching effects upon this country, was cabled out to Australia, it was applauded by honorable members opposite.
– And by the British people.
– Perhaps by British people who do not understand the circumstances of the case. Last night the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), said that when he desired advice he went to an expert for it, and reminded us that every expert who has advised the British Government in this matter insisted upon the necessity of constructing a naval base at Singapore. While all the experts have advised its construction, we should consider who are those who have applauded the decision of the present Imperial Government not to proceed with the work. Every disloyalist and Socialist in the country, and all the speakers in the Sydney Domain, have applauded to the echo the decision of the British Government not to build the Singapore Base. I am not so silly as to suggest that every man who has applauded that decision is either a disloyalist ox a Socialist, but I say that every disloyalist and Socialist in the country has applauded it. I say further that honorable members opposite hesitate to vote in this matter, because they know that they could not hold their seats’ without retaining the votes of these people. As pointed out by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) last year a majority of a Labour conference carried a resolution to affiliate with these people, and it was only because their constitutionprovides for minorityrule that their policy is not a part of the Labour platform at the present time. Honorable members opposite were yesterday placed in a most unenviable position by the Prime Minister when he asked them to state definitely where they were. He asked them to say whether or not they are in favour of Australia remaining within the Empire, and to express their opinion on the question of Australia taking a part in the foreign relations of the Empire. They were not game to standup and reply to him. Listening to some of the interjections which we have heard during this debate I am disposed to believe that the Leader of the Opposition has some justification for taking up the position he did, because when honorable members opposite succeed every time they, open their mouths in putting their feet into them, perhaps the less they say the better for themselves. We have to realize that the decision of the Imperial Government in this matter will not tend in any way to promote disarmament. The Washington Conference did more to promote disarmament than was ever done before. At that conference the British Government gave up the right to increase the fortification of Hong Kong. The Government of the United States of America gave up the right to fortify a very strong position for that country, but the right was specifically reserved to the British Government to construct a naval base at Singapore. We know that at the Conference the proportion of capital ships agreed upon for the Empire, the United States and Japan was five, five, three, and while the decision of the present British Government not to build the Singapore Base will not help the cause of disarm an en t, it will render the British fleet less effective than it otherwise would have been. That is the position we have to face. The Prime Minister said yesterday that he fully appreciated the honesty of purpose of thepresent Imperial Government in arriving at their decision, but honesty of purpose is not everything. Ignorance is often worse than roguery, and the effects of the appalling ignorance that has been displayed in connexion with this matter will not be remedied in any way by acknowledging that the Imperial Government was actuated by good intentions.
– Does the honorable member say that the British Cabinet is appallingly ignorant?
– I say that it has shown itself to be appallingly ignorant of the Empire’s needs in this particular matter. It has not failed to realize the necessity for arming Great Britain against immediate trouble by laying down extra cruisers, expanding the air force, and building submarines of the latest pattern to defend the shores of Great Britain, but it has failed to visualise the position in which we in Australia are at the present time, and has failed to recognise the absolute necessity, in the interests of the Empire, of creating a naval base which will enable the Empire’s fleet to be effective wherever required.
– Does the honorable member not give the members of the Imperial
Government credit for knowing their own business best?
– This is not merely their own business; but it is a matter of Imperial importance, and I say their decision is a mistake. I am entitled to the opinion I hold, and I am here to give it. I am not like honorable members opposite, who are gagged, or are not game to express their views. Whilst I am a member of this House I shall express my opinions, cost me what it may.
– Let the honorable member consider the figures of the British election- 9,000,000 to 5,000,000 votes against the Singapore Base.
– Like the last speaker, I was brought up in the back blocks of this country, and one thing I have always found to be true was the saying of an old farmer that, when you hurt a pig he will squeal. Unfortunately, the effects of the decision of the Imperial Government will be very far-reaching. I am glad that our Government has not decided to take immediate action in connexion with the construction of a base, beeause it is possible that the decision of the Imperial Government may yet be reviewed. The. honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said last night that his objection to the Singapore Base proposal was that it would take ten years to build the base. One of the greatest drawbacks from which Australia suffers is lack of vision in our public men, whether in. the Parliament of the Commonwealth or in local councils. It is not a matter of to-day or to-morrow ; it may not be a matter for the next two decades, but as surely as we are in this Chamber to-day the time will come when the menace of the East will be more than a menace to Australia. Things are developing in the East in a way that we do not appreciate. It is only a few years since I was there, and the changes that have since taken place are so great that I am sure I would now scarcely recognise the places I visited. The people are increasing by millions, and they are overcrowded to an extent that cannot be realized by those who have not been there. They are becoming westernized. Every day more and more of them are realizing the comforts tinder which western people live, and are becoming more dissatisfied with their present position. The millions in China who have been asleep for centuries are awakening like a giant refreshed. We know the strides which Japan has made in the last few years, and we know the unrest that exists in India. Honorable, members know, and if they do not it is because they do not wish to know, that if an Australian goes to India at the present time he finds it politic to disguise the fact that he is an Australian. I say advisedly that, although it is often a cause of regret with me that I have no children, when I realize the seriousness of the position we are in and the fate that may be in store for the bright little children to be seen in Australia, I am inclined to thank God that I have no children. Public men in Australia will not realize what is before us, and that in the course of a few years bright little children of Australia may be Geisha girls, or in Japanese Yoshiwarras. For not realizing their responsibility to the people of this country, those people may live to curse them.
– It is not trash.
– The honorable member is making even honorable members on his own side disgusted with that kind of talk.
– If I am, it is time that there was an awakening amongst them. I am not saying that the Japanese are preparing at the present time to attack’ us. But having regard to the fact stated by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) last night, that the population of that country is increasing at the rate of nearly 1,000,000 per annum, is it likely that we shall be left in undisturbed possession of this continent unless we place ourselves in a position to defend it and fill it with a white population? The history of the world shows that if people occupy a country which they cannot fully utilize and defend they are sooner or later turned out of it. And history will repeat itself in our case unless we take action to safeguard ourselves. Those people in Australia who are not standing up to their responsibilities in this regard are taking an awful risk. A very fine speech was delivered in the Queen’s Hall lastweek by ViceAdmiral Field. I do not remember having heard any other speech which compressed so much matter into so few words. He told us plainly what Australia’s position is, and very speedily disposed of those self-constituted naval experts who tell us that Australia can afford to rely upon submarines and aeroplanes. ViceAdmiral Field explained what will happen to our trade routes if we have only submarines and aeroplanes to defend them. The effective range of an aeroplane, he said, was only 200 miles, whilst that of a submarine also is very limited. We cannot possibly protect our trade routes without cruisers, and I am very glad that the Government proposes to submit at once to Parliament proposals for the construction of two up-to-date cruisers. That is the least we can do towards increasing our naval strength.
For the sake of their own comfort and safety, honorable members opposite have chosen to remain silent in regard to the matters discussed at the Imperial Conference, but I am unable to comprehend why they have not had anything to say about the proceedings of the Economic Conference. It is futile for the Leader of the Opposition to say that the two Conferences should have been dealt with by separate motions. If the honorable gentleman had any real desire to have them considered separately, why did he not accept Mr. Speaker’s suggestion that he should confer with the Prime Minister?
– Ask the Prime Minister ?
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he would not press for a conference, because the matters in,volved were so insignificant as not to re quire discussion. The statement that his silence is due to the fact that the two Conferences were covered by the one motton is a mere subterfuge. He and his supporters had decided before they entered the chamber not to debate these important Imperial matters. But if the Government had not submitted them for debate, what a complaint the Opposition would have made. Yesterday the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) asked the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) whether, in his indifference to the proceedings of the Economic Conference, he was having regard to the big water conservation works that are being carried out in his electorate. What will happen to the settlers in the Murray River Valley if we do not get the” concessions which were, sought at the
Economic Conference by our representative? Possibly the honorable member for Hume thought that if a lot of successful settlers were established in the Murray Valley, the representative of that district would no longer be a Labour man. Australian history proves that closer settlements do not vote Labour, and when we get a lot of prosperous and contented settlers in the Murray Valley, their votes will not be cast in favour pf the honorable member for . Hume.
– In Western Australia the closer settlements returned a Labour mau.
– I spoke of contented and prosperous settlers.
– Those men must have been very discontented indeed when they voted Labour.
– When Tariff concessions to the products of the Dominions were recommended by the Economic Conference, there was an outcry that such a policy would increase the cost of living to the British consumer. Honorable members opposite, like the Socialists in the Sydney Domain, are a great deal more concerned about what will happen to the poor British consumer than they are about the fate of the producers in their own country. We must not suggest anything that will increase the price of commodities bought by British consumers, but what of the producer in Australia? The Prime Minister has said that the. preference recommended by tha Economic Conference, if granted, would not, with two exceptions, cause any rise in the price of commodities to the British consumer. For instance, the duty on currants is at present 2s. per cwt. The Austraiian producer now receives a preference of 16f per cent., which is equivalent to 4d. If the concession recommended by the Economic Conference were granted, no increased duty would be imposed, but the Australian grower would receive an advantage of ls. 8d. per cwt. On “ other dried fruits,” the duty is 10s. 6d. per cwt., and the Australian producer gets a concession of ls. 7d. per cwt. In other words, the Australian producer is paying a duty of 8s. lid. per cwt. on his goods when they, enter the British market. If a remission of that duty is granted it will benefit the producer by nearly Id: per lb., without adding anything *o the cost to the British consumer; indeed, it might have the effect of reducing the British retail price by enabling Australia to send more stuff into the market at less cost. The duty on canned fruits is 5s. per cwt., and the Australian producer now gets a preference of lOd. If the concession sought by the Dominions were granted, the Australian producer would receive another 4s. 2d. per Cwt: without the British .onsumer having to pay a higher price. The suggested duty on fresh apples is new, and I suppose we. can hardly expect that to be accepted. It is proposed that the wine duty should be increased from 2s. to 4s. To-day, the Australian producer receives a preference of 4d. per gallon, but if the duty were removed he would get a further ls. Sd. per gallon, a gain which would be very much appreciated by the wine producers in the electorate of Hume. The only other commodity upon which a new duty is proposed is honey. Unfortunately, people do not realize that a small increase in the price paid to the producer, whilst it converts a non-paying industry into a paying one, make’s a very small difference to the consumer. For instance, a rise of ls. per bushel on wheat, means a corresponding rise of only jd. per lb. on bread. At the present time, the 4-lb. loaf is being sold for 10d., of which the farmer gets only -4d. for his wheat delivered at the railway station in bags. If he were getting an extra ls. per bushel for his wheat the price of the loaf would be increased by only ¼d. per lb. The representatives of both unions and employers in the Arbitration Court are agreed that the quantity of bread used by the average family is 20 lbs. a week. So that the burden imposed on a family of consumers by an increase of ls. per bushel in the price of wheat would be only 5d. per week. The statement was made recently, on reliable authority, that the fruit contained in a tin of preserved fruit sold for 10½d. returns to the grower only £d. If “the price of the tinned fruit were increased by M., and the additional price passed on to the grower, the return to the grower would be doubled. . The Prime Minister has fold us of the immense market that exists in Great Britain for Australian products. He referred also to the disparity between -the price received by the meat producer and the retail prices in
Great Britain. Honorable members opposite interjected, “ What about the home market?” I admit that our own house also must be set in order. But what solution have honorable members opposite ever suggested, other than their pet theory of artificially regulating prices ? Their colleagues in the New South Wales Parliament were responsible for the greatest blow ever suffered by the wheatgrowers in that State when, in 1914, they arbitrarily fixed the price of wheat at 4s. per bushel at a time when the State was experiencing drought and wheat was worth considerably more in other States. In the preceding year 5,000,000 acres had been put under wheat in New South Wales, but in the following season the area receded to 3,000,000 acres. The farmers, having been robbed once, decided to go out of wheat production and engage in she’ep-raising. What have members of the Labour party ever done to- increase primary production ? Nothing ! But they disparage those men who have sufficient public spirit to take an active part in tlie working out of these problems. Yesterday an honorable member on the Opposition side asked for information regarding the amounts that have been paid to members of the Australian Meat Council - men who are spending their own time and money in trying to overcome the difficulties that beset the meat industry. The interrogator will not be satisfied with the information when he gets it. I am a member of the Meat Council, and since I entered this House I have travelled thousands of miles upon the business of the Council, and have not receive’d one penny to recoup my outofpocket expenses. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is in the same position. No member of the Council, except a few paid officials, has taken sufficient from the funds of that body to repay out-of-pocket expenses. Delegates have come from Western Australia to attend the meeting of the Council, and have received no more than their bare train fare and hotel expenses. Yet men who are trying to work out the salvation of an industry which is in a deplorable position are sneered at by honorable members opposite.
– Nobody has sneered at them.
– There has- been a veritable campaign of abuse.
– The honorable member does not object to us getting information?
– I welcome the idea ; more so, perhaps, than will the honorable member when he gets the information. In this sort of thingwe must get down to bed rock. When this Parliament made a grant to enable necessitous settlers to wirenet their holdings, we were told that it would interfere with the rabbit industry. Yet that parasitic industry has done more harm to Australia than enough. The Prime Minister stated that, after establishing markets abroad, the trouble would be to keep up regular supplies. I know that that statement is correct. We must organize the meat industry and its markets so as to have a continuity of supplies. Recently I met a friend of mine who had just returned to Australia after eighteen months’ absence in England. He told me that, although he followed the matter as closely as possible, never once during his sojourn in England did he see meat sold by the retail trade as Australian meat, excepting black-looking stuff that was sold in the barrows at the East End of London. At that time I also met in Sydney a prominent man from the Smithfield markets. I brought these two gentlemen face to face, and during discussion the Smithfield man said to the other, “Did you not see new season’s lamb offered in England?” The answer was “Yes, plenty of it.” The Smithfield gentleman said, “That was Australian lamb,” to which the other replied, “ There was nothing to show that it was Australian lamb; it was marketed as New Zealand lamb.” We want not only a market for our products, but to have them placed on the market as Australian products. The same position should apply in England as applies in the Philippines. For years in the latter country the retailers have never missed the opportunity to sell our products as Australian products. At the time when I was in the Philippines, the name Australia was the hall-mark of good quality. We must organize our industries, and it is absolutely essential the Government should assist to this end. I am afraid that many people do not realize the importance of our secondary industries. Lincoln, when President of the United States of America, once made the remark that no coun try ever became truly great on primary production alone. I have been a primary producer all my life. To-day, in spite of the present position of the wheat market, I am clearing new country and putting it under wheat. I realize, probably as well as any other honorable member here, that the prosperity of this country depends on increased primary production; but I also realize that we must foster our secondary industries. At present they are in a very precarious state. Lately woollen mills have been started here, but owing to the dumping of foreign goods on the Australian markets, those mills, or at least many of them, are likely to close down. It is a very serious position. Concerning the fiscal question, I might say that I was born and reared a Freetrader, and generally one takes his political principles, especially on fiscal questions - just as one takes his religion - from his father.
– I hold opposite views to my father.
– That may be to the credit of your father. The war taught usmany lessons. The man is blind who does not admit that we must look after our secondary industries. We have had a tremendous increase in imports into Australia, butwe are told that that is only natural, because Australia, being a primary producing country exporting many of her products, must always import to equalize the exchange. At present we have a huge external indebtedness. To equalize exports and imports, it is the practice to use accumulated funds abroad to pay off foreign indebtedness and then to float a local loan. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) recently visited my electorate, and, while there, he dealtwith the surplus that he expected to have at the end of the year. Ho said that it was the intention to use that surplus, or a considerable portion of it, to reduce our indebtedness. One of the factors that is helping to increase the importation of goods is that of exchange, which is so much in favour of the manufacturer abroad that he is able to send goods into the Australian market at a price againstwhichwe cannot compete. The question of exchange requires the gravest consideration of this Government. Iwas sorry to learn this morning, both from the press and from an answer by the Treasurer’ to a question in this House, that he had found it necessary to create fresh credits in London. No matter how advantageously those credits may he placed in London, they must mitigate against Australia in the matter of exchange. I started a controversy some eighteen months ago in the press of Sydney by stating that the exchange difficulty could be remedied to a great extent by treating- the office of the Commonwealth Bank in London as the head office, and issuing notes in Australia against securities and moneys lodged with the Bank in London. When. I first made the suggestion to the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald- that my letter should be published in that paper, he said he would print it as it contained my signature. Before a week passed the newspaper published a financial leader on the same subject, which subsequently received the approbation of the financial editor of the London Times. A year later my suggestion was recommended by the Chairman of Directors of the Bank of New South Wales, in Sydney. There may be danger from inflation, but there is also danger from an insufficient currency. Wo know that at present the banks of Australia have insufficient money to properly finance our industries. This matter must, in the near future, receive the earnest consideration of the Government. I realize that the necessity for meeting gratuity bonds has pressed heavily upon the Government, but, nevertheless, I did hope that the Government would either be able to place some of their surplus to the credit of the banks in Australia, and, with the accumulated surplus in England, to wipe off our foreign indebtedness, or else be able to avoid raising loans. This is a very vexed question, especially as we have a great accumulation of foreign indebtedness. However, there is no occasion for us to accept the view that our imports must equalize our exports, but, unfortunately, on. that matter, I cannot express definite views, and I do not pretend to be able to give advice.
– No one can dogmatize on that question, but we can all attempt to probe it.
– I agree with the honorable member. . It is only by honestly facing . this matter, and making sugges tions, that we can attempt to -reive it. It is one of the most serious questions that we are up against at present.
– We want the opinion of experts, not that of amateurs.
– The honorable member is prepared to accept the advice of experts so long as their views agree with his.
– I should be stupid to agree with a fool.
– The honorable member has taken a different view from that of the. naval experts on the question of the Singapore Base. I trust that honorable members will not hesitate to express their opinion on these matters, because it is only by properly threshing them out that we shall reach bedrock. The trouble is grave, and I trust those members of the House who have had business experience will freely express their opinion so as to help Cabinet in its deliberations. In conclusion, I indorse the statement of the Minister for Works and Railways that the Prime Minister need have no fear that the good work he did while in England is not appreciated by the people of this country, especially those who have a stake in it. His efforts on behalf of the primary producers will long be remembered, and I hope that, as a result of his fine work at the Economic Conference, when the proposals for preference and other matters come before the British Parliament, they will be discussed on their merits, and the greater portion of them passed, as they will be passed in this House.
– It is within the recollection of this House that, when the announcement was made that the Prime Minister intended to proceed to the Old Country to take part in the Imperial and Economic Conferences, the demand was made by the Labour party, through their Leader, Mr. Charlton, that, before the departure of Mr. Bruce, he should give the members of the House the opportunity of knowing and approving of, if necessary, the proposals that he intended to make at the Imperial Conference: and, furthermore, the Labour party required the assurance that the Prime Minister would not commit Australia to any line of policy or to any agreement without first submitting the resolutions of the Conference to Parliament for its consideration and approval. He demanded, and the demand was conceded, that the fullest opportunity shj-uld be given to- the. House to discuss these matters, so tha>t the. opinions of all honorable members might be known, and tho. decision of the House recorded before anything was done in the ratification, of any agreement arrived at. by the representatives of’ the several Dominions at the Conference. The Prime Minister has fulfilled’ all of those conditions, bc*.h in the letter and. in the spirit.
– Hie came back empty handed.
– I invite the honorable member to peruse the summary of the proceedings of the- Imperial Conference, and also of the Economic Conference^ and then say that the Priane Minister has come back empty handed;. It- is true that he may not- have brought back with him the- full fruits that he hoped to: achieve, but all- honorable members know that at the most crucial point in. the Conference proceedings, and a,t a time’ when everything was proceeding very satisfactorily, certain circumstances intervened which entirely upset, or at all events appreciably delayed, the realization of the Prime Minister’s aspirations on behalf of the Commonwealth. Still that does not by any means necessarily imply that his work at the Conference was abortive. Time a.lqne will show whether or nojfc it. will be so. The Prime. Minister cannot be blamed in any way for the change of Government in Great Britain - a change which, I hope, in the interests of Australia and the Em.pir.ej will be only temporary. His work at the Conference will, I am sure, commend itself to- all soundthinkingpeople in Australia. I am confident that, secretly;, it commends itself to honorable, members opposite, for while they hesitate and’ are afra-id to applaud, they take refuge in silence for- the simple reason that- they have nothing to condemn. Their silence is, in the circumstances,, a greater tribute to the Prime Minister’s achievements at the Conference than, any words of commendation from- their- lips could be. H’is work- will stand to. hjs credit as a representative of Australia-, as something which has notbeen excelled: - indeed:, not even equalled - by the* representative of; any other
Dominion at that historic gathering. lit is his misfortune, not his’ fault, that circumstances over which he had1 no* control, intervened to prevent the entire- success of his mission. Its partial success, -»;e know, will, be of benefit to Australia,, and it is probable that, in the course of a few- months, there will such an alteration in the Government of Great Britain as will insure still greater results accruing for the benefit of Australia. The Opposition, apparently, not being able- to find any loop-hole for attack, or adverse criticism of what the Prime Minister did at the Conference, sought refuge in an amendment of a very futile and. practically meaningless, character. Although, the Leader of the Opposition has sought in a contemptuous, way to. dismiss with a few words only the work of’ the Prime Minister abroad, I wish, at any rate, to pay him the compliment’ of trying to understand, what his. amencfrrnenfc. really- means. He invites the. House to- amend the Prime- Minister’s motion byleaving out certain words, and substituting the following- : -
That this House approves of the foreign policy o£’ His Majesty’s, government in- Gsuat Britain, as indorsed by a, majority of the r,eprcsentatiives of the British people in the House of Commons, aiming, as such policy does, to bring about good- will; between, nations, and advance the- peace of the world.
What is the foreign, policy to which this, amendment refers? Wp to date !B have seer, no declaration of foreign policy on the. part of the present British Government, beyond the bare announcement- that they do not propose to proceed with the Singapore Base. I’ have seen wha-t may, peuhaps, be described as a- partial indication of foreign policy in. a. very- limited sense-: and that is thatfc thet Gtaveiarmeni intend to: proceed’ at. ©Ji.ce with tJiQ- construction, of additional ciruisers, and- to increase the strength- of the Bisitish AirForce, evidently- as- a counterblast toFrance’s activity in inGreasiisg: her armaments. Since their professed- desire is to-, advance the- peace of the- would-,, it. wiJJ be interesting, to- learn how this is likely, to be achieved’ by two- such, contradictory measures as the neglect of those very necessary precautions for the defence of the immense overseas trade in the Indian and Pacific Oceans - amounting to something like £1,000,000,000 aaiHiually on the one hand, and simultaneously proceedingto build more cruisers- and’ increase the
British Air Force for home defence on the other. The two lines, of action, if these declarations can be taken to. indicate policy, are diametrically opposed tq. each other. It has been asserted that the buildiing of a base at Singapore would be taken, as. an offcout by our neighbours, in the Bast;, that it would be regarded as- a direct affront to Japan. If that be so., are we to. suppose that the building of additional cruisers and. the increase of the Air- Force in Grea-t Britaim. will- not be regarded as an affront by France, bub as a guerdon of peace towards her immediate neighbour? And. if it comes to a matter of affronts, what may be said in Britain atad- Australia of the increased activity in armaments displayed by bath France and Japan? Because we take certain precautionary measures against possible- hostility in the-, future, is it. to- be said that our. act-ion- may be re^ garded as aax af&onit by certain, nations, while w,e- must accept as; having- no. significance for us., the feverish increase of armaments by those same nations?
I regret very mueh that the British Labour Government have- decided to abandon, the Singapore Naval Base. It looks, like “ cutting the pa-inter.” I do mot far a. moment pretend to be a. naval, authority, but I place very great stone upon the opinions of navalr experts whose businessi it is- to know what. are the best means to- secure ourselves against possible danger from whatever quarter it may- threaten. While it may be- quite- true, and’ I belisve it is true, that we have no need- to fear hostile intentions on the part of Japan under- her present governing authorities; its is. by. no means certain that in- the not far distant future a different state of affairs may esast. At all. events, prudence suggests? the advisability- of taking- precautions to insure, as for - as possible, a certain measure of safety for Australia in the event of adverse conditions arising. Let- us look for a moment a.t the present and- future relative naval positions of Great Britain, and Japan, and imagine the rapidly changing- aspect of affaire. Figures supplied by a. member of the British Government, the- present Secretary of the Navy, show. that, at the present time Great Britain has 48 cruisers and 61 submarines, against. Japan’s 28 cruisers and 44. submaainea,, the surplus; in Great Britain’s favour being; 20 cruisers: and 17 submarines. According- to. the same authority, five, years hence Great Britain will havej 32. cruisers and 31 submarines, while Japan will have AO- cruisers and 79 submarines. In other words, in 1929, Japan’s- superiority over Great- Britain., according to the present building programmes, will be 8 cruisers and 48 submarines. Any one who realizes the significance of these figures must confess that; should! a reversal of the present policy suit Japan, she- would be in a very much stronger position to adopt a less friendly attitude, than at present obtains towards both Great Britain and Australia.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– In connexion, with my comparison of the relative strength, of the Japanese and British Navies,. I think it is, pertinent to ask, What ia the reason, for Japan’s feverish acceleration in building, naval armaments ? If her designs are peaceful-, ho,w is it that her peacefulness is shown by increasing her naval and offensive armaments., while our peacefulness can only be demonstrated by neglecting to take even precautionary measures for the defence of our trade and our- sea-board?. It is also pertinent to ask,, Who is Japan’s potential enemy ? A.gainsb whom is she. arming? Ia it China ? China possesses no navy. Is it. India ? India possesses no navy. Is Australia. Japan’s potential enemy? We have, the nucleus of a. Navy,, such as it is. What other Power can possibly menace Japan at present in such a way as to justify her in increasing her armaments?” There can h& only, one explanation of the situation. It may be that Japan has no immediate design of seeking fresh territory to accommodate the surplus- population which is fast overreaohing- the means of subsistence within the boundaries; of her own territory. But what about five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years hence ? The present population of Japan, excluding Formosa and Korea,, is about 60,000,000, but her natural increase is about1,000,000 a year, so that in five- years’ time her natural increase, will be as large as the whole population of Australia.” Willy-nilly,. Japau in the future must for economic reasons seek new. outlets for her population. What territory, could be more tempting to her than- the. empty spaces of this- great Australian continent, which are- being rendered more defenceless . than: ever before by the policy which is being, pursued at present by ‘the British Labour party, and has the indorsement of the Australian Labour party ? What guarantee can there possibly be for Australian security when the British Labour Government is adopting such a policy, and when the A.ustralian Labour party indorses that policy? Australia stands in deadly peril, and her electors will never be foolish enough to be gulled into- such afalse sense of security as will induce them to place the Labour party in power while they hold the views of honorable members opposite. I would be much more reconciled to the abandonment of the Singapore Base project if, immediately following the declaration of the decision of the British Labour Government, some indication had been given by Japan that she intended to alter her policy respecting naval and- other armaments. Such action, by Japan would help me more readily to accept the rejection of the Singapore Base proposal. I would like to see some indication that Japan intends to reduce her naval expenditure. Until I see such an indication I shall hold ‘firmly to the opinion that we shall be very unwise to neglect to take precautionary measures for our defence. We should take such measures, no matter how peaceful our intentions may be. Ordinary prudence dictates that course. It may be possible that Japan regards America, as her potential enemy, and that it is against her that she is building up a navy which in the next half-dozen years will place her in the very first rank as a naval power. I find very great difficulty in believing that this is the case, however. I call the attention of honorable members to some remarks made by Mr. Amery, a former First Lord of the Admiralty. A recent cablegram read -
Mr. Amery said that around the Indian Ocean the Empire possessed three-quarters of the land territory, three-quarters of .the Empire’s population. and something like £1,000,000,000 of Empire traffic passed that zone annually. Singapore was the one point from which that traffic could ‘he effectively protected. It was wrong to say that the Singapore Base was a .menace to Japan. It was not a-ny more a menace to Japan than* Plymouth menaced the United States of America’.
He might have gone further, and stated that it . was no more a menace to J apan than the retention of Malta and Gibraltar by the British Government was a menace to any other Power. If the abandonment of the proposed Singapore Naval Base be necessary to convince the world of our peaceful intentions, then the British Government, to be consistent, should now take steps to abandon both Malta and Gibraltar. While holding the opinion that it does regarding the Singapore Base, I. cannot understand how the British Government can consistently maintain Plymouth, Gibraltar, and Malta as naval bases. Unfortunately, consistency is perhaps the last thing that we can look for from some types of politicians, particularly Labour politicians, or so-called Labour politicians. I object altogether to any political section arrogating to itself solely the right to represent labour. I claim to be more truly a labour representative than many honorable members in this House who profess to be directly and solely concerned with, the representation of labour. I make that claim, not for myself only, but for other honorable members on this side of the House. We take up the position that the machinery of legislation should no more be used exclusively for the purposes of advancing the interests of what is termed the .working class than for the special advantage of any other section of the community. The machinery of legislation should be used in the interests of every class in the community including the working class. Now that the Singapore Base has been definitely abandoned by the temporary British Labour Ministry, which is in office even if it is not in power, it behoves us to consider more seriously than we have done before the desirableness of encouraging, by every possible means, suitable immigrants. The. Labour party have indicated by their interjections and by their spoken utterances on. many occasions in this House, that they believe that Australia can best be protected by Australians fighting on their own shores. If we lay aside for a moment the folly of any such assumption, and consider the situation, it must be obvious, even to those who hold that opinion, that we cannot, successfully defend Australia within Australia. It would be impossible for us to do it with 5,000,000 people spread over a continent as large as the United States of America, and having a coast line of between 11,000 and 12,000 miles, every mile of which is vulnerable to the attack of the enemy. In circumstances like these, how can we possibly hope successfully to defend Australia against invasion? The thing is absolutely impossible. In this connexion, I call attention to a speech made by Lieutenant-General Sir Brudenell White, in August, 1919. His argument is incontrovertible. He said -
Our first defence is on the sea. For the most sordid reason - our own self protection - we are therefore hound to make our plans as part of the great British Empire. … A desperate war within Australia is impossible either for , the attacker or the defender. Five million people cannot defend this country. To maintain a single division in the field for one day some 200 tons dead weight of supplies and stores mustbe moved, apart from the enormous amount of artillery ammunition required. Even if we had the men and munitions, 5,000,000 people could not think of devising, much less building, all therailways to move such a vast quantity of material.
It lies with the Leader of the Opposition and the members of his party to convince the country that Sir Brudenell White was wrongin his statement of the case. The duty rests upon them to point to the weakness of the case as stated by him. If they do not do that I do not see how they can consistently oppose any scheme to increase the population of this country to the extent to which it must be increased, if Australia is to be defended only after an invader has landed on its shores. We have nob a population at the present time adequate for such defence. We cannot secure such a population by natural increase or as the result of a moderate immigration policy. I cannot understand why holding the views they profess members of the Labour party can oppose a comprehensive scheme of immigration to enable us to people the vast empty spaces of the Commonwealth.
When they say that nothing has been accomplished by the Prime ‘Minister’s visit to England I invite their attention to the first set of resolutions of the Conference under the heading, “Negotiation, signature, and ratification of Treaties.” One great complaint made by members of the Opposition in the past, and one of the reasons they have given why Australia should not participate in the quarrels of Great Britain, was that hitherto we had not been consulted in regard to treaties between Great Britain and the other nations, and had been kept in entire ignorance of the relations of the British Empire with various foreign countries.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the position in that respect has been in any way altered?
– Yes ; it has undoubtedly been altered most materially.
– Then the honorable member does not know much about British politics.
– I direct the honorable member’s attention to resolution a of those to which I have just referred. I regard it as a great achievement by the Prime Minister that he should have been able to induce the Imperial Conference to agree to this resolution -
Will the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), or any other honorable member opposite say that those resolutions do not represent a distinct and very great advance upon anything which has been achieved in the past? Hitherto the complaint has been that Australia has never been consulted in these matters, that we have a right to expect that our views will be sought, and that we shall be given an opportunity to express them. Here in this first resolution I have quoted we have one of the greatest imaginable concessions in this connexion. What honorable members opposite have often demanded has through the influence of the Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference been granted without any trouble.
– The honorable gentleman is talking about treaties, but what has he to say to the position which arose when we were nearly involved in war in the Near East without, so f ar as the Commonwealth Government was concerned, any consultation of the kind.
-The very point I am making is that while that took place before the Prime Minister went to Great Britain, such a thing could not happen again if the principle of prior consultation of the Dominions is approved.
– Oh, yes ; it could !
– It could not, in my opinion, arise under the Conference resolution which I have just quoted. That resolution covers what honorable members opposite have been demanding all the time. We have got it now through the representations made by the Prime Minister on behalf of Australia at this Conference. Yet honorable members opposite have the temerity to come here and tell us that nothing has been accomplished as the result of his visit to the Old Country. If nothing but the carrying of that resolution had been accomplished it would be an ample justification of the Prime Minister’s visit to Great Britain. This great concession to Australia establishes its position definitely as that of an independent part of the Empire having a right to be consulted in connexion with the foreign policy of Great Britain, before she can be committed to participate in any difficulty that may arise between Great Britain and other countries. Here is all that we demanded conceded to us as a result of the Prime Minister’s representations, and his magnificent work in England, and yet members of the Opposition pretend to believe that nothing has been accomplished.
In connexion with defence, let me direct the attention of honorable members to the following clauses of the resolutions of the Conference on that subject : -
After the whole field of defence had been surveyed the Conference decided that it would be advisable to record in the following resolutions its conclusions on the chief matters which had been discussed : -
Will honorable members opposite say that an affirmation of that kind is not of the greatest value to Australia? Will they say that it is unnecessary, or that it does not mean anything? Will they not admit that it is something in which every loyal and patriotic Australian must entirely concur ? I have noticed that during this debate every reference to the Empire has been met by honorable members opposite with sneers, and I ask them now to let the country know what is their position in regard to the Empire, and say outright whether in their view Australia should remain an integral portion of the Empire or not.
-“ Wave the flag.”
– Yes, I will “ wave the flag.” It cannot be waved too much in dealing with matters like these, because we want to know where the Opposition stand on the subject of the Empire, and where they stand on the question of Australia’srelations to the rest of the Empire. Do they desire that we should dissociate ourselves altogether from the Empire? Do they believe that Australia should stand aloof? I point out that even if that be their desire we could not do so, because, “willynilly,” when Great Britain is at war we must be at war. Even if we decided that Australia should no longer be a part of the Empire other nations would not respect our neutrality; andwhy should they? Theywould have every reason for regarding us with suspicion if we repudiated our connexion with the British Empire. What would honorable members opposite say if a nation at war with Great Britain accepted our assurances of neu- trality, and at the same time claimed the right to garrison our seaport towns, which they could reasonably claim they had a right to do as a precautionary measure, while disclaiming hostile intent towards Australia as a neutral? The second clause of the defence resolution reads -
In this connexion the Conference expressly recognises that it is for the Parliaments of the several parts of the Empire, upon the recommendations of their respective Governments, to decide the nature and extent of any action which should be taken by them.
That is a concession which has never been made before. It Was demanded by the Leader of the Opposition and his followers no later than during the first session of the present Parliament, and before the Prime Minister went to the Old Country. They have regarded such a concession as essential in the interests of Australia. These things are . being conceded, and is it any wonder in the circumstances that the Opposition is silent in this debate? Honorable members opposite will not join in commendation of tile work of the Prime Minister. They cannot condemn, but they are afraid to applaud. Why are they afraid to applaud ? It is not because they do not believe that the Prime Minister has accomplished great work which will be beneficial to Australia. It is not because they do not believe that an immense advance has been made in the recognition of the status of Australia as an independent part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is because they are afraid of the extreme section outside upon whose support they rely for the maintenance of the seats- they hold at present in this Parliament. That section is the power behind the throne which exercises the terrible influence of fear over what should be a free and independent Opposition. If honorable members opposite claim to represent the people, and the people whom they represent are against these proposals, and the results of the work done by the Prime Minister, it is their duty to voice their objections and explain their position on the floor of this Chamber. In order to escape the responsibility of doing that, the Leader of the Opposition submitted a fatuous and inane amendment expressing approval of the foreign- policy of the British Cabinet.
The proceedings of- the Economic Conference have been somewhat fully discussed by the honorable members who have preceded me, and I have no desire to reiterate the points which they stressed, but I remind the House that honorable members on this side of the chamber are in the happy position of being free men. We owe no allegiance to any outside body other than our constituents, and whether we be Free Traders or Protectionists we have full liberty to speak and vote- on all matters as we please.. There may be some aspects of the negotiations in connexion with the Economic Conference which do not altogether appeal to me, but whatever opinions we may hold as to the merits of the proposals that were submitted we cannot for a moment doubt the sincerity with which they were advanced by the Prime Minister in the belief that he was expressing the views of the Australian people. My fiscal views are not altogether in accordance with those of the majority of honorable members, but whilst I may think that the same result could be achieved1 in a way different from that suggested by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), I must admit that he had a great weight of public opinion behind him when he submitted his proposals to the Conference.
The summary of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference includes this paragraph
The developments in the New Hebrides since the Conference in 1:921 were examined, and tho present situation and possibilities of action further discussed in consultation with the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia and Now Zealand.
That paragraph conveys no definite information of what was decided, and I confess my curiosity to know how far those negotiations tended towards an amicable settlement of this very perplexing and difficult international question. I invite honorable members to give a little more attention to the problems of the Pacific than hitherto they have been disposed to do. Those problems concern us more intimately and seriously than many honorable members- seem to realize.
– I do not admit that, because the Singapore Base involves also the protection of the- trade routes between the Orient and Europe as well as those between the Orient and Australia. The volume of trade along those routes is very much larger than that in the southern Pacific, and greater interests of various kinds have to be protected. Nevertheless we must have1 regard to what the development of the Pacific by foreign nations may mean to Australia commercially and strategically. Long before the Panama Canal was commenced I attended a- public meeting in Sydney at which addresses were delivered upon the relations of the islands of the Pacific to Australia, and the developments which would probably follow the construction of the Panama Canal. I was one of a deputation appointed at that meeting to wait upon Sir Henry Parkes, the. then Premier of New South Wales, to ask him to invite the co-operation of the Premiers of other States in representing to the British Colonial Office the advisability of annexing those islands in the Pacific which were still unattached to foreign powers. I had earlier, when on a visit to Hawaii, met King Kalakaua, who had very strong British sympathies: The Hawaiian Islands were then under the joint protectorate of the United States of America and Great Britain, and it was the desire of King Kalakaua that before he passed away Great Britain should take steps to either annex them, or, with the consent of the Hawaiian people, establish a purely British protectorate. Indeed, he made a special journey to England for the purpose of urging that course upon the Colonial Office. Unfortunately, his representations were unheeded, and he expressed a fear that after his death and during the reign of his successor, Queen Liliuokalani, events would arise which would destroy the joint protectorate and allow the islands to become American territory. That anticipation was realized. A revolution occurred in 1893, as a result of which America intervened and annexed the islands’. To-day British shipping is practically precluded from carrying cargo to Honolulu, and America is in possession of a very valuable base in the northern Pacific, which would have been equally useful to Great Britain. Not many years ago the then Premier of Queensland, having heard that a German expedition was fitting out for the purpose of annexing that portion of New Guinea which was not already in the possession of the Dutch, took the precautionary measure of hoisting the British flag on the unattached territory. His action was promptly repudiated by the Colonial Office, and when protests were made by Sir Henry Parkes and other responsible Australian leaders, the Colonial Office replied that no naval power had any designs on the islands of the Pacific, and they were likely to remain for the next 200 years in the undisturbed possession of the aboriginal savages. Shortly afterwards the Germans annexed all the unattached portion of New Guinea, . and it was only niter a great deal of diplomatic negotiation and the cession of other British territory further north, that Great Britain regained that portion of New Guinea which was subsequently known as Papua, Germany obtaining the balance. At that time it was pointed out that although Germany had no hostile designs on Great Britain, she was greatly accelerating her naval building activity, and that implied a future menace to
Britain’s naval supremacy. The cession of Heligoland to Germany was a very serious mistake, and the presence of Germans in Samoa, New Guinea, and elsewhere in the Pacific might in the course of time become a serious menace to Australia. That idea was ridiculed as extravagant, and as a creature of the fevered imagination, of pessimists. But we well know the subsequent cost in ships and nien to Great Britain of her earlier neglect of Australian interests, and her misjudgment of Pacific problems. At the present time we are happily on terms of amity with France, Japan, and all other nations, but who among us can give a guarantee that that condition will long endure? “We all hope that the peace of the world will be undisturbed for generations to come, but in the delicately poised condition of international affairs in Europe and Asia, who can tell what even a month, may bring forth ? We do not know at what moment a comparatively small incident may precipitate . a world-wide war, and is it not folly to shut our eyes to the possibilities, and contentedly say that Australia and Great Britain are iu no danger, and that the peace of the world is assured? Only those who wilfully shut their eyes to the probabilities, to say ‘nothing of the possibilities, or are ignorant of or indifferent to what is taking place, can adopt the attitude which, has been taken by “the Opposition to-day. It is time that we awoke to the dangers that are menacing us. We all hope that our pleasant relations with France will be maintained, but suppose they are not, and suppose, so far as the Pacific is concerned, that the Condominium Government of the New Hebrides falls to the ground, in what position will we then be. Honorable members, perhaps, may not know that those islands contain land-locked and deep-water harbors capable of being easily fortified, and with a capacity sufficient to shelter at one time the whole of the British fleet or the whole of the fleets of any two combined nations. I have had, with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), the advantage of obtaining first-hand personal knowledge on these matters by a visit to those islands. Some little time ago we acted as a Royal Commission to deal with certain trade and mail matters affecting the islands of the Pacific, and during the course of our investigations we traversed the New Hebrides from end to end. “We visited no fewer than eighty-three* places within the group, and had ample opportunity to learn all there was to,learn about those islands.
– What about the trade of the islands?
– I am just coming to that. I am speaking now of the naval situation. Although the harbors of the New Hebrides are not fortified, still they are capable of being strongly fortified, and thus forming a base for the raiding cruisers of an enemy. This is a possibility that should not be lost sight of. The harbor of Havana is ideal for the concealment of a large fleet. It has a wide entrance with deep water, capable of approach in all kinds of weather. It has not the disadvantage of surrounding reefs such as have many other harbors. At New Hebrides are ‘also the Segond Channel and Port Sandwich, which are capable of being used as naval bases. If the Condominium breaks down, and if those harbors are fortified and become the possession of France, and that country becomes hostile to us, those islands will be a most serious menace to our- shipping and to the Australian coast. “Unfortunately, we, as Australians, have not done as much sis we should to preserve the trade of those islands for Australia, and to people those places with British colonists. An attempt of a spasmodic character to colonize them, was made some few years ago, and a few settlers went to the New Hebrides, the idea being to increase the number of settlers to such an extent as to have ultimately a predominance of British settlers, and thus enable us to present a strong case for the exchange with France of those, islands for some other territory of more importance to her from a commercial and strategic Stand-point. Unfortunately, immediately after we sent settlers there, we erected a tariff wall against the admission of their products to Australia, their only market; and as a result of these adverse conditions, created by our own foolish action, many of those settlers abandoned their holdings. Some of them even swore allegiance to the French flag. The resulttoday is that French occupation is more than double that of the British.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to support the motion of the right honorable the Prime Minister and to congratulate him on his work at the Imperial and Economic Conferences. While at certain times all political parties must, necessarily, consider things from a party stand-point, at least we on this side of the House, when discussing questions of Empire defence and reciprocal trade, have sufficient perspective and a sufficient appreciation of the relative value of things, to sink for the time being party considerations, and to concentrate upon bigger things. “When it comes to questions of great moment, such as Empire defence and reciprocal trade, we realize that party banners are very little flags compared with the Union Jack. The Imperial Conference and defence, and the Economic Conference and Empire trade, are very closely interwoven. Without defence we cannot depend on maintaining an overseas trade, and without an overseas trade Australia will remain undeveloped. There are many opinions regarding defence. Some persons have no ideas on defence at all, or are afraid to state them. There are those who believe that we need no defence beyond the League of Nations. There are those who believe, or affect to believe, that the League of Nations is now in a position that makes it unnecessary for us to defend ourselves but by any other means. There are those who believe that we should adopt some method of defence, but that we should defend our own shores only. There are those - by far the greatest number - who believe that we must defend Australia and our ocean trade, in co-operation with the rest of the Empire. We need not waste very much time on those who have no ideas on defence, or are afraid to state them. The point that was raised by the honorable .member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) is worthy of emphasis, that the gentlemen, who to-day are silent, and who do not state their beliefs concerning defence, are the very honorable members who, last session, were most loud in their demand that the Prime Minister, on his return from the Imperial Conference, should give ample opportunity for them to have a voice in deciding our means of defence. There are those who believe that thereis no longer any necessity for us to take measures for our own defence, and who pin their faith to the League of Nations. I, too, have the greatest possible respect for the League of Nations, and I hope that it will, in time, become a mighty instrument for the prevention of war. I also hope that later it will become the League of all the Nations, and that that other great English-speaking nation, at present holding aloof) will join the League, especially in view of the fact that it was first proposed by one of that nation’s greatest citizens, since deceased. Bub, until the League of Nations is in a position to do away with war, we must be prepared to defend our shores. The subject of defence always reminds me of the words of Oliver Cromwell, who told his Ironsides to trust in God, but to keep their powder dry. Although we must do all we can to foster and to encourage the League of Nations, and should have the most amicable intentions towards all the nations of the world, yet, at the same time, we, too, should keep our powder dry.
– Does the honorable member recommend theCromwellian policy ?
– I am stating my case in my own way. There are some who think that, if we had a perfect machine in the League of Nations, we should require no force of any description to compel its decisions ; bub, as with our civil law, we need some kind of force, so we must have force behind the League, even if none other than the police force. It seems bo me that a nation that holds out the hand of friendship and endeavours to impress other nations with the necessity for disarmament, can do so with greater effect if it is itself strong. If a nation that is to be feared in a naval or military sense, makes a great effort to induce other nations, perhaps less strong than itself, to disarm-, its proposals are met with greater respect than would be. accorded to a similar proposal coming from a weak nation. In the latter case, the suspicion would be aroused that the proposal was put forward in timidity and in fear of the future. If we cast our minds back over two decades to the South African war, we have an example of the different resuits that come to a nation that holds out the hand of friendship, firstly when it is weak, and secondly when it is strong. When Great Britain suffered a severe reverse at Majuba, the magnanimity of Gladstone was Misconstrued by the victors as weakness, and it was many years before British prestige was restored in South; Africa. Two decades later., when, Great Britain, after a display of strength in the late South African war, held out. the hand of friendship and peace to the defeated Boers, the result was very different. Great Britain almost immediately after the war offered the franchise to both friend and foe, with the result that General Botha became Prime Minister of South Africa; and he was followed by a man of the. calibre of General Smuts. Greater effects in the way of peace are brought about by a, nation which is strong than by a nation which is weak, and much more good will be done in the cause of peace if the British Empire, in endeavouring foster and to encourage the League of Nations, nevertheless maintains its naval strength. Then we come to those who believe that in some vague way we can defend these shores unaided. Most of those who hold that view prefer, when it suits their purpose, to remain under the protection of the British flag, but to have complete liberty of action when the Mother Country may be facing national disaster. Such people think we have little in common with the people of the other great Dominions that make up the British Empire, and hold that in some way we should confineour attention to matters entirely within Australia. This cannot be said of the party to which I belong. Four years ago, when we fought our first Federal election, we made our position quite clear. On the forefront of our platform we placed the integrity of the Empire-, and declared our unalterable opposition to any relaxation of or interference with, those beneficent ties that bind Australia to the Motherland. Some people who are not so sound on this aspect of national policy suggest that we should please ourselves whether we participate in any war in which the Mother Country was engaged. I am satisfied that if honorable members opposite were in charge of the Treasury bench at a time when Great Britain was attacked, and if the Government and its supporters then made a solemn declaration that Australia was not in a state of war, that would have very little influence with, a powerful, hostile nation that thought that this part of the Empire would prove an easy prey. If we look at our problem of Empire defence from the point of view of finance alone, we must realize that, with our small population and limited resources, we could not afford the necessary expenditure unaided. * We are irresistibly driven to the belief that the co-operation of the British Navy is essential for the defence of the Commonwealth and the maintenance of our trade routes. Owe commercial interests, to say nothing of our sentimental attachment to the Mother Country, impel us to this conclusion. We must keep our trade routes open, not only for commercial reasons, tout in order that our kith and kin overseas may not starve, as assuredly they would if, through some disastrous turn of events, the seas were closed to us in war .time. In the splendid address which he delivered recently, Sir Frederick Field, Vice-Admiral of the Special Service Squadron now in Australian waters, made it clear that although Great Britain might, in time of trouble, be able to defend herself from, hostile fleets and aeroplanes, that would avail her little if the Empire trade routes were controlled by enemy naval forces, because her people would then be starved into submission. Therefore it is to our advantage, as it is our duty to the Motherland, to do> what we can to insure the safety &f our mercantile marine in time of war, and there is noi other reasonable course open to us than to adopt the proposals put forward so ably by the Prime Minister.
With regard to the preference resolutions, there are some people who, strange though it may seem, believe in very high protective duties in Australia but oppose the Imperial preference proposals on the ground that they would increase- the cost of foodstuffs to the British consumer. The point cannot be over-emphasized that, so far as some of the items of the Imperial preference scheme are concerned, the adoption of the proposal would have no such effect at all. With dried fruits, for example, the proposal is to give a preference to Australia by reducing the existing British Tariff, not by imposing higher duties. I fail to see how this course will increase the cost, of the. dried fruits to the consumer in Great
Britain. It must be obvious that if the existing duties on dried fruits are reduced in favour of the Australian producer, the only effect will be to increase the volume of British imports from Australia at the cost of our foreign competitors. Some people seem to think that Australia is too small a customer to be worthy of consideration by Great Britain. A study of trade figures. dealing with the business between Australia and Great Britain will show that we are actually Great Britain’s second best customer. We buy from Great Britain a very great deal more than does America, with twenty times our population ; we buy more than Germany with twelve times our population ; and more than France, with seven times our population. In 1922 Australia purchased from Great Britain £60,000,000 worth of goods, or nearly £12 per head of our population; while the Argentine purchased goods to the value of only £22,500,000, or less than £3 per head of her population. I may add that the standard of living and rate of wages in the Argentine aTe very low in comparison with Australian conditions. Honorable members opposite stand for the maintenance of a high standard of living and wages for the Australian workers. They insist on a Protectionist Tariff in order to maintain this high standard, and yet they attempt to belittle the efforts of the Prime Minister at the Economic Conference to secure preferential treatment in the British market for the Australian white workers as against the low-paid workers of the Argentine. Members of the party to which I belong have at times been twitted as narrow and sectional in their view. We entirely repudiate that suggestion. Our vision is wide enough to include all workers in Australia. We believe in a high standard of living, not only for the industrialists of the Commonwealth, but for the workers in the primary producing industries aa well. Honorable members opposite, who claim to represent the interests of humanity at large, might themselves very truly be charged with being narrow and sectional in their views, for apparently they are content to work for the maintenance of a high standard ‘of living for the industrialists, but have no desire to do anything whatever to improve the position of the primary producers. Reference has been made by way of interjection to a conference held recently not more than 100 miles from Melbourne. In connexion with that gathering, I remind honorable members that when I paid a well -deserved tribute to the Prime Minister for the work which he did in the interests of the primary producers of Australia and for his efforts to obtain preferential treatment for our primary products, the. whole-hearted applause with which my remarks were received evidenced the keen appreciation of the conference delegates for the great work which the Prime Minister had done for this country. I give my hearty support to the motion submitted by the Prime Minister.
.-I join with the previous speakers in regretting that a very large section of the representatives of the people of Australia have not seen fit to voice their opinions in this House upon the report presented by the Prime Minister on the Imperial and Economic Conferences. The problems there mentioned transcend in importance any subject that- has been dealtwith in this Parliament. We desire to be a self-contained people. It is admitted on all hands that, in order to develop this country to its fullest extent, it is essential that we should have adequate markets for our products. It is also admitted, I think, that the best outlet is the Mother Country. We are all hoping to continue and to improve our trade with; Great Britain. This being so, I am very much surprised .at the attitude of the Opposition in connexion with the important matter of defence. One would have thought that, in view of the stand taken by the various organizations repre,sented by honorable members opposite, they would have been prepared to increase substantially the Commonwealth defence vote, and, more than any other section of this House, have given warm support to the establishment of the Singapore Naval Base. They preach the doctrine of good-will between all nations, and act as if they were the only pebbles on the beach ; as if we in Australia were the only people who had any right to consideration whatever. I have in mind a recent incident in this port of Melbourne. We had a ship, the Araluen, for which we could find no use ourselves, so we sold her to a foreign country. Japan, the country to which I refer, sent a crew to man the ship and take her away. Certain repairs were needed, although accord ing to Lloyd’s survey she was not unseaworthy, and so the powers behind the Opposition brought pressure to bear to have all this work carried out in Australia. A great deputation waited upon the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), urging him. to hold up the ship and to force her into dock for extensive repairs. They even desired to board this sihip, flying the Japanese flag, and criticise the work that was being carried out. Their action certainly constituted an interference in international affairs, and I suggest that people who are prepared to indulge in pin-pricks in “that way should also be ready to defend themselves and this country against the results of their action. It is all very well to talk about White Australia. Japan is a country of coloured people, and she has just as much right to her views on this subject, and be black if she chooses, as Australia has to be regarded as a white man’s country. Therefore, when she buys a ship for which we could find no use, she ought to be free of any interference. The vessel had been lying idle for two or three years. We ought to have been glad to get something for her and let her be taken away. It was not that there was a risk of Japanese being drowned in the ship. The Japanese Government is just as careful of its citizens as we are of ours. The fact was that the Labour unions of Australia were anxious to get the repairs to the ship done here to fleece the Japanese. The Fordsdale cost something approaching £800,000, and I suppose we shall be asked to write that amount down by £550,000 before she carries a ton of cargo. The Japanese do not wish for their ships to be handled under conditions like that. The point is that we have a party in this House that is too ready to give pin pricks to other nations. The taking up of such a selfish attitude as that adopted by .some honorable members causes more international dissension than anything else. If honorable members desire to take up such a position, they must be prepared to defend it. It is no good being like the schoolboy who says, “ I Will fight you kneeling with one hand behind my back.” We are not so situated that we can adopt that stand. Some honorable members suggest that they want Australia to be self-contained, that they do not wish the help of the Mother Country, and that they do not want the Singapore Base. We cannot reasonably take up that attitude when a nation much more powerful than our own is concerned in the matter. I am quite satisfied that every honorable member of this House desires peace, and nob war.. We all wish the League of Nations to succeed. But its success can only be achieved when the> world has reached a state of complete unity. Until that time arrives, we must be prepared to defend ourselves, and our trade. Quite a number of those who defend the pacifist views held by the Opposition expect this country to develop its resources, and profitably employ its citizens, but we are nob going the right way to work to do that. I noticed that one of the city papers referred the other (Jay to Mr. Suttor’s visit to Japan, and attached blame to this Parliament because of its inertness in developing trade between Australia .and Japan. It was pointed out that Australia had developed si trade with Japan, amounting to £13,000,000 a year, but that since the Japanese earthquake America had taken, that away from us. Why should this have happened? It surely is quite a mistake for us not to develop trade with
Japan. Honorable members opposite may agree that we should develop commercial relationships with that country, but I ask how many of them would bc prepared to enter into a reciprocal agreement? I submit, Mr. Speaker, that if we are to develop trade with other nations, we must be prepared to make reciprocal agreements. Great possibilities exist for trading with the people surrounding us. The trouble is that Australians are not willing to reciprocate. Their attitude is, “We will take everything, but we will give nothing.” If honorable members adopt such an attitude, they must be prepared to defend it. I believe that it is a wrong stand to take. I am greatly surprised that honorable members opposite do not make some attempt to offer a few tangible suggestions for the defence of Australia.
– Tell us the truth about the Fordsdale. I understand that she cost twice as much as she should have done.
– I think the statement I have already made bears that out. If that is so, the position is serious. We talk a great deal about maintaining a
White Australia, but if Ave are to main- fain it, we must prove the wisdom of such a course. The way wo are going is, I believe, the shortest cut to make Australia black.- We shall have to face the existing situation, and face it seriously, in the not distant future. It is not only a matter of maintaining a. White Australia, but also one of maintaining au efficient White Australia. If Australia is to be a white man’s country we must give a white man’s deal to the people with whom we trade. We are not doing the fair thing by ourselves if, immediately after launching a ship. that we have built, we write down its cost to 75 per cent of the expenditure upon it. Practices of that kind will not carry us far forward. I thoroughly disagree with ‘ one action which the Government has taken. I am sorry that I cannot agree with all that it does, though I may say here that I am very pleased with the manner’ in which the right honorable the Prime Minister represented us in England. Every Australian should be proud that we had a man among us who could represent us so capably in the Old Country. As a citizen of Australia I was full of pride of the right honorable the Prime Minister, because of what he did while in England. The Government intends to pay 68 per cent, more for the building of fourteen locomotives in Australia than the amount for which they could be obtained in Great Britain. That means that we shall pass on practically to one foundry £3,000 a year, or £60 a week, which we really need not spend. That is like signing a promissory-note. The day comes when it must be met. If we desire to develop this country in a practical way we should not be doling out sops like that because our manufacturers are too lazy to meet the competition of the world. The people abroad, who would have built these engines, buy our Australian wheat and pay ls. a bushel more for it than do the people in Australia, and they pay more for our meat than we pay for it. In spite of this we are not prepared to allow them, to work for us, even though they would do the work more cheaply than we will do it. To prevent them from having’ to work we shall pay 68 per cent, more for it than is necessary. This House must grapple with such problems’ as these. Until it does so we shall not build up a sound and enduring prosperity. If we desire to keep Australia white we must cease talking such twaddle as is sometimes heard in this House. We must show to the people of the world that a White Australia is an efficient Australia. One of the most regrettable experiences I have had since my election to this Parliament is having to face an Opposition which is doing nothing and saying nothing when these important national and economic problems are before us. We desire to get through the business in a practical way, and to consider solidly these matters which are of the greatest importance to the country, yet the Opposition will not discuss them. They seem to me to be as obstinate as mules.
.- I congratulate the right honorable the Prime Minister upon the magnificent work he did for the Commonwealth of Australia during his visit abroad.. I took a very deep interest in. his doings during the very trying time he had there. It was a trying time because of the change which occurred in political conditions while he was in England. He had matters of great importance to deal with, and handled them in such a way that I have renewed confidence in him. I feel that the affairs of Australia are perfectly safe in his keeping. I am impressed by his undoubted sincerity, and I am sure that is true of every one who is associated with him in this Parliament. I am not impressed, however, with the attitude of the Opposition on the matters now before us. Even if the. members of the Labour party generally were not prepared to express their views on these important subjects, I should like to have heard the Leader of the Opposition voice the opinions of his party. If the Leader of the Opposition had given the House and the country the views of himself and bis followers upon these matters that are vital not only to Australia but to the Empire as a whole> I should have been glad to listen to his address. Because of the silence of honorable members opposite I have been wondering where they are heading. I regard Australia as. an inseparable part of the British Empire. Any legislation passed in this country, whether by the.. Federal or a State Parliament, must have its reflection throughout the. Empire. I should like members of the Opposition
– To give their testimony.
– Yes, and I ask the honorable member who interjects to say whether he is in favour of Australia cutting the painter that connectsus with the British Empire. I give credit to the Leader of the Labour party in another place, who, whether speaking for the party or not, has declared, in no uncertain terms, that he stands for a Republic in Australia. He has been game enough to declare that he is prepared to fight tooth and nail for cutting the painter with Great Britain, and establishing a Republic in this country. If that is the attitude of members of theLabour party in this House also, why d.o they not say so. There are men in the Labour party whom I believe to be. thoroughly loyal, but there is a Communistic section outside that has such a grip, upon the Labour party that it is hoping to influence this House and the people to accept the programme of the Communists. There are honorable members opposite, who, I have no doubt would like to express their views in support of the unity of the Empire, but they dare not do so because they are controlled by the Communistic section. We, on this side, are the Nationalist party because we represent the people, and stand for the maintenance of a virile and loyal people within Australia and the Empire. Let me remind some honorable members opposite that they have asserted in this chamber in previous sessions, and by correspondence have informed ‘their colleagues in the Imperial Parliament, that if a British Cabinet were to dare to adopt a foreign policy without consulting the Parliaments of the Dominions, they would voice a protest against their action here. Yet because a Labour Government has come into power in the Old Country, when the Prime Minister returns to this Parliament, and presents a programme full of national proposal?, they will not say that the present British Cabinet has done, wrong in adopting a foreign policy without consulting this Parliament or the Parliaments of the other oversea Dominions,. I have endeavoured since I have been in politics to be consistent. Whether we have here a Labour or a Nationalist Government, the future of this continent, in my opinion, rests absolutely upon the unity of the Empire, and harmony between the Dominions and the great
Motherland. It should be unnecessary for me to describe the relationof Great Britain to the Commonwealth as that of a mother to her child. We cannot separate them, and they will not be separated by any action on the part of the bulk of the people of Australia. The resolutions submitted by the Prime Minister are of vital importance, not only to Australia, but to the Empire as a whole. If there is any break in our trade relations with the rest of the Empire, the Empire as a whole will not progress as we should desire. Honorable members opposite must know that the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister on the subject of trade relations is essential for the success of Australia in the future. It has been rightly said that Australia offers greater opportunities than does any other country in the world. The conditions prevailing here are different from those in other parts of the world. Whilst the industries of this country must be built up and preserved we can hope that this will be accomplished only if we carry out the programme laid down by the Prime Minister. Honorable members opposite have nothing to say on the important resolutions submitted to them. Perhaps it is because they have no fault to find. Let us hope in the interest of this country that that is the reason for their silence. If that is so, they might still express their satisfaction instead of submitting an amendment upon the resolutions proposed by the Prime Minister.
– What is the honorable member’s objection to the amendment?
Mr.F. FRANCIS.- My objection to it is that it is not in accordance with the resolutions submitted by the Prime Minister, who represented this country overseas in a very patriotic way. I have the utmost confidence in him, and I believe the people of this country will indorse his action overseas and in this Parliament. I am very sorry the Opposition has taken up. the attitude they have adapted. I feel that this. House and the people will not he found supporting the amendment which they have submitted.
Motion (by Sir Littleton Groom) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Mr. BAYLEY,as Chairman, brought up the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Lithgow Housing Scheme.
Ordered tobe printed.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter minations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 1 of 1934 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 2 of 1924- Commonwealth General Division Telephone Officers’ Association.
Lands Acquisition Act-Land acquired at Nuriootpa, South Australia- For Postal purposes.
Holiday Pay at Cockatoodockyard.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to state briefly to the House the grievance of a number of men to whom the Government will shortly be looking to render valuable service in the construction of cruisers. For the last thirty or forty years it has been the established practice in Government dockyards, in common with all Government Departments, to pay men for the Christmas holidays, namely, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day; but since the establishment of the Commonwealth Shipping Board and the transfer of the control of dockyards to that body, the men employed at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard have been deprived of such pay. At Garden Island and all other yards under the control of the Shipping Board the men are paid for those holidays. The treatment of the men at Cockatoo Island is so anomalous and unjust that I feel sure that it needs only to be mentioned to the Prime Minister to be rectified.
– I shall look into the circumstances and communicate with the honorable member later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240328_reps_9_106/>.