9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Before questions without notice are taken I desire to refer to a matter brought under the notice of the House last week by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). He inquired of the Chair whether a resolution that had been passed by theHouse last year relating to the removal of the Parliament to Canberra had been in due course communicated to His Excellency the Governor-General. I have made inquiries, as I promised the honorable member I should, and I find from the Clerk of the House that the resolution referred to was conveyed next day through the usual channel to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– In view, sir, of your statement, may I be permitted to ask the Prime Minister whether the resolution of the House has been conveyed to His Excellency the Governor-General?
– I assume that the ordinary course has been pursued, but I shall make quite certain.
– Having in mind clause 3 of the Defence resolutions of the Imperial Conference, which affirms that, whilst providing for the safety of the Empire, no opportunity should be lost to promote the limitation of armaments ; and also noting the resolution of the American Congress urging the President to invite France, Britain, Italy, and Japan to join in an attempt to reach an agreement to limit the construction of underwater and surface craft of 10,000-tons displacement or less, will the Prime Minister, who said last year that he was in favour of a Pacific Conference being held, request the British Government to invite the Powers concerned to participate in such a Conference to be held in Australia ?
-Although I do not think that a Conference would really have the best prospects of success if it were summoned by Australia, I should most certainly like a Conference of such a character as the honorable member mentioned to be summoned by one of the great Powers - Britain, America, or Japan. I am quite sure that it would be the wish of the House that a representative of the Commonwealth should attend should such a Conference be held.
– I ask the Prime Minister : Was admission of Maltese into Australia discussed in private at the Imperial Conference, and were arrangements made to increase the number of Maltese immigrants to this country? Will the right honorable gentleman place before the House all the papers in connexion with the matter?
– Nothing was discussed in private at the Imperial Conference concerning Maltese. If the honorable gentleman will put the other parts of his question on the notice-paper I will look into the matter and supply him with answers.
Denunciation of Condominium
– Will the Prime Minister make representations to the present British Government regarding the conditions in the New Hebrides with a view to abolishing what appears to be a very scandalous state of affairs ?
– The Condominium under which the New Hebrides are at present governed was very fully discussed at the Imperial Conference. If the honorable member will peruse the papers I presented last week he will find the matter referred to in them. After the fullest discussion as to possible methods to replace the existing Condominium, which everybody recognised has not worked satisfactorily, negotiations were begun with the French Government on the subject, and these are now in train. I am afraid that at the present moment no announcement on the subject can be made.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement that Japan proposes to request the President of the United States of America to call a Conference with a view to further disarmament ? Will the righthonorable gentleman back up the request by communicating in similar terms with the President of the United States of America on behalf of Australia?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers, butI can assure him that the Government will do everything in its power to assist and promote any action which may be taken to insure the peace of the Pacific?
– . I ask the Minister for Defence with regard to the sinking of H.M.A.S. Australia, whether, as no particulars have appeared in the press, he will say exactly what is going to be done. We have no information on the subject beyond the reply which the Minister made to a question I asked last week to the effect that the Australia is to be sunk 20 miles out from the Sydney Heads. Will the Minister say what arrangements, if any, have been made to enable members of this Parliament to he present on the occasion if they so desire ?
– No special arrangements have been made for the presence of members of the Parliament at the sinking of the Australia. I understand that certain private companies are arranging for vessels to carry those who desire to be present. No application has been received from members of the Parliament on the subject.
Consideration at Washington Conference.
- Senator Pearce’s report on the Washington Disarmament Conference was tabled in this House in June, 1922, and I wish to know why the facts stated in the remarks which he made last night do not appear in that report. He is reported to have said -
He was present asa representative of the Commonwealth when the matter of the Singapore Base was discussed at the Washington Conference, and also at the secret meetings which were held. He said, emphatically, that the establishment of this base was not an infraction ofthe Pacific Treaty, either in the spirit or the letter.It was clearly and distinctly understood, not only by the British delegation, but also by the American and Japanese delegations, that such a base was to be established. It was to bo an essential part of the British plan for the defence of the interests of the Empire in the Pacific. Singapore was discussed in exactly the same way as Honolulu was discussed as a defensive American base, and the islands to the south of Japan as a defensive Japanese base.
Will the Prime Minister ascertain and tell honorable members the reason why Senator Pearce did not include that very important statement in his report to this H ouse?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks under the notice of Senator Pearce, but I wish to point out that what Senator Pearce said last night, namely, that the establishment of the Singapore Base was not an infraction, either in the letter or the spirit, of the Pacific Treaty was a statement similar to that made by Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
-It is an important statement, and the House should have been informed of it.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he willinform the House how matters now stand with regard to the BrisbaneKyogle railway?
– Negotiations have been proceeding between the Commonwealth, New South Wales, and Queensland Governments. Queensland has signified her concurrence in certain proposals, and a definite answer is awaited from New South Wales, which it is expected will be received after the meeting of the New South Wales Cabinet this week.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The final disposition of the Australia is determined by the Washington Treaty, the conditions of which are as follows: - “ Rules for Scrapping Vessels of War.
It is plain from the foregoing that H.M.A.S. Australia must be permanently sunk, which means sinking in the sea without the possibility of refloating, or alternatively must be broken up. As this breaking up includes the removal of all deck, side, and bottom plating, it is manifest that the ship would not then be seaworthy, and could not be moved from the place at which the breaking up had been carried out. The cost in any case of such breaking up is prohibitive.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
Number of assisted migrants who arrived in the Commonwealth during the years 1922 and 1923. together with amount of declared capital in connexion with such migrants: -
Operation of Award
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
-The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow.: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– I would invite the honorable member’s attention to the reply to his question in this House on the 20th August,1923, to the effect that the constellation of the line was a matter for the consideration of the New South Wales and Victorian Govern ments.
asked the Minister for
Defence,upon notice -
– There are only two pensioners in H.M.A.S. Adelaide, and their places could not bo filled by Australians now serving in depots.
Appointment of Royal Commission
asked the Prime Minister,upon notice -
In view of his reply to my question on Friday last, relative to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the Coal Industry, will he provide an opportunity for a motion to be moved in the House for the appointment of a Royal Commission toinquire into every feature of the coal industry from the point of production to the point of consumption; and, if such motion be carried by the House, will be give effect to it?
– The. Government does not propose to afford any special facilities for the consideration of this question.
asked the PostmasterGeneral,uponnotice -
Whether he will place on the Library table all the papers in connexion with the transfer of Mechanic W. Quirk from Ballarat?
– No. It is not the prac tice to make available files of papers dealing with staff matters under the provisions of the Public Service Act, which Act is administered by the Public Service Board .
asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I may perhaps add, for the information of the honorable member, that, on the retirement recently of the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, Adelaide, the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in that State was appointed also as Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. This does not mean that the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is placed in the hands of the Repatriation Commission.’ The administration is being controlled as formerly by the Secretary to the Treasury in his capacity as Commissioner of Invalid and Oldage Pensions.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he make available for perusal in the Library the complete file of ex-.frivate William Holland, 38th Battalion, both as to pension claim andas to War Service Homes administration ?
– It is nor considered desirable to make available in the Library, files dealing With applications for war pensions or War Service Homes, as they contain confidential information in regard to the circumstances of the persons concerned. It is understood that the honorable member arranged with Senator Crawford, the Assistant Minister, to call at the Repatriation Department on the 5th March, when it was undertaken that any information which he was anxious to obtain in connexion with this case would be furnished. If the honorable member so desires, the arrangement with Senator Crawford can be renewed at any time that is mutually convenient. Alternatively, the Department will send a responsible officer to the House with the file at any time the honorable member may indicate.
Wa: Gratuity Advances
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The details asked for are not in the possession of the Treasury, but are with the Commonwealth Bank, which has been asked to furnish the information.. On receipt of a reply from the Bank, the honorable member will be further communicated with.
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
When is it expected that the building of the post-office at Northcote will be commenced?
– It is expected that a contract for the erection of the building will be let before the end of the financial year.
– On 27th March the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the following questions : -
I promised that the information would be obtained, and now furnish the following replies : -
The most serious obstacle the Department has been confronted with in its endeavours to meet the demand for service is that relating to the supply of material. Although contracts were placed with the utmost regard to early deliveries there have been many serious failures to supply by the stipulated dates. The great variety of material essential to afford telephone connexion is obtained from many sources, and failure in a single instance frequently dislocates the whole co-ordinated construction effort.
Subscribers are now being connected at the rate of about 4,000 per month, as against an average of 2,400 during 1022-23, and 1,800 dur- ing 1921-22.
It must not be assumed, however, that the figures represent the actual loss, which is probably much less because of the fact that expenditure necessary to instal the plant and provide service for the waiting subscribers has not yet been incurred.
The revenue from telephones during the eight months ended 29th February, 1924, is £212,231 in excess of that for the corresponding period in 1922-23.
The following papers were presented: -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 47 of 1923 - Postal Sorters’ Union of Australia - Further reasons for judgment.
No. 3 of 1924 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 4 of 1924 - Meat Inspectors’ Association.
No. 5 of 1924. - Australian PostalElectricians’ Union.
No.6 of 1924 - Postal Sorters’ Union of
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Gladstone, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Urangan, Queensland - For Customs and Postal purposes.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1923,Nos. 155, 169.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1924, No. 3- Stock.
Debate resumed from 28th March (vide page 137). 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 -
Imperial Economic Committee.
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 House of Commons; aiming, as such policy does, to bring about good-will between nations and ad vance t he peace of the world.”
– At the beginning of the debate the House had the opportunity to order any course it desired, but now that an amendment has been moved on the second section of the motion, it cannot go back to the first section of it. Should the House decide that the words of the second section shall not be altered, no further amendment can be moved to it, except by way of addition. The House may then, if it so desires, discuss the third section of the motion by itself.
– I do not think I have made my meaning clear. I want to know, not whether theHouse will have the opportunity to alter or discuss particular sections of the motion, but whether an opportunity will be given to honorable members to record a vote upon them separately ; or will the three paragraphs bc put in globe?
– An amendment having been moved on section 2 of the motion, honorable members will not have an opportunity to vote separately on the three questions submitted, but after the disposal of the amendment, the House may separate sections2 and 3 of the motion, and vote accordingly.
– So that no honorable member may be placed in an invidious position, and so that every one may know exactly how he is voting, I ask whether I shoud be in order in moving that questions 1,2, and 3 be submitted to the House separately?
– No further motion can be taken until the amendment now before the House has been disposed of; when that has been done, I shall deal with the question of order should it arise. The question now before the House is that the words proposed by the Leader of the Opposition to be omitted stand part of the question.
Sir LITTLETON GROOM (Darling-
Downs - Attorney-General) [3.25]. -I propose to point out briefly the position in which we shall beplaced if the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is carried. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) submitted a motion asking the House to approve of the printing of the reports of the Imperial Conference and the Imperial Economic Conference, and to approve of certain conclusions arrived at by the Imperial Conference and the Imperial Economic Conference. When he concluded his speech the Leader of the Opposition moved the amendment to which I am asking honorable members to give their serious attention. By moving it honorable members opposite, in effect, declare that they do not object to having the reports printed, but that all reference to certain definite conclusions of the Imperial Conference in regard to foreign relations, the negotiation, signature, and ratification of treaties, and defence be omitted from the motion. These are matters upon which definite decisions have been come to by the representatives of all the King’s Dominions sitting in. London in conference with the Government of the United Kingdom, and the Prime Minister asks the House to approve of them, yet honorable members opposite decline to ratify these decisions. They ask the House to reject them, and to substitute in their place the f ollowiug dcclaration : -
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 House of Commons; aiming, as such policy does, to bring about good-will betweennations and advance the peace of the world.
The amendment is a direct challengeto those who support the conclusions of the Imperial Conference. If carried, it would bc an indication that Australia rejected the decisions of the Imperial Conference and the result of its six weeks’ deliberations. The Leader of the Opposition did not direct the attention of the House to what would be the actual position if his amendment were agreed to, but there is no getting away from the fact that it contains the challenge I have stated. First of all, the honorable member asks the House to reject the deliberations of the Imperial Conference in regard to foreign relations. It must be remembered that these are not the decisions of one individual. The Imperial Conference was representative of all the Dominions constituting the British commonwealth of nations. They were the representatives of Dominions with am independent status, and after discussing in detail the whole of the foreign relations of the Empire tihey came to certain definite conclusions) which aire set out in the summary of proceedings . that has been placed in the hands of honorable members. The position was clearlyputbefore the Conference.Its members were able to make a detailed examination, not only of the main features of the Empire’s foreign policy in all its aspects, but also of the situation as it presented itself from (lay to day. The Conference did not terminate its sittings until every subject had been carefully considered and a common understanding reached upon the main heads of foreign policy which were under consideration. As these have been already mentioned by the Prime Minister, it is not my intention to detain honorable members with further examination of them. In considering what should be the attitude of the Empire towards the League of Nations, the Conference had the benefit of the very full and complete statement from the British official representative at the League of its work. The view taken by the Conference is stated in the official summary thus -
There was Ml accord that the League should be given theunabated support of all the British incumbers of the League as a valuable instrument of international peace, and as the sole available organ for the harmonious regulation of many international affairs.
Honorable members are now asked to reject this conclusion, which was reached after a careful examination of the League’s work. This’ is the first challenge that is presented in the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who has not, seen fit to enlighten honorable members about the reasons actuating him in submitting it. I find, however, that when speaking at Hobart recently he did give some explanation of his attitude towards the Imperial Conference and foreign relations. He is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to have said -
Once Australia attached her signature to participation in the Empire’s foreignpolicy, she would be in honour bound to takeher due part in any war in winch the Empire might be engaged, whether she thought it just or not. If the time came when Australia were attacked, he was sure she would do her part in defending her shores.
Later, Avhen speaking about defence, he said -
There is no longer any necessity for compulsory military training, which should be abolished. The last war had shown that ‘the existing system was obsolete.
The amendment also challenges those who support the resolutions of the Conference on the subject of the negotiation, signature and ratification of treaties. The
Dominions have undoubtedly attained to a very important status within the Empire, and have acquired the power to make treaties. One consequence of that status is a large measure of freedom in the negotiation of treaties. This is the first time that this very important power of the Dominions has been so clearly defined at any gathering of representatives of the British Empire. Obviously, it is a power that, exercised by each Dominion without regard to the rest of the Empire, might involve the Empire as a whole in a very serious position. The Conference, therefore, after careful consideration, and with the advice of Sir Cecil Hurst, legal adviser to the Foreign Office, laid down certain definite rules and safeguards for the exercise of the power. The Leader of the Opposition now asks this House toreject that resolution.. What does he propose to substitute for it?
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews)., speaking as a member of his party, says that nothing is to be substituted. I say that one alternative is to allow the Government of the United Kingdom to make our treaties for us, as it may think fit. But the old method has gone. The new proposal contained in the resolutions of the Conference is such as onewould expect a commonwealth of nations to lay down for the guidance of its component parts. The only other course would be to claim complete independence on this subject; but, knowing the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition towards the Empire, and on the question of loyalty generally, I do not want, by suggestion, to convey the impression that that is what he intends by his amendment. But we have toface the position in which he has placed us. If this House accepts his amendment, where shall we stand in regard to this treaty power’? The alternative is one which no self-governing Dominion would care to adopt. If we reject the Conferenceviews we shall be expected to define ourrelations with the other parts of the Empire. They will require to know where we stand. The Conference resolutions deal with treaties, in their strictly legal form, made between the representativesor plenipotentiaries of the high contracting Powers, as they are termed, and. agreements between Governments. It has been the established practice where only one part of the Empire is concerned for the King to issue full power to his representatives in that part of the Empire to make a treaty either alone or conjointly with the representatives of the United -Kingdom. It does not matter what part of the Dominions he may represent, his authority to enter into tlie treaty is from the King. The resolutions of the Conference accept that practice, and lay down certain principles to guard against danger which might arise out of it. The resolutions deal, in the first place, with the possibility that a treaty being negotiated by one Government may in some way affect another part- of the Empire, or the Empire as a whole. They affirm., very distinctly, the desirableness that no treaty shall be negotiated by any single Government of the Empire without due consideration having been given to its possible effects upon other parts of the Empire. The resolutions also provide that before a Government opens negotiations for such a treaty, steps shall be taken to insure that any of the other Governments of the Empire likely to bo interested shall be _ informed, so that they, may have an opportunity of expressing their views; or, when their interests are intimately involved, of participating in the negotiations. It will be seen, therefore, that the Conference realized the necessity of providing for the fullest exchange of views between the Governments of different parts of the Empire before any such treaty is concluded. The third paragraph of these resolutions provides that in all cases where more than one of the Governments of the Empire participates in the negotiations, there shall be the fullest’ possible exchange of views between those Governments before and at every stage of ‘ the negotiations. The resolutions make an interesting reference to the now established practice at International Conferences of having a British Empire delegation. This usage was first adopted at the Peace Conference in Paris. It is of the utmost importance that there shall be prior consultations between the Empire units to insure their co-operation in these International Conferences. The resolution of the Imperial Conference in this respect sets down the practice to be followed. It provides that whenever a treaty is negotiated at an International Conference, when such a British Empire delegation exists, that delegation shall be utilized for the purposes of consultation. Respecting the signature of treaties, there is always a possibility, when a particular Dominion plenipotentiary signs a treaty intended to impose obligations on that Dominion only, that it may affect some other part of the Empire. He may incautiously put his signature to provisions capa’ble of a more extended interpretation than he knows of. The resolution of the Conference safeguards the interests of other Governments of the Empire against this, lt affirms that the full power issued to such representative shall specify the part of the Empire to be bound by the treaty, thus limiting the authority of the plenipotentiary ; and provides that both the preamble and. text of the treaty shall be so worded as to make its scope perfectly clear. The resolution regarding ratification of treaties provides that the old practice shall be followed, so that we may know where we stand. Honorable members will realize that the power to make treaties is one of the greatest powers which a Dominion can exercise. It was very necessary in view of the responsibility which this power placed upon the Dominions that representatives of each part of the Empire should meet to define the attitude that should be adopted. The Leader of the Opposition, in his amendment, is asking us to reject absolutely the decisions of the Conference in these matters, and he does not indicate to us what he proposes to take their place. Honorable members must bear in mind that by adopting the Opposition’s amendment they are rejecting the Conference conclusions.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his amendment, did not give us one word on the attitude of his party upon the important question of defence. Honorable members who sit behind him have always been eloquent in expressing the view that Australia should be allowed to defend herself, and that she could defend herself if any one attacked her. They have said that if she wore attacked her people would rise in her own defence. But can they escape the responsibility of looking at the matter of defence from the Imperial point of view? Australia is a member of the British Empire, and while she is in it, and claims the privileges attached thereto, she cannot escape her share of responsibility. We must expect to bear our, part of the burden. While we are in the Empire, and have trade connexions with the other part of it, surely we must protect those connexions. The means of access to the markets in London,, and the trade routes along which our goods travel, are surely of importance to us, quite regardless of other aspects of the defence problem. These aspects of the matter cannot be overlooked. I ask honorable members whether it is possible for Australia to look at defence from the stand-point that we have nothing to do except to prevent an enemy from landing on our shores? That is the attitude which honorable members opposite apparently adopt. Let us see the effect of the Conference resolutions which they are inviting and challenging us to reject. The first resolution reads -
The Conference affirms that it is necessary to provide for the adequate defence of the territories and trade of the several countries comprising the British Empire.
Surely Australia will agree to that. If we have to live upon our exports and, therefore, depend upon getting them into the markets of the world, we must do more than simply provide for the defence of our own coasts. The second resolution of the Conference 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 provides for the full autonomy of the Dominions with respect to their own local defence. After setting out that view the Conference suggested a number of guiding principles for the consideration of each self-governing Dominion. The first of these was - the primary responsibility of each portion of the Empire represented at the Conference for its own local defence.
I am sure that all parties in this House will agree with that. If we are a nation, and claim the rights and standing of a nation, surely our recognition of those claims will be indicated by our willingness to defend the country of which we are possessed. The second general principle suggested by the Conference was -
Adequate provision for safeguarding the maritime communications of the several parts of the Empire and the routes and water-ways along and through which their armed forces and trade pass.
The third principle was -
The provision of naval bases and facilities for repair and fuel so as to insure the mobility of the fleets.
We owe our peace and security to the Meet and its mobility, and the Conference, therefore, lays it down, as one of the guiding principles which should govern the defence arrangements of the Empire, that each self-governing nation shall keep that fact in view in determining its policy. The resolution then points out the desirability of the maintenance of a minimum standard of naval strength in accordance with the provisions of the Washington Treaty on Limitation of Armaments. The last general principle mentioned deals with the desirableness of the development of the Air Forces in the several countries of the Empire upon such lines as will make it possible for each part of the Empire to co-operate with every other part. Certain points in the application of these principles as they bear specially upon different parts of the Empire are mentioned, but I shall not need to refer to them. The final resolution on defence is one which, I believe, is in accord with the views of the people of Australia. It reads -
The Conference, while deeply concerned tor the paramount importance of providing for the safety and integrity of all parts of the Empire, earnestly desires, so far as is consistent with this consideration, the further limitation of armaments, and trusts that no opportunity may be lost to promote this object.
In effect, the Conference says emphatically that, although we must make provision for our defence, we are prepared to participate in any further international movement which has as its object the disarmament of nations. The policy laid down by the League of Nations Covenant corresponds to a large extent with this statement. The Leader of the Opposition, in his amendment, is asking honorable members to reject in toto the conclusions which I have outlined respecting foreign policy, treaty-making, and defence. As these conclusions are the result of the mature deliberation of statesmen representing all the Dominions of the British Empire, I have no doubt about the result of the vote of this House. The honorable member (Mr. Charlton) has not given one single reason why we should reject these proposals and substitute the policy outlined in his amendment. He asks the House to approve 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 House of Commons, aiming, as such policy does, to. bring about goodwill between nations and advance the peace of the world.
– What a terrible aspiration !
– Aspirations are one thing, but methods are another. Nothing can be urged against the objective. But let me, in this connexion, read what was said at the Conference by the representative of the British Government. Lord Robert Cecil said -
Somebody said to me the other day that the British Empire never had any foreign policy except to keep the peace. I believe that is roughly true; at any rate, true for many decades,if not centuries, past. We have tried to keep the peace; that has been the great object of British foreign policy, working not by force, not by power, but by trying to promote friendliness amongst the nations. That has been. I believe, the broad object, sometimes more and sometimes less successfully pursued by successive British Ministries. I believe it is still the essential thing we should aim at.
This object, therefore, is not the prerogative of any particular party ; its attainment is the nation’s and the Empire’s policy. The Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Bruce) voiced the Australian view. He said -
It has been very well put by LordRobert Cecil, to whom we are very grateful for the information he has given, that Britain’s foreign policy is Peace. Australia’s foreign policy would certainly be Peace; and, quite apart from any apprehensions, which I may have appeared’ to suggest that we had, of being involved in war without our consent, we also feel that after the late tragic war. we have a responsibility to try to do our share in promoting peace in the world, and Australia believes that the foundation of Britain’s foreign policy should certainly be to support the League of Nations and make its authority as great and world-wide as is possible.
That opinion is practically incorporated in the conclusions that were arrived at by the Imperial Conference. Let honorable members turn up the newspaper files and endeavour to extract from the cables that have been sent to Australia since the Labour Government has been in power in Great Britain, any complete statement of foreign policy. But it is not fair for us to criticise at this distance, with our meagre opportunities for obtaining reliable information, the details of the foreign policy of a Government that has only recently attained to power. Our aim should be not to exhibit antagonism or indulge in criticism unduly. The Leader of the Opposition, however, has asked us to reject conclusions which have been arrived at by representatives of the whole of the British Empire, and to accept the foreign policy of the British Government before that policy has been enunciated in such a form as enables us to have an intelligent conception of what we are doing. I do not desire to cast any reflection upon the Government of the United Kingdom. If we vote against this amendment, our action will not indicate in the slightest degree that we desire to cast any such reflection; we will, thereby, merely affirm our indorsement of the policy set out in the statement of our own Prime Minister. Taking that policy as a whole, we do not know to-day that the British Government is opposed to it.
– It is following it.
– It is following, it, in its desire to promote friendly relations with France, to secure reparations, to insure peace on the Continent, and the stabilization of conditions in Europe, in order that the markets of the world may be made available to British trade. “We are striving after all those objects. The British Labour Government has from time to time given indications of its policy, but they have not always related to matters of foreign policy. The only defence matter in regard to which some indication of policy has been given has been the suspension, for the time being, of the construction of the Singapore base, lest its construction might beinterpreted by other countries as an unfriendly gesture. I am perfectly sure that we do not desire to take action which will be regarded by other nations as provocative. I feel strongly that the amendment constitutes a direct challenge to those who support the conclusions arrived at by the Imperial Conference, and that we would be doing a great wrong if we rejected those conclusions. In consider- ing this matter, lot us disregard the party aspect. The Leader of the Opposition made the following statement : -
I think it will be admitted that the Imperial Conference has been a failure. Nothing at. all is to be derived by Australia as a result of what took place. . . . We do not find in the statement one single thing which is to the advantage of Australia.
Consider the attitude of mind with which the honorable member approached this great subject! Delegates from all parts of the Empire were asked to consider the . Empire point of view, while paying due regard to their own positions, by placing before the Imperial Conference their rights, their obligations, their conditions. The honorable member does not ask us to consider matters from the point of view of the Empire : he does not ask whether there has been, or is likely to be, any gain to the Empire from the deliberations of the Conference; its results are to be gauged by the good to be derived by Australia - what are we going to get out of it, what monetary advantage will accrue to us? Such an attitude is utterly destructive of the true spirit of Empire.
– It is awful to have levelled against one the charge of being an Australian !
– I am as good an Australian as any honorable member opposite. The better the Australian I am, the better I can look at matters from the Empire point of view. The man who pays regard only to the Australian point of view, and ignores the rights, duties, and responsibilities of Australia towards other nations, both in the Empire and outside it, takes a very extraordinary view of Australia’s responsibility.
– The honorable member is condemning the Leader of the Opposition for being an Australian.
– My remarks have no personal reference. I ask honorable members to read the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and to find out what are the tests he lays down. He said -
We do not find in the statement one single thing which is to the advantage of Australia.
Even on that point I disagree with him. In the first place, if a thing is good for the Empire it must be good for Australia. Looking through the debates that tools place at the Economic Conference, one finds that, in many respects, much good to Australia will come from them. The honorable member says that this Conference has been a. failure. Let us look at the matter from the point of view of the men who took part in the Conference. They say -
We have had to face, in the course of the deliberations at both our Conferences, many and serious problems which confront the sister nations and the peoples of the British Commonwealth. Wo shall count ourselves fortunate . if we have been able to contribute towards the solution of these problems, even to a small degree. . . . The members’ of the Conference are unanimous that the hours spent in consultation, have been of the greatest value, and will do much to facilitate the work of achieving unity of thought and action on matters of common concern to all parts of the Empire.’
They do not suggest that the Conference was in any sense a failure. That opinion differs entirely from the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. Let me quote the opinion of a writer in The Times Trade and Engineering Supple ment, of 16th November, 1923, which is one from another point of view. He says -
In the opinion of business men, both of the United. Kingdom and of the Oversea Empire, the Conference has done most useful spadework, and has taken a large number ofpractical decisions, which are a long step forward from the “pious resolutions” that have characterized the old-style political conferences of former years. The advantages to be derived will not be reaped in a day, or in twelve months, but provided that the various Governments work in loyal co-operation to give effect to the policies approved by the Economic Conference, the next decade should see a great advance in settlement and development, and a proportionate benefit to Empire industry and commerce.
That is the opinion, not of party politicians, but of men who have been following the Conference very closely from the trade aspect. Let us consider briefly what has been accomplished by the Economic Conference, and see. if the subjects dealt with are of importance, and really concern the Commonwealth. In the first place, the Conference, which sat continuously for six weeks, went fullyinto the subject of immigration, and the future policy of the Empire in that regard. Honorable members will read in the records how consideration was given in’ detail to the policies of different parts of the Empire, and how the question was considered in all its aspects. Although the delegates were not altogether satisfied with the work accomplished under the Empire Settlement Act - which was the first Act to establish an Imperial policy - they came to the conclusion that the policy adopted was a right one. They took the opportunity of re-affirming the policy; and of saying that it was the best for the purposes of oversea settlement and the wellbeing of the Empire. In effect, the Conference affirmed that immigration is not merely a Dominions question, but an Empire one, as citizens of the Empire should be settled within the Empire. Various forms of land settlement were also discussed, concerning which one need not enter into detail. The Conference dealt also with the subject of co-operation in financial assistance to Imperial development, and arranged that where possible proposals for the development of different parts of the Empire should be examined and assistance rendered. It was arranged that payment should be made to the ‘.Dominions in connexion with developmental schemes in the form of an advance of three-fourths of -the interest charged for a period of five years. Arising out of this decision, the following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Argus of. 21st February, 1924: -
In moving, in the House oF Commons, a series of financial resolutions extending the aggregate of loans guaranteeable under the Trade Facilities Act from £50,000,000 to £65,000,000, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Graham) explained that the resolutions included at least one of the proposals of the Imperial and Economic Conferences, viz., that authorizing a Treasury guarantee, for five years, of three-quarters of the interest on certain Dominion and Colonial Public Utility Loans, the proceed; of which were expendable in the United Kingdom.
The resolution mentioned in the paragraph was agreed to in the British Parliament without division. I do not wish to deal in detail with the Prime Minis’ter’s work at the Conferences, but every impartial observer and student of Imperial affairs must admit that he placed the policy of preferential trade on a very high plane, and caused the people of Great Britain to realize that they should have regard to the Empire as a whole. The Prime Minister carried out his work with ability and distinction, and in such a way as to reflect great credit upon Australia. According to the Australian press, and the criticisms which have appeared in overseas newspapers, the Prime Minister ranks with other Dominion leaders, and his work is comparable with that of Laurier, Barton, Deakin, Hughes, and other great Empire statesmen. He forcefully set out the effect of the trade proposals upon the Empire, and dealt with a number of other im- *portant subjects. Provision was made Cor the improvement of mutual trade, and there were resolutions relating to commercial, diplomatic, and consular services, in connexion with which the British Government offered to place these services at the disposal of the Dominions, an offer which was very heartily accepted. The Dominions, in return, agreed to place the services of their trade representatives at the disposal of the other Dominions. In addition, the Economic Conference dealt with commercial relations, commercial travellers’ samples, trade catalogues and statistics, shipping, air communications, cables and wireless, and the reciprocal enforcement of judgments, including Arbitration awards. The Conference also dealt with the overcoming of difficulties in connexion with Customs formalities, by means of uniform invoice and certificate, Empire currency and exchange, as well as co-operation in the matter of technical research and information. An Imperial policy with regard to the import and export of livestock was also considered, and it was decided that steps should be taken to promote InterImperial trade in pedigree stock throughcut the Empire. A number of other matters were dealt with, all of which are essential, and it is difficult to understand how any one can suggest that the Conference was a failure. It has been one of the most fruitful Conferences ever held, and whether it is to be even more productive will depend upon advantage being taken of the resolutions agreed to by its members. These Conferences are essential. It was suggested last year that the Prime Minister should not go to Great Britain, or that, if lie did go, this Parliament should continue in session during his absence. In my opinion these Conferences play a vital part in the government of the Empire. . Australia is an independent community within the Empire, and it is essential that, with this complete autonomy, there shall be some means in all matters of common concern by which foreign policy can be considered, common results obtained, and the integrity of the Empire preserved. The Imperial Conference fulfils that function. The present practice was not deliberately created; it developed naturally, as the British Constitution did. There was a need for it: there was a function to be performed, and in the true British way there was a gradual evolution of the means to perform it. The consultations take place without destroying in the slightest degree the autonomy of the great self-governing Dominions. When the late war began, the spectacle of the Dominions rallying around Great Britain made the world realize the unity of the British Empire. The regular holding of these Conferences is a constant reminder to the nations of the world that the British-speaking peoples are still one, and form an indissoluble Empire. Why, therefore, should we belittle the doings of the Conferences ? We should rather try to make the gatherings as efficient as possible for the unity of the Empire and the preservation of its integrity. I was impressed by, and I certainly indorse, the resolution of the Conference expressing loyalty to the Crown, especially the statement contained in this passage -
Yet as we look bael; on the years which have passed since the Great War, wo are proud to feel that, amid the economic and political convulsions which have shaken, the world, the British Empire stands firm, and that its widely scattered peoples remain one in their belief in its ideals and their faith in its- destiny.
If we wish to carry these ideals to full fruition and to realize our destiny, which we’ believe to be for the peace of the world, let us stand behind these Conferences. Let us have tlie spirit to say to our representatives, “ You have rendered good service to the Empire, and Australia is proud of you.”
.- Everybody must agree - that the’ subjects under discussion are of prime importance to the people of Australia, and strike at the very foundation of our safety and solvency, but it . will, I think, be also admitted that’ the recent Imperial Conferences, so far as exact and definite advances are concerned, have been, owing to an unfortunate change of Government in Great Britain, a failure. I grant that they have been a splendid failure; because success was very near, and it was only this unfortunate change of Government which clouded the issues, and entirely altered the situation. It will also be generally admitted that Australia has had in the Prime Minister, a very able representative, who has expressed the ideals and opinions held by the majority of our fellow citizens. But he has been unlucky. He has met disappointment, and in some cases rebuff, in connexion with his mission. Whether the seeds he has sown amongst our kinsmen overseas have fallen on stony ground or not time will tell. In my opinion, the seed was healthy and suitable for the soil, and will eventually pro’duce an Imperial harvest. The actual position, stripped of its trappings is, as I see it, that at the Imperial Conference at least two matters of very vital interest to Australia were discussed, and an attempt was made - largely by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth - to bring these questions down from the clouds, and into the region, of practical politics. The first was the claim made by some of the Dominions that there should be inter-consultation with the Foreign Office in connexion with all matters that directly or indirectly affected them. The second important subject was a common defence policy for the whole of the Empire. As to the first question, it is for this Parliament to say whether it desires to have any connexion at all with Britain’s foreign policy, whether it wants consultation only as far as is feasible in connexion with matters that directly or indirectly concern us, or whether it prefers full consultation in connexion with all questions of Imperial foreign policy. I grant that no problem affecting the Empire can be ignored by the Commonwealth, inasmuch as a condition of our present international status is that what affects one affects all. My honorable friends opposite cannot always sidestep their responsibilities in this “matter. If they deserve the high and honorable appellation of His Majesty’s Opposition they must define where they stand.
– We are not at all satisfied with that description.
– The honorable member should be proud of it. In any case, the Opposition must say sooner or later where they are. They cannot always skulk behind ambiguous criticism. They must eventually, if not now, take their share of the duty imposed upon them by Parliament itself of defining where they stand. The second subject of vital importance discussed at the Conference was a common defence policy. I believe that even the majority of my honorable friends opposite will agree with the general attitude of the Prime Minister in this connexion, and with the decisions of the Conference. If they take the view that I think one honorable member took’ the other day - he does not believe in any defence at all - well and good; but if they do favour a defence scheme for Australia, let them tell us how, why, when, and where they differ from the conclusions arrived at by the Imperial Conference. The construction of the Singapore Base has, unfortunately, become a matter of domestic as well as Imperial controversy. I shall not be able to support the amendment of the Leader of tlie Opposition (Mr. Charlton), as I am inclined to believe that, to some extent, it has been tabled rather with the desire to help the present chance Labour Government in Great- Britain than to express the sincere convictions of the whole of his followers. If the position were reversed and the Labour Government in England were advocating the building of a base at Singapore, and the Nationalist party in this House opposed its construction, I believe that the shouting, tumult, and din caused by the Opposition would reverberate throughout Australia, and. the well-known, red-hot oratory of Labour members would be heard in its favour from countless soap boxes and almost every street corner in the Commonwealth. If this British Commonwealth of free people is a homogeneous and .indivisible whole, I cannot imagine why the British Labour party puts up burglar-proof appliances on the front door by strengthening the Empire’s air defence, while it leaves the -back door at Singapore unguarded. Even my friend the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) once said, in effect, that Australia’s safety could not be assured without the help of the British Navy, and that statement fairly accurately represents the views of the majority of his supporters. I agree with every word that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has said about the necessity for the Singapore Base,’ and with that scheme assured, a composite Imperial Fleet for defence purposes in the Pacific would be materialized, and our. own defence policy would’ be clear-cut and unanimous. Dis- armament is a laudable ideal, but I prefer the Cromwellian policy of “ Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.”
– A most blasphemous policy !
– Not in view of the expenditure that is being incurred and the development that is taking place .in other parts of the Pacific. My honorable friends opposite choose to ignore those considerations. Of the proposals discussed at the Imperial Economic Conference, the two of most importance to Australia were Imperial preference and the creation of an Imperial Economic Committee. An extension of the principle of preferential trade, as well as* of local protection, has been rejected by the electors of the Mother Country, and little, if any, reciprocation can be expected in that direction at the present time. Any future change in the British Democracy must commence at the bottom. The Democracy of Great Britain will not accept leadership from the upper classes on vital matters connected with the cost of food. The only practical policy by which Australia can help inter-Imperial trade - the policy of giving preference through the Customs to British goods - we have adopted, and have been committed to for many years. Therefore, the proposal for further Empire development by the extension of trade amongst the British family, which was the true objective of the Economic Conference, has been deferred, if not positively abandoned. The Prime Minister has clearly and vividly visualized Australia’s position, and even if nothing further is achieved than the free admission of some Australian products now covered by Customs duties, his visit will have been worth while, because the success of Australia’s most grandiose and expensive irrigation scheme in the Murray Valley is dependent upon the extension of profitable markets foa- our dried fruits abroad. In fact, I would say to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mi-. Stewart), “Is it worth while spending any more money on the Murray River irrigation scheme unless we can obtain preference in the British market for the dried fruits that we hope to grow there?” Another conclusion reached by- the Economic Conference concerned a proposal to” establish a committee to explore ways and means by which the Empire might be’ better served in ‘ matters of trade, finance, communications, and similar things; but the only effective way in which the welfare of the Empire could, be promoted was rejected by the Democracy of England. The suggestion for preferential trade has gone oyer.board. I am not quite clear what else was intended, or what subjects this proposed permanent Imperial Economic Committee was supposed to take under its care. I do not agree with some of the resolutions passed at the Conference, but the reality of Australia’s position in the Empire was most ably put by the Prime Minister. Many of the resolutions carry us no further, and pious resolutions, moreover, do not always mean practical business. This Parliament is faced with a question of fact, and the situation is such that I do not need to apologize for occupying some of the time of Parliament in, considering Australia’s economic position ‘We have to decide what our own attitude shall be, in view of the fact that the Conference carried us no further. The proposals that were under discussion we have to view in the light of our own welfare. If no encouragement be given to us to extend our markets . abroad, except the right of free competition with all foreign countries in the British market, we are thrown back upon the necessity for considering to a greater extent than ever before how we can best diminish our purchases from abroad, and how best we can enlarge our production, our manufactures, and our markets. I do not propose to direct roy remarks, at the present moment, to the questions of preferential trade, defence, or foreign affairs, because each of those subjects is big enough, important enough, and certainly broad enough, to require adequate discussion by itself; but I wish to make a few observations which, I believe, will be useful in connexion with our consideration of Australia’s new economic position which has arisen out of the rejection of the economic proposals submitted to the Conference. The seriousness of the present position can be seen if we think of the economic factors of production, population, interest, and debt. If we employ the metaphor of horses running a race1 ‘honorable members will understand the economic position to-day. Making 1870 the staging point, we find that the field has- scattered badly. Population, the highly-weighted public favorite, is in the ruck, and running a bad fourth. His equally favoured stable mate Produc tion is running a bad third; the lead and command of the field is held by the Hebrew favorite Interest, followed very closely by his stable mate Debt. I submit that the time is ripe for this Parliament to consider the economic position of Australia - State and Federal - with regard to trade, public borrowings, and our banking methods; particularly in connexion with international trade. I do not agree with all the resolutions of the Imperial Economic Conference concerning currency bills, exchange, or the difficulties of our international trade. There has been a considerable change in our economic thought during and since the war. We learned, from the Victorian schools of political thought, that the more a country imports the richer it is. That is true, .provided always that the nation is not also a debtor nation. Australia has iu many ways been less conventional than older countries, but she has swallowed, ‘ without examination, the economic teachings of our grandfathers. Our private banking arrangements may have been suited to the earlier periods of our history, but Australia evolved first from a British settlement to a colony, then from a colony to a Dominion, and is now, according to most authorities, an independent entity within the British Commonwealth of Nations, being no longer governed by the Colonial Office. We should no more hesitate to throw off the shackles of international finance than we did the shackles of the Colonial Office. Our policy should be in accordance with the views held by the majority of members of this Parliament and the people of this country. We should be as self-contained and as self-supporting as possible, in regard to both production and manufactures. During the last decade we have had a financial orgy; we have signed our promissory notes and our “ I.O.U’s “ lightly, and have obtained high prices for our export commodities. To. a great extent, we have lost sight of the lessons of the great war, and the net result is little more than an increase in the volume of our imports. In order to liquidate, from time to time, the credit balances in favour of Australia that have grown up abroad, we have at times, by our financial foolishness, actually given a substantia] premium in London to the exporters of goods to our country. Short of a Royal Commission, there is probably no means of ascertaining accurately the amount of these credit balances, owned by Australia in London, but some authorities place the amount at £50,000,000. It is generally admitted that there is a huge credit in London- belonging to the people and the Governments of the Commonwealth - a credit built up largely by the high prices obtained for our wool exports. The chairman of one of the Sydney banks recently stated that 70 per cent, of the capital of the bank was in London. Evidence has been given in this Chamber that enormous amounts of Commonwealth money have been handled in London, by the Commonwealth Bank and placed out on loan there at very lowrates of interest. The statement has been made that nearly 90 per cent.’ of the capital of the banks operating in Australia is in London in the form of credits there. For some years I have tried to voice the increasing necessity for a consideration of our economic position’. In June, 1920, when discussing the wool question, I said-
In distributing tlie anticipated £40,000,000 ultimate profit to come to the growers -on t-lie wool ‘transactions, I hope the Commonwealth Government will utilize our half of this towards the liquidation of our debt to the British Government. Arrangements will then have t’o be made in Australia to meet the liability of the Government to the growers, and I am hopeful that the growers who have not been “ hit up “ by the drought will accept’ partial payment, at all events, in bonds. For those who must have cash, a further internal loan could be issued. This, in the aggregate, will not increase the total indebtedness of the Commonwealth.
That proposal would shift the credit from London to Australia. On the Tariff question I expressed in another place the opinion that our legislation should be directed to giving as much encouragement as we can to our own export trade, and to purchasing as little as possible from overseas. I instanced the example of the United States of America in connexion with the final adjustment of her enormous favorable trade balance during the war. The same policy is still being pursued by that great country, as her most recent Tariff has been framed to give the utmost discouragement to im- Iortation, and encouragement, in every )ossible way, to the sale overseas of her products and manufactures. I am. impressed by the fact that although during the war the surplus exports of the
United States of America amounted to approximately £4,000,000,000, . she did not liquidate them by encouraging the importation of superfluous goods. She liquidated that great surplus export trade, not by the importation of more goods, but by loans to her allies, by purchasing her securities that were held abroad, and by accumulating the largest gold reserve in the history of civilization - a . reserve of nearly £700,000,000.
I submit that the fact will not be gainsaid that debits and . credits as between nation and nation arising out of international trade can be settled only in one of three ways - either by goods, by gold, or by securities. Of course, there are other minor matters that affect international settlements, such as - interest on foreign investments, services, money spent by tourists, parliamentary delegations, remittances to and by immigrants and emigrants, and so on. But, as far as Australia is concerned, no substantial credit owing to the people of the Commonwealth in England can be returned to us under present banking arrangements unless by the importation of goods. The export of gold from England is prohibited, and the excessive importing taking place, in order to utilize our credits in London, is naturally choking our own industries, creating unemployment, and reducing the purchasing power of our people. There exists the anomaly in connexion with our economic position to-day that, however satisfactory our Tariff or export trade may be, however high our prices are in the world’s markets, when we borrow in London we make a rod for our . own backs, place a premium on the importation of goods that very often we. do not require, and hamstring our own industrial development. That, I think, meets an interjection by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). Despite any or all Tariffs that may be imposed by this Parliament, the liquidation of our credit balances abroad under the present primitive banking arrangements must come to us in the form of goods. It is becoming questionable whether it would not be more profitable to us not to own these credits, if our ownership of them necessitates our using them for promoting rival interests at the expense of our ‘own.
I am glad to say that people are being educated to appreciate the .fact that a huge import trade brought about by external borrowing is merely the depletion of our national credit reserves. At present our large Customs revenue is in part being collected on imports sent to us as a result of our unused credit abroad. It has been interesting, enlightening, and most satisfactory to> note that the attitude of the great public organs throughout Australia has been gradually changing in this matter. We now no longer hear that imports and free trade are sacrosanct. Australian newspapers of all shades of opinion have been giving increasing attention during the last year or two to the national economic position with regard to our credits abroad. Some of our publicorgans, of course, have gone further than others, but even the most careful and cautious of these newspapers express opinions, to-day which would have been considered very radical a year or two ago. With others, they are ripening public opinion, so that any Government in charge of Australia’s national affairs desiring to face and alter the existing economic position, will start out with the good wishes of the vast majority of tha thinking people of Australia, and, it seems to me, with the support also of our public organs, irrespective of party.
The Prime Minister, at the Imperial Economic Conference, dealing with exchange difficulties between Australia and Great Britain, apparently referred- particularly . to the difficulties that importers encounter in connexion with the importation of goods into Australia. I- point out that the Australian producer also encounters many difficulties in connexion with the export of goods from Australia, and is still being mulcted when receiving payment for the produce he exports. I fail to understand why we should not be paid here for credits created here by the purchase of goods wc send abroad, instead of the credits being paid in London. The exchange difficulty is, of course, only one aspect of this matter, and at times it is so acute and serious- as to be equivalent to the imposition of an export tax upon every £1 worth of produce we send abroad. In view of what has occurred, I believe that the fewer difficulties our producers encounter in their export and the more difficulties importers . encounter in connexion with their importing problems, the better it will be for the people of the Commonwealth. In other words, if we cannot secure an enlargement of our markets in Great Britain, although we are the third best customer anywhere in the world that Great Britain possesses, if we are permitted only to enjoy a market free to the open competition of all colours, all nations, and all creeds, I think we should turn round and say that there does not appear to be very much in being such -a very good customer of Great Britain, and we should consider whether we ought not to begin to look after ourselves. Between 1922 and 1923, the value’ of the , output of Australian manufacturing actually declined by a sum of more than £100,000, and the value of the direct imports of manufactured goods into the Commonwealth increased in 1922 and 1923 by over £28,000,000. The truth is that Australian national economics are not the same as British national economics. Australia is a country that requires public credit to enable her to carry on the developmental work so urgently necessary in a new country.- In the past this work has been made possible by the floating of loans in London, and the credit thus available has been taken out in. goods used in this developmental work; goods such as iron rails, machinery, and the like. We have now, however, decided to do as much as possible of that work ourselves, as our circumstances are not those of a generation ago. Although we are not entirely self-supporting, our dependence upon outside financiers for credits is not so apparent to-day as it “used to be. The credit is here, and has always been so, or the British financier would not have advanced against it. The difficulties of financing the development of the primary and secondary industries of Australia are increasing, but the remedy is to be applied here, and not abroad. We know the worst, and I think that the Government should now consider a reform, of our banking arrangements whereby our surplus credits .abroad could be used in the liquidation of our securities held there - be they Government stocks or any other securities - thus automatically liberating credit in Australia to help us in developmental work, for which pur-‘ pose they are now. useless. A necessary corollary of this reform would, .of course,, be the restriction, by agreement or otherwise, of further public borrowing abroad except for renewal or conversion purposes; as, obviously, if foreign loans were cut off, a great deal of our importation would cease. It should not be beyond the wit of the Government, the Treasurer, the Commonwealth Bank, and the Australian registered batiks to devise a scheme whereby the huge importations into this country could be checked by applying surplus Australian credits in London - after the payment of interest is assured - to the reduction of our public debt there. It is clear that with no surplus credits in London in favour of Australia there will be fewer imports into Australia,, and advantage ought to be taken of our favorable position in London to reduce our debts abroad and bring over the debit balanceto internal loans.
– The honorable member is mou” advocating what the Labour party have advocated for over twenty years.
-I have not heard of it. Some four or five years ago there were no such suggestions from the Opposition, but I take it that we are becoming better educated owing to the attitude adopted by the public press this last year or two. Nobody seems to know all there is to be known about money, the gold standard,, bimetallism, and credit, and, consequently, I do not think any of us ought to dogmatize about these subjects, The problem will, in my opinion, have to be settled by caution and experience, proceeding very carefully step by step. In view of our present phenomenal production, I do not think that there is any fear of a great credit curtailment in Australia, but the present pressure of conditions clearly indicates that a remedy should be sought for the existing anomaly in our economic position. A recent writer uttered an economic truism when he said that there were possibly tricks in the present system - meaning- the present economic system of the world, which enabled the few to control even nations and peoples. There are two methods of reform, so far as we in Australia are concerned, one being revolutionary and the other “ a step at a time.” Russia laded the former, and industry disappeared, but the “ step-at-a-time “ policy is more in accordance with British traditions. We can,, perhaps, better visualize the: position if we remember that the mere money of the world does not represent the wealth of the world. I am notprepared to dogmatize as to how this suggested change in our national economic position can be brought about, beyond adherence to the principle that. Australia should pledgeno more of her credit abroad, but should rather explore the best method of liquidating for her own use and her own development the enormous credits that pile up in her favour in London from time to time.
– How do those credits pile up ?
– The excess of exports is the cause. Our present methodof overseas finance is lop-sided, and cannot continue. Even some of our eminent bankers, to meet the difficulty, recommend the temporary issue of notes here against cash balances in London. I commend to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the consideration by the Government, at any forthcoming discussion on the Commonwealth Bank Act relating to the Bank’s personnel and powers, of the appointment of a Banking Commission to deal immediately with the question how best we can Equidate our credits in London without the importation of further goods - whether these credits are not now being misapplied and wasted, and the growth of Australia stunted by our present banking system.
– Does not the honorable member know that at the present huge rate of importing we shall very soon wipe out our credits in London ?
– I thank the honorable gentleman for that interjection, because it has occurred to me that, in view of the huge importations into Australia, and of the somewhat substantial sums of money that will be spent abroad during the Empire Exhibition, our credit in London may be wiped out before we take action. I was hopeful that my friend, the Treasurer, would tackle this problem months ago. I think that it is the Government’s responsibility to review the banking position so that such a position may not arise again.
– It has been a glaring anomaly for at least a year.
– Yes. In addition to the Treasurer’s) definite Australian plans for the development and balancing; of primary and secondary industries, I hope that he will endeavour to formulate some definite Australian economic plan that will go hand in hand with the others, because, without it, I do not think our primary and secondary industries will get the maximum assistance that we should like to give to them.. I shall crystallize my view of what I think to-day is a sound economic policy for Australia. I should like to have seen,, most of all, an extension of the preferential trade system within the Empire, which was so ably advocated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) at the Imperial Conference. I have no complaint against the democracy of England for not seeing eye to eye with us,” but, inasmuch as that country apparently believes that free importation and free competition is essential to it, we do not quarrel with its fiscal attitude. Still we have the right to consider and to try to evolve a fiscal and economic policy that will best suit us. My views of what should be a sound national economic policy T set out under five headings^ -
With regard to co-operation between the Commonwealth and State authorities in regard to borrowing abroad it is obvious, in view of our present very heavy public debt, that there should not be competition amongst govermental borrowing authorities, either in or outside Australia., but particularly within the- Commonwealth. The position of Queensland and Tasmania now is one of financial stress, and the hegemony of the Commonwealth on financial matters, is on this account within measurable distance.
On the second point, the prohibition of borrowing new money abroad, it is clear that we should not increase our public debt abroad, as it is returned to us exclusively and entirely in goods or services. Our economic salvation cannot be achieved except by the- restriction of the borrowing of further credits abroad to conversion and renewal purposes. The policy of borrowing abroad has a tendency te reinforce the professed inca-pacityof our financial managers to re move funds held by Australia in London, and also to perpetuate the progress of this country’s economic debilitation. It seems to me almost too much to expect that under present political conditions we shall find any- Federal or State Government voluntarily giving up its right to get credits whenever or wherever they can be obtained, but the prohibition of the raising of further loans abroad would limit public extravagance, to the amount of credit that could be raised in the home market which, in its turn, would be limited to new credits created in Australia by the work and production of our own people. The importance of this policy to the workers is that by adopting it no premium would be placed upon imports into Australia. We ought to confine our future loan expenditure to new credit produced by people within the Commonwealth. The raising of loans abroad should be our last resource. New money created by production is every day coming into the market, and part of it could .bo used, and would be freely loaned, to support public services and development under any sound, honest, and patriotic Government. I have already said that the net result of our borrowing abroad is merely the encouragement of imports. Some of the money has also gone, I am afraid, for the payment of interest upon our loans abroad, and even if we borrow no more, our surplus exports must reach ‘ a yearly average, of £25, 000.000, in order to pay the present interest bill on the debts we owe abroad. If we cannot reach the average, we must automatically and inevitably incur further - obligation’s. I regret that a new Commonwealth loan of. £7,500,000 was raised in London last year by the Treasurer. I believe ‘ we could afford to give our own people a higher rate of interest than we could afford to give outsiders, particularly as our issues are now taxable, and as by borrowing abroad wo raise tax-free loans. If the loan had been obtained in Australia, although at a substantially high rate of interest, it would have been a fax better piece of business for the Commonwealth, because tie whole of the money raised would have been spent here, and would have benefited every Australian citizen.
– Would not our development have been curtailed?
– Development does not consist in having London credits or buying London goods. It consists in the work of our own people; and I submit that we are now able to make in Australia, everything required by us.
In regard to my third point - an adjustment of the credits due to Australia in London by the liquidation of governmental securities there in lieu of importing goods - no Australian surplus credits in London should continue to be used for the payment of surplus goods sent to us. They should not be used except to reduce our public indebtedness and the interest payable upon it, and if this were done - if no premiums were placed upon importation into Australia, if no encouragementwere given to realize in any way, even in the shape of goods, upon our credits abroad - our Tariff would almost automatically become a much more effective instrument for the protection of Australian industries that it is under present conditions. Various methods suggest themselves for the accomplishment of the purpose:.- in view. The United States of America has a banking organization whose operations tend to encourage the national policy of America. Great Britain has the same in the control of the Bank of England, and the Bank of Prance performs a similar function. I have already expressed the opinion’ that a combination of the Commonwealth Bank and the privately-owned banks might be able to find a way out, backed, if necessary, by legislation in. this Parliament.
– We are suffering from financial imperialism.
– No; I think we are suffering from financial delusions. We have been suckled upon the economic doctrines of our grandfathers, and have paid no regard to Australian experience. The fact that banking shares and investments show a lower return than some of the gilt-edged securities of the Commonwealth should make us all think. I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth Bank, in co-operation with the Notes Board, without considering any outside banking interests, may find a solution of our credit difficulty in London. In any case, it is much more within the province of our national bank to care for national finance than it is merely to confine its operations, as one of a dozen other institutions, to giving overdrafts - for instance, on newspaper properties or for the further Extension of hotels. Surely that is a matter that could be left to private enterprise. Surely the attention of our national bank should be given to purely national matters. The true functions of a national bank consist in helping and solving national problems, and in the fostering and development of production, primary as well as secondary. It . should not function exclusively as a private banking corporation . I much regret that the Economic Conference turned down suggestions that were made in connexion with the solution of the present credit system, and declared, in effect, that a return to the gold standard, not the issue of currency notes, would automatically solve the problem. The Conference did not say, however, when we might expect this return to the gold standard. Some of the Conference resolutions as set out in the report brought down by the Prime Minister, have not my full support ; but since the Conference was unable to solve this problem of credit, this Parliament must tackle the position. . The suggestion has been made that the adjustment of trading balances otherwise, than by goods, and the accomplishment of our purpose - the transfer to Australia of our credit in London - could be achieved by the issue of Treasury notes. One or two financial authorities, to whom I have spoken on this subject, think that the transfer of Bank of England notes would meet the difficulty. It would, but for the fact that Bank of England notes do not earn interest. Certainly, there .is no . better security in the world for the issue of credit than Bank of England notes, backed by the Government of Great Britain and the whole Empire, but for the life of me I cannot see any great difference in a change of public debtors or creditors, so long as the aggregate amount and interest are the same. That is to say, I can see no difference, so far as banking methods are concerned, between reducing our indebtedness by £10,000,000 and £20,000,000 in London, and increasing it bv £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 in Australia. A further issue of gilt-edged paper in conjunction with the Notes Board might be considered, as our gold reserve is nearly 50 per cent, of the notes issued, and the statutory limit is 25 per cent. Our yearly gold production, too, might be utilized to help in connexion with this problem. Certainly, under pre- sent economic conditions, it ought to be kept in the country. If this course were adopted, and if we issued notes against this gold, wo should have both the notes and the gold. At present we have to part with our gold, and only get more goods. I admit that paper money should never be issued to create credit. Its true function is to represent credit. Flexibility in currency, where there are sufficient assets behind it is not inflation. Trading balances ave no longer adjusted by the flow of gold, and some very high banking authorities do not see any danger in a course that will help the solution of this problem - the transfer of Australia’s credit abroad. Unless the problem is solved, more damage will be done to the true interests of Australia than any rectification here would be likely to remedy. The exploration of the position along these lines may even lead us to the conclusion that the gold standard itself has served its purpose and is now illusory. It is, I think clear that we must do something to stop the drift towards an overwhelming debt that we may never be able to redeem, because the average borrowings, State and Federal, in Australia since 1920, represent an additional £400,000,000 for the next decade. Our duty, therefore, is to explore the avenues by which wo may transfer this money to ourselves. This course will not diminish production, and we must remember that it is on production that the whole of our wealth is based.
I have endeavoured to give the House some reasons why borrowing abroad should cease, and why its benefits are illusory. I believe that the sentiments which I have expressed this afternoon will have the sympathy of the majority of the people of Australia. The responsibility is now with the Government to seek a solution of our urgent and immediate economic problems. Although I do not entirely agree with some of the resolutions of the Economic Conference upon the questions of interconsultation upon Foreign Affairs and Defence, and particularly on the question of Preferential Trade, I am heart and soul with the Prime Minister and the attitude he adopted right through the Conference. But, as the principal resolutions of the Economic Conference have been rejected by the Democracy of the Mother Country, we in Australia are thrown back upon our ownresources, and must consider our own immediate problems in the light of our present position. Possibly we may find that, in many directions hitherto, we have been the helots and the bond-slaves of international financiers. Possibly we may find that everything is all right. But since we have credit abroad, and can only get it back by surplus, unnecessary, and unwanted imports, the present position should not be tolerated for one hour longer than necessary. I hope that my honorable friend, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), will have further consultations with the Commonwealth banking authorities on this matter. I believe that if he wants to do a thing, a way to do it may bc found. But if he consults economists of the mid-Victorian era, possibly he will find they will be able to give him fifty different reasons why what he may propose to do cannot be done, and should not be done. I believe, however, that, with the powers vested in the Commonwealth Bank, an earnestTreasurer, with the co-operation of the Notes Board, will be able to serve the best interests of Australia in the direction I have indicated.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to move -
That an extension of time he granted to the honorable member for Martin.
– I am not prepared to take a motion for the extension of a member’s time without the suspension of the standing order.
– I thank honorable members for the intended courtesy, and I shall close by urging that a policy of real preference to Australians by Australians in Australia is the best which any National Government could carry out for the solution of some of our present economic problems.
– The debate, if it can be called a debate, since honorable members opposite are not taking part in it, has been conducted on a very high level indeed, and it will bc difficult for me to make any observations upon the matters brought before the House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) without repeating something that has been already said. However, I shall endeavour to avoid repetition. On the subject of Defence, the question was asked to-day of the Minister for Defence by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) -
When does he expect another war?
The presumption in the mind of the honorable member for Newcastle is that the Minister for Defence expects another war. Otherwise, he would not have asked the question in that form. The possibility of war always exists. In the peaceful period prior to the assissination of the Austrian Crown Prince at Sarajevo no one contemplated war. The whole world was then at peace. To-day, though we are not actually fighting, war is simmering all over the world. Why are the nations perparing for war ? We heard the other day of a gentleman in Germany, Mr. Fruntze- a “ red-ragger “ and occupying a high position - who declared that the peaceful declaration of the Prime Minister of England (Mr. Bamsay Macdonald) was all bunkum. He said ‘ there was no such indication existent as’ that referred to by Mr. Macdonald. Neither is there. We hear of war and rumours of war nearly every day. In these circumstances, why do honorable members opposite pretend to believe that there is no likelihood of war, and that war is not in the air? Honorable members’ opposite are attempting to make us believe that there is no need for us to make preparations for our own defence, because Mr. Macdonald is in favour of peace. I remember listening some little time ago to a speech made in the dining-room upstairs by Mr. Wignall, a member of the British Parliament, who was in Melbourne as a delegate of the Immigration Commission. He said that he believed there would be a Labour Government in England in a very short while. Honorable members of the Opposition said, “ So there will be.” I said, “ It is quite possible that there will he, hut it will bc a cold day for the Dominions when Great Britain has a Labour Government.” The Labour party in England has not shown the slightest inclination to give any consideration whatever to the needs of the overseas Dominions. Where, in any speech, resolution, or action can we find anything that is favorable to, or that recognises, the importance of the overseas Dominions?
No such evidence is to be found. I still say that it was a cold day for the Dominions when Great Britain elected a Labour Government. What is the policy of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) on defence? He says that the Labour party favour the policy of the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Macdonald). Can any one say what his policy is ? It is said that Mr. Macdonald is in favour of peace. We are all in favour of peace; but where can we find peace? Is there peace among the unions of New South Wales? They are fighting each other, even though they are not using swords and bayonets. In this most peaceful country of the world there is fighting. There is fighting in Ireland. There is fighting everywhere. What induces men to say that the world is at peace? It may be said that only little things are causing trouble; but little things soon grow into big things. Though at first disputes may centre in one locality, they may soon become worldwide. The assassination at Sarajevo was at first a local matter. 2fo one anticipated that it would lead to a war of a magnitude such as the world had never previously known. We are only at peace in a limited way to-day, yet honorable members opposite are not inclined to make any preparation for defence. I shall take the liberty of giving the House a few quotations from a little pamphlet written by a gentleman who knew something about the condition of England at the time of which he writes. In his pamphlet he asks - Who was responsible for the war, and why?
He contends that England was responsible. He says that it was her unpreparedness that brought about the war. The pamphlet reads -
Despite our former pacifist attitude, the forces of Labour -in England have supported the Government throughout the war.
All honorable members on the other side are pacifists. The pamphlet goes on -
We realized that this is a fight for world freedom against a carefully engineered plan to establish a world autocracy. Wo are waging u war against militarism in defence of liberty.
The real answer of those who still declare that the war was devised, instigated, or encouraged by England, can best bo found in the condition of our countries when the war broke out. We were wholly unmilitary, and wholly unprepared. The entire structure of our national life had been built up on the supposition that we would never again be engaged in a really great war that would tax our resources to the full. Since tlie days of Napoleon, there has been no war sufficiently great to test our national strength. We had moulded our organizations as though there never would be. We had no national Army, and no universal system for the defensive training of our people.
The members of the Labour party in this House are opposed to training the people of Australia for defensive purposes. They want to do away -with training altogether. The pamphlet proceeds -
Our Navy was not prepared for the menace of the submarine. Our financiers had taken so few steps to guard themselves against war conditions that had not the national credit been quickly mobilized our Banks system would have’ been ruined. Our industrial and manufacturing life were unfitted to meet war demands. The problem of making thora “fit had not even been faced.
Our statesmen had not given sufficient weight to the fact that ‘Germany’s remarkable ana* carefully fostered industrial growth had greatly added to her offensive strength. Against her army of millions, equipped as never army was before, we had an army of 150,000 -to put in the field. Even this small -number, were not fully equipped to meet new conditions. Tor every one big gun that we possessed, Germany had a hundred. Each of our few battalions had two machine guns; each German battalion had two hundred. For Germany had discovered that battles arc won not so much by mcn .but by shells, and that the nation which “could produce Mie most shells and the biggest shells must overwhelm the other. She was prepared to produce them. We were not.
Industrially, our lack of preparation was equally evident. W« had allowed our shipbuilding industry on the Thames, invaluable to the nation in war time, to be destroyed. British plant that might he adapted for the manufacture of war material had been allowed to decline. Raw material essential in modern war, such as the bases out of which the chemicals for high explosives are made, has been taken wholesale out of the country. There was no desire for war among our people, no war temper, no belief outside a small circle that war could come. Thus we had to begin fighting without adequate military or civil resources or organization, without reserves, and without even a realization of the magnitude of the danger that was facing us.
Germany knew our unpreparedness i£ we did not. I was one of those who, seeing the danger of a general European conflict ahead, would have used the international forces of Labour to prevent it by organizing and establishing a universal strike of the workers of Europe if the rulers declared war. Had such a strike been carried out in all the countries, it would have made war impossible. When I proposed this to the Gorman Labour leaders shortly before the present war began, they told me that 1 proposed it not because I loVed peace but because England was afraid of war. England was not ready: Germany -was. .England knew that Germany could overwhelm her, they said, and therefore Englishmen like myself were trying to prevent Germany from using the resources that she herself had prepared.
And it is a- remarkable fact that, at the last Trades Union Congress which I attended in Germany as a delegate from the United King- / dom, the proposal for an international strike of Labour against war was opposed by the Germans. Those few British Socialist delegates who have since made themselves prominent us pacifists, and as opponents of England’s present policy in- the -war, back up the Germans.
The English were non-military aud unprepared. The ‘Germans had been brought to their highest possible state of military efficiency, their entire industrial mid economic resources had been carefully marshalled for war. The national spirit and conviction of invincibility had been sedulously spread among the people. At school tlie children were educated to believe in the military .supremacy of Germany. Every cafe was -the centre .of patriotic propaganda; patriotic songs were regularly sung and-.pJa.yed in them. The literature of the country and the press, the schoolmasters, the preachers, every for-co that could mould the minds of the people from childhood upwards was shaped towards this anc -end. The very Labour newspapers - and there, were a hundred of them, in Germany before the war- emphasized in every issue the dominance and superiority and the allconquering will of their race.
The article throughout adopts the. same tone. Perhaps honora”ble members will be surprised to learn that it was written by no other than Mr. Ben Tillet, a man held in the highest esteem in Labour circles in England. England is still unprepared for war, and under the present Government there is no likelihood of adequate preparation being made to meet an emergency such as faced Great Britain and the world in 191-4. I am willing to be guided by the opinions of those who have studied this matter long and closely. Dilettante politicians, such as honorable members’ opposite, think they know all about warfare. They say. there is no occasion for the construction of the Singapore Base, that its construction would be a waste of money. I believe there is some worth in the opinions of those who have spent their lives in studying these questions. Compared with theirs, the opinion of honorable members opposite is worth nothing. If the present Government remains in power in Great Britain it is possible “that, in the event of another war, England will be as unprepared as she was on the last occasion. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that the policy of the British Government is supported by a majority of the voters in Great Britain. That is not correct. The
Labour Government represents a minority of voters, and were it not for the support accorded them by the Liberal party they could not exist as a Government for twenty minutes. The votes given to members of the Liberal party were cast against Labour candidates, consequently it cannot be said that the Labour Government are supported by a majority of the people of Great Britain.
– The votes cast at the election numbered 9,000,000 for and 5,000,000 against the construction of the Singapore Base.
– One can hardly take any cognisance of the amendment. It claims to indorse the foreign policy of the British Government. So far as we know, that Government has not enunciated a foreign policy of any description. Its Ministers say they intend to work for peace. We are all in favour of peace, and will work for it. At the same time, we must follow the Cromwellian maxim and “ keep our powder dry.” Those who are always prepared for war seldom are dragged into it. Men like the late Lord Wolseley and Lord Roberts were of the opinion that Britain should have been better prepared for Avar. Their opinions were ignored, and we know the result. Some persons in England and Australia advocate proceeding along the lines laid down in the
Sermon on the Mount. Lord Wolseley, who was one of the most eminent soldiers England has had, said from a public platform that any nation which based its policy upon the principles contained in the Sermon on the Mount would inevitably go to the wall. Others since have said tha same thing. It has been said quite recently that the Sermon on the
Mount will not in the future, any more than it has in the past, apply to people who have the blood lust. To-day the peace of the world is likely to be disturbed at any moment. We read that chemists are devoting a great deal of their time to the preparation of explosives of a more deadly character than trinitrotoluene proved to be during the last war. In the next war the force of some of these explosives will be such as to render them capable of wiping out whole armies in a few minutes.
– Has the honorable member studied the subject of submarines?
– Submarines and an Air Force in England would be of no use to us in Australia. The British Labour Government may possibly havean idea of defending England, and with that object may be building a great number of aeroplanes; but they will never show the slightest regard for us. They have not done so in the past, and they will! not do so in the future. They want to be rid of us.
I wish now to say a few words in regard to the Economic Conference. It seems to me that honorable members opposite resemble the celebrated Jack Jones of the Coster Song, they “dunno’ wherethey are.” I would like to ask them to define the difference between. Protection and Preference. The terms are synonymous. We have been insisting upon Protection being afforded to our secondary industries, and are now seeking Protection for our primary industries in the form of preferences. To prove that honorable members opposite do not know where they are, I may mention that an honorable member of the Opposition interjected last week, “ What about Argentine beef?” Apparently, they have not grasped the situation, and do not know what was contemplated by our Government in regard topreference. That honorable member should know that if our Government had’ had its way the Argentine producers would not have any advantage in the matter of Imperial meat contracts. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) submitted a question to the Government concerning the importation of Welsh coal because, in his opinion, such importations interfere with the coal mining industry in his electorate. Is not the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in favour of Maitland produce having preference over Welsh coal? Of course he is: but, at the same time, he is opposed to giving preference to the products of those engaged on the land, particularly those engaged in primary industries.. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has urged the placing of an embargo on imported sugar.
– I have endeavoured to put up a good fight for it.
– I, too, am in favour of an embargo, hut I am consistent. The honorable member for Capricornia wishes the Government to place an embargo on sugar importations, but he declines to assist in getting preference for our fruit producers because lie intends to support the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he was not opposed to preferences, but that he objected to time being wasted when other important work should be proceeded with.
– During the Tariff debate the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) assisted in imposing high duties on commodities produced in his electorate, and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey)would make an impassioned speech and electrify the House if it were suggested that the duty on horseshoe nails should be reduced. If the Government suggested a reduction in the duty on imported footwear, the honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Scullin) would enter a very strong protest. This House has been very liberal in protecting our secondary industries, and it is only reasonable to afford similar protection to those engaged in our primary industries.
– This party has always stood for that.
– Are they doing so now? The honorable members to whom I have referred have strenuously supported, the interests of the secondary producers, but in this instance they are declining to help the primary producers. During the Tariff debate the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) nailed his Protection nag to a prune tree, and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) would object in the strongest possible terms if it were suggested that the duty on imported, explosives should be reduced.
– What did the honorable member say ?
– My actions have always been consistent. A little time ago the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) was fighting for favorable treatment in regard to Kentia palm seeds from Lord Howe Island. Although members of the Opposition, so strenuously advocate the imposition of duties to protect secondary industries, they regard the interests of the primary producer as insignificant, notwithstanding that, as the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) said, many of our primary producers are working from daylight till dark and fighting for their very existence.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is anxious that the two cruisers which the Government propose to construct shall be built at Cockatoo Island, or at least within the Commonwealth, to help Australian artisans, but he will not assist the primary producers, whose claims for assistance are equally pressing. In regard to the sugar question-
– The honorable member admitted that the Government did not give the sugar-growers a fair deal.
– I admit that.
– Although the Government, are supposed to be the friends of tlie farmers.
– What would be the attitude of a Labour Government in the matter, of protection to primary producers? They would not give protection even to the sugar-growers. Our requests have only been modest, but later we may be able to get preference for Australian beef and mutton. It is only natural that we should have to accept less than we sought.
– We criticise a British Government for giving contracts to the Argentine instead of to Australia.
– The honorable member has taken exception to an. action for which the present Government was in no way responsible, for only two of the present Ministers were members of the Government in power at that time.
– We always vote for preference for Australian beef.
– I am always prepared to conserve the interests of the beef producers in Australia, but the honorable member is now possibly voting against all kinds of preference to the primary producer. I was the first member of this Parliament to declare on the floor of the House that he was in favour of Protection, and I have been a Protectionist ever since. When the late Sir George Reid was Leader of the Opposition, he read cut a list of members of this Parliament, to show those who supported Protection and those who favoured Free Trade. He mentioned me as a Free Trader, and I then said, “ No, I- am. a Protectionist.” I ha.ve been consistent in my advocacy of Protection throughout my parliamentary career. At the same time I admit that a Free Trader can produce, in favour of his policy, arguments that are almost incontrovertible. For instance, England is a
Free Trade country, but it had to build up some of its industries by a high Protectionist Tariff. The iron industry was protected by a duty of £17 per ton on wrought and bar iron, if carried in foreign bottoms, whereas if carried in English bottoms the duty was, I think, £14 or £.15 per ton ; in any case, it was a very high duty. The duties on other commodities were higher, and they are high to-day. There is a revenue* duty in England to-day of £25 per von on one of the productions of Australia’ - I refer to sugar. This is not a protective, but a revenue, duty. This impost is not likely to affect us for some years, since we shall not be exporting sugar for a considerable time. Sugar mills are being established iu the northern State, and larger areas are coining under cultivation: but out population is increasing, and I do not think we shall have- much sugar to export for a long while. The United States of America has built up its secondary industries by means of very high tariffs, and Australia naturally needs protection for its primary, industries. Yet there is much to be said on behalf of Free Trade. Little Free Trade England, with its 46,000,000 people, was able during the late war to finance all the belligerent nations, yet to-day it is the only country that is paying off its war debts, and its currency is such that a Rank of England note is worth its face value in any part of the world. Now that Germany is being rejuvenated, and goods are being produced there in large quantities and at low prices, the day may come when England will have to impose import duties to protect her own industries. I think that day is not far distant. But during the past century, at any rate, England has been able to do much to supply the world with both goods and money. If England had not the money herself to finance the belligerents, her credit was so good that she was able to obtain what financial assistance she required. When honorable members make such interjections as were heard last week, one feels that they can have no grasp of the international situation, and they lose sight entirely of the purpose of the preference asked for in England by the Prime Minister. No doubt they will vote blindly for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), without realizing the effect of their action, which will be to suggest to the people of Great Britain that Australia does not desire preference or defence, or anything that at the instance of the Prime Minister was supported at the Imperial Conference. The Leader of the Opposition looks very worried. He knows that he and his party have made a serious mistake in adopting their present attitude, and possibly, iu the near future, they will be extremely sorry for it. I hope they will see lit to withdraw the amendment. This would simplify the debate, and enable the House to proceed with other business.
– With other honorable members, I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) ou the flue work he and his staff did at the Imperial Conference. The modesty which characterized his address does not prevent us from realizing how tremendous was the task he undertook, and how admirably he discharged it. He truly represented the views of Australia and of this Parliament. Party politics, to quite an unusual degree, were put aside, and his representation of the people- of this country reflected credit on Australia. It was my privilege many years ago - I think in 1907 - to hear the late Mr. Deakin speak at a gathering in England, at which the late Lord Roberts presided, in favour of universal service. The impression created by Mr. Deakin was tremendous. I think that I have never seen such an ovation accorded any other speaker as that given him, both at the commencement and at the conclusion of his address. Yet I venture to say that from all one can read and hear of his mission, the Prime Minister also made a remarkable impression iu the Old Country, and this must be of the greatest advantage to Australia. I would also like to pay my tribute to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) for the energetic, loyal, and able way in which he acted as Prime Minister during the Prime Minister’s absence. The attitude of the Opposition on this occasion is, to say the least of it, extremely ungenerous. It is on a par with the action of the same party when the Prime Minister left for England. On that occasion members of the party declined to attend a dinner given in his honour. I hold that a certain amount of respect is due to the Prime Minister, qua Prime Minister. I do not care who the Prime
Minister may be, I am prepared to stow him the respect that is due to the elected chief of the Australian people. If at any time the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) should be called to an Imperial Conference, and I should happen to be a member of this House, I should not he prevented from attending a dinner in his honour by the fact that I did not happen to sit on his side of the House. Apart from the fact that a reflection is intended on the Prime Minister, and, through him, on the forces that he leads, it is not, perhaps, very surprising that we should not have heard much from the Opposition on the present occasion. No member on this side can reply to any detailed criticism, because none has been advanced. Therefore, all I can do is to take the declared policy of the Labour party on matters that have been discussed and declared in the past, and assume that that policy still exists. From that standpoint I propose to say a few words about the attitude of the Opposition.
Members of the Opposition are naturally silent regarding defence. They are, as I understand their attitude, opposed to all forms of defence. About two years ago, when there was a war scare, a document was issued by the Council of Action of the Australian Labour party. It was a wonderful document, which might well be written in letters of brass. Among the things that it laid down was the dictum that all wars were capitalistic wars. Following on that, we were told that even if a referendum of the people were taken, and the decision were in favour of a capitalistic war being fought by Australia, the Council of Action would oppose that decision. That is the kind of democracy indorsed by our opponents. They favour the taking of referendums, but the Council of Action says that they will not be guided by the voice of the people. If that is democracy, it is a kind of democracy for which I have no great respect. As far as I understand it - and I hope any member of the Opposition who thinks I am unfair will correct me - their attitude is “No defence, and trust entirely to the League of Nations.”
– Why does not the honorable gentleman say, “ and cut the painter “ ?
– I shall make my speech, if I may, in my own way, and, although I have no doubt that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) would make it much better than I, the individual touch is always desirable. The Labour party’s policy is to trust in the League of Nations and to let everything else go. If, however, anything is done, it should be in the direction of providing submarines and aeroplanes. In the Parliamentary Debates of last session - vol. 104, p. 1737 - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), speaking on the Imperial and Economic Conferences, is reported to have said : -
For the most effective defence of Australia, I submit that we must look to our aerial and submarine craft.
Also, on the same page, he is made to say:-
I contend that the time has arrived when a thorough investigation should be made to ascertain whether our military expenditure is justifiable, or whether we should not reduce expenditure in that direction with a view to strengthening our aerial and submarine forces.
It is, of course, true, that if we concentrated our attention upon providing aerial and submarine craft, we would require a minimum of personnel for discipline, and would provide much work for artisans. But the Labour Party, I suggest, is not sincere in this matter, nor are members of the Opposition. I well remember, for instance, that when the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) brought in his second Air Bill last session the Government made every possible concession to meet the views of* members of the Opposition, the majority of whom were present. Having induced the Government to make those concessions, however, they voted against the Bill as a whole. Sitting in this House on that occasion, at 8 o’clock in the morning, I realized it had been clearly demonstrated that members of the Opposition were opposed to taking any defensive measures whatever. This “ ostrich “ attitude is useless. Much as I respect the League of Nations which everyone in the House hopes will be a success, I cannot entrust the future of Australia to it at the present moment. I regret that members of the Opposition have not spoken in this debate, because I should have been interested to hear them attempting to show that the Corfu incident proved the strength and ability of the League of Nations to take control of the world’s affairs.
– It showed that Mussolini, whose country is a. member of the League of Nations, was prepared to pay very little attention to it.
– I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has not addressed the House on this subject. One would have liked to hear his views in detail. I want to make a suggestion to members of the Opposition, although I realize that suggestions are seldom desired, and rarely followed. There was no one at the war who did not learn that a shell does not necessarily miss you because you happen to close your eyes.
I pass now to the question of the consolidation of the Empire. I am not surprised that on this subject members of the Opposition are silent. They are naturally silent. I purpose to quote from a book entitled Questions of the Hour, by Lord Milner. I quote it with the more confidence because the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) is not present. During a debate last year I quoted Lord Bryce, and the’ honorable member for Werriwa, who followed me, said, “ The mere fact that something has been written by a lord, does not make it conclusive.” I agree that that is so although I would add that anything written by a lord is just as likely to be conclusive as if it were written by a Communist. I am glad to find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Werriwa, and I only wish to remind him that Lord Bryce, whom I quoted on that occasion, and Lord Milner, whom I propose to quote now, were in the first instance Commoners, and were ennobled because of their exceptional mental eminence and their very great public services. Lord Milner’s book was published in April, 1923, and refers to questions of the hour, particularly in England. His views may since have been altered by subsequent developments in England, so that possibly the book does not state the official attitude of the present Labour Government. The writer’s views, however, are fairly applicable to Labour in Australia at the present time. Lord Milner says -
The Labour party has inherited from Liberalism - and this is a noble heritage - its enthusiasm for education. But it has inherited also its indifference, not to say hostility, to the Empire. That is an evil tradition, of which the Labour party must rid itself, if it is ever to become a great National party, care ful of all that makes for the strength and honour of the State. There is, no doubt, something about the idea of Empire which is distasteful to men of democratic sympathies, whose thoughts are concentrated upon the social and industrial problems of Great Britain. But no men are fit to guide the destinies of a country such as ours who cannot shake off such one-sidedness. Concerned, and, indeed deeply concerned, we ought all to be about the solution of these domestic problems, but not to the exclusion of interest in or sympathy with the achievements of our race all over the world, or the great part which it is called upon to play in upholding civilization.
I make no apology for quoting further from Lord Milner’s book, because the words of a man of such great ability and with such a fine record of public service will carry much greater weight than would any words of mine.
– He made plenty of mistakes.
– No man has done any good in this world who has not made mistakes. The quotation is -
It has always seemed to me very strange that the idea of a ‘‘“Commonwealth of British Nations,” a group of free peoples of the same origin, the same language, the same type of civilization, forming a great confederacy for the defence of their common interests, the foremost of which - Peace and the Freedom of the Seas - are also the interests of the whole civilized world, hasnot appealed more strongly to British democrats. And it seems stranger than ever that this idea should not appeal to them now, in view of the selfsacrificing zeal with which the younger nations of the British family rallied to the cause of Bight and Freedom against aggressive Despotism. The Labour party is enthusiastic for the League of Nations. Why has the League of British Nations found no corner in its heart? The strange, anti-British and anti-patriotic bias, first developed by the Whigs at the time of the French Revolution, and handed on by them to Liberalism, seems still to retain its hold upon the menwho inspire the policy of Labour to-day. This anti-national bias is a formidable thing. But it is, and always has been, confined to what may be described as “ superior persons,” and finds no favour with the great body of the British people. Least of all is it characteristic of the working class. The average workman is proud of his country. While he has no antipathy to foreigners, he. has a decided preference for his fellow-Britons, even when they come from the antipodes. His tolerance and sense of justice make him averse from an aggressive policy towards other nations, but he is always prepared to stand up for the rights of his own country, and in this respect his character is not likely to change. The frantic efforts at present being made to eradicate his patriotism and plant “ class consciousness “ in its place, are, I venture to think, doomed to failure. They are “ bad business “ for the Labour party. The first leader who has the courage entirely to discard them will bc doing a national service, but he will at the same time be relieving his own party of a heavy incubus.
The present British Government may be leading its party in the right direction: time will prove whether or not that is so.
The members of the Opposition are all for the brotherhood of man, but that ideal is very limited in its scope ; it is apparently confined to the various trade unions, and all other persons of British blood are excluded. The Opposition are also in favour of a rather “ sloppy “ internationalism.. In that connexion, I quote from The Crowd, a book written toy the French writer Le Bon -
The wide divergencies which their inherited mental constitution creates in men’s modes of feeling and thinking at once come into prominence when, which rarely happens, circumstances gather together in the same crowd and in fairly equal proportions individuals of different nationality, and this occurs however identical in appearance bethe interests which provoked the gathering. The efforts made by the Socialists to assemble in great congresses the representatives of the working-class populations in. different countries have always ended in the most pronounced discord.
And again -
A French crowd lays particular weight on equality, and an English crowd on liberty. These differences of race explainhow it is that there are almost as many different forms of Socialism and democracy as there are nations.
That shows how much reliance can be placed on Internationalism. Then again, so far as I can understand the immigrationpolicy of the Opposition, it is that no one is to be allowed to come to Australia as a migrant while there is one individual in the country unemployed. That policy would mean the end of all immigration. The present Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Thomas, speaking in London at a luncheon on Australia, Day, said -
T hope that in 136 years time our successors will be able to say that we did nothing to weaken this great Empire of which we are all so proud.
Can every member of the Opposition indorse that? I hope so.
On the question of preference, I suggest that again there are good reasons why the members of the Opposition do not wish to speak. The gist of the matter, it appears to me, is that if the recommendations of the Economic Conference are passed, the result will be largely due to our Prime Minister. I do not think that any one who has studied the proceedings of the Conference will question that for a moment. If the resolutions are not given effect, that will be largely due to the British Labour party. I am not a, supporter of Labour parties hetre or elsewhere. I am sure that they do not want me as a supporter, but, speaking for myself, I shall wait for results before I begin to sing their praises. It appears to me that the decision of the Imperial Government on the subject of the Singapore Base gives us very little cause for satisfaction.
I should like to saya few words on the subject of the Singapore Base. Speaking as an individual with but a very slight military experience, I hold that in these matters we should follow to a verv great extent the opinions of experts On the question of the establishment of a Naval Base at Singapore, I am quite prepared to have my opinions formed very largely by the chief English naval officers who have made the question of naval defence the study of their lives. In dealing with the alternative to the construction of a base at Singapore, I am prepared to be largely influenced by the views of the Australian Council of Defence. A few days ago I read in a newspaper that honorable members opposite propose to continue a practice which, it is said, proved very successful last year - although instances of its success were not given by the newspapers - that is, to appoint certain of their number to specialize in the work of the various Departments. As a junior member of the House, I naturally began to wonder who would be the members appointed to specialize in the work of particular Departments; and from speeches to which I have listened in this Chamber, I came to the conclusion that the Opposition experts in naval matters, and on questions of naval defence generally, are the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney). Great as is my respect for these two honorable gentlemen, I find myself unable to put their decisions before those of the chief English naval officers. I cannot prefer their opinions to those of Sir John Monash, Sir Brudenell White and Sir Harry Chauvel. I hear some honorable member opposite repeat a suggestion which
I have heard before in this House, and which I think is unworthy. It is- that these ‘ great officers, in giving their opinions om important matters, are actuated by self-interest. In m.y view, it is demonstrable that that is nob so.. We know the splendid war records- of the three officers whose, names I have mentioned. Sir John Monash is now a civilian, and cannot be said to be influenced by self-interest as a military man: Sir Brudenell White, I understand^ is now a civil rather than a military officer, in the service, of the Commonwealth, and no one who has the honour of knowing Sir Harry Chauvel will for a moment suspect bini of being influenced by personal considerations. It is unworthy of the Opposition to- adopt such an attitude towards these- high officers, te- whom1 Australia, owes so much. Their superiority to- bias and prejudice has already been: show-i. We understand that the first step in- defence new proposed to be taken will *be in the direction of providing additional naval defence. Each of the gentlemen whom I have mentioned is a military man, and’ the fact that- they are presumably in favour of the first steps taken being in the way of further naval construction seems to me to show absence of bias or prejudice- on: their part.
I quite agree with the Prime- Minister that it is our duty to keep in as close touch as we can1 with foreign affairs-.. I welcome the- decisions of the Imperial Conference on this subject. It seems- to me there is- a somewhat incorrect impres’sion abroad with regard to what is commonly spoken of as the independence of Australia. The view which many people hold is that Australia, is really independent, and that- if war took place we could then decide what course we would pursue. That is not the position. The view submitted by the Prime Minister is1 supported by high legal authority. In this connexion I should like to direct the attention of the House to a report presented by Sir John Salmond, the New Zealand representative at the Washington Conference1, on his return to that Dominion ; a copy of the report can he seen in the Parliamentary Library. If honorable members do not wish- to read it through - and I gather from the amused ‘expression of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini)- that he will not spend very much time on it - they can refer to the Mound Table- magazine for December, 1922, in which there appears an article- dealing with the subject. One quotation which I proposeto make from the article will suffice to. sum up the situation. Sir John Salmond, has been a most distinguished’ legal writer, and jurist for many years. Twenty yearsago his book on jurisprudence was one of the standard books in Great Britain, as well as in other parts of the Empire. He has also* written an authoritative work on the law of torts, and he is now a Judge in New Zealand. Sir John Salmond writes as follows: -
Suggestions have been made in certainquarters that by permitting the presence of fee self-governing dependencies of the Crown at international conventions, such us those of Versailles and Washington, those Dominions bave in some- maimer acquired’ a new international status - that they are now recognised-, for international purposes as independent States, although in their constitutional rela-tion’s they remain- portions of the. British) Empire. K is not easy to attach any definite meaning to this suggestion; bat, whatever itsprecise significance may be,, there seems, nofoundation for.1 it in the- facts as: to the Washington Conference. The true significance of the- presence of representatives of theDominions at that Conference is- not that- those Dominions have, acquired for either’ international or constitutional purposes any form of international status, but that they have now been given a voice in the management of theinternational relations of the British. Empireas a single, undivided unity - relations which were formerly within the exclusive control of the Government of Great Britain.
If honorable members will read thearticle from which I make this quotation, and. follow it- to its logical conclusion,, they will realize that the position inter-‘ nationally has not changed, and that, in the event of war being declared by the British Government, we would fee just. as much committed to- it as we were to the recent Great War, when it commenced.
Sitting- suspended from ‘6.80 Vo 8 p.m.
– I shall perhaps, be- justified in repeating a statemien* that I made jost Bef ore the- adjournment, that if the recommendations of the Economic- Conference are passed, it will be largely due to the Australian Prime Minister; if they are not passed, it will he largely due to- the English. Labour party. J do not think that the members of the Opposition should assume; as I understand from interjections,. - -which are the only contribution to the debate that we are able to obtain from them - they do assume that when another Commonwealth election takes place, they will necessarily return with a majority to Parliament. It is common knowledge that they had some success in Western Australia a week ago. There is also to be an election in South Australian on the coming Saturday; of that I will only say that the results are not yet known : but even if the Labour party were successful in that election as well, it would not necessarily follow that they were heading to win a Commonwealth election. The two things are entirely dissimilar; one concerns internal politics, and the other external politics. It was said to me a few days ago, and, I think, very truly, that the people may be prepared to give the Labour party a chance in internal politics, but they are not prepared to risk them in external affairs. Then there is to be considered the opinion of those whose livelihood depends on the price of dried fruits and of wine, and whose interests are being sadly neglected by the members of the Opposition, who refuse to stand by their constituents in this debate.
– How long is it since the honorable member left school?
– Before I conclude my remarks, I wish to say a word or two concerning the member for East Sydney. Years ago Kipling wrote the words - “ And what should they know of England who only England know?” I take it that the honorable member for East Sydney does not agree with that view;as last week in the House he said, “ I want other nations to mind their own business, and allow Australia to conduct its own affairs.” I consider that this Government in submitting this motion is attending to the business of Australia, and in this respect it is not alone. Why is the Premier of Queensland at present in England? Is he not attending to the business of Australia? Why has the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) - if the uncontradicted statement in the newspapers is correct - been in communication by cable with the Leader of the British Labour partv ? Was he not attending to what he considered to be the business of Australia ? Why have the Opposition moved their amendment to the motion before the House, and why do they refrain from debating it? One expects from those who say that Australia should conduct its own affairs some argument in answer to the Prime Minister’s speech, but insteadwe have from them only an amendment reading - “ This House approves of the foreign policy of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain” In other words, the Opposition has become simply an echo, it would appear, of the British Labour party. We have heard the phrase, “ A voice, and nothing else”; but in this case it is simply “an echo and nothing else.” I wish to stress the point that we on this side of the House entirely deny that, because we realize the interdependence of the various Dominions with the Home Land,we are any the worse Australians for it. We disagree with those who laugh, as some of the Opposition do whenever the words “ The British Empire “ are pronounced. We disagree also with those who do not seem to realize the efforts - sinew, bone, muscle, and labour - that went to build up the British Empire, and who attach little importance to the traditions that have been’ handed down to us from the Motherland. We claim that our attitude in this respect is just as loyal to the Commonwealth as that of honorable members on the other side, and that it has the distinct advantage of. being much more in agreement with common sense.
– I should not have risen to speak ‘had not the vital and important questionof preference been raised. In the first place, I wish to add my quota to the meed of praise accorded to the PrimeMinister (Mr. Bruce) for the work that he accomplished in the Old Country.
– What about the contract for engines?
– I do not know that any blame is attachable to the Prime Minister in that respect, but that is not the question. One wonders at the absolute silence of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) in this debate, representing as he docs a country constituency deeply interested in the resolutions of the Imperial Conference. The questions of defence, Empire trade and markets for our products are vital. I fail to understand the present attitude of the members of the Labour party, more particularly towards the question of defence. Surely they have some policy. There must be some reason for their silence. It is strange procedure to submit an amendment which is practically tantamount to a vote of want of confidence in the Government, and then refuse to utter a word in regard to it. Why is it done ? I suppose it is because they are afraid that some honorable members like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) may say too much upon questions of loyalty. It is quite possible also that among honorable members opposite some loyal persons may be found who, if allowed by the Caucus to speak, would give utterance to expressions of loyalty that would rob the party of the support of its communistic friends. Their silence is more difficult to understand in view of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said, a few weeks ago, in Perth, concerning defence. He was then in a very loyal part of Australia, aud he could not remain silent on the question of defence when speaking to a. Perth audience. It is also surprising that the important subjects covered by the motion submitted by the Prime Minister have not been discussed by those honorable members opposite who represent country constituencies, but, above all, surely the subject of defence should appeal to some of our friends on the other side of the Chamber, if not to all of them.. The Leader of the Opposition told the people of Perth that, so long as there was danger of aggression, we must have a defence system, and that the time had come when there should be an inquiry to ascertain the best means of defending Australia. Surely the best time to deal with that question is to-day. The honorable member used the words “ so long as there was danger of aggression.” What is aggression? Surely the policy of a White Australia, to which honorable members opposite are pledged, as well as every other section of the community, is a policy of aggression on our part against other nations. When we know that there are millions and millions of people in the East with 200, and even 400, persons living on every square mile, and when we realize that we have an enormous territory peopled by a little more than one and a half persons to the square mile, is it not aggression on our part to declare that we are determined to hold this country with a mere handful of population, and that we will not permit people of other countries to come here in violation of our White Australia policy ? We are not anxious to have large areas of our land held by a few people, and we legislate to prevent it. Surely, by the same line of reasoning, other countries can declare that we are not entitled to hold such a large territory with so few people, and that they must have the right to enter Australia. The matters before us to-night are of immense importance to Australia. It isour duty, as the Leader of the Opposition said in Perth, to consider the best means of defending this vast territory of ours. If honorable members opposite were only consistent, we would hear protests from them against the building of cruisers instead of requests that the work of construction should be carried out at Cockatoo Island and Walsh Island. They are not asking that ships should be built to take away Australia’s produce; they are claiming that Australia should build vessels for the purpose of carrying on war. The Leader of the Opposition also told the people of Perth that we ought to maintain our freedom, and that it must be open tous in case of war to decide whether we should enter the conflict or not. That was a stupid utterance. While Australia is part of the Empire we might decide not to help in such a contingency, and if honorable members opposite were in power they might say that Australia would not help, but such a decision would not keep this country out of the war, and it would not be very long before honorable members opposite, if they were in power, would find themselves deeply involved in the conflict, possibly to their own regret and to the confusion of the people here. Australia must be in the Empire. Out of it our position would be absolute chaos. It is only the British Navy that has afforded us the protection we have enjoyed. That brings me to the question as to whether we should support the building of a naval base at Singapore. I say at once that we should. I believe that I was the only honorable member in this house who said last year that Australia should provide a quota towards the cost of thatwork. I am not a naval strategist ; I do not pretend to have any expert knowledge of naval matters, but I have practical commonsense and I regard the building of the naval base at Singapore as essential for the protection of the Empire. It is certainly essential that if we are to have that efficient protection in the future that we have had in the past, there should be some means of docking big capital ships operating in the Pacific. It is for those who have had experience in naval strategy to tell us where the naval base should be. Some people have suggested that Australia should try to build a dock at Darwin, but seeing that a huge army would be needed foi’ its protection, entailing an enormous cost upon the people of Australia, although Darwin undoubtedly lends itself to the building of a dock, its upkeep would be so expensive that to. my mind it would be foolish and absurd to contemplate such a work there, more particularly if we can get the protection we require by paying a fair quota towards the cost of building a base at Singapore. If we expect that protection, we ought to be prepared to pay our share of its cost, aud we ought to stand behind those who suggested the construction of the base - the late Government of Great Britain. Indeed, I am satisfied that the present Administration in Great Britain would not have pronounced against the project hut for the promises they have given in the past. All the naval authorities arc solid in declaring that the Singapore base is necessary for Imperial defence, and I hope that the Commonwealth Government will continue to urge strongly upon the British Government how essential it is for the protection of the Empire in Eastern waters. We all know the change that has taken place in world conditions during the past ten or fifteen years, especially in the Pacific. Empire protection is essential, but it cannot, be effective unless there is a dock adjacent to Singapore.
– Why was the honorable member opposed to the building of a dock at Henderson?
– Was I?
– Yes, latterly.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. When I found, as a member of the Public Works Committee, that the work at the Henderson base was being carried on simply for the. purpose of keeping men employed, and that it was costing 3s. 2d. per cubic yard when it should have cost ls. 3d., I joined with the other members of that Committee in submitting a recommendation that operations should cease until efficient machinery could be provided which would prevent the weak from becoming so expensive that it would have to be abandoned.
– Why does not the honorable member advocate it now?
– Can the honorable member quote the opinion of any sound engineer in support of his contention that a graving dock could be built close to fremantle ?
– There was a proposal to build one at Cockburn Sound, but the honorable member has done nothing with regard to it.
– No one knows better than the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that an effort was made to construct a graving dock at Fremantle and that it failed. He knew that the opinion of Mr. Settle, one of the ablest experts we have had in this country, was that, on account of the cavernous character of the rock formation at Cockburn Sound, he could not recommend it. His sworn evidence is to the effect that it would be better to have there a floating dock father than a graving dock to provide for tlie needs of the Navy. But these are not the questions that arc before us to-day. I am quite satisfied that a hig naval dock, either at Sydney or at Fremantle, would not be as advantageous from the point of view of Imperial defence as the proposed dock at Singapore. The question which we have to consider is. which scheme will give the best measure of protection for the people of Australia. The issue must be judged on that ground alone. So far as preference is concerned, there are not many items iu the list presented by the Prime Minister, but some are of very great importance to the producers of Australia. I regret that, when the Prime Minister was discussing these proposals with the representatives of the British Government, he indicated that if Australia could not get Empire preference for her primary products, we would seek trade elsewhere than within the Empire. I did not like that, because I believe that the tie that binds us to the Motherland is not to be found in any ledger account. That was not the sentiment that caused our men to rush to the colours in 1914. Our men went overseas to fight for the Motherland because of their love of the Empire, because of their belief in British justice, and . a determination to uphold the splendid traditions of British liberty. They recognised that the protection of the British flag during the last 100 years had enabled ‘ us to build up a great democracy in this Commonwealth. But for Britain’s purchase of our huge productions of wheat and wool during the war there would have been absolute poverty in this country. In view of all that the Mother Country has done for us, we should not approach her in this matter of economic preferences in any spirit of barter and suggest that if preference be not given we may seek trade with other countries. If, however, we can point to certain Customs duties already being levied on products imported into Great Britain, and show that we can supply the market, we might very well then ask for a certain trade concession, especially in view of the fact that when we were dealing with the Tariff, this Parliament unanimously decided that preferences should be given to Great Britain as against all other countries. To ask :Great Britain to levy a special tax upon the foodstuffs of her people, for the purpose of assisting Australian primary production would, I think, be entirely wrong. Indeed, we would be on rather dangerous ground. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that high tariff restrictions upon commerce engender feelings of anger among people of other countries, and eventually lead to war. The German policy, prior to the war, was one of violent aggression; the policy of trying with Government assistance to capture the trade of other countries - a deliberate attempt to bring politics within the arena of commerce^ - gave rise to intense feeling against Germany in France, and more particularly in Italy. Such a policy is inherently dangerous. If we asked for the imposition of Customs duties on importations from France and Italy and other countries into Great Britain, and if those duties were imposed, the inevitable result would be a feeling of animosity amongst the people of those countries towards Australia. I do not like this system of bartering, because one never knows where it is going to end, I believe in Empire trade, and in honestly doing all we possibly can to keep the trade within the Empire. But bartering may have wholly unexpected results. If we continue with this policy, we shall eventually have the manufacturers of Great Britain saying, “You have a big wool production in Australia. We find France, Germany, Italy, and the United States of America buying your wool and competing with our manufacturers in the markets of the world. We are prepared to give you certain concessions in regard to primary products if you impose an embargo on wool exports to other countries, but make your wool free to us.” That policy would cause antagonism on the part of other nations, and would eventually lead to war. “ I do not want to introduce Tariff questions into this debate, but I followed with interest the speech of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten), and particularly noted his suggestion that Australia should be competent to manufacture all the goods that may be required by the people of the Commonwealth, and be able also to export sufficient manufactured goods to pay interest on the money owing to Great Britain. That is a very fine ideal, but every sound economist knows perfectly well that tlie only way in which the industries of any country can be developed is by a system of trading with other nations. No country in the world can remain absolutely self-contained, and at the same time progress. There would be no objection, so far as I am concerned, to Australia manufacturing all the articles that she requires. But when we find that manufacturers in other countries who are paying -their workmen more than em- ployees in the same industries here are paid, can, nevertheless, turn out articles at nearly one-half the cost of production in Australia, ‘we are justified in asking our manufacturers to mend their ways, improve their machinery, and give our people something like a fair deal. Honorable members should recollect what we have done for the Broken Hill Pro*prietary Company since it started operations at Newcastle. In September of last year a circular was sent to members of Parliament, showing what the output of the company had been, and assuming that the duty imposed in 1920 had been operative since they started the works, the subsidy or grant given them would have amounted to over £5,000,000. Their circular also emphasized the wonderful character of the establishment and the remarkable value of the ore deposits at Iron Knob, South Australia, pointing out that for the production of steel 1 ton of Iron Knob ore was equal to 2 tons of British ore. I shall not go further into the details, because I do not wish to raise the Tariff issue to-night. I shall say, however, that in the agricultural machinery industry the average wage paid in Australia is £170 a year, whereas the average wage in the United States of America is £280 a year. Notwithstanding this, the Americans are turning out machinery at about half the price- for which we are manufacturing it. What is wrong ? If the American workers had such advisers as the Australian workers have, who find fault, with a railway station-master because he makes a little garden around his station, they would be in the position in which we find ourselves. If we did not have this “ ca’canny “ process in our industries., the people of Australia would become more satisfied. Give us value. That, is what we want. I do not wish to raise the locomotive question specially, but there are some things which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) would do well to. remember. I will illustrate what I mean. A certain weaver in Scotland was in the habit of obtaining his yarn from linen-spinners in Ireland. He was offered some wonderfully fine linen yarn from Belgium at a lower price than he was paying for inferior yarn from the Irish spinners. He bought the Belgian article. He had to do so, otherwise German or French manufacturers might have got it and marketed a better article than he could produce. He was able to retain his trade. If that had occurred in Australia there would have been a rush to the Government with the request that a high duty should be placed on Belgian yarn. The Irish spinners were very much disappointed because they lost the trade, but they immediately sent a couple of their number across to Belgium to investigate. These men- found that the Belgian spinners- had secured from England some’ magnificent new machinery which enabled them to produce i>he superior yarn. The Irish spinners at once purchased similar machines, and it was not long before they regained the trade of the Scottish weaver because they, also, were able to produce a better article at a cheaper price than formerly. I can give many more such instances; but, surely, this demonstrates the need of efficiency in Australia. Moreover, this House should demand that Parliament shall be supreme in dealing with duties. Neither a Board nor a Minister of the Crown should be able to. overrule a decision of this Parliament. Parliament, and Parliament alone, should determine the question. The honorable member for Martin referred to the mining industry. Has he realized, from an examination of the statistics, that in 1911 we had 105,000 miners at work, and in 1921 we had only 66,000, a fall of nearly 100 per cent, in ten years. What has caused that? I suppose, in the goldmining industry, it is because the richer pockets have been worked out; but We have rich copper, tin, and other magnificent mineral deposits which are not being exploited to-day simply because of the enormous cost of production. Yet the Minister for Trade and Customs is collecting an enormous and increasing Customs revenue week by week, and the cost of living is going up day by day, thus making, life a little hell for most of our poorer people. We can hardly realize how many fine industries are being destroyed by the wretched policy that has been adopted.
I hope Parliament will indorse the proposals made by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and that we shall do all that we can to- secure Empire defence and much closer Empire communications. I trust that the proposal respecting dried fruits will be agreed to by the British House of Commons, so that,, at least, we may do a little good. I cannot understand why one matter has> been* suppressed. For a long time we have known perfectly well that the Canadian Government is prepared to allow us a preference-. It has told us that it is prepared to give a preference to certain Australian products if we will give a preference to certain Canadian products. Why have not the papers and the proposals on this matter been laid upon tie table of this House? We should know what concessions the Canadian Government is prepared to give us, and what it asks from us. The proposals were made over two years ago, and the Government should have stated the facts to this Parliament. Surely we are in a position to judge whether or not it would be wise to adopt them.
– Who is keeping the information back?
– The Government, I suppose, on account of its high protective policy. I assume that. I do not know anything else about it. I refer honorable members to the official report of debates in the Canadian House of Commons, 1923 session, vol. III., at page 2644.Mr. Fielding, the Canadian Treasurer, is reported as follows:-
We are proposing to increase the duty on raisins and dried currants so they will be free from Great Britain, and pay 3 cents, a lb., under both the other Tariffs.
Later on, Mr. Fielding said -
We are advised that in addition to our British preference, which we offer to the Australians, they are particularly interested in raisins and dried currants, and if we change our Tariff so as to offersome inducement to them on these items, it will go far to make them content with our scheme, and bring about an agreement. In the hope that that may be the case wo are going to provide that the’dutv on raisins and dried currants shall be increased to 3 cents, per lb. under the intermediate and under the general Tariff, but that they shall bc free under the British preference.
That quotation indicates that the Canadians were prepared to enter into a reciprocal agreement. We should have been told, long before this, the conditions they were prepared to accept. We may not have agreed to the conditions, but, at least, we should have been told what they were, so that we could express our mind. In my own State an immense area of country is well suited for growing currants and raisins. We have it on the best authority that tons of raisins were sold ‘to distilleries in Melbourne last year for1d. a lb.,yet Canada is prepared to give us a special preference of 3 cents a lb. How is it that this Parliament has been told nothing about it?
– And we were to buy their engines, I suppose.
– I do not know that. If the honorable member knows, perhaps he will tell the House something about it. I have made many inquiries, but I have not been able to find out what the Canadian Government desires. It would be far better for this country to have tens of thousands of people on our land growing raisins and currants, and producing wheat and other primary products than it would be for us to be manufacturing machines at a cost of 100 per cent, more than the price for which they could be obtained in America, where the wages are much higher than our wages are. I hope I have said sufficient to lead honorable members opposite to think that it is disloyal to keep out of this debate. If the majority of them have some belief in the Empire and see the need for Empire preference, I hope that they will say so.
– I wish it had been possible for the House to consider from a non-party standpoint the report of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) on his visit to the Imperial and Economic Conferences. When the Labour party had reached the zenith of its power in this Chamber that practice was adopted. I do not take a pessimistic view of the work of the Prime Minister in England ; he carried on the educational work that was begun a few years ago, and has been continuing ever since. Those who can appreciate the conservative conditions that permeate every section of society in England realize the difficulty encountered when an endeavour is made to get the people away from the beaten track, and the full significance of the complaint regarding the price of the working man’s loaf. It was unfortunate that just when the Prime Minister was reaching the end of his work at Home a change of Government was brought about as the result of a general election. Honorable members know what a general election means. Let them carry their minds back to the general election that was held in Australia just after the commencement of the war. In that election the Ministry of the day was holding its position admirably. Victory was in sight when a brilliant idea occurred to the leaders of the Labour party. Mr. Fisher and his followers then began to use the phrase “ The last man and the last shilling.” That cry thrilled Australia and Great Britain, and it frightened Germany nearly into fits. It landed the members of the Labour party on the Treasury bench. They were then loyalists to the backbone, and they imbued the people with such hope that men were sent in a continuous stream to the battle areas in defence of the Empire. Those honorable members subsequently failed in their duty, and to this day they have not been able to regain the ground which they lost as the result of their mistake. Australia may well ask what is the position to-day, in view of the silence of honorable members opposite, who prefer to utilize all their strength in the hopeless endeavour to win power for the Labour party rather than do their duty to Australia by providing reasonable measures of defence. The great Labour party has given itself to foreign “ importations “ who are a menace to Australia and its future. During the progress of the war an endeavour was made to have the Henderson Naval Base constructed at enormous expense. With all the power at my command I urged the stoppage of the greater part of the proposed expenditure on naval works in Australia at that time, because I considered that the experience gained in the war would lead to fresh conceptions as to the most useful methods to be adopted. Had those undertakings, which at that time were being feverishly pushed forward, been carried to completion, work costing millions of pounds would have been absolutely useless. We need to be very careful of the manner in which we proceed to-day. The proposal submitted by the Government now is to construct the Singapore Base. The arguments put forward in favour of that Base evidently made a very great impression on Mr. Stanley Baldwin, and he very nearly secured the assent of the British nation to it when he made it a part of his programme. Unfortunately, for the moment, it has been turned down. I am not pessimistic about the matter. I quite appreciate the position of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, particularly in view of the fact that during the war he was one of the world’s noted pacifists. The statement which he made in regard to the Singapore Base was not that of a pacifist. According to the published reports, he said there was no purpose in seeking to disarm in order to make the League of Nations a success. I believe with all my heart in the League of Nations, and I consider that nothing will affect its influence to a greater extent than the shocking exhibition of the Australian Labour party in maintaining silence during this debate. It is amazing to realize that such a statement should be greeted with laughter by honorable members opposite, many of whom were associated with a Labour Prime Minister who, at the outbreak of the Great War, pledged Australia to the last man and the last shilling. If their present attitude is an indication of the manner in which the Labour party of Australia views defence, all I can say is that they and those who support them are the greatest danger which Australia has to encounter. The decisions of the Washington Conference were, I think, responsible for creating a moral influence that has affected every part of the world. At that great gathering it was not decided that all battleships or weapons of war should’ be destroyed, but that the principal nations should show the world that they were prepared to disarm at the proper time, and were willing to immediately reduce armaments. Further, it was agreed that many of the existing weapons of war should be dispensed with, and that a limit should be placed upon naval construction for a definite period. In the interests of humanity, and without any intention of being hypocritical, the great nations agreed to the decisions of the Washington Conference, which have been the means of letting the principal nations, especially those engaged in the world war, know that such a conflict would not again be contemplated. Peace is not to be brought about by silence such as that displayed by honorable members opposite. What does the proposed Singapore Base mean to Australia? If honorable members opposite are consistent, they must vote against every item of defence expenditure when the Estimates are under consideration. According to the newspapers, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) received a staggering blow when he learned that the proposal to construct a base at Singapore was likely to be dropped by the present British Government. The Minister - after; I” presume, conferring with the Council of Defence, the members of which seemed as optimistic as he was - suggested that, in place of a base at Singapore, a dock should be provided at Darwin in which the cruisers it is proposed to construct could be accommodated. In my opinion, the Government would be well advised if they refrained from doing anything of the kind suggested by the Minister, because I am as sure as I am that the sun will rise to-morrow that a base at Singapore will eventually be authorized by a British Government. I would not be surprised if the present British Government reversed its decision. It is quite possible that members of the Australian Labour party despatched communications, not to the British Prime Minister, but to other members of the British Labour party, particularly those who constitute the most unruly section, in order to start opposition to the proposal. They probably informed some members of the British Labour party that members of the Australian Labour party were opposed in any circumstances to the construction of a base. When one thinks of the immortal fame won by Australian soldiers, whose bravery thrilled the whole world, it is difficult to conceive how such a decision would be received by the British people. What would be Australia’s position if a base were not constructed at Singapore and provision were made at Port Darwin for the docking of battle-cruisers? Would Australia be in a position to keep an enemy at bay? The general opinion of naval experts is that, notwithstanding the possibilities of aerial and submarine defence, capital ships, as was proved during the war, are still paramount, and are always likely to be a dominant force. At the Washington Conference it was decided that the three great naval Powers should have capital ships in a 5:5:3 ratio. But if there was a possibility of Australia being invaded, and we had an efficient air force, a fleet of submarines, and naval docks at Port Darwin, capital ships such as the Hood and the Repulse would nob have a. base from which they could operate in the Pacific. These magnificent war-ships, which are intended, not as instruments of aggression, but of defence, stand with the Union Jack, as the greatest power on earth to bring about universal peace and progress. If any mishap involving dock repairs should befall one of these ships in the antipodes, to-day, it would be necessary for it to return to England. I hope that every man and woman in Australia will take the defence question to heart. Must all the treasure that the late war cost us go for nought? Have the lives of the very cream of the nation been sacrificed to no good purpose? In memory of the men who have fallen let us make effective provision for the defence of the Empire, until all nations have accepted universal peace.
– Why did not the honorable member remain in Adelaide this week ?
Mr.FOSTER. - I am speaking of bigger things than the election in South Australia. I am not at all pessimistic about the result of the Prime Minister’s visit to Great Britain, and the reply given to his request for preference for Australian products. Other Prime Ministers have made similar requests, and they have been refused; but the demand will be continued until success has been achieved. The Prime Minister has asked for nothing that would increase the cost of living to the working man in the Old Country. The demand for preference has gradually increased until it now covers the whole gamut of Empire trade. Acceptance of the preference proposals of the Prime Minister would result in the utmost benefit to the working people of Great Britain, who until recently have enjoyed anything but prosperous conditions. While these proposals would not immediately reduce the cost of living at Home, they would bo the means of placing on the British market goods of a better quality than have been obtainable heretofore; and in the not far distant future cheaper goods than the people are enjoying to-day would be supplied. Australia is asking for treatment such as it is already giving to Great Britain. We are now according the Old Country preference to the tune of from £68.000,000 to £75,000,000 worth of trade, per annum, in manufactured goods. This is no trivial preference, such as is suggested in regard to dried fruits and certain other perishable Australian products. We have obtained preference from Great Britain to the extent of only about £8,500,000 worth of trade. We are Great Britain’s best customers, and we are simply asking the people of the Old Land to reciprocate more freely than they have done in the past. If the workers of the United Kingdom and of every section of the Empire realized the true position they would readily agree to the preference sought by Australia, because it would be largely for their own benefit. Whether our request is complied with immediately or not, we should persevere until we get our surplus products into Great Britain. We intend to do so. Effective work on our part is necessary. The Prime Minister and Senator Wilson did good service in this direction on the other side of the world. They had a job line of fruit to dispose of, and it was the biggest transaction in one lot ever known in the United Kingdom. Australia lost on the deal, but I venture to say that the loss will not be a permanent one. Big transactions of this nature in Australian fruit will have to be repeated.
– More Socialism!
– It is Socialism of the right kind, and I advise honorable members opposite to advocate this class of Socialism, rather than that of the Soviet in Russia, for it will save Australia from the foreign Socialism that is destroying the Labour party to-day. Empire trade is all important to us, in face of the developments of the last few years, and it therefore behoves us to organize efficiently. In our primary industries, and iu our manufactures, we must be as up to date as human genius can make us. Let me give an illustration of the importance of careful work in commending Australian products to the markets of the United Kingdom. Shortly before last Christmas, Messrs. Crawford and Company, a large distributing firm in Adelaide, conceived the happiest idea I have ever heard of, for the purpose of advertising Australian goods. They put up 500 packages of assorted Australian fruits. They had a magnificent show in their windows in King William-street. I had been thinking and dreaming of this sort of thing for many years, and I was never so surprised in my life as at this exhibition. The appearance was magnificent. Everything possible was done to catch the eye. The firm advertised that South Australians who had friends in the Old World, and who wanted to send them Christmas gifts, could purchase for 36s. or 38s. a package which would be delivered right to the home of the individual to whom it was consigned. Shortly after Christmas the two daily papers in Adelaide published several columns of letters from the recipients of the 500 cases. Those letters were enough to make the people of the River Murray and other fruit-growing districts dance with joy. Many of them said that nothing equal to the contents of the packages had previously been seen in the Old Country. They had been accustomed to Californian products, but for attractive appearance and quality they considered that the Australian article was admirable. Most of them had not seen the Australian article before, and they wanted to know why it was not sent to Great Britain in large quantities. What Messrs. Crawford and Company did with 500 packages, Australia ought to be doing with 500 tons at a time. There is no reason why the 500 tons should not bo just as good in quality and just as attractive in appearance as the 500 packages. If we work on those lines we shall capture the British market. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has said something about Canada. I would like to say something, too, but it has been put to me that the Canadian proposals for a reciprocal treaty are with the Government, and that the less we say about them at present the better. However good the Canadian proposals may be, I would a thousand times rather get a footing in the British than in the Canadian market. Although the Canadian market would be satisfactory, we can get into the British market on better terms. This is not a question of fruit only. Along the River Murray, in South Australia, and in the other States as well, soldier settlements have been promoted under what, if markets are provided, will prove to be the best possible conditions. The South Australian Government has spent £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 on these projects, and this year, a large number of the soldier settlers have their vines coming into bearing for the first time. It has been a wonderful season, and they have a splendid show of grapes. Unless some outlet is found for this produce the soldier settlers, who worked like Trojans during the war, and have worked night and day on their settlements since, will lose the results of their labours, and that just at a time when they thought they were reaching a state of independence. If a market was available their position would be quite different. They were advised to put in the doradilla grape for wine purposes, but the biggest distilleries now have their premises filled to the roof with last year’s product. If they could profitably handle the present crop they would find room for it somewhere, but it is a question of price. Notwithstanding the enormous stocks held over from previous seasons, they would employ capital to purchase the present crop and hold it, even though it had to be kept for two or three years, if they could be assured of a market. The obstacle is that tons of foreign brandies, some of them the worst rubbish that has ever been put in bottles, are being imported into this country. The local distilleries canuot compete with this inferior article, and have asked the Government to reduce the amount of Excise duty by 5s. They have promised that if the Government will do this they will give a certain price for the doradilla and other grapes, so as to give the soldier settlers a good return, instead of starving them off their blocks. I want to put to members of this House, and particularly to the country, a statement of the amount of revenue derived from this industry. Possibly even some members of this House do not know the amount of revenue derived from distilleries, and will be surprised to hear that for every ton of grapes that goes through a distillery the Government receives £128. I ask the Government to decide this question rapidly, and not to allow the soldiers to be driven off their blocks. It is a question relating not only to fresh and dried fruits, but also to many other products. We may as well call a halt to development at once if we cannot find markets for our products. What is the use of putting men on the land, buoying them up with hopes, and imbuing them with courage, if, when their first harvest comes, their hopes are dashed to the ground ? Even in the meat industry men who, a few years ago, were styled “ beef barons “ have had a deplorable time, and are now almost beef paupers. This is a far more difficult business than the marketing of fruit, because we have to meet in the United Kingdom competition from the Argentine, which can be broken down only by perfect organization in Australia and agencies in the United Kingdom to put Australian beef right at the door of the British consumer. When we consider the powerful combination of the distributing agencies of Great Britain, and the fact that they comprise men who own the greater part of the capital used to develop the Argentine, we can. form some opinion of the difficulties which confront Australia. It is estimated that not less than £300,000,000 of British capita] is involved directly and indirectly in the attempt to place the products of the Argentine upon the markets of the United Kingdom. Many of those capitalists have interests also in the American Beef Trust, which is reciprocally interested in the development of the Argentine, and the ramifications of these forces are such that perfect organization, and combination, and quality equal to the best from America, are essential if we are to placeour products on the English working man’s table at half the present-day price.
– We know you are a great friend of the Trusts.
Mr.FOSTER. - I am not a friend of the Trusts referred to, or of the Trusts and Oombines in Australia, of which the honorable member is a representative. With the industrial chaos obtaining to-day, the strikes and rumours of strikes, and resolutions such as were passed at a recent Sunday meeting of the railway men, at which one of the speakers let the cat out of the bag and said, “ If we allow this efficiency to come, 25 per cent, pf us will not be wanted,” where are we heading? In that remark we have the whole thing in a nutshell. It isthat spirit which is crippling every industry in this country, and is putting the biggest embargo on the sale of our products to the people of the Old Country. No one will suffer more than the working men of Australia, who are misled by their leaders, if this kind of thing continues. I am confident, however, that we shall get our products to the people of the United Kingdom; and when we have once obtained a footing, we shall be able to go on expanding settlement and increasing production indefinitely without ever overtaking the demand.
– Whilst we cannot congratulate our delegates on the results they achieved at the Conference, I do desire to express my appreciation of the way in which they did Australia’s business in England.I read with great interest the cables in the Australian newspapers and also English publications dealing with the efforts of our delegates, but I pay a great deal more attention to the comments contained in private letters which I received from England as to what was thought of their work. The general consensus of opinion there was very favorable indeed. No more important gatherings can be imagined than the Imperial and Economic Conferences, and, although the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and his colleague (Senator Wilson) did not come back with all that we hoped for, they sowed good seed, from which we hope to reap a rich harvest in the future. I cannot see howthere can be any difference of opinion regarding the resolUtions place. I before the House by the Prime Minister. The righthonorable gentleman invites lis to say that we agree with what he has done in regard to foreign relations, negotiation, signature and ratification of treaties, Imperial preference, and Defence. To no action of the Prime Minister in respect to any of these subjects can we take the slightest exception. I favour, also, the establishment of an Imperial Economic Committee, and I feel sure that, deep down in his heart, every member of this House is of the same opinion. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was submitted with such force and plenitude of words, that we were all greatly impressed. If the Opposition had let the motion go without comment, it would have been more effective, but they thought fit to propose this amendment, which was placed before us so forcefully, aud accompanied by such apt illustrations, that wo can all make up our minds to vote against it. Although honorable members of the Opposition have not expressed their opinions with regard to the proceedings of the Conferences, we have gathered something from their interjections. They commenced on the first day with the parrot-cry “ Bendigo.” That, I, as the representative of that constituency, took as a personal compliment: but I would like to know exactly what was meant. Then we heard the word “Empire.” What did honorable members mean by that? Later, they evolved a phrase of two words, “Pardon me!” Evidently, they realized that they needed pardon. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), in a speech made in his electorate since this motion was submitted, attempted to explain what the Opposition really meant. He said that he had no quarrel with the nations of the world, and that personally he would not spend one penny on defence, because Australia had no foe to fear. He stated, also, that the Labour party would show the sincerity of its desire for peace by proving tb the world that it was prepared to trust the other nations. But the Labour party, which says it is prepared to trust the other nations of the world will not even trust this side of the House. The Singapore Base was also mentioned by the honorable member’ for Ballarat. The protest raised against the abandonment of the construction of that base is one which we, concerned with the interests of Australia, thoroughly support. I am riot a naval man, but I have had the honour of fighting the battles of Australia and of the British Empire on the other side of the world, and I can realize what the importance of such a base may be. I can imagine that a naval base is of even more importance than a military base, and I know that from a company or battalion point of view when men have . been fighting for two or three days they long very much to get back to a base at which to refit and have a re3t. The need for a base in connexion with naval operations must be even more urgent, and unless we have some base at which our ships can be refitted we might as well have no ships of war at all. We have been very much disappointed at the silence of the Labour party on all these important questions, and the members of that party will have only themselves to blame for any inferences disadvantageous to them which may be drawn from it.
.- I do not think that any Parliament has ever witnessed such an extraordinary exhibition as has taken place in this Federal Parliament during the last few day3. Throughout the history of British institutions, and particularly of British Parliaments, a very high standard has prevailed with respect to the duties of parties on great national questions. I do not think that in any Parliament in any part of the British Dominions there has previously been a precedent for what is called “ His Majesty’s Opposition” sitting down and saying not one word upon questions affecting the whole future prosperity and even the safety of the country in which they live. It is almost impossible to conceive how such a state of things could have come about in this Parliament, which has always prided itself as a model of parliamentary government. The. thought which must occur to any one who considers the action of the Opposition is that it has been designed solely to secure a party advantage. The Opposition, and their Leader in particular, are afraid to permit honorable members of their party to express their opinions, because they know what the effect would be amongst their supporters outside this House. If the action which has been taken by the Opposition has been dictated by what might be described as party tactics, presumably the basis of it is that the head of the Government having gone overseas to attend two important Conferences, and having returned, it is the duty of honorable members opposite, from a tactical point of view, to belittle his mission, irrespective of what the effect upon the interests of the country may be. If that be the reason for the action of the Opposition, we are reaching a very tragic state of affairs. Of what concern ls it what may happen to the head of the Government, to any one individual, or even the interests of a party, as against the interests of the country? Nobody cares what happens to the Leader of the Government or any one else provided the best interests of the country are served. Yet upon these questions that are vital, because it seemed possible to secure what honorable members opposite imagined would be a triumph of party tactics, they have not hesitated to adopt this course, and let the interests of the country take their chance. No words can be found to adequately express the contempt with which such action must fill the minds of the whole of the people of Australia. Party tactics carried to such an extreme are indeed a tragedy. We are regretfully forced to the conclusion that by their silence the Opposition have attempted - and, incidentally, the attempt .has been a lamentable failure. - to score a party advantage, even at the expense of the interests of tlie country as a whole.
Another reason for the silence of the Opposition on these fundamental questions is that the Leader of the party was afraid to allow his followers to talk, because he knew that if they did they would speak with different voices and would inevitably antagonize a great number of their followers outside. Honorable members opposite have presented a great example of party discipline. I understand that, when a vote was taken on the attitude which should be assumed by the Opposition, what they should do. was determined by a very narrow majority, but every honorable member opposite has remained dumb in this Chamber. From the point .of view of the Leader of the Opposition there has been a tragic and lamentable exception in the person of his rather wild and rebellious follower from Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who has appeared on a platform outside, and, although he is a member of a party with a very rigid discipline, has informed the people that for his part he would have no defence expenditure at all. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to say whether that is the policy of his party. He has told us nothing on the subject in this House, but that is what has been said by the only honorable member of his party who has voiced any opinion on the subject. What we have to bear in mind is not what these gentlemen might have said, but the fact that, by some appalling turn of the political wheel, honorable members opposite may get into power and this country be ruled by a party whose members have not even the courage to get up and tell the people what they stand for. We must all be filled with the very deepest regret that a great party, such as the Labour party once was, has sunk so low to-day that its members have not the courage to do the duty which the people of Australia sent them into this House to perform. Without labouring the matter further, I would warn honorable members opposite that the country will not be satisfied with silence. The people will demand a statement as to what they really mean, and where they stand on the vital questions that have been under consideration on the motion now before the House. Whilst honorable members opposite have refrained from speaking on the motion, they have taken a course the ineptitude of which almost makes one shudder. They have said nothing on the motion, but they have submitted an amendment. The amendment, if it has any basis at all, suggests that the party opposite desire to follow a policy respecting foreign relations’ that will tend towards the pro- motion of a world peace. I entirely agree with such an objective, but if they seriously take that view, what is their objection to confirming the action taken by the recent Imperial Conference? This is what I said last week when dealing with questions of foreign policy: -
As a result of our discussion, we were all agreed upon, the basic principle which should govern the Empire’s foreign policy. That basic principle was the promotion and maintenance of the peace of the world.
So far the Opposition are apparently in agreement with the Imperial Conference. When dealing with the methods to be adopted to bring about the world’s peace I said : -
The method by which the Conference believed this could best be accomplished was to maintain a united British Empire,. and the closest possible relations between, the great English speaking nations of the world and to give the greatest possible support to the League of Nations, thus insuring its power and prestige in the world.
Do honorable members opposite dissent from the view that one of the be3t methods of promoting the world’s peace is to insure the maintenance and integrity of the British Empire? If not. why have they not the courage to say so ? Not a sound is heard. May I ask if they dissent from the view that the peace of the world can be best promoted by the maintenance of the closest possible relations between the great Englishspeaking nations of the world’’ I should imagine that they also would subscribe to that view. The third method was that we should give our full support to the League of Nations, ‘ and try to promote its power and prestige in the world. Honorable members opposite apparently dissent from that proposition, because they have taken the amazing action of proposing an amendment which if carried, would strike out of the motion the resolutions and recommendations of the Imperial Conference,, and substitute words to the effect that this House subscribes to the foreign policy of the British Government, a policy which has not yet ‘been enunciated, and of which not even a suggestion has been made. Could charity reach a higher point ? Is there any thing these honorable members will not do, however unfortunate it may be for their country, provided that in the doing of it they give support to a Government in another country which bears the same name as their own party? Because the word “ Labour “ is introduced, they say, “Let us fling this country .aside, fling everything, including the resolutions of the representatives of all parts of the Empire, aside. Let us ignore the fact that these resolutions say exactly what we are saying in our amendment. Let us substitute something that will support the Labour Government in Britain.” If that is the reason that has actuated this step, then it is a very tragic one, and one for which the people of Australia will in due season call them to account. There is another point that we in Australia have to consider very closely concerning the Labour party’s action. When I spoke last week I invited honorable members to say whether they desired that this Parliament should have a voice in the- foreign policy of the Empire, and I pointed out that so far as the Government was concerned, we were not prepared to be bound, hand and foot, to any Government in Britain, no matter from what party it might be drawn. Honorable members of the Opposition, however, have nothing to say on that subject. They have given no indication of where they stand. They have moved an amendment which really means that, as representatives of the people of 4.us tralia in this Parliament, they do not want to be consulted ; they leave themselves in the hands of their friends in Britain, who they say can do what they like. They do not worry or care. If that is the attitude that members of this Legislature are going to take up - that so far as Australia is concerned they are prepared to accept the dictates and indorse the actions of any British statesman - then I warn them that their days in this Parliament are numbered. They will never again, be returned by the people of this country. We, in Australia, have achieved a position, for which we have long been striving. We have now the right and status of a self-governing Dominion, with a voice that is entitled.to be heard in regard to the Empire’s, affairs, and I, for one, will not subscribe to this new and amazing Labour doctrine that if a Labour Government is in power in Britain we must blindly follow it, irrespective of whether we approve or disapprove of what it proposes. I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to remember that they have placed themselves in an unfortunate position. They had every opportunity to tell the country where they stand, but for some reason they have nob had the courage to do so. We are entitled, therefore, to enlighten the people as to some of their actions, for which the constituencies will require an adequate explanation. It is almost a waste of time to analyze the amendment. One has only to read it to realize that it is neither more nor less than an attempt to support the action of the British Labour Government. It sets aside everything that the Imperial Conference accomplished respecting foreign relations, and discards the whole of the resolutions that were passed advocating the world’s peace and outlining a method by which it might be achieved. It casts aside the whole arrangements that for the first time defined a definite course concerning the negotiation, signature, and ratification of treaties. The Labour Party abandon all these things and say, “ We want to know nothing of foreign policy; we will do whatever the British Government tell us to do; we wish to know nothing about defence, and we do not subscribe to anything accomplished at the Conference. Let everything in the motion be struck out, and let us put Australia in the hands of a Labour Government that is ruling in Britain.”I shall certainly vote against the amendment. I am sure that if I were a Labour supporter, enthusiastic in the desire to have my party returned to power, I should find myself in a position of the most tragic embarrassment with regard to defence. When I discovered that my leader, the distinguished gentleman from Hunter, and the other distinguished gentlemen behind him, had nothing at all to say as to how our safety and security are to be accomplished, I, as an enthusiastic supporter of Labour, would feel very apprehensive and very nervous. I should want to know what they proposed to do. They have repudiated every suggestion made at the Imperial Conference, and put nothing intheirplace.
– They wish to put us under the protection of Great Britain.
– Exactly. If I were a Labour man my anxiety would be considerably heightened when I found the distinguished gentleman from Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) “going over the top,” and saying that we were to have no defence at all. As to the Opposition’s defence policy, we have only the delightfully frank statement made outside by the honorable member for Ballarat. There has been nothing said by the. Labour party during this debate to indicate what is their policy on defence. They have cast aside the policy of defence whereby the whole of the Empire would co-operate unitedly, and they have repudiated the method by which that co-operation was to be brought about. They have cast aside the suggestion of a one-power naval standard for the British Empire. They have repudiated any suggestion that we should have bases or fuel depots scattered over the world to secure the mobility of the British Fleet. They have thrown aside the Singapore Base - that to them is a side issue - and all the resolutions of the Conference dealing with the vital necessity of providing for the security of our trade routes. They have nothing to say in regard to the recommendation of the Imperial Conference that it is essential to the whole of the Empire that the safety of the Suez Canal - that vital artery through which our trade flows from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea - must be preserved. All these things they have cast aside by their amendment, and in their place they have put nothing.
– Sir, I draw attention to the fact that the Prime Minister is guilty of tedious repetition.
– I have listened very attentively to the Prime Minister, and I think his remarks are neither repetitive nor tedious.
– The honorable member for Ballarat appears to have been so adequately dealt with by a higher authority that I can afford to ignore his interposition. There is something humorous in the attitude of honorable members opposite. We have heard a great deal of talk about the “ passionate desire for peace.” Now, one of the best and most recognised methods by which that very desirable end may be achieved is to bring about the world’s disarmament, and Resolution No. 5 of the Imperial Conference declares, in the fullest and most ample language, that the great aim and objective of the Confer- ence was to try to’ bring about the world’s disarmament. But honorable members opposite declare they will have nothing to do with such a resolution. Such an attitude is too amazing to contemplate. One is left gasping to know where these honorable members stand and what they really mean. I think we all know as well as they do the hopeless position they occupy, and out of which they are trying to extricate themselves. We have heard honorable members opposite declare strenuously that the Singapore Base is not necessary. They have even gone as far as to communicate that interesting piece of information - on what authority I do not know - to Great Britain, and in the discussion upon the abandonment of the Singapore proposal which has recently taken place in the British House of Commons the Government of Great Britain found great support for their attitude in the fact that Mr. Charlton, the Leader of the Opposition in Australia, had said that Australia did not want the Singapore Base. I have the greatest respect for those who hold strong opinions, and although I may totally disagree with the reasoning of those who think that the abandonment of the Singapore proposal will promote the world’s peace, they can flatter themselves that their attitude has had a very material effect in bringing about the abandonment of that work. But there are other great questions being considered in Great Britain to-day, and one of them is whether certain preferences in which ‘ Australia is vitally interested are to be passed or rejected by the House of Commons. The matter is hanging in the balance. Not one ofthese preferences involves an increase in the duty. It merely means giving an increased preference to the Dominions under an existing duty, and it is vital to Australia that these increases should be made. The success of the River Murray scheme, upon which millions of pounds have been spent, depends upon them, and these preferences would certainly have been given if every honorable member opposite had got up in this debate and declared, “ We stand fast on the matter of preferences.” But honorable members opposite have not had a word to say on this matter. Honorable members will push forward and assist their friends on the other side of the world in carrying out a policy for the abandonment of the Singapore Base, but when it is a question of getting something to help struggling settlers in Australia, not a sound is heard from them.
– We shall test that statement in five minutes.
– My honorable friend finds that he has put himself and his party iu a difficulty, and is now ready to say, “We want to vote for the preferences. We want to do something else iu regard to some other matter. In other words, we want to save our skins the best way we can.” Of what use is it for him to take up such an attitude? We are a great people, and this is a great Parliament, but the British people who are very ‘ interested in us do not follow our movements with an intense regard as to how our votes are cast in this Chamber. What counts with them is what the people here have to say, and what the representatives of the people are saying. We should show them that the whole of the people of Australia are united on the subject of preferences; yet honorable members opposite have done nothing, and if the British House of Commons grants what Australia wants, it will be in spite of their action and not because of it. On the other hand, if the preferences are lost, it will be because of their lack of interest and sympathy at the critical moment. That is all I wish to say. I deeply regret that during the last few days we should have seen a great party so betray the trust of the people as to allow questions of paramount importance to Australia, involving great issues concerning us and our national life and safety, as well as the security of our territory, to be decided while they remained silent, either to secure a tactical political advantage or because they were afraid to let any one of the party speak.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- In accordance with your ruling, then, I move -
That paragraphs 2 and 3 of the motion be submitted to the House separately.
– I cannot allow debate on this amendment. It is merely a question whether the House shall vote on the motion as a whole or whether its remaining paragraphs be voted upon separately.
Question - That paragraphs 2 and 3 of the motion be submitted to the House separately - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the original motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production and export of canned fruit.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Austin Chapman and Sir Littleton Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for on Act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act1922.
Motion (by Sir Littleton Groom”) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Billto an Act to make further provision for the Government of the Territory for the Seat of Government.
Motion (by Sir Littletongroom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Patents Act 1903-1921.
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Quarantine Act 1808- 1920.
Imperial and Economic Conferences: resolutions. - Funded Debt of £92,000,000.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It is very difficult to understand what actuated the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Government in submitting in one motion two propositions dealing with the decisions arrived at by the Imperial Conference and the Imperial Economic Conference. Before proceeding abroad the right honorable gentleman promised this House that, on his return, he would present, for indorsement or otherwise, the decisions arrived at by the Conferences. To my surprise, the right honorable gentleman combined the business of the two Conferences in the one motion.
– The honorable member is forgetting for the moment that, even on a motion for the adjournment of the House, it is not in order to refer to a debate which has just closed. I regret that I cannot allow him to discuss that matter.
– I desire only to say that although we on this side were absolutely opposed to the second paragraph of the motion, we. would have voted for the third, covering the question of preference, had it been submitted as a separate motion.
.- I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) prior to leaving for Great Britain said he would endeavour to have altered the terms of the agreement drawn up between Australia and Great Britain in relation to the £92,000,000 owing by Australia to Great Britain, and the excessive interest that was charged. “Will he now report to the House what action he took in the matter?
.- The question of the debt of £92,000,000, which was funded in 1921, was considered at very great length by Senator Wilson and myself when we were in Great Britain. I propose to make a full statement to the House on the matter when a financial question is under consideration. It would take too long to explain the negotiations at the present stage.
– Why did the honorable gentleman sot deal with the matter in his report ?
– I endeavoured to confine myself to the major issues which could not conveniently be dealt with at a later stage. The financial arrangement can conveniently be brought up later, and I shall give the House a full account of the action which I took whilst in Great Britain.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 April 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240401_reps_9_106/>.