9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Et. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister if, as reported in the Argus, the Government has come to the decision to build both the cruisers outside of Australia, and to provide for docking accommodation within Australia.
– It is not Usual to announce the policy of the Government in answer to a question, but, perhaps, I may make an exception in this case, and say, “No, it has not been decided.”
– I ask the Minister for Defence has his attention been drawn to the very excellent shooting done by the Australian rifle team in England, and is he in a position to say whether the rifles used by memberB of the team were made at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow ?
– The whole of the rifles taken Home by the members of the Australian Rifle Team competing at Bisley were made at the Lithgow Factory.
The following papers were presented : -
NewGuinea - Report to the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea from 1st July, 1922, to 30th June, 1923.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1924 - No. 15- Crown Lands.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has yet considered the report dealing with the suggested increase in the percentage of British manufacture in goods imported from Great Britain to secure the preference given to British imports under the tariff?
– Yes, the matter has had very full consideration by the Government, and I hope to make an announcement on the subject in the near future.
Reciprocity with New Zealand.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will make available in the Library the file of papers covering the negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the New Zealand Government with regard to reciprocity in the matter of invalid and old-age pensions.
– I shall have the file placed on the table of the Library.
– I askthe Minister for Trade and Customs whether he or the Government has yet come to any decision with respect to reciprocal trade between Canada, New Zealand, and. Australia
– The matter is under consideration.
– Has the Treasurer any objection to lay on tho table of the library all papers in connexion with the pension claims of exsoldiers Coffey and A.J. Cruickshank, both of Sydney.
– I think there will be no objection to complying with the honorable gentleman’s request.
formal Motion of Adjournment.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The actions of the War Service Homes Commission’ in its transactions with the Co-operative Estates Company, of Hobart.”
Five honorable members having risen in their placet,
.- The question I wish to discuss is one of definite public importance, but as the issues it raises are intricate and complex I shall not have time to enter into the question as fully as I should desire, so that honorable members might understand everything in connexion with it. I shall, therefore, be as concise as possible. There are two outstanding facts. One is what I hold to be the peculiarly unfair treatment by the War Service Homes Commission of the Co-operative Estates Company, of Hobart, and the other is the peculiar disinclination of past and present officers of the War Service Homes Commission to consider the use of concrete, instead of brick, in the erection of war service homes. The Co-operative Estates Company inaugurated a housing scheme in Hobart, for homes for purchasers of blocks on its subdivided estates. Mr. J. W. Earle, who was, at the time, Deputy Commissioner of War Service Homes for Tasmania, after personal investigation, in company with the Commissioner, Colonel Walker, was so satisfied of the superior nature of homes built under the Wilson patent concrete system that he arranged with the Cooperative Estates Company to build about twenty homes for soldiers in Hobart. I have a number of photographs here which show the character of the homes built by the company under the Wilson concrete system in Hobart and elsewhere, and these were the first homes that were inspected by Mr. Earle. These special contracts showed a saving of £40 per home, and Deputy Commissioner -Earle recognized that such a saving would amount to about £1,000,000 spread over the entire soldiers’ homes building scheme at that time contemplated. Mr. Earle was later on promoted to a superior position in Sydney, and he induced the Cooperative Estates Company of Hobart, by placing £3,000 at its disposal, for the purchase of plant, to go to Sydney and demonstrate under official supervision the actual saving that could be effected by the use of concrete shells - that is to say, walls and chimneys of concrete - instead of brick. The first proposal was to build fifteen ‘ concrete shells, but this was later altered to” fifteen complete homes. Owing to delays by the commission in supplying materials, the financial result of the experiments with those fifteen complete homes was- not satisfactory, and a loss was sustained by the company owing to further delays in the work of the finishing trades. A proper test as to the cost of a complete home was thus prevented, but the result of the concrete shell construction was so satisfactory that the company was asked by letter from the commission to build 620 shells per annum. As the company were not ordinary contractors, they would not undertake such a big, contract, but agreed to build a group of 64 shells to furnish proof of coston a straight-out test, as was originally intended. A further sum of £2,000 was advanced, making a total advance of £5,000 by the commission to the company for the purchase of plant. The 64 shells were built to the same design as were the brick shells constructed by the commission in the same locality. The figures showing in detail the relative costs supplied to the company by the Deputy Commissioner, and officially certified to by the quantity surveyor, showed a saving of £51 on a special test shell, after allowing £10 for royalty and £10 for depreciation. This result, was 25 per cent, better than that shown by the Hobart figures, on which a saving of £1,000,000 had been estimated by Mr. Earle on the entire home building scheme that was then contemplated. If only £5 were allowed for royalty and £5 for depreciation - and this would have been fair and reasonable - the actual result was 50 per cent, better than the estimate by the engineer of the commission, Mr. Earle. The superior quality of tho homes built in Sydney was acknowledged by so eminent an authority as Sir John Sulman, as may be seen in the Public Works Committee’s recent report relating to the Laverton aircraft depot. The manager of the Cooperative Estates Limited, when before that committee, gave sworn evidence concerning Sir John Sulman’s opinion of the concrete building scheme. That disposes of the argument that not sufficient expert opinion was obtained to decide whether concrete homes were not at least as satisfactory as brick homes. Sir John Sulman is acknowledged to be an eminent concrete building authority. The company made one very serious mistake at this stage. It signed an agreement to purchase plant to carry out a demonstration, relying in good faith on the footnote which the commissioner had made on the official minute of Mr. Earle. This minute forms a very important part of the case against the War Service Homes Commission by the company. The following minute, dated
Sydney, 11th November, 1919, was forwarded to the Commissioner, War Service Homes Commission, Melbourne: -
Subject-Building operations in New South Wales. - Reinforced concrete.
I have been in communication with the Cooperative Estates Limited, of Hobart, who are building under contract for us a group of houses at Moonah, the construction of which the Commissioner saw in course of erection: on his last- visit to Tasmania.
In order to expedite the work of building homes in this state, I have invited the firm to confer with me here, and their managing director has: arrived in Sydney; and they are prepared to meet me with this object.
They are, as you know, possessors of the Wilson’s patent steel moulding plant for hol- low wall construction, detailed plans of which I have already forwarded to central from Hobart. , I have proved the reliability and efficiency of this construction by various tests and’ inspection of properties constructed by them, the period of erection being from nine years to newly completed homes.
I am satisfied as to the hygienic, sanitary, and sound efficiency of. the construction, and the firm have proved the advantage as regards its cheapness to me by signing the existing contracts with the commission for a group which showed a saving of approximately £40 per house on type 2a and 22.
I have a big scheme to put to the Commissioner whereby I can build lO,OOO houses per year by means of this plant, and estimate that I can make a saving on cost of construction throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with the Commissioner’s activities of an amount of anything up to onemillion pounds (£1,000,000), but this will be. the subject of a later and more detailed report.
For the purpose of demonstrating the possi bility of considerable saving being effected on actual cost of constructing homes in this state, which saving I estimate as being certain, vide my contracts in Tasmania, I desire authority to enter into an agreement with the company based on the following lines : -
The company will repay this sum ax the rate of £10 per house, with interest at51/2 per cent per annum. If on the completion of the fifteen homes contract it is decided not to build any further homes with the plant or by tho company, the company will forthwith pay the total moneys advanced on the plant, being the balance due with interest as above, namely, 51/2 per cent on all outstanding balances.
I should be glad to be advised as to your decision by wire, as Mr. Johnstone is at present holding his staff in Hobart, in readiness to come to Sydney immediately on receipt of my notifying him in the above terms. (Sgd.) J. W. Earle,
Approval given, and authority hereby to prepare an agreement in accordance with and on above basis. (Sgd.) Jas. Walker,.
In view of the contents of that minute, there can be very little doubt as to why a representative of the company went to Sydney. The. company failed to protect itself against a repudiation of the outstanding proposal in the . foregoing minute, namely, that the money for plants should be furnished for the purpose of demonstrating a certain saving preparatory to a big scheme being put in hand by the Commission. The Commission protected itself by inserting a clause in the agreement by which the company would have to pay cash for the plants if no more homes were to be built by the company’s concrete system, and as that was clearly understood to- be operative only if the company failed to show a saving, no exception was taken to it by the company. Yet the company has been held responsible to pay in spite of the result of the demonstration having been 50 per cent better than had been anticipated. Immediately the test was made the company asked permission by letter to make arrangements to give effect to the proposal for the big scheme outlined in the minute, but the future policy of the Commission was then being considered, and the matter was held over. At that stage General Sir James McCay was appointed business adviser to the. commission. It shouldbe noted that the commission did not then repudiate the original minute by Mr. Earle, but simply evaded the issue. Sir James McCay called upon the company to pay in cash the balance then outstanding on the plants. The company protested forcibly in writing, but was threatened with an action, which it was not in a position to defend, and which would have meant ruin to it. The company was forced to accept an agreement by which the money was to be paid in instalments over a period of three years. I admit, and the company admits, that it should have fought that proposal then, but Mr. D. J. Hutchings, who had Been Deputy Commissioner, in New South Wales, and has a splendid record, was so impressed with the possibilities of the system that he formed a company to build concrete homes by ‘Contract for the commission. He agreed with the company to take over the entire responsibility for the plants, but though he made repeated offers to build by contract the hostility to him and to concrete construction was so great that he had to abandon the proposal. His company was forced into liquidation, and the plants again reverted to the Co-operative Estates Company. Mr. Murchison, the manager of that company, again placed the position before the Assistant Minister in charge of War Service Homes, and pointed out, for the third time, that his company was being ruined by being compelled to pay for plants which had been purchased for demonstration purposes, whilst the proposal outlined in- the minute I have read was ignored. The matter was left in the hands of the officers of the commission, who were so hostile that a writ was issued against the company, but it was withdrawn when an instalment was paid. But for financial stringency, the company would have arranged to continue payment by instalments rather than face litigation, because” litigation would have had a disastrous effect on its assets, which were in the form of estates purchased for subdivision. The whole position was then placed before the present Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), who refused to entertain the company’s plea on the ground that the commission had changed its policy, and also because Sir James McCay had reported that he was satisfied that the company had gone to Sydney as ordinary building contractors. That decision was conveyed to Senator Ogden. The company next pleaded for a twelve months’ extension to enable it to sell some portion of its £50,000 worth of land, and undertook’ to pay interest regularly during that time. It furnished financial statements showing that its income would provide interest, but that if the capital payment forthwith were insisted upon the bank would take possession, the Government and other creditors would lose their money, shareholders would suffer a considerable loss, and chaos would result. A large number of people in Hobart are interested in the company’s affairs, and that is my reason for taking action to-day. The company was willing to pay to the extreme limit of its capacity, and conclusive proof was submitted that it had .substantial assets if it was allowed to carry on. The only reply to that appeal was a writ issued in an arbitrary manner without even 24 hours’ notice. As proof that Sir James McCay had made a blunder when he decided that the company had gone to Sydney as ordinary building contractors, fourteen sworn declarations, including minutes of the meetings of directors and shareholders, were submitted. The managing director, Mr. Murchison , has been in Melbourne for three months, and has at all times been ready to “furnish any further proof that might be required; but except two brief interviews with ‘ the Prime Minister, he has not been heard personally in defence, notwithstanding that his written .statements have not been questioned. The only concession which the Prime Minister granted was a six months’ extension of the time allowed for payment, but that is practically valueless because the bank is in possession of the company’s assets, and its credit is destroyed. Disastrous results will accrue to a large number of people if the company is forced into liquidation by the remarkable action of .the Commonwealth Government in issuing a writ instead of .granting further time.. All the purchasers of residential blocks on time-payment, to the value of about £60,000, have made some payments, and they will be at the mercy of the original vendors of the land. Many of them are returned soldiers. The shareholders, who have invested £23,000 in the company, will also suffer heavily if the company is forced into liquidation. I am aware that the Attorney-General was asked to report on the equity of this case, and the fact that he has reported against the company is conclusive proof that the position was not placed before him in all its bearings. This is not a party question. All the Tasmanian representatives in this Parliament have tried to induce the Government to show a reasonable spirit instead of taking drastic action. In a letter to the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) referred to the Government’s action as “ a grave public scandal,” and all the Tasmanian members wonder why the Government has insisted upon following that course. Strong terms have been used regarding the unjust treatment meted out by the War Service Homes Commission. I appeal to the Government, even now, to alter its decision, withdraw the writ, and allow the matter to be referred to the Public Works Committee for consideration and report. The company is prepared to abide loyally by the decision of the committee, or, as an alternative, it is agreeable that the matter should be submitted to three arbitrators - one to represent the Government, one to watch the interests of the company, and the third to be chosen by the other two. Surely nothing could be fairer than that! If the Government persists in proceeding on this writ, and in taking drastic action, heavy ‘losses will be incurred by a number of innocent people, while the Government will probably obtain not one penny of the balance outstanding. The company, as is the case with numerous other companies, is carrying on by means of a bank overdraft. If it is forced into liquidation, the bank, being the first creditor, will step in, and the estates will revert to the original vendors, who will have the people who have bought blocks entirely at their mercy. After all, only £6,000 is involved, which is a paltry sum when compared with other big sums which have been involved in the War Service Homes scheme. It would appear that the construction of homes in concrete, instead of in brick, is not viewed with favour by some of the officers of the department. That probably is the reason for the persistent hostility towards this company shown by them from the beginning. Prom the moment that the representatives of this company went to Sydney, and demonstrated that an actual saving of £40 per building, could be effected by the construction of buildings in concrete, that hostility has been continued. It should be remembered that the company’s representatives went to Sydney at the request of Mr. Earle, after he and Colonel Walker had examined buildings in Hobart, and had satisfied themselves that a saving could be effected by the erection of similar buildings in Sydney. Why was this company selected for this kind of treatment? I do not blame the present Minister, except that he has followed the same course as his predecessor. In that action he has probably been guided largely by the same officers, or at least by one of them. I have no interest in the company, except that I represent a number of people who are financially interested in it, but it seems incomprehensible to those who know the facts that the Government should insist on issuing this writ, and on taking the first step towards its ruin. I appeal to the House, on behalf of the company, which I maintain has not received the treatment which one might have expected from a big government concern such as the War Service Homes Commission. It is like using a steam-hammer to crush an egg-shell to apply the whole force of the Commonwealth Government to the ruin of this company. I appeal to the Minister, even at this late hour, to allow this question to be investigated and reported upon by the Public Works Committee. ‘ Mr. STEWART (Wimmera- Minister for Works and Railways) [3.6]. - I regret that the time at my disposal will not permit me to review the history of this case, which goes back some years before I took charge of the . department. I can only base my conclusions on the papers on the file, which, in view of the confusion which existed in the early days .of the War Service Home3 Commission, are not very clear in some cases. Mr. Earle, the supervising engineer of the commission, had business relations with this company in Hobart. He was subsequently transferred to Sydney. On the 31st October, 1919, he wired to the company in the following terms: -
If you are ready to take contract here, say, 500 or less groups of 100 plus 5, come Sydney, bring your figures, quantities or tenders Tasmania. Same types here. Reply.
The Co-operative Estates Limited was formed in Hobart for the purpose of purchasing and subdividing land, erecting houses thereon, and selling them on terms. It acquired Wilson’s patent steel moulding plant for building ‘concrete houses, and in 1919 was building houses in Tasmania for the commission. In response to the telegram of the 31st October, 1919, already referred to, Mr. Murchison, the manager of the company, proceeded to Sydney, and as a result of his visit, Mr. Earle submitted a memorandum to the commissioner. In this memorandum Mr. Earle stated that he had a big scheme to build 10,000 houses yearly, at a saving of £40 per house, and that the scheme would save the Commonwealth up to £1,000,000. He stated -
For the purpose of demonstrating the possibility of considerable saving being effected on actual cost of constructing homes in this State, which saving ‘ I estimate is certain, vide my contracts in Tasmania, I desire’ authority to enter into an agreement with the company based oh the following lines : -
The Company to erect a group of fifteen houses. . . .
The Commission to advance 90 per cent. of the cost of purchase of plant . . if on the completion of the fifteen homes constructed it is decided not to build any further homes with the plant or by the company, the company will forthwith pay the total moneys advanced on the plant…..
On the 14th November, 1919, the DirectorGeneral of Works recommended that a practical experiment be made by the erection of fifteen houses under the scheme, and on the same date Colonel Walker endorsed the memo. : -
Approval given and authority hereby to prepare an agreement in accordance with and on above basis.’
That was purely on a demonstration basis. Mr. Murchison contended that the memorandum of Mr. Earle was practically a promise to the company that it would be given a large number of homes to build, but the definite proposal submitted by Mr. Earle, recommended by the DirectorGeneral of Works, and approved by Colonel Walker, was a contract for fifteen houses. The first contract for fifteen houses complete at Belmore, Sydney, was signed on the 31st January, 1920. Clause 3 of the agreement provided that the commission would advance to the company 90 per cent, of the cost of the plant to be used, which was to be repaid, as provided in that clause, in the following manner : -
If, on the completion of the contract or contracts to be entered into in accordance with the terms hereof, no further cottages are to be erected by the company for the Commissioner, the outstanding balance of any amount advanced by the Commissioner to the company hereunder, and any interest thereon which may toe owing by the company to the Commissioner, shall forthwith be payable by the company to the Commissioner, and may be recovered by him from the company at any time.
Clause 15 of the agreement provided -
It is agreed by and between the parties hereto that this agreement is entered into upon the express stipulation that no moneys shall be advanced by the Commissioner to the company hereunder, unless and until satisfactory tenders for the erection of the said cottages in accordance with the conditions of tendering of the War Service Homes Commission have been accepted by the Commissioner, and contracts for these tenders have been formally executed by the company.
In other words, the company had to tender for these fifteen houses in the ordinary way. In view of these clauses it is necessary to point out that the contract entered into was subject to the company submitting satisfactory tenders when the works were advertised, and the contract can, therefore, be more appropriately described as one defining the position of the commission and.the company, ifand when definite contracts were entered into, after public tenders had been called, for the erection of homes by the company. The contract really contained preliminary conditions, subject to the company successfully tendering for homes. Subsequently, the company submitted a tender for these fifteen homes. Notwithstanding its claim that it could build in concrete at a lower price than similar structures would cost in brick, its tender was about £50 per house more than brick would have cost, instead of being, as Mr. Earle had anticipated, £40 to £80 less. In other words, this company appears to have been unduly favoured, even to the extent of being allowed to alter its tender price in order to put it in the position of a successful tenderer. Other builders were not given a similar privilege. The prices were subsequently reduced by arrangement, and it was agreed to advance an amount of £2,195 2s. 9d. on the plant. That sum, as stated in
Mr. Earle’s memo of 11th November, 1919, and the signed agreement, was to be repaid forthwith in the event of the commission deciding not to build further homes with the plant of the company. On the 1st March, 1920, Mr. D. J. Hutchingswas appointed Deputy Commissioner in Sydney, and as the company was not satisfied with the agreement, a fresh contract, providing for payment on a percentage basis, was drawn up. But after consultation with Colonel Walker the company agreed to carry on under tho existing agreement. On the 17th March, 1920; Mr. Hutchings telegraphed that a satisfactory contract for the fifteen houses had been made, and asked if payment of the advance on the plant could be made. This was the questionable transaction I have just referred to. It was ascertained that £702 had been advanced by the Sydney office of the commission without authority, prior to a contract being actually entered into, and the Commissioner, therefore, gave his approval on definite’ evidence being produced of the liability of the commission. The arrangement between the parties provided that the company should tender for the homes, but this stipulation was waived by the Commissioner, as shown by the following minute of the 3rd February, 1920, to the Deputy Commissioner: -
You arc advised that the callingof public tender’s in respect of fifteen properties desired to bo constructed by the Co-operative Estates Limited may be dispensed with. This must not be accepted as a precedent.
The contract was not completed until the 3rd June, 1921, the contract time being exceeded by seven months, but, as the delay was partly due to the cement shortage, no penalty wasenforced. Apparently the company lost £2,000 on the contract, the total amount of which was £8,413 Ss. 2d. The loss was attributed by the Deputy Commissioner to the steadily-rising market, lack of proper supervision, want of knowledge of the finishing trades by the company’s foreman, and delay by the commission in furnishing material at various stages. In consideration of the delay caused by the commission the company was allowed a sum of £150. The honorable member for Denison blamed the commission for the delay in completing the work, and for the loss to the company. As I have shown, the delay was due to other causes, as well as those for which the commission was responsible. The statement has been made that the company was induced, and almost lured to Sydney, to demonstrate the system. On the 25th February, 1920, the company wrote to Colonel Walker, after having received Mr. Earle’s letter, expressing appreciation of his request that the company should establish branches inMelbourne and Sydney, thanking him for copies of memoranda of the 11th and 14th November, 1919, and endeavouring to get a contract for “ shells “ instead of houses. The Commissioner replied rather abruptly, as follows : -
I desire to state in answer to your letter: -
I did not request you to establish branches- in Sydney andMelbourne with the object of your taking in hand the construction of 1,000 homes in each place.
My discussion with you arose out of my inspection of concrete houses in Tasmania, and your very strong representations that, with your system, you could build concrete houses considerably cheaper than similar houses in brick.
On your figures, paragraph 2 of your letter, you apparently estimate £100 per house can be saved, and in paragraph 9 you state, “ We can positively and conclusively prove that a saving of £50 per house can he effected if brick is taken against concrete.”
Agreements were completed with you for an advance of 90 per cent on cost of plants, subject to contracts being entered into for the erection of fifteen buildings in New South Wales and 80 in Tasmania.
When you submit satisfactory tenders in accordance with clause 15 of the agreements entered into between your company and myself on the 31st January, 1920, I will immediately deal with same.
Time will not permit me to do more than summarize the position as I found it when I took ministerial office. The company had then agreed to repay to the commission certain sums of money, and. in order that undue hardship should not be inflicted upon the company, it was allowed to make the payments in instalments of £250, plus interest and other charges, per quarter. The previous Assistant Minister had allowed one payment to lapse at the request of the company. The first payment, after I became Minister, was made on its due date, but the second was not made,’ and a writ was accordingly issued. Subsequently, however, the company paid the amount. I agreed to withdraw the writ, and ‘to allow another payment to be deferred on the distinct understanding that thenceforth the company would make such arrangements as would guarantee the fulfilment of the contract. The company again defaulted, however, and another writ was issued. The position that faced me when I took charge of the War Service Homes Department was that the company had agreed to repay certain sums of money, and for me to have entirely disregarded their signed agreement and to have told them that they need not pay the money, would have been, not only very - questionable administration, but very close to corruption. This matter has been thoroughly investigated. The company made its first appeal when Mr. Rodgers was the Assistant Minister for Repatriation, and in consequence of its strong representations General McCay investigated the whole position. He reported that the company was not suffering any injustice, and that there was neither legal nor moral obligation on the Government to allow the payments the company had agreed to make to lapse. Subsequently Mr. Lamond became Assistant Minister for Repatriation, and the company fought the battle over again with him, and was once more unsuccessful. It made a third attempt to alter the mind of the Government after I assumed office. I was sympathetic with it, and so was the Government. The Government has no desire whatever to crush or harm any indi.vidual or body, but.it has a duty to the taxpayers. Honorable members know very well that in these troubles over the War Service Homes administration, whenever there “was any laxity on the part of the commission the private companies which were doing business with it took all . possible steps to obtain every penny of damage they could from’ it. They put the legal knife into the commission right up to the hilt, and when they found that they had no legal claim, they immediately talked loudly about a moral obligation. After I refused to agree to the company’s requests, it made representations to the Prime Minister, and he, in company with myself, received a deputation on the matter. A thorough investigation was made then and the claim was again rejected. In conclusion, I remind honorable members that, although the company has steadfastly persisted in its statement that it could build War Service Homes at £100 less each than brick houses would cost, it has repeatedly refused to tender for the work. In all the circumstances, I cannot agree to submit the matter .to the Public Works Committee.
.- The case for the company has been well put by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has admirably stated the Government’s point of view. It seems regrettable that in the last few years there has been such a rapid succession of Ministers in charge of the War Service Homes Department. Had there been, continuity of control by the one Minister, we should not have been facing this situation. The agreement referred to by the Minister shows clearly, and the honorable member for Denison admitted, that the company is in the wrong. It acted foolishly in signing the agreement. When I was in Sydney in 1920, I discussed the whole situation with Captain Payne, one of the company’s officers, who is now living in Hobart, and I am convinced that the company went to Sydney to demonstrate only. Notwithstanding that the Minister seems to have said the last word for the Government, I still hope that the Public Works Committee may be permitted to report on the matter. There is no doubt that the constructional methods of the company are good. In a report on the matter which was made by Sir John Sulman on the 26th September, 1921, the following paragraph appears : -
The Wilson patent system is, to my mind, the most practical, sound, and economical system of concrete house construction which lias come under my notice, and if the saving of £50 per five-roomed cottage stated to have been effected is correct [and I sec no reason why such saving should not easily be possible), then it will become an important factor in solving the present housing problem.
The Minister has said that the company has failed to demonstrate, as it ought to have done: but for the last two years it has not been in a position to do so. It has refused to accept building contracts, for it is not a contracting company. If it had desired to undertake constructional work it could have accepted the offer made to it to build 620 homes per year. I think the Government should have taken up that work. The tragedy of the War Service Homes Department has been the acceptance of loose contracts, particularly with regard to the supply of timber. This company is in the unfortunate position of having said that it would do a little more than it really intended to do. It did so because it was so confident that the adoption of its house-building system would result in a saving. The Minister admits that it was not the company’s fault that delay took place in building the fifteen homes, as agreed, ‘ for demonstration purposes.
– I did not admit that it was not the company’s fault; I said that it was not wholly the company’s fault.
– The Minister attributed some of the delay to the War Service Homes Commission. At any rate, the Government paid the company £150 as compensation in consequence of the delay that occurred. I do not consider that the building of fifteen homes would be a proper demonstration of lie efficiency or otherwise of the .company’s system. The Government should have embarked on a comprehensive scheme to erect 500, or even 1,000, homes. The Minister says that the Attorney-General, in his report, stated that there was neither legal nor moral obligation on the Government to allow the agreement to lapse, and I understand that that report also stated that the saving that could be made by the adoption of the company’s methods would be only 5 per cent. The actual cost of the “ shells ‘” built at Belmore, according to the New South Wales Deputy Commissioner, was £167 5s. for the shell only by the company’s method, and £21S 18s. for brick. I appeal to the Minister even now to permit the Public Works Committee to present a report on the matter to the Government.
.- Honorable members may wonder why I should take part in this debate, because I have never visited Tasmania. I came into contact with Mr. Murchison because his brother-in-law lives in my district, and when he was visiting him, we became rather chummy. He naturally told me of his troubles, and submitted all the documents he had relating to this matter. I went into them as carefully as I knew how, and I am satisfied that, as the Minister has already said, he has no legal claim. However, it appears to me to be without any doubt that he did not approach the War Service Homes Commission, and that the commission approached him. The company was asked to build some shells by its system as a test. By its patent concrete system, it was supposed to be able to save a good deal of money as compared with the use of brick in the construction of war service homes. I do not” say that the company was inveigled into anything, but it is a pity that it was asked to make the test. The company went to Sydney, and I do not think it can be denied that its demonstration was more satisfactory than was anticipated. For some reason which I do not know, the War Service Homes Commission decided not to proceed with this particular form of construction. It seems to me that although these people have no legal claim, the Government does not occupy a very satisfactory position in the matter. What will it gain by forcing these people into the insolvency court? It will not get any money out of them, because the banks have a prior claim upon their assets.
– We have offered to withdraw, if all the other creditors will do so, for six months, to enable the company to get going. But the other creditors will not withdraw.
– The other creditors have a garnishee order in, and have a prior claim to the Government which cannot hope to get anything. Surely it is a fair proposal that the matter should be submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation. It is not asking too much of the Minister to agree to that. I am sure that the honorable gentleman would not wittingly do any injustice, and I ask whether he is quite sure that he has the right data before him.
– I am quite sure.
– I know that some strange things have occurred in connexion with the War Service Homes Commission, and I would not be so certain as the Minister apparently is in this matter. I have seen all the documents in the case so far as I know, and I do not think I have been deceived. I have, of course, nothing whatever to do with the company, but I remind the Minister that there is nothing to be gained by ruining the company. It will probably result in the ruin of a number of perfectly innocent people who have paid for their properties, and being unable to secure titles for them, may lose them. “We should let the Public “Works Committee investigate this matter, and its investigation should he final.
.- I listened with considerable interest to the case made out by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), and also to the Minister’s reply.- I find it very difficult to decide as to the merits of the case, and I do not think the House is in a position to do so. I think, however, that it is a very reasonable request to ask that the facts in the case should - be submitted to investigation by the Public Works Committee. That request is so reasonable that I am surprised that the Minister should refuse it. I readily grant that the honorable gentleman made a very clear statement in the very limited time at his disposal. It carried with it a considerable amount of conviction, but if I felt so sure of the strength of my case as the Minister does I should be eager to submit the matter to the Public Works Committee to have my contention substantiated. The case presented by the honorable member for Denison and supported by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) is one for investigation. Nothing can be lost by this investigation. It is not a question of appointing a new commission at considerable expense, but of referring this matter to the Public Works Committee, which is representative of all parties in this House and in which we have had no occasion to lose our confidence. Honorable members will agree that there is scarcely a matter connected with the administration of the War Service Homes Commission that has not been associated with bungling, and very often with something in the nature of a scandal. Though we shall possibly never get to the end of the questions raised by the administration of the commission, we may be able piecemeal to investigate one case after another, and it is our duty to do so. The Minister asked what he was to do-. When he went into the Department he found that this company was owing money to the Government which it had agreed to pay, and he asked whether it was not his duty to demand payment. I agree that that was his duty. It is the duty of a Minister of the Crown to collect moneys due to the Crown. I only wish that the Government was a- little more insistent about the collection of some land tax that is outstanding. If the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) were as insistent upon the collection of moneys due to the Crown as the Minister for Works and Railways has been, I should have less criticism of the Government to offer. So far as he has gone in this matter in the administration of his department, I do not think that any one can quarrel with the Minister for Works and Railways. I certainly do not. Still, in this case, in which there is reasonable doubt as to the facts, when a proposal is made that they should be investigated by an impartial body on which the Government has a majority of representatives, I fail to see why the proposal should be turned down. The Minister will say that there is no case to go to the Public Works Committee. I think there is reason for doubt as to whether the company was rightly treated. I do not desire to traverse the facts presented by the honorable member for Denison. I confess that I have not gone into the matter as closely as he has done. But representatives of the company placed some of the data before me from the company’s point of view, and I told them frankly that I was not prepared to accept an ex parte statement from anybody on this matter. I said, “ I shall consider the facts as presented by you, I shall listen to the Minister’s reply, and if I believe that a case has been made out for investigation I shall support a proposal to have it investigated.” I think such a case has been made out. I direct attention to some of the facts in this matter. First of all, the company built homes in Hobart. I have heard no question of its statement that it built those homes at £40 per house less than they would have cost if brick had been used in their construction. That statement has been substantiated by Mr. Earle and also by the War Service Homes Commissioner of the day (Colonel Walker). Because of that demonstration of saving in Hobart, Mr. Earle. who had in the meantime been transferred to Sydney, requested the company to come to Sydney and build fifteen houses there, but not as a contractor. The Minister emphasized the fact that the company was there as a demonstrator. The demonstration was not as satisfactory as some would have liked, but why? The company gives the answer to the question. It says, “We are not builders. We know nothing about the finishing of houses. Our patent is for building the concrete shells of houses.” I have read the report of the architect, Sir John Sulman, who, I believe, stands very high amongst the architects of this country. I have read no more flattering reports of any patent building system in connexion with any branch of the building trade. After the company had demonstrated in Hobart that it could make a saving of £40 per house, it was taken to Sydney.
– It went to Sydney as an ordinary business firm.
– It went to Sydney at the request of Supervising Engineer Earle, who was a representative of the government of the day. The company went to Sydney to demonstrate there that it could save £40 a house. It claims that at that demonstration, so far as the construction of the shells of the houses was concerned, it saved’ more than £40 a house, as against the cost involved” in the use of brick. I am not saying that this claim is correct, but it has not yet been discredited. This is a matter for practical investigation by the Public Works Committee. First of all, did the company save £40 per house in Hobart ? Did it save more than £40 per house in Sydney in the erection of the shells? If it did, the demonstration succeeded, and the company was entitled to believe that its system would be taken over by the War Service Homes Commission for the construction of a large number of homes. If that had been done, its plant would have been taken over; it would have had no liability to the Government, and the Government would not have been forced to put in a writ against it. If these facts cannot be established the Government is entitled to press its claim against the company,, although probably it will get nothing by doing so. There is one thing which, on the facts, induces me to lean somewhat to the company. If it failed in its demonstration in Sydney, as alleged, why was it subsequently offered the opportunity to construct 620 homes ? The Minister cannot answer that question. I do not expect him to answer everything in connexion with the War Service Homes Department, in view of the short time he has been in charge of it. He might be there for twenty years without being able to unravel the whole of the tangle. After the company had built fifteen homes in
Sydney it was offered a contract to build under its system 620 homes.
– It was asked to tender for them.
– That proves that the system was considered a good one.
– The fact that the company was invited to tender, and refused to do so, also ‘proves its statement that it did not carry on work as a builder. It is not a company of builders, but one possessing patent rights in a building system which it wanted others to take over and pay a royalty upon. The company demonstrated in Sydney that by the use of its system money could be saved in the erection of war service homes. Mr. Earle said that he believed if the company could do what it had done- in Hobart, it might save the department. £1,000,000. The company claims- that it did better in Sydney than it did in. Hobart. That is a claim which should be- investigated. If, by honest investigation, the claim is substantiated, the- question will arise why the- War’ Service Homes Commission refused to adopt » system of construction that would have saved the country £1,000,000. If, on investigation. it. is shown that by the use of the system no saving could be made, the company will be out of court altogether. The electorate of Denison is affected by this matter.
– It is- very largely affected by it.
– As a matter of ordinary justice to these people I think that a strong case has been, made out for investigation. Neither the’ honorable member for Denison, the honorable member for Fremantle nor myself, is prepared to accept partisan statements on the matter; but I think that” the facts which have been put - before the House, and even the statement of the Minister, which was a fair statement of the position of the Government, establish a case for investigation. As it would not involve any great cost, and would satisfy honorable members and the public generally, that the Government is prepared to see justice done, I believe the Minister would be wise to reconsider the position he has taken up, and permit an investigation to be made.
– I have risen more particularly to ask the Minister one question ‘ concerning this case, but as he was not in office at the time those transactions took place, he may not be able to answer it. It is worth ascertaining whether the claims of this company have been considered from an unprejudiced point of view, whether the investigation that was made in Sydney concerning its building patent was satisfactory, whether had not the shortage of finance’ prevented the Commonwealth Government from continuing its programme of construction of war service homes, it would have continued its relations with this company, or whether the use of this building patent was discontinued through circumstances for which the company was not responsible.
– The policy of the Government was not to build any more houses, either by contract or otherwise, and that might have been a factor in the situation. I am not prepared to say so definitely, because I was not a member of the Government then in power. This company was asked to go ahead and tender, but it refused to do so.
– It would appear that the patent in operation in Hobart gave satisfaction to the deputy commissioner, and that it was desired to use it in ‘a wider sphere in and around Sydney. Itseems to. have operated there, but just at that juncture - I am speaking from my own knowledge as I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee that inquired into this matter - the whole programme of works was closed down for want of funds. This may be one of those unfortunate cases to which the Minister has referred, and in which contracts were made for the construction of war service homes. Most companies were careful enough to enter into sufficiently binding agreements, and so soon as the cessation of the works programme came about, they obtained from the Government all the compensation they possibly could. It is manifest that this company did not want to make a hard and fast agreement, and if there is a point of justice or moral right in dispute, an investigation should be made.
– Two inquiries have been made, one by Sir James McCay, the business adviser to the War Service Homes Commission, and the other by the Attorney-General’s Department. Both are conclusive that the company had neither legal nor moral claim.
– That does not answer my question.
– Everything was taken into consideration by the Government in coming ‘ to its decision.
– The Minister has been very reasonable in this matter, but there h the question of good faith to be considered. This company in good faith proved the efficiency of its plant, its work being to the satisfaction of the deputy commissioner. When the company’s funds were exhausted, it was left high and dry . If that is not disputed, the Minister oi Parliament should give the company same consideration.
– There is behind the work of this company a very strong recommendation by one of the members of the Federal Territory Advisory Committee, Sir John Sulman, who is reputed to be one of the foremost town planners of Australia. The request for an investigation is exceptionally reasonable. If the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) is not able to persuade the Minister to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee for investigation, there is a way out of the difficulty, as’ the Public Accounts Committee can, on its own initiative, investigate the expenditure of any public moneys. That committee has investigated quite a number of cases very similar to this. Without picking out any particular public officer for condemnation, I say that when inquiries were made by that committee concerning the construction of war service homes, and other matters, what absolutely appalled its members was the loosely-drawn contracts entered into for the construction qf homes, and the provision of various supplies. . It is well known to honorable members that some persons, contractors and others, having dealings with the War Service Homes Commission have been subjected to what was nothing more nor less than persecution. Investigations respecting the construction of war service homes and the conduct of the -commission are by no means at an end. The Government, backed up as it is by the resources of the- Commonwealth, is able to push claimants into the courts. Appeal after appeal is made, and eventually the . poor, unfortunate individual is forced to forgo his claim, not having sufficient funds to continue to fight the Government. In many cases, a’ rank injustice is done to the individual. The Minister stated that already two inquiries had been made into this case, one by the Attorney-General’s Department, and the other by Sir James McCay. This gentleman appeared as a witness before the Public Accounts Committee. He was chairman of a certain committee, and many things that that committee did were the subject of very serious criticism. This case is essentially one for investigation, and the Minister should .refer it either to the Public Works Committee, or to the Public Accounts Committee. If this is done, in a. comparatively short space of time the requisite evidence and documents will be obtained, and the report of the committee made available to honorable members. I would inform the Minister that it is competent for the Public Accounts - Cinnittee to investigate the expenditure of any sura of public money. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) has made out a good case, and the Minister should grant his request.
– I am satisfied that if the Minister knew the whole of the facts, or if the position at the beginning had been fairly put before him, he would consent to an investigation.
– That is an important point. An official sometimes views a transaction from a different angle from that from which it would be viewed by an independent committee, which would consequently come to a totally different conclusion.
– No individual has had more opportunities to put his case personally to me than has Mr. Murchison, who saw me repeatedly. I do not think he has any case at all.
– I do not wish to accuse the Minister of being unfair.
– I must keep proper control of the department.
– I know that, but parliament must keep control of the Minister, and his department as well. On many occasions the Public Accounts Committee has on its own initiative made
An investigation, with very beneficial results, from a financial point of view, to the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister to consent to the request of the honor able member for Denison, so that no injustice shall be done to this company.
– When I was in Hobart recently representatives of the company interviewed me on this matter. One of the directors is a personal friend of mine, and I considered the case in as favorable a light as possible. I spent some hours in perusing the files, and inspecting some of the cottages that had been erected. I endeavoured to find some justification for. helping this company, but the more I looked into the case the more I was convinced that the company itself had. acted on its own responsibility, and had undertaken operations at its own risk in the ordinary course of business. There appeared to me to be no justification for the claim, either on legal or moral grounds, and I was unable* to suggest that any assistance should be given to the company. That happened before I saw the Minister about the matter, and I did not then know what attitude the Government was taking up.
.Unfortunately, I was absent from the chamber when the Minister replied to the speech made by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), and therefore I do not know what attitude has been adopted by the Government. The experience that I have had respecting the. War Service Homes Department has led me to view most of its actions with a certain amount of suspicion. My experience in my own electorate would justify me in questioning at any time statements which are furnished to Ministers respecting the erection of houses. Bearing that in mind, ,£E am not prepared to oppose the request of the honorable member for Denison until I am thoroughly satisfied that the company has no cause for complaint. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) stated the position very clearly. I understand that this company went to Sydney at the request of the then Commissioner for War Service Homes (Colonel Walker) to give a demonstration of concrete construction.
– Mr. Earle suggested to the company that it should go to Sydney.
– The suggestion came from some official of the War Service Homes Commission, and the company can produce fourteen sworn declarations that it went to Sydney to give a demonstration rather than for the purpose of erecting buildings. As a matter of fact, its business was the erection of shells in concrete and not the building of complete homes, as was required of contractors to the War Service Homes Commission. I have no doubt that the company successfully demonstrated that it was able to do what it undertook to do, and save the department a considerable sum of money by the use of concrete construction throughout the Commonwealth. Honorable members are aware of the many complaints that have been made regarding the faulty construction of many war service homes, and bearing in mind the past history of the commission we should not reject the company’s claim without the fullest investigation.
– There has been investigation after investigation.
– The Minister told the House that the company has neither a legal nor a moral claim upon the Government.
– If it had any legal claim why did it sign a document agreeing to pay and why did it actually commence to pay?
– Many people are induced to sign documents the full effect of which they do not appreciate at the time. The War Service Homes Commission has been responsible for so many doubtful transactions that we are justified in asking that its relations with this company shall be fully investigated by an independent committee. The members of the Public Works Committee are men of the highest integrity and I should be willing to abide by their report. I ask the Minister to reconsider his attitude and consent to an inquiry so that honorable members may rid their minds of the idea that this is another instance of the bungling and maladministration for which the War Service Homes Commission has such an undesirable reputation.
– (By leave) - In deference to the expressed wishes of honorable members in all parts of the chamber I am agreeable that the claim by this company shall be investigated by the Public Works Committee. I have no desire to do an injustice to anybody and I hope that honorable members will be satisfied with this undertaking.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Question resolved in the negative.
Reduction of Salaries
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If the. Australian Imperial Band is being subsidized by the Commonwealth, will the Government request that .the “ Song of Australia “ and other Australian musical excerptsbe included in its repertoire?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will be brought under the notice of the leader of the band.
Hay to Port Augusta : Broken Hill to Port Augusta
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the State Government of New South Wales is working on the construction of the line from Condoblin to Broken Hill, and ‘has intimated its intention of carrying this work on to completion, he will undertake that before entering into any agreement to build the line from Bay to Port Augusta, he will have that line and the proposed line from Broken Hill to Port Augusta submitted to the Public Works Committee to decide which is the move desirable?
– The matter is now under the consideration of the Government, but before it is finalized all factors will be fully considered, and this Parliament’s consent sought.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The final payments in the various states is entirely a matter for the individual states. The Australian Wheat Board distributed its funds amongst the states some months ago.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, Upon notice-: -
What action is the Government taking, with regard to the request made to the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs by deputation some months ago, to deal immediately with the buffalo fly pest in the Kimberley districts of Western Australia, and in the Northern Territory?
– On the 14th May last a letter was sent by the Prime Minister to the Premier, Western Australia, asking him to state whether his Government is willing to contribute towards the cost of the proposed investigations. As soon as a reply is received the matter will be considered with a view to initiating investigations immediately.
CABLEGRAM RATES. i Mr. FENTON (for Mr. F. McDonald) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Reductions: Deputy Commissioner at Brisbane.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. FENTON (for Mr. Forde) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What has delayed the filling of the vacancy in the ordinary course of administration ? !). In view of the fact that the yearly expenditure in Queensland on invalid and oldage pensions amounts to approximately threequarters of a million pounds, together with roughly £100,000 for maternity allowances, does the Government consider -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow :: -
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House copies of the cables exchanged between the British and Commonwealth Governments during December, 191G, and January, 1917, relative ‘to payments for wool?
– I shall take an early opportunity of looking into this correspondence with a view to meeting the wishes of the honorable member if possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - . 1. If, in view of the statements reported to have been made by Lady Stradbroke and other citizens, that Australia is not getting the best class of immigrants, will he make inquiries with a view to improving the system now in vogue sA Australia House?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
missal of Me. Moorehouse
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When will Colonel Ainsworth’s report on Native Affairs in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea be made available to honorable members for their perusal?
– Colonel Ainsworth has not yet completed the writing up of his report. It will, however, be made available at the earliest possible moment after it has been received and considered by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– Certain charges have been laid against Mr. Moorehouse by the Administrator of New Guinea, but no advice has yet been received as to the outcome thereof. Information in regard to the matter will be obtained from the Administrator and furnished to the honorable member.
Waterside Employees v. Shipowners.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sir Adrian Knox has not acted in the capacity of Arbitrator in any such case. Reference to the records of the High Court shows that there were two cases in which the Water-, side Workers’ Federation was concerned -
An application for an injunction heard at the last sittings of the High Court in Sydney; and
A counter application for prohibition and certiorari heard at the last sittings of the Court in Melbourne. In both cases Sir Adrian Knox presided in the Full Court as Chief Justice, and judgment was reserved and is now pending.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Government’s decision on the question of a scheme for the stabilization of the dairying industry?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Relations with Amalgamated Wireless Limited.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the House a detailed list of the various and different amounts of the duties paid on foreignmanufactured articles imported into Australia by the Australectric Company Limited during the past three years, and the country of origin of the said articles?
– It would be entirely contrary to the long established and proper practice of the Customs Department if the transactions of individual importers as revealed by their Customs entries were disclosed. All entries are treated as entirely confidential as between the importer and the department, and disclosure of the importer’s business transactions would be improper and unfair. It is regretted, therefore, that on these grounds the honorable members request cannot be complied with.
Mr. WEST (for Mr. Lambert) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Arising out of the answers given to questions with regard to the relations existing between the Amalgamated Wireless Limited and the Australectric Limited, and in view of the large sum of public money involved, will ho state for the information of the Blouse -
Docs the £30,000 invested by the Governmentcontrolled Amalgamated Wireless Limited in the Australectric Company give the Government control of the latter company?
Who are the directors of the Amalgamated Wireless Limited?
Who are the directors of the Australectric Limited 1
Who is the managing director of the Amalgamated ‘Wireless Limited, and what is the salary paid to him by that company?
Who is the managing director of the
Australectric Limited, and what is the salary paid to him by that company?
– I shall have inquiries made, and advise the honorable member of the result as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that on Thursday, 3rd July, li924, the following resolution was carried unanimously by this House: - “ (1) That, in the opinion of this House, the question of amending the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, to provide for the payment of a destitute allowance be referred to the Royal Commission .that is inquiring into National Insurance for report; this House is of opinion that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended in order to provide for a destitute allowance to be made to all inhabitants who are destitute so that any person making a statutory declaration (to a Postmaster, Customs officer, or other appointed Commonwealth ‘official, a schoolmaster, a union secretary, a magistrate, or other1 appointed individual) that he or she is insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered, shall he paid as soon as possible the sum of 15s. per week, and for each child, 10s. per week,, until relieved. week “ (2) That the passing of the foregoing resolution be an instruction to the Government of the Commonwealth to bring in the necessary Amending Act”-
Has the Prime Minister taken the necessary steps to refer this matter to the Royal Commission; if not, will he state the reason why, and when does he intend to carry out the instructions of this House?
– The necessary action is being taken to extend the scope of the inquiry by the royal commission on national insurance to give effect to the resolution above quoted, and it is expected that the matter will be finalized in a few days.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Seeing that the Public Service Board, appointed by the Government, was given the power to classify the Public Service, and that its classification of the Mail Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department has apparently caused great dissatisfaction and a storm of protest from the employees -
Is it not a fact that some .time back the Postal Sorters Union applied to the Public Service Arbitrator for an increase of salary and that the Public Service Board opposed such application, ‘and that after hearing the application the Arbitrator granted an increase, and that this increase was not given effect to by the Government on account of Parliament being in recess for many months? 2. (a) Was “the increase given by the Arbitrator, namely, £14 per annum, oh the maximum salary being paid at that time; (6) did the Public Service Board in their classification reduce the salary awarded by the Arbitrator by various amounts on the different grades, and that such reductions amount to £10 per annum on the maximum salary to a sorter?
Is it a fact that the minimum salary of a sorter was £238 per annum, and the maximum salary was £286 per year with £8 per year increments?
Is it not a fact that the classification of the men mentioned will reduce the salary to £236 as a minimum, and £276 as a maximum?
Is it not also a fact that extraordinary efficiency tests have been introduced to enable officers to reach the maximum salary, and that the board has actually repudiated the decisions of the Arbitrator?
Is the Minister prepared to give effect to the decisions of the Arbitrator in respect to his award as regards salary and other conditions mentioned, and to carry out his decisions as made generally, and to make such salary -and conditions retrospective to the date on which the Arbitrator made his award, with due consideration, for the sick leave regulations as altered by regulation, which very much reduce and curtail this privilege?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 16th July (vide page 2150), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time..
Upon which Mr. Anstey had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “ That “ the following words be inserted : - “ as efforts are being made by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain to convene another conference to deal with the question of further disarmament, and in view of the early sitting of the League of Nations, it is the opinion of this House that expenditure on naval construction should be deferred for the present.”
.- It is evident that the Government intends to proceed with this measure. The Prime Minister has practically issued a challenge to honorable members on this side respecting the question of defence, and statements have appeared in the press from time to time charging the Labour party with having no interest in the defence of Australia. I remind the Prime Minister that those tactics -will avail him nothing, because when an appeal is made to the electors, the policy of the Labour party in relation to defence will be placed before them, and it will receive their support. If the Government is determined to go on with this proposal, which appears to be the case, the necessary materials should be produced in Australia. As I pointed out last night, the Public
Accounts Committee has considered this question, and its report has been laid on the table, but the Prime Minister, with his multifarious duties, probably has not seen it. It, therefore, devolves upon me to take a few paragraphs from the report and place them before honorable members. Apart from those few persons’ in the community who are Free Traders, very few people in this country are opposed to Australia being made selfcontained. The wisdom of doing so must appeal to every sensible person in the community. Should Australia become involved in a war, we should not then have to send overseas for the necessary materials with which to defend ourselves. In times of peace we should make such preparations as would enable us to defend our shores in the event of hostilities. We on this side are prepared to do that. In the report of the Public Accounts Committee, to which I have referred, the following statement, appears : -
The first step to be taken to secure the manufacture of munitions in Australia .was the establishment of a properly equipped Laboratory and Inspection Department with qua,lined chemists and engineers who would have the necessary knowledge to turn local industries and raw materials- to practical use in time of need. An examination of the principal materials required’ for manufacture disclosed that Australia possessed or could’ manufacture the majority of those most essential, and could therefore look forward to reaching u relatively high degree of self-containment when it had facilities; for turning those materials into articles of specific use” in war.
The Government should take cognizance of that. In another portion of the report the committee points out that the raw materials are obtainable in Australia. Probably very few honorable members are aware of . that fact. The committee states -
Many industries already established in Australia can bo relied upon to provide supplies of necessary raw materials such as coal, iron, steel, copper, zinc, lead, tin, mercury, tungsten, sulphides, sulphuric acid, glycerine, coal byproducts (ammonia, benzine, toluene, and phenol), mineral- oil, timber, cotton, &c.
Although the destruction of our fellow men is not pleasing to contemplate, we must admit the possibility of having to defend ourselves, and should make preparations accordingly. It is to be hoped that the instruments of destruction to the manufacture- of which this £2,500,000 will be applied-, will never be required. It would be far better for us to lose that amount than to engage in warfare.
– Hear, hear!
– Some people contend that if Australia were well equipped with aeroplanes and submarines, surface ships of war would not be required. That question is also referred to in the report of the Public Accounts ‘ Committee -
The question of the manufacture of aeroplanes and aero-engines has not yet been considered in detail by the Munitions Supply Board, but it may be stated that the Board has in stock the majority of the machines required for such work. In this connexion the committee draws attention to the following paragraph from the recommendations it made concerning the local manufacture of aircraft, after having investigated the question of the expenditure on Air Services: - “ Having regard, therefore, to all the circumstances, the committee is of opinion that the best results will be obtained by setting up, in conjunction with a research establishment, a parent government factory, well stocked with the necessary raw materials, pending their ultimate local production, which would be responsible for expel mental and developmental work, and for the organization of engineering works throughout the country, so that in time of emergency the whole strength of Australia’s engineering capacity could be readily turned to the efficient production of Defence requirements.”
After visiting each of the States, and inspecting various governmental and private engineering establishments, the committee found that in many of them machinery capable’ of manufacturing shells, gun carriages, and other implements of war was installed. That was the case in every state, and it now only- requires organization to make those establishments of great value in .the defence of Australia. The expenditure would not be very great and ‘employment would be found for a number of men. ‘ The railway workshops in the different states could be used for this purpose. A large number of expert chemists and engineers are available in this country for the work. I know that during my lifetime I shall see no more war; I have seen enough of it. The prime necessity for war is finance, but the only nations to-day who could finance a war are the United States of America and Japan. The nations on the continent of Europe are as poor as church mice. Australia should prepare herself for defence by organizing factories for the supply of munitions. The Defence Department has not been well treated owing to the demand by Parliament for the curtailment of expenditure^ and the work done by some of the officers has, in consequence, not been so beneficial as it should be. That has not been the fault of the officers. The Small Arms Factory at Lithgow can produce machine guns, and it might also be used for making materials required by the Postal Department, and delicate machinery which, being required only in small quantities, is expensive to manufacture. The Government has very seriously neglected the acetate of lime factory at Brisbane. That may be because the factory competes, to some extent, with private enterprise. If properly encouraged the factory would be of great service to the Commonwealth. “We import about 33,000,0.00 gallons of petrol per annum, but this factory, if extended at a small expense, could manufacture from molasses all the power alcohol we require, of which the Government uses 200,000 gallons a year. The factory also supplies methylated spirit for hospitals. In the Defence Department laboratories we have some of the ablest men in the world. They have been called before the Public Accounts Committee for examination, and have supplied a wealth of information. I was struck by the fact that their hearts and souls were in their ‘work. Being devoted to it, they are very valuable servants to the Commonwealth. My proposals are in accordance with the policy of the party to which I belong. We do not want members of the Australian ‘defence forces to parade the streets in the uniforms of lancers or guards. Some of those uniforms cost as much as the equipment of an Australian regiment. I regret the action of the Government in closing the Geelong Woollen Mills. It made a terrible mistake in doing that, and I do not know that I am not justified in construing its action into direct evidence of insincerity. Those connected with the Navy should be told that there is in Australia material for clothing and equipment equal to anything obtainable in Great Britain. There is need for the cultivation of an Australian sentiment. Why should a midshipman have a uniform made from English cloth costing 28s. a yard ? I wear an overcoat made from Geelong cloth that cost 15s. a yard, and the English cloth cannot be compared with it for utility or beauty. When the next elections come the Labour party will put before the people of Australia a progressive defence policy in accordance with Australian aspirations. We shall call upon the people ‘to support it, and they will- get value for their money. The only political stock-in-trade of honorable members on the other side is defence, but we shall be able to meet them on that subject on the public platforms. When we last had control we created a navy which was owned, controlled, and paid for by the people of Australia. The troops we sent abroad we equipped as no other troops have been equipped. People on the other side of the world thought they were all officers, and inquired where the men were. The people were surprised that soldiers should have so much money. I am confident that. if the people of Australia leave the defence of this country in the hands of the Labour party they will not regret it.
– I consider it my duty to place certain matters before honorable members. The bill is divided into two parts, one relating to the Navy and the other to the defence forces. I assume that the £500,000 referred to in the bill will not be applied to any one of the services, but to ali of them. Some honorable members, notably the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), in opposing the bill, clearly stated that the Labour party was in favour of providing for the defence of this country. Subsequent Opposition speakers, particulalry the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill), pointed to the necessity for a defence force, but unfortunately they have given no indication of their view of the requirements. The honorable member for Wannon said that it was not his duty to make any suggestions, because he was a member of the Opposition. But the defence of Australia is a non-party matter, and it is ridiculous for honorable members to adopt any such attitude. Every honorable member recognizes how much Australia owes to the Labour party for what it has done for our defence. The Right Honorable Andrew Fisher and his colleagues really laid the foundations of the success of the Australian Imperial Force when they passed the Defence Act. I regret, therefore, that honorable members opposite should say that they are under no obligation to make suggestions. I do not think a single member of this Parliament would advocate that we should scrap all our defence equipment and do nothing to protect the country from aggression. We should therefore try to find the most economical and best means for resisting attack. A good deal has been said about whether a cruiser should be constructed in Australia or not, but that matter is not dealt with by the bill. The naval aspect of the measure can be dismissed in a few moments. To-day Australia has three or four cruisers which are so nearly obsolete that not a single naval authority would agree to them being sent on active service. Our naval officers will, without exception I think, agree with me when I say it would be a criminal act for any government to let our present cruisers leave the protection of a port to face an approaching enemy whose force included modern cruisers. To do so would be callous murder. The only purpose that our obsolete cruisers can serve before they are scrapped - and I hope that that will take place at an early date - is to train men for service in properly equipped vessels. Whether one regards the speed or the armaments of our cruisers it must be admitted that it is ridiculous to suggest that we should rely upon them for our defence. The only other aspect of naval defence with which I shall deal is the defence of our ports. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) pointed out clearly last night the necessity of protecting our principal ports. They have no protection to-day.
– Do.es the [honorable member think one cruiser will protect ‘ them ?
– The honorable member for Ballarat will have an opportunity later on to tell the House whether or not he made the extraordinary statement in regard to Australian defence that he is alleged to have made some little time ago at Ballarat. I do not for one moment think that any honorable member in his right mind would express such views. We are justified in questioning the mental condition of any one who suggests that there is no ‘ need to make provision for the ‘defence of Australia. It is important that we should provide long-range guns and the equipment for laying naval mines, but at present we are absolutely without anything of the kind, and our ports are practically undefended. If an attack upon
Australia became imminent the majority of our leading defence authorities would advise hoisting the white ‘flag, otherwise Sydney or Newcastle or any other port that was threatened could be totally destroyed. Surrender would be the only possible means of preventing the destruction of our seaboard cities. I shall now discuss the military aspect of the bill. The honorable member for’ Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) said last night that Australia was not only without defence equipment, but also without trained troops. That is true. If the last war demonstrated one thing more clearly than another it was the necessity for sending only trained soldiers into the field. An examination of field hospital records proved that the battalions which suffered most - leaving out of consideration, of course, the cases of men wounded in battle - were those which received the least amount of training. We recognize that training is necessary in civil life. If honorable members of this Parliament were suddenly obliged to do hard physical work there would be many more casualties among them than there would be among the same number of men accustomed to that class of work. Honorable members are not trained for manual labour, and would naturally surfer if they were suddenly compelled to adopt that means of earning a livelihood. The Defence Act makes provision for training our military forces. Section 125 sets out the conditions applicable to the training of different branches of the service. I do not claim to be an authority on military affairs, but I claim to know something about the requirements of’ the army medical corps. Indeed, haying had charge of 400,000 or 500,000 of Australia’s soldiers for four or five years, I feel that it is my duty to acquaint this Parliament of my views on this aspect of the subject. The Defence Act provides that members of the army medical corps shall be trained. Universal recognition is given now to the fact that medical services are of immense value in war time. It may be only a sentimental value in the case of a short war, but in the case of a long war the service becomes absolutely essential. A
Avar could not be maintained for very long without a medical corps. The Defence Act provides that members of the army medical corps shall undergo 119 days camp training, spread over a period o£ seven years, but to-day provision is made for- only twelve days of such training, spread over only two years. The light horse and infantry forces are required, under the Act, to spend 56 days in camp in seven years, but to-day provision is made for only- twelve days’ training in two years. In 1914 over 100,000 men were in training,- but to-day the total- is only 40,000. I say unhesitatingly that our present training arrangements are a travesty. If the Government does not intend to administer the Defence Act properly, it should repeal the measure immediately. The training that our men receive in these days is of very little ‘benefit to them, and certainly does not warrant the huge expenditure that it involves. Honorable members must recognize that it is impossible for us to defend our shores without other help. It would be childish to say that we ever have been, can now, or ever will, be able to defend ourselves against an enemy unless we are- prepared to incur an enormous expenditure. If, for instance, we were to adopt anything like the policy which Japan has adopted we should require to spend hundreds of millions of pounds. I take the case of Japan simply by way of illustration, and not because we have any ill-will towards her. There is, of course, the racial dislike which members of the white race instinctively feel towards any coloured race, but that is not the result of enmity. It is a natural instinct which is necessary for the preservation of. the .purity of our race.
– r-And it is reciprocated by J Japan.
– That is so. It is a sacred duty of the men of any nation to make provision for the defence of their women and children, but it has been estimated that the absolutely minimum expenditure that would give Australia any hope of protecting herself from aggression would be £50,000,000 a year for ten years. Even then she would have to look to England to train many of her men and build her ships. The expenditure of £500,000,000 would be the absolute minimum necessary to place Australia in a position comparable in war strength with, say, that of Japan. To revert to the subject of our medical service, the records show that in 1914 its total Citizen Force strength- was 210 officers and 1,439 other ranks; to-day it is 193 officers and 859 other ranks. Honorable members may say that there are plenty of qualified medical practitioners in Australia who would be available for active service, but I must point out to them that effective medical service on the field of battle is dependent upon a reasonable knowledge of military organization. A medical practitioner may be thoroughly qualified to practise in civilian life, and yet be quite incompetent on the field. I say, without hesitation, that a medical man who has had a year of active military service is worth two, or even three, who have had no such experience.
-. - Why should that be?
– Because of his knowledge of the necessary medical organization. To give a simple illustration. Previous to 1911 it was estimated that on active service for each casualty admitted to hospital 25 would be admitted for -disease-, and that for one death from wounds there would be five from disease. In the Australian Imperial Force, however, the position was’ utterly reversed, there being approximately ten deaths .in action or from wounds to every one from any other cause. There was an enormous amount to be learned in connexion with medical organization. Another interesting feature of defence is man power. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) referred to this matter yesterday. if we take the present war organization for defence, there are five infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions. Our armed troops, roughly, would number 200,000, and in reserve we should require to have another 200,000. That is 400,000 men for our army alone. We do not possess in Australia to-day 400,000 able-bodied physically and mentally-fit men between the ages of 19 and 35. The returns show that in Australia to-day there are 761,000 men between these ages, which are the ages fixed for active service all over the world. Fifty per cent, of Australians between th03e ages to-day are unfit for active service. This is a matter of the gravest importance to Australia. I may be asked what data there are to support this statement. The only data are those supplied by a partial stock-talcing of the manhood of Australia. During the war 386,000 men were examined, and of these 33.9 per cent, were found to be medically unfit. If we take the second stock-talcing, after the proclamation in 1916, under which only single men between the ages of 25 and 35, inclusive, were called up, I find that of 19*1,000 who answered the call, nearly 42 per cent, were unfit. The only other data we have for estimating the. health of the nation is obtained in connexion with enrolment in the Citizen Forces. Of all the boys born in this country in 1903, 21,000 have been called up for training, and of that number 13.6 per cent, have been found to be unfit for transfer to the Citizen Forces, although it was recognized, and an order was issued by the chief of the medical service, that all boys were to be passed into the Citizen Forces whom it was considered that physical training would benefit. These figures disclose an appalling state of affairs.
– They show that more attention should be paid to matters of public health.
– They show that the attention of every member of this House should be directed to what is really one of the most important questions facing us to-day. I bring it up incidentally because I try by every means I can to thrust this question upon the notice of the House. I should like to point out that it has been neglected equally by all parties. Nothing has been done. We have been perfectly satisfied to complain that the medical examination was too strict, or that the conditions under which men would be accepted were too strict. Honorable members must be aware that at a certain stage of the war there was very great laxity in the acceptance of m.en for active service who were not physically fit. -If that were not so, from 16,000 to 20,000 men could not have got to the other side of the water, and when they came under my care be found, after medical examination, unfit for service in France.
– Almost anybody was accepted at that time.
– I agree with the honorable member. There were over 16,000 “Cook’s tourists” who should never have left this country. However willing and anxious they were “ to do their bit,” they were not fit physically to take part in the strenuous business of modern warfare
– They were passed by medical men, and now when they develop tuberculosis or other diseases, it is contended that their incapacity is not due to war service.
– I remind the honorable member that action has been taken for the appointment of a royal commission to deal with cases which he and I regard as cases of gross injustice. I shall press upon the Prime Minister with, all the energy I possess the necessity for pushing on as far as possible with this defence policy. I appeal to honorable members opposite that it .is not only one, two, three, four,- or five cruisers that we require, but a concrete policy of defence covering a period of ten years. The defence of this country is to honorable members of both sides a sacred matter. A defence policy should be laid down, after consultation between both sides, and it should be one to be followed for a period of ten years, no matter which party might have the privilege or suffer the drawback of having to sit on this side during that time. I shall not accept from the Prime Minister on this occasion the excuse always given,, that money is not available, because whatever may be necessary for the purpose should be spent to uphold our ideals. I ask honorable members on both Sides, whether the main ideal of Australia, and that for which we have fought, is not the purity of our race. I ask, further, whether we could maintain it for one second if it were not for the protection of the British navy. Were we not under the aegis of the British navy, Japan could say to us to-morrow, “ We are going to send a certain number of our people to Australia. We shall not flood you with 100,000 in the first year, but we shall send so many’ each year until we are satisfied that they are well settled, and then we shall continue to send more and more.” We should not surrender that great ideal for which we have fought, and which we are realizing to-day. Every man who has been in any country in which there is a mixture of whites and blacks or whites and yellows, must have clearly recognized the very great evils to which it gives rise. The disadvantages under which for this reason Africa and America are suffering to-day are nothing to what those countries will have to face within the next 100 years. T.t is appalling to contemplate the strife that must occur there between black and white. Therefore, I say that every, member of this House should recognize that the only possible means of upholding our ideals, first of a white nation, and secondly of a high standard of living which should make Australia the most healthy country in the world, is an adequate defence policy. In view of our system of housing, clothing, and climate, this ought to be, though unfortunately it. is not, the healthiest country in the world. I would not favour the remission of one penny of taxation, and particularly of income taxation, which I consider should every year be expended for the defence of the country, the adequate protection of our women and children, and the maintenance of the ideals for which we stand.
.- I should first of all like to make a few references to the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse). The honorable member made a very fine speech from one standpoint. He has indicted the Government he is supporting. He has referred to the percentage of unfit in this country. We have made proposals to reduce the number of the unfit in Australia. The Government which the honorable member supports has not dealt with the matter in any way. The honorable member has, I think, let th* cat out of the bag from the defence stand-point. We learn from him that the proposal is not to construct one cruiser or to spend £4,000,000 a year. He says that the proposal is to spend £50,000,000 a year for a period of ten years.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– Then I could not have heard exactly what the honorable member did say.
– I said that if we wished to be in a position to defend ourselves, without the assistance of the British Empire, we would require such an expenditure.
– I have no wish to misrepresent the honorable member, but I thought he said quite definitely that if we were to be in a position to defend our selves at the end of ten years” it would cost us £50,000,000 a year.
– That i3 so.
– I want to ask honorable members who support the proposal for the building of two or three cruisers if they are prepared to advocate the spending of £50,000,000 a year for defence purposes. When the people understand what lies behind this proposal there will not be very much support for it in the country districts. We on this side have no hesitancy in declaring our policy. The Labour party has never been backward in declaring its policy on any big public question. It has been in existence for only 25 years, and though its policy on every big question that has arisen has been sneered at and treated with contempt, time has in connexion with every one of those great questions vindicated the attitude adopted by the Labour party. For instance, on the question of conscription, hardly one man can be found who will stand on a public platform to-day and say that the Labour party was wrong when it fought against conscripting the youth of this country. Nearly every member of the Nationalist and Country parties has to apologize when he speaks from a public platform to-day for condemning the action of the Labour party in connexion with’ that question. The Labour party declares its opinions, troubling not whether they clash with the popular feeling of the day. We first ascertain whether they are true in principle, and if so, we are prepared, if necessary, to go down in the fight in defence of them. We owe a duty to the people to advocate what we believe to be right. The honorable member for Calare evidently does not know that the Labour party has upon its platform the abolition of the training of the youth of this country. If we win at the next elections one of our first actions will be to put this into operation. By doing so, we shall be carrying out the wishes of the Nationalists themselves. During the war the National party stated on the public platform that it was a war to end war, and that there would never be another war. Circumstances have changed since 1913. This is the only Parliament in the British dominions that is wasting time by talking about defence. South Africa is spending very little money in this direction, and Canada, the other day, told Admiral Field to mind his own business, as his advice was not wanted. Owing to the advent to power of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour party in Great Britain a complete change has taken place throughout Europe. The refusal by us to build the proposed cruisers would create, in the Pacific, just as good an impression as was created in Europe when Mr. Ramsay MacDonald refused to build aeroplanes and submarines.
– The British Government is building aeroplanes and submarines.
– That Government is only replacing two or three cruisers under very peculiar circumstances. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald came into power under circumstances somewhat similar to those under which the Labour party gained office in Tasmania. The Nationalists, Liberals and Conservatives admitted that they could not govern Tasmania, and they called in the aid of the Labour party, saying, “ For God’s sake get us out of our muddle.” The same thing happened in Great Britain. The warmongers of that country had got its affairs into a serious position, and could not find a way out of their difficulty, so Mr. Ramsay MacDonald was asked to form a Ministry. In France, at that time, the militarist class was in power, and would have continued in office had Mr. Ramsay MacDonald proceeded on the lines adopted by his predecessors. But the British Prime Minister appealed to the peasantry of France, and to the industrialists and the workers - :and the almost inconceivable happened. No one believed that the militarist government of France ran the slightest risk of defeat. It traded on the feeling for revenge and the humbling of the Germans, demanding its pound of flesh, and it seemed as if the French people were supporting that policy right up to the hilt. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald put forward a new proposition to bring about the peace of Europe, and his appeal went over the heads of the politicians and sank into the hearts of the men and women of France. When the elections were held,, the militarist class was defeated, and conditions are now much better in Europe than ever before. They are better, not because those European countries are building battleships or increasing armaments, but because a new atmosphere has been created almost throughout the world. General Sir Granville Ryrie said : “ You cannot change human nature.” That is the old Tory idea. Human nature changes according to the conditions under which people live. Our conditions are changed to-day. War is inevitable while the capitalist class controls the country. If we were seeking to exploit the mineral resources of, say China, we should certainly need to build many battleships to assist in enforcing our demands. But Great Britain, led by Ramsay MacDonald, refuses to assist the big financial institutions in their desire to rob China or any other unprotected country of its mineral resources. The people of Australia are with the Labour party in its support of the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey). This party’s attitude on defence has been known for some considerable time. Our Leader (Mr. Charlton) has again and again declared that we will not participate in any war outside Australian shores. That was known before the recent elections took place, in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria. Labour Governments have since been formed in three of those states, and even in this Tory State of Victoria, it is possible that tonight a Labour Premier will be in power. The people are tired of war and of continual defence expenditure. We should push forward with social work - the cure of cancer, the relief of the unemployed, and the building of roads to make it possible for more people to settle in this country. These things cannot be clone while millions are being spent on battleships and the establishment of a huge military machine. It is of no use to hurl the charge at the Labour party that it is not prepared to defend Australia. We love Australia just as much as do honorable members opposite. We want to make Australia self:contained, and to build up a virile population. But while millions are being squandered on useless battleship9 that will be sunk a few years after their construction, money will not be available to open up our vast resources and to populate Australia. In Victoria, thousands of returned soldiers have been placed upon the land, but no roads have been made to enable them to take their produce to market. Settlers in Gippsland, during winter time, find it almost impossible to .gain access to the small towns in the district. Prom a defence point of view, it would be a much saner policy to spend millions on the construction of good roads, in order to encourage men to settle on the land. From 1915 to 1924 approximately 34,000 additional settlers were placed on the land in Victoria, yet to-day only 1,100 of those remain there. This is due, not only to land monopoly, but also to the difficult conditions under which the settlers live. The Labour party has always said that if a vigorous policy of land settlement were carried out, and railways and good roads constructed to enable produce to be taken to market, the right class of settler would ;be attracted from abroad. Only by such means shall we build up a virile and energetic population, and have a country worth fighting for. Yet in the twentieth century we talk about building battleships, while to-night thousands of men will not have sufficient to eat. In Ballarat there are from 300 to 500 married men out of work. I ask honorable members opposite to tell me where work can be obtained. I aim in hearty accord with the amendment proposed by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. I believe that there can be evolved a system of defence that will be beneficial ‘to this country, but it will never emanate from this Government. Only a year or two ago the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and every member of the Country party, was crying out for . retrenchment in the Defence Department. Every one of them voted to compel the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes): to retrench to the extent of £1,000,000 per annum. I have no faith in any Government that talks about the defence of Australia, when it has already parted with the main essentials for defence. It was said by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that it was hard to distinguish Australian privates from officers; because of the good material with which they were clothed. There is a good deal of truth in that statement. For that benefit we had to thank the Geelong mills when controlled by the Commonwealth. One of the first essentials for the defence of Australia is the provision of suitable uniforms for troops.
What’ hypocrisy it is to talk about defending Australia when one of the most important factors in our defence has been destroyed. Our troops at the late war were clothed better than were any other troops, our uniforms being infinitely superior to those supplied by Great Britain or any of the other dominions. Although we were justly proud of that fact, it did not prevent the Government from disposing of the woollen mills to their friends. The Commonwealth owned a harness factory. In war time it is essential to have service and ammunition waggons drawn by horses; for which harness must be provided. Yet the means of making harness have been deliberately curtailed. Honorable members opposite advocate the construction of cruisers, not to help in Australia’s defence, but to participate in any future imperialistic aggression. The Labour party is fortified by the fact that there is in England to-day a great movement to prevent imperialistic aggression. When Lloyd George almost brought about war with both Soviet Russia and Turkey, the representatives of the trade unionists assembled and told him that if the Government declared war not one man, ship, or gun would leave Great Britain’s shores. That spirit is abroad in the world to-day. It is not confined to Britain, but is to be found in - the hearts of many of the Japanese. There is a very strong pacifist movement in Japan. That country has not the slightest desire to embarrass Australia. It proved its loyalty to the British Empire during the five years of war, when it had every opportunity, if not to capture Australia, at least to cause us considerable trouble. Japan honorably carried out to the letter and spirit her alliance with Great Britain. To-day the Japanese have sufficient trouble in their own country to keep them occupied for a considerable time. Most of us know something of the sufferings caused by war. We should be preaching the gospel of peace, and inculcating it in the minds of our children, instead of talking about spending millions of pounds upon the construction of battleships. The honorable member for Calare, in a notable speech in this chamber some time ago, said that approximately one person in every eight who reached the age of 55 years is almost certain to die of cancer. What is this Parliament spending upon research to discover a cure for that dreadful disease ?
– Not a penny.
– Not a penny. Yet the honorable member did not urge the spending of money upon improving the health and social conditions of our people, but advocated the expenditure of £50,000,000 per annum upon instruments of destruction He described eloquently the ravages of the cancer scourge, and said that medical science has not yet been able to discover its cause, but he has not pointed a gun at the Ministry and commanded them to spend £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 in an effort to discover the cause of cancer and its cure. In this twentieth century we might well spend money upon research work of that kind. If we love our country, and desire to make it self-contained, if we are anxious to have a healthy, vigorous population, let us spend money upon developing Australia rather than upon the construction of battleships. If we must have instruments of war to defend the country against aggression, let us manufacture them in Australia, and give an opportunity to our own people to build aeroplanes, which could be used in the commerce of the country, in carrying medical assistance to people living outback, and in giving postal services to remote areas, and 3’et would be readily convertible into instruments of defence should the country be threatened. What we could do with ‘aeroplanes we could do with submarines and other instruments of warfare. But to-day, when the world is talking peace, when, thanks to the efforts of Ramsay MacDonald, the war-dogs of Europe are on the chain, we are pursuing a militarist policy and inciting other nations to become hostile towards Australia. If we let it be known that Australia does not desire to interfere in, any other nation’s affairs, that we do not wish to steal land from anybody, and ask only to be allowed to develop pur country peacefully, I am satisfied that the great influence exerted by Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour party in Europe will extend over Japan and other countries that some members regard as our potential enemies. As a party, we on this side of the House are not troubled by writers like Gullett, who, in this afternoon’s Herald, takes our Acting
Leader (Mr. Anstey) to task for the speech he delivered last night. Gullett was one of the flunkies attending Mr. Hughes when he went to France during the war, and Paris was the nearest they got to the war zone. Of course, those men can always see war looming, but not for themselves. Gullett did not participate as .a combatant during the last war, although he was then a young, athletic man. He was a correspondent, and, the war being over, he is now attempting to intimidate members of the Labour party by attacking their pacifist attitude. In the late war Gullett sheltered behind William Morris Hughes when ho was in France, and then, upon his return to Australia, became one of his deadliest enemies. To-day Gullett is the critic of our party, but I tell him,, as I have told journalists before, that the platform can beat the press every time. We have had victories in the past, in spite of the opposition of the press. To-day our colours are nailed to the mast. We will not take part in any Imperialistic war; we believe that these cruisers are to be constructed only to further the cause of Imperialism. No other country over1 which the Union Jack flies is to-day considering, the squandering of money upon defence. Let Australia fall into line with the other British Dominions.
– What about the British Government’s expenditure on the air defence of London?
– The British Government has reduced the expenditure upon military preparations. The honorable member knows something about fighting, but he knows nothing of British politics. Until the advent of Ramsay MacDonald, British statesmen were concentrating upon preparations for war. There was constant discussion as to how many submarines should be built. Once again the mad race of armaments was commencing, but when Ramsay MacDonald’s Government came into power, a halt was called. In spite of their example, the Commonwealth Government asks the House to enter Australia in another race of armaments. . If we carry out the policy enunciated by the honorable mem.ber for Calare (Sir Neville Howse). this country will be spending £50,000,000 per annum upon naval and military defence. The honorable member suggested also that instead of our lads being in camp for ten days, they should be in camp for three weeks, and that the period of compulsory training should be extended from three years to four years. If he has his way, the defence expenditure will be increased to £100,000,000 per annum. The defence system that the Labour party will institute will give effect to a new principle. We are always told that a vigorous defence policy is a form of national insurance. Very well ; we shall treat defence as insurance, and the expenditure upon it will be paid, not from Consolidated Revenue, but from direct taxation, so that those who have property to insure will be required to pay the premium. When the wealthy classes realize that defence must be paid for by increased direct taxation, there will not be many militarists among them. I sincerely trust that the amendment moved by our Acting Leader will be carried. It does not, I am sorry to say, mean that Australia shall not build more warships; but it does mean a postponement of construction. The reasons stated in support of postponement are convincing. There is a possibility of a conference in the near future to consider a further decrease in armaments. When the Washington Conference was held the military class was in power in France, and its representatives at the conference spoke for the French people. The French delegates would not consent to a reduction of existing submarines, or to a limitation of the building of new ones. They were opposed to a policy of disarmament. But at the next conference the pacifist party in England and France will be represented, and no one can say what will be the .outcome. Honorable members opposite may laugh at our pacific ideals, but I would remind them of an incident that occurred while I was in England. In pursuance of my military duties I had occasion to visit the city of Leicester, which was represented by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who was at that time one of the leaders of the pacifists in Great Britain. While I was there he was stoned out of Leicester, and I believe that if the crowd could have got hold of him he would have been killed because of his pacifist principles. Other men like E. D. Morell were placed in gaol for the very same reason. Only a few years have elapsed, but such has been the change of public opinion that the man who was boycotted and stoned out of Leicester is now Prime Minister of Great Britain, whilst Winston Churchill, the war-monger, who. was responsible for many of the disasters that overtook British troops, has repeatedly failed to win a seat in the House of Commons. And the chief war -monger of all, Horatio Bottomley, the owner of John Bull, who sooled on the troops, and said that they should not stop till- they reached Berlin, is in . gaol, with a good many others who used the war for the purpose of malting profits for themselves - - men who, while they f focussed the .people’s attention upon the fields of Flanders, were rifling the pockets of the workers. Despite the hostility of the press and the influence of Bottomley and Churchill, many public men who kept the flag of pacifism flying during the years of war are to-day in the House of Commons where their leader is Prime Minister. Bearing in mind the change that has occurred in the public opinion of other countries during recent years, I appeal to this House not to hastily sanction the construction of even one cruiser at the cost of £2,500,000. Within two or three months another disarmament conference may decide in favour of further retrenchment of the naval and military services of all nations, and against the building of more warships. At any rate I sincerely hope that it will do so.
– And if it does not?
– It will be very foolish; but I have not much doubt but that the conference will decide wisely. Upon this matter I speak feelingly. I did not see much of the war, for I was in France for only about three months, but what I did see was too much.
– Was the honorable member, a pacifist then?
– I was an anticonscriptionist at any rate, and what I saw of the horrors of war made me glad to get out of France. Why the honorable member for Richmond, who suffered considerably during the war, is not a pacifist I cannot understand. And the honorable member for Calare, who to my personal knowledge did splendid work, and was highly esteemed because of the valuable medical services he rendered, and - who, because of his work, saw more than most people of the miseries of war, should be to-day pleading the cause of pacifism from his seat in this House, and inculcating in the minds of the people the idea of peace, instead of advocating the building of warships. History teaches us that the more a nation prepares for war, the more certain it is to be embroiled in war. That is proved by the fate that overtook Germany, France, and the other countries of Europe that armed themselves, ostensibly for defence. “We on this side of the House are preaching the new gospel that has been promulgated during the last twenty years, and are appealing for the co-operation of the men and women who suffered during the late war. The classes whom Ministerialists represent are not those that suffer most from war. Those who produced wheat made great profits out of the war. Very few Flinders-lane merchants, manufacturers, or wool kings of this country suffered because of the war. Many of them, because of the increased profits obtainable in war time, would gladly see another war ; but we, who represent the dependants of those who died or were wounded - the fathers and mothers and sweethearts who are suffering to-day because of what happened during that awful time - are determined that not by our aid shall another war be brought upon the British Empire. In our humble way we are endeavouring to educate public opinion in the direction of peace. We hope to carry this resolution to postpone the building of these cruisers, and thus to assist the great pacifist movement.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Honorable members will, I feel certain, accept my assurance that I did not say, or intend to say, what was attributed to me by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), namely, that I advocated the expenditure of £50,000,000 a year by Australia for defence purposes. I thought that I had made myself perfectly clear when I said that if Australia was placed in the position of having to defend herself against an enemy, and was not under the protection of the British navy, she would have to spend, at a very low estimate, the sum of £50,000,000 a year for ten years.
.- I am in full sympathy with the object of this bill. Like other speakers, I regard the expenditure which will be incurred in connexion with the building of two cruisers as a necessary insurance premium for the safety of this country. All in surance premiums are paid with reluctance, but when we pay them we endeavour to obtain as much cover as possible. Although we may get no return from the expenditure, an insurance premium may stand us in good stead in the event of an accident occurring. That is the real position in which Australia finds herself to-day. I Was pleased to learn that the Government had decided to order the first vessel from England. I hope that the second vessel will also be built there. With the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) I agree, but not with those of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath).
– Does the honorable member not believe in the lofty sentiments which he expressed?
– I agree with him in his reference to the importance of making good roads in Australia.
– Yet the honorable member would have cruisers built outside Australia.
– It has been contended that these vessels should be built at Cockatoo Island. The Prime Minister has informed us that they could be purchased in England for about £1,900,000 each, aud that, while the price at which they could be built in Australia had not been definitely ascertained, it was estimated that to build them at Cockatoo Island would cost about £3,000,000 each. If the vessels are purchased from England we shall have £2,200,000 to spare, as compared with the cost of building them in Australia. That amount, if expended in the construction of roads in Australia, would employ just as much labour as would be needed for the construction of the cruisers. Thus we should get the necessary measure of insurance for which we are seeking, and, in addition, 750 miles of good roads. Australia is not so strong financially that she can afford to throw away 750 miles of good roads, nor is she in a position to neglect her defences. Or we could build a suitable floating dock with the money saved. The proposal to build two cruisers of 10,000 tons each is a moderate form of defence. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), said that Japan would become alarmed when she saw Australia building two cruisers, and would regard it as an offensive action.
– The honorable member is wrong in saying that.
– I wonder to what extent the honorable member was offended by the action of Japan in taxing her people to the extent of 40 per cent, of their incomes for defence purposes.
– In my speech I did not mention Japan.
– In the economic stand she has taken, Japan has adopted a wiser attitude than we have. Ernest Fayle writing in Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual, said -
Moreover, the reactions of shipping on policy are at least as important as the reactions of policy on shipping. More than any other industry, shipping brings nations into contact. It is the ships that make possible that everwidening stream of intercourse which should be the surest guarantee. of the peace of the world. At the same time, and as a necessary corollary, the problems of shipping - navigational restrictions, flag discrimination, jurisdiction in territorial waters^- are particularly fertile in occasions of international friction.
Honorable members -of the Opposition have not. shown a generous spirit in the restrictional laws that they have been prepared to pass. Sir George Knibbs, in an address before the University Public Questions Society, recently said -
Within the time of man’s habitation of the earth the length of human life had been greatly increased. Also, many inroads’ had been made upon the natural resources of the earth. Ko matter what advances were achieved by science, the maximum population which the world could support was less than five times the present number. Those facts, however, should not discourage the aim to more adequately populate the Commonwealth. Japan was a remarkable modern example. No other country could do what Japan had done. That land was taxed to the uttermost, and the standard of living was frugal. The Japanese, however, had rejected birth control as a solution of their over-populated condition. The territorial contrast afforded by Australia was startling. A large portion of it was uninhabited, and most of it was economically undeveloped. We were trying to keep our land for a population which averaged two for each square mile.
It is less even than that. Sir George Knibbs continued -
The only means to make Australia tenable was by rapidly increasing its population. A decision must be made between large numbers, with a modest standard of living, and a few people with a lavish standard.
Recently, an Australian vessel was sold to the Japanese nation. We were glad to get rid of her, as she was in need of repair. The friction then caused by. the representatives of the people sitting in opposition to-day was enough almost to create an international war. Yet those same representatives now speak of peace. The pacifist who last addressed this House (Mr. McGrath) spoke in a most blood-thirsty manner, calculated to incite bad feeling within the country, to say nothing of the international friction it might cause. The honorable member said that he believed in Australia being made selfcontained. He cannot ‘show one example of a country where that condition obtains; yet he expects this huge continent, containing but a handful of people, to be self-contained. He wants us to live on a lavish scale, which the ex-statistician of Australia has told us is incompatible with a big population. Australia is not increasing her population in the same ratio as other countries are doing. If Japan should demonstrate to the League of Nations that she has over 100 people to every square mile of territory, compared with less than two persons to the same area in Australia, how would it be possible for that assembly, composed of honorable men, to declare for Australia ? It is useless to set up’ standards, while making no effort to provide a sufficient population to defend our shores. If we are not prepared to defend ourselves from attack, we must submit our case to the League of Nations, in which case I cannot see that Australia will be’ able to show that she is entitled to hold this continent for her present population. I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), that we should indeed be grateful to the British Navy. If it were not for the reliance which we know we can place in the Navy, two cruisers would be altogether insufficient protection for Australia. It is our duty to co-operate with the British Navy in the defence of the Empire. The building of two cruisers is a modest contribution to that end.- 1 desire to emphasize the point that
Ave should not pay as an insurance premium more than we can afford, if it would mean leaving insufficient money at our disposal for the peaceful development of Australia. I agree with the statements of the honorable member for Ballarat regarding the importance of roads to Australia. They are useful both for the development of the country in time of peace, and for defence purposes in time of war. But we should think- twice before we endeavour to build ships here, when we can purchase them in other countries at a much lower cost. I am satisfied that, at the moment, no nation desires to attack Australia. But ours is a beautiful country, and, as we have not effectively occupied it, there is a danger that the sense of justice of some of the peoples who are being crowded out of their own countries may lead them to think that we are nob entitled to hold it. 1 hope this Parliament will supply this country with the means of defence that international relations indicate we should have. At every opportunity it should announce its earnest intention to cooperate with all nations that desire to have peaceful relations with us, and to assist them to promote the peace of the world:.
– I am pleased to have an opportunity -to identify myself with the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey). I do so for several reasons. The first reason is that there is a world-wide movement in favour of the holding of another disarmament conference. The President of the United States has agreed to call such a conference, the Prime Minister of Great. Britain will co-operate with him, and the Japanese. Government has acceded to a request to be represented. Australia is sending a delegation of four representatives to the Geneva Conference. The purpose of the League of Nations is to bring about international peace and harmony, but, before our delegation has left these shores, Parliament is asked to sanction the building of two large cruisers at a cost of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. Parliament would be acting wisely to refrain from building them until the result of the forthcoming conference is known. What happened after the Washington Conference? Large battleships of the third class were scrapped. There was a strong difference of opinion at the conference, and there is a difference of opinion to-day among naval experts, regarding the utility of large battleships. It is. claimed by some that the day of the battleship is gone, but the next largest thing that has been built is the 10,000-ton cruiser. It is quite feasible that as a result of experience and the decisions of the forthcoming conference, the size of cruisers will be reduced, in which event, we should only be wasting our money in building that type of vessel at the present time. I and the party on this side of the House stand for the defence of Australia.
– In what way?
– In various ways that I shall explain to the honorable member. There is no doubt that members of this House stand for the defence of this country. We should not be worthy representatives of the people 6f Australia if we were not prepared to take steps to defend this country. There was once a belief that larger battleships meant more security, but during the great war, large battleships could not go out of port unless they were surrounded by a fleet of destroyers, and accompanied by aeroplanes. If a submarine got within range, a battleship worth , £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, and “ thousands of lives, might, be lost. The battleship has become a very difficult and dangerous thing to handle. I do not take much notice of what naval experts say. We have- brought admirals to this country to report on naval bases. They commended the Flinders naval base and the Henderson naval base sites, and when some of us had the temerity to criticize their proposals, the Government said, “ We are acting on experts’ reports.” We have found out to our sorrow, and to our cost, that both the recommendations were wrong: Millions of pounds have been wasted, because the experts ‘recommended something that could not be done. The advice; one gets regarding the building of a house depends on where the advice is sought. If I consult a carpenter regarding the best type of house, he will tell me that a wooden house is healthy, suitable, and cheap. If I speak to a bricklayer, he will tell me that I cannot get better than a brick house, because it will not need painting, and w5U be more durable than wood. A bootmaker is always ready to declare that “ there is nothing like leather.” just as the naval expert says there is nothing like a strong navy, with plenty of big! battleships. The kind of advice received depends upon the point of view of the man who gives it. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) said last night that the Government had secured the best expert advice. He did not say who the experts were, but he said a conference of them was held twelve months ago. Great changes have taken’ place since then. Experts favoured the construction of the Singapore naval base, and advocated the replacement of certain British ships. The Singapore base has not been authorized, and the ships have not been replaced, because other experts advised otherwise. As a result of the conference shortly to be held, there will, I believe, be a further reduction in armaments. As we are the custodians of the public purse, we should wait for the result of that conference before passing this bill. What shall we lose by delay? Has the Commonwealth any enemies that are likely to attack it? I can see none, and I am quite confident that if the question was put to the people of this country their reply would be, “ Hold your hand.” The Government has not been urged by the people to construct these two cruisers. Members of the Labour party have been accused of “going slow on the job,” and, in reply to that taunt, I direct attention to the circumstances surrounding the proposal made by the Cook party in 1910 to give a battleship to the British Government.Because members of the Labour party opposed that proposal they were told, “ You are disloyal. You are against the Empire, and you are not worthy to represent the people of this country.” But what did we do ? We started the nucleus of an Australian navy, and we still stand by that navy. We are not proposing to scrap it. The bill proposes to construct two cruisers of 10,000 tons each to replace the Sydney and the Melbourne. The tonnage of each of the two ships that are to be replaced is only 5,400, which is very much less than the tonnage of the proposed cruisers. I do not object to providing for the defence of this country, and in certain circumstances to making replacements. But the proposal now is more than the replacement of two ships, because one of the new ships will be as good a3 two of the old ones. The proposal violates the spirit of the Washington Treaty. The British Government has made some replacements, but the recommendation of the experts was far in excess of what that Government did. It is going to build five cruisers, and it gave an assurance that they would be used only for the purpose of replacing cruisers of the same class that had become
Mr. E. Riley. obsolete. The proposal of the Commonwealth Government is not the same as .that. It proposes to build two cruisers at twice the cost of those they will replace.
– Would the honorable member favour the replacement of the Melbourne and the Sydney with two vessels of the same size?
– -I should not have so much objection to that. If I were asked for my opinion I should say, build two more “ Bay “ liners. The “ Bay “ liners are built to carry guns, and can protect themselves. No raider can successfully attack them. If we want to carry produce overseas and protect our trade routes, the “ Bay “ liners can do it quite as effectively as other ships escorted by the Sydney and the’ Melbourne. By building such ships we should prevent the stagnation of markets in time of war. The Australia, a third class battleship, was recently sunk, but a third class ship is better than no ship. Notwithstanding that she would have been serviceable for a number- of years, . for her guns were up to date, we sank her. Having done that, we now propose to spend £5,000,000 to build, two more warships. I have never been able to understand why three large new guns were taken from Garden Island and sunk with the Australia. They had not fired a shot. We might have mounted them at Port Phillip or Sydney Heads, or at Newcastle, and they would have been serviceable in defending this country. I do not know what advice the Government acted upon in that instance.
– It acted in accordance with the Washington Treaty.
– The Washington Treaty had nothing to do with guns. I could understand the sinking of tho guns that were on the ship, but these guns had not been on it. Honorable members on this side contend that the whole system of warfare has changed. Submarines can now be built to travel at 30 miles an hour on the surface, and 18 miles an hour under water, and they have a range of 5,000 miles. In these circumstances we should hesitate before spending our money on large cruisers, which may not be so effective for defence as submarines. The submarine .has come to stay. If we had a number of them in this country no other nation would be likely to attack us. I do not know what other nation would desire to attack ‘ us. We are isolated from the troubles in Europe, and why we should have a nightmare about a possible attack upon us I cannot understand. If it was known that we had some effective, up-to-date submarines, raiders would hesitate to come near our coast. I believe that submarines would be a better protection for us than cruisers. Aeroplanes are also a means of defence. They could be stationed all round the Australian coast, and would be not only more effective, but also less costly, than cruisers. The upkeep of an aeroplane service would be only a third of that of a fleet of cruisers. It is the heavy cost of keeping our naval forces afloat that helps to cripple the country. Complaints are almost unceasing about the high cost of living, but we shall not reduce living expenses until we reduce taxation. Manufacturers and merchants generally pass their taxes on to the consumers, and they will continue to do so.
– I am glad that honorable members opposite are beginning to realize that.
– We have realized it for a long while. It is time that the Government did something to lighten the heavy burden of our war indebtedness. Reduced taxation would lead to a reduction in the cost of living. The Labour party has a definite defence policy, in pursuance .of which it established and equipped the small arms factory at Lithgow. At one period Is, 100 men were employed there, but now the total is a paltry 200.
– That factory was established at a time when there was no immediate expectation of war.
– There have never been 1,100 men working there except in war time.
– The factory is equipped with sufficient up-to-date machinery to manufacture field guns and other defence requirements, and the Labour party contends that it should be used for that purpose. Skilled mechanics are also available to do the work. Instead of adopting a practical defence policy the Government intends to make a display by building these cruisers to impress Great Britain. In case of an outbreak of war those vessels would not remain in Australian waters but would join the British navy wherever it might be operating. It would be suicidal to keep them here, for, if the British navy were defeated, they would be of no value in protecting us. The Government should adopt the Labour party’s suggestion, and give much more consideration to the provision of submarines and air craft for defence purposes.
– How does the honorable member propose to protect our trade routes £
– The five “Bay” liners have been built to carry guns for their own protection.
– One pop from a big gun would blow them right out of the water. They are not armored.
– They have been strongly built to carry guns, and the Labour party submits that that policy should be continued. Our record of achievements in the defence of Australia is one that we are proud of.
– The Labour party began to prepare for the defence of Australia before there was any likelihood of war.
– We are prepared to continue our policy, and will do everything possible to defend this country. The Public Works Committee, when I was a member of it, was requested by the Government of the day to report on -the best site for an arsenal in the Federal Capital Territory. It advocated a site on the Murrumbidgee river, where there would be no danger of attack, and where railway facilities were available. A change; of government occurred, however, and, so far as we know, that report has never been given any consideration. Certainly neither this nor the previous Government has shown any anxiety to establish an arsenal for the manufacture of guns and ammunition.
– The Government is doing something at Maribyrnong.
– I admit that. It is quite an open question whether naval defences will meet Australia’s requirements. The last war clearly demonstrated that the British navy was afraid to leave port unless it had a fleet of small craft to protect it from submarines and mines. The Labour party’s view is that it would be wise to spend a substantial amount of the money ‘we have available for expenditure on defence in securing a fleet of submarines of the most up-to-date types. To-day we have the advantage of wireless communication and could keep in touch with widely-separated submarines and aircraft, to direct their movements to resist an attack. Two cruisers would be useless to protect our trade routes. That duty could be left to Great Britain, for she has as much interest as we have in keeping the trade routes open. If we provide the vessels to carry our produce overseas, the nations which purchase it should be willing to keep the trade routes open. We have trade routes to China, Japan, the Pacific islands, Great Britain, and the United States of America. Can it be contended seriously that two cruisers could do anything effectively to protect them all ? We, on this side of the House, do not think so. We are not afraid to submit our defence policy to the electors. We are prepared, and always have been, to defend this country to the last man. That we would do everything possible to resist an invader was proved by the actions of the Labour Government in the last war. The honorable member for Ballarat rightly pointed out that our saddle and harness, clothing, and small arms factories, which are absolutely essential elements in providing for the defence of the country, have been either closed down or starved by this Government. Apparently it is more- important, from the” point of view of the Government, to indulge in this little bit of cruiser play to make a demonstration to Great Britain than to do anything really practical. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that these cruisers could be built more cheaply in Great Britain than in Australia, and that therefore the work should be done there. If the desire for cheapness is to decide where they shall be built, why not give the work to Japan, for she would do it much more cheaply than even Great Britain? Honorable members opposite complain that Australia’s population is not increasing as rapidly as is desirable. .How can it increase when we send out of the country work which, if done here, would make possible .a larger population ? Australia is ‘ not quite so helpless from a defence point of view as some honorable members would have us believe. She is, as a matter of fact, better prepared for war than she has ever been, on account of the gift of guns, aeroplanes, and other equipment made to her by the British Government. We have practically a trained army available, for 300,000 or 400,000 of the men who went to the war would quickly answer a call to arms if Australia were threatened with invasion. We also have trained officers who are not likely to stand idly by while an enemy lands on our shores. The question asked by the Acting Leader of the Opposition as to who the enemy is that we must prepare to fight has never been answered. It has been suggested that it may be Japan. But she seems to have her hands full with the American situation at present. If Japan and America were to go to war against each other, Australia would not be called into the conflict. We have nothing to fear from Japan. I should like to pay my meed of praise to the Japanese for their splendid efforts during the war. The two Japanese cruisers which were here in the war period, when thousands of our men. were leaving for the war zone, could have made an effective demonstration against us if they had so desired, but so far from doing that, Japan adhered to the) very letter of her agreement with Great Britain, and did everything possible to assist the allied- cause. It is an insult to Japan for any member of this House to say that she is a likely enemy of Australia. We have no quarrel with the Japanese. We are on the best of terms with them. The Government’s policy in respect to’ these two cruisers does not commend itself to the Labour party in any way. It is not only proposed that these vessels shall be built, but that’ the people who will have to pay for them shall not be employed to build them. It is suggested that we should have to import skilled labour if the work were done here. That would be absolutely unnecessary. The cruiser Adelaide, which is now overseas with the British navy, is admittedly one of the finest vessels of her class in the. world, and she was completely built in Australia by Australian labour, and is a monument to the skill of our artisans. We have built other ships which have stood the test of time, and. demonstrated the quality of our workmanship. It is true that we may have to import some of the -material for these vessels if we decide to build them in Australia, but a shipbuilder who has had 30 years’ experience on the Clyde, informed me recently that the cost of purchasing and bringing it to Australia would not be more than £30,000. Even if the cost of building the cruisers in Australia were - twice what it would be if they were built in England, it has to be remembered that the money would circulate here, for the great bulk of it would be paid as wages to our own workmen. It would be spent in food and clothing, and the expenditure would benefit the general community. I trust that the Government will not persist in its proposal to insult the Australian people by having these ships built abroad.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I have said that the construction of the cruisers should be delayed. We are represented on the League of Nations, whose main object is to bring about peace on earth and goodwill towards men. We know that a movement is on foot to bring about another disarmament conference in the United States of America. The last Washington conference led to the scrapping of a good many old battleships, and prevented the building of a number of new ships. We have just decided to send representatives to a conference of the League of Nations, and they will occupy a very peculiar position if, while they are on their way to the conference, this Parliament passes a bill for the construction of two 10,000-ton cruisers, at a cost of £4,000,000. If, at the conference our delegates suggest further disarmament and the putting of an end to racial hatreds, a delegate from some other nation may ask them whether it is not a fact that the Australian Parliament, which they represent, has passed a bill for the purpose of constructing two of the largest cruisers that can be built under the Washington Treaty.
– Why did the Labour Government in England commence the construction of five cruisers?
– The Labour Government in Great Britain has not carried out the policy of the Baldwin Government, which it succeeded. It has submitted a policy of replacement only. Honorable members on this side are not against the policy of replacement. The Government proposes . to replace the cruisers Melbourne and Sydney, which are only 5,000-ton vessels, with 10,000-ton cruisers.
– The British Government is also building 10,000-ton cruisers.
– Great Britain is not in the same position as Australia. It is a small island, and the British people must depend upon the navy for their existence. Australia is a continent, and the largest island on the globe. We can be self-contained here because we can produce more than we consume. We need not ba afraid of being starved out. The people of Great Britain could be starved out, and that is why they must have a navy to keep their ports open. No analogy can be drawn between the two countries.
– We are part and parcel of the British Empire.
– Certainly we are; and I hope we shall always remain so.
– Surely the honorable member does not expect the .people of Great Britain to “ carry the baby “ all the time.
– That is a sneer which no one should use against Australia. We have been prepared to shoulder our own responsibilities and to help other parts of the Empire as well. Let the honorable member consider what the last war cost this country in flesh and blood and money. No one can say that Australia did not do its fair share, and more than its share, in the last war. We do not regret what we did, but Ave should not be told that we are asking the people of the Old Country to “ carry the baby.” We have never done so. Great Britain protects the trade routes to this country because it is to her interest to do so,, since she must have the raw materials produced in Australia. Whilst Ave are under a debt of gratitude to Great Britain we recognize that in doing so she is protecting her own interests.
– Have we no trade routes to protect?
– Yes, we have; but it cannot be expected that our population of under 6,000,000 could bear the whole expense of protecting our trade routes. The small population of Australia is paying interest on over £400,000,000 of federal debt alone. Every time a loan has to be renewed the interest charge goes up by 1 per cent, or 1J per cent. We have the nucleus of a navy and we can maintain it in efficiency. We might legitimately spend money on aircraft and submarines, which could be much more cheaply provided than Cruisers. Some time ago I read an article on the aircraft of the United Kingdom. A kind of sham fight was arranged and the aircraft made a demonstration to see whether it would be possible for the air forces to destroy the navy. The British fleet was in the English Channel and’ the aircraft put smoke screens around the ships, and then dropped dummy bombs on the battleships and cruisers. If the fight had been a real one, half the British fleet would have been sent to the bottom of the sea. Aircraft would form one of our strongest arms of defence. Submarines have been so developed that they are more effective than cruisers. To-day submarines are built which can cover 30 knots an hour on the surface, and eighteen knots under water. They have a range of 6,000 miles and carry large guns. A few of these on our coast would be a satisfactory defence provision in view of our small population. We could provide aircraft in addition, and manufacture munitions for land defence. The Labour party stands for equipping a land defence. We have a small arms factory, and munitions factories are in course of completion. The last Washington Conference reduced the size of battleships and decided that no cruiser of over 10,000 tons should be built. The next Washington Conference may reduce the size of vessels that can be built to 5,000 tons. If we now build two cruisers of 10,000 tons each at a cost of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 we may after the next disarmament conference be called upon to scrap them. I think we should willingly do so if other nations were called upon to do the same. One thing the party on this side stands for, is to prevent in the future the slaughter of ‘human life such as took place in the late war. I think that honorable members on both sides have but one opinion on that point. Why should the nations go on manufacturing poisonous gases, ships of war, and other engines of destruction to fight one another? We should all enjoy the good things of the earth. But racial hatreds are promoted by men who hold that we must have armies. One honorable member said that we can never ‘ change human nature; but human nature has changed. Amongst our ancestors there were savages who used to raid each
Mr. E. Riley. other’s land and steal each other’s cattle. If we were followers, as most of us profess to be, of the Great Reformer, the humble carpenter of Nazareth, and believed in peace on earth and good will to all men, we should not hesitate to take our courage in our hands, and say that as far as Australia is concerned we will not flout the will of the League of Nations. The Government proposes that the two cruisers shall be constructed in Great Britain. That is a grave reflection on the people of this country. According to some of the newspapers the two cruisers are to be constructed overseas, and we are to have a dry dock constructed in Sydney. We do not need it. There is a dock there that accommodated the Australia, and another that only last week accommodated a 20,000 ton Orient boat. Are not our people who pay taxes through the customs to be given employment ? We tax our people to build a navy, and yet the Government proposes that these cruisers shall be built overseas. I remind honorable members that the “ Bay “ liners that we had built overseas, after their first trips to Australia had to have their turbines and machinery readjusted at an expense of thousands of pounds. After every trip something has to be spent upon them. I am not advertising Cockatoo dockyard, but giving due credit to Australian workmen for the ships they have built there. The Fordsdale on her first trip averaged 16£ knots an hour.
– How much had to be written off her cost 1
– She cost more undoubtedly than it would have cost to build a similar vessel in the Old Country. Thai was because our standard of living is higher, and we pay double the wages that are paid in the Old Country to shipbuilders. I do not regret that, because the money paid to our workmen goes into circulation in Australia. The Fordsdale made a record trip as a cargo ship, averaging 16^ knots an hour, and she is shortly returning to Australia without having cost anything for repairs. The ships constructed for Australia in the Old Country are the cause of further expense every time they come into port. The ships of war built, in Australia, the Adelaide and Brisbane, are a credit to the skill of the workmen who built them. If these cruisers are built overseas what will become of our skilled shipbuilders? What will be the use of having the cruisers if we have not skilled men to keep them in repair? I venture to say that if these vessels are built overseas they will not be as faithfully builtas they would be in Australia. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) tells us that they would cost double the price if built here, but even if that were so the money would be spent in this country.
– Then, according to the honorable member, if they cost four times as much as they would cost in Great Britain the position would be better still.
– I do not say so. I take a common-sense view of the matter, and I do not go from the sublime to the ridiculous as the honorable member does. The Labour party wishes to delay the construction of the two cruisers, so that the hands of our delegation at the Geneva Conference may be strengthened in an endeavour to bring about a world-wide peace. If we believe in the League of Nations, why should we handicap our delegation by passing a measure authorizing the construction of two 10,000-ton cruisers, the largest type of vessel that may be constructed under the Washington agreement? The building of these two cruisers should be delayed until after the Geneva Conference, so that advantage may be taken of any decision that may there be arrived at. It may be decided that the standard type of cruiser shall be reduced to 5,000 tons or 8,000 tons. The Labour party are not against defending Australia and protecting our trade routes. During the first two years of the war, when the Labour party was in power, we showed beyond doubt that we were prepared to defend Australia by every possible means. It is said that the Labour party has gone slow on the question of defence; but it is time to go slow in view of our heavy taxation and our great national debt. Every country has gone slow in the construction of armaments. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) stated this afternoon that since the war wherever an election has taken place the militarist class has been defeated. France maintained a large army and navy, and her people groaned under the burden. At the last French elections the people returned a Socialist Government, whose doctrine is peace. The same thing has happened in Germany. The militarist class of that country is out of office, and those who were once prominent militarists are to-day sneered at in the streets! and treated by the populace with contempt. The people of Great Britain, when the opportunity arose, turned Lloyd George, with all his pomp, pride, and show, out of office so that the Labour party might control the destinies of that country. The Labour movement has extended throughout Australia. To-day Labour governments are in power in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and, lastly, Victoria. It is a world-wide movement, with high and lofty ideals. Peace on earth and good will towards men is the spirit permeating the. nations of the world. Japan has indicated to the President of the United States of America that it is willing to participate in a conference to consider the question of further disarmament.
– Japan is this year spending £30,000,000 on defence.
– That is regrettable, but is’ no reason why we should follow her example. Surely we have learnt a lesson from the recent war. I remember hearing the members of the Nationalist party say, “Let us put the whole of our energies into this war to end all wars.”
– In 1910 the Labour party formed the Australian Navy when other nations were howling for peace.
– With barely 6,000,000 of people this country cannot face a. large expenditure on defence. The . Government now proposes to have two cruisers constructed, and later to bring down to this House a. real defence policy. I did not hear the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) speak during this debate. He, with the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), represented Australia at the last conference of the League of Nations. I confidently expected that both of those honorable members would be opposed to any further increase in our armaments, but I learn with regret that it is their intention to support the Government. They are sincere believers in the League of Nations. All honorable members hope that one day it will be a great factor in bringing about universal peace. This country has led the world in many reforms, and we should not be behind in our efforts to bring about peace. This cannot be done to any great extent while we continue to increase our navy. The defence of this country can best be served by aeroplanes, submarines, and a sufficient supply of munitions and small arms. We have an up-to-date munitions and small arms factory, and if the other services are provided, ‘we shall be doing our share to protect this portion of the Empire. The bill should be postponed until the report of our delegation to Geneva is made to this House. Unfortunately, while that conference is taking place, the Government proposes to build two cruisers, costing £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, and insults the workers of this country by contending that a large expenditure will be saved by building them overseas. I support the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition,- and, although it may not be carried, the Labour party is prepared to submit it to the people at the next elections, and to stand by their decision.
.- Honorable members opposite have invited Government supporters to give a lead to this House on the question of the defence of Australia. In my own modest way, I shall attempt to meet that request. I listened, with a great deal of interest and at times amazement, to the speeches from both sides concerning the various phases of defence. The amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and supported by the Labour party, says in effect that the time is not ripe to provide Australia with an adequate system of defence. That is an old cry frequently used by the members of the Opposition. They refuse to assist in replacing our obsolete cruisers by modern vessels, and prefer to rely o*n the decisions of the assembly of the League of Nations, which is only in its infancy. They ask the Government to anticipate a . recommendation that the naval armaments of all the nations shall be still further reduced. With one exception, honorable members opposite refrained from making a definite statement outlining tho Labour party’s defence policy. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) last night, although I expected something better from him, merely asked the Government to delay its proposals until the Labour party obtained office, and then they would put before Parliament a defence policy which would have the support of the people. Probably that will not occur for very many years. In the meantime nothing is to be done. The Labour party intends to ask the people of Australia at the next elections to put it in office on the strength of an indefinite policy of defence. The only member of the Opposition who made a definite statement was the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). I was very pleased to hear his speech, because he has frankly admitted that he is a pacifist, and does not believe in any expenditure for defence purposes. His speech really confirmed the press report of his remarks at Ballarat some time ago.
– Strange to say, I did not hear the honorable member for Ballarat make such a statement.
– That was the gist of what he actually said. The honorable member, surely, has sufficient intelligence to gather the real meaning of the multiplicity of words used by the honorable member for Ballarat.
– If it pleases the honorable member to make such a statement, he may do so, but it is a lie all the same.
– The two main problems confronting this country are thoseof finance and defence. Without adequate means of defence any work we may do for the development of our country would come to naught if we should unfortunately be drawn into war. All the pioneering work done by our forbears - the opening up of the country, the makingof roads, the laying of railways, and thebuilding of harbours and bridges - for which the present generation is helping topay, will be lost if, through inadequate means of defence, we are obliged to handthis continent over almost without a fight to any foreign nation that attacks us.. Upon us rests the responsibility of protecting our magnificent heritage, but the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) has said that the time is not ripe to prepare for the defence of thecountry. Australia, in addition to being an island continent, is, in respect of means of communication, in the sameposition as a series of islands.. Through the breaks of railway gauge, Brisbane is cut off from Sydney,
Sydney from Melbourne, and Melbourne from Perth, and there can be no direct railway communication between those capitals without transhipment. If we had to transport large bodies of troops there would be enormous congestion at each break of gauge. The only method “ of continuous direct transportation would be by ships. Therefore our first and main line of defence must be on the sea. That fact is recognized by Sir Harry Chauvel, the very capable officer who is at the head of our military forces.
– His opinion settles the question!
– Not necessarily, but in preference to the opinion of the honorable member I would accept the views of Sir Harry Chauvel on military matters, because he has seen a lot of active service, and does understand soldiering. In many ways our navy is inadequate for the defence of Australia, and it is a mere truism that we are dependent upon the Royal Navy for our defence. That view was expressed by Earl Beatty in a speech quite recently -
The ‘Naval Forces of the Empire include the Naval Forces provided by the Dominions, and it does not require much imagination to look forward to the day when the Dominions, as they grow in power and wealth, will not only assist in guarding the sea communications in the vicinity of their own coasts, but will provide a quota of the main fleet, which is the basis of our sea power, and which forms the support for the squadrons operating on the distant ocean routes. This envisages the development of Dominion Navies, and I wish to make it perfectly clear that the Admiralty are definitely in favour of this policy, and will do all in their power to assist in the development of such naval forces as the Dominions may feel able to create.
The distinguished admiral clearly indicates in that article the lines upon which the dominions should develop their defences, and his opinion fortifies us in supporting the proposal of the Government to improve the naval defence of Australia. The British Empire has often been likened to a mother with a number of children, but I prefer to regard it as a father with several grown up sons, of whom Australia is one. Our country has reached man’s estate, it has money of its own, and through its various parliaments regulates its own expenditure. Instead of being content, as some children are, to “ loaf on the old man “ for all time, let us be up and doing. We have the means, and it is our duty to put our house in order instead of expecting “ the old man “ to look after us always. The Washington Treaty placed Australia at an; actual disadvantage. Our only battleship, which bore the name of the country it had worthily served, was obsolescent, but was still a good fighting unit when, in accordance with the treaty, it was destroyed. For the big sacrifice Australia made in order to observe the treaty it has gained no compensating advantages. It has been claimed that other nations also made sacrifices, and that the treaty has done a great deal of good. Let me briefly examine what it did achieve and look into the bona fides of some of the nations that subscribed to it. Four months after the treaty was signed Japan brought forward the biggest naval shipbuilding programme in her history.
– What authority has the honorable member for that statement?
– The data from which I am quoting is available to the honorable member, and my statements can be checked by him. . If honorable members opposite will adopt Lord Salisbury’s advice, and “ study large maps,” instead of wearing an iron band round their brains to prevent them from thinking, they will do much better. In a recent speech in this House I expressed my views concerning Japan, and stated very definitely the belief, which I still hold, that ultimately that nation and Australia will be on opposing sides in a big war.
– Why does the honorable member think that?
– I shall be prepared to go into that matter more fully when the defence estimates are before us. The surrender of the German fleet to the British Fleet, at the end of the late Avar, terminated an epoch in naval history. The Opening of the Panama Canal and the development of Japan into one of the world’s foremost naval powers shifted the naval centre of the world from the North Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Realizing that, the United States transferred its main naval fleet to the Pacific, and the Panama Canal enables the American Atlantic fleet also to transfer readily to the western coast. The possibility of hostilities developing in the Pacific Ocean are suggested by the friction between Japan and China and the strained relations of America and Japan. If such a war should occur, Japan realizes that it cannot rely on the British Empire being more than an unsympathetic neutral. We know how neutrals fared in the late war. Holland was uncomfortably close to the scene of hostilities, and was subjected to great inconvenience. Belgium was drawn into the war against her will, and Norway and Sweden, though non-combatants, lost a big proportion of their shipping. Should war arise in the Pacific, Australia, as one of the Pacific nations, could not possibly keep out of it, especially if the cause of the conflict was of a racial nature. In such a case, Australia would be drawn into the conflict, whether we liked it or not, because we were the first nation in the world to discriminate against other nations purely and simply on account of race. The trouble now existing between Japan and America- has intensified the position so far as Australia is concerned. Those who think that there can never be a war between Australia and Japan should be asked what they would answer if the Japanese Government said to Australia, “ Will you allow some hundreds of thousands of Japanese to enter your country?” If the answer was “ No,” the questioner would be justified in asking the further question, “ How are you going to prevent it?” That is a source from which trouble may eventually come. I direct the attention of those who think “ that Japan has friendly feelings towards the British Empire to what happened in 1914. At that time Japan was attacking the German possession of Tsingtau in China, and attached to the Japanese army was a British force under General Barnardiston. It was thought that as it was the first time that the two nations had operated together in warfare, it was an excellent opportunity for a rapprochement between them. Instead of that, however, there were mutual recriminations. Although particulars have not been made public, sufficient information has leaked out to show that the position at the time was very serious. Again, in 1916, the Japanese newspapers, without a single exception, launched a violent and virulent attack against the British Empire. It became so intense that finally the Japanese Government had to inter-
Mr. 71. Green. vene.Dealing with the position, a writer of reputation, Mr. McGovern - a man who knows Japan - said in 1917 that it was well known that the Japanese Government had. made all preparations for necessary action in case of a German victory. Honorable members will remember that in 1917 the outlook in relation to the war was not too bright for Great Britain. Shortly af terwards in that year, another press campaign followed. Those who have been in Japan know something of the censorship of the press there. We had an example recently in connexion with the exclusion law of the United States of America. At the time to which 1 refer there was a press campaign in favour of an alliance with the German Empire. The war did not end until-‘ 1918, and in 1917 Japan was allegedly our ally. That is the kind of ally we are asked to trust, and in whose bona fides we are asked to believe. Another example, showing how little reliance can be placed in that nation, I gave just now in what happened soon after the Washington Treaty was signed. I draw attention to these matters because they should be borne in mind by honorable members. After my last statement in this House concerning Japan, there was some talk of jingoism.” If it is “ jingoism “ to try to arouse this country from its inertia and lethargy, I plead guilty. I prefer to call it patriotism. I shall not remain silent if any words of mine will do anything towards .a realization of the fact that the menace of the Pacific is a real one, and not a figment of the imagination of a few “ jingoists I shall be satisfied if my remarks will help to combat the pacifists’ doctrines we have heard this afternoon, and cause us to throw off some of our apathy. We have heard to-day of the value of submarines and destroyers, but it must be remembered that cruisers are really the eyes of a fleet. Referring to the relative value of destroyers and cruisers for scout work, Admiral Knight, of the Navy of the United States of America, said -
In perfectly smooth water, under very favorable conditions, the destroyer may do very good work as a scout, but that is not its true function. Destroyers are supposed to act in groups, and to hold themselves in readiness, when the scouts have located the enemy, and found the main body of his fleet, to make their appearance at night, and do their duty then. We have used the destroyers in our operations at sea ever since we have been carrying out manoeuvres for scouting purposes, simply because we had nothing else. When destroyers are used for scouting purposes they are overworked. They have to run long distances, often at high speed. They cannot send back word because their wireless apparatus is not powerful enough, and if they run into a heavy sea, their speed is cut down. They use up their fuel, and they exhaust the crew, and the consequence is that when they gain touch with the enemy the destroyers are not fit to do anything against him. They should be conserved to the last moment, when they are called upon to strike. They should not bo occupied in chasing all over the ocean, looking for something with a view of getting together later, and then making a combined torpedo attack. Nothing can be called a scout which has a speed below 25 knots, and a real scout of to-day should have 30 knots.
If we accept that opinion as correct, we are forced to admit that, so far as Australia is concerned, we have not one scout vessel at present. I am glad, however, that the nucleus vessel which the Government intends to obtain will be one capable of doing effective scouting work. So far, the Government has announced its intention of obtaining one cruiser. A second has been foreshadowed, but no definite announcement has been made, other than that the Government is looking into the matter from every angle. Personally, I hope that it will be possible for the second cruiser to be constructed in Australia. Despite what the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said regarding Cockatoo Island, I am of the opinion that for a big shipbuilding programme Cockatoo Island dockyard is totally unsuitable. It is incapable of expansion’ because it is an island, and for the same reason it cannot have rail communication. At other places along the coast of New South Wales - Twofold Bay, Jervis Bay, or Port Stephens - shipbuilding work could be undertaken, while Cockatoo Island could be used as a dry dock, as at present, for vessels of certain sizes, but more particularly for repair work. Should we decide to construct our own vessels, we should, as mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), make provision for the defence of the shipbuilding yards against attack, both from the land and from the sea. The defence from attack by water should be sufficient to cope with above-water and under-water vessels. Submarines in the Pacific Ocean are in quite a different position from submarines in the late war on the other side of the world, where the water was more shallow - so shallow, in deed, that submarines were able to lie on the bottom of the ocean for some considerable time. During that time their engines were not used. In the continuous warfare between the submarines and the vessels which were endeavouring to destroy them, the odds, even in shallow water, were against the submarines. In the Pacific, where, on account of the enormous depth of water, submarines cannot lie on the bottom - and, therefore, have to keep their engines running while submerged - the device known as the hydrophone, which detects the presence of submarines by sound, would be very effectual. By means of the hydrophone, a submerged vessel can be detected, and its course followed, so that when it rises to the surface after being submerged for about 100 miles, it can be effectively dealt with. Japan has realized the impracticability of submarines resting on the ocean bed in the deep waters of the Pacific, and her under-water vessels are constructed to meet the altered conditions. Although we do not know very much about the intricacies of their construction, it is known that they are strutted and strengthened very much more than our own vessels. Probably the unfortunate occurrence in connexion with- one of our submarines at the beginning of the war was due to insufficient provision being made for the depth of water’ in which it moved. A proper naval defence policy would not be complete without some units of a submarine fleet. Attention was drawn to the subject of land defence by the honorable member for Newcastle. Let us suppose that we mount high.angle 16-inch or 14-inch guns with a range up to about 45,000 yards. That range would be at least 10,000 yards longer than the range of any guns mounted on shipboard. Further, guns mounted on shore are on a firm, unsinkable platform, and can be protected with concrete and armour casing, “so as to make them almost indestructible. They also have means for accurate range-finding. On the other hand, vessels at sea are unstable, cannot be so protected, and cannot attain the same accuracy in range-finding and firing. In a battle between the two, the odds are always on the guns on shore. I was very sorry to hear this afternoon that the extra guns made for the Australia, but not used on the vessel, -were sunk with her. I read the Washington Treaty very carefully, and saw nothing in it stipulating that spare guns that had not been mounted should be scrapped with the vessel. She had her own guns on board, and it was not necessary to sink t be extra guns. They could have been used for land defence.
– They would have been quite useless for that purpose.
– A suggestion was made this afternoon that they had to be scrapped in accordance with the terms of the Washington Treaty. That was not so. It is, perhaps, too late to enter a protest when the guns are at the bottom of the ocean.
– When the question was raised in this House, the honorable member supported the Government.
– I did not know of the matter before. Another means of defence that I have not yet touched upon is aircraft. Aircraft and the navy are complementary. It is necessary that we should take steps to keep hostile aircraft carriers at a considerable distance from our shores, so as to prevent aeroplanes making bombing raids and doing serious damage wherever- they choose to do it. Newcastle, portions of the city of Melbourne, and many big industrial centres, could be bombed by aeroplanes from aircraft carriers that had been brought close to our shores. Modern aircraft carriers are over 40,000 tons. The Washington Treaty limits their armament to 8-inch guns, which are also allowed on .10,000-ton cruisers. We need vessels to compete with aircraftcarriers on at least equal terms. A smaller vessel with the same armament is considered to have a somewhat better chance against a larger vessel on account of the smaller target it offers. For that reason alone, the 10,000-ton cruisers will be of material value in assisting the naval air force. Marvellous results have been obtained with aeroplanes in other countries. In November, 1919, the United States navy carried out a trial of a fleet of six flying-boats. Honorable members will notice, from the following figures, how valuable that test was: -
Total number of flights, all machines, 495. Average length of each flight, 2 hours 25 minutes.
Flights in passage, 8,210 nautical miles.
Other flights incidental to fleet operations, scouting, and observing for gunfire, 4,521 nautical miles.
Total distance flown by the squadron as a whole, 12,731 nautical miles.
Total mileage of all machines, 71,545 nautical miles.
Total hours flown, 1,102 hours 25 minutes. Fatalities or serious injuries, during flying operations, none.
The result of the test shows what we could do if we made similar provision. . 1 am sorry that the Government has not taken any active steps to encourage civil aviation, as distinct from service aviation. In 1918, civilian aviation in Japan was almost unknown, but two years afterwards there were in that country, apart from the army and navy services, three large flying associations with a membership of over 14,000. Japan has realized the necessity for this arm of defence, and many people in Australia have also realized it. I hope that when the Government brings down its defence proposals it will make adequate provision, not only for land machines, but also for machines of the type used in the epochmaking flight round Australia by Wing-Commander Goble and FlightLieutenant Mclntyre. I should like to see provision made for every vessel built for the Australian Navy to carry aeroplanes. An American warship recently came into Sydney Harbour, and although it was very small, it carried an efficient flying boat, which it could use at any time. A flying boat would be a distinct advantage to such a vessel when scouting for hostile vessels. Members of the Opposition cheered recently when they learned that the proposal to build a base at Singapore had been abandoned. They considered that it had nothing to do with Australia, but concerned only the Imperial Government. With that view I entirely disagree. It was stated that the decision not to proceed with the Singapore naval base proposal was a “ gesture “ by the British Government to foreign nations. In that connexion I draw attention to the following statement made in the House of Commons by Mr. Amery: -
The turning down of Singapore Base means that we say to the Dominions : “In the hour of danger we are no longer prepared to help you; we deny ourselves access to your aid. When we are thinking of danger in London, of course, we make preparations in the air, because we cannot afford to run risks. But when it is your existence that is at stake, we are not willing to run the risk.”
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) applauded the action of the Ramsay MacDonald Government as something to be proud of. It was an action of sickly internationalism. The British Government made a gesture te foreign nations while saying to us, who are part of the Empire, “ You can go hang. A gesture is not required for you.” If the British Government wanted to make a gesture, it could better have made one that would recognize the vital importance of Singapore to us. I ask opponents of the Australian Navy to consider what it has done for Australia. It did great things in the recent war. It helped to convoy our troops ; it took part in actions on this and the other side of the world, and acquitted itself honorably in everything it did. Some people may be liable to forget what the Sydney did. I ask them, “Are you going to let that famous vessel sink into oblivion, or will you make an effort to have her replaced by a modern and efficient vessel? Will you send our men, if they again have to go to sea to fight, to be murdered in a vessel that will give them no chance, whatever bravery they may show ?” If honorable members opposite stand for the murder of our naval crews they should say so, and we should then know exactly where they stand. Up to the present they have talked with many voices. Each speaker has added something to the debate, but if the Hansard reports of their speeches were winnowed the only outstanding feature would be the statement of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), “Yes, we will have no defence whatever.” That is what it amounted to. Did the Sydney build up a great tradition for the Australian Navy simply for it to be destroyed? Honorable members must realize how much tradition means in morale and esprit de corps. The Labour party has not acquitted itself at all well in this debate. I listened most carefully to the speech of the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and all that I can say is that every circus needs two funny men, one a clown and the other a dummy. Nobody would accuse the Acting Leader of 4;he Opposition of possessing, qualifi cations for the latter position. I am glad that the Government has signified its intention of doing something concrete for the defence of Australia, and I trust that when the general defence estimates are placed before the House they will provide for a properly thought-out and adequate scheme, as opposed to the nebulous proposals which have been made by honorable members who occupy the benches opposite.
.- I had a few ideas on this subject when the honorable member for Richmond began to speak, but they have now almost entirely disappeared. The honorable member unkindly accused my party, and myself inferentially, of approaching this matter with an iron band around our heads. Let me assure him at once that I have employed no such uncomfortable device. I feel, indeed, that such a thing would be more becoming to those who, like the honorable gentleman, evidently suffer from swelled head. Two things emerge from the honorable member’s all too erudite speech. One is that he has not read the bill, and the other . is that he has not read the amendment. It is also evident - and this is a matter of some importance - that, though he may have heard, he did not understand, the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). I do not know for certain whether the honorable member has ever heard of the President of the United States of America, though I must presume that he is aware of the existence of the States themselves, but he gave some indication, in the concluding part of his address, of having heard of the Washington conference. I acquit him, however, of having any more knowledge of what that conference meant or of what it did than I have of what he meant during the greater part of his speech. I do not intend to approach this subject as he did, with the cocksureness of an honorary admiral and a brigadiergeneral out of work. I approach it as an ordinary citizen who would feel his position with exceeding keenness if he found himself confronted with the point of a bayonet. I am not one of those who say that Australia should not be defended, or that I would be unprepared to do anything for the defence of my country. It was once, in an unhappy moment, published of me that I had stated somewhere that even if my own home were to be violatedI would not raise an arm in selfdefence, or in defence of those most dear to me. As a matter of history I have to say that, when those words were published, carefully blending the qualities of the pacifist and the lawyer, I required the person responsible for their publication to publicly withdraw them, and to pay costs. I cannot associate myself, therefore, with those noncombatant militarists on the other side of the House who say that we cannot defend Australia. The Prime Minister, for about the hundredth time, repeated in his second-reading speech on this measure those oft-quoted words of his predecessor in that high office, that we are dependent upon the protection afforded us by Great Britain, notwithstanding the fact that, at the Imperial conference which he attended, it was laid down as a primary obligation on the Dominions that they should each provide for their own local defence. I heard, with great pain, the declaration of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), in another debate, when he said, with that peculiar note of caution characteristic of honorable members of the Country party, that not only could we not defend ourselves, but that we could not afford to do so. I do not know what price he considers to be too great to pay for the safety of the nation, but I think that he, and honorable members who sit with him on the Corner benches, do not entirely disengage this Imperial question, in all its ramifications, from that of personal interest, including high duties and the carriage of their onions, wheat, and other produce overseas. “When itcomes to the actual test, Imperialism, from their point of view, is too costly if it interferes with the profitable operations of that section of the men on the land whom they represent. I also heard the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) say that Australia is helpless in so far as any inherent power to defend herself is concerned. That great and shining patriot and luminous militarist, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), invited us to take shelter in the skirts of the Motherland, and not presume to harbour the idea that, in the last resort, we could
Mr. Brennan. protect ourselves. I, as a pacifist, dissent from the views of these militarists on the question of the defence of Australia, and say that as we claim to be a nation - and that claim is not made so insistently from this side of the House as it is from that side - the hall-mark of nationhood is the determination and willingness to defend one’s country. There should be no declaration of nationhood unless there is also a declaration of willingness to defend one’s country. Australia is, for all practical purposes, an independent nation. We have power to make treaties and tariffs, and we can do anything that an independent nation can do - except defend ourselves ! Those who take up that recreant position show that they have not the faintest conception of what is involved in the fundamental principle of nationhood. The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), in his interesting speech this afternoon, left himself open to be somewhat misunderstood as to the real meaning of his remarks in regard to our capacity to defend ourselves, but one gathered from his personal explanation that what he meant was that we ought not to think of defending ourselves because, if we were placed in the unfortunate position cf being required to do so, it would cost us £50,000,000 per annum for ten years. Apparently he considered that that reduced the matter to an absurdity, and showed that the defence of Australia by the people of Australia is an impossibility. My view of the matter is that the power of our citizens to defend Australiadepends greatly upon their attitude of mind. If we were a provocative, belligerent people who invited other nations to tread upon the tail of our coat, and then measure the issue with us on the high seas or upon land, it is quite possible that we should get all that we were looking for; but as we are a peace-loving and conciliatory nation, believing, with all the sincerity and strength of our hearts, in a right cause, it is more than likely that we, like the other small nations will be able, in the last resort, to stand upon right as against might, and so hold our own against the world. Before I develop my general argument upon the defence of Australia, I ask honorable members opposite, if Australia cannot make provision for her own defence, what they propose to do in the case of certain eventualities arising.
The honorable member for Calare said this afternoon that one of the greatest questions that could engage the attention of any people was the preservation of the purity of the race. When that contention is applied to Australia, it means the upholding of a doctrine dear to the heart of all Australians - the White Australia doctrine. I have heard the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Hughes) who preceded the present Prime Minister in office declare - and I think I may safely use these words - that Australia would be prepared to shed her last drop of blood in defence of the principle of a White Australia. I share his regard for that principle, but not his methods. If the maintenance of a White Australia ever brought about a position involving bloodshed, to whom would honorable gentlemen opposite look for help in defending the principle? I challenge the most optimistic of them to say that the British Government, or any British political party, would be prepared to attempt to enlist a naval or military force in Great Britain to fight for Australia on the issue of a White Australia. If we have to fight for the principle - and God forbid that it should ever be so - we shall have to fight on our own, and the more quickly we realize it the better. Unquestionably, the present British Government, for which I have a superabundant respect, under leadership for which it would be impossible to have greater regard than I have for it, would not take up arms in defence of a White Australia, nor would any Liberal Government of Great Britain. There may possibly be a few tories in Great Britain who would advocate war for such a purpose, or any purpose, but they are to-day in a hopeless minority. Honorable members may take it as settled beyond the possibility of argument that if wc should ever have to defend by force of arms this principle which we consider vital, it must be done by Australia alone in the best way she can do it. I venture to think there is no member on the other side of the House who is so little informed of the facts as to argue against the truth of that proposition. Honorable members may have noticed that on much smaller issues, when the interests of Great Britain have been seemingly opposed to those of Australia, Great Britain has had a pleasant habit of going her own way.- I do not blame her at all for that. The construction of the Singapore base, the Prime Minister represented as being vital to Australia - though, of course, it was not vital to this country at all. In respect to it the right honorable gentleman misrepresented the Australian people, but he did . successfully convey to the people of Great Britain the opinion that the people of Australia were heart and soul in favour of the establishment of the Singapore base. It was not true, but that is the impression the honorable gentleman created in the mind of the British public. In spite of that, when the matter came up for consideration in the British House of Commons, the statesmen theredeclared that their first consideration was what was best in the interests of Britain, best in. the interests of peace and best generally, and not what was best from the view-point of Australia. They took that stand, and very properly so, and they decided against what they thought was the overwhelming Australian public opinion in regard to the establishment of the Singapore base. It happens that they did something which I entirely applaud, and which I believe twothirds “of the people of Australia, also applaud, but that was accidental, because, so far as they knew, they were running counter to the strongly-expressed desires, of the Australian people. When it was only a question of preference for our dried currants and figs, the British Parliament took its own course. It came to a decision which it was thought was in the best interests of the people of Britain. It recognized that we in Australia have the right” to frame our own tariff, that we enjoy autonomy, and are entitled to make our own laws, firstly in the: interests cf our own people. In a word, the Labour party and the Liberal party of Great Britain set us an example in this regard which we might well follow. They have made a public declaration that as members of the British Parliament their first duty is to their own country. They recognize as paramount the needs of the people entrusted to them, for whom they make laws, and for whom they are responsible. I recommend that spirit to honorable members opposite. I recommend these non-combatant militarists ‘ to drop their pusillanimous policy and recognize that they are Australians. They should make up their minds once and for all, if they are imperialists - and I do not object to them being so - that they are trustees in the first place for this country. The job that has been given to them is to legislate for this country and its people, and they should cease their craven policy of toadying to people on the other side of the world. Who are the gentlemen who say that we cannot defend ourselves? They are not members of the Labour party. They are not pacifists like the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and myself. No; the gentlemen who say that we cannot do> these things are men of the clanging sword and the clicking spurs, men whose patriotism exudes from them in the naval and military clubs of this country as though it were sweat exuding from their bodies. They are the swanking militarists who trade on the game, but who, when it comes to the defence of their homes and hearths, spread it abroad to the world that, though we are a nation, and a proud nation, we cannot defend ourselves. I would advise them., and I would advise the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), the honorary admiral and the retired brigadier-general out of work, to refresh their knowledge of the world’s history. Let them go back, if necessary, a cycle of centuries, to the time when Leonidas took his stand against the Persian hosts with his 300. He did not say, “ We cannot defend ourselves.” Let me remind them of the Spartan mother who sent her son to war with the injunction, “ Return, my son, with this shield, or upon it.” I advise them to put lime into their spines, and make up their mind’s that we shall defend Australia in our own time and when danger arises; which is not yet. The Government, which lacks many things that it ought to have, lacks, among other things, the saving gift of humour. It is only a few weeks ago that we were celebrating in the most picturesque way the sinking of our great historic battleship Australia. She has gone. It was a great event. We did not sink the Australia secretly. We did not do it in tears, such as we might have shed for the loss of so good a friend, but we did it as part of a militarist and naval display. We sank her, so we are told, to comply with the requirements of the Washington conference. Having gloried in that deed, today we meet in Parliament as responsible beings, and propose to spend £4,000,000 shortly, and, I understand, £2,000,000 immediately, on what is euphemistically called “ replacement.” We are to have two new’ cruisers. The Australia goes down, the cruisers bob up. Next year the cruisers may go down, and something else will bob up. In this way the nation progresses, and we patriots defend Australia ! I am wrong. We do not defend Australia - because, according to honorable gentlemen opposite, that is the one thing we cannot do. The Prime Minister said - with exquisite humour for once - it is beginning to be generally recognized that the advantages of tha Washington conference have” been “ a little exaggerated.” What did these gentlemen opposite do to make the Washington conference a success? Were they favorable to countries such as Russia and Germany being represented at that conference? Not at all. The time, to use the words of the honorable member for Richmond, “was not ripe.” It was too soon for peace. It was too soon for complete disarmament. It was time only for a pleasing interchange of views between those1 whose interests were similar, and who came to a compact to keep a sharp eye on each other. If one sank a ship, the other should also sink a ship, until they reached a certain stage, when they would be equally competent to fight the other, although the armaments of each had been satisfactorily reduced, in the interests of peace! In order to bring about peace, men must approach the subject with the intention to create peace. There must be an atmosphere of peace. My fight is confined to honorable gentlemen opposite. I am in favour of peace, and I consider it would be a real peace gesture if we could get rid of honorable gentlemen opposite. It has been said by them, in the press and elsewhere, that we must do something practical for defence. When one speaks of conciliation, they say he is an idealist and a dreamer, who is entertaining the sickly sentiment of internationalism. But, as I have just shown, when it comes to the defence of Australia, conciliation is our strongest arm. Yet the last thing that honorable members opposite will do is to adopt the despised policy of conciliation.
Human nature, says the Prime Minister, has not changed. He accepts that as an axiom, as a basic principle about which there can be no argument. Upon that he supports his demand for naval defence upon the lines of which he approves. Some things in human nature have not changed, but other things are the subject of constant change. Our animal nature does not change. We feed, we breed, and we fulfil animal functions much as other animals do. But if, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) said last night, that is the end of man’s existence, then indeed man was born in vain. I say that there is something higher and better. There are ideals in this world that are worth serving. When the Prime Minister assumes that human nature” is a static quantity which does not move or change, he gives away the whole case for the reformation, and regeneration of the world. He abandons his duty as a leader of men to strive after better things than we have at present or have existed in the past. Had the great reformers of the world sat down,, as he sits at this table, and weakly declared that human nature cannot change, what would have been the result? Where would have been the great reforms that have taken place if that had been, their view of humanity? What would have been the value of the inspiration of the greatest artists of the world? What would have’ been the worth of the great litterateurs who have done so much to inform human nature and inspire the world with the hope and ambition for better things? It is false reasoning to say that human nature does not change. It is begging the question, because if the honorable gentleman owes any responsibility to this country, wherein he occupies the highest position in the gift of the people it is his bounden duty, so far from declaring that human nature does not change, to strive constantly to mould and change human nature so as to bring about better conditions than we have in our time, or have existed in the centuries that have passed. Human nature does constantly change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for ‘the worse. There are those who serve ideals, and there are the materialists who serve the flesh. There are those who serve the god Mammon, and those who serve the god Moloch. There are those who serve at once Mammon and Moloch. The worst of these are the militarists who have been responsible for the bloody pages of history that record wars and all that war means. In time of peace these war-makers are pacifists, too. I have heard them oft times say, “We hate war as honorable members opposite hate war; we want peace as you want peace; we do not believe in war.” “But,” they say - there is always a “ but “ in the case - “ let us grind the axe, and make a gesture of war in the interests of peace.” That is the policy of honorable members opposite. Let somebody only beat the war drum anywhere, and for any cause or no cause, whether we are concerned or not, and these protagonists of peace are ready to follow ‘the call at a moment’s notice with scarcely a preliminary inquiry whether the cause is just or unjust, whether it is worth fighting for or not, whether it serves Australian interests or is totally and absolutely against them. The history of the last decade has proved that declaration to be absolutely correct. Let me suggest a single test. The world had scarcely emerged from the shambles of four and a half years of dreadful war when the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) rose in this House to declare that he had exchanged with the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Lloyd George) messages committing Australia to a new war. Where w,ere these pacifists then? Did one of them rise in protest? Was any one heard to declare, “ No.” We must examine the position. Does the cause justify Australia in again unsheathing the sword ? It certainly did not. She had too recently buried her 60,000 dead, and welcomed back her 400,000 soldiers, many of them maimed and wounded. Australia had seen too many desolated, hearths and homes. Yet not one member opposite rose in his place to utter a single word against a repetition of the work of slaughter. Are they to be taken at their word, therefore, when they say that they stand with us for peace, that they believe in peace as much as we do, and hate war as we do? “By their fruits ye shall know them”; by their works we shall justly judge them. History has recorded their work. It takes shape beneath the soil in the bones of Australia’s precious dead; upon the ground, in those who have been maimed and wounded; and in the desolate homes of the widows and fatherless. An honorable member who from his place in this House, or on the platform or elsewhere, lightly advocates a new war without first gaining any information or assuming any responsibility as to its merits or demerits, and simply because some warmaker on the other side of the world has rattled the sabre again, is as recreant to his trust as though he were actually to place a bomb under Parliament House, or any other public building, to blow it up and destroy the occupants. I make no distinction between the two classes of incendiarism. The man who would blow up a public building in Melbourne would have less responsibility for his action than an incendiarist of the kind who would set nation against nation without exercising the brain which God has given him, and the sense of responsibility that is his to learn whether such a dreadful course could not be avoided or prevented. On this question there is an illustration of the wide chasm separating honorable members opposite from those on this side of the House on the question of peace and war. Where each man stands is shown, not by words, but by deeds; by what we do when the critical moment arrives. Those who seize Australia’s youths, under the odious name of conscription, and force them out of the country into a war on the other side of the world, are not with us but against us, are not with Australia but against her. Do not talk to> me of the traitors on this side of the House ; of the men who lack patriotism and loyalty! Loyalty is worth nothing unless it is loyalty to principle, and- backed by courage, and moral courage is greater than physical courage. Moral courage rests on principle and can rightly be attributed to the man who does not heed the flamboyancy of the press, public, or profiteer, but analyses the issue to the best of his ability, in scorn of consequences. That is my idea of loyalty and patriotism. I may be asked - and justly - what is my policy. Such things have been asked of public men on the platform .
– I think we all know the honorable member’s policy.
– I know the policy of the Minister - raisins, dried plums, and office. I am not required at thisstage, especially during the discussion of the nebulous and spectacular proposal before the House - indeed, I am not authorized by my own party - to enunciate a policy of defence for Australia, and I do not intend to do so. But I propose, in a few words, to clear the ground for the foundations of defence. We propose to abolish what is known as compulsory military training. Curiously enough, that is the basis of our policy of defence. To make men value the gift of freedom, they must enjoy freedom ; to train youths to value the inestimable boon of liberty, they must enjoy liberty. To make men feel that a country is worth defending, they must have been treated fairly and honestly within their own boundaries. We are satisfied that to breed such men in Australia the shackles of compulsory training must be taken from our youths. The odious policy of conscription, which the manhood of Australia rejected, must not’ bo fastened upon the helpless youth of this country. Therefore, the very basis of a policy for Australia’s defence,, as far as the Labour party is concerned, is the freeing of the youth of Australia so that they may know the value of liberty, and at the last resort be willing to fight for it. That would be my first move. My second move in clearing the ground for a policy of defence for Australia would be the establishment of a penal code, a kind of criminal law, applying to those who make provocative speeches and writings inflaming other nations against ourselves. Although I am a great believer in the freedom of the press and of the individual, I recognize that there are some limits necessary to human freedom. The youth of Australia must not be corrupted by pernicious literature or exposed to the variety of dangers that beset young men in every civilized community. A great many repressive measures have to be taken in any civilized society within the limits of liberty in order to protect that society from itself and from its disorderly members. In that spirit I should be prepared to condemn to six months in gaol - I am not particular about the term - those persons who, in this House or out of it, make speeches calculated to provoke our sister nation, Japan, against us. There have been many striking instances of such provocation. I quite recognize that at the head of the mournful procession which would of necessity go into the dark prison-house would be the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and several of his most valued colleagues. I should take this drastic course of action - as Voltaire said of the shooting of Admiral Byng - pour encourager les autres In my opinion such action would ,, the others” - members of that side of the House and outside of it - not to- provoke neighbouring nations against the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mt. Manning), some week or two ago, made a most provocative speech, calculated, if it had any influence at all, to drive Japan into active belligerency against us. Indeed, I am almost ashamed to be associated with a fellow-Australian, or with any member of this House, who says that he almost rejoices in the fact that he has not been blessed, as a father, to aid in multiplying the Australian people, because of the fear in his bosom that at some future time the Japanese .geisha girl and others of that Oriental race will predominate in a country in which our children and grandchildren may be born. I know of no more recreant sentiment to utter than that a man in his own country rejoices in the fact that he is not a father of part of the Australian race. “ A great deal of that speech was designed to provoke Japan against us. A great deal of what the honorable, member for Richmond said this afternoon was couched in similar terms, and I have heard the same sentiments employed by many honorable members on that side of the House. I would make their expression a penal offence. Japan is well disposed towards us. I believe that by a policy of conciliation and understanding, and by an exchange of visits by representative men, we could do a great deal to create an ever -increasing good feeling between the two nations. For my part I have nothing but the best of good feeling towards this sister nation. I acknowledge her loyalty to the bond which she executed so far as Australia is concerned. “We have no reason whatever, notwithstanding what may have been uttered by individuals in the way of criticism, to entertain feelings other than that of the warmest friend ship towards the Japanese people. It will be time enough to entertain other feelings when they have been provoked by some hostile act, which I for one do not anticipate. That would be the second arm of my defence, and for the third and not least important arm I would adopt the policy enunciated by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), who spoke in this chamber yesterday in a most admirable manner of what could be done within. Australia on lines at once industrial and defensive. As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) pointed out, instead of closing down the Commonwealth’s useful clothing and harness factories, which could be used alike in times of peace and war, they should have been continued and developed in the interests of Australia and defence. We may, it is true, have to establish armouries .and manufactories of warlike weapons. If we do, such factories can be employed also for pacific purposes and for the promotion of industry. It has been well pointed out that aircraft has pacific as well as warlike uses. I would be prepared to support those who would develop Australian defence on those sound lines, always keeping in mind that we must not be embroiled in wars on the other side of the world, concerning the causes and objects of which we have no knowledge; that we must shear down the injurious spirit of Imperialism and create, instead, a sane sense of Australianism. We must realize that our first duty is to look after our own country, and not to involve our people in troubles across the seas. We must create a sane Australian sentiment - not the flamboyant sentiment of “ Australia right or wrong,” but a truly patriotic sentiment of “ Australia for the Australians, and good-will towards the world.” Our defence must bp not a mere matter of naval and military armaments, but organization for defensive and not aggressive purposes, and, above all, a systematic peace propaganda. I should be very glad to co-operate with experts who would work out defence upon those lines. But with the miserable makebelieve proposed by the Government, these two cruisers patrolling somewhere - God knows where - this waste of £4,000,000 upon the construction of vessels that are to be sunk almost as soon as they are built, I have no sympathy. The bill gives no earnest of a concrete or comprehensive system of Australian defence. It is merely a display, a war gesture. It has no useful significance, and because it has no use I support the amendment, and I shall vote against the second reading. I hope that, by and by, a saner spirit will develop in this country, and that we shall come to realize that our strongest weapon of practical defence is the conciliation of the other nations of the world. When a better understanding has been established between other nations our safety, if not assured, will be almost assured, and we shall have at least the satisfaction of know* ing that in our time and generation we did something to promote that universal peace which we all so earnestly desire, and for which we of the Labour party are prepared to conscientiously strive.
.- I have listened with a good deal of patience and interest to nearly every speech delivered on this bill, and I think you, Mr. Speaker, will commend me for not having* once interjected.
– In the speeches that have been delivered, the bill has not been mentioned very often. Of course, such a measure, and the speech with which the Prime Minister introduced it, opens up many subjects upon which honorable members may express opinions. At the outset of my remarks I should like to place on record in Hansard the provisions of this bill. The title sets out that it is “ a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue fund the sum of two million five hundred thousand pounds for naval construction, and for a reserve for defence.” Its principal clauses are -
– (1.) The moneys standing to the credit of the Naval Construction Trust Account may be applied for the purpose of naval construction. (2.) The moneys standing to the credit of the Defence Reserve Trust Account may be applied -
Upon the motion of the Prime Minister -
That the bill be now read a second time,, the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) moved the amendment -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted: - “ as efforts are being made by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain to convene another Conference to deal with the question of further disarmament, and in view of the early sitting of the League of Nations, it ib the opinion of this House that expenditure on naval construction should be deferred for the present.”
The Prime Minister, in his speech, told the House that the £2,500,000 which i3 to be placed to the credit of the naval construction trust account is for the purpose of building one 10,000-ton cruiser in. England immediately. There are certain difficulties which I have to face. I must vote either for the construction of the cruiser or for the deferring of its construction. I am opposed to militarism. I have not forgotten events that have occurred in Australia within recent years. I remember that, under militarism, Australian-born citizens, some of them of the third generation, were dragged from their homes without a trial or a chance of defending themselves, and placed behind barbed wire in Liverpoolcamp. I remember that, by a process of vote robbery, by “taking away from Australian citizens their birthright - the exercise of the franchise - militarism endeavoured to foist on this country the conscription of its people for active service overseas.
– That action was taken by our political opponents, I am glad to say.
– It was not taken by the Labour party. I am opposed to the introduction of militarism into Australia, both at present and in the future. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said that one of the first acts of the Labour party when it is returned to power will be to do away with the compulsory military training provisions of the Defence Act. With that proposal I heartily agree. I do not desire that the youth of Australia shall have the military spirit inculcated in them, and I shall oppose whenever and wherever I can any effort, that may be made in that direction. I feel so strongly on this matter that when my children sing at home some of the songs that are taught them in the state schools I make it my business to explain to them what war mean3, and what a hellish thing it is. My boy, who is only eleven years of age, recently came home from school singing the refrain, “ Your glorious standard launch again to match another foe.” I pointed out to him how undesirable it i3 to characterize as a glorious standard that which goes into war, and stated that I hoped he would not in the future set his mind upon launching a standard to engage any foe.
– Does not the honorable member believe in opposing aggression?
– If the honorable member listens to my speech he will learn that I do believe in opposing aggression.
– How can that be done without preparation?
– I do not believe in raising in Australia a huge army, which the honorable member and’ others who think as he thinks may at some future time attempt to take by the scruff of the neck and the seat of the pants and send out of the country. I want to make my position quite clear in regard to militarism, because my remarks may be misunderstood. I used to think that the form of militarism that existed in Germany was an awful thing, that in France it was a crushing thing, and that even in Britain it took a form that was not to desired. I believed, however, that there was no reason to fear that it would make its appearance in Australia, where every man and woman of the age of 21 years had the right to exercise the vote. But the experience of the last few years has convinced me that it does not matter whether it be in England, in Germany, in Russia, in France, or in Australia, militarism will always strive to overthrow the civil power and make itself supreme. This being so, I am not prepared to have the youth of Australia trained in militarism in Australia. I shall probably be asked, “ Do you stand for any defence at all?” To that question I should immediately answer, “I do stand for some system of defence.” To the query, “ What is the system of defence for which you stand ?” my answer would be, “ I believe in naval defence and in aircraft defence.” It is said that the Labour party has no defence policy. I deny that that is so. It will be found that a federal conference of. the Labour party, which will commence its sittings shortly, will frame defence proposals which, at the proper time, willbe placed before the people of Australia for their endorsement or rejection. There is a third question that I have to face. I live on an island - the largest island inthe world. I ask myself, “ What is the first line of defence for an island?” and my answer must be, “ The first line of defence for an island is naval defence.” I do not see how I can escape from that conclusion. I am then confronted by the fact that two of the largest vessels that Australia possesses fall due for replacement this year, and I feel bound to ask myself, “ Is their replacement necessary?” In pre-war days, when Britain had a twopower naval standard, members of the Labour party in Australia considered that v,’G should have some system of naval defence. To-day, Great Britain is no longer in the same position, and could not take the sea against any other two nations combined. I am opposed to militarism, but I believe that Australia should be defended. I believe, also, that her first line of defence is the Navy, and that, a3 it was necessary in pre-war days for Australia to have her own vessels for defence, such vessels are even more necessary to-day.
– This is the best speech in favour of the bill we have yet heard.
– I represent a district in which there are many primary producers.
– And many Germans.
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection. If he is as good a man as many of those Germans, he is a good man.
– I am as good a man as you are, and if you hop outside I shall prove it to you.
– The honorable member for Gwydir is out of order.
– It is my duty, as a representative of many primary producers, to see that the trade routes are kept open for their produce to be shipped to other parts of the world. I should not like to go to the fruit-growers in my district in time of war and tell them that they should store their fruit until the war was over. And I certainly should not expect to find them agreeable to such a course of action. Moreover, it would be humiliating to me as an Australian to take up the stand - I speak for myself - that, so far as Australia is concerned, each of her war vessels, as it becomes obsolete, should pass out and not be replaced. If a war then broke out, and raiders approached our shores - even insignificant raiders - we could not drive them away. It has been said that it is absolutely impossible to protect al) the trade routes connected with Australia, even with the help of the combined navies of Great Britain and the United States of America. While it might be impossible to so protect the trade routes that no vessel would be sunk, to take up the argument that, because we cannot fully protect every vessel leaving our shores, it is useless to have cruisers for the protection of any of them, would be the same as to say that, because doctors do not, and cannot, cure every disease, it is ridiculous to have doctors at all. I have stated in my own way my own views regarding this matter. During my last election campaign I attacked militarism even more strongly than I have done in this House to-night. On a number of occasions I was asked by interjectors, “If you are against militarism, do you believe in the defence of Australia ?” I said, “ Yes,” as I have said to-night. They then inquired, “What are you going to do?” and I answered, “Provide warships and aeroplanes.” I made those promises, believing that I could do so within the platform I had signed. I believe the same thing tonight. There was nothing in the Labour party’s platform at that time to prevent me from making those promises, nor is there anything in that platform to keep me from honouring those promises whenever the vote on this question is taken. My choice is between voting against a party decision and breaking my promises made on the hustings. The latter I am not prepared to do. Throughout my parliamentary career, I have endeavoured to honour my promises to the electors, and I intend to honour them in the future. If the time should arrive when I cannot honour them, I shall go back to the private life from which I came. In this bill we have the first definite proposal which has been brought before this Parliament for naval defence. It provides for the building of a cruiser <to replace one of two now becoming obsolete. When the vote on the second reading is taken, my vote will be cast in its favour.
– How will you vote on the amendment moved by your leader?
– I shall deal with that presently. The amendment does not state definitely that the vessels shall not be built. No Labour conference, within my knowledge, has affirmed that there shall be no naval defence of Australia.
– Nobody has said otherwise. You are making a fool of yourself.
– Honorable members opposite are a bit mixed.
– I remind the honorable member for D.alley that I have been able to take care of myself anywhere ever since I was a boy, and I am able to do so now, both inside and outside this House. I am not going to make a fool of myself to-night. Make no mistake about that. The amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition is to the effect that the construction programme shall be deferred on the ground that an effort is being made by the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain to arrange for another conference on disarmament, and because of the possibility of some good resulting from the early meeting of the League of Nations. I am sorry to say that, in my opinion, any efforts to limit the number of 10,000-ton cruisers to be built is certain to fail, for the very obvious reason that Japan has set her mind on building vessels of that class, and because the door has been slammed in the face of Japan recently by another power with which she would be asked to agree on the matter. Whilst I and other honorable members hope that much good may come from the next meeting of the League of Nations, I am somewhat pessimistic. I do not go so far as the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Eyrie) and say that human nature has never changed, but I am afraid any change is coming very slowly. I do not believe that the people of Europe have changed very much since 1914. Therefore, I am forced to theconclusion that nothing is to be gained by deferring the construction of the cruisers. I remember that the money was made available for this work twelve months ago, but in view of the approaching Imperial Conference it was thought advisable to hold our hand. The Imperial Conference has since met, and as the money has been appropriated for the purpose of building the cruiser, I am faced with the position that, for the reasons given, I must vote against the amendment and for the bill, which provides for the building of a cruiser to replace vessels that are becoming obsolete.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s pluck.
– It is distasteful to me to vote against my party. A man in my position is liable to be misunderstood, but I am confident that in the stand I am taking I am within my rights as a member of the Labour party.
– The honorable member has proved that he is not a marionette, at all events.
– I repeat that the Labour party has never yet definitely laid it down that there is to be no naval defence of Australia, and if I understand and interpret the feeling of the Labour movement as a whole, I do not think - I may be wrong - that in its interpretation of a defence policy of Australia it will eliminate naval vessels in every shape or form.. In the past, I have always boasted that outside the platform which I have signed I am a free man. I know that some honorable members opposite think differently; but I have always made it my boast, on every occasion when this subject has been brought up, that outside the platform which I have signed I am free to vote and decide for myself in Parliament. I propose to do so on the present occasion.
– How would honorable members opposite like to be free?
– The honorable member for Hume would like to be as game as the: honorable member for Angas.
– Order !
– I want to place on record–
– Christ going through His crucifixion!
– All I can say on that point is that Christ went through His crucifixion for a very good cause.
– Warships ?
– No. He went through His crucifixion because He was against the established church and the established civil power of His time. He faced the issues because “He had the courage of His convictions.
– And another man went out and hanged himself!
– I intend to place on record the defence policy of the Labour party. In its financial and. taxation proposals I find the following: -
Naval and military expenditure to be allotted from the proceeds of direct taxation.
That brings me to the question of how the money will be provided for building this cruiser. It will come out of the Consolidated Revenue, which has been obtained from taxation. No one can decide, however, whether this money from the Consolidated Revenue represents direct or indirect taxation; it may represent either. But, if I interpret the plank in the platform correctly, it means that provision for defence shall not be made out of loan money. If the Government had come down with a proposal to build the cruisers out of loan money, there is no doubt what my attitude would be. Such a proposal would be contrary to the platform I have signed, and I would vote against it. Now I pass to a consideration of the defence proposals of the Labour party.
– Why introduce a family matter ?
– When an honorable member does not see eye to eye ‘ with his party, there is always a danger-
– I am not quite sure that the remarks of the honorable member are in order.
– The House is debating proposals relating to the defence of Australia, and I am placing on record the defence proposals of the party to which
I belong. I was pledged to thosepro posals when I became a member of this House, and surely I am in order in placing them before honorable members on this occasion. They are as follow : -
Amendment of Defence Act to secure-
I signed that platform, and I do not wish to withdraw or retract one of the proposals in it. My contention is that there is nothing in any of them that distinctly says, or even implies, that I shall be acting contrary to the spirit of them when I vote for a bill to make provision for the building of cruisers to replace vessels that have become obsolete. I am prepared to submit that question to the decision of any unbiased tribunal. I am certain that any judge would take the view that there is nothing either in the letter or the spirit of the platform of the Labour party, as laid down up to the present moment, that in any way convicts me of breaking my pledge to my party when i vote for building a cruiser out of money taken from revenue. The pledge that I have signed reads: -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidates elected by the recognized political labour organization, and, if elected–
– The honorable member is not in order. I am not concerned with the defence proposals of the Labour party. It is the defence proposals in this bill that are before the House. The honorable member has had very great latitude.
– I thank you, Mr.. Speaker, for the latitude you have given, me, and I do not intend to fall out with you. You are in the saddle, and I am. not, so it would not be wise of me to contest the point with you. I content myself with saying that my voting for the bill cannot be construed as a breaking of the pledge that I signed before I stood for election. I have always contended, and still contend, that I am a free man, outside the platform I have signed, to vote in this Parliament as I think right, and, believing that, I am taking my stand in support of the bill.. During this debate, some honorable members have said that the Labour party does not desire the Australian Navy to cooperate with the British fleet. I do not know where those honorable members obtained their information, for I am confident that no conference of theLabour party has at any time said thatthe Australian Labour party- intends to dissociate itself from the policy of co-operation with the British fleet for the defence of Australia.. I do not think that the Labour party will ever take up that stand. Tho honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan)’ took honorable members opposite to task because some of them had stressed the fact that to a large extent we are dependent upon the British navy. That cannot be denied. I am, however, satisfied that the British navy would be employed for the protection of Australia even if we were foolish enough to adopt such an attitude, because in Australiasufficient British capital is invested to make it absolutely certain that the naval power of Great Britain would beused to prevent securities passing into other hands. If it should happen that for the defence of Australia it was necessary for Australian cruisers to co-operate with theBritish navy, and to go outside territorial waters, I believe the Labour party would not object to such a course being followed. What we have said, and what I now wish to emphasize, is that as a party we are opposed to the sending of forces from Australia for the purposes of aggression, and with that principle I entirely agree. I am opposed to any men being sent to fight anywhere overseas, I would also be opposed to Australian warships co-operating with the British navy for the purpose of attacking another country in an endeavour to increase Great Britain’s territory. But to link up with the British navy in the protection of British securities and. in the guarding of our shores is something to the advantage of both. The Labour party has never laid it down that a member of that party would be out of hounds in supporting such a proposal. I think I have made my position clear; at any
Tate, I trust I have, and perhaps it would be wise for me to leave it at that.
– The honorable member seems to have honorable members opposite with him.
– I do not wish it to be thought by anybody that in the stand I am taking I desire in any way to dissociate myself from the Labour party. One never knows what will be done in these days of. “ funny “ politics. I have no thought of doing any such thing. I do not think that I have in any way broken any pledge I have signed, and I am quite certain that the Labour party, which is the party in which I was reared, is the one in which I am likely to remain until I’ am pushed out.
– The honorable member should not be so optimistic.
– Surely the House knows that whether a speech is palatable or unpalatable, an honorable member has a right to be heard in silence.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My position is hard enough without it being made harder. I have had a varied experience. It has been my lot as the eldest in a’ family of nine to know what hardship means, and. what struggles have to be confronted in such circumstances.. I have been through all these experiences, and they have been sufficient to make me, whatever may happen, loyal to the class from which I have sprung - the class which sent me into this House, and the rights of which I shall always champion.. Although I am. at variance a little with others in what I am saying, my action isnot against the interests of the class to which I belong or of the party of which I am a member. In concluding, I wish to support a statement made by the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), who said he hoped that the Government would not be borne away from its purpose in regard to defence along the lines of remitting taxation. He said that he hoped that there would be no remission of income taxation, that the present rates would remain, and that the Government would go on with its defence proposals, whatever they may be. I am. not binding myself to future proposals, but I stand abso- . lutely with, the honorable member in that regard. The honorable member for BalIarat (Mr. McGrath) said that if we are going to have a defence scheme it is fair that those who are to be protected should continue to pay. If. we are to have this defence scheme,. I trust we shall continue along the lines proposed in the measure now before the House, and that the expenditure will be met out of revenue. Let the members of wealthy taxpayers’ associations and similar organizations howl as they will. We have a higher duty than to listen to them. If we are to provide means of defence the expenditure must not be met from loans and thus increase our national debt, but from revenue. Let those who want defence be. prepared to pay for it.
Debate (on motion by Sir Elliot Johnson) adjourned.
Mr.BRUCE (Flinders- Prime Min-. ister and Minister for External Affairs) [10.58).- In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to announce to the House the personnel of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the present method of determining whether ex-soldiers’ disabilities are due to or aggravated by war service. The names are : -
commission, but unfortunately be found it impossible to act. Another member of the commission will be chosen from six names which the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League will submit to the Government as its nominee on the commission.
– For many weeks I have been endeavouring to ‘ arrange for an inquiry to be held on behalf of a number of nurses. The Government evidently thought that an inquiry was necessary. The facts are that a number of nurses in the Darwin Hospital, who have long war service to their credit, have been accused of immorality and addiction to drugs. A board was constituted to investigate the charges, but owing to some informality in its appointment it was unable to do so. The Minister for Home and Territories then requested Judge Herbert to report upon the matter, but he was on holidays, and evidently did notwish to associate himself with it. It is highly important, however, that these girls should be given an opportunity to vindicate their character, for unless they can do so they may find themselves unable to obtain an engagement anywhere in Australia, and their future will be anything but bright. I had been promised that the Government would reach a decision on the matter by to-day, and I have been informed from Darwin that its decision is to terminate the services of both the accused and the accuser. I submit that that is not a fair decision. The girls are entitled to more consideration than that, and their services should not be terminated in this unjust and peremptory manner. Unless they can prove that the allegations made against them are unfounded their future in their profession is blasted. In these circumstances I trust that the Minister will withdraw the instruction for the termination of their engagement and grant an inquiry.
– I have no personal knowledge of the mattermentioned by the honorable member, but I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Minister for Home and Territories.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 July 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240717_reps_9_107/>.