9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Kt. Hon. W.. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Last night, when the Prime Minister informed the House of the personnel of the- Royal Commission which will inquire into certain repatriation matters, be stated that Dr.. J. B. McLean, D.S.O., of Brisbane, had been unable to accept the invitation of the. Government to Bit on the commission. I ask the Prime Minister to extend that invitation to some other member of the medical profession of Queensland - not necessarily of Brisbane.
– The Government regrets that Dr. McLean did not see hia way to accept the invitation to sit on the commission. We are very anxious to have a representative of Queensland on the commission, and the Government will endeavour to obtain the services of some other medical officer of that state.
SALARY of Colonel SEMMENS.
– Following on the Treasurer’s statement the other day that Colonel Semmens. chairman of the Repatriation Commission, receives a salary of £1,500 per annum, I should like to know from the Minister for Works and1 Railways what salary that officer draws as Acting War Service Homes Commissioner.
– Colonel Semmens draws no salary as Acting Commissioner for War Service Homes. His sole remuneration is his salary as chairman of the Repatriation Commission.
WIRELESS BROADCASTING REGULATIONS. Mr. FENTON - The announcement was made in this House last week that the wireless broadcasting regulations had been framed and were on issue. Can the Prime Minister state when these regulations will be in the hands of honorable members.? Did I understand the Prime Minister to say,, the other day, : that the wireless broadcasting Regulations would be treated in the same way as ordinary regulations, and would lay on the. table of. the House for a month? If so,, will honorable members be given an opportunity to move to disagree with them as a whole or in part?
– The Government anticipates that the regulations will be printed and issued within the next few days. Yesterday in reply to a question, I said that the Government does, not propose to take any extraordinary procedure respecting these regulations. There is an ordinary routine to be followed for all regulations, and that procedure will be followed in this case.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the trip now being undertaken from the south to north of Central Australia by Dr. Stefannson is under the aegis of the Government, and, if so, will a report be furnished to the Government on the completion of the trip.
- Dr.. Stefannson’s travels will . extend only so far as Alice Springs and the surrounding country. Be is not going right through from the south to- the north of Australia. The Commonwealth Government is providing him- with facilities for making the trip, which is primarily to. obtain information respecting that part of the Australian, continent. Dr. Stefannson has -undertaken to write for the American Government a geography of Australia,, and be will make available to the Commonwealth. Government the result of his observations.
– On the 3rd of this month I directed! a question to the Minister respecting the- complaint of the employees on the East-West: railway that they were compelled to contribute to the Superannuation Fund, and a recent statement of the Arbitration judge was. to the effect that, although, unjust, that . could not be considered by the Court. He suggested that all employees might be placed on the same basis as clerks, who receive a child allowance or bonus. Has the Minister considered the request made by me, and can he now give an answer to it ?
– X cannot give the honorable member an answer at the moment, but I shall have the matter investigated, and furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs had any reply to his communications with the Government of the Dominion -of New Zealand respecting his request that maize should be allowed to enter New Zealand in onceused flour bags?
– Several cable communications have passed between the Department of Trade and Customs of the Commonwealth and the Dominion of New Zealand. We asked that maize for fodder only should be admitted to New Zealand in once-used flour sacks. This morning a cablegram was received from the Government of New Zealand agreeing, with certain minor conditions, to our request.
FORMAL Motion of Adjournment.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this morning for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the allocation of the Commonwealth grant for the construction and extension of developmental roads.”
Five honorable members leaving risen in their places,
.- Iregret that I have been forced to crave the indulgence of the House this morning to discuss the matter of the allocation of the Commonwealth road grant among the various shires -within the state of Victoria ; but a gross injustice is being suffered by a large number of struggling settlers owing to the various shires not having sufficient funds for road construction. The Minhamite shire is owed £4,000 by the Country Roads Board of Victoria from the amount granted by this Parliament last year. The engineer of that shire visited Melbourne some ten days ago tointerview the board respecting the amount that the shire was likely to receive from the grant this year. He was informed that the money was intended solely for main roads, and, therefore, his shire would not participate in the grant. When the Main Roads Development Bill was before the House, we had the assurance of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) that to some extent the grant would be used for cross roads, and roads required for the development of new settlements. The Minister knows the requirements of new settlers, and the difficult conditions under which they live in the winter months through lack of good roads. I ask him to take steps to review the allocation, and, if possible, to ensure some assistance tothe shires that are to-day denied a share of the Commonwealth grant. In reading in the Age the account of a meeting between the Commonwealth Engineer (Mr. Hill) and a representative of the Country Roads Board, any one might assume that the Elderslie-road had been completed, but I wish to assure the Minister that, having recently passed over that road, I know that it is far from completion. The road from Dergholm to Elderslie carries a large amount of traffic, including a daily coach from Casterton to Apsley via Elderslie. In winter time that road is a quagmire, and- it requires four horses to pull a small coach over it. The same statementapplies; to the road from Glenorchy to Struan settlement. I am speaking now on behalf of new settlements, and soldier settlements which have not been established, at any rate, for more than five or six years. The settlers have enough to contend with in failures of their crops without having the handicap of bad roads also. I take, it that the intention of the Government, when making this grant, was that a portion of it should go to the shires controlling those settlements, to enable them to give decent roads to the settlers. I know the country in the Glenelg and Struan estates, and it will take thousands- of pounds for the shires to make the roads good there, because of the heavy cuttings which will be required. In winter time the hills are slippery and the gullies boggy. Those men are suffering hardships because of the absence of good roads. The same conditions apply on the road from Coleraine to Balmoral, which touches the Melville Forest and the Gringe settlement. On the main road from Casterton to Mount Gambier ‘there is a considerable amount of traffic, including a daily coach both ways, but on this side of the border the road is not in good condition, although it is good from the border to Mount Gambier. The shires which control those roads have no money .for their repair. They cannot afford to double their rates to provide sufficient money for decent roads. I contend that, while it may be a laudable object to construct main roads for motor traffic, such as the Prince’s Highway, from Mount Gambier through Portland, or through Orbost to Delegate, there is more urgent road construction work to be performed. Our first duty is to see that the men who are struggling along in new settlements are provided with good roads. As the money has been allocated an injustice has been done to them - an injustice which should be remedied. I have a letter here from the President of the shire of Glenelg, Mr. James Ross, in which he states that his shire requires from £20,000 to £25,000 from this grant to provide anything like decent roads in the soldier settlements. They also require a grant for the main road from Mount Gambier to Casterton, for roads in the soldier settlement territory on the border of the Glenorchy and Struan estates, and for the Dergholm-Elderslie road. That shire made application last year to the Country Roads Board, but obtained no money at all. I have a letter also from the secretary of the Kowree shire, in which he asks for £6,255 to provide a decent road from Edenhope to Goroke, near Miga Lake, in the Gymbowen country. That road is a bog. in winter time. The same conditions apply to the road from Minimay towards the South Australian border, which can hardly be negotiated in the winter months. The fair thing has not been done to these shires, which have asked the Country Roads Board for a portion of the grant received from the Mr.
Commonwealth Government. If grants are to be made to the shires, those among them which control new settlements should participate, whether those new settlements contain soldier settlers or civilians. That course should be followed in preference to allocating the whole of the money to the development of a new road bordering on the coast. The Minister for “Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has assured us that the Government’s intention when making the grant, was that a portion of the money should go to the shires controlling new settlements. Yet not one shilling has been- allocated to those shires. I know that I shall not appeal in vain to the Minister, because he understands the conditions under which these people are working and living. I do not see on the schedule any provision for one of the most important roads in Victoria - that running from Stawell through Murtoa. Horsham, and Dimboola, to Serviceton. In the winter time if is almost impassable for vehicular traffic. Instead of spending £10,000 or £20,000 on roads in East Gippsland, the money should be spent in those old-settled districts, where the people have been labouring under the roughest of conditions for the last 50 or 60 years. Seeing that the shires are expecting a portion of the grant - and rightly so - and that the whole of the money granted by this Government, with the exception of £5,000, which is not sufficient for one shire, has already been allocated by the Country Roads Board and the Commonwealth Engineer, it is only fair to ask them to reconsider the matter. They would be justified in reducing the grant to some shires by £5,000 or £6,000, and by £2,000 or £3,000 in other cases, in order that the men in the new settlements may be given decent roads. That is all I ask for, and I trust that the Minister will give this matter his serious and sympathetic consideration.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) f 11.24]. - We are all in sympathy with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) in his plea for the outback settler. When the Main Roads Development Bill was before the House recently, I expressed the fear that what has happened in Victoria in connexion with roads might become general. For that reason I urged that the greater portion of this money should not be all spent on roads running parallel with the railways and competing with them, b%t should be utilized in the making of roads to act as feeders to the railways, and to serve the outback settlers. The tourist roads mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon are all right in their way, and deserve consideration, but I agree with him that our first consideration should be roads in our outback districts. In Victoria a large amount of this money has been spent on those other great roads-
– Which great roads?
– I was referring to the Prince’s-highway, between Orbost and Delegate, and to the road to Bruthen, mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon.
– A great amount of money is not being spent on the Prince’shighway. .
– I have received numerous communications from shire councils in New South Wales complaining about the allocation of the money in the past. Some of their applications were rejected because they did not, in the opinion of the local governing authority, come within the meaning of the act. I asked the Minister the other day whether roads, which I described as cross roads, and which opened up new country, came within the meaning of the act, and he replied that they did, so long as they could be classed as developmental roads. We were glad to have that ruling from the Minister; but, if the money is to be treated in the other states in the same manner as in Victoria, the fair thing will not be done regarding developmental roads. I want to make a special plea on behalf of the people outback. Those who pay the piper have the right to call the tune. When applications reach the Minister for the Federal Government’s contribution towards these roads, I hope that he will at least withhold payment until he is satisfied that the money will be spent, not wholly upon those great roads which have been well looked after in the past, but that a large proportion will go to serve the outback people. I know of nothing so vital to the interests of the outback settlers, and to the development of this country generally, as good roads. (90]
I repeat that the proposal does not go as far as it should. £500,000 from the Commonwealth, and another £500,000 from the states, will not be sufficient to touch more than the fringe of the problem. Instead of the Commonwealth voting £500,000, it should vote £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. I am not irrelevant when I say that by providing developmental roads we should be doing something substantial towards defending this country. We all know that the settlement of the back country without railways or roads is a forced settlement, and that the best way to promote settlement is to provide good roads. If we took steps to ensure that money voted for road construction was. spent on such roads as I have suggested,, we should keep in the back country the people who are already there, and should induce others to go there. In this matter it appears to me that the cart is usually placed before the horse. Settlers have to go into new country, where there are neither roads nor railways, and after they have populated the country, and, to. a large extent, made their own roads, the Government thinks about the work of. road construction.
– Does the honorable member favour roads as against railways)
– Both have their uses, and I am in favour of both. I remind the honorable member that railway construction costs £13,000 a mile, while good blue metal roads can be made for about one-fourth of that sum. I ask the Minister to satisfy himself, before making the money available, that it will be spent properly.
– I do that now.
– I am very glad to know that that is the Minister’s procedure. His statement should cause the local governing authorities to look carefully into the act before rejecting deserving applications. I have travelled over some of the roads that have been the subject of rejected applications, and, in my opinion, they cannot be termed anything but developmental roads. Will the Minister, before acquiescing in the rejection of a proposal, look into its merits 1
– I cannot undertake to do that.
– Then . what does the Minister mean when he says, that he will see that the money is properly spent)
Mir. STEWART:-I mean that I. always look carefully into such propositions as are submitted to me by the states.
-That does not achieve anything. My grievance; is that the local governing authorities in the past have rejected a large number ©£ applications that should have been accepted. The reason given was that they did not come within the purview of the act. The Minister’s interference can only be effective if he examines all the applications, and the basis upon which some are re*jected. if the Minister can devise a means of examining applications that are refused by the states, he will be doing something both fair and reasonable. If he does not do that the discontent of the past will be perpetuated in the future. I cannot see ‘that it will involve him in much’ worry or work.
– I would rather the honorable member had the job than I.
– If the Minister will not do more than examine the applications approved’ by the local governing authorities, rejected applications’ will be entirely at the mercy of the state- authorities.
– The honorable member must remember that the states provide half the money, and that they must, therefore, be given Borne discretion.
– I admit that; but the Minister’s attitude gives them all the discretion that is of any value. They have the- right to say that out of 30 applications ten shall toe sent to the Minister for’ approval. If the Minister is satisfied, and I expect that he is satisfied ten times out of ten, the 20 discontented applicants have no redress. The Minister must know that considerable influence of various kinds is exerted to-day to obtain road grants, ana those who are interested in developmental roads in’ the back country have the least influence, for they are generally struggling settlers who, having Submitted their applications, allow them to stand or fall on their merits! On the other hand, those who are interested in the great roads referred to by the honorable member for Wannon, make it their business to push their applications in every possible way. I am stating in the mildest possible terms my view of the influence exerted. I could say something much stronger.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
,.- All hon’orable members- sympathize, with the honorable member for . Wannon (Mr… McNeill) in his- request, also- with-, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney);, but it is necessary to bear in mind that Victoria’s share of the grant is- only £90,000 - In this state there are about 160 shires, excludrising boroughs, and if they were given only a paltry £5,000 each, a sum of £800,000 would be accounted for. The facts are similar in the other states, and it would be possible to move an adjournment .of the House every day for years if we had to deal with complaints about the roads of Australia. If a sum of £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 was made available to Victoria, there would be something to talk about, but when the amount available- is only £90,000, it should be spent in those isolated parts where settlers are a considerable distance from railways. Thebest policy for the Commonwealth Government is -to hand the money over to the states and leave them to distribute it as: they think fit,, sub ject only to a guaranteethat it will be spent in the desired direction. The honorable member for Wannon says that he wants £25,000 for roads in his shire. I could’ spend double that amount in the shire I represent, and could keep the Minister for Works and Railways travelling about the locality for at least a month. After I had done with him he could- go to another district, and thus he could spend his- whole time investigating local questions when he ought, to be handling big Australian problems. In Victoria the last grant, considering its small amount, was. spent most judiciously. Proposals for road construction were referred by the- shire engineers tothe engineer of the Country Roads Board - an organization that has no parallel in the other states - who in turn consulted with the Commonwealth engineer. We would certainly have liked a much larger sum. Similar complaints to that made by the honorable member for Wannon could be made by every honorable member, and if the Minister for Works and Railways had to attend to such small matters we should hear . one continuous roar of dissatisfaction.
. -I rise to stress one point made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill). -He referred to the disabilities of soldier settlers.. Whenever a subdivision of land for soldier settlement takes place, good roads are essential. Two things often go -together, namely, good soil and bad roads. An inspection of any Victorian soldier settlement will prove that better roads are sad’ly needed. On one settlement not more than 50 miles from Melbourne the need for good roads is so great that the settlers at times spend .a whole day in travelling to the shire council meetings to interview the authorities and advance their claim for decent roads. The Federal Government have already advanced to- the various State Governments- about £30,000,000 for soldier settlement,, and, therefore; has a great interest in these settlements. In that circumstance it should do everything possible to ensure that the money advanced is properly spent.
– Does not the honorable member consider that that is also a responsibility of the State Governments?
– It is; but the Commonwealth Government should also give some attention to the matter.. It is now advancing £1,000,000 for road construction, and should exercise some supervision over the spending of it. This Parliament, will very shortly have to face a serious problem in respect to- the future of some of our soldier settlements. Recently I said to an experienced soldier settlement inspector, “ I am very much afraid that a number of these settlements will be failures.” He replied, “ I feel confident that 50 per cent, of them will be successes.” That is a significant remark, coming from a man who is on one soldier settlement or another every day of the week. The day will come, in my opinion, when the State Governments will request the Federal Government to forgo the repayment of a great deal of the money that has been advanced for soldier settlement Speaking as a former- shire councillor, I can support the statement of the honorable member for Wannon that many shire councils carry on their work only with the aid of a big overdraft from the bank, for which they have to pay substantial interest. Some of them have not a single penny to spare to make new roads. When soldier settlements are established in country districts, not only are new roads necessary, but the existing roads- are obliged to carry much heavier traffic. The Government should insist that some of the money now being advanced to the states for road construction shall be spent in making reads into .soldier settlements. Every conference of soldier settlers that has been held in Victoria has. adopted resolutions requesting the improvement of country roads. The State Governments-, cannot give effect to these resolutions unless the Commonwealth Government advances- to them, much more money than it has done in the past, and. it could afford to use some of its surplus to do so. If the Government introduced a proposal to double its road grant to the states, it would be supported whole-heartedly by the Opposition. I hope that the Minister for Works and Railways will consult Cabinet on the advisableness of ear-marking for the purpose of making roads in soldier settlements, some of the £1,000,000 which was voted recently by this Parliament. To do so will ensure that the settlements will, be more successful !than they can possibly be otherwise..
– A double difficulty faces the Minister for Works and Railways in this matter. On the due hand’ the Commonwealth Government, which is advancing the money, may reasonably expect to exercise a cer- . tain- amount of supervision over its expenditure ; and, on the other hand, if the measure of control which it seeks to exercise is too- severe- resentment will he felt by the- State Governments. What is desired is that the true functions of the State Governments may be preserved, but that the Commonwealth Government may be permitted to exercise reasonable supervision. The people of the different states must bear some blame for the unsatisfactory allocation of the money . previously advanced for road making by the Commonwealth Government. No state, except Victoria, has a well organized central road authority. There has been too much of the “pull devil, pull tailor” business among the local governing bodies of the states; The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) urged that the spending of the money should be left entirely to the State Governments. I am a staunch upholder of state rights, but I cannot altogether agree with that suggestion. To permit the money to be spent just as the states desired would be very much like throwing food in a haphazard way to a pack of wolves. The local governing bodies would exert all the influence possible to secure some of the plunder.
– This can hardly be called plunder.
– Honorable members opposite seem to call everything plunder. It is highly desirable that each state should appoint a central roads authority like the Victorian Country Roads Board to advise on the expenditure of money voted for road making. Such a body would not only have the confidence of the state concerned, but also of the Commonwealth Government. Victoria stands head and shoulders above every other state in regard to the organization of its road construction and maintenance work. I have been urging for a long time that the Western. Australian Government should take steps to appoint a similar body in that state, and I suggest to all honorable members who come from states other than Victoria that they would be well advised to act similarly in respect to their states. One effect of the operations of the Victorian Country Roads Board is that this year, as last year, Victoria is the first state to allocate the money that has been ^granted. I noticed a newspaper statement the other day that not only has the whole of the Victorian grant been allocated, but that most of it has been devoted to the extension of new roads which were commenced with the help of the Commonwealth Government vote last year. Victoria thus has a well-prepared and comprehensive road policy, and will ultimately develop a fine system of arterial highways. The board acts regardless of political influences and local considerations for the benefit of the state as a whole. Its officers are now experts in road making and repairing. When tenders are submitted for any work the board desires to have done its officers are able to say at once whether they are fair or not. If, in consequence of collusion between road contractors only one tender is submitted for a particular job, the board can judge whether it is unreasonably high, and if so it can reject it. What may be called “gentlemen’s agreements “ are, therefore, not likely to eliminate the competitive basis for road work in Victoria. The adoption of the Victorian system in the other states would ensure for them the development of a properly formulated road policy and also the spending of Commonwealth money in an economical way. Such boards would greatly facilitate the allocation of all moneys which the Commonwealth Government, from time to time, grants for road work.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Wannon upon having brought this matter before the House. He has demonstrated very clearly that the allocation in Victoria ha3 not been in the best interests of the soldier settlers and other small men on the land. Expenditure upon road construction should be devoted primarily to roads that are developmental rather than to the further improvement of first class roads for tourists and motor traffic. If we cannot have both classes of roads, those cross-roads that feed the main arteries should have prior consideration, so that the settlers may be able to travel with reasonable security and comfort, and get their products to market. Of course, we cannot have spur railways built in every direction to serve settlers who are 10 or 15 miles from a main line, and roads are the only alternative. I understand that the allocation of the Commonwealth grant has already taken place in Victoria, and I suppose that the whole amount is already exhausted, but I hope the arguments which have been advanced this morning will influence the allocation of the money in the other stales. The experience in New South Wales last year was similar to that in Victoria as stated by the honorable member for Wannon. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) facetiously pictured the Minister for Works and Railways spending the whole of his time travelling through the country to inspect primitive roads. No such ridiculous suggestion has been made by honorable members on this side. The Minister can readily get from honorable members reliable information regarding the roads in their districts, and I do not think that any honorable member would support a claim which he did not think was justified. I have had requests from many districts in my electorate for a share of this year’s grant, but I shall only mention the shires of Crookwell, Burrowa, and Goulburn. The Crookwell Shire failed to get any portion of last year’s grant, and I am very much afraid that it will fare no better this year. That district produces potatoes, and I am naturally interested in it because a Melbourne newspaper charged me with desiring to convert that product into currency! A railway terminates at Crookwell, and the fertile district beyond is served only by roads; which I have found by personal experience to be very bad. The shire has repeatedly asked for a portion of the money granted by the Commonwealth to New South Wales for road construction, but unless some influence is brought to bear on the state authorities that control the allocation, I am afraid the district will be overlooked. Burrowa, which is one of the safest and soundest agricultural districts in Australia, is again asking for assistance. The town is a railway terminus, and is served by only three trains a week. The only communication with the country beyond is by roads which no honorable member would care to travel even in the day-time. . There is no necessity for the Minister for Works and Railways or any other member of the Government to travel these districts in order to be convinced of the justice of their claims. I can supply the Minister with proof that the roads are in a very bad condition, and that the expenditure of a portion of the Commonwealth grant upon them is justifiable. What I have said of the other two shires applies also to Goulburn, some of the outlying portions of which are in difficulties owing to the state of the roads. The local bodies have made out a good case, but I am afraid that for the reasons mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon and others they will be refused assistance this year as they were last year. The excuse of the controlling authority is that the Commonwealth grant is for main roads, and that the roads for which these shires are requesting money do not come within that category. But what would be the use of a main road if it did not have branch roads to feed it with traffic ? That objection is a mere excuse on the part of the state authorities in order that they may evade their obligations. It ha!> been said that because of the smallness of the total amount available assistance cannot be given to all the districts that require it, but I should be prepared to support the Government in making available any reasonable amount for the de velopment of the country roads. If the Government will submit a proposal to increase the Commonwealth grant to £1,000,000, or even to £2,000,000, it will meet with no opposition from this side of the House, because we regard good roads as essential to the development of rural industries. I hope that in the near future the Government will see its way clear to propose an increase in the grant.
.- Although there has been general complaint in all the states regarding the allocation, of the Commonwealth’s grant for road construction, I think the Minister is very fortunate in not having to police the allocation and expenditure of that money. If the Commonwealth attempted to interfere in any way with the state authorities there would be continuous friction. I have every confidence that the authorities which are entrusted with the allocation of this money do their work conscientiously, and apportion the money in the manner that is most likely, in their opinion, to develop a sound system of main roads. The money advanced by the Commonwealth is a gift, and the State Governments are required to augment it pound for pound. I understand that the shires are obliged to refund the portion which is advanced by the state authorities. Is that so?
– I do not know. I understand that complaints have been made, but the Commonwealth deals only with the State Governments.
– When the announcement was made that the Commonwealth would make a grant for road construction, and that the State Government would subsidize that amount pound for pound, it was thought that the whole of that money would be a gift; but when the shire councils found that they were expected to refund the State Government’s share, they curtailed expenditure. That is the principal reason for a certain portion of last year’s grant being unexpended. The Commonwealth advance is misunderstood by many people to be generosity on the part of the state, but I do not think we need complain on that account if the result desired by the Commonwealth is attained. It will be quite impossible for the Minister, or his officers, to follow up the expenditure of all this money throughout the Commonwealth In Queensland the Country Roads Board is getting into its stride and doing good work. The. claims of. many town coun- cils and. shires in the federal division of Lilley have been rejected, for the reason that the money is available only for the development, of main roads’. In other shires, complaints axe made that the board is. not. operating in those districts; but the board is carrying’ out a very sensible policy of main road construction. That I think, is the best policy that can be adopted. Possibly, in future, it may be the policy of the Government, to make provision for local government bodies which lose revenue because of large areas of war service homes land, and other lands held by the Defence Department, on which no rates are collected.
.- The honorable member for Wannon is to be commended for having brought this matter before the House. This year’s grant for the Commonwealth will shortly be allocated, and the discussion this morning - based at it is upon the experience of last year - may gain for the country districts’, for which this money was intended, more sympathetic consideration than was extended to them last year. The claims of many municipalities and district councils were rejected last year because the roads for which they sought the money were not regarded as developmental, but I found that a good deal of money was allocated to roads close to Adelaide, not nearly so developmental in character as some of the roads for which assistance had been refused. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) may believe that the money is spent judiciously, and it is not his fault if that is not the ease. The discussion of this motion should have a good effect upon the expenditure of the grant that is being made this year. I may appear to be parochial in referring again to Eyre’s Peninsula, but it is a part of my electorate which is, to a large extent, undeveloped, and in which expenditure upon road construction would be of great benefit to the people. Owing to the small amounts allotted to local authorities in thisdistrict the money has, so far, been practically wasted. For instance, it would take some thousands of pounds to put the road from Streaky Bay to Minnipa in proper order, but as the local authority concerned received only a small grant for the purpose I make bold to say that the money, was, to some extent, wasted. While a larger amount would be of great value in this important centre, roads in districts close to the metropolitan area received more consideration. In the last few years the South Australian Government removed a number of main- roads from the main roads schedule of the state, not because they are not main roads, but because the Government was trying to dodge its responsibilities. Some of those roads are in such a state of disrepair as to be almost impassable. The people between Port Pirie and Crystal Brook, have made application for some of this grant, hut as the district is closely settled they may receive only the scant consideration given to their requirements in the allocation of this year’s grant. In making arrangements for a similar grant next year the Government would be well ad vised in proposing a very considerable increase in the amount, in order that the state authorities might be able to carry out really useful work, instead of merely tinkering with their road’s as they have been obliged to do because of the smallness of the grant so far made. It would be more economical to spend a considerable sum on main road development in one year than to spread the expenditure of the same amount over a number of years. When shire councils have only a few hundred pounds granted to them for this purpose the money is used in patching the roads. Because no permanent road construction can be carried out the money is practically wasted, and the roads require further expenditure in the next year. With a substantial grant a shire council could carry out the work of road construction properly in the first instance and it would last a number of years.I believe that owing to the change of government in South Australia, country districts in that state will receive more consideration than has been given to them in the past. I have said that last year’s grant in South Australia was spent in districts close to the metropolitan area. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) said that the grant is intended for road construction in isolated districts. I believe that it was intended that it should bo expended in districts in which primary production is taking place, and where it is necessary that settlers shall have good roads to enable them to market their produce. In considering applications the
Minister would foe well .advised if he ‘required that the road construction proposed .should .give people in country districts better facilities for marketing their produce. I think, also, that the financial position of local authorities should bo taken into consideration in the allocation of this grant. Some are in a better financial position than others. A local authority struggling for existence and with very little revenue obtainable from its ratepayers should be given special consideration. I commend the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) for submitting the motion, as it has given honorable members representing country districts an opportunity to make suggestions to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), in the hope that the money granted this .year will be spent to greater advantage than that which was voted last year.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) has said that the allocation of this Commonwealth grant has led to considerable dissatisfaction. Nearly all local bodies consider that they should participate in the .grant. I think that it was the intention of “the Government, in making the grant, to consider the development of settled districts in the different states. I believe that intention has been carried out. Speaking for my own electorate, which is being rapidly developed, I can say that the roads have received very fair consideration. The honorable member for Perth. (Mr. Mann) has eulogized the Victorian Roads Board and the system adopted -in this state. I believe that the Victorian system is quite a good one, and is carried out in the interests of development in this state. In South Australia we have a department in charge of roads development which is working very well indeed. I think I am quite safe in saying that it is practically free from the evil of political influence. It has its own inspectors and chief engineer, and the allocation of last year’s grant was in its hands.
– It did not clear the track from Oodnadatta to Charlotte Waters.
– The honorable member’s knowledge of that part of the country should inform him that it would he impossible .to clear that track with a grant of £57,000. There are other (por tions of the Commonwealth closer to important centres, and very different in character from the .region to which the honorable member has referred, that should be given prior consideration in the expenditure of this money. Once the grant ,is handed over to the State Governments. it would be impracticable for the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) to interfere with its allocation. The state authorities should be quite competent!, as I feel that they are in South Australia, to deal with the expenditure of the money. There are one or two matters which should be given attention. In many instances the money is spent far away from a town. I believe that it is a compulsory condition of the grant that a road upon which this money is to be spent must be not less than 1.6 feet in width. In a great many outlying country districts the roads are only 12 feet or 14 feet wide. If a district council spends money on a portion of a road 16 feet in width which has to be linked -up with a road only 12 feet or 14 feet wide, the money will be practically wasted. It should be optional with the constructing authorities :to say whether a road upon which the grant is expended shall be 12 feet or 16 feet in width. The honorable member for Wannon referred to the road between Mount Gambier and Casterton. That is practically the main interstate road connecting South Australia and Victoria, and until very recently it was the only road connecting those states. From Mount :Gambier to the border, a distance of 14 miles, there is a good metalled road, but for 12 or 15 miles on the Victorian side of the border there has been practically no road construction at all. That portion of Victoria has been settled for at least 70 years, and yet the road to which I refer is one of the worst in this state.
– Then it must be very bad.
– The honorable member has no conception of how bad it is. There is a continuous stream of traffic over that road, and it ie a common .thing for teams to be requisitioned to pull vehicles out of the bogs on it. Only this morning I received a request from the Town Council of Mount Gambier .t© interview the authorities in Victoria and see whether something cannot be done to -improve the condition of this particular road. I have no idea why it should have been allowed to remain in such a state for over 70 years. It may be because it is in an outside portion of a shire, and those using it have not had sufficient influence to get it attended to. There is considerable traffic between Casterton and Mount Gambier, and this road is specially deserving of consideration. I feel sure that, if the allocation of the grant is left in the hands of the local governing bodies in South Australia, there will be very little complaint. We have, in considering this matter, to remember that local authorities are not always prepared to tax their ratepayers as much as they should to help themselves. One of the functions of the South Australian local government department is to see that local bodies exercise their powers to make assessments and levy rates in such a way that the revenue derived will enable them to carry out the duties imposed upon them. In making allocations .of this grant in South Australia that aspect of the matter is always taken into consideration. The allocation of the main roads grant -can be safely left in the hands of the state departments.
. - I congratulate the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) on being in charge of a department that last year made a new departure as far as the functions of the Commonwealth are concerned. The Minister recognizes that the outback communities of Australia are not able to provide roads for their own use, and therefore the Government is making a grant to assist them. In Western Australia - probably because of its vast area and sparse population - these road grants are particularly welcome. This national Government is now assuming a duty which previously was purely a state function, and is at last concerning itself with the development of Australia. It is absolutely impossible under the State Government to develop Western Australia, with a population of only 300,000, and comprising, as it does, one-third of the area of the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members to visualize, if they can, an area that is two and half times the size of New South Wales, and in which there is neither railway nOr main road. Until recently this area was considered incapable of development, but it is now being proved to be good for pastoral . purposes. It is true that it is poor country measured by eastern standards. I am speaking of the Murchison district, carrying one sheep to twenty acres. It has an advantage over the eastern states in that it has a permanent water supply. Underground throughout an area of almost 500,000 square miles - nearly twice the size of New South Wales - fresh water is to bo obtained at a depth of from 20 to 40 feet, and this in a country that was once considered uninhabitable. It extends from the Murchison district right to the South Australian border - about 400 miles north of the trans-Australian railway. From Nullabor Plains northwards, pa<storalists, not only from Western Australia, but from South Australia and New South Wales, are flocking to open up this country. The great problem is to reach these people, whose holdings must be large to enable them to make a living. A man with 150,000 acres is a small pastoralist. Owing to the high tax imposed upon the people of Western Australia by our policy of Protection - which I trust will never be altered - we are unable to establish industries there. We are paying highly for our protectionist policy.
– The honorable member is aware that the subject under debate is the allocation of the grant for developmental roads.
– I am trying to prove that this country, which was recently shown on the map as a desert, is now being opened up, and that developmental roads are badly needed there. I cannot expect to make even a sympathetic Minister like the Minister for Works and Bailways agree to make a grant to assist the settlers in this country unless I am able to prove that it is capable of development. How is it possible for a population
Of 300,000 to develop the vast areas of Western Australia except in the way proposed by the Government in an extension of this policy? The Government is now taking upon itself the duty of opening up new country by the construction of roads. As far as the northern part of Western Australia is concerned it is impossible for the State Government to make the necessary main roads unless a larger grant is made available by the Commonwealth Government. Whether it should make a larger grant, and leave its allocation to the Western Australian Government, as in the past, I am not prepared to say, but if necessary, the Commonwealth Government should take over the northern part of . Western Australia, and instead of administering it as it has administered the Northern Territory, make a grant to the people there to enable them to form their own local government. Something of that sort will have to be done if that country is to be properly opened up. It is not fertile, acre for acre, as is the land in the eastern states, but it is capable of development. It is a country of vast distances, and can be brought into productive use only if taken up in large areas. It is served by a vast underground reservoir, which is second to none in Australia. Unfortunately, the settlers axe troubled by the kangaroos and emus that are overrunning this area. The Eradu district was at one time almost free of these pests, but recently I saw there no fewer than 200 emus crossing a farmer’s crop, doing their best to destroy it. The late Alfred Deakin used to speak of thinking “ continentally,” and unless the Federal and other governments assist the settlers somewhat on the lines now proposed by this Government, Australia will never be properly developed. The district of Westonia, in Western Australia, affords an example of the difficulty experienced with main roads. That district was rich in gold mines,’ but, like most mines in similar districts, they have ceased working. Westonia is now declared to be in the rainfall belt, and is being rapidly settled. It is some distance from the main railway, and the roads are in a shocking condition; none in Victoria is worse. These settlers should certainly be assisted. I do not know whether other sections of the community of Western Australia were able to press their claims more forcibly than the settlers of Westonia, but the fact remains that they have not been able to obtain a grant. I hope that from the new grant they will be able to secure assistance. The distribution of the money is, of course, entirely a matter for the State Government. The Minister for Works and Railways has issued a circular for distribution among the various road boards to enable them to ascertain the exact position. It has been suggested this morning that federal members should get into touch with the different shires in their electorates, and make representations to the Minister. I am not in accord with that suggestion. The local governing bodies are in a better position to know what is required than is a Minister in Melbourne or any officer of his department, no matter how capable he may be. We have been treated generously, as the Federal Government, in setting aside a certain amount for a road grant, is not acting strictly within the four corners of the Constitution. The development of the outback districts is a function of the national Parliament. But the impecunious states find it impossible to assist in this direction, and the local communities have been taxed inordinately for the upkeep of roads* I trust that the Government will extend this important function which it has now undertaken.
.- I shall confine my remarks to the space of one minute to allow the Minister full time under the Standing Orders to reply to the various points that have been raised by honorable members. I am profoundly disappointed with the allocation of the road grant by the State of Victoria, but I anticipated as much when the Main Roads Development Bill was before the House. I sincerely hope that if there is any evidence whatever of the money allocated to shires not being fully used, the money unexpended will be returned for allocation to other shires which are in great need of a grant.
– At “the outset, I desire to express my appreciation of the spirit in which this debate has been conducted. I have listened with interest to the honorable members who have spoken. I desire to emphasize that the object of the Main Roads Development Bill was to supplement the roads policies of the various states, and to secure the construction of additional roads. At present there are three classes of roads policy - first, the policy of the shires; second, the policy of the states. Victoria has its Country Roads Board, but I am not familiar with the details of the’ machinery of the other states. Third, we have the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to supplement the activities of the states. Last year a grant of £500,000 was made by the Commonwealth Government, which, with a similar amount this year, makes £1,000,000 in two years. Add to that amount a further £1,000,000 provided by the states, and we have £2,000,000 for the construction within the Commonwealth of roads which otherwise could not be constructed. Honorable members on all sides will agree that in coming to the assistance of the States in this matter - particularly when the grants are made out of revenue - we should be particularly careful that the states do not “ go slow “ in their programmes because of it. We have, therefore, so far as possible, endeavoured to safeguard the Commonwealth against such a position arising. One of the greatest difficulties I have experienced in administering the act has been to combat the tendency on the part of the shires to make application for small grants for the patching of roads. Sums as low as £40 or £80, to pay for a few chains of metalling at different points along a road, have been asked for.. Some of the state governments have rejected applications of that nature, but others have forwarded them on .to the Commonwealth .Government. .Such a ‘.policy was not intended when the .act was .passed.
– Is it not just as necessary to maintain roads as to construct them?
– Yes; but that is not the concern of the Commonwealth Government. The idea behind the grant is that the roads to be constructed shall be entirely mew roads, to open up new country.
– And also where settlement is already in existence without the necessary roads. ‘
– Yes. I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) that the states are in a better position to judge as to local ;needs than is the Commonwealth Minister in Melbourne. The views of the honorable member for Wannon (My. McNeill) regarding soldier settlements are endorsed by us all, but the .states have control of their own soldier settlements, .and are in a better position than the Commonwealth to know the conditions under which the soldiers axe settled. In the interests of honorable members themselves., it is unwise that we should deal directly with the shires. As a member representing a large country .constituency, I would be placed in an impossible position if I were expected to back up the application of every shire in my district. There would not be enough money to satisfy them all, and trouble would arise within the electorate if -one -shire obtained a grant and another did not. Such a position I could not contemplate with equanimity. The policy is for the shires to submit their proposals to their State Governments, which winnow .them out, and submit those only which conform to the requirements of .the act. The .states supply one-half of the money, and while the Commonwealth Government stipulates the class of road to be constructed, and requires that it shall be of a permanent and durable nature, it is considered that the states should have some say as to the locality in which the money should be spent. In Victoria the Country Roads Board last year submitted eighteen or twenty roads to be constructed in terms of the act. In their submissions this year the roads to be dealt with are, with only one exception, extensions of the roads approved last year. Where there is not sufficient money for the whole road to be constructed in one year, if each year an additional length is added, the result, spread over a number of years, is to provide a considerable length of good road. But to go throughout the Commonwealth, spending a little here and a little there, in order to placate one shire or another, is not a policy which can be defended. I can assure the House that every care will be exercised in dealing with -the submissions of the states. I am sorry that I cannot entertain the proposal that we should examine the claims which have been rejected by the states. To act as an umpire in these matters is .a position I would not contemplate for one moment.
– Will the Minister endeavour to get the Country Roads Board to agree to pay to the Minimay Shire the £4,000 owing to it from last year’s grant for the purpose of constructing roads on the Woodlands Soldier Settlement Estate?
– I am afraid that I cannot now -make a promise to the honorable member, because I may not be able to keep it. The matter to which he refers, and the one mentioned by him earlier in the day, will be inquired into, and .1 shall communicate -with him later and let him know what can be done.
– That is fair. . Question resolved in the negative.
– I desire to bring before the House a matter of grave importance. Unfortunately, the telegram which I have received did not arrive in time- for me to ask a question about the facts at the proper stage. The House will, I am sure, agree that the matter is sufficiently urgent to be raised now.
– I desire to intimate to honorable members that I have seen the telegram to which the honorable member has referred. If he will make it the foundation of a question without notice, it will be quite permissible to take his remarks now
– The telegram, which speaks for itself, is as follows: -
Wade . oil party arrived back. Their niggers spoke two different tribes who informed them big steamer come ashore plenty white men and two women sat down beach. Niggers murdered men, took women bush. No doubt Douglas Mawson. This confirms statement made to me by Harney some months ago that party got ashore.
This is an echo of the rumours concerning that ill-fated steamer the Douglas Mawson. The information received indicates that the natives have made a definite statement to the effect that boats got ashore in the Gulf country, that the male passengers who landed were murdered, and that the women are still in the hands of the niggers. This is the same locality in which a Japanese crew was murdered recently. The niggers are of a savage type, and there is no doubt that these women are in a very precarious position. Harney reported lately that the niggers had made statements. Now comes information from other blacks. The position is sufficiently grave to justify me in asking for permission to make a statement in this House, and also to request the Minister to see that a relief party is immediately dispatched to effect, if possible, the rescue of these women in the Gulf country. Boats can be obtained, and though the information is vague, it is sufficient to demand immediate action. -Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– If the honorable member will let me have the telegram, and will confer: with, me afterwards about the matter, I shall see what can be done.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Source of Supplies for WesternAustralia.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Use of Duralumin. Mr. R. GREEN asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that duralumin has been proved by test to be the best material from which to manufacture artificial limbs?
How many artificial limbs have been made from this me’ta.1 by the Commonwealth artificial limb factories?
Were these limbs made for experimental purposes; if so, what results have been obtained ?
If the results obtained are considered satisfactory, will he authorize the purchase of sufficient plant necessary for manufacturing artificial limbs from duralumin at the Commonwealth artificial limb factories?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. FENTON (for Mr. BRENNAN asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Have certain senior artisans of the general division, Prime Minister’s Department, lately employed in the Ship Construction Branch, been transferred to the Department of the Postmaster-General ?
If so, have their status, rates of pay, and rights generally been preserved in full?
If otherwise, on what principle has discrimination been shown to the prejudice of these artisans?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and- Railways, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
.- The Senate seeks to add at the end of clause 2 of the schedule the words “but not including any hops grown during the seasons One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, and One thousand nine hundred and twenty-five, or the proceeds of the sale of any such hops.” Some doubt has been expressed as to the clarity of the clause. The purport of the bill is to deal with the hop crop of 1923 only. The 1924 crop has been satisfactorily financed without Government help, and it was not the intention of the Government to include that crop, or the forthcoming 1925 crop, in the security for the repayment of its advance. The 2,558 bales of hops referred to in the bill, which have been exported, are considered by the Government to be ample security for the advance, and to guarantee us against any possible loss. Therefore the amendment made by the Senate only clarifies the agreement, and expressly states what was not expressly stated before. It makes quite plain that the agreement relates to the 1923 crop, and not to the 1924 or any other forthcoming crop. It may he of interest to honorable members to know that the Tasmanian hops are arriving in London, and have created an excellent impression there. The following statement is taken from the public press -
Analysing the shipments, experts have expressed the opinion that the quality of these hops ranks equal to the best Kentish, and no trouble should be experienced in building up a regular and satisfactory trade on the basis of such n quality. The whole of the consignments have so far proved an agreeable surprise, the method of packing and preparation for marketing being well up to the standard.
– Can the Minister explain why the words proposed to be added by the Senate were not included in the agreement?
– It was intended that the agreement should refer only to the 1923 crop, but that was not expressly stated. In order to clarify the clause, and to prevent any possibility of misunderstanding, the amendment is deemed advisable. I move - .
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- I was one of a deputation that stated the case for the hop-growers to the Treasurer before the agreement was entered into. I support the Minister’s statement that it was clearly intended that the agreement should apply only to the 1923 crop, and not to subsequent crops.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 17th July (vide page 2247), 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.”
– The speeches that we have listened to from honorable members of the Opposition, and the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Anstey), are strongly reminiscent of many speeches that we heard in this House in opposition to the Federal Capital. The keynote of them is that the proposal should be delayed, that the time is not opportune, and that we cannot afford to spend this money, -in view of the heavy burdens already being borne by the taxpayers. We have been very familiar with that kind of argument for some time past, and it seems strange that such statements are now made by the members who ridiculed them when they were made against something they favoured. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said that we should be satisfied to rest on our oars for the present, in view of the fact that we have the nucleus of a navy.
– In view of the coming conference.
– I should like to know where that nucleus of a navy is. I have been unable to find any trace of it. I have not seen it in Sydney1 Harbour or in Port Phillip. It is true that we have some obsolescent cruisers, destroyers, and submarines; but for all the practical use they would be in time of war, we might as well have nothing. A penny pop-gun in the hands of a boy would be as effective as these obsolete vessels in preventing an attack by an enemy with the most modern type of ships and guns. As far as I know, we have not one vessel of War that is fit to be manned and sent to sea to oppose such an enemy. We should not lose sight of the fact that the proposal in the bill is to replace the obsolescent cruisers, or, at least, to make a start in that direction. The Government has been asked to stay its hand for reasons set out in the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. Those reasons are too inadequate to merit being taken seriously. Why should Australia, alone of all the nations that sent representatives to the Washington conference, stay, its hand in the matter of naval construction ?
– We are the only nation that proposes to proceed with naval construction. .
– The honorable member is entirely wrong, for all the other nations are building ships within the limits prescribed, and Japan alone is at present spending £30,000,000 in naval armaments.
– We are the only dominion that, proposes to spend money like this.
– No other Dominion stands in the same position of danger as Australia. Notwithstanding the pacifist character of the present British Government, even it has seen fit to proceed “with something in the semblance of replacements of obsolete vessels, for it has- ordered a limited number of cruisers.
– They are being built to provide work for the unemployed.
– Well, let us look at the matter from that standpoint. In this country many operative shipbuilders need employment, and one would expect the Opposition to support this proposal for their sake if the prospects were favorable for building one of the cruisers in Australia. If the amendment is carried the Labour party will have to bear the blame for keeping these men out of employment, for then it is quite certain no work would be available for shipbuilders.
– Would the honorable member have the cruisers built in Australia ?
– That is a matter for the Government to decide. In making up its mind it will no doubt consider all the circumstances of the case, including the possibility of bolshevik propaganda delaying the construction of the ships if they were being built here. Personally, I should like to see these and any other war -ships’ that we need built in Australia, if the work can be done advantageously to the Commonwealth and our working people. It appears to me that it will certainly be necessary to maintain in Australia a staff of skilled mechanics in order to keep these ships in a state of efficiency after they are built. The Government may be trusted to take all these matters sympathetically into consideration. We should start at the earliest possible moment to put our house in order from a defence point of view. No country in the world could possibly accuse us of aggressive motives in building these vessels, for although we fervently hope and pray for peace, it is wise to be prepared for eventualities, which may develop much more quickly than we now have any reason to anticipate. At present we are living on terms of amity with our neighbours, but it must be remembered that the ally of to-day is the potential foe of to-morrow. We cannot be charged with making an offensive gesture by making reasonable provision for resisting an attack. Not only are Ave thoroughly justified in taking adequate steps to protect our people, but an obligation rests upon us to do so. Heavy responsibility would fall on any Government whose dilatoriness in defence matters resulted in Australia being caught unprepared in the turmoil of war. Australia is more def enceless to-day than sh« has ever been in her history. During the greater part of the 130 odd years since the foundation of Australia our people have looked to the British navy for defence: and protection. In later years we certainly supplemented the protection we received from the British navy by building a small fleet of our own. But that small fleet unit is no longer effective. Until after the last war the North Sea was always regarded as the probable theatre of decisive .naval engagements, and Australia’s defence was really provided for there, for the shattering of Britain’s naval power in the North Sea by Germany in the recent war would have settled the fate of Australian nationality. But the position has now entirely changed. It is generally admitted from the trend of international events in these days that the centre of future naval operations, will be neither the North Sea nor the Atlantic Ocean, but the Pacific Ocean. We cannot afford to shut our eyes to this fact, and we must take notice of what our neighbours, particularly those in the East, are doing in regard to providing -naval armaments. It- should never be forgotten that countries lying not many days distant from our shores are inhabited by hundreds of millions of people; and that their population is rapidly increasing. The population of Japan, for instance, is increasing at the rate of about 1,000,000 a year. In six years’ time the increase )t> her population will be greater than the total population of Australia. However friendly disposed the governments of these countries may be towards us now, it is inevitable that sooner or later economic pressure will force them to look for an outlet- for their surplus population, and in that day, unless we have taken reasonable precautions to- resist aggression, we may find ourselves in a very precarious position. Honorable members opposite appear to have great faith in the peaceful intentions of all the maritime nations of’ the world. I wish I could share in their optimism. Doubtless these nations are peacefully disposed towards us just now, but the time may come when the opposite will be the case, and they may menace our very existence. In any case it is wise to adopt reasonable protective measures. Honorable members of the Opposition take all necessary precautions to protect themselves, from burglars, for example. They insure their property and do everything they can to reduce the possibility of loss from the depredations of gentlemen whose bump of acquisitiveness is too highly developed. I submit that we shall be acting on the same principle in doing all that we can to protect our people from those who may have hostile designs against us. To fail to make provision for our defence will place us in jeopardy . The abandonment by the present British Government of the Singapore naval base project makes our position much less secure than it has been so far. Had the British .Government determined to continue its work at Singapore, there might have been ‘some reason in certain contentions made by honorable members opposite during this debate. With a suitable naval base at Singapore the capital ships of the British navy could, within a reasonable time, come to our assistance in time of need, but the position now is that there is no place east of Suez or Capetown which will afford a base for such vessels and afford the necessary docking facilities. It is essential that fueling and docking facilities should be available within a reasonable distance of the active operations of capital ships. The two cruisers which the Government proposes to build will help to some extent in protecting Australia, but even they will be of little use if an approaching enemy has a more effective force to oppose to them. Unfortunately Australia, even if it had the means, is not permitted by the Washington Treaty to construct capital ships. It is limited to the building of cruisers of 10,000 tons, and whilst it is our imperative duty to arm ourselves with such vessels which will be useful in protecting our commerce and shores against ordinary raiders, it is well to recognize that* they will be of very little avail- against capital ships because they can be destroyed before they can come within range of an- enemy capital ship. According, to the highest naval expert opinion, one capital ship would be of more use to us than would half a dozen cruisers. We- had that demonstrated during the late war. A number of German cruisers, ineluding the Gneisenau, the Scharnhorst, the Dresden, and the Breslau were cruising in the Pacific, and there is no doubt that but for the presence of the battleship Australia in out waters the principal sea-ports on the eastem coast particularly would not have escaped their unwelcome attention. The Germans, however, knew that if they came within range of the Australia’s guns they would be destroyed without being able to strike a blow, and for that reason they gave the Commonwealth a wide berth and steamed into American waters. Similarly, if foreign cruisers were supported by capital ships our own cruisers could not engage the enemy, and would be obliged to seek safety. That does not mean that we should’ not construct cruisers ; they are required for a number of defensive purposes, but we must, in addition, provide means by which we can be assured of the protection of capital ships of the Royal Navy in time of necessity.
– The honorable member’s contention is that ten cruisers would be useless against one capital ship?
– Yes, because they could all be sunk before getting within range of the enemy, and therefore whilst there is an obligation on us to build cruisers immediately, and later to supplement the present programme and develop other arms of defence, it is also necessary, especially having regard to the abandonment of the Singapore base, to provide in Australian waters floating docks capable of accommodating any capital ships of the British navy that may come to our help. The honorable- member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) stressed that point in the speech he delivered in the House before he left for England, and I was particularly impressed with his argument that floating docks should be constructed at convenient places on the western coast, because Fremantle is the point of arrival and departure of the greater portion of our sea-borne commerce. Whilst
I agree with that view, I submit that we must also protect the eastern sea-board, along which all our eastern and American commerce is borne. The vast extent of coastline from Bass Strait to Torres Strait would be at the mercy of enemy raiders if our naval bases were confined to the western coast. Therefore it would be advisable to consider also the construction at Sydney, preferably in the vicinity of Cockatoo Island, of a floating ‘dock capable of berthing a capital ship. I understand that recent investigations have revealed a site which offers ample depth of water for the purpose. I hope that site will be further investigated, because it must be remembered that naval docks must be capable of berthing vessels of very deep draught, for the ordinary draught of a battleship is greatly increased when, through injury from shell fire or other causes, the vessel is partially waterlogged. When the general defence policy of the Government is being considered I hope that due regard will be paid to this aspect of the matter, and to the fact that cruisers unsupported by capital ships can be only partially effective in the work for which they are designed, and cannot be effective against enemy cruisers supported by capital ships. I cannot understand the Labour party’s, antagonism to any preparation for defence. I have listened to the speeches made by honorable members opposite, and all that I can gather from them is that they have a deep-rooted objection to compulsory military training and to the replacement cf the obsolescent cruisers. That attitude seems peculiar, in view of the fact that, a few years ago, Labour members were the apostles of compulsory military training. They loudly boasted, at one time, that they were the authors of that system, the necessity for which they repeatedly stressed in this Parliament and in the country, and they claimed also that they were responsible for the establishment of an Australian navy, which was essential for the protection of the Commonwealth. Indeed, I believe that compulsory military training was formerly a plank of the Labour party’s platform. Now the members of the Opposition have abandoned all those principles of defence which- they once held to be indispensable to the welfare of Australia; they have made a complete volte face, and have become pacifists of the first degree. If the reins of the Federal Government should fall into the hands of the Labour party, and the defence of Australia should depend upon them, the outlook for this country would be black indeed, should they persist in their present policy. But I sincerely hope that better counsels will prevail. Very shortly the general defence policy of the country must be seriously considered. One of the arguments of honorable members opposite is that, the people are not able to bear a heavier burden of taxation. The answer to that is they are not asked to. There is no necessity for them to do so, when the Federal Treasurer has a large surplus. Even after the remission of a large amount of direct and indirect taxation, there should be a large balance, which might very well be applied to putting our house in order for defence purposes by the provision of cruisers, submarines, and destroyers, the military training of our youth, the building of .air-craft stations, and the provision of air-craft, and the establishment of munition factories. Whilst it is true that a trained army is useless without munitions, the converse is equally true - a plentiful supply of munitions is of little use without trained soldiers to use them. And trained soldiers are of little use with- ‘ out highly trained officers to command them. We who advocate the precaution of providing the necessaries for Australian defence cannot be regarded as militarists. Preparations of that kind cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be construed into an offensive gesture, and nobody can suspect us of aggressive intentions towards other nations. Our policy is to do the best we can while we have the means to provide, according to the advice of experts, for the defence of the C Commonwealth. . My statement regarding the comparative strength of cruisers and capital ships is corroborated by a statement made by Lord Curzon, in reply to a speech by the Labour Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Amnion) -
Another astonishing statement which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty made was that you could protect the trade in the East by means of cruisers alone. I think his statement amounted to something to that effect. That is one of the points with which I wish to deal this evening. How could you possibly pit a cruiser of any description against a capital ship? How could you pit a cruiser, carrying 6-inch or 8-inch guns, against a battle-cruiser carrying 14-inch guns? It cannot be done. A light cruiser in such a situation would simply have to turn tail and clear out of it as fast as she could, if indeed, she could get away, because everybody who knows anything about the sea is aware that, if there is anything like a heavy sea on, the lighter ship feels it far more than the heavier ship. To try to protect our trade by means of light cruisers is quite impossible. Therefore, I maintain that it is wrong that the right honorable gentleman should come and tell the House that you do not want a dock at Singapore because you do not want the capital ships.
I have paid very careful attention to that expert naval opinion which says that we should not go on with Singapore, that it is waste, criminal lunacy, and so forth. But only two naval experts have used such words. One is Admiral Mark Kerr, and the other is Sir Percy Scott. When the Prime Minister held up Sir Percy Scott as an expert in this House the other day, lie absolutely insulted the Royal Navy by doing so. Sir Percy Scott has left no stone unturned during the last year or two, ever since Admiral Lord Fisher died, to rim down the Navy and belittle it on every possible occasion. He has been challenged. I have challenged him myself, not here, but outside, to open debate before an expert audience, and what did he do? He ran away. I asked him to debate this question of Singapore. Admiral Mark Kerr came and debated it, but Sir Percy Scott ran away. He was invited to appear before Mr. Bonar Law’s committee on the capital ship, but he declined. In fact, he ran away. He always runs away, and he will not substantiate his statements before any conference. These are the only naval experts and flag-officers who have raised their voices against Singapore.
We cannot disregard so great an authority as Lord Curzon on a matter of this kind. This emphasizes my own contention that it is necessary for us to consider whether the time is not ripe for the immediate construction of floating docks of sufficient capacity to accommodate capital ships, so that in time of trouble we might be able to say to the British Admiralty, “ Send us one or more of your capital ships to support our cruisers. You can do so with confidence, because we have provided means for docking and repairing them.” If we were in that position we could, with confidence, appeal to the British naval authorities to assist us. Without such facilities we shall be in a parlous position indeed, in the absence of any capital ships of pur own. I commend these matters to the attention of honorable members of the Opposition in the hope that some of them will see the error of their ways. It is not a matter of aggression, but of self-protection. I am reminded in this connexion of my own experience  as a small boy, which has impressed upon me the wisdom of the policy I have, suggested; When a small boy, I went to sea with a number of other lads of about my own age. Some were bigger than I was, and one who was rather a hefty lad was cast in the same watch as myself. Before very long he developed bellicose tendencies, which resulted in two or three encounters between us, in which I fared considerably worse than he. I found that if I wished to keep the peace with my shipmate it was necessary that I should do all the fetching and carrying for the cockpit during my watch below. At the close of the voyage I went to a friend who introduced me to an instructor of boxing. I quietly took a few lessons in the art of self-defence, and on my next- voyage, my bellicose shipmate, following his old tactics, I was soon engaged in a match with him. It is sufficient to say that he got a surprise on that occasion, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed myself. He had to do his share of fetching and carrying afterwards, and I was left unmolested ‘by him. I had no belligerent intentions towards him. I took no offensive action, but I did adopt self protective measures. I was unable from my own experience of them to rely on my own pacific intentions and defenceless position securing for me immunity from aggression. In the same way I say that, in Australia, we need to put ourselves in a state of preparedness. We do not want to be taken unawares. We do not wish to make trouble for any one else, but should trouble arise we want to be in a position to meet the trouble makers. I believe in the policy of the old seasoned warrior who, while he trusted in the Lord, always took the precaution, to keep his powder dry.
, - I have listened, to the debate on both sides with a great deal . of interest, and I was particularly impressed by the eloquent address of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I have heard the arguments submitted by honorable members supporting the Government, and I may refer particularly to that used by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and also, I think, by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden), that it is good policy for a man to insure his house. We were reminded that a man insures his house, not because he can be certain of the offender in the event of it being burned clown, but to insure himself against loss in any eventuality. That argument sounded all right, but after consideration I found that it cannot be applied to the matter now under discussion. The man who insures his house at least has a house to insure, but I fail to see that we, in Australia, have .a nation to insure. We have merely the nucleus of a nation, and, in my opinion, we seem in this case to be putting the cart before the horse. Some argue that our first line of defence is the Navy, and others that it is the Army. Personally, I am of opinion that Australia’s first step towards defence should be the building up of a nation in this country. If the money which the Government contemplates spending upon armaments were placed in an agricultural bank to promote primary production, development, and settlement in Australia, it would accomplish far more in a shorter time than can be accomplished by the building of cruisers, which, at best, will become obsolete within the next few years. The .policy proposed reminds me of a boy’s toy balloon. No doubt, to see the Australian flag, flying from the mast of a ship and Australian-born sailors on its decks is spectacular and inspiring; but it is very much on a par with the boy’s balloon, which if it is pricked leaves nothing behind it. In modern warfare it often occurs that the first line of defence is broken through, and I am, therefore, very much concerned about what is behind our first line of defence. We have’ a few badly-congested cities;, but after 25 or 30 years spent in roving over the vast empty spaces of Australia I have come to the conclusion that the big problem which should have been tackled by governments in the past has been entirely neglected. The Government proposes now to spend millions on the construction of cruisers, and we are invited to believe that that is not a matter of much consequence, because the money will como out of surplus revenue. That is all bunkum, in view of the immense national debt that is hanging over the heads of the people of Australia. It does not follow because we have a revenue surplus that we can afford to spend any of it in the manner indicated. If I could believe that the proposed expenditure would result in permanent good, I should have some justification for supporting it. But in the present economic position of the world I fail to see how we can be justified in expending many millions in the creation of a navy to defend us against some very improbable* enemy. We know that at the present time there is not a nation in the world that is prepared to face the expenditure involved” in an international war. We have heard that a peace conference is to meet, to make the chances of war even more unlikely than the present economic position of the world makes them. Expenditure is proposed for the protection of our congested cities. Ports might be built for the protection of those on the coast, but many of our cities have been established far inland, and could not bo bombarded from the coast. Although Australia’s population represents two persons to the square mile, if the facts are carefully considered it will be found that we have vast areas in which the population is not one to 1,000 square miles. It is high time that we got down to the fundamental requirement of defence, and that is the building up of a nation. If we are perpetually tied to the apron-strings of the Mother Country,, that will be a reflection upon the manhood of Australia. Under existing conditions, I frankly admit that, from the Point of view of defence against an aggressor, Australia is in a deplorable position. But whose fault is that? It is the fault of our legislators, past and present, who have not faced the fundamental duty of building up a nation. The defence of the country does not lie in. the expenditure of huge sums of money on boats that will in a few years become obsolete, but in the building up of a nation worth defending. If we tackle the problem of building a nation in a satisfactory way, the question of defence will look after itself. At present the Government, is neglecting essential things, and attending to those which are anything but essential. I stress the fact that under existing conditions no foreign nation is in a position even to contemplate the making of war. Yet theGovernment is proposing the construction of cruisers for our defence. By the time the reconstruction of the world’s economic position has arrived, these boats will be absolutely obsolete. I claim that if the money proposed to be expended in the construction of cruisers was expended on the primary industries of Australia, particularly in its undeveloped portions, by the adoption of a vigorous policy of immigration and settlement, that would bo a far more patriotic proposal than the one we are now considering. If these cruisers must be built - arid there is no doubt that they will be, as the Government has the weight of numbers behind it - then arises the question where they shall be constructed. I claim that they should be built in the Commonwealth. If we wish- to acquire the status of a great country we must carry out those works requisite to the building up of a nation. If we construct cruisers overseas, Australia will never become self-contained. Honorable members opposite have referred to the excessive cost of the Fordsdale and other vessels as a reason why we should not build the cruisers here. But I would remind them that this argument can be applied to other commodities. If our policy were the obtaining of goods in the cheapest market, our primary industries would fare badly. Honorable members opposite, particularly those representing primary interests, would be the last in the world to sanction such a step. But from their stand-point. that our workers should obtain their wages by the -construction in Australia of war vessels and a dock suitable for the requirements of a navy, is quite a different proposition. Too long has Australia relied upon outside sources for her requirements. It is time that we demonstrated to the world that we are self-reliant. By building these cruisers in this country, something will be done towards establishing a true basis of internal defence, so that Australia, as a nation, may be capable of defending herself and of maintaining adequate war services. The man with some interest in this country is more likely to defend it than is a man without a home. The average working man in Australia has nothing to defend. If our country is opened up to allow our workers to take their place in the ranks of the producers, they will then ‘have something to defend. Only in that -way, and not by force or conscription, can we promote true patriotism. I applaud the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) for the sentiments he voiced last night on the subject of loyalty and patriotism. I enter my protest against the expenditure of millions of pounds of the people’s money while Australia remains undeveloped. The time may come when the Mother Country will be so situated that Australia cannot depend upon her assistance in the event, of an . enemy attack. Of what use would be a couple of cruisers against the modern vessels of an enemy? They would be sunk, and our coastline left absolutely undefended. Even if Sydney and other coastal towns were heavily fortified, no enemy would obligingly place its fleet in a position at which it could be shelled. The enemy would much prefer to land its troops on an undefended portion of our coastline, and the rest would be comparatively easy. Unless we intend to build up. the nation quickly and to provide adequate defence facilities, all this talk about expenditure on the military and naval services is so much hot air. If we first build up the nation, an adequate defence policy will naturally follow.
– Most Australians, particularly those of the! party to which I belong, are peace loving. I take strong exception to a number of the speeches that were delivered from the Government side of tb» House, in which disparaging references were made to a pertain people in the Pacific. Such statements should not be tolerated in this House or country. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) last night very truly said that such references were nothing short of provocation to a people that has always played trumps so far as Australia is concerned. I refer to Japan. J want to say a word in praise of that nation. During the war, -especially when -the Emden “was at large, without’ Japan’s assistance it would, have been almost impossible for -as to convoy our troops in safety across the Indian Ocean.. J resent very much offensive Deferences to a nation that was the first to respond to the invitation extended by .the late President of .the United States of America to attend .a conference to consider the reduction of armaments. When America -recently intimated that there was a likelihood of a second conference being called to consider a further reduction in armaments, Japan again was one of the first to express its willingness to attend. The spirit of peace is abroad in the world to-day, or, at any rate, among the masses. As a peace-loving people, we should do our best to rid ourselves of the horrors of war. When the people of the United States of America have elected their President, whether it be President Coolidge, or some one representing the opposite side of politics, I believe that one of the first messages to be issued from Washington will be an invitation to the peoples of the world to attend a conference to consider a further reduction in armaments, ‘ and to bring about a better understanding between nations, so that the peace of the world may be secure for many years to come. That is one of the strong forces that impels the Labour party to suggest the postponement of any measure that has for its objective anything approaching aggression. The honorable member for Ballarat the other day graphically and eloquently described the world movement for peace. He referred to nations in which elections had recently taken place. With one exception - I refer to Germany, and even there the result was magnificent - the people returned governments whose doctrine is peace. .Even in Japan, the vote of the populace was for peace. When the French Parliament was dissolved, the keenest followers of international politics considered that President Poincaire would be returned to office. Just prior to the election he induced a large majority of the French Parliament to grant him plenary powers that practically established him as dictator of France. In dissolving Parliament it was considered that Poincaire was appealing to the people at the psychological moment, and would be returned once more to office with an overwhelming majority. What a marvellous change took place. When that appeal was made to the French people, instead of Poincaire being returned to power, they elected the socialistic and radical parties with a majority of 140. To-day we have a man presiding over the destinies of France who is not of a bellicose nature, but is very desirous of bringing about a more peaceful understanding among the nations of the earth. If the German elections were being held to-morrow, instead of having been held a few months ago, when Poincaire troops were in occupation of German territory to a greater extent than at present, there would be an overwhelming socialist majority returned in that country.
– How does the honorable member connect his remarks with the subject under discussion 1
– I was pointing out that there are indications that all the great populations of the world are sounding the note of peace. That being so, it seems out of place that a Parliament, representing a peace-loving people, should be engaged in an attempt to vote millions of money to construct implements of war and of destruction.
Speakers on the ministerial side have shown resentment at the action of the British Labour Government, in conjunction with the Liberals of Great Britain, in rejecting the proposal to establish a naval base at Singapore. I marvel at their audacity in questioning the right of the British Parliament to do> that. What else could Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, or those belonging to the Liberal ranks who supported him, have done in the circumstances ? The Baldwin Government appealed to the people for another lease of office, but it was defeated by a large majority. The British Parliament, in view of the verdict of the people, dared not undertake the construction of that base, nor could it concede preference to the overseas: dominions. By 8,500,000 votes to 5,000,000 votes, the people of Great Britain decided in favour of the Labour and Liberal parties, both of which were against preference to the overseas dominions and the construction of a naval base at Singapore. To put it in the mildest way, it is impertinence on our part to speak in a resentful tone of the action of the British Government in obeying the behests of the electors who placed it in office.
The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) quoted authorities to prove that cruisers could not withstand an attack by a capital ship. His speech provided one of the best arguments possible against the construction of these cruisers at the present time. He endorsed the view held by those authorities, that one capital ship could in a very short space of time practically blow ten cruisers out of the water. That being so, how are the trade routes to Australia to be protected by these cruisers? If we were at war, of what value would even ten cruisers be if an enemy could send one capital ship into the Indian Ocean, or elsewhere, to destroy our cruisers? Expenditure in the construction of cruisers is wasteful. I agree with the authorities quoted by the honorable member, and with his contention that cruisers are absolutely helpless when opposed by capital ships.
Another point which we must consider is the crushing burden of taxation which the provision of war vessels would mean to this country. The heavy taxation required for armaments is one reason why people the world over are tending towards peace. When a nation is groaning under a load of debt, it means that 95 per cent, of its inhabitants have to deny themselves many of the necessaries of life. Two years ago, the present Prime Minister attended a meeting of the League of Nations as the chief delegate from Australia. On his return he made a report, in which he pointed out that article 8 of the covenant laid down the principle of the necessity for the reduction of armaments and denned certain steps that should be taken to that end. In his report, Mr. Bruce said -
The members of the League recognize that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.
He said, further, that members of the league agreed that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war was open to grave objections. Honorable members will hear more about that aspect of the question when we consider whether these vessels shall be built by private or by public enterprise. From what I hear, the Government proposes to hand over the construction of these cruisers to private enterprise in Great Britain.
– The League says “ munitions and implements of war.”
– Would the honorable member say that a battleship or a cruiser was not an implement of war ?
– I do not think that they were intended.. 
– The statement I have read appears under the head of “ armaments.” The report continued : -
The Council should advise how the evil effects, attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to thu necessities of those members of the League who are not able to manufacture the munitions and implements of war necessary for their safety. The members of the League undertake to interchange full and frank information as to the scale of their armaments, their military, naval, and air programmes, and the condition of such of their industries as are adaptable to warlike purposes. When the covenant was framed, it was contemplated that all the great nations would be members of the League. Owing to the fact that the United States has not joined, the whole scheme for the limitation and reduction of armaments has more or less of necessity been held up. The first Assembly passed certain resolutions on this subject, which were designed to expedite the carrying out of the ideals set out in the covenant. Owing to the fact above stated, of the non-inclusion of the United States, the Council during the year has done very little towards carrying out the recommendations of the first Assembly. While the difficulties were undoubtedly very great, it appeared to the Australian delegation that the Council had allowed itself to ‘be somewhat overwhelmed by them, and certainly did not press on with the matter1 as far as was possible under the existing circumstances.
That is from a report by the present Prime Minister- when he was a private member. At that time the right honorable gentleman urged strongly that the reduction of armaments was one of the chief matters which should receive our attention. He is now the head of a Government which is proposing to spend great sums of money in increasing armaments.
– It is one thing to say it, and another thing to do it..
– What influence . has been at work to change the opinions of the Prime Minister ? His language in this report is both plain and emphatic.
– Australia has no armaments1 to reduce.
– Yes, we have.
– Have they not been already reduced ?
– Does the honorable member deny that to replace two obsolete cruisers by two modern 10,000-ton cruisers is an increase in armaments? The honorable member will have difficulty in explaining to his constituents his reason for loading them with further taxation to pay for the construction of these vessels.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum farmed.]
– I was pointing out the cost and weight of taxation necessary to carry on the defence of a country, and was quoting what the present Prime Minister said in that connexion when he returned from the meeting of the League of Nations two years ago. On page 19 of this report Mr. Bruce said -
One other point I want to put, and that is again to remind the Assembly what the position is going to be if we continue to do nothing. If we do nothing, it means that within the next few years the whole of the world civilization is going into chaos, for one main reason that the finances of every nation will sink into such a hopeless state that there will have to be almost a complete reorganization of the world.
He had made that same point before, for .on several occasions he had accused the league of being tardy in proceeding with the reduction of armaments. He went on to say -
Take the case of my own country, Australia. We have got a 12,000-miles seaboard, and we have a great and wonderful possession in the hand we inhabit. If we are to live under the feaT of it .being taken from us, we are going on - we are going to increase our armaments, and to take every step to protect ourselves. And I venture to say that we will be able to do much. During the war we managed, from no munitions at all, to build up a. munition industry that could supply the wants of an army which amounted to 400,600 men. That will go on, and will be duplicated and triplicated, and even further. But the point I want to emphasize is that if we “have to do that, then the whole of our future prosperity and development is gone. We can do nothing -else except endeavour to protect ourselves. From Australia’s point of view, that is,, above all things, important, but I venture to say that from the point of view of Europe also it would he a great disaster if Australia has got to follow a programme of that nature.
He drew an appalling picture of a world of chaos resulting from the building of armaments. Civilization, he pointed out, would have to start to re-organize the world. Now he is the head of a government that is prepared to spend millions of pounds to increase armaments.
– “What has -the League of Nations done since?
– The Prime Minister, when he was a private member of this House, represented us at the League of Nations, and even he said that it had proceeded too slowly in reducing armaments. I do not say that we should live perpetually in a state of unpreparedness.
The amendment moved by the Acting; Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) proves conclusively that the Labour party has been in the past, and is to-day, prepared to work hard for the defence of Australia. The proposals outlined in theamendment would do far more than the bill to place this country in a state of preparedness, and to provide for itsfuture safety. The Minister for Tradeand Customs (Mr. Pratten) hashed something to say about this, country’s enormous interest bill. He and every one who thinks at all about the financial position of Australia, is perturbed over that interest bill. Thepeople of this country have to pay every year nearly £50,000,000 in interest. Thedebts of the Commonwealth and State Governments, and of public bodies,, with some private borrowing included,, amount to nearly £1,000,000,000. Theinterest bill per head of the population is £S 10s. For a family of five - and among which class in this community but the working class ‘ do we find familiesof five or more - the annual interest bill amounts to £42 10s. Can wewonder that people all over the world areseeking to relieve themselves of this appalling load? The indications at elections in this and other countries are that the people are getting over the warmania, are doing their best to put the war lords out of work, and are themselves taking a hand in the business of government. When that desirable condition evolves out of the present chaos, therewill be peace and quiet in the world, and the great mass of themen and women will have an easiertime than they have had in the past. The world is crying out unitedly for peace. I am sad- at heart to think, that the people of Australia, which is thefinest gem in the world’s diadem, are increasing their armaments. We have in this country ex-generals, and what the. honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) called “ out of work admirals,” but the war clouds still seem to overshadow them. The experts still hiss out their threats, and urge the Government to undertake works that the people will condemn as soon as they have the opportunity. I am not adopting the role of prophet ; for the people have declared their attitude in. many parts of the world. When the people learn the financial responsibilities that the Government is loading on them, they will say, “ Enough of this ; we have carried this burden too long. The few have lived too well and too long at our expense.”
I wish to quote the Prime Minister again on the subject of private enterprise. On this point he is quite- emphatic, -and, in view of his statements, I -cannot understand why he and his followers have abolished certain Government undertakings. He said at Geneva -
There are other subsidiary questions such -«s the private manufacture and trade in arms. Those are important, and as far as my own country is concerned, we hare very clear and definite views about them. We signed the -Convention of Saint Germain, and we desire .above all things to see it carried out. The manufacture of arms in Australia is either done by the Government, or it is controlled by the Government, and we have no intention of -altering that rule. Those steps we hope to see token by all other nations.
The man who delivered himself of that sentiment is the head of the Government that sold to private enterprise the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, one of the finest institutions established under our defence scheme.
– Bid the Commonwealth Woollen Mills make armaments?
– No; but. they helped to keep the bodies of our soldiers warm with good clothing when they went to fight. There was not a better clothed set of soldiers at the front than the Australians. Food, clothing, and boots are even more necessary in war than -.some armaments. I hope the message that the Prime Minister gave to the representatives of the assembled nations was heeded, and that they returned to their countries, and said, “ We had a man from Australia who told us that armaments are under Government control in that country. He advised us- to place them under Government control.”’ As a :result of that message, perhaps other nations have taken the manufacture of munitions out of the hands of private individuals. Why did- article 8 of the -covenant say that it was not desirable- for -private individuals’ to be engaged in the manufacture of munitions of war ? Munitions contractors all over the civilised .-world belong to the war-mongering class. That was one of the main reasons why the
League of Nations said that the manufacture of munitions should be removed from the selfish, grasping, grabbing control of private interests. A much maligned expert has, been quoted in this House on the subject of the Singapore base. In that connexion, I direct attention to the following newspaper extract -
Admiral Sir Percy Scott, addressing the Australian Natives’ Association in London denounced the1 building of battleships, and condemned Singapore base as useless to Australia, which, he solid, should easily be able to protect herself by submarines and aeroplanes. He announced that France had Anally determined to discontinue building battleships.
Sir Percy, Scott (says a Reuter telegram) argued on the assumption that battleships were useless against modern defensive weapons, s»ek as airships,, aeroplanes, mines, torpedoes, and submarines. He described the Singapore bat* as a wicked) scheme, and expressed the opinion that the Dominions should not’ contribute a penny towards it.
Admiral Scott said that the expenditure of f 20,000,000. on the Singapore base was futile, because if battleships ever succeeded in getting there, which was doubtful, they would certainly never get out again in any .attempt to defend Australia, New Zealand, or any of our other British possessions in the Pacific. Australia’s line of defence was obviously aeroplanes, submarines, arid torpedo boats, “against which no hostile fleet would dare to approach within 200 miles.
I ask leave to continue my remarks. Leave, granted; debate adjourned.
, - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to inform honorable members that the business before the House is not being transacted with that expedition which the Government desires. A good deal still remains to be done before the end of the session. Unless better progress is made, it will be necessary for me to ask honorable members to sit on Tuesdays. That will certainly be so if we are to have a repetition of this week’s experience, when the discussion of two formal motions for adjournment have:., occupied four hours which could have been devoted to Government business. I remind honorable gentlemen that thebudget and- estimates will shortly be introduced, and they will then have the fullest and most ample opportunity to place any matters they desire ‘before the*
House. I ask them to assist the Government to make more reasonable progress with the business.
– I think that it will be admitted that honorable members of the Opposition, under my leadership, have shown commendable restraint, but the loquacity of those who sit behind the Government is such that some measure of restraint seems to be necessary. Whatever method the Government’ adopts to get through its business, whether it be the application of the guillotine or an extension of sitting days, I shall endeavour to oblige it.
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) “4.3].Rumours have been heard frequently of late that the Government wishes to conclude the session at an early date. Will the Prime Minister tell us whether he has any definite date in his mind by which he wishes the House to complete its business I’l am glad to learn from him that honorable members will be allowed “ the fullest and most ample opportunity “ ->f discussing the budget and estimates, but I should like to know what interpretation he places on those words.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong has asked a reasonable question, and the answer is a simple one. Tho Government has fixed no particular time within which it desires -the House to complete the business of the session. It will not close the doors of Parliament until all the business necessary in the interests of the country has been transacted.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 July 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240718_reps_9_107/>.