9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following hills reported : -
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill. Hop Pool Agreement Bill.
Colonel Ainsworth’s Report
– I ask the Prime Minister when the House may expect the re port by Colonel Ainsworth concerning the mandated territories to be tabled.
- Colonel Ainsworth has been engaged in drafting his report since his return from New Guinea. It has not yet been placed in the hands of the Government. As soon as the Government has had an opportunity to consider it, it will be laid on the table of the House.
Extension of Embargo ok Imports.
– I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister, and, by way of explanation, I quote the following resolution I have received from the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce, dated the 10th July, 1924, from Mr. G. Heatherwood; -
That the Prime Minister he requested to extend the embargo on sugar grown by coloured labour for a further period, thereby endorsing the White Australia policy in a practical manner.
Will the right honorable gentleman give favorable consideration tothe request contained in this resolution
– As the honorable member is no doubt aware, I have received very many similar representations. I suggest that he should forward such representations to. me, or put his question on the notice-paper. Such a question cannot be answered without notice. .
– In view of the decision of the House last week favouring the construction of a railway from
Canberra to Yass, will the Minister for Works and Railways inform the House whether it is his intention to have such a line constructed?
– The matter is now under the consideration of fae Government.
Distribution in New South Walks.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he lias noticed in the press that the New South Wales Minister for Lands has stated that the conditions under which money is to be advanced by the Commonwealth for the purchase of wire netting for the state of New South Wales have been finalized. . If so, will the Minister make a public statement informing persons in New South Wales desiring wire netting that the control of its distribution is in the hands of the state authorities, to whom they should apply?
– The matter has practically been finalized, and persons in New South Wales requiring Commonwealth wire netting will be able to apply for it under the regulations to the Minister for Lands. I had a letter today from Mr. Wearne, the Minister in question, to say that arrangements were being made through the New South Wales Treasury to obtain from the Commonwealth a sum of £20,000 as a first instalment to give effect to the agreement for the supply of wire netting.
Speeches by HIGH COMMISSIONER
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has noticed that the High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook), has been delivering speeches favouring Imperial federation. In view of the fact that the High Commissioner occupies practically the position of ambassador for Australia, I should like to know whether he is expressing the views of the Government. If not, will; the Government prevent the High Commissioner giving expression to opinions at variance with those of the people of Australia?
– I have not seen any speeches by Sir Joseph Cook of the character indicated. I cannot credit that the High Commissioner has made such speeches. If by any extraordinary chance he has done so, he has certainly not been expressing the views of the Government. I shall look into the matter, and see exactly what he has said.
WATERSIDE WORKERS v. Shipowners.
– ‘Will the Prime Minister take the necessary steps to expedite the delivery of the reserved judgment of the High Court in connexion with the Waterside v. Shipowners’ case? Failing that, will he favorably consider making available a substantial sum of money for the relief of the distress on the water front of Sydney, which has been caused through the deliberate and unprecedented action of the Court, or the Government, or some one behind them, in delaying that judgment?
– As the honorable gentleman is aware, the delivery of any judgment by the High Court is a matter for the High Court alone. The Government has no control whatever of the court. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall give him a full answer later.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the glowing .press reports in which Dr. Stdfansson states that he has found, oases in the centre of Australia, but that so far he has been unable to locate the alleged desert? In the interests of Australia will the Prime Minister see that Professor Griffiths . Taylor, of Sydney, is supplied with a copy of Mr. Stefansson’s report on Central Australia, accompanied . by a word of advice to that gentleman to desist from his perpetual slander of Central Australia ?
– I have observed the statements of Dr. Stdfansson regarding that portion of Australia which he is at present visiting, and I am sure that all true Australians very greatly appreciate this further evidence that the heart of
Australia is not such a desert as those who desire to malign our country would have us believe. I am afraid, however, that I cannot undertake the responsibility of bringing the report under the notice of anybody, or of giving words of advice, but I hope that the overwhelming evidence which is being accumulated will convince of their error even those who decry their own country.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
The following papers were presented: -
International Convention relating to the Simplification of Customs Formalities and Protocol of Signature, Geneva, 3rd November, 1923. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Statement setting out particulars relating to approval given for the use of imported materials in the manufacture of products upon which bounty may be paid.
League of Nations - Second General Conference on Communications and Transit, Geneva, 15th November to 9th December, 1923 - Records and Texts relating to - General Discussions.
Convention and Statute on -the International Regime of Railways.
Convention and Statute on Maritime Ports.
Convention relating to the Transmission in Transit of Electric Power; Convention relating to the Development of Hydraulic Power affecting more than one State.
League of Nations^ - General Conference on Freedom of Communications and Transit, Barcelona, 10th March to 20th April, 1921 - Official Instruments approved by the Conference.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 98.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the dissatisfaction expressed by certain branches of the returned soldiers’ organizations, and the public generally, in regard to the royal commission to inquire into assessment of war pensions, he will agree to laymen being appointed to the commission?
– It is not considered that laymen would have the requisite knowledge to deal with the matters to be inquired into. These matters are purely medical, the main purpose of the royal commission being to inquire whether the Repatriation Commission is proceeding on sound lines in its present methods of determining ‘to what extent ex-soldiers’ disabilities are due to or aggravated by war service.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. W. J. Stagg, £3 10s.
Mr. A. C. Moves, £7.
Mr. G. R. Richards, £7.
OVERSTAFFING of METEOROLOGICAL AND
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Cabinet has power to veto or vary the recent decision of the Public Service Board to reduceby £10 per year the maximum salary of postal mail sorters, contained in the award of the Public Service Arbitrator; if so, will he place the matter before the Cabinet at the earliest opportunity, with a view to deciding whether the reduction referred to should be vetoed?
– Under the provisions of section 27 of the Public Service Act the classification notified in the Commonwealth Gazette is only provisional, and is subject to appeal by any officer who may be dissatisfied with the classification and salary determined by the board. Further, on the appeal being determined, the final classification must be submitted to the Governor-General for approval or otherwise before becoming effective. The Government does not propose to interfere with the procedure prescribed by the Act.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the reclassification of the mail branch would mean an increase in the remuneration . of those affected by £20,000; if so, will he inform the House as to how this amount is made up, and who will actually benefit by the classification as stated?
– It is estimated that the mail branch classification will, when in full operation, involve an increased salaries’ expenditure at the rate of £20,000 per annum. The following statement shows how the estimate is made up and the classes of officer who will benefit: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he supply the cost per student for the years 1921 to 1923 inclusive, and, where available, the estimate for 1923-24 for the fol-. lowing colleges and training schools: - Kingston, Sandhurst, West, Point, Woolwich, DuntroonRoyal Military College, Jervis Bay Naval College?
– The information asked for regarding the Kingston and Sandhurst Military Colleges and West Point and “Woolwich Military Academies is not available in the Defence Department. The particulars regarding the Royal Military College, at Duntroon, and theRoyal Australian Naval College, at Jervis Bay, are as follow: -
These amounts are based on the average number of cadets attending the colleges each year, and not the greatest strength of cadets for the year.
– The information is available, but your officers will not supply it.
– On the 17th July the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked me to lay on the table of the House copies of the cables exchanged between the British and Commonwealth Governments during December, 1916, and January, 1917, relative to payments for wool. I now desire to inform the honorable member that the copies of these cables will be laid on the table of the Library.
Imposition of Fines
– On the 23rd July the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) asked me the following questions : -
I now desire to inform the honorablemember that a writ has been issued against the Commonwealth Government, and the Central Wool Committee which may cover all the transactions of the wool scheme. It is not thought desirable to answer these questions while the case is sub judice.
Debate resumed from 25th July (vide page 2546), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Mahony had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “ any sum spent in naval construction should be expended in Australia, thus relieving the distress caused by unemployment and helping to develop Australian industries.”
.- I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is deserving of the sincere congratulations of all true Australians upon the patriotic stand he took to have the proposed cruisers built in Australia. The keynote of the honorable member’s speech was “ Australia, a nation,” and his remarks were eloquent and elucidatory, and gave to honorable members a lot of information they did not previously possess. It was clear that he had made a careful study of his subject, and I cannot understand why there should be any objection by honorable members to the policy he so ably outlined. I hope that before a vote is taken honorable members will allow their better judgment to prevail, and that the majority of them, at any rate, will prove themselves worthy of the honorable position they occupy in this Parliament. By adopting the policy proposed by the honorable member for Dalley, not only unemployed artisans in New South Wales, but the people of Australia generally, will benefit, because an amount of between £5,500,000 and £5,750,000 will be circulated mainly in our own country. The primary producers, who to-day are in a very precarious position because of the lack of adequate markets for their products, would obtain a large share of such expenditure. Every butter producer would benefit, and we know that the dairying industry is in need of assistance. The 7,000 unemployed men in New South Wales alone are reduced almost to poverty, and their purchasing power is negligible; but if artisans and labourers were given employment upon the construction of these cruisers they would be much better able than they are to-day to buy the products of the man upon the land. I regret that it is necessary to provide for the defence of Australia at all. Already we are expending over £4,000,000 on defence, which* experts say is so inadequate that it would not ensure Australia’s safety for 24 hours. War is barbaric and repugnant to every person who believes in peace. I agree with R. P. Hearne, when he says in his book Aerial Warfare -
War is a barbarous method of settling differences. . . . Apart from the menace caused by ever-growing armaments, in which the rich nations literally force their poorer rivals into bankruptcy by necessitating ever-growing military and naval expenditure, there arc internal causes in every commercial nation which predispose to war. . . . Insensate and unscrupulous business competition; stock market gambling; political, financial, and civic corruption, the rapid acquisition of wealth by vice “ sweating,” speculation, fraud, gambling, and extravagant follies, have created many new conditions and new difficulties, the only palliative for which is good trade and fair dealing, and a better understanding between nations.
Those are fine sentiments. What more effective machinery could we have for bringing about a better understanding between the nations of the world and settling international disputes than the league of Nations, provided it gets the encouragement it deserves from all nations? The Labour party believes strongly in the League of Nations, and hopes that before long it will be the recognized arbitrator in international affairs, thus obviating resort to the barbaric methods of warfare, with all their attendant evils and consequent distress. Honorable members opposite have said a great deal about the futility of past conferences for the limitation of armaments, and have expressed themselves distrustful of the outcome of the conference proposed to be convened by the President of the United States of America, and the Labour Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. But I should like to remind them of what the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. “W. M. Hughes), when Prime Minister, said -
The Washington Conference has achieved great things. Its decisions guarantee peace in the Pacific as far as any effort of man can guarantee it.
Senator Pearce, who represented Australia at the Washington Conference, expressed a similar opinion. But to-day, honorable members opposite, without giving the League of Nations an opportunity to reconsider international problems at its forthcoming meeting, are supporting the immediate expenditure on armaments of over £5,000,000 of the people’s money on cruisers which in two years may have to be scrapped, as the result of a decision made at one of the forthcoming conferences. Our acting Leader (Mr. Anstey) proposed by an earlier amendment to defer the consideration of this expenditure until after the forthcoming session of the League of Nations. Because the Labour party does not advocate extravagant expenditure upon defence our critics say that we are opposed to any system of defence for Australia. That is an erroneous idea, as honorable members opposite will admit if they will consider the question impartially. It was the Labour party that established the nucleus of the present defence scheme, and our present Leader (Mr. Charlton) has frequently stated Labour’s defence policy. He said in July, 1923-
The Labour party’s policy is to promote world peace, and, consistently with Australia’s goodwill to her kindred overseas, _ declares its readiness to take full responsibility for Australian defence.
We differ with our opponents merely as to the methods to be adopted - what the annual expenditure should be, and upon what forms of defence it should be incurred. That, of course, is a vexed question. Naturally,- we desire to bring about peace and total disarmament, if that be possible.
But if other nations will not agree to that, and arm themselves, Australia will need some form of defence. In arriving at a decision as to the form of defence best suited to Australia, various things will have to be taken into consideration, such as the resources of the country, and the amount of money we are prepared to spend on defence. As the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) said, if we were to undertake to provide for the adequate defence of Australia, it would mean an expenditure of approximately £50,000,000 per annum for the next ten years. That is quite beyond our capacity to pay, and we should be unwise to attempt it. We should develop those arms of defence that are most capable of protecting us against invasion. I do not think there is any chance of this country being invaded, but the future is in the lap of the gods. If the forthcoming conference should prove abortive, we must create some form of defence, but in any case, I should be opposed to the expenditure of many millions of pounds on implements of war. It would be better, as a first arm of defence, to develop the air force. We could create a force that, in times of peace, could carry mails and passengers to the outposts of this continent, and in the event of war could be converted for purposes of defence. An air force would have to work in conjunction with other arms of defence. I believe that the Labour party, when it forms a government, as I expect it will very shortly, will develop the air force as a means of defence, and probably make it the first arm, and will provide submarines and fortifications. Fortifications are a most effective means of defence. A Labour Government would, I believe, also provide mines, submarines, adequate surfacewater craft, and convertible factories that could be used for the manufacture of small arms and the building of aeroplanes in times of war, and of farming implements in times of peace. During nine months of every year these factories could be employed in making farming implements that could be sold at cost price. Even if the factories made a loss in supplying the farming community with cheap agricultural implements, it would be better, on the whole, than spending £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 on defence a year as a dead loss, as we do at present. The factories could also undertake the manufacture of motor bicycles and motor cars, and it would be reasonable to supply the motor bicycles at reduced prices to picked young men and to men on the land on condition that they cared for them, and attained a certain degree of proficiency in the use of them. These motor cyclists could be used in war time as the nucleus of a larger force. Cars and motor lorries could be called into use for transport purposes. With the up-to-date machinery that would be installed in the factories, practically all the agricultural machinery required by the farming community could be manufactured. I believe, also, that the Labour party, if in power, would employ science and industry in the standardization of rolling-stock, motor cars, and machinery, and would spend a great deal more money than is now spent on making and maintaining roads. In time of war it is necessary to have both roads and railways, so that large numbers of troops can be transported with expedition. I regret that the Government does not propose to assist Australian industries by having the cruisers built in this country. If we desire cheapness as a first consideration, why not go to China, Japan, or other cheap labour countries. I say the Government’s policy is wrong. The first of these cruisers will cost nearly £3,000,000, and the building of it in this country would create a large amount of employment, and the money spent would be circulated among our own people. Has the Prime Minister gone back on the statement he made when speaking to the captains of industry at a meeting’ of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce last year ? He then said -
The development of our industries, trade, and commerce is of more importance to the defence of Australia than are the armies of Australia.
– That is what I built my hopes on.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has been a consistent advocate of that policy. He does not often agree with the Prime Minister on many things, for, while he has been consistent, the Prime Minister has not acted up to the sentiments he has expressed. Those sentiments won for him the plaudits of the Sydney commercial magnates that were seated round the festive board on that very auspicious occasion. “Why has the Prime Minister jettisoned that policy? What sinister influence has determined the change? If we are to have the cruisers they should by all means be built in Australia. It has been said that honorable members on this side are opposing the building of the cruisers only because they are opposed to the Government, but the opinions expressed by honorable members on this side are shared by the great majority of the people. Many Nationalist newspapers in Australia are denouncing the Government for its policy of going cap in hand to England, or any other country, to build cruisers that must, if we are to become a great manufacturing nation, be built in Australia. On the 29th July, 1924, the Melbourne Age rightly pointed out -
As might have been expected, Free Traders of the Ministerial Corner, who have little thought of the establishment of basic Australian industries, or of making the Commonwealth more self-dependent in defence, are extolling the advantages of cheap importations - a doctrine which, when applied to their own products, they resolutely fight. If this country is ever to develop the capacity to build its own ships, it must make a beginning, and the beginning cannot be made too soon. Proficiency in this, as in any other work can be gained only by experience. If the building of the cruisers on our own coast entail a greater outlay than would be necessary in the case of importation, the money will be spent amongst our own workers, producers, and business men.
In publishing that statement the Age voiced the opinion of thousands of people in Victoria and other portions of Australia, who are not supporters of the Labour party. If this question were put to a referendum of the people the verdict would be strongly in favour of building the cruisers in Australia. -
– Let us have a referendum.
– We should be prepared to accept the verdict of the people. I should like to point out to the Prime Minister that when America was struggling to establish the iron and steel industry, the late Mr. W. E. Gladstone likened its efforts to “a fantastic scheme for growing pineapples in English hothouses.” He said that it was useless for America to attempt to build up iron and steel works. America, however, was undaunted. She had patriotic men at the helm who said, “ We must go on.” They established iron and steel works, and America to-day can compare favorably with any other part of the world in the manufacture of iron and steel. Germany at one time, could not build the ships she needed; she had to go to other countries for them. She then kept thousands of men employed in England building war ships and merchant vessels for her. Later, she learned a lesson which, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has said, Australia should copy. She sent artisans to England to be trained inshipbuilding. They returned as experts, and were set to work, with the result that, to-day, Germany can supply all her own requirements. The same thing happened in J apan. For many years that country had to purchase all her ships from England. Japan to-day has her own shipbuilding yards and her own trained men, and if Australia isto become a self-reliant nation, she must proceed on similar lines. If we always depend on other nations for our ships, we shall never be able to employ thousands of our own tradesmen, who would, in turn, assist in providing a remunerative living for thousands of primary producers. The proposal of the Government to send an order for a cruiser to England is most reprehensible in view of the fact that there are thousands of unemployed in Australia, and 7,000 in New South Wales alone.
– Hundreds of men are to be discharged from the Cockatoo Island Dockyard this week..
– The honorable memberfor Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has been appropriately styled “ the honorable member for Cockatoo Island,” and the zeal in making himself conversant with this subject is highly commendable. The Minister for Defence stated that the estimated cost of building a cruiser in England was £1,900,000, but that amount was based on an Admiralty estimate, and does not represent the sum that would have to be paid to an English shipbuilder. The honorable member for Dalley did not rely on Australian experts, or English Admiralty officers, but decided to dispatch a cablegram to England, and obtain for himself the opinion of one of the leading shipbuilders there. The advice he received was that the cost would be £2,250,000 in England, and that the time taken to construct the vessel would be three and a half years, and not two and a half years, as stated by the Minister. I notice that the Minister ob- tained an estimate from the Commonwealth Shipping Board. Mr. Farquhar, who was manager of Walker’s Limited, Maryborough, Queensland, is one of the members of that board, and I regard him as one of Australia’s greatest shipbuilding experts.
– There is not a doubt about that.
– The board said the cost would be practically £2,898,000. The Government, not satisfied with this, had to go to the Naval Board for an estimate, and, whilst members of the Navy Board may be skilled in naval warfare, I am afraid they do not know much about shipbuilding.
– Mr. Farquhar has built ships for Walker’s Limited at Maryborough.
– Yes; he is on the Shipping Board. He built the Echuca and the Echunga, which are vessels of 6,108 tons.
– Prior to that he was in charge of the construction of the biggest ships in the British yards.
– Yes, and therefore his estimate should be more reliable than that of the Naval Board. Although RearAdmiral Hall-Thompson, and Captain H. P. Cayley, the first and second members of the Naval Board, have a wide knowledge of naval matters, and Mr. Abercrombie, the financial and civil member, may know something about finance, these gentlemen are not skilled in estimating the cost of shipbuilding. Of course, it is impossible, owing to the present high standard of living in Australia, to manufacture vessels as cheaply here as they can be built in a cheap-labour country. In England to-day a shipwright is paid only £3 19s. 6d. per week, while in Australia the wage is £6 8s., so that two men can be employed in England for very little more than it costs to employ one man in Australia. But Australia is very jealous of the standard of living it has attained for its workers, and it is not prepared to lower that standard. We must . maintain for our own workmen the measure of protection that they now enjoy if they are to remain prosperous. The great majority of the people of this country be- - lieve in protection. If a vote were taken on the question, 85 per cent, of the electors would, no doubt, favour that policy, and honorable members are pledged to it. The difference between the English estimate and the Aus- tralian figures is, approximately, £900,000. If the ships were constructed in Australia, a big percentage of that sum would be returned to the Government by way of income tax. The workers in shipbuilding yards, such as shipwrights, plumbers, and blacksmiths would not be immune from income tax, and the work would result in increasing the income of traders, primary producers, and others, so that of that £900,000 the Government would get back in income tax about £500,000.
– There would be additional revenue to the Commonwealth through the Customs.
– Quite so. The Government gives manufacturers protection to the extent of 45 per cent, on reapers and binders. If the Labour party’s policy to utilize munition factories in peace time for the manufacture of farming implements, which could be sold at cost price, were put into operation, a great measure of relief would be provided. If the 45 per cent, protection now given to the Australian manufacturers of reapers and binders were granted to t’he Cockatoo Island Shipbuilding Yard, the cost of building a cruiser in England would be increased from £1,900,000 to £2,755,000, accepting the English estimate. Thus the English cost would be brought within £100,000 of the cost of building a cruiser in Sydney. Of the total cost the sum of £1,500,000 would be distributed in wages, and the Government would reap £500,000 by way of income tax, so that the difference of £100,000 would be wiped out, and there would be a saving of £400,000 by building the cruisers in Australia. . Mr. Watkins. - The honorable member has not made any allowance for the cost of commissioning a cruiser, and bringing it to Australia.
– There would also be the cost of sending Australian officers to Great Britain. Their fares would have to be paid, and no doubt the Government would make them generous allowances.
– There would also be the cost of the coal and oil required for bringing the vessels to Australia.
– Yes. That would probably add another £50,000 to the English cost.
– You could easily add an extra £100,000.
– That is quite feasible. It would probably mean a saving of £500,000 to build the vessels in Australia. We have already had illustrations of the capacity of Australian shipbuilding yards to turn out a good article. Already 21 cargo vessels have been built in this country - four at Cockatoo Island, six at Williamstown, six at Walsh Island, three at Adelaide, and two at Maryborough. The Minister for Defence will not dispute the fact that the workmanship of Australian shipbuilding yards is equal to that in any other part of the world. In fact, the Minister stated, in speaking on this measure, that’ the workmanship put into the cruiser Adelaide compared favorably with that in any ship of that class in the British navy, and that we had nothing to fear regarding the quality of the materials, or the accuracy of the Australian workmanship. The Minister then went on to say that the proposed cruisers would be required in very much less time than it would take Cockatoo Island to build them-. He used that statement as an excuse why the work should be carried out in England; but the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has produced proof that the two cruisers can be constructed at Cockatoo Island within four years. Surely there is no undue urgency for their* construction ? The advice from England, obtained by the honorable member for Dalley, is that it will take three and a half years to construct one cruiser there. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has stated that it will take two years to build the vessel overseas, and the honorable member for Dalley guarantees that a cruiser can be built at Cockatoo Island in two and a half years.
– Who is his authority?
– I do not intend to disclose the names of those gentlemen whom the honorable member for Dalley has consulted.
– Are those gentlemen competent to make an estimate ?
– That estimate was given to the Prime Minister by the Shipping Board.
– It must be considered as good authority, as Mr. Farquhar, a member of that board, is the most competent shipbuilding expert in Australia.
– And his opinion is supported by Sir William Clarkson.
– Another gentleman of high repute. It is extremely unlikely that Australia will be invaded by an enemy within four, five, or even ten years. -We were assured by one honorable member opposite that it’ would take 20 years for Japan to recover from the earthquake. Personally, I do not believe that that nation will ever attack Australia; but’ she is is frequently referred to as a likely enemy. There is no reason why the two cruisers should not be constructed in Australia, even if it takes six months or a year longer to complete them here. Honorable members opposite state that the Labour party is opposed to any defence scheme for Australia, but I do not think that their statement will be accepted by the people. We advocate the building up of the most economical and effective arms of defence, and in that we are supported by the opinions of very high naval and military experts. Admiral Lord Fisher, writing in the Times after the armistice, said -
It is as clear as daylight that the future of war on the sea absolutely precludes the use of any war vessel except submarines; therefore, why keep any of the present lot? . . . All we want is the present naval side of the Air Force, costing a few millions, yet the Army estimates are over £400,000,000 a year.
It cannot be said that Lord Fisher was associated with the Labour party of Australia. Sir G. G. Ashton, of the General Staff of the Royal Marine Artillery, in his work, Amphibious Wars, said -
Forts have a great advantage over ships. . . Ships are built to fight each other and not to fight forts. The ordnance mounted inland is on a steady platform, with all sorts of appliances, giving the exact range automatically, and increasing the accuracy of fire. All these appliances cannot be adapted to ships.
That authority does not favour the building of cruisers for defence purposes, but says that the establishment of forts is much more important. There appeared in the Melbourne Sun yesterday a statement by Mr. Pemberton Billing, an exmember of the House of Commons, and a former air squadron commander. He said - s A battleship is of as much use to Australia as a sick headache. Any battleship afloat can be destroyed by a single torpedo-carrying aeroplane. Two thousand of those machines could put a fleet out of action.
Flying low, squadrons of air machines could rout an attempted landing of troops or an attack by sea on any part of the coast.
A large naval air force of more than 1,000 machines, and well-equipped stations about 50 miles apart around the Australian coast, would be our best means of defence.
Australia is prepared to contemplate the expenditure involved in four warships. If that money was devoted to the building up of an efficient air force, Australia need never fear invasion.
Mobility is an essential of defence. A great army or navy cannot move quickly to the defence of Australia. With an air force you have a mobility of up to 140 miles an hour with every unit.
That gentleman spent a great many years studying naval and military questions, and his opinion is well worthy of consideration. The Labour party has consistently advocated the building up of the air arm of defence, to be used in times of peace for linking up the outPosts of Australia. The use of aircraft as a meaus of defence is as yet in its infancy, but our experience of its efficiency during the war was sufficient to indicate to us what a power it would be in future wars. Personally, I trust that there will be no future wars. With regard to air defence, it is fitting to remember that an Australian, Laurence Hargraves, of Sydney, first discovered the means of making flight possible, and it would be very appropriate if the. Air Force was made the first arm of Australian defence.
– The efforts of Laurence Hargraves were ridiculed.
– That is so. The first flight of a power-driven machine was made in America by Wright Brothers, in 1903. The first successful flight in Australia was made in 1910. A great deal of progress in aviation has since been made. We were delighted when an Australian, the late Sir Ross Smith, flew from England to Australia in 1919, thus showing how aircraft had developed. In establishing a general scheme of defence every aspect must be considered before deciding what is to be our first arm of defence. The Civil Aviation Department was created in Australia in 1920. No one can gainsay the fact that this innovation has been a .boon to thousands of people living in the remote parts of this country.
– Especially to the Queensland people.
– There is, I suppose, more flying in Queensland than in any other part of Australia. Western Australia, of course, largely enjoys the conveniences afforded by the department. There have been established in Australia a great many air routes, which, although subsidized by the Government, are in many cases unprofitable ; but I submit that the money is well spent in building up an air service that can be utilized in peace time for the convenience of the people, and during war time as an arm of defence. To support my view that the Air Force will be a great power in future wars, I shall quote the opinion of the American Aviation Commission. That body stated -
That victory in future wars cannot but incline to that belligerent able first to achieve, and later to maintain, its supremacy in the air. . . . That no creation of aerial equipment to meet a national emergency already at hand is possible. . . . That, for economic reasons, no nation can hope in peace time to maintain air forces adequate to its defensive needs except through the erection of a great reserve and personal material, and producing industry through the encouragement of civil aeronautics, commercial aviation and transportation, must be made to carry the financial load.
In view of the need to protect Australia from invasion, its isolated geographical position, with thousands of miles of coastline, and its well-defined trade channels, it is essential that the Air Force should be our first line, of defence. Bases could be established on certain islands in the Pacific and at certain places on the coast of Australia.
– Look-out stations.
– Yes. This would prove a very effective form of defence for Australia, and would be far better than an extravagant expenditure of millions of pounds on vessels that would have to be scrapped in twelve months or two years after the holding of some conference similar to that held at Washington. The first obvious deduction from the experiences of the war and the general trend of events since, is that aviation will play an increasingly dominant part in any future wars that may be fought. We hope that there will be none; but the next war, if one occurs, will probably be fought mainly in the air. We should do everything we can to prevent another war, but if it cannot be prevented we should have an effective means of defence that will not involve an expenditure of millions every year, as an increase in the units of our navy would.
Aircraft are the only warlike weapons that -can be used in times of peace. In the next year or two we may look for considerable improvement in aircraft. It is probable that it will be found possible to eliminate forced landings, and that would be a very important advance. If forthcoming conferences prove abortive, and other nations go on arming, we shall be obliged to adopt a reasonable defence scheme commensurate with our resources. We should develop that arm of defence which is at once most economical and effective. Even if there should be a loss of £500,000 per annum on aircraft that can be used in times of peace for the carriage of passengers and mails to the outposts of Australia. That would be more economical than the expenditure annually of a vastly greater sum on vessels of a navy that in peace time will only patrol the seas, and will perform no useful service. I point out that the Government is doing absolutely nothing towards the establishment of factories for the manufacture of aircraft in Australia. This work could be taken up immediately. I have a letter here from the Aircraft Manufacturing and Supply Company of Australia, established at Geelong. The letter is dated the 29th July, and is in answer to a telegram I dispatched to Messrs. Pratt Brothers, asking them what was the capacity of their works. It is as follows: -
In reply to your telegram of to-day, wo have pleasure in sending you a few particulars, and trust they will suit your purpose. The main classes of aircraft work to he undertaken are: - First, re-condition present Air Force aircraft (aim asking for a minimum contract of 24 machines, at the rate of 12 per year; ; second, build new types of both military and civil aviation; third, experiment and build small light aeroplanes to stimulate public interest in aviation, with the possible result that many young men may make use of same (thereby building up a reserve of sport pilots, a valuable asset to Australia).
With regard to the capacity of the factory, the machinery that is being installed will more than cope with the immediate anticipated demand, and, to increase the output at any time, only additional buildings and personnel will be required. It is my intention to add further buildings and train further skilled workers as the demand for aircraft work increases. Knowing the importance of aircraft with regard to the defence of Australia, we have taken it upon ourselves to set up the above aircraft industry at our own expense, trusting to receive the support of the Government of Australia in this vital matter. In addition to the aircraft industry, we intend to establish in the near future a flying school to embrace all brandies of civil aviation.
This firm has shown considerable initiative and enterprise, and could manufacture a very great number of aeroplanes if the Government placed orders with them, instead of spending £5,500,000 on cruisers that might have to be sunk within two years. I am not pleading specially for this firm, any more than “for any other, but I contend that it would be better to spend money on the manufacture of aircraft than on the construction of cruisers. If we build two cruisers, that will involve an annual expenditure of about £5,500,000. For very much less expenditure than that it would be possible to establish a formidable air force, which experts say would be most effective in time of war, whilst in time of peace it would provide a very useful service for our people. The manufacture of aircraft is a comparatively simple matter, and carpenters and cabinetmakers might without much difficulty learn to becomecompetent manufacturers of aircraft.. They could be employed, also, in the building of floating boats, and there is no reason why we” should not be absolutely self-contained in the supply of this means of defence, and so put an end to the cry that is constantly heard, that we must get everything we require from England. The civil aviation department is carrying out a most useful work. The distance from Perth to Wyndham is about 2,000 miles, and whilst it used to take months previously to cover the distance owing to lack of communication and bad roads, it can now be done in three days. From Perth to Broome is a distance of, approximately, 1,500 miles. A very useful service ha3 been established between those two places, and has made it possible for a letter posted to-day in Perth to be delivered to-morrow at Broome. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has been a consistent advocate of the extension of the Western Australianair services, and has explained to me what has been done in that state. In Queensland we have an air service from Charleville up to Cloncurry, and out to Mount Isa. It takes the air-craft twoand a half hours, flying at a rate of, approximately, 80 miles an hour, to cover the distance from Cloncurry to Mount Isa, whereas it used previously to taketwo and a half days to carry communications between those two places. These services could be extended; and while they could not be run for profit, I repeat that a loss of £500,000 a year on an air-craft scheme that would provide for the defence of Australia, and in times of peace giving much-needed facilities to people out-back, would be more economical than the proposed expenditure on war vessels. Air-craft stations could be established along the Australian coast, and on some of the islands of the Pacific which would have to be passed by enemy boats coming to Australia. And Japan has been mentioned as our only likely enemy.
– Why Japanese?
– I believe that the Japanese will never invade Australia, but Japan is the only country that has been mentioned by honorable members opposite as likely to send an invading force to Australia. They say that if any country invades Australia it will be Japan.
– They do not even say that.
– Several honorable members opposite have mentioned tine possibility of an invasion from Japan. Others say there is no fear. If there is no need to fear Japan, we need fear nobody. If we had air-craft bases established on certain islands in the Pacific which would be passed by enemy cruisers or transports, aeroplanes might go up from carriers in times of emergency and keep a look-out within a radius of 1.50 miles from their base. All this could be provided for at very much less cost than will be involved in the policy to which the Government is committing the taxpayers of Australia by the building of cruisers, and more cruisers, that will probably have to be sunk later in accordance with the decison of some Washington conference, or because they have become obsolete. I plead with honorable members to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley, who has been actuated by the highest motives in submitting it. If it were carried it would provide for the building of the two cruisers in New South Wales. This would give employment to a very considerable number of workmen over a period of four years. The £3,000,000 which would be spent in wages - because 55 per cent, of the total cost of the cruisers would go in wages - would be of benefit to many other workers, small traders, producers, and business men in Australia. This is an Australian question, and I hope that honorable members will prove themselves to be “ big Australians “ by casting their votes in support of the amendment so eloquently moved by the honorable member for Dalley.
– In rising at this stage I do not propose to reply to the general discussion of the proposals I put before the House when moving the second reading of the bill; the criticism of honorable members opposite was adequately answered in the forcible reply of my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden). My remarks to-day will be confined to the question raised by the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). On the broad question - should both the cruisers be built in Australia? - I remind honorable members that in introducing the bill I clearly indicated the views of the Government and the action it proposed to take. It considers that the two cruisers should not be built in Australia, for the reason that, putting aside all consideration of cost, the facilities for such shipbuilding here are limited. Honorable members will agree that if two cruisers were to be built here concurrently, itwould involve the establishment of a great shipbuilding yard at Walsh Island, and necessitate the employment of a great number of men. We are all, no doubt, desirous that employment should be given to a great number of men, but the number of skilled men suitable for this particular work is limited, and we must have regard to the general requirements of the great manufacturing industries of the country. If we undertook to build two cruisers in Australia concurrently, we should inevitably draw heavily upon the body of skilled men we have suitable for this class of work, and as I am sure every honorable member sincerely trusts that we shall not continue a great war shipbuilding programme on their completion a vast number of men would be thrown out of employment.
– Unless we build vessels for the mercantile marine.
– I am speaking of the building of war vessels. If the two cruisers , were built here concurrently we should, on their completion, be faced with a condition of very acute unemployment. Therefore, the Government, having taken all the circumstances into consideration, has determined that one of them’ shall be built in Great Britain. That is the only decision that has been made. The question of where the second cruiser shall be built will be submitted for the determination of this House when the general defence policy is put before it. In arriving at a decision on that question it is essential that the House shall be able to gauge exactly what it would cost to build one of the vessels in Great Britain, and what it would cost to build one here. In introducing the bill I told honorable members that a cruiser could be built in Great Britain for £1,900,000, and that the period required for its construction would be approximately two years. That statement was based upon information given to me by the British Admiralty when I was in Great Britain. From true statements made to me then and the character of the negotiations which were carried on, I think I am almost justified in saying that I was given a direct undertaking that a cruiser would be built for that money, and that Australia was entitled to look to the British Government to carry out the undertaking that was given. When in Great Britain, I was pressed by the British Government to consent to the building of a cruiser there. Unemployment was so acute in that country then that the Government was anxious to do all that was possible to relieve it. I made it clear, however, that I could not commit Australia to any expenditure of that nature, and neither while I was in Britain, nor since my return to Australia, has any arrangement been made for the building of a cruiser. During this debate it has been suggested that the Government has already taken action to have a cruiser built in Great Britain, but there is not the slightest foundation in fact for that suggestion. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) evidently imagines that something of that kind has been done.
– The honorable member said so a moment ago.
– I said that I had been pressed by the British Government to agree to the building of a cruiser, but that I had refused to do so.
– The right honorable gentleman said more than that.
– On a previous occasion, I informed the House that a cruiser could be built in England within two years for £1,9.00,000, but the honorable member for Dalley has denied that that could be done.
– I stand by what I said.
– The honorable member said that the cost of building a cruiser in Great Britain would be £2,250,000, and that the work would take three and a half years. The honorable member is not the only person who has endeavoured to ascertain particulars of cost- and time of construction. He has, however, in putting an estimate before the House, failed to acquaint honorable members of an important fact, namely, that the cruiser which would cost £2,250,000 is a vessel of a different class from that which I said would cost £1,900,000. The cruiser which would cost the higher amount has a different grouping of the guns; it also has an additional gun, a speed of l£ knots more, and a considerably lighter armament. The Government’s desire, of course, is that Australia shall possess a cruiser of the latest design, and of the best type permitted under the Washington Treaty. Therefore, I say now that it is a 10,000-ton cruiser of this improved type that we propose to get, and such a cruiser would cost, I am told, between £2,100,000 and £2,200,000.
– Had the right honorable gentleman this information at his disposal when he introduced the bill?
– No. The only information I had at that time was that which I obtained when in Great Britain ; the information which I have just given has come to hand since. At present, an estimate of the cost of constructing a cruiser in Australia must be based on the cost of building a similar vessel in Great Britain. For a vessel corresponding to that which could be secured from Great Britain for £1,900,000, the. Shipping Board estimates the cost of construction in Australia as £2,898,000,’ and the Naval Board’s estimate is £3,400,000. For the improved type of cruiser just referred to those estimates would have to be altered to approximately £3,300,000 and £3,960,000 respectively. As those two estimates differ by as much as £500,000, and the same, authorities differ by nine months in their estimate of the time of construction, the Government feels that they should confer as to the basis upon which an estimate should be framed. It is, therefore, proposed that representatives of the Shipping Board and of the Naval Board should confer, under an impartial and competent chairman. By such means it is hoped that a reliable estimate of the cost of building a cruiser in Australia can be obtained. We have been fortunate in inducing Sir John Monash to act as chairman of the conference, and later a report will be submitted to the House. After inquiries in various directions, the Government has obtained an offer for the building of a cruiser of the improved type within 27 months of the date of the signing of the contract, at a cost of £2,100,000. Should that offer be accepted, a proper contract would, of course, be drawn up. An offer has also been received for the construction of two cruisers in Great Britain, the delivery of the second vessel being given within 30 months, and the price of each vessel being reduced by £50,000. So far, the Government has arrived at no decision about the construction of the second cruiser.
– From what firm was the offer obtained ?
– The honorable member has not given the name of the firm from which he obtained a quotation. The Government still believes that it is desirable that one cruiser should be built in Great Britain, and also that the fullest consideration should be given to the question of building the second vessel in Australia. Apart from the building up of Australian industries, and the purely commercial aspect of the question, the Government realizes that if we are in the future to be in a position to meet our own defence requirements, it is essential that we should encourage manufactures in Australia. That is a matter to which earnest attention must be given in connexion with the building’ of the second cruiser, and an opportunity to discuss it will be afforded when the defence estimates are before the House. The question now before us is the building of one’ cruiser in Great Britain, at a cost of £2,100,000.
– Is that a firm offer, or an estimate?
– We can get a contract on that basis. If we decided to obtain two vessels from Great Britain, the price of each would be reduced by £50,000, and delivery of the second cruiser could be given within thirty months. Those facts I place before honorable members for their earnest consideration.
.- We are gradually arriving at the truth by a slow and painful process, resembling the extraction of teeth. We were told that upon the basis of certain plans and1 specifications the first of these cruisers would cost £1,900,000 in England. Without those plans and specifications, but upon that estimate, somebody connected with the Naval Board came to the conclusion that a similar cruiser could not be built in Australia for less than £1,000,000 in excess of the British estimate.
– The Naval Board’s estimate for a cruiser built in Australia was £3,400,000.
– I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that the cruiser was to cost £1,900,000 in England and £2,800,000 in Australia.
– That was the Shipping Board’s estimate.
– That was the first statement, but in the absence of plans and specifications a layman naturally wonders how any one could make a comparison or prepare an estimate. Then the honorable member for ‘ Dalley (Mr. Mahony) obtained some information from which it appeared that the cost of construction in E(ngland would be something like £2,250,000. Now we are given, by the Prime Minister, the further information that the cruiser is likely to cost £2,100,000 in England, but it is to be an improved ship, carrying heavier guns, and having greater speed than the ship which was to have cost £1,900,000. And, apparently, without plans and specifications being prepared, and without tenders being called, the building of a cruiser is to be intrusted to somebody in Great Britain, where a cruiser of the Raleigh type, and to be known as the Effingham, is being built for £3,000,000. Allowing for further improvements, increases in the cost of materials and changed circumstances, the estimate of £2,100,000 for our cruiser may develop into an actual cost in England of .£3,000,000. Nobody knows, and apparently’ nobody will know until it is completed, what this cruiser will cost. No board that the Government may create can estimate the comparative costs in
Australia and England, because there can be no basis of comparison in the absence of plans and specifications, and tenders thereon. If the discussion upon the amendment now before the House has done nothing more, it has at least given us this information, that on the basis of figures two years old, the Government estimates to have built in- England a cruiser, which, with certain improvements, will cost £2,100,000, and that further improvements and alterations may bring the cost to £3,000,000. At that we can leave it.
.- I am very much in favour of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). There was nothing in the speech delivered by the Prime Minister to convince the House that the first cruiser should be built in Great Britain. This is the first Australian Government in recent years that has taken upon itself to change entirely the country’s policy of naval ship construction. The Government proposes to have one cruiser built abroad, and the vital necessity, admitted even by the Prime Minister, of fitting ourselves to manufacture all our defence requirements, is being entirely overlooked. The real defence of Australia is being sacrificed for the sake of cheapness. Whilst I strongly believe that any cruiser to be added to the Commonwealth navy should be built in Australia, we should not be satisfied with even that consideration. The opinion of admirals and viceadmirals of Great Britain, the United States of America, and Germany, is that capital ships and cruisers are no longer effective in modern naval warfare. Australia’s first declaration should be that it stands for defence and not aggression. Nobody will gainsay that we owe our past and present security largely to our association with the British Empire, but we must recognize that in the next war our allies may not be such powerful nations as were the Empire’s allies in the late war, and it is within the bounds of possibility, and indeed of probability, that Australian communications with the Mother Country may be severed. It is essential, therefore, that, all raw materials and other necessaries for defence shall be co-ordinated, and made ready against the time when we may be cut off from the’ assistance of the British navy, and have to rely entirely upon ourselves for the defence of our continent. Cruisers are a mobile force, and are suggestive of aggression. We should make it clear that we intend no act of aggression, and that our purpose is defence and not defiance. We shall fight to the last ditch if our country is invaded, but we must not fall into the error, commonly made by older countries, of building up large armaments, at a cost in excess of our financial capacity, for protection’ against certain potential foes. No cruiser, nor even two cruisers, could keep open the trade routes between Australia and the Old World.
– But they could help to do so.
– I believe that; but. there are other arms that would help equally well. Whilst the keeping open of our trade routes during time of war is essential to our overseas commerce, it is possible that in the next war Australia may be cut off from the world’s markets, and if we have not in the meantime adopted a scheme to ensure the inviolability of our country, the mere possession of means of partially protecting the trade routes will be of very small comfort. Some honorable members have mentioned Japan as a possible aggressor, but it has been rightly pointed out that Japan has adhered faithfully to the Washington Treaty. The latest Statesmen’s TearBook shows that in 1922-23 Japan spent upon her navy 400,000,000 yen, whilst for the year ended 31st March last the expenditure was reduced to 125,000,000 yen. Highly-placed naval strategists hold such divergent views regarding the most useful arm of naval defence that the lay mind is apt to become confused; but there is a remarkable consensus of opinion amongst naval authorities that the day of capital ships and cruisers is past. These experts declare that for defence - and Australians have no sinister intent of going abroad to subdue other countries - all that are necessary are battle aeroplanes, mines, submarines, and torpedoes. I shall quote in support of that opinion Rear-Admiral W. F. Fullam. United States of America, who was in charge of the American Pacific squadron during the late war, Rear- Admiral Bradley H. Fiske, United States of America, Admiral Sims, who was Commander-in-Chief of the American fleet during the late war, and Admirals Sir Percy Scott, and Lord Fisher, and Rear -Admirals S. S. Hall and Mark Kerr, of the Royal’ Navy, and
Admiral Von Scheer who commanded the German fleet in the battle of Jutland, and who put up such a fight as entitled him to be regarded as one of the leading German naval strategists.
– Would the honorable member accept his opinion in preference to that of J Jellicoe and Beatty ? . Mr. A. GREEK.- The opinions of the men I have stated should carry weight even against the views of Jellicoe and Beatty. After all, war is the only test of defence theories, and in that crucible many of them are proved to be wrong. Another authority I shall quote is Lord Sydenham, a distinguished British statesman and a recognized authority on defence. Rear- Admiral W. F. Fullam wrote an article in 1923 on the passing of sea power. The opinions of such a man should have careful consideration, because as a naval expert he is regarded highly in his own country. He made this remarkable statement -
The wings of “ Sea Power “ have been clipped. New naval weapons have vastly strengthened the defence and greatly weakened the offence in overseas warfare. Great armadas and armies cannot again cross the seas. Force cannot, as in the past, be carried over the oceans.
With the sea as a buffer, weak nations can defy the strong. A puny power, without a navy, can challenge the strongest battle fleet. It can, with intelligent energy, make its coast impregnable against a hundred Dreadnoughts. With an impenetrable barrage of . mines, air forces, torpedoes, and submarines, it can easily hold a maritime enemy one hundred miles from its shores.
The freedom of the seas is in many respects near, realisation-. Aggression, expressed in ships, is chained to the beach.
That is a very definite statement.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should hold our hands until all naval authorities are agreed ?
– No. I shall suggest certain methods of defence that will be much less costly to Australia, and, in my opinion, will enable us much more adequately to defend this country. The authority I have quoted further says: -
Inter-continental war will be well-nigh impossible in future. The weak will not bow to the strong from overseas. No one nation can rule the waves hereafter. The greatest fighting navy may inspire no fear. A hostile coast can scorn its power. Its guns cannot reach . the target. They are like ancient weapons in a modern age. A dreadnought fleet on an enemy’s coast is like Don Quixote fighting windmills with a lance.
This gentleman is no crank; he is not a man with a “bee in his bonnet,” but is one who has devoted his. whole life to the study of naval warfare. His opinion, and the opinion of others whom I shall quote, suggest that we can defend ourselves in a less costly and more effective way than by building cruisers.
– That argument would .not apply to the defence of our trade routes.
– No ; but I am proposing to provide for tie protection of our trade routes. I recognize that the honorable member is very keen on defeuding our trade. I admit that trade is important, but nothing is so important as - preventing an enemy from gaining a footing on these shores and conquering our people. The writer quotes RearAdmiral Bradley A. Fiske, of the United States Navy, who declared in 1911 that -
A strong force of air-planes supported by mines and submarines would alone suffice to defend the Philippines from invasion. Fortifications were not needed. A defending fleet of battleships was quite unnecessary.
I do not pose as a naval authority, and I do not say that the statements of these men are necessarily unassailable, but I say that their opinions, in their respective callings, are of great importance, and should carry weight with this House.
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– From an article by Roar-Admiral W. F. Fullam. in Madura’s Magazine of June, 1923. 1 have searched through the Parliamentary Library for books on naval warfare, and have been astonished to find there hundreds of books that are of no use. A book written three or four years’ ago is entirely out of date, and while it may seem a shallow method of inquiry, honorable members have no choice but to go to the serious up-to-dato magazines to ascertain the latest developments in naval warfare. Admiral Sir Percy Scott, of the British Navy, in a letter to the London Times in 1914”, ‘said-
First, that modern weapons have entirely revolutionized naval warfare. Second, that if we were at war with a country within striking distance of submarines, battleships on the high seas would be in great danger. Third, that if we went to war, we should probably lock up our ships in a safe harbour, and the enemy would do the same. Fourth, that no fleet could be hidden from the airman’s eyes.
First, that modern weapons have entirely revolutionized na.val warfare. Second, that if we were at war with a country within striking distance of submarines, battleships on the high seas would be in great danger. Third, that if we went to war, we should probably lock up our ships in a safe harbour, and the enemy would do the same. Fourth, that no fleet could be hidden from the airman’s eyes.
Fifth, that submarines could deliver a deadly attack in broad daylight. Sixth, that battleships could not bombard an enemy’s port if it is protected by submarines. Seventh, that the enemy submarines would come to our coast and destroy everything they could. Eighth, that the submarine had driven the battleship from the ocean.
Rear- Admiral Fullam points ‘ out that these opinions by Admiral Sir Percy Scott were advanced nine years ago, before air forces were fully developed. He further writes -
Admiral Sir John Fisher supported Admiral Scott. He declared that the dreadnought was doomed. “Scrap the lot; the future fighting is in the air,” he claimed. And these two admirals, Fisher and Scott, had done more than any men in the world to develop the dreadnought.
Sir Percy Scott further said ;
You must admit that, in the var, we were nearly forced to submission by starvation. You must admit that the German battleships played no part in reducing us to a state of starvation. You must admit that if our battleship superiority had been double what it was, it could not have protected us from starvation. You must admit that the dominant arm of the war was the submarine. You must admit that our belief before the war that the submarine was only a toy resulted in our coming to the brink of losing the war.
Here is what another authority of the British Navy, Rear-Admiral S. S. Hall, says -
We had a grand fleet, with a prepondorence of nearly two to one over Germany alone, and an auxiliary navy of about five thousand vessels. We had the assistance of the American, French, Italian, and Japanese navies. We held the most favorable geographical position, for a naval war, that the atlas can furnish. And yet our main naval purpose - the protection of our trade - could not be carried out. These are the plain sad facts of our naval experience in the last war. In view of the failure of the navy - under the most favorable conditions, with many Allies - to protect our trade in the last war, has it any hope of doing bo on its existing basis under less favorable conditions? Can it even protect the lines of communication of our battle-fleet, if the latter is required to fight out of home waters? Will the advent of aircraft make the position easier ?
Then he proceeds to quote the statement of Admiral Sims, of the United States Navy, made when he visited London. Admiral Sims said -
There will never again be in naval history one of the Simon-pure naval expeditions carried across the sea to an enemy’s port, the defeat of an enemy’s fleet, the establishment of an advanced base on his coast, and the pouring in of soldiers and supplies. This has been for ever rendered impossible, against any country that has adequate air and submarine forces.
– When was that statement made ?
– In 1917. The lessons of the war were well known, then.
– We have . learned since then more about coping- with submarines.
– I should be pleased to hear the honorable member deal with that point. Vice-Admiral Kerr’s opinion is as follows : -
No nation would dare send a capital fleet 3,000 miles across open water to light an enemy. It is ten chances to one that it would be wiped out to the last bottom. Without a base it would be whittled away by the air and submarine forces of the enemy, without ever meeting the enemy’s grand fleet. As blockading by big ships has been shown to be impossible in the face of modern flotillas, it would appear that there is no use for the battleship where the bases are far apart. Battle-fleets are only of use in certain geographic divisions, whore the bases arc not far apart. They are of no use for wars in which the combatant countries arc separated by thousands of miles of ocean.
– The Commonwealth Government is proposing to construct cruisers, not battleships.
– Yes, cruisers for the protection of our trade routes, which could not be protected even if we had six or seven powerful allies. Rear-Admiral Fullam mentions that Lord Sydenham, a distinguished British statesman, agrees with Admiral Sims and Admiral Kerr in the following letter to an admiral of the American navy : -
You can’t now employ a large battle fleet in an enemy’s near waters if he possesses a smaller fleet in good order and effective. Japan is a case in point. You, the United States, and we, Great Britain, can do nothing against Japan separately, and not much more if we were allied. I am sure you will come to this conclusion.
The next passage in that letter has some interest for us in Australia -
Per contra Japan, and obviously no other power, can do anything in American home waters, even if your fleet were only as the High Seas Fleet compared to the Grand Fleet. Submarines, minefields, and the air have conferred new powers on a fleet in its own waters, and with the resources of a great nation behind it. That is what so many pundits have missed. It carries far.
Rear-Admiral Fullam further says -
A well-known English writer declares, “ No great army can be carried across the ocean against a fleet of submarines. Australia and
New Zealand are absolutely secure against attack. Given enough submarines, the United States is now a distinct and impregnable military unit, and so is the Old World.
Last, but not least - I say that advisedly is Rear-Admiral von Scheer, who is quoted as saying -
Only recently experiments made in America have made it clear that a battleship may be sunk by air planes. Even though the chance ofsuch successes would be lessened in the case of ships under way, and though the factor of defence did not enter into these experiments, it cannot be denied’ that the prospects are favorable to the air plane since an attacking fleet cannot remain in motion permanently. It requires rest for the engines, time for the taking on board of munitions, fuel, and supplies. It must dock for repairs, lie at anchor, and it is then that the opportunity for air attack presents itself. The danger involved in being struck by a 2,000-lb. bomb from the sky also exists in the mines and torpedoes which threaten the battleship. It is thus exposed to dangers beneath the waters, and from the air, and it has no absolute security against these. Swift cruisers, the eyes of the fleet, are threatened in a still greater degree, since, in view of their high speed, they must be content with weaker armaments. The air plane is swifter, its eyes see farther, it cannot be so easily pushed aside or into a corner. And thus it maybe said to furnish better service than a large’ and expensive battleship.
Read-Admiral Fullam sums up as follows : -
Reviewing the subject briefly, wo may say: - First, a battle fleet cannot carry an attack across the ocean; second, a great army cannot be sent oversea; third, a base 5,000 miles from home, surrounded by enemy bases, is no base at all; fourth, submarines, air forces, mines, and torpedoes suffice to defend a coast; fifth, seacoast forts are useless; sixth, it is only by transporting overseas an overwhelming air force to seize and control the air that one continent can attack another; seventh, each continent will control its own destiny if it arms itself with modern weapons.
These are the points that I have been trying to make this afternoon. I have quoted a great array of scholarly gentlemen, expert, at any rate, on this subject, who are unanimously of the opinion that protection in the future rests with war planes, submarines, and other means of coastal defence. A cruiser will cost £2,000,000 or more. Let me point out that a model battle-plane costs only £2,500, so that we could have 800 battleplanes for the price of one cruiser. I do not know whether the estimated cost of a battle-plane has gone up since the Minister for Defence gave us the price a little time ago of a modern battle-plane. Apparently, these costs increase from day to day, so that we do not quite know where we are. France proposes to increase its fleet of battle-planes to 182. squadrons, or 2,180 machines.
– What is the radius of action of a battle-plane over the ocean?
– Two hundred miles.
– France’s naval defence equipment for 1924 comprises’ 6 armoured cruisers, 5 light cruisers, and 55 submarines. Under the peace treaty with Germany, the Allies permitted that country to retain 8 pre-war dreadnoughts, 8 light cruisers, and 16 destroyers, but they thought it wise not to allow Germany to build a single submarine or warplane. The building of aircraft in Germany was restricted to machines of 185 horsepower, which restricted that country to commercial aeroplanes. The “K” class submarine, to which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) referred, is playing an enormous part in defence. As a matter of fact, some authorities believe that the K26, the latest British submarine, is more effective than an ordinary cruiser. This type of vessel can be built for £330,000. In other words, six “ K “ class submarines can be constructed for the price of a cruiser such as is proposed by the Government, even if it is built in Great Britain. These submarines carry a 12-in. gun, and they have a sufficient range to enable them to circumnavigate the coast of Australia without the ; necessity for refuelling. Lord Jellicoe, in one of his reports to the Commonwealth Government on his naval mission from May to August, 1919 - I am told that the other two reports are confidential stated in “reference to air defence -
It will be seen by reference to chapter VII. and vol. III., chapter IV., of the report that the questions of aerial material and operations are touched upon at some length. The continual and rapid development of aircraft, both for work over water and over land, makes the. question of great importance to Australia, and a reference to the above chapters will show how essential it will be in the future to the security of the Commonwealth that strong forces of naval aircraft should be available for reconnaissance purposes in conjunction with, the fleet.
In the Statesman’sYearBook for 1924 there is the followingreference to the reports of Lord Jellicoe that I have been unable to obtain : -
His report to the Government of Australia, emphasized the desirability of the Government becoming self-contained in regard to ship- building and the manufacture of guns, mountings, explosives, and aircraft. However, no action of much importance has been taken on the proposition.
The very point that I have raised is stressed by a number of authorities. The Labour party stands for defence, not defiance. I have quoted several leading authorities on naval warfare, who would be loath, I take it, to admit that any other arm of the service was as proficient as their own. Notwithstanding their prejudice, which is patent, they frankly confess that defence will depend in future on aircraft, submarines, and torpedoes. The cost of providing the latter is only a fraction of that of building capital ships. The captains of industry in Australia have been insistent in urging upon the present Government the very opinions dwelt upon by the Acting Leader of the Opposi.tion (Mr. Anstey) in his opening remarks. A report issued last year by the vice-president of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy was wholly devoted to the necessity for Australia to co-ordinate its industries in preparation for defence. It was pointed out that we should establish manufactories for using our raw materials for the purposes of peace, so that, if it became necessary to convert those materials into the thousand and one articles that are necessary in war time, we in Australia, when the tocsin rang, should be able to draw upon our own resources for the purposes of defence. That aspect of defence appeals to me, for I am essentially a man of peace. I should like to be able to say, as the socialists of Germany and Prance declared prior to the Franco-Prussian war, that we are the enemies of all war, and that we solemnly promise that neither the sound of the trumpet nor the roar of the cannon, neither victory nor defeat, shall swerve us from our common purpose - the union of the children of toil of all countries. That is a fine ideal. I admit that under present conditions the happy haven of the pacifist i3 not readily attainable; but, until civilization becomes sane on the subject of war, I hope that we shall declare that, come what may, Australia will not enter into any war of aggression. But should any people be so ill-advised against the counsel of all those who have studied the subject of naval warfare, as to venture its fortunes in an attempt to occupy this country, we should be unconquerable and would never give up our homes. If every people made a pronouncement that it stood for peace, and would not go beyond the confines of its own territory for the purpose of aggression, peace would be at hand. Meanwhile if there is danger abroad, as there may be, let the Government do something on the lines suggested by Lord Jellicoe in the direction of co-ordinating our great industries so that they may be used for our protection. I regret that, instead of following that course, the Government proposes to build a cruiser abroad. It is said that the unemployed in Great Britain will thereby be assisted. That may be so, but I claim that Australia has to be built up, and that the true Australian desires his country to progress in the arts of peace. I feel that, if we embark upon a policy such as I advocate, and pursue it with a fixed purpose, we need not fear aggression.
.- Honorable members will no doubt be astonished at the figures given as the difference between the cost of building a cruiser abroad and the cost of constructing it in Australia, We were originally told that that difference amounted to £900,000. This afternoon, however, we were informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that the cost of building a cruiser in Great Britain had reached £2,200,000, the increase being due to the provision of an extra gun, an increased speed of 1J knots an hour, and lighter, armaments, which, it is said, has occasioned an increase of the original estimate to the extent of £300,000. Honorable members on this side of the chamberdesire to know from whom the original estimate and also- the present figures have been obtained. We believe that the cost of a cruiser built in England will be more than £2,200,000, and that the actual price will approach the cost of construction in Australia. The Commonwealth Shipping Board estimates the cost of building the vessel in Australia at £3,400,000, and we also have the estimate of the Naval Board, which says that the cost of construction in Australia will be £3,960,000, so that there is a difference of £560,000 between the two estimates. With that divergence I am not particularly concerned. I consider that it would be courageous on the part of the Government to place with the shipbuilders of Australia an order for the construction of the two cruisers. Personally, I am opposed to the building of any such vessels, especially at this juncture, but, if they are to be constructed, the work should be done in our own country, for I believe we have workmen and shipbuilding yards capable of turning out a cruiser second to none. I have a knowledge of the class of work carried out at our dockyards and shipyards, and the return given by the men to their employers. The workmanship here compares favorably with that of any British dockyard or other private enterprise. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) doubted whether we have sufficient skilled artisans to carry out in Australia the construction of either one or two vessels. . I say emphatically that we have in this country sufficient artisans to form the nucleus of the highly-trained staff that would be needed to construct our own cruisers and torpedo-boat destroyers. The New South “Wales Government twelve or fourteen years ago sent a batch of workmen to Great Britain to gain experience in warship construction. The Commonwealth National Government also sent a number of men to England to gain similar experience. Notwithstanding these efforts to establish our own shipbuilding industry, the services of the experts and skilled tradesmen who returned to Australia have been lost to the Commonwealth. Yet we have in Australia a skilled staff capable of constructing a cruiser. During the war honorable members opposite boasted that the Australian soldiers were the finest and the best equipped in the world, but when it is proposed to build our own warships the same gentlemen say that Australian workmen cannot carry out this work. When the Composite Government was formed, the members of the Ministry prided themselves that they were all Australians. What sort of Australians are men who. propose to place an order in Great Britain for a cruiser which could with equal advantage be built in” Australia? An additional expenditure on these cruisers of only £300,000 would enable our own workmen to establish the shipbuilding industry in this country. During war time honorable members opposite did not urge the people to purchase abroad articles for defence purposes that could not be obtained so cheaply here. At that time the question of price did not enter their minds, but now, when it is proposed to provide ‘ employment for our own people, and to form the nucleus of a trained staff capable of building warships, they say, “No; we must save this country £300,000.” This Government, by proposing to place the order for a cruiser with shipbuilders outside the Commonwealth, is adopting an anti-Australian attitude. When the Prime Minister doubted whether we could obtain sufficient skilled tradesmen to carry out this work in Australia, he asked himself this question - After the completion of these two cruisers in Australia, what will happen to the tradesmen who have been engaged on the work ? I have no doubt that, if left at the mercy of the present Government, they would be thrown on the unemployed market. Any government charged with the responsibility of office must grapple with the question of establishing the shipbuilding industry in Australia. In America the shipbuilding industry is protected. If repairs are effected to an American vessel abroad, certain charges are imposed by the Government ; there -is consequently an incentive to the American ship-owners to have all necessary repairs to vessels carried out in their own country. It is just as necessary to protect the shipbuilding industry as it is to protect our primary and secondary industries. We could give no greater assistance to the fostering and protecting of this industry than by placing the order for the two cruisers with Australian shipbuilding firms. I am not .here to champion the cause of Cockatoo Island or any other dockyard. My one desire is to protect the interests of the workers, especially those men who were previously engaged in the shipbuilding industry. If those two cruisers were constructed in Australia, and upon their completion it was decided not to proceed with the construction -of further cruisers or submarines, the workmen previously engaged on warship construction could then be profitably employed in the construction of “ Bay “ liners, and other boats of the type of the Fordsdale and Fernd.ale. Their experience in the construction of the hulls, engines, and boilers of the cruisers would be of immense value to them in carrying out the other class of work.
– By how much was the Fordsdale written down before she carried a ton of goods?
– That vessel when completing its homeward trip established a record in reducing the time of the journey by one day. A considerable saving was thus made in the wages of the crew and in other directions. The class of work carried out on the Fordsdale and Ferndale compares more than favorably with that performed in any shipbuilding yard in the Old Country. A few months ago I asked the Prime Minister for a return showing the cost of the “ Bay “ liners, and the repairs carried out on them since they were taken over by the Commonwealth. The original cost was almost £1,250,000, and from £20,000 to £30,000 has since been spent each year on repairs to these vessels. The workmanship of the Fordsdale and Ferndale is an evidence of the capability of our workmen for carrying out a thorough job. If we construct our own vessels, there will be no need to spend huge sums of money on repairs. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is not prepared to protect the implementmaking industry which, in time of war, could be readily adapted to the manufacture of munitions. He wants us to purchase cheaply abroad, and is not prepared to say a good word for any goods of Australian manufacture. The Government’s proposal to build two 10,000-ton cruisers at an estimated cost of £2,200,000, to the detriment of our primary and secondary industries, is tantamount to the action of the head of a household who, while recklessly spending money on arms and ammunition, starves the members of his family and neglects their health. He, like the Government, owing to his .failure to provide an adequate and organized defence, could not, if required, protect himself from attack by his nextdoor neighbour. I am unable to forget the many declarations that were made by the Government supporters during the war. It was then said that that war was to end all wars. Honorable members opposite do not appreciate a reminder of that declaration, and say, “ Let us forget it.” Those who took part in the late war cannot forget that declaration, especially when, in the defence of a young country like Australia, it is proposed to expend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 on the construction of cruisers abroad. In view of the enormous increase in the naval and military expenditure throughout the Empire, it is time that we took stock of our position, and refused to sanction any further expenditure on defence. In 1S21 the British military and naval expenditure was £13,000,000; in 1871, £22,000,000; in 1914, before the war, £80,000,000; and in 1921, three years after the war, £207,000,000. The Commonwealth Government now intends to participate in the race for armaments by increasing our defence expenditure by £5,000,000. I am not prepared to support any proposal for the construction of cruisers, but if they are to be constructed, then for the sake of Australia, and having in mind the interests of the workmen engaged in the shipbuilding industry, let us insist that they be constructed in this country. In any case, two cruisers would be absolutely inadequate to protect Australia, with its enormous coast line, exceeding 12,000 miles. The honorable member for ‘ Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) stated that there would be peace in the Pacific for a. considerable time to come, but that we must prepare for war. “We can best prepare for Australia’s defence, not by the construction of cruisers, but by the building up of our secondary industries. We have in the Commonwealth dockyards and shipping yards at such places as Cockatoo Island, Walsh Island, and Williamstown, that are capable of building ships of war and ships of peace. The Commonwealth Government disposed of the Williamstown dockyard to the Victorian Government, when, for defence reasons, that dockyard should have been retained, so that, in time of war, it would be at the service of the naval authorities for naval repairs and new works. The Government is doing everything possible to brake the wheels of industry in other dockyards by its proposal to construct cruisers abroad. If this work were carried out in Australia, it would be a great incentive to the shipbuilding industry. A trained staff would be employed, able to ‘construct not only cruisers, but also torpedo boat destroyers and submarines. The interstate steamship companies send abroad for new vessels, although they could be constructed here. The Sydney Ferry Company has recently purchased a vehicular ferry from the Old Country. The shipping and ferry companies derive their revenue from Australia, from the fares of passengers and workers, but when they require new vessels for their shipping services, they purchase in the cheapest market, to the detriment of Australian industries. The first thing the Commonwealth Government should do is to afford sufficient protection to the shipbuilding industry, and thus give local shipbuilders a chance.
– j. wonder if the Government got a price for the cruisers from the Hong Kong dockyard. s
– I believe that if Ministers could give effect fo their hearts’ desire they would have these ships constructed by black labour if, by doing so, they could get them more cheaply. The anti-Australian spirit is being displayed in various ways. When the R..M.S. Mooltan came out here a few months ago, great publicity was given to it in the press. At the same time, only an inch or two was devoted in the press to the launching of the Fordsdale, which was built at Cockatoo Island, and is a credit to Australian workmen. I think that Australian governments should arrange for school children to witness the launching of Australianbuilt ships. They should also make arrangements to enable parties of them to be escorted over the vessels in order that they might learn what Australian workmen are doing. Until we have a government in power that is prepared to foster the Australian spirit in the children of our schools, Australian industries will not be given a fair chance. It cannot be said that the defence of Australia was strengthened by the disposal of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills or the disposal of the Commonwealth Harness Factory. The Government is prepared to spend huge sums of money on the construction of cruisers in other countries, but it showed how little it was concerned about the defence of Australia when it disposed of the Woollen Mills and the Harness Factory. If it is necessary to retain the Small Arms Factory, it is equally necessary for the clothing and equipment of Australian soldiers to retain the Woollen Mills and the Harness Factory. I believe that the policy of the present Government is largely influenced by Flinders-lane, and when one mentions Flinders-lane he is immediately reminded of the men who made exorbitant profits during the war years. During the controversy which took place with regard to the construction of cruisers, certain representations were made by the Newcastle Municipal Council to the Chamber of Commerce, suggesting. support for the proposal that one of the cruisers should be built at Walsh Island. The Chamber of Commerce replied .that it did not believe in interfering with private enterprise. It could not support a proposal for the construction of a cruiser at Walsh Island or Cockatoo Island, because it did not stand for government intervention in business. When it was a question of financing the war, of finding men to wage it, and of clothing and equipping them, that was not a matter for private enterprise, but a responsibility, of the Government. I was amused at the reply of the Chamber of Commerce to the representations from Newcastle. When it is a question of the construction of a- cruiser, and the making of huge profits at the expense of Australian taxpayers, the matter is one for private enterprise. Just as it was the duty of the Government to clothe and equip our soldiers, I say it is its duty to construct whatever ships may be necessary for our defence. If the construction of these vessels is carried out in Australia, the work will be done more satisfactorily, and we shall avoid the possibility of a set of individuals reaping huge profits. From the point of view of defence, it would be better to spend the money proposed to be spent on the construction of the cruisers in the development of militaryroads. I have no particular interest in the Northern Territory, which has a worthy representative in the honorable member for the Territory (Mr. Nelson), but I believe that the Government could spend money to advantage from a defence point of view in the construction of roads in the Northern Territory. Last year it set aside the miserable sum of £3,000 for the construction of roads, culverts, and bridges in the Northern Territory. A twopenny-halfpenny municipal council in any of the states would be ashamed to set aside so small a sum for such a purpose. If the Government set aside £100,000 or £200,000 for the construction of roads, that would strengthen our position from a defence point of view. Honorable members opposite believe in aeroplanes, warships, and submarines, but we should concern ourselves more with internal equipment, so that, should it ever be necessary, “we shall, by being organized internally, be able to present a stubborn resistance to any foe. Our industries should be protected and assisted. The motor body industry should be further protected, as in time of war. factories employed in the construction of motor bodies could be converted to the manufacture of certain parts of aircraft. Our piano factories could, in war time, be devoted to the same purpose. Our engineering works could readily be converted into munition factories. I have an instance before me of how the Government has failed to afford assistance to an Australian industry. In my electorate, there is established the only works of its kind in the Commonwealth. The Austral Bronze .Company has set up a plant that was specially installed in the Old Country during the war years by one of the big engineering (firms. Recently the Commonwealth Railways Department called tenders for certain copper rods. Tenders were received from the Birmingham Battery Company and the Austral Bronze Company. The Birmingham Battery Company’s price was £123 12s. per ton, and that of the Austral Bronze Company was £1’25 10s. per ton. In spite of the small difference between the two tenders the contract was let abroad. The plant of the Austral Bronze Company could be- readily used in time of war for the manufacture of copper sheets and copper rings for .shell manufacture, but because a British firm offered to .supply the articles required at a few shillings less per ion the .contract was let abroad. That is mot the .consideration which should be extended to Australian firms. We should consider .also the further protection of the woollen industry. 1’ may be asked what connexion this industry has with the question of defence, but if the woollen industry were properly handled in Australia, we might, in five years’ time. transplant Bradford from ‘the Old Country to Australia, and thus increase our population by from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000. Should we not be stronger from -a defence point of view if, during the next five years, we made such an addition to ‘our population? Instead of working up our wool in out own country, we export it to bo manufactured in cheap labour .’countries. Again, take the tanning industry. There are tanning works in my electorate that are practically ‘dosed down because they are unable to get the sheepskins they require in this country. One firm has to import sheepskins from New Zealand to keep its factory going something like quarter time. I am informed that, during the last week or two, this firm was forced to refuse orders received from London for leather. It was not in a position to supply the orders of London firms, because whilst sheepskins are being sent out of the country, it has to import them from New’Zealand. That is a ridiculous position. We should encourage trade with the East with a view to strengthening our position from a defence point of view. If, instead of concerning ourselves with many long trade routes to Europe, we encouraged .trade with the East, which is our natural trade outlet, we could find there a ready market for our products and manufactures, and would have shorter routes to maintain in time of war. Civil aviation should be encouraged as a means of defence. The Post and Telegraph Department should establish uptodate aerial mail services, and the aircraft used could, in time of war, be devoted to defence. By the adoption of this policy we might have an army of trained air pilots who could be readily absorbed by our air forces in time of war. Whilst I contend that we should serve the interests of Australia from the point of view of defence by scientifically organizing our industries, we should not overlook the necessity of paying due regard to the public health. .Since the return of the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), a number of honorable members have .given some attention to this matter. It should have been given more attention when the Estimates were under consideration. Last year I voiced & protest against the miserable amount proposed .by the Government for public health purposes.
– Order ! Public health does not come within either .the motion or the amendment.
– I am trying to show that public health has a ‘great ‘deal to do with the question of defence. By building up the health of the people we shall be better’ able .to oiler a stubborn resistance to an enemy. Last year £121,’0O0 was voted for public health services,- and of that- amount three-fourths, was1 absorbed in purely administrative charges. There was no money set ‘aside for medical research. Keeping in view the necessity for defence.,, the Government should make available a large sum of. money with which to combat venereal disease, tuberculosis, cancer, and other diseases prevalent in our midst.
– I am afraid I cannot permit the honorable member to’ proceed on those, lines.
– I am trying to show that instead of spending the. money proposed on the construction of cruisers wo could spend it to greater advantage from a. defence point of view by improving the general health of the people.
– The honorable member will see that whilst an allusion io> the matter is quits regular, an extended argument upon public health is outside the limits, of the bill.
– I am satisfied to hold my own views on the matter.. I hope that the Government will later en see the necessity of paying due attention to this very important question. As one who- is anxious that we should improve our position, and acquit ourselves worthily from a national point of view, I contend that if we are a healthy people wo shall be better able to go through any contest, in which we may be engaged. If. the. cruisers are. to be built, I hope that the. order will be placed with an Australian dockyard. Some .honorable members opposite who are opposed to their construction in Australia might refer to the high cost of the Brisbane, the Adelaide, and the torpedo boat destroyers. We should not, however, he guided by the exorbitant costs of those vessels. First,, we had to get together a trained staff, and then there were many delays caused by our naval experts, who from time to time altered the plans and specifications. That delay caused the cost of construction to pile up. In the costs, charged to the Fordsdale, the Adelaide, the Brisbane, and also the “ Bay “ steamers, were many items, which should not have been charged to them. For instance, the cost of. a motor garage at Balmain for Mr. King Salter, the manager- of the dockyard, was charged’ to the Brisbane. When I asked for information as to the cost of that garage, I was informed that no costs in- connexion with it- were charged to the Common wealth. I know, however, that the whole of the establishment charges, at Cockatoo Island were charged to- the cruisers, and the torpedo beat destroyers. Orders came from the Navy Office that such charges: were to be allocated to- jobs costing over £1,000. As the only jobs exceeding £1,000 were those of the cruisers and the torpedo boat destroyers, is-, it any wonder that the cost of constructing those vessels was so high ? A flagstaff was erected at Cockatoo Island, and new. furnishings were placed in the manager^ residence, all of which were charged to the Brisbane. Those actions, cannot be justified. Honorable members on the other side have accused the workmen at Cockatoo Island of “ going- slow.” Will any member attempt to justify the em:ployment of dockyard labour and material for the construction- of a motor garage, and the charging of the cost to the Brisbane ? The workmen should not be blamed for the high cost in- the face of such happenings. An army of experts was engaged in supervising the construction of those vessels. It was not m the interests of those experts that the vessels should be completed quickly, as the greater the time- spent in construction, the longer would they retain their highlypaid positions. If a new cruiser is- to be constructed in Australia, precautions should be taken against these highly-paid naval officers falling down on the job in order to keep themselves in employment. I am unable to- support the proposal of the Government to build these vessels, outside Australia. In our midst we. have thousands of unemployed workmen among whom are many returned soldiers, and until employment is found for them we should not subscribe to- any policy which- will permit of ‘the construction of these cruisers outside of the Commonwealth. We should, first encourage Australian industry, and (preserve the health of our own people. By constructing developmental roads and railways, we shall be strengthening our position from a defence point of view to a far greater extent than by constructing two cruisers, which would be .altogether inadequate for the .defence of our coastline and trade routes.
,.r-I do not intend to occupy more than a few minutes, but I cannot allow such an important matter as this amendment to’ go- to a vote without explaining my- reasons for the action I propose to take. I agree with the opinion expressed by honorable members on this side, that in the interests of Australia it would be far better if the building of these cruisers, either in Australia or elsewhere, could be deferred. We .are not in immediate danger. (Honorable members on this side will probably be accused of being unpatriotic, and with not having the best interests of Australia at heart, because of the stand we take on this subject. I remind honorable members, however, that in the past the Labour party has more correctly interpreted the views of the people of Australia, in relation to defence, than have those opposed to its policy. I would carry the minds of members back to the first three years of federation, when the Labour party in this House comprised fourteen out of a total of 75 members, and its representation in the Senate was eight members in a House of 36. When the then Prime Minister (the late Sir Edmund Barton) returned from a conference in Great Britain, and informed the House that he had pledged Australia to pay a greatly increased sum to the Imperial Government for the upkeep of a portion of the British fleet in Australian waters, his proposals were opposed by the members of the Labour party. At that time, Australia was paying over £100,000 for the purpose mentioned. The Australian Labour party in those days foresaw the defence policy of the people of this country, and, although its numbers in both Houses were small, -its members put up a fight for the beginnings of an Australian navy. We were only a year or so in advance of Australian opinion, as soon afterwards all the parties in the Federal Parliament subscribed to the same views. The result was that when the Labour party came into power it was able to lay the foundation of an Australian navy - a navy which did good work during the recent great war. Honorable members on this side have pointed out that for the protection of our trade routes the two cruisers which it is proposed to construct would be about as little protection as would two of the boats trading between Melbourne and Geelong. The argument, “that they are necessary for the protection of our trade routes, I think, falls io the ground. This party believes that, instead of building cruisers, we should concentrate on aerial and submarine defence, and the building up of Australian industries, so that, should we be attacked, we should have a larger population from which to draw men to defend ourselves. If the £2,000,000 for the construction of these cruisers must be spent, let it be spent in Australia. By so doing, we should relieve the unemployment which is to-day acute in every capital city and big centre in Australia. It is both cruel and wickedly unpatriotic to talk about spending £2,000,000 to provide work for men on the other side of the world when, in our midst, there are Australians able and anxious to work but unable to find employment. Many of them would be capable of doing the work required to build these cruisers. Only to-day the Prime Minister stated that one of the reasons which first led the Government to consider the construction of these cruisers in Great Britain was the request of the British Government that the work should be done there to relieve the unemployment which existed. While we all sympathize with the unemployed in Great Britain, surely our first thought should be for our own people! Only two days ago I saw in Hobart, which has a population of about 54,000 people, a procession of over 200 unemployed men. Most of them were genuine workers, looking for employment and faced with the spectre of want. While the building of these cruisers in Sydney would not relieve unemployment in Tasmania to a very great extent, it would make some difference, as unemployment in any part of Australia affects the whole Commonwealth. I repeat that it is cruel and unpatriotic for the Government even to consider letting a contract involving the expenditure of £2,000,000 on the other side of the world, when much of the work could be. done in Australia quite as efficiently, and almost as cheaply. The Minister- for Defence said, a few days ago, that the first cruiser might, and probably would be required long before it could be built in Australia. That statement is opposed to the views of the vast majority of the Australian people. So far as we can read the signs and portents of the times, Australia is in no immediate danger of attack; therefore, the Minister’s objection to the construction of the cruiser in Australia is without foundation. Knowing the ideas of the Australian people regarding the best method of preparing for the defence of our continent, and having regard to the vast extent of unemployment in our midst, it is wrong to expend £2,000,000. on the other side of the world. I shall, therefore, vote for the amendment.
.- It is a lamentable state of affairs if Australia is not capable of building vessels for its own defence. Having regard to the adverse exchange conditions, we should not send our money abroad to give employment to people in other countries when we are able to do the job for ourselves. I do not know of any nation that became great by relying solely upon primary production. Having established, by law, a method of fixing wages, and having determined to maintain a certain standard of living, we must take those conditions into consideration in connexion with the supply of all our requirements.
– Where will that lead us?
– That policy will make a nation of Australia. If we do not uphold those conditions, and while upholding them endeavour to produce all our own requirements, we shall be for all time hewers of wood and drawers of water. I am in a quandary regarding this bill. If I were sure that the Australian workmen would give the Commonwealth a fair deal, I should be prepared to give them an opportunity to build these cruisers. I have not the slightest doubt that if the Australian would put as much energy into his work as he puts into his sport, he would be unequalled in any part of the world. I should like to give our artisans a chance, and, therefore, I am not disposed to agree to the Government having two cruisers constructed outside Australia.
– This bill does not involve the construction of two cruisers outside Australia.
– If I am assured that the Australian workman will give us a fair deal, I shall certainly vote for the construction of one of the cruisers in this country. I have no doubt of the capacity of our workmen, and I only hope that they will show us the mettle of their pastures. If they will prove themselves worthy by doing a fair thing, I shall be prepared to stick to them. I shall vote for the second reading of this bill upon the definite understanding that I shall support the construction of one of the cruisers in Australia.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Mahony’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Bill reported without amendment.
Question - That the report be adopted - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bowden) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I am very sorry that the opponents of this bill have dwindled in number to fourteen. I thought there were more than fourteen pacifists in this House.
– Did the honorable member say “ pacifists “’?
– Yes, persons who believe in the gospel of peace. I am bitterly opposed to the construction of these cruisers, and I have not much doubt that when honorable members opposite consult the electors they will find that the people of this country are also bitterly opposed to it. In this matter I do not care if I stand alone, or if I get defeated at the next election. I have seen war. I have seen, quite enough of it. I do not want to see another war. I do not believe that these two political cruisers will have anything to do with war. But there is a section inthis community that wants to get good jobs out of war. There is a large number of people who get fat commissions out of building cruisers, and they will do well as a result of the passing of the ‘bill. They will be quite satisfied withthe vote taken to-night. If a majority of members of this House say that the cruisers must be built, that decision must (be obeyed, but they should be built in Australia. Unless men are employed in Australia to build ships, we shall never he able to build them as cheaply as they can be built in other parts of the world. The bill provided an opportunity for members of the ministerial party to give the people of this country a chance of building ships. I do not believe that the difference between the cost of building the cruisers in Australia and abroad would be even as much as one penny. You who believe in war, who make all the profits out of war, are hoping to God that there will be another war in a few weeks or a few years. You who believe that, and want this country to be defended, bad a chance, at a cost of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, to develop the craft of the shipwright in. Australia, but you voted in favour of the work being done outside Australia. You are satisfied with your vote, but I am satisfied to vote, first, against the building of the cruisers at all, and, secondly, against the building of them outside Australia. As it has been decided to build them outside Australia, my vote will be given at every opportunity against building them at all.
– I desire to make a few observations on the discussion that has taken place in this House regarding the building of these two cruisers. Incidentally, I may mention that I represent a great industrial electorate, where there are many thousands of skilled and unskilled workmen out of. employment.I agree with the amendments moved by members of the Opposition, and I agree with the necessity for defending our coasts.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I enter my emphatic protest against the Government’s proposal to build the cruisers outside of Australia. There are in this country at least. 60,000 unemployed skilled artisans and’ labouring men, and to give them employment this supposedly Australian Government should have one, if not two, cruisers constructed here. The expenditure of £5,000,000 in Australia would not only provide work for our unemployed, but would also’ give an impetus to business, and, by the circulation of the money spent on them, benefit our primary and secondary industries. The Labour party stands for the manufacture in Australia of everything that can be effectively manufactured here. The Cockatoo Island Dockyard and the Walsh Island Dockyard are both capable of building 10,000ton cruisers. It has been admitted by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) that one of the cruisers is already on the slips in Britain. If that is so, then the order for its construction has been placed with the British Admiraltywithout the consent of Parliament. The Government should explain to this House its action in placing abroad the order for one. cruiser without first obtaining the consent of this Parliament. The Government has stated, as a reason for building the cruiser abroad, that it will be built more cheaply in England than in Australia. Following that argument to its logical conclusion, why not purchase these vessels from one of the low-wage Eastern countries, such as China or J apan ? On the same argument, the Government should purchase abroad all articles that could not be. obtained as cheaply in Australia. But charity begins at home, and, therefore, we should provide work for our unemployed. A cruiser, if constructed abroad, will cost £2,500,000. Why not keep this money in Australia by giving the work to our own people ? As stated the other day by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. F’enton),. there are in Australia a lot of “ little Australians” and a lot of “ big Englanders.” In England, even those accused of being “ little Englanders,” would not dream of sending work out of their own country. As an Australian’, I stand for the building up not only of our shipbuilding industry, but also of our secondary and primary industries, so that all our requirements can be manufactured in Australia. I protest emphatically against the betrayal of the Australian people by this Government in sending work out of this country.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read. a. third time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the export of live cattle.
– I assume that the Minister proposes to explain this proposal in moving the second reading of the bill?
– If I knew the terms of the motion, I might not object to it, but the Minister was inaudible, so that I have not heard it, and know nothing about it. I should like to know something about it.
– The resolution is merely the usual resolution appropriating revenue for the purpose of the bill it is intended to introduce.
– It has sometimes been held in this Parliament that when the committee has come to a resolution appropriating money for the purposes of a bill, honorable members have no right subsequently to challenge the passing of the measure. I should like to be assured that, in passing the resolution, we are not restricting our opportunity to discuss the bill Inter.
– Certainly not.
– I have the same fear as that expressed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton ) of the passing of the resolution of appropriation.
– It will not commit honorable members to any course when the bill is before the House.
– When the last appropriation of this kind was under consideration in this House, I gave it my grudging blessing, recognizing the principle of protection in the payment of bounties to certain industries. I did not approve of the bill that was then introduced, because it did not deal satisfactorily or equitably with the position. I protest against the constant introduction of proposals to provide bounties, and spend large sums of money for the benefit of certain interests in Australia. Sometimes there are interests outside of Aus tralia that receive the benevolent regard of this Government. The hurry and mystery connected with this proposal seems to indicate that the Government has something to hide. Certain interests in Australia are constantly coming forward for relief and help from the Government. With the principle of such applications, I do not disagree, but I say that there should be no preferential treatment of sections of the community.
– Hear, hear!
– I do not know that I have said the right thing. Praise from the right wing of the government party seems to indicate that I am on the wrong track. I do not mind benefits being given to pastora- lists if the bona fide small men enjoy them, and they are not confined to the Dalgetys and Goldsborough, Morts. The last proposal of this kind provided benefits for people other than pastoralists. As a matter of fact, any person gambling in the handling of meat was, under the last proposal, entitled to get money from the pockets of the people of Australia, and principally, of course, from the workers. Whilst the squatter, the big meat manipulator, and the proprietary canning company can come to this Parliament, and secure money, when requests are made from this side that the Government should make work available, which will give employment to some of our thousands out of employment - 10,000 of whom are in New South Wales alone - our appeals fall on deaf ears. The Goldsborough, Morts, the Dalgetys, the Kidmans. the Jowetts. and the rest of them not only secure preferential treatment in the shape of a bounty on the export of meat, but also relief from taxation to the extent of over £1,000,000, whilst nothing is done for the worker. No section in this community should receive preferential treatment over other sections. The workers have the first claim on the public purse, and not the squatters or proprietary canners. The small men who can barely make a living from their blocks get no assistance, and those who grow grapes have to sell them for £4 per ton. The trouble is that the wealthy apparently have the first and the only claim upon the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) proposed - That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages of the bill to be passed without delay.
– How far does the Government propose to go with the bill t
– It will not be forced through if honorable members opposite do not approve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That Mr. Pratten and Mr. Bruce do pre pare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pratten, and read a first time.
.- I moveThat the bill be now read a second time. The object of this measure is to provide a bounty of 10s. per head on all live cattle exported for slaughter during the financial year 1924-25. The bounty will be paid to the pastoralist owner of the cattle, or to any person, who satisfies the Customs Department that the price paid by him to the pastoralist owner includes the bounty. The bill is practically identical with the legislation which was passed in 1922 and 1923, the only exception being that it does not provide for a bounty on the frozen or canned beef which is exported. Representations were made to the Government by pastoralist associations, including the Australian Meat Council, for a renewal this year of the bounty on exported frozen beef. Careful consideration was given to the request, but a close examination of the position showed that the meat works in Queensland, which provided nearly 90 per cent, of the export beef, paid to the cattle grower this year without a bounty more than was paid last year with the bounty added. Only to-day there arrived from Queensland one of the officers of the department, who has been able to supply me with a comparison of t<he prices which were received by the growers last year with those received this year. In 1923 in Northern Queensland the price of beef, including the bounty, was 16a. 4d. per 1.00 lb. for good average quality. This year the price is 17s. without any bounty.- For fair average quality beef the price in Northern Queens land last year, including the bounty, was 13s. 4d. per 100 lb. This year, without the bounty, the price is 14s. 6d. In Southern Queensland last year good average quality beef brought 18s. 6d., and fair average quality beef, 14s. per 100 lb., including the bounty, whereas the current prices this year are from 22s. to 24s. per 100 lb. for good average quality beef, and from 17s. to 19s. for the same weight of fair average quality beef. The prices for this year do not include the bounty. As high as 20s. per 100 lb. has’ been paid this year for prime beef in Northern Queensland, and as much as 26s. in Southern Queensland .
– Is that price on the hoof?
– I am speaking of a 100 lb. unit of beef. The only meat works in Western Australia which prepares beef for export is at Wyndham. Last year £3 3s. per head was paid in addition to the Commonwealth bounty of 7s. 9d., making a total return to the pastoralist of £3 10s. 9d. per head for cattle delivered at the meat works. This year about three-quarters of the Wyndham output has been sold to Belgium, and the balance is being placed in Great Britain. The price to the cattle-grower will be approximately £3 lis. per head - a slight increase on the amount paid last year, which included the bounty. Before granting the subsidy in 1922, the Government insisted on a reduction in oversea freights of £d. per lb., and a reduction in meat works treatment of 1/8d. per lb., as well as a reduction in wages in 1922 to the extent of the reduced cost of living, namely, 12s. per week. In 1923 further reductions were insisted upon by the Government - £d. per lb. in freight, and a similar reduction in the meat works treatment. No reduction in wages was made or suggested. The action of the Government reduced the oversea freight to London from Queensland to Id. per lb., as against 1 3/8d. before the bounty was given in 1922. London prices for frozen beef have advanced. The output of the two establishments in Queensland have been sold at 3£d. per lb. c.i.f., or about d. per lb. better than the price prevailing a few months ago. Three fourths of the Wyndham output has been sold to Belgium at 3 29-32d. per lb. c.i.f. Freight on frozen beef from Wyndham is about l£d. per lb. as .against Id. per lb. from Queensland. The higher freight is charged from Wyndham because vessels have to make special trips to that port for frozen meat, very little cargo of any other kind being available.. The Government has considered this aspect of the matter, but .has been prevented by the Constitution from extending any special treatment to Western Australia alone. It is suggested that the Australian Meat Council should endeavour to arrange for a reduction of freight from Wyndham. With regard to the bounty on the export of live cattle,, the Government, after careful consideration of the position and an examination of the Tariff Board’s report on the matter, is satisfied that there is an opening for the establishment of a satisfactory trade in the export of live cattle, and is anxious to safeguard and increase this trade. It has, therefore’, approved of the payment of the bounty of 10s. per head to be continued this year on the terms that have operated during the last two years The exportation of live cattle for slaughter during 1922, 1923, and 1924 was as follows: -
Contracts have been signed on behalf of pastoralists in the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia for the export to Manila of 10,656 head of live cattle. These cattle will be shipped mainly from Darwin. Eight thousand head have been sold on a weight basis, and are expected to realize £4 per head f.o.b. Darwin. This, with the bounty of 10s., will, give the grazier £4 10s.
– Did they make that contract believing they would get the bounty ?
– They made it expecting a bounty. The remaining 2,656 head are to be supplied at £4 10s. per head f.o.b., Darwin, in completion of a contract made last year. This, with bounty, will return £5 per head. Efforts are being, made .to. secure contracts for the exporta tion of cattle to Java, which country, until about three weeks, ago, prohibited the importation of Australian cattle, because of the recent outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia. The number that will be sent to- Java is uncertain, but if expectations are realized, from 3,000 to 4,00.0 head will be shipped.. About 50 head may be sent to Singapore. Thirty years ago that port was a. good outlet for Australian cattle. The shipping service is satisfactory, but until a proper landing stage is erected at Singapore, the trade in live cattle cannot be carried on successfully. The Commonwealth Government, on the advice of theDepartment of Home and Territories, is now urging the authorities at Singapore to provide proper landing facilities for cattle. Recently the Australian Investment Agency Company Limited shipped 100 head of cattle to Hong Kong from Darwin. The vessel was detained at Manila for over twelve days. . Five head died, and the remainder are expected to reach Hong Kong in a wasted condition owing to the long voyage-. If direct shipping can be obtained, the company proposes to send a further 100 head to Hong Kong, with a view to opening up a regular trade with that port in live cattle^ Should contracts be signed and sufficient shipping be obtained, the total export of live cattle, during the period the bounty operates will not exceed 15,00.0 head. Unless two steamers per month are available from Darwin, the total export from that port to the end of June next will not exceed 5,000 head, the remainder of the 15,000 will have to come from the north-western portion of . Western Australia. The present outlook is for one steamer a month only. Assuming that 15,000 head of cattle are exported, the total bounty will amount to £7,500. This will help to develop the export trade in cattle, and will, in addition, give great relief to cattle owners in the Northern Territory and the north-west of Australia. Vestey’s meat works at Darwin are not expected to resume operations until 1925 ;, consequently, there is now no outlet for a large proportion of the Northern Territory cattle except export. It is estimated that there are at present at least 30,000. head of fat cattle ready to- ba sold in the Territory and Western Aus~ trali a, so that even the export of, 15,000 head will still leave a large number on the hands of pastor alists. In 1922, for frozen beef and cattle exported, £123,160 was expended in bounty, and £141,300 in 1923. The respective amounts for live cattle were £4,522 and £3,633. If the trade during the current year can be doubled at acost to the Commonwealth of £7,000 or £8,000, the expenditure will be fully justified. The bounty will undoubtedly help Australia to gain a position for her live cattle in outside markets that could not otherwise be attained.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anstey) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a small but important measure. As honorable members will recollect, those meteorological telegrams which were so useful to our people in the outback portions of Australia, in that they gave warning of approaching floods, have been seriously restricted during recent years. It is felt that the restriction should now be removed, and the bill proposes to remove it. Prior to federation, meteorological telegrams were transmitted in the several states free of charge and without restriction as to length or number. The state observatories received reports for their weather charts free of cost, and, in addition, the postal departments themselves prepared comprehensive weather bulletins daily, furnishing details of the rainfall and prevailing weather conditions. The telegraphic interchange of daily weather and river height reports between country centres was also inaugurated by the state postal departments prior to federation. The Postal Act of 1902, passed prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau, specifically provided for the free transmission of . telegrams on behalf of the meteorological departments of the states “ until the establishment of a Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau.” That bureau was established in January, 1907, but the question of charging for the transmission of meteorological telegrams remained in abeyance until January, 1920. On the 13th January of that year a’ conference of the permanent -heads of the Home and Territories, Postal, Treasury, and Navy Departments decided that the principle of payment should be acknowledged. In pursuance of the recommendations of that conference, charges have been made since the 1st July, 1920, at the same rates as are charged to the public for private messages. Since the inauguration of the practice of charging for meteorological telegrams, the following payments have been made by the Meteorological Bureau to the Postal Department. For purposes of comparison, the cost of all other meteorological services f or the years mentioned is also quoted -
Settlement of charges for the financial year 1923-24 has not yet been effected, but the volume of business was approximately the same as that in 1922-23. This telegraphic service was seriously interfered with owing to the limitation of funds and the increases in telegraphic rates. The result was that in July, 1922., it became necessary to make a drastic curtailment in the telegraphic advices and reports sent from the bureau to country centres and exchanged between the centres. Under the rearrangement, it was necessary to discontinue the transmission of weather telegrams except in the most important cases. Efficiency was sacrificed owing to the necessity to keep expenditure within the vote. In consequence, at the present time, fewer weather telegrams are transmitted through the various states than in pre-federation days. The approximate number of meteorological telegrams now being transmitted annually throughout the Commonwealth is - Western Australia, 109,000; South Australia, 60,000; Queensland 80,000; New South Wales, 134,000; Victoria., 80,000; Tasmania, 27,000; lighthouses, 18,500; total, 508,500. It is impossible to state accurately the number of telegrams transmitted prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth MeteorologicalBureau; but it is known that the number was very much greater than at present.
Honorable members will recollect that . in 1922, when the restriction of tele- . grams became apparent, there was a storm of protest in this House.
– And a greater storm amongst the people outside.
– Protests were made by the general public, and a. large number of honorable members severely criticised the restriction. It is considered by the Government that existing telegraphic facilities should be available for the free dissemination of information regarding the weather, for the benefit of the community. The charges at present made do not result in any benefit to the Commonwealth, as the revenue credited to the Postal Department is offset by a corresponding debit against the Meteorological Bureau. A considerable amount of clerical work is involved in the preparation and checking of accounts. At no time in Australian history was the meteorological service more needed than to-day, when every possible saving is of paramount importance to the maintenance of national prosperity, and to prevent losses in stock, produce, and other property. The community has realized that meteorological science, aided by telegraphic facilities, can and should protect it from such avoidable losses; and the weather bureau is therefore called upon to render many services of immediate practical use to the public, and more especially to those conducting the industries of the country.
– Those services are absolutely essential to shipping.
– That is an additional argument in their favour. The primary producers are the chief people in the community interested in the weather prospects; and while means of advising them at the earliest possible moment of the probable weather remain restricted, the chief object of the efforts of the Meteorological Bureau is defeated. The present restriction of the service is due to fictitious financial considerations. The limitation of the vote’ does not represent a, saving to the Commonwealth, but while there is a vote there must be some limit. It is considered that the best means of “removing restrictions based on financial - considerations is to abolish all charges for meteorological telegrams, and to provide ‘ by legislation for their free transmission. While we have a vote on the Estimates, the sending of the telegrams has to stop when the vote has been exhausted. That is the cause of the restriction of the telegrams. The best way of removing the restrictions is to abolish all charges on the telegrams.
– This bill has long been overdue. Members on this side protested very strongly when the Government restricted the sending of these telegrams. The Government of that day put up the excuse that it could not afford to give these very necessary services to the public, although the revenues of both the Postal Department and of the Commonwealth were booming. The reform proposed in the bill should have been made years ago, and could have been made with very great advantage, particularly to those who live in the back country. I do not agree with the statement of the Minister that the alteration should be considered in terms of £ a. d., nor do I think that we should enter into a controversy about whether the state or the Commonwealth should pay. Whichever pays, the same people will find the money. The Commonwealth taxes the stock-owners of the back country, who are directly interested in the matter. The Minister suggested that the Commonwealth would be acting the part of a martyr by providing these services free. If 500,000 telegrams are sent free, the people pay, no matter what they cost. It is ridiculous to introduce a complicated system of bookkeeping between one government department and another. I hope that the Government will carry the proposal further. When the matter was dealt with previously, a large number of stations was abolished, and the number of telegrams interchanged between stations was considerably l educed. Thus the practical efficiency of the system was curtailed. I suggest to the Minister that he should make inquiries of the municipal authorities, graziers’ associations, and other public bodies interested, with a view to ascertaining what information they desire to receive, and where they desire to receive it. I have in mind, particularly, the people in what is called the “ watercourse country,” where it is essential, day by day, that the river gaugings higher up the river should be posted at the various post-offices. If these gaugings are not reported promptly, it is possible for people to be hemmed in with their stock.
The Gwydir river when it leaves Moree has no banks, and it may spread out to 20 miles wide in flood time, although there may be no rainfall in the flooded country. It is of no use to supply the people in that district with free telegrams if they do not get the required information. If the Minister consults the records in his department, he will find that when the matter was last before Parliament a large number of telegrams exchanged between station and station were discontinued. I do not refer to telegrams between, say, Sydney and Moree, but between Boggabilla, Boomi and Moree, Mungindi and Moree, and Meroe and Moree. The information must be available at the various stations for the information of pastoralists, drovers, and all others concerned in conveying stock from place to place. In addition to the long-overdue reform contained in the bill, I hope an efficient service will be given to the people in the back country.
– It is not sufficient to furnish telegrams containing weather reports unless there is an adequate number of meteorological stations. Last year, the Treasurer announced that there was a surplus of £1,000,000, and I asked for certain meteorological stations in new country that had been opened up in Western Australia. I wrote to the Treasurer in July, and the reply I received was -
In reply to your letter of 30th July, respecting the establishment of meteorological stations at Mullewa and Morowa Western Australia, I regret to state that the greatly reduced amount set down in the printed Estimates for 1023-24 for the meteorological branch will not permit of the establishment of any additional official meteorological stations in the Commonwealth during the current financial year.
I trust that the excuse will not be made this year that the stations cannot be provided because there is no money available. The revenue, this year, is large and ample. In 1922-23, £80,000 was spent on this class of work, but only £62,000 was spent last year. I am anxious to see the present Treasurer provide money for these services. The prosperity of our primary industries depends very largely on the knowledge that can be acquired by the establishment of these aids to the farmer. It is necessary in such new country as I have mentioned for the producer to know all the facts about the climate. I ask the Minister to see that the people have not only the free telegrams, upon which he lays such great stress, but also the stations themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
.- Clause 3 of the bill says -
The Second Schedule of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following Part: - “Part V. - Meteorological Telegrams. “ Meteorological telegrams transmitted to or from Commonwealth meteorological offices or stations - Free.”
Will ‘ this clause be so interpreted that reports of river gaugings along the Murray will be forwarded by telegraph) It is very important that people on the lower reaches of the Murray river should know when large quantities of water are likely to come down the river. Floods in that river often mean the breaking of the banks, and cause considerable damage, but if the settlers are forewarned they may have time to avoid a disaster. If reports of river gaugings are included, I am prepared to allow the bill to go through committee, but, otherwise, I desire to move an amendment to clause 3.
. -All telegrams sent by the Meteorological Department will be free. I presume that the river gaugings are now taken by some one, and that particulars of them will be transmitted to the people concerned.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– T move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this bill is to improve the procedure relating to election petitions in the Northern Territory. It will be remembered that some time ago, representation in this House was given to the Territory. When the election took place in 1922, some undesirable features presented themselves. The Government thinks that under the provisions of the bill these disabilities may be remedied. The bill provides for the amendment of the Northern Territory Representation Act, which is confined to the hearing of petitions disputing Northern Territory elections. Under the existing law of procedure, petitions must be lodged with and heard by the High Court at the capital of one of the states. This may at some time lead to very serious inconvenience and expense to petitioners and respondents, and probably to the Commonwealth itself, inasmuch as it may become necessary to subpoena witnesses to appear at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, or some other capital city. Tt may also occasion great -delay., and’ even preclude a petitioner from lodging his petition within the prescribed period. The bill is designed to overcome these difficulties and disadvantages by the provision of new -clause 8a., sub-clause 1 of which provides that a petition disputing an election may be lodged with the registrar of the Supreme Court at Darwin. Sub-clause 2 provides that the registrar shall -telegraph the petition to the principal registrar of the High Court, and certify that it has been duly signed and witnessed, and that the requisite deposit has been lodged. Sub-clause 3 provides that the High Court, upon the application by the party to the petition, .shall have jurisdiction either to hear the petition or to refer it to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and to take such other, action as it may deem necessary in the circumstances. Clause 4 provides that if the High Court decides to hear a case, it may proceed to do so on the telegraphed petition, but if it decides that the matter can properly be dealt with by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, that Court is given jurisdiction to hear and decide the petition on a telegraphic communication received from the High Court. Subclause 7 of the said new clause 8a makes provision for an appeal from the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory to the High Court on a matter of law or mixed law and fact, but not of fact alone. Following upon the Northern Territory election in 1922, a petition was lodged, by telegram, with the principal registrar of the High Court, Melbourne. The petition came up for consideration before the court, and after hearing the argument, it declined to proceed on the ground that the. petition was not an electoral document, and was therefore not a paper which could be telegraphed under the provisions of section 214 of the Electoral Act. The provision for appeal to the High Court is considered necessary in view of the constitution of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and of the highly technical and complicated questions which may arise, involving points upon which grave differences of opinion have arisen in British and Commonwealth courts. The main purpose of the proposed amendment is to allow a hearing to take place at Darwin. This will simplify the procedure very considerably, and in many cases save expense to the parties interested, and to the Commonwealth itself.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Parker Moloney) adjourned. .
Public Service Reclassification - Northern TERRITORY Affairs.
– I move-
That the -House do now adjourn.
I feel that it will suit the convenience of honorable members to adjourn early tonight. There is a number of bills with which the Government wish to go on, and in particular the Bankruptcy Bill, but, unfortunately, the present wave of influenza has affected so many honorable members that it will probably meet the convenience of the House generally if we do not proceed with further business to-night.
.- Recently, on two occasions, I raised the question of the advisability of a special classification officer being -sent to Tasmania in connexion with the reclassification of the Public Service. I wish again to press the importance of this matter on the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. I have just returned from ‘Tasmania, and I find that 70 or 80 per cent, of the officers affected by the reclassification are dissatisfied with it. The replies to my questions on the matter make me think that a special classification officer is not to be sent to Tasmania. The Service in Tasmania was led to believe by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), prior to his departure for the other side of the world, that an officer would be sent. It is in the interests of the Post and Telegraph Department that this should be done. I understand that a similar request has come from officers of the department in other states. An investigation of the duties of officers by a special officer would materially assist in arriving at a decision satisfactory to the large number of officers affected by the recl assification, and especially those in the mail branch of the Post and Telegraph Department. To grant the request would be only following the precedent established in connexion with the Trade and Customs Department. Prior to the reclassification, two special officers, one Mr. Barkly, the Collector of Customs in New South Wales, who we know is an expert, and the other, Mr. Kraegen, of the Public Service Board’s office, were sent to every port in Australia, and investigated the duties of every officer of the Trade and Customs Department employed at those ports, and with very satisfactory results, not only to the officials concerned, but also to the department. It might be considered impossible to investigate in the same way the duties of every officer of the Post and Telegraph Department, but such an investigation might be made especially about those employed in the mail branch. Appeals against the reclassification have been received from more than half the officers affected, and I am satisfied that it would be in the best interests of the department if, before the appeals are heard by the board constituted for the purpose, a special investigation, officer were sent to assess the value of the work done by the different persons employed in the department.
– In reply to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), I shall take the earliest opportunity of bringing the remarks he has just made under the notice of the Acting Postmaster-General. I cannot, of course, promise that an officer will be sent as he desires to Tasmania. The matter is wholly in the control of the Public Service Board, so I am not in a position to say what will’ be done.
– It might be possible to induce the board to act in conjunction with the Government, as was done in the- case of the Trade and Customs Department.
– I shall urge upon the Acting Postmaster-General to consider the honorable member’s request, and obtain an answer to. his remarks as soon as possible.
There is another matter about which I wish to say a word. Recently in this chamber the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has referred to matters arising in the Territory. I promised’ to bring his remarks under the notice of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), and see what he had to say about them. I have received the. following reply from Senator Pearce which, I think,, the House ought to hear. The right honorable gentleman writes: -
With reference to the speech made by Mr Nelson, M.P., in the House of Representatives on the 16th instant, concerning the payment by the Government of certain costs ordered by the Supreme Court against Mr.. C. BStory, Government Secretary, in connexion with the recent Darwin hospital case, I now have to inform you that advice has been received from the Administrator of the Northern Territory that the costs, amounting to £17 10s., in this case, were paid out of revenue, with his approval, as the Government Secretary was regarded merely as a nominal defendant for the Northern’ Territory Administration, and was in no way personally concerned with the action.
I wish to draw your attention to the misleading nature of Mr. Nelson’s remarks concerning the payment of these costs. The impression conveyed is thatthe costs paid were those incurred in the assault case of Story v. Quelch. It is true that the hospital is mentioned, but the reference is interpolated between remarks relating to the Story-Quelch case. I also invite attention to the repetition of Mr. Nelson’s statement in the House on the 24th July of the alleged attempt of the Government Secretary to “pack the bench,” despite the fact that Mr. Nelson was definitelyinformed in. the House on the 10th July, ‘ in reply to questions by him, that no such “comment had been made by the judge, and that the expression used was “pick” and not “ pack.” The construction to be placed on the two. words is vastly different. Moreover, no complaints have been madeby the judge officially in regard to this matter.
In reply to the other matters mentioned by Mr. Nelson in the House on the 24th. instant, I desire to make the following comments.: - 1.. Unemployment in the Northern Territory. - Mr. Nelson complains that the unemployment problem is being dealt with by the issue of rations to able-bodied men. As a matter of fact the Government is, doing its utmost to avoid the issue of rations except in cases of old-age or infirmity. During the year 1023-24 the Commonwealth expended the following amounts in. the alleviation of distress-: -Relief works, £5,652 : rations, £ 3,585 ; other expenditure, £657; total, £9,894.
The Government did not confine its efforts to the mere .provision of relief. It instituted a system of assistance to persons engaged in all forms of primary production. Expenditure in this direction during the financial year 1923-24 was £4.200. Every facility within Hie limit of funds available lias been afforded able-bodied men who desired to establish themselves, if even in a small way, in the pastoral, agricultural, or mining industries. A continuance of this policy may be expected in the future, and it is hoped that the Administration will be in a position to offer even more attractive inducements as far as assistance to miners is concerned.
Mr. Nelson’s allegations that the Administration is attempting to coerce coloured people into the acceptance of wages lower than the ruling rate, by a threat of discontinuing their supply of rations, has no foundation in fact. The principle has been laid down that no man who refuses an offer of work at current rates is to be retained on relief works or issued with rations. Explicit instructions have, however, been issued to the Administration that no man is to be penalized for declining to acquiesce in an attempt by an employer to secure labour at a wage below the recognized rate of pay. No cases of infringement of this principle have been reported to the Minister.
– The Minister is following a very unusual course.
– I am giving the reply to recent statements made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, supplied to me by the Minister for Home and Territories.
– This House does not necessarily listen to letters written by Ministers in another place.
– Having read so much of the letter, I ask permission to put it into Hansard.
– I cannot allow that. I do not know what is in it. The honorable member might lay the letter on the table, and move that it be printed.
– There is only another paragraph in the letter. The Minister says -
In conclusion, I desire you to state that I have frequently announced that I welcome any suggestion which will assist the Government in solving the question of developing the Territory, and am at all times prepared to give such my earnest consideration. Unfortunately, however, the prevailing custom is for persons to offer destructive criticism only, and I suggest that the representative of the Territory, in repeating this criticism, and repeating statements already disproved, is not assisting the Government in what it has done, or is doing, to develop this vast Territory of ours.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 9.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 July 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240730_reps_9_107/>.