9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to give notice of a motion of censure on the Government in regard to the construction of two cruisers, but as the indictment is very serious I am prepared to proceed with it at once if the Prime Minister so desires.
– The ordinary procedure when notice is given of a motion of censure is for the House to adjourn forthwith. However, the Government is most anxious that the Leaderof the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) should have an opportunity to move his motion at once, and if he will ask for leave to do so no objection will be offered by the Government.
.-(By leave.) - I move -
That the Government is deserving of the severest censure for itsflagrant breach of faith in failing to honour the definite promise of the Prime Minister to consult the House before determining where the second cruiser should be built, and for its anti -Australian action in sending millions of pounds out of the country for the construction of both cruisers abroad.
I realize that the motion makes a very serious charge against the head of the Government. Therefore, I think he has acted wisely in consenting to the immediate determination of the question. I could not take action on the AddressinReply, because so many other matters would have intruded into the debate that this issue would have been completely overshadowed. In submitting this motion of censure, I shall make my remarks as concise and clear as I can, so that the right honorable gentleman may bo given the fullest opportunity of stating his defence. The proposal for the construction of two cruisers first came before this House after the Prime Minister’s return fromthe Imperial Conference. Ho said, 011 the 27th March, 1924-
As soon as this House re-assembles after Easter the Government will submit a measure . . with a view to the building of two cruisers, each of 10,000 tons displacement,and carrying 8-in. guns . . . When that mensure is submitted to the House, we shall explain exhaustively the reasons that led to our deciding on this type of cruiser.
That statement shows that the type of cruiser to replace the Melbourne and Sydney had been discussed in Great Britain while the Prime Minister was at the Imperial Conference. On the 27th June, 1924, the Prime Minister moved the second reading of the Defence Equipment Bill, the purpose of which was the appropriation of £2,500,000 of the surplus for the previous year. The measure proposed that £2,000,000 should be expended on naval construction, and that £500,000 should be set aside for general defence purposes. The Prime Minister stated that plans of the cruisers had been finished only within the Inst month or two, and continued -
When in Great Britain I examined the arguments respecting capital ships very closely, and an that subject obtained a great deal of information. . . . The cost of building one cruiser In Great Britain will be somewhere between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. … At the present moment I cannot say exactly where the second cruiser will bc built. All I can tell honorable members is that the first cruiser is to be built in Great Britain. . . It »’U1 probably take two years to build it. . . . All the investigations* made to date disclose the fact that tho cost of building one of these cruisers in Australia would not bo under £3,000,000. . . . The Government is very anxious that at least one cruiser should bc built in Australia. Many reasons for this must bc immediately obvious to any one. One is that the Government would naturally bo desirous of promoting industry in Australia. Another is that unless it is to come about that defence will not be required, wo shall in future years have to make provision for the construction of further units of the Australian Navy. To do that it will be essential that we shall have a first class dockyard and a first class staff in Australia capable of doing the work. Apart from this, we have the fact that from time to time we shall inevitably require to repair our ships. We shall not be in a position to do that unless we have actually built in the Commonwealth ships of the class we require.
With that definite statement regarding the necessity for having shipbuilding yards in Australia and keeping our artisans employed, thus preparing for any eventuality, many honorable members will agree, but I shall show that the Prime Minister later abandoned the views he expressed on that occasion. The right honorable gentleman continued -
Upon this measure the House must come to a decision regarding the first cruiser, but no decision will be arrived at in regard to the second cruiser until the whole of the facts and the circumstances have been again placed before the House, and the House has had an opportunity of expressing its views upon them.
T submit that that statement induced many honorable members to vote in favour of the Government proposal. Had honorable members known at that time that the Government would ignore the Australian shipbuilding industry, many of those ou the ministerial side would have hesitated to give the Ministry authority to spend £2,000,000 upon work to be carried out overseas.
– Did not the Prime Minister make a later statement?
– I shall come to that, for I do not wish to do the right honorable gentleman any injustice. 1 anticipate that the argument will be advanced that honorable members on this side did nothing to promote the construction of two new cruisers. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) who was leading the Opposition during my absence in Europe, moved an amendment, urging that the building of the cruisers should be deferred pending the disarmament conference which the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain were then endeavouring to convene, and the decision of the League of Nations which was about to meet. At that time all honorable members were desirous that everything possible should be done to bring about disarmament and ensure the world’s peace, but unfortunately the Government’s proposal was not deferred. In speaking to the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) said -
Tlie conference which it is now proposed to call (i.e., a disarmament conference), will endeavour to make an agreement covering cruisers. The suggestion that we should stay our hands until after it meets does not appeal to me, for if we do we shall be weak when we go into the conference.
Note that statement! One of the reasons which actuated the Government in proposing the construction of two cruisers was that by possessing them Australia would be stronger when it entered the conference, the result of which might be that every nation represented there would be pledged to a reduction of armaments ! The previous disarmament conference brought about a limitation of capital ships, and there can be no doubt that had a second conference been held it would have extended the limitation to cruisers. There’ is an agitation throughout the world for a limitation of the construction of cruisers, but the Minister urged that Australia should proceed with the building of two vessels so that Australia would’ be in a stronger position in the conference by being able to say that it had certain ships in course of construction. In other words, this money was to be expended in order that the ships it would bring into being might be sunk, as the Australia was, if the conference so decided. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke was defeated. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) then moved this further amendment, on the 23rd July -
That any sum spent in naval construction should be expended in Australia, thus relieving the distress caused by unemployment, and helping to develop Australian industries.
In reply to the honorable member, the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) said -
I am fully conscious of the necessity of maintaining in Australia a first-class engineering yard, capable of effecting major repairs to ships in time of war, and the Government is anxious to ensure the maintenance of such an establishment. One of the strongest arguments for the building of the second cruiser in Australia is that it will maintain at Cockatoo Island an efficient shipbuilding and repairing yard.
Every honorable member is in accord with that statement, but the Government acted contrary to it at a later period. The Minister proceeded to say that the estimate of £1,900,000 for the construction of one cruiser in Great Britain had been given by the British Admiralty to the Prime Minister when he was at the Imperial Conference. Then, on the 30th July, the Prime Minister said -
A cruiser could be built in Great Britain for £1,000,000, and 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. . . . 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 al] that was possible to relieve it. … A 10,000-ton cruiser of this improved type that we propose to get . . . would cost, 1 am told, between £2,100,000 and £2’,200,000. . . . The Government realizes that if we arc, in the future, to be in a position to meet our own defence requirements, it is essential that wc should encourage manufactures in Australia,
The Government is giving that encouragement by closing down our shipyards. At these different yards, men who would have been employed upon the construction of these cruisers had the order been placed in Australia, and whose requirements would have provided an increased demand for primary products in our home market, have been thrown out of work. The Prime Minister went on to say -
The question of where the second cruiser shall be built will be submitted to the determination of the House when the general defence policy is before us. In arriving at a decision, it is essential that the House shall be able to gauge exactly what it will cost to build one of the vessels in Great Britain, and what it will cost to build one here.
The amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley was supported only by members of the Labour party. Later, the Government appointed Sir John Monash to preside over a conference of representatives of the Shipping Board and the Navy Board to ascertain the cost of building a cruiser in Australia. Speaking on a motion for the adjournment, on the 5th September;’ 1924, the Prime Minister gave the House some information regarding Sir John Monash’s ‘report, which stated definitely that it was impossible to make a reliable comparison of costs in Australia and Great Britain on the information available. The Prime Minister announced that the Government had, therefore, decided to call for tenders in Australia and in Great Britain. He added -
After the tenders have been received, the Government will take whatever course it considers best in the interests of Australia.
When making, that statement, the Prime Minister repeated the assertion that the Government was anxious that at least one of the vessels should be constructed in Australia, and said that whatever course was considered best in the interests of the Commonwealth would be adopted. In view of the promise of the Prime Minister on two previous occasions that this House would be consulted before an order was placed, do honorable members consider that he acted rightly in making the statement I have just read on a motion for adjournment on a Friday afternoon? Can he justly claim that that statement was a fulfilment of the undertaking he had given earlier? It was an improper statement to make on the motion for the adjournment on a Friday afternoon, and it would have been an improper statement to make on such a motion at any time. An important national question involving the expenditure of over £4,000,000 should not be dealt with in that way. The Prime Minister should have made his statement in such a way that the House could debate it and register a decision upon it.
– The honorable member’s party often denies the Prime Minister the right to make a statement.
– We did not deny him the right to make this statement. The interjection of the ex-Minister for
Defence is a subterfuge, and some greater justification than that of the Prime Minister must be found. The right honorable gentleman was not entitled to make such an important statement to this House on a Friday afternoon, when. many members had left to catch their trains, especially after the promise had been made on two occasions that the House would be allowed to discuss the subject. This is the report of the Prime Minister’s speech at Ballarat -
Referring to the placing of orders for two cruisers outside Australia, the Prime Minister said there was no justification for charging the Government with being mi-Australian, or with trying to create unemployment in Australia. He could not understand what any Government would gain by creating unemployment, because nothing on earth gave any Government so much trouble, or determined its fate, as unemployment did. It had been suggested that lie had misled Parliament into the belief that Parliament would be consulted again before the order was given for the second cruiser. He had made a statement in which it was perfectly clear that the Government would not again refer the question to the House. He understood that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) had recognized that he had been mistaken; but there were certain other people who continued to make the charge against him.
I made no public ‘statement to the press on this subject, and anything conveyed to the Prime Minister could only have been said by me in private conversation. When I passed through Melbourne on my way to South Australia, I had been absent from the Commonwealth for a considerable time, and was out of touch with what was happening. When told that the Government would do what was best in. the interests of Australia, I said, “ Perhaps that minimizes the promise to a certain extent,” but I never considered that the statement should be accepted as satisfactory. It is obvious to me that the Prime Minister, when he made his statement on the adjournment of the House, intended to refer to one cruiser only. The right honorable gentleman knows whether that inference is correct. If it is correct, his later statement carries no weight. In order to remove any possibility of doubt, I have investigated this matter thoroughly. If the case went no further than I have .indicated I should perhaps be prepared ,to say, although many honorable members might differ from me. “ Give the accused the benefit of the doubt.” A court of law might do so in similar circumstances, but I intend to prove my contention, and I trust that I shall have an unbiased jury to decide the case. After the Prime Minister had spoken on the motion for the adjournment, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) rose. That honorable member has been very energetic in this matter, and deserves the thanks of the people of Australia for the part he has taken. He asked that Parliament be given an opportunity of discussing the question of the building of the second cruiser. I shall now tell honorable members of what the Prime Minister said on the same afternoon in reply to the honorable member for Dalley, and upon this statement I rest my case. His words are reported on page 4052 of Hansard of 5th September, 1924 :-
I most certainly give the honorable member for’ Dalley (Mr. Mahony) my assurance that the fullest opportunity will be given to the House to discuss the question of where the second cruiser shall be built. When the Defence Equipment Bill was being considered, I gave the undertaking that the Government would not take any action in regard to the second cruiser until the House had had a further opportunity to discuss the matter.
Could anything be more definite or conclusive 1 This statement must be considered in conjunction with the prior statement.
– How long prior?
– Made the same afternoon. I rest my case on the statement I have just read. I am not surrounding the case with a lot of verbiage, for I wish the charge against the Prime Minister and his Government to be as clear as possible. I think there is no escape from it. It is idle to talk on the platform about his earlier statement absolving him, because, immediately after. wards, in replying to the honorable member for Dalley, he gave the assurance that lie would abide by the statement he had made when the Defence Equipment Bill was before the House. That was his latest statement, and as in the case of a will, it is the last declaration of intention that must be taken. I have narrated the facts as they took place, and I am prepared to leave the decision with honorable members. I can find nothing subsequent to the statement I have read which bears out my contention that when the right honorable gentleman was speaking of cruisers he had in bis mind only one cruiser. When he found that he had broken faith with Parliament, he endeavoured to excuse himself, but forgot that he had re-affirmed his original promise. This matter was taken a little further when the House was dealing with the Defence Estimates. On page 4307 of .Hansard of the 12th September, 1924, it is recorded that Mr. Mahony moved that the vote be reduced by fi as a direction to the Government to build the two 10,000-ton cruisers in Australia, and he quoted from a London newspaper, the Sunday News, of the 20th July, 1924, the following extract from’ an article headed, “Australia’s New Cruisers “ : -
News that the Australian Government intends to build both of its new cruisers in place of one in Great Britain gives satisfaction to ship-yard workers in Glasgow. English and Scottish ventres expect to divide the work.
That statement appeared in England before the question was known to have been decided here. Newspaper reports, I admit, are very often inaccurate, but in view of what happened afterwards, it looks as if this might have been a correct statement, and that the policy of the Government was known in the Old Country at that time. It seems that some one over there knew that both ships would be built there. I am not aware of any contrary statement made by the Prime Minister since the statement I have read. I have facts before me on which I could talk for an hour,’ but I am endeavouring to be as brief as possible, and to pin the Prime Minister down to what actually was said in this House. I am desirous of confining the debate as nearly as possible to that. If the right honorable gentleman can show that my quotations are inaccurate, he will be able to escape the charge, but if the Mansard record is correct, as it should be, he must stand convicted. It is claimed that Australia will save £800,000 by building these cruisers abroad. I wish to place on record my opinion about that. It is not sufficient to say that Australia will save on the tender price so much in pounds, shillings, and pence. “We must consider also the welfare and development of our country. It is idle for honorable members to talk as they do about populating Australia if they agree to the sending of money* abroad to employ people in other coun tries. I have nothing to say against our brothers oversea, but our first duty is to the Australian people. Preference to Australia every time is the policy for me. If this work has to be done the money for it should be expended in our own country.
– No matter what it costs ?
– I shall deal with the cost. The £800,000 saving which is claimed is mythical. How many men would the construction of these cruisers in Australia employ directly and indirectly! How many business ‘men would the placing of the order in Australia assist ! -How much additional income and other taxation would come to the Commonwealth! How much additional revenue would be received through the Post Office and other channels! All these things have to be taken into account iu comparing the advantage and disadvantage to Australia of placing the orders abroad. No man can estimate what the spending of £4,250,000 in Australia would mean to this country. It would cause additional prosperity, would, find employment for our own people, and would make opportunities for people from overseas. It is idle to talk of developing and populating Australia while we spend money abroad in this way. The first duty of members of Parliament is to be loyal to their own country. We should not compel our own people to live in a state of idleness, unemployment, and want, while we send money elsewhere tq find employment for others.
– The honorable member for Swan represents the primary producers.
– He does not.
– He, at least, represents a country constituency, and I put it to him that the carrying out of this work in Australia would find employment for our own people, and create markets” for the products of the country folk whom he represents. It is useless for him to advocate putting thousands of people on the land if markets do not exist for their products. The first thing to do is to provide markets for primary producers.
– Has the honorable member tried that?
– Yes, and all my life I shall continue to try it. The only party in this House that stands solidly for the support of Australian industries 13 the party that sits behind me. The present situation arises because a composite government is in power. Right from the inception of this Parliament .1 have pointed out that this Government is unable to do justice to the business of the country. It cannot give effect to any fixed set of principles. Even the principles enunciated by Nationalists on the public platform have to be watered down to suit the party that keeps them in power. In consequence of that the recess is to them a haven of refuge, and they seize every opportunity to get there. This Parliament has sat for 135 days since it commenced, and it will expire at the end of the present session. In that time it has done nothing of importance for the advancement of Australia.
I was twitted by honorable members on the other side yesterday for not mentioning the Protocol during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. An opportunity should be afforded me, as one of the delegates to the Assembly of the League of Nations, of making my report to this House : I could not utilize the opportunity provided by the AddressinReply debate to make that report.
– That is not directly within the motion.
– I submit that this House should have been called together in accordance with the Prime Minister’s precise that no decision would be arrived at until Parliament had been consulted in regard to the building of the second cruiser. That has not been done. The Government preferred to remain in the security of recess rather than face the Opposition. The evidence all goes to show that before any discussion took place in this chamber it had practically been decided that the vessels should be built in Great Britain. The only inference to be drawn from the facts is that that decision was arrived at when the Prime Minister was in Great Britain. Parliament could have been summoned in February to deal with this matter, and with another to which I am not permitted to refer at this stage, but because the Government desired that the cruisers should be built overseas, and was averse from having the matter discussed here, that was not done. Evidently the Government was afraid that among its supporters were some who were not prepared to have this work sent out of Australia. I realize that in times of emergency it is necessary for a government to take prompt action without consulting parliament, but no one can claim that this was a matter of emergency. If actions of this kind are permitted, what will become of responsible government, and of our rights as representatives of the people in this chamber? During the war period, when almost everything was in a state of upheaval, it was frequently necessary for important decisions to be made quickly ; but that time has passed. We should now be able to conduct the business of the country in a proper manner, as in pre-war days. The idea seems to have grown up in recent years that those occupying responsible positions are at liberty to commit the country in any direction they desire, allowing discussion only when it is too late to alter their decisions. I charge the Prime Minister with having broken the definite promise, made to this House on several occasions, that before a tender for the second cruiser was accepted, an opportunity would be given to discuss the question. The statement made by him on the 5th September, which he quoted in justification of the Government’s action, that after the tenders were received his Government would do what was best in the interests of Australia, is completely annulled by his subsequent statement on the same day - in fact, a few minutes later - that he would stand by his former promise to refer the matter to Parliament for consideration before accepting a tender. That has not been done, and it is for the Prime Minister to say why. Any unbiased judge must decide against the Government. There could be nothing worse than that the head of a government should be so recreant to his trust as to treat his promises with contempt. By broken promises in the past the industries of Australia have become shackled. There are thousands of unemployed workmen in Australia to-day, and 3,000 of them could have been found employment for two or three years on the construction of one cruiser, to say nothing of those who would have received employment indirectly.
It is idle to talk of the money that will be saved by the construction of the cruisers in, England. The money should be spent in Australia, and the whole of the work carried out here. Australia can only become a nation in the eyes of the world by those in positions of authority being loyal to their own people. The Government makes constant reference to the necessity for a greater population, and the -establishment of national industries, yet it does nothing of a practical nature to assist in either direction. When the opportunity to circulate £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 presents itself, the Government, instead of using the money to develop Australia, sends the contract overseas to provide employment for workmen there, while Australian artisans starve. I submit that a good case has been made out against the Government.
– The motion before the House may bc divided into two parts. The first reflects upon the good faith and honour of myself as head of the Government. I am directly charged with a flagrant breach of faith in failing to honour a definite promise that I had given to this House. I propose to deal with that portion of the motion first. The Leader of the Opposition (Mt. Charlton) quoted from Hansard, and while I cannot believe that he was deliberately unfair, he has not placed the true facts before the House.
– I searched Hansard, but could find no subsequent statement.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman has not misquoted me deliberately, but, unfortunately, his quotations have created an entirely erroneous impression. He referred to the discussions in this House, and to the estimates received from the Navy Board, and the authorities at Cockatoo Island, for the construction of a cruiser in Australia. He also referred to the fact that Sir John Monash was asked to inquire into the matter with a view to ascertaining the ^approximate cost of construction in Australia. All that is merely so much history, having no real bearing on the issue. The real point at issue arises when we come to my statement of the 5th September, when I said -
After the tenders have been received, the Government will take whatever course it considers ‘best in the interests of Australia. It does not propose that the lowest tender shall necessarily be accepted, irrespective of whether the cruisers are to be constructed in Britain or Australia, hut will give the fullest possible consideration to all the factors involved, and take the responsibility for any decision at which it may arrive.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) then asked me whether I would give the assurance that Parliament would have an opportunity of discussing the matter. His words were -
Before I conclude I want an assurance from the Prime Minister that Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss the Defence Estimates at a reasonable hour, when a proper decision may be come to upon this important matter.
When I made the statement above quoted, which had to do with the report of Sir John Monash, I informed the House that I was not making it on a motion which would permit of discussion, for the reason that the Defence Estimates had still to be dealt with, and they would provide an opportunity for that. I considered it unnecessary to duplicate the debate.
– Will the right honorable gentleman read his reply to the honorable member for Dalley?
– What I said was-
The alternative to my making a statement was that I should move a motion for the printing of a paper. Such a motion would involve a debate upon this particular matter, which would be followed immediately by a debate upon the same matter on the Defence Estimates. I accordingly stated that I would bring forward the Defence Estimates as soon as possible, and, while they were under consideration, I would afford the opportunity for a full discussion of this matter.
That is perfectly definite.
– Will the right honorable gentleman read what he said about his promise?
– Yes. I then said-
Unfortunately, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) has been taken ill. When I saw that a delay was going to occur that I had not anticipated, I decided to table the report this afternoon. I can assure the honorable member that if the Minister for Defence had not been taken ill, it was my intention to ask the House to postpone consideration pf other Estimates, and to give precedence to the Defence Estimates. I should then have allowed full opportunity for the discussion of this matter. I ask honorable members for some consideration, because I desire, if it be possible, that the Minister for Defence shall be present when the Defence Estimates are being considered.
– Will the right honorable gentleman allow the- discussion to take place next week?
– If it is likely that the Minister for Defence will be absent for a considerable time, I assure the honorable member that I shall bring the Defence Estimates on in his absence, and allow the discussion to take place.
After that the Defence Estimates came before us for consideration, and the honorable member for Dalley then moved this definite and specific amendment -
That the amount for division 83, “ Special defence provision to cover first year of developmental programme, £1,000,000,” be reduced by £1.
I do this as an intimation to the Government to build the two 10,000-ton cruisers in Australia.
That amendment directed the Government to build the two cruisers in Australia. It was debated at length, and defeated by 25 votes to 17. The Government announced, unequivocably, that it proposed to take the responsibility of placing the order for the second cruiser after’ all the tenders had been received and all the information considered. When I made that statement, I was pressed to say that there would be an opportunity provided to discuss the matter. An opportunity was provided, and the matter was debated when the Defence Estimates were before the House. It was then that the definite amendment of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was moved, debated, and defeated. I submit that the Government did everything that it undertook to do, and fulfilled every promise that it made. My honorable friend said that he desired to appeal to an impartial jury. I also desire to do that. I say that, in view of the facts that I have stated, nobody can properly accuse me, or the Government, of having in any way been guilty of a breach of faith. I did everything that I undertook to do, and I am prepared to say that not one honorable member of the House was under any misapprehension of the position. Everybody knew before the House rose that preparations had been made for calling for tenders, that the whole matter was under way, and that when tenders were received the Government would take the responsibility for action upon them. The House left the matter in the hands of the Government. That deals with the first part of the censure motion, reflecting upon my good faith. I repeat, that there is not the slightest justification for even suggesting that I have not acted honorably and in accordance with my promises. I am certain that the impartial jury that the Leader of the Opposition has such faith in would, without any question, non-suit him on the ground that he had in no way proved his case, and that it was perfectly clear that I had honoured every undertaking given to the House.
The other issue raised by the honorable member’s motion is contained in the words -
That the Government is deserving of the severest censure for….. its antiAustralian action in sending millions of pounds out of the country for the construction of both cruisers abroad.
On that aspect of the matter, a number of thoughts must occur to every one. The first that occurs to me is that the honorable gentleman’s excuse that he could not discuss this matter on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply is extremely feeble. He had every opportunity to deal with it then. No one knows better than he that the proper course for the leader of an opposition to adopt if there is any master of administration, or any action of the Government, during a recess with which he does not agree, is to bring it under the notice of Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The debate on the Address-in-Reply provides that opportunity. This matter is being dealt with to-day only because the Government offered special facilities bo allow it to be discussed. Another thought that must occur to honorable members is that the action of the party opposite in protesting against the placing abroad of orders for these cruisers, and in trying to pose as desirous of having the cruisers constructed in Australia, is absurd, in view of the attitude that it has maintained ever since the building of these cruisers was first mooted. If the Opposition had had its way, no cruisers would be constructed, either in Australia or elsewhere. Honorable members opposite have taken every action in their power to prevent any of this work from being placed in Australia, because, had* the matter rested in their hands, no cruisers would be built at all. But the
Government is sensible of the obligation upon it to provide for the defence of this country, and it bas therefore taken action to build two cruisers. The Labour party is now trying to obtain credit for itself by suggesting that if it had been in office it would have provided work for those who are engaged in the shipbuilding industry in Australia. But it is apparent to all who are aware of the circumstances that had it been in power no cruisers would have been built. The country should be told this. The honorable gentlemen opposite know very well in their own hearts that it is so. I do not propose to trace the history of all the actions which honorable members . opposite have taken in trying to prevent the construction of these vessels. The circumstances are well known to everybody who is interested in the matter. Had they had their way, not only would the cruisers not have been built, but they would never have contemplated building them. It will be seen, therefore, what strange champions these gentlemen are for the building of cruisers in Australia. I wish to challenge most emphatically one statement that was made by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that he believed” that the whole matter of the construction of these cruisers was settled while I .was in Great Britain. I remind him that I have several times categorically denied that assertion. The honorable gentleman should know me well enough to accept my statement that there is not one scintilla of truth in it, yet it is repeated over and over again. Let us now look at the actual facts. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that £4,250,000 have been taken away from the working people of this country by the decision of the Government to have these cruisers built in Great Britain. He cannot be aware of the facts, nor can he have studied the position at all, or he would not make such a statement believing it to be true. Let me remind honorable members that there are two distinct parts in the building of vesssels like these. There is the construction of the hull and the machinery, and there is the provision of guns, armaments, and technical instruments for them. Tenders were not invited in Australia for the guns, armament, or technical instruments, and nobody on the other side of the House has ever suggested that that should have been done. The manufacture of those things is a specialized business. Possibly only two firms in Great Britain are ‘ able to produce the armament, needed, and there are very few places to which we may look for the technical instruments. It is well known and recognized that as to the guns, armament, and technical instruments of the cruisers, not a half -penny could conceivably have’ been spent in Australia. The cost of these parts of each of the two cruisers amounts to £973,000, which is nearly half the cost of the whole job. Taking the two cruisers into account, therefore, it will be seen that about £1,000,000 must be deducted from the amount mentioned by the honorable member as having been taken away from Australia, for the simple reason that Australia could not supply the parts required. Another point the honorable member should have recollected when he was moving his censure motion against the Government is that the Government is only responsible for the construction of one cruiser outside of Australia. Parliament decided that one cruiser should be built abroad, so that only one cruiser ought properly to be the subject-matter of this censure motion. It will, therefore, be seen that the expenditure abroad for which the Government is really responsible is approximately £1,000,000, and not £4,250,000. The actual figures that we have to consider are the amount that might have been spent here on constructing the hull and machinery of one cruiser. May I remind the House of what the figures actually are. The amount of the lowest tender for the construction in Great Britain of the hull and machinery where one ship was to be built in a yard was £1,098,118, and where two ships were to be built in the same yard £1,087,633. Roughly, the figure for the building of one cruiser is £1,100,000. Then you have the Australian figures, which are: for a ship built by the Commonwealth Shipping Board with British machinery, £1,835,227; and with Australian-built machinery, £1,903,856. The figures for Walsh Island for a ship built with British machinery are £2,161,394. The tender of a British shipbuilder for a vessel built in Australia was £2,265,630.
– Did not the Walsh Island tender include about £500,000 for a floating dock?
– No. To clear up any misunderstanding in the honorable gentleman’s mind, let me assure him that the .figure I have quoted is the price for the cruiser, and included nothing else.
– The manager at Walsh Island assured me that it did.
– Well, it did not. I do not propose to go into the difference between each separate tender to show the actual increase in the cost of building the vessels in the Commonwealth, but, taking the lowest tender, we should have had to pay £818,000 more for a vessel built in Australia than for one built in Great Britain.
– And the Australian figure was only an estimate.
– That is so. The British tenders were all firm tenders, and we would have a right of action against any British shipbuilder who undertook to build at a certain price and within a certain time, and did not fulfil his contract. The tenders for Walsh Island and Cockatoo dockyard were not firm tenders. The Walsh Island tender was subject to variations in wages and hours of work, and the Shipping Board’s tender was also subject to variations in the cost of material and freight. Those are factors which, of course, cannot be calculated, and they would have te be faced if a cruiser were built in Australia. Had we decided to build a cruiser in Australia, and the vessel had not been built in the time stipulated, the Government would have had no recourse in the case of Cockatoo Island, except against itself and the taxpayers of Australia ; and in the case of Walsh Island’ it would have had no recourse except against the New South Wales Government and the taxpayers of that state. Those factors have to be taken into account. But accepting the figures as they stand, and assuming that a cruiser could have been built here for the amount stated, there would have been a difference of £818,000 in favour of the British shipbuilder. That is a substantial sum of money, and the Government as custodian of the public purse, with the obligation to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers, could not disregard its magnitude. But- the Government did not make its decision merely to save £818,000. There might have been circumstances which would have justified the expenditure of that sum to get the vessels built in Australia. Therefore the Government looked at the matter from three points of view. We considered first whether the Australian material and employment involved would warrant the additional expenditure. We went into that matter very carefully. We found that, accepting the Cockatoo Island Dockyard estimate, 85 per cent, of the material to be used would have to be imported, only 15 per cent, of it being obtained in Australia. We felt that the purchase of so small an amount of material from Australian manufacturers would do very little, if anything at all, to stimulate Australian industries and promote their development and progress. We considered next whether, even if it did not give a great stimulus to existing Australian industries, the construction of the vessels in Australia would do something to found a new industry here. We examined that aspect of the matter from every angle. We found, however, that there is a wide difference between naval construction and ordinary mercantile ship construction. Cruiser construction is a specialized business, and the placing of this order in Australia would not do anything to establish naval construction works in this country. When thinking of establishing an industry one has to consider whether it may look for continuity of orders. To establish an industry merely to carry out orders in hand, with small likelihood of future orders, is of no permanent advantage to a country. It would merely give men employment which would cease in the near future. I should have expected that the Leader of the Opposition would not have been prepared to advocate the establishment of naval construction works in Australia. He has shown that he believes that during the next few years we shall see international arrangements under which naval construction will be materially reduced, if it does not totally cease.
– The right honorable gentleman has not heard me make that statement since he threw out the Protocol. He killed that sort of thing. The dove of peace has been badly wounded.
– The Leader of the Opposition and the party he leads are totally opposed to the construction of these cruisers, and to all naval construction. How can the honorable gentleman be in favour of our establishing an industry in this country which, if his views were given effect, would have no future at all? The Government examined the position very carefully, and came to the conclusion that the construction of the cruisers in Australia would not establish a new industry here, and that there was no justification, on that ground, for the additional expenditure that it would involve. The third question that we considered was whether, even if we could not establish a new industry, and could not do anything to promote the advancement of existing industries, would it not be necessary to construct a cruiser in Australia so that we might have in our own dockyard a trained staff able to effect necessary repairs. If it could be shown that we should not be able to carry on our naval affairs unless we constructed a cruiser in Australia, that would be sufficient warrant for the expenditure of an additional £818,000 upon it. But we found that that would not be so. We had to keep in mind the fact that a very great quantity of the material needed for the vessel would have to be brought from overseas. The main reason for that is that the cruiser required is to be of 10,000 tons displacement, the maximum size allowed under the Washington Treaty. Ever since lhat Treaty was signed every great naval power has been endeavouring to secure the maximum of naval strength in a vessel of that’ displacement. That has involved a lightening of material, as far as possible, so that these cruisers are of specialized construction. The only result of placing the order for a cruiser in Australia would have been that we should have had to bring a great mass of material to Australia merely to be assembled. In fact, we could not construct a cruiser in Australia in the sense that w§ would desire. We do not desire that Australia should become merely a place for assembling material prepared in other countries. If we are to do anything for our own development, it must be by actual construction and manufacture, and not merely by assembling other people’s products. Had the Government placed the order for the cruiser in Australia, it would have, to a very large extent, been merely assembled, not constructed, here. The Government, therefore, after full consideration of the matter, came to the conclusion that the best policy to follow was to utilize the money that would be saved by placing the order for the cruiser in Great Britain in constructing a seaplane carrier at Cockatoo Island. We found that the construction of that carrier would keep the yard going, enabling us to retain our technical staff, and would give that staff just as valuable training for work which might have to be carried out on any of the cruisers as the assembling of cruiser material in Australia would have done. The Government’s decision in this matter was not determined by the difference of £818,000 between the cost of construction in Australia and the cost in Great Britain. As I have said, it is quite possible that many circumstances might render that additional expenditure not only justifiable, but absolutely essential. But after examining all the possible reasons which might justify the additional expenditure the Government came to the conclusion that the benefit which would accrue to Australian industry, and the experience in naval construction which would be gained were not sufficient to warrant the additional expense.
It has been said that by not building a cruiser in Australia we shall be doing something which will strike a blow at Australian sentiment and will weaken the Australian Navy. May I remind the critics who advance that view that the Australia, the first flagship of the Australian Naval Squadron, was not built in this country. Yet I have still to learn that the spirit or morale of the seamen who manned that ship was undermined by reason of that fact. I think the glorious record of the Australia in the war shows that this fear, which some profess to entertain, is not justified. Furthermore, we have four light cruisers in our Navy, two of which were built in Australia arid two overseas. Does any one suggest that the sentiment with regard to those cruisers differs in any way, either so far as the Australian people or our sailors who man them are concerned? It is well known that in respect to these vessels there is no difference of sentiment. It is not the ships that are the backbone of a navy, but the sailors who man them. Provided they are given efficient instruments, there need be no apprehension that the right spirit will not prevail, and that our men will not maintain, the great traditions that have already been built up. This question is one of vital importance to Australia. We should construct our own squadron, and maintain it at the highest point of efficiency. The decision that the Government has come to has been arrived at after the closest examination of all the facts. I have given the House the reason for our action. I repudiate absolutely the suggestion contained in the censure motion that the Government has exhibited an un- Australian spirit in the action which it has taken. I say emphatically to those who are criticising us that our Australian spirit is very much greater and very much deeper than theirs. That this is so is shown by this censure motion. We are building these cruisers to provide for the defence of this country, which is the best way of showing that we are animated by a truly Australian spirit. Honorable members opposite would not build them. Their Australian sentiment does not carry them to the length of defending their own country. Yet they dare to accuse this Government, which is carrying out its duty in this respect, of being un-Australian in its action. We have, after full deliberation, adopted a course which I say will, commend itself to the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia.
.- I have been disappointed in listening to the Prime Minister’s attempt to reply to the very serious charges levelled against himself and his Government in connexion with the construction of the cruisers. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has made a very serious charge against the Prime Minister of a breach of faith with the House. Honorable members are aware of the very clear and definite promise made to myself that the House would be given an opportunity of considering the question of the construction of the second cruiser. I want honorable members to mark the difference between the amendment which I moved and ‘ the definite promise which the Prime Minister gave me. My amendment was to protest against the action of the Government in proposing to have both cruisers built overseas. The Prime Minister’s definite promise to me - and the right honorable gentleman was careful not to quote those words - was -
I most certainly give the honorable member for Dalley my assurance that the fullest opportunity will ,be given to the House to discuss the question of where a second cruiser shall be built.
That statement was made at the very close of the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House on a Friday afternoon. Could anything be more definite ? This House had no opportunity of expressing its opinion as to where the second cruiser should be constructed.
I shall proceed now to deal with the general case for the construction of the cruisers in Australia, and I hope that my remarks will show a broader and more Australian spirit than those with which the Prima Minister attempted to lightly brush this motion aside. There is nothing more shameful in the record of this Government - and its record is sorry enough, in all conscience - than its deliberate neglect of industries vital to the Commonwealth, and its callous attitude towards thousands of unemployed throughout the country. Joy on the Clydeside, sorrow in Australia ! That is the result of the Governments policy. While unemployment is causing misery from one end of Australia to the other, rejoicing is taking place at the other end of the world, because of the action of this anti-Australian Government in sending £5,000,000 of good Australian money 12,000 miles across the ocean to provide employment for the workers of other lands. A consideration of the policy pursued by the Government in placing abroad the order for the second cruiser suggests - (a) the absence of a clear conception of all that is at stake, in connexion with, not only the ship-building and engineering industries, but also allied concerns, and the ramifications extending therefrom, and affecting the welfare of the people at large, and, later, the revenues of government which should arise from the prosperity of the country. I pause to impress that fact upon the minds of honorable members. Without industrial prosperity the Government has no chance of getting revenue to carry on the developmental works which are so essential to the progress of the country. The Government’s policy suggests further - (b) the sacrifice of the wider interests of the country on the altar of false economy, and (c) the principle adopted will eventually be found to represent a “ penny wise and pound foolish “ policy. The Prime Minister, with his tongue in his cheek, told us that the order for the cruisers was placed abroad in order to save £800,000. Fancy placing such a saving against the welfare of the Australian people and the succouring of good Australian workers who through no fault of their own are suffering the privations of unemployment. The Government has not effected a saving ; its excuse is based upon a fallacy, for it is an obvious economic fact that the more money we send out of Australia the poorer we make the community. I shall produce later irrefutable facts and figures to show that the Prime Minister and hiscoterie of antiAustralians played with loaded dice in a game that meant so much to the industries and workers of Australia. There could be no more serious commentary on the action of the Government than is provided by a comparison of its attitude with that of ministers in the Parliament of Great Britain towards the same principle. I quote a recent cable message from Great Britain -
After prolonged negotiations a contract of about £2,000,000 to construct eight refrigerator vessels for the Blue Star Line has been given to British shipyards. The most influential Ministers were reputed to have worked behind the scenes in order to save the contract, which last week seemed certain to go abroad, owing to the disparity between British and foreign tenders. It is understood that this difference has been adjusted through the Blue Star granting a slight preference to British builders, who quoted a sacrificial price.
Contrast that action with the attitude of Ministers of the Crown in the Commonwealth. It was announced in London, on 30th April of this year, that of the tenders received by the Blue Star Line for the construction of eight 12,000-ton refrigerated meat ships from British, Dutch, and German shipbuilders, the lowest continental tender was from £18,000 to £20,000 per steamer below the lowest British tender. I quote this further cable message -
The Blue Star Line, which is having ten large refrigerating steamers built in British shipyards, is owned by Vestey Brothers Limited. Sir Edmund Vestey, interviewed by Reuters, said that patriotic motives had indueed him and his brother to pay out themselves £300,000 more than the cost of the steamers would have been on the Continent. They considered that the present one-sided freetrade, which enables damaging Continental competition, would result in cruelty to the British workers.
It will be seen that the extra cost of £300,000, in proportion to the total cost of £2,000,000, would be equal to about £700,000 upon the sum to be expended on the cruisers, and that £700,000 is almost the amount of the “saving” which the Prime Minister places beforethe welfare of Australia. Surely honorable members will not say that for the sake of such a paltry amount vital contracts should have been allowed to go out of the Commonwealth. Had men with the wisdom and patriotism of British Ministers of the Crown been at the head of the Commonwealth Government, a so-called saving of £800,000 would not have influenced them. So grave has become the position of unemployment in Great Britain, accentuated as it has been by British orders being sent to the Continent, solely for reasons similar to those advanced in defence of the placing of an Australian contract in Great Britain, thatthe British Government, quick to realize the gravity of the situation, cast about for means whereby to mitigate the evil, and amplify the efforts of British shipbuilders who, in order to secure work for their men, have been for a long time accepting orders, not only devoid of profit, but actually showing in many instances a direct loss. That is amply evidenced in all technical trade journals. In order to rehabilitate the commerce and industry of the country, the British Government, recognizing shipbuilding and engineering as key industries, introduced the Preservation of Industries and Trade Facilities Act. Under the latter cash is advanced on favorable terms tofacilitatethe building of ships, &c., as an antidote to unemployment. I place on record the terms upon which Great Britain is assisting industry in order to contrast that action with the policy of the Commonwealth Government. The following is from F airplay of the 31st January, 1924: -
From information at my disposal, the Trade Facilities Committee are prepared to look with a favorable eye on any applications for guarantees in connexion with new tramp tonnage, subject to the following terms and conditions : -
The application for a guarantee to be, say, 50 per cent. of the cost of the ship.
That the owners give reasonable proof that they know their business.
That the remaining cost of the ship is supplied by share capital.
That the necessary working capital is put on shares.
That the managers undertake not to draw any remuneration in any year unless and until the interest and sinking fund on the loan has been repaid.
The loan to be for a period of ten to twenty years, being repaid by instalments over that period.
The security to be a first mortgage on the ship.
The same issue of Fairplay records particulars of £600,000 which was advanced under the act for cash spent on labour and materials in Great Britain in respect of ships under construction for a foreign country. This cash was advanced to the shipbuilders under the act. The British Government has already allocated many millions for this purpose. I quote from an article headed, “British Shipbuilding and Trade Facilities Act” in the Shipping World of 7th January, 1925 -
When the subject was last discussed in Parliament, in July last, it was stated that out of a total of £47,629,645 guaranteed as facilities under the act, no less than £13,000,000 had been allocated to shipbuilding, of which £7,000,000 had been guaranteed to Glasgow and the west of Scotland. Shipbuilding had, therefore, up to that time, received about 30 per cent. of the total amount guaranteed.
There is a remarkable contrast between the actions of the British and the Australian Governments. The former is prepared to advance millions of pounds to encourage and maintain the shipbuilding industry, but in Australia we are governed by men who have no interest in their own country, and who love every country but their own. Fair Play, a British trade journal, said, on 21st February, 1924-
The Government propose to increase the facilities granted by the Trade Facilities Act Committee, in connexion with ships contracted for, and other works, from £50,000,000 to £65,000,000, of which about £40,000,000 to £45,000,000 has already been absorbed.
There was no suggestion there that it would save a little money to have the work done outside the country. British Ministers realize that the welfare and stability of a nation rest upon its established industries, and they are willing to lay out money to support them. Sir Frederick Lewis, Bart., chairman of the British Maritime Trust Limited, is reported in Fair Flay of 28th February, 1924, as having observed -
So far as shipbuilding is concerned, the depression which existed throughout 1922 and the early part of 1923 is being lifted to a slight extent by reason of a number of orders having been placed under the encouragement of the financial facilities offered by the Government.
Sir Frederick Lewis knows something about business, and he pointed out that employment could be increased as a result of the facilities offered by the British Government. What a terrible thing is the unemployment in Great Britain! Even our Australian Prime Minister has been touched to the heart by the spectacle of unemployment stalking the land - “in Australia,” did I hear some one say? No; in Great Britain. Witness the Prime Minister’s remarks to an audience in the Lyceum Hall, Sydney, as reported in the Daily Telegraph on the 1st June, 1925. The article was headed, “ Bruce on Unemployment in Britain “ -
If there was one contemptible vice in this world it was the vice of ingratitude, yet the Australian people were in danger of it. Unemployment (in Great Britain) was serious, and there was the problem of the young men who were yearly coming on the labour market, yet could not get employment and who had for years been living on the dole. This was enough to destroy the morale of any nation. It was Australia’s duty to help Great Britain to bear this burden. “Britain’s burden!” Who is this Mr. Bruce? Is he the Prime Minister of Australia, or is he an agent of the British Government and British capitalists?
– He is not concerned about Australians, and their condition is made more desperate by his antiAustralian action in sending this work abroad.
He said not a word in Sydney about the 4,000 men who were employed - at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard a few years ago, and whose numbers last year were reduced to 1,700, and who to-day number less than 3^000. Similar reductions have taken place at Walsh Island. He forgets that charity begins at home. He is a very charitable man, and to the already considerable aid given to the British workmen by their own Government, he rushes to add more, while deliberately closing his eyes to the sufferings of our own workmen. We have the words of the Prime Minister to show that there is something deliberate behind this attempt to encourage the sending of work to Great Britain. Sir Joseph Cook, our High Commissioner in London, gave an interview to a representative of the London Times, and a cabled report pf it was published in Australia last Friday as follows : -
In a statement in the Times in connexion with Australia’s cruiser and submarine contracts being placed in Great Britain, the High Commissioner for Australia, Sir Joseph Cook, said that it was fortunate that the contracts were placed in Britain at a time when British shipbuilding was suffering so severely from foreign competition. The contracts indicated Australia’s’ desire to support British industry.
One can easily deduce where that policy was dictated. It was dictated by the Corner party. Sir Joseph Cook said that “ The contracts indicated Australia’s desire to support British industries.” There was not a word from this gentleman about Australian industries, but many words about industries outside his own country. After all, the prosperity of a country cannot be measured in terms of money. By this iniquitous transaction, born of short-sightedness and the anti-Australianism of the Prime Minister and his friends, we do not save £800,000, but lose £5,000,000 and all the prosperity that the spending of that sum in Australia would mean. Honorable members must agree that Australia would gain much more than £5,000,000 by the spending of that sum in this country. More money would go to the bootmaker, the butcher, the storekeeper, and other tradespeople. The money would change hands several times, and leave behind it a wave of prosperity. The extensive ramifications of the shipbuilding and marine industries is indicated , on page 709 of the noted British authority, The Shipbuilding and Shipping Record, of the 18th December, 1924. That journal quotes Sir Thomas Bell, who is regarded as one of the greatest shipping authorities in Great Britain, and is head of one of the largest British firms, as follows: -
Sir Thomas Bell said the future of shipbuilding and marine engineering was most seriously threatened. In order to give a local illustration of the extent to which this country’s prosperity depended on the unsheltered trades, let them take the shipbuilding and marine engineering industries of the Clyde. These might be computed to-day to supply direct employment to over 60,000 men, but indirectly the demands of - the shipbuilders and engineers created employment in the surrounding collieries, steel works, forges, sawmills, docks, railways, and distributing trades for probably an equal number of people. Hence, indirectly, as a result of shipbuilding and engineering, even in its present depressed condition, the greater part of £20,000,000 per annum df wages was spent in that neighbourhood on food and clothing, and also amusements. That surely meant the prosperity of the whole district.
The same thing surely applies to Australia. If the money was spent here it would remain ours, and we should still have the ships and the added prosperity. The Prime Minister has taken great pains to quote the additional cost of building the ships here. His remarks amounted to a slur on the Australian workman and Australian efficiency, but I think I shall be able to show that the dice was loaded against Australia. Had the comparison been a fair one, the disparity in prices would have been so small that the Prime Minister would not have been brazen-faced enough to send the contract abroad. An article headed, “ Shipbuilding Outlook. Harland and Wolff. “No Profit,” which appeared in ‘ the Manchester Guardian of the 25th March, 1925, should be of great interest to honorable members -
For the third year in succession, and for the twentieth year in all, the great Belfast shipbuilding firm of Harland and Wolff heads the list of British shipyards in its output of tonnage. But this position has been maintained at great cost, and the workmen at Harland and Wolff’s yard may be regarded as having been better favoured than the fortunes of the company itself. In their recentlypublished report (the first to receive the full light of publicity) the directors say that, in order to proceed with certain vessels, the orders for which were taken to provide work for their men, reserves had to be drawn upon owing to the unremunerative contract prices. In view of this - and apparently this great undertaking has not been spared the common fate of all shipbuilders in their attempt to face the perplexities of the last few years - it would appear that the company derives a large proportion of its, revenue from its subsidiary interests. The’ report states that the firm of David Colville and Sons, Ltd., which is controlled by Harland and Wolff, produced last year nearly 600,000 tonsof steel ingots, while the Scottish coal-masters, Archibald Russell, Ltd. (owned by Messrs. Colville) raised nearly 1,250,000 tons of coal.
Here, then, we see the significance of “the sacrificial price” referred to by me in connexion with retaining the construction of the new Blue Star liners in Great Britain. To maintain their yards, these British shipbuilders are prepared ‘to construct at cost price. Why? Simply because they know that their subsidiary interests, most of which have a direct bearing on shipbuilding, will handsomely compensate them. There are many other instances of British shipbuilders carrying out work at cost, or at less than cost, in an effort to retrieve losses through subsidiary undertakings. Let me quote a few more examples of work done at cost. Mr. John Barr, O.B.E., of BarrowinFurness, President of the Shipbuilding Employers’ Federation of Great Britain, stated on page 919 of the journal Syren and Shipping, of December, 1924 -
The few orders which were obtained recently were taken by builders without hope of any profit, and in many cases the tender prices made only part provision - in some cases none at all - for establishment charges. At present ship-owners must -
build at home at uneconomical prices;
build abroad at lower prices; or
defer building until this can be done economically.
Fair Play of the 1st January, 1925, said -
It is admitted on all sides that ship-builders arc accepting orders at less than cost in order to keep their works employed.
The Shipping World of the 7th January, 1925, said -
In the semi-annual “ Steamship Circular “ of Messrs. H. E. Moss and Co., ship brokers, of Liverpool, London, and Newcastle-on-Tyne, it is stated: - “As regards shipbuilding, a number of orders have been secured during the last six months which, though not profitable, have enabled shipbuilders to keep their best workers together.”
The Shipping World of the 7th January, 1925, dealt with the difference in prices, and concluded by saying that builders, in many instances, were carrying on at a loss. An editorial article in The Shipbuilding and Shipping Record of the 19th March, 1925, stated -
Nominally, the total cost of a ship is dependent on - (1) the direct outlay, (2). establishment charges, and (3) shipbuilder’s profits; but in these depressing times the last item is usually a minor quantity, and the charges for establishment are only fractionally obtained. In their anxiety to keep their men employed, builders are prepared to accept only a nominal sum for the charges which cannot come under the category of direct outlay.
There are instances of working below cost. Let me give one or two more, as it is well to place them on record so that those gentlemen comprising the Navy Board may have an example before them. The following is taken from the Shipbuilder, of April, 1925, page 217.
Sir Alexander M. Kennedy, chairman and managing director of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited, said: “ The motor-ship contracts placed in Germany showed the extent to which British firms were faced by foreign competition. They had taken orders during the past two years at considerable sacrifice, in order to prevent work going abroad.
From the Engineering Journal, of 2nd February, 1925, page 23, I have extracted the following : -
In the Industrial Court’s award of June last, Sir William Mackenzie said: “On 83 contracts on new work not yet completed it is estimated that, on the basis of the continuance of the present wages, there will be a loss of £785,000. It is not to be understood that these contracts were speculations which turned out badly; they were undertaken, in many instances, with a view to keeping the industry alive.
Let me quote also from the supplement to the Journal of Commerceand Shipping Telegraph, of 26th March, 1925, page 8 -
Harland and Wolff preferences, now that the worst news is shown to be better than was expected, exhibit a tendency to recover, and on rumours that orders have been booked for the Australian cruisers, or at least for one of these ships, John Brown’s have improved.
Honorable members will note that immediately the contract for the Australian cruisers was let, the shares of J ohn Brown and Company went up in value. Those extracts from technical journals contain the statements of men whose word and standing in the shipbuilding industry cannot be challenged. One can see what the Australian tenderer - the Commonwealth Shipping Board - was up against. The board was forced to add to its price a 5 per cent, margin to pay interest on the debentures held by the Government against the board ; at’ least 28 per cent, for overhead charges; and, in addition, another 5 per cent, for ordinary working profits. As the board is compelled to do these things under the act by which it was constituted, honorable members can see how great is the handicap under which it is working. Moreover, as the Board was limited- in its tender to one cruiser, it is obvious that it tendered on a less satisfactory basis than a competitor who was at liberty to tender for the construction of two vessels. In the circumstances, where was the genuineness of seeking tenders from Cockatoo Island? The whole thing was cut and dried. The Prime Minister had seen to that. Do honorable members realize the significance of the fact that the estimate obtained from the Shipping Board was made public before tenders were invited? That was done so that the Prime Minister’s friends on the other side of the world would be able to quote a figure which would put the Australian tenderer out of the running. The tenderers outside Australia were not compelled to allow a margin for profit or provide overhead charges. They could obtain their profits from subsidiary companies while Australian industries were allowed to stagnate, and Australian workmen to starve. If the Prime Minister is to escape from the charge of deliberately throwing dust in the eyes of the people of - Australia, there are many things that he will have to explain satisfactorily. I should like him to say why he compared the Australian tender with the lowest British tender, which was not accepted. Was it done for the purpose of making the Australian tender appear as unsatisfactory as possible ? I should also like to know why, after first stating that the cruisers would cost £4,254,862, he made it appear later that the cost would be only a little over £4,000,000. I have taken my figures from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 8th April, 1925. Until his figures were challenged by myself and other honorable members, the Prime Minister refrained from mentioning that an additional sum. of £250,000 had to be taken into account for bringing the vessels to Australia, and for spare parts. Why did he make no mention of that sum if not to try to persuade the people that he had done Australia a good turn in sending £5,000,000 of good Australian money to his friends overseas? Yesterday, when asked to supply details of the tenders, the right honorable gentleman gave an answer which was no reply at all. Why does he do these things if there is nothing to hide? His reply was couched in language calculated to mislead any one not acquainted with the facts. The Prime Minister cannot retain the confidence of this House unless he can explain satisfactorily these matters, and a few others to which I shall refer, later. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned until a later hour.
Motion (by Sir Littleton Groom) agreed to -
That all other business be postponed until after the motion of want of confidence, now before the House, is disposed of.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to 2.15 p.m.
– I wish to analyse the figures quoted by the Prime Minister, with a view to shewing how unfairly he has quoted them in his effort to belittle the Australian tenders. I have pointed out how unscrupulous he has been in his endeavour to mislead the public by comparing the Shipping Board’s tender with the lowest British tender - a tender which was not accepted, mark you. But let him have his own way. I will take the figures he has quoted as they were published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 8th April of this year. In his official statementhe purports to show the percentage of increase in the price of one of these cruisers built in Australia as against one built in Great Britain. He shows that the difference between the Shipping Board’s tender for a vessel constructed with British-built machinery as against the lowest British tender is 68.7 per cent. A vessel built with Australian-built machinery would cost, according to that statement, 73 per cent. more. The Walsh Island Dockyard quotation for a vessel made with Britishbuilt machinery was shown to be 96.8 per cent, above the British price, and the quotation of a British shipbuilder for building a vessel in Australia was shown to be over 100 per cent, above the British figure. On those percentages it might be thought that there is some justification for the action taken by the Prime Minister. But let us investigate a little further. We find that these percentages apply only t0 the hull and machinery. The lowest British tender for a completed vessel was £2,011,812. That figure is taken from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 5th May, 1925. Let us make a’ little comparison of our own for the benefit of the Prime Minister and honorable members generally. The lowest Australian price for a completed vessel was £2,879,920, submitted by the Cockatoo Dockyard. The lowest British tender, plus £50,000 for bringing the vessel to Australia, was £2,061,812, a difference of £818,108 in favour of the British builders. That shows only 43 per cent, increase on the Cockatoo Dockyard figures, and not 68 per cent., as stated by the Prime Minister. Can honorable members imagine anything more deliberately misleading than the Prime Minister’s statement?
– It is not in order for an honorable member to say that a statement is deliberately misleading.
– Very well, sir. I will not say that it was deliberately misleading, but there is no doubt that it is inaccurate, and that it was made for the purpose of giving information to the public which is not in accordance with facts. The Prime Minister made that statement again this morning in replying to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I am pointing out that it is wrong, and that the premises upon which it is based are totally erroneous.
– It was the word “ deliberately “ that I took exception to.
– Then I will withdraw that word, sir. The percentages quoted by the Prime Minister have been misleading all the way through. Let me now give a fair comparison, such as the Prime Minister ought to have made. The proper comparison is between the lowest Australian tender and the successful tenderer. Here are the figures : - Cockatoo
Dockyard, £2,879,920. John Brown and Co., one vessel, £2,028,522; bringing the vessel to Australia, £50,000; spare parts, £70,000; total, £2,148,522. The difference is £731,398, and the percentage of increase of the Australian figures 34 per cent. What is to be said now about the Prime Minister’s 68 per cent.? Even granting that it would be necessary to add £70,000 for spare parts to the Australian price, the difference would be only £800,478, or 37 per cent. These figures are a complete answer to the statements made by the Prime Minister. Can it be said now that he has been politically honest with the House or the country? He has not played the game’ with Australia. Surely the great shipbuilding and engineering industries are worthy of protection to the extent of a 34 per cent, tariff? Almost every industry in Australia is helped by tariffs or bounties, and there is no logical reason why these industries should be exempt. If the building of the cruisers here by a private firm had been contemplated, a heavy duty would have been allowed for - a duty much in excess of the £800,000 which the Government boasts that it has saved and will spend here. Many of our big industries are protected by 40, 50, and even 60 per cent, duties, yet the Prime Minister does not consider this great industry worthy of any protection. Let us look at the manner in which other countries are helping their shipbuilding and engineering industries. Great Britain is not alone in her recognition of the fact that the well-being of her people is wrapped up in these industries. The United States of America does a great deal to safeguard the interests of her people who are dependent upon these industries. She has promulgated laws which prevent any foreign-built Americanowned vessel from engaging in the coastwise or island trade of the country where shipping facilities already exist. It is also enacted that if any American vessel puts in for repairs at a foreign port, she must pay a duty of 25 per cent, on the value of those repairs when she returns to the United States of America. That is a wise and highly valuable measure, which could well be copied by the Australian Government. Germany is also assisting the shipbuilding industry by state and municipal loans, and with the object of cheapening shipbuilding her railway authorities have arranged for a rebate of from 30 to 35 per cent. on freight on iron and steel from the works to the shipyards. That is a privilege which is not accorded to foreign material. Fifty-four hours weekly are worked in the Hamburg shipyards. Unemployment is rife in the Dutch shipyards, and the men there are working 56½ hours weekly, but the Dutch Government is also aiding the industry by government and municipal interest-free loans, the repayments of which extend over a long period, and may be made by instalments. Japan, where shipbuilding is also suffering, has recognized the wisdom of fostering this great industry by giving a bonus of 2s. 6d. per indicated horse-power and 5s. per gross ton, and she has to import all her steel. Let honorable members think of that for a moment. While other nations are prepared to support their shipbuilding industries in this fashion, this Government will do nothing. France also realizes the advantage of developing a big shipbuilding industry, and her Government is giving bonuses to everybody who will engage in the industry in France. While other countries recognize and do everything in their power to conserve, preserve, and cultivate these big key industries of shipbuilding and engineering, this Government seems to recognize no responsibility in the matter. Surely honorable members generally do not think that we can afford to neglect the lessons which are provided by the experience of the great nations of the world. Yet the Prime Minister apparently is quite prepared to disregard them in his anxiety to give effect to his slogan, “ Australia last.” Even if there is some cogent diplomatic reason which may make it inexpedient to impose a direct import tariff on vessels built out of Australia for Australian owners, surely the fact that the difference between wages in Australian and British shipbuilding yards is over 50 per cent. in favour of the Australian rates should be an incentive for the Government to do what it can to encourage our local industry. I have some details of the rate of wages paid for shipbuilding in Great Britain and Australia. The British figures are taken from The Shipbuilder of January, 1925, issue No. 173, page 24. I have compared them with the Aus tralian rates of wages as on the 4th Juue, 1925. The comparisons are as follow: -
– Where did the honorable member get his Australian figures ?
– From the latest Arbitration Court returns.
– Give us the Statistician’s figures.
– Does the honorable member doubt the accuracy of these figures ? I am quoting from the official documents issued by the Arbitration Court, and I am only quoting the rates for industries associated with the shipbuilding industry. Surely the honorable member does not expect me to quote the rates for industries that are not interested.
– I have quite different figures from yours.
– The figures are startling, and I leave them to speak for themselves and to carry their own tale to the people of this country. The Prime Minister made a great song out of the question of time, and contended that time was of the essence, of the contract, but it is over twelve months since he first mentioned the matter in the House. Twelve months of valuable time has been deliberately wasted by the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman spoke airily then of the work being done in Great Britain in eighteen months, but we now find, according to his own statement, that it is to take practically twice as long. This is clearly another instance of the honorable gentleman’s attempts to deceive the people of this country.
I come now to another phase of the matter, which is known as “ the jig-saw puzzle.” In his policy of decrying everything Australian, the Prime Minister has a very able lieutenant in Mr. G. L. Macandie, Secretary to the Navy Board, whose ideas as to the capabilities of this country are expressed in the following statement, which I quote from the Guardian of the 27th March, 1925, because I suppose it is the only paper which would publish the statement: -
What people don’t realize is that building the cruisers in Australia will be like putting together a jig-saw puzzle. Hardly any of the material can be made in Australia. Not even the woodwork. All the teak has to be imported, and also the steel, plates, angles, &c. The only thing about having them built overseas is that the money spent on wages goes to the workers abroad.
I invite honorable .members to specially mark that last sentence. Mr. Macandie can see no harm in millions of Australian money going to “ workers abroad,” whilst thousands of Australians are on the bread line. Not only is this gentleman heartless, but he displays unbelievable ignorance for one in his position when he declares that the building of cruisers in Australia would be like the putting together of a jig-saw puzzle. This was a case of obsequious pandering to the antiAustralianism of the Prime Minister, who had declared that “only 15 per cent, of the material used if the cruisers were constructed in Australia would be Australian made, and that the work here would be practically only that of assembling.” This point was given such prominence as to make it appear a dominant pivotal factor in the consideration of the matter, to the total exclusion of the fact that the wages expended in the building and completion of the vessel in Australia would be 100 per cent. Australian and 0 per cent. British. This is an apt example of straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel. Prom this perspective 115 points Australian and but 85 points British have become the topsy-turvy reason why the vessel should be built in Britain. The fact that the 15 per cent, which has been referred to would apply only if machinery had to be brought from abroad was conveniently omitted. Had an Australian tender, with Australian plant and machinery, been considered and accepted, the construction would have been 100 per cent. Australian. These facts are conveniently forgotten by honorable members opposite. They surely must know that there is no shipbuilding yard in the world that is self-contained, and that successful tenderers will always sub-let tenders for various parts of the work that call for specialization. Surely they are aware of the fact that the work to be carried out by contractors in Great Britain would not exceed that which would have to be done locally. Indeed, I doubt very much if it would equal the actual amount of work done locally if the order had been placed in Australia. The Admiralty list includes a number of sub-contractors from whom . must be obtained the auxiliaries for war vessels. The contractors in Great Britain would be bound in exactly the same way as would Cockatoo Dock in this respect. I hope that the Prime Minister will mark this. The only difference would be the distance in transport to the shipbuilding yard. With reference to the mention of teak, I should like to know if Mr. Macandie has ever heard of Australian hardwood, a substance which makes better girders than steel, because, if the girders made of it are thick enough, they will not burn sufficiently to become dangerously impaired. Under the heat generated by a conflagration steel twists, whereas hardwood merely chars on the surface, and thereafter resists the heat. In any case it has to be borne in mind that teak would have to be imported into Great Britain just as it would have to be imported into Australia. So where is the difference? Does Great Britain say “ we cannot build ships because we have to import the teak”? It is clear that the fact that we should have to import teak is not the reason why the cruisers are being built in Great Britain. Mr. Macandie supplies no information whatsoever to support the statement that the steel would have to be imported. Possibly this gentleman is unaware of the fact that Australia is at the present time producing steel which, in quality, is second to none produced in any part of the world. The production of steel is already well established in Australia, although Mr. Macandie is apparently ignorant of the fact. Plants capable of producing all the angles required are already established in Australia. The material which we do not at present produce in Australia is the armour plate, but there is nothing wonderful, mysterious, occult, or even difficult about the production of armour plate. It is merely a matter of installing rolling mills, and they could be bought andinstalled in Australia easily and quickly. We have the means and the men to make them here, and the time occupied in importing them, or in making them here, would not postpone the date of delivery of the vessels, because long before the framework of the cruisers was ready to receive the plates the mills might be established and in full operation. Australia has spent much money to gain a knowledge of shipbuilding. Millions of pounds have been expended on the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Special men were brought here under contract to the Government for hull work and machinery in cruiser construction. Selected men were sent abroad at great expense to specialize in submarine construction. But what do we find? The Government is allowing these men to drift away, and has sent away an order for two submarines without giving Australian contractors an opportunity even to tender for them. The construction of two submarines at a cost of £725,000 has been given to Vickers, and theAustralian people were not given an opportunity to tender for them. This is in the face of the fact that we have imported experts to Australia, and that at enormous expense we have sent capable young Australians abroad to go through all the big shipbuilding yards in Great Britain in order that they might become expert in this particular class of work. In spite of the expense which has been incurred in this way, Australians are not being given an opportunity of doing the work for which they were specially trained. The work must go to Great Britain, and this is another evidence of the Government policy of “ Australia last”. The Prime Minister endeavoured to make a point by suggesting that the placing of the order for the cruisers in Australia would’ not be a step towards the establishment of a new Australian industry, and a stimulus to existing Australian industries. But it is not a case of the Government having to establish, or themselves direct, the extensive work either for the manufacture of steel, the production of armour plate, or shell, or for the building of ships, because (a) steel works and shipbuilding and engineering establishments already exist here.Not only so, but (b) steel manufacturers are on the qui vive to expand, and also to establish rolling mills once they are assured of a reasonable prospect of the country’s patronage. Here is an example of that willingness. The Barrow News (England), of 25th October, 1924, said -
At a luncheon held on Tuesday, Mr. Lewis, general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, announced that Messrs. Vickers Limited had offered to associate with the Broken Hill Company with the object of manufacturing armour plate and shells at their Newcastle works.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) said, that “ in view of the contemplated building of cruisers and submarines the present provided a golden opportunity for a big British armament firm to establish a branch in Australia.” Golden opportunities are given to people abroad, but not to our own people.
Mr.E. Riley. - When did he say that?
– About three weeks before he was gathered to his rest under the wing of the Prime Minister. Mr. Mackay, director of the Broken Hill Company, said that the company was prepared to provide plant for rolling armour plate, and the idea was well worth thinking over. The existing Australian shipbuilding and engineering works, manned by an experienced staff and competent workmen, all under capable direction - facts with which the Government is well acquainted - are likewise willing and eager to meet their country’s growing requirements. The Government’s inane inquiry as to whether existing industries would be stimulated by the placing of a large order is best answered by very earnestly assuring them that the Clyde - and, for that matter, Britain at large - has afforded much evidence of having received stimulus in this very way. The Government should also not lose sight of the fact that, the greater the volume of work, the cheaper the cost of production - stimulus again, to some extent - so that, given the business, Australian prices would tend to decrease commensurately. In a few years’ time, with the aid of such men as Mr. Macandie, shipbuilding in Australia will be classed as a forgotten industry. Do not honorable members think that it is time that he and his kind were cleared out and replaced by real Australians who have the interests of this country at heart ? I come now to the sinister figure behind the scenes - sinister, that is, from the point of view of Australian welfare. I refer to EngineerCaptain Sydenham, R:N., Director of Engineering of the Royal Australian Navy, of whom I had something to say last session. To this importation from the Royal Navy, a man absolutely devoid of sympathy with Australian ideals and Australian welfare, the Prime Minister practically delegated the decision as to where these contracts should go. The loaded dice again! Let me give the House some of this gentleman’s history. His principal experience, which seems to have made him fit in the eyes of the Prime Minister to be accountable for Australia missing her greatest chance to date of embarking on shipbuilding in real earnest, apparently has been that of coal inspector in New Zealand and other parts of the Empire, and “standing by” while H.M.S. Hood was being built. Honorable members will be interested to learn that the shipyard that EngineerCaptain Sydenham was most closely associated with in Great Britain was that of John Brown and Company, the firm to whom the contract for the cruisers has gone on his advice. It can hardly be owing to exceptional ability and knowledge that the Prime Minister made this gentleman the final arbiter in a matter vital to Australia, because he made a very poor showing in connexion with the inquiry held by LieutenantGeneral Sir John Monash at the request of the Government into the probable cost of building a 10,000-ton cruiser in Austraia. Hp it was who prepared the Commonwealth Naval Board’s estimate of £3,400,000, of which Sir John Monash said -
In my opinion, this is not an estimate at all. It is a mere speculation or surmise, depending entirely for the reliability of the final result upon the accuracy of a series of quite arbitrary assumptions, some of which, at any rate, can be readily shown to be inaccurate. . . One should have no confidence in the result of a calculation based upon a method such as has been here employed. … It emerged clearly that a number of the data and factors -employed by him (Sydenham) could not be accepted as accurate.
After that condemnation, do honorable members consider Captain Sydenham competent to be the adviser of the Government? Yet Mr. Bruce thinks so!
But we must give Captain Sydenham credit for one thing - he seems to have achieved some distinction as a naval contributor to the columns of the Argus, and has illustrated his articles with drawings from the draughting office of the Navy Department. Probably he was trying to justify the salary of £1,400 a year that Australia pays him. At the end of this year Captain Sydenham will leave Australia - for Australia’s good! His time will be finished, and no doubt John Brown and Company will gratefully recollect his action in advising the Commonwealth Government that nearly £5,000,000 of Australian money should be paid to that firm. It is a well-known fact that Admiralty contractors always endeavour to obtain the services of some retired naval engineer, so that when they tender for Admiralty work they may have a man connected with their firm who understands the various corridors which lead to the sanctum sanctorum from which issue contracts for the building of war vessels.
Quite apart from the immediate disadvantages to which I have made reference, the Prime Minister has ignored the most serious aspect of all, that of our future defence. As an island continent” Australia is dependent upon ships, and the wherewithal to build and maintain them - and that means shipyards. No lesson was. so bitterly learned during the Great War as was the dependence of Great Britain upon her mercantile fleet as well as her navy. According to all the experts Australia is uncomfortably close to the next probable war centre. Where would Australia stand if it were attacked by a naval sea power ? Unless we had a naval dockyard in full operation, the necessary repairs to naval ships could not be undertaken, perhaps,, for months, and we know .that delay in the repair of vessels very often is the turning point in decisive naval actions. By having a cruiser built here the Government would have entrenched a vital industry, and when the crisis came, Australia, would have been ready to meet it with the proper dockyard facilities and the trained men to carry out the work. The British Government realizes the importance of providing employment for men skilled in naval construction. One vessel, the
Effingham, is said to have been on the stocks for seven and a half years, so that when the time of trial arrives the necessary staffs will be available for all the work required of them. The Prime Minister surely is not sincere in his assertion that all the experience that the men at Cockatoo Dockyard might have obtained in the construction of a cruiser would be supplied by the work they would do on the seaplane carrier to be built there. That is not correct. The work on the seaplane carrier will not go beyond, if it goes as far as, the experience gained in building the Ferndaleor the Fordsdale. Why then does the Prime Minister attempt this obvious camouflage?
The Government, too, has made another serious blunder in regard to the construction of a floating dock at Walsh Island. In spite of the recommendation of the royal commission on Cockatoo Dock, that a dock of at least 40,000 tons lifting capacity was vital to our defence, the Government has ordered one of only 13,000 tons.
– The Government has not ordered any.
– If that is so, the statement by the Prime Minister about the ordering of a floating dock from Walsh Island is incorrect.
– The Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth would subsidize an order by the State Government.
– In spite of allthe obvious facts I have mentioned, the Government is prepared to sacrifice our shipbuilding industry, our ability to build and maintain our own vessels, and, possibly, our very existence as a nation for the sake of £818,000. This mania of cheapness at any cost - to use a paradox - seems to have been the only thing to appeal to the Government. If Ministers wanted cheapness they might just as logically have placed the order for the cruisers in Germany, or, perhaps, Japan. Had that been done the Prime Minister might have been able to quote a much greater percentage of difference in cost thanhe has done already in comparing the overseas tender with that of Australia. I can show the Prime Minister that he could have saved very much more than the £800,000 of which he boasts. If in his “ cheapness at any cost “ attitude he had given the order to Germany, he would have found that if it costs 100s. to manufacture an article in Germany, the same article costs 175s. to produce in Great Britain. Therefore, instead of spending £5,000,000 in Great Britain the Prime Minister could have had the work done in Germany for a little over £2,750,000, and so have saved quite a lot of money. That is proved by this quotation from the Shipping and Shipbuilding Record of 18th December, 1924 -
Mr. Maurice Denny, at a launch at his firm’s yard in Dunbarton last week, remarked : - “ The sum, in simple arithmetic, showed that if it costs 100s. to manufacture an article in Germany it costs 175s. in Great Britain.”
I do not think that even the Prime Minister will be able to refute that statement. By legislation we have established standards of wages and conditions under which workmen shall operate, aud have provided that if men who are aggrieved do not cease work their complaints can be ventilated in the Arbitration Courts, which are always prepared to record a fair decision. The courts have fixed the wages to be paid to workmen engaged in different branches of industry ; but although the Government have given our workmen the right to go to the Arbitration Courts to secure fair wages and conditions, they send the work out of the country because in their opinion the cost is excessive. Is that a fair deal ? Let me warn the Prime Minister that the workers know that it is not, and that he and his Government will be solely to blame if the army of workless people he has created, driven by hunger and misery, makes retaliation. Let us for one moment consider the crudity as well as the suicidal nature of (a) fixing a compulsory standard of hours and wages for the working man and then sending the work whereby alone these compulsory wages can be paid out of the country because the Government-handicapped producer cannot by reason of his handicap successfully compete with the facilitated efforts of competitors paying half, and in some cases even a quarter, of the obligatory Australian wages for an even greater number of hours; and (b) by way of further example taxing imported auxiliaries the productions of outside specialists, when those auxiliaries are essential to our own firms in competition with European tenders for building ships for Australia, but permitting the European contractor to deliver his competitive ship in Australia with similar auxiliaries in situ, the whole free of all duty. Why should the Prime Minister worry? The workers of the Clyde will have millions of our money while British firms are placing orders for ships to be built in Germany because they will cost less. This is what Sir Newton Moore, a member of the British House of Commons has said -
Australia has again shown herself more British than Britain by placing here her orders for the two cruisers and submarines costing £5,000,000, whereas a British firm has given a £1,000,000 order for five motor ships to Germany.
The London Daily Telegraph in an editorial article dealing with the contract for the Australian cruisers pointed out that “ at least three-quarters of the money which Australia is spending will’ go into the pockets of the British workers,” and it paid a tribute to Australia in placing this large new expenditure. What have the supporters of the Government to say to that. Is this anti-Australian action of the Prime Minister applauded by the Minister for Trade and Customs who stated that he favoured the building of the cruisers in Australia? He issued an official statement on the 2nd April last, declaring that he stood for preference to Australian industries, and saying that where machinery could be manufactured in Australia there would be no interference with the tariff in the interests of the importers. Yet this honorable gentleman sits cheek by jowl with the Prime Minister who deliberately sent work out of this country. What has the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) to say about this? He has been stating that he was in favour of the construction of one at least of the cruisers in Australia. And what has the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) to say about it?
– I have no chance to say anything while the honorable member is here.
– The honorable member for Corio will have a chance, before long, of voting. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) has been running round Sydney talking about what he is going to do for the relief of unemployment. He has told the unemployed that he believes in encouraging Australian industries. We want to know why the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) voted to send this £5,000,000 worth of work out of Australia while thousands of Australian people are walk ing the streets looking for work. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) has been running about saying that he believed in one of these cruisers being built in Australia.. What about the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt)
– He always sticks to his word.
– I believe he will stick to his word. He voted last session against my motion for the construction of’ both cruisers in Australia on the distinct understanding that one of the vessels would be built here. I have no doubt that the honorable member will stand by that opinion, and vote for the censure motion. When the honorable member for Darwin was speaking on. this subject the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) conveyed the idea by an interjection that he favoured the construction of one cruiser in Australia.
– Honorable members on this side will be able to produce the Mansard record of what the honorable member said. All these opinions were expressed in the face of the information contained in the Naval Board’s estimate that the construction of one cruiser locally would cost about £1,000,000 more than its construction abroad. According to the Prime Minister, the difference is £800,000, and actually it is £700,000; but when the estimates showed a difference of £1,000,000 these honorable gentlemen were in favour of one of these cruisers being built in this country. Are they now going back on their avowed principles, and to let it be said that at the crack of the party whip they played traitor to Australia ? If they do, the people of Australia will have something to say to them before long. I conclude with one final appeal to honorable members and the people of the country’ generally to have some confidence in Australia. How can Australia hope to be anything and achieve greatness if the sentiment is continually fostered that we can do nothing for ourselves. Selfconfidence is the greatest salvation of a nation as of an individual. Selfconfidence in Australia will make her a nation. Let us get a little of it. Let us preach it. If we preach confidence in our own country we shall make Australia a nation indeed worthy of the name.
– While the public will probably admire the extraordinary industry of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) in collecting the facts and compiling the statements he has made, it will also be amused at the sorry figure the Opposition has cut in this business. Members of the Opposition find themselves in an extraordinary difficulty on the two matters that are in dispute. There is, first, the question whether there shall be shipbuilding carried out in Australia, and, secondly, there is the question whether there shall be a national defence policy and a naval defence policy. On these questions the Labour party is hopelessly divided, and speaks with two voices.
– Two voices?
– At least two. On the question of defence there is no doubt about the Government’s attitude. It stands for a full naval defence policy for our trade routes, and for effective cooperation with the British Fleet. What is the’ attitude of the Labour party regarding the building of ships in Australia? There is a Labour Government in Western Australia, and last November one of the members of that Government told a deputation from the Metropolitan Council of the Australian Labour party that it would not dream of building, and did not intend to build in Australia, a ship contemplated to replace the Eucla,, because the cost at Cockatoo Dockyard would be twice the cost in England. Mr. J. M. Drew, a Minister, expressed astonishment at ihe difference between the price submitted by an English firm and that submitted by the management of the Cockatoo Island Dockyards, Sydney, for a new vessel to replace the Eucla on the South Coast service. When the deputation was leaving, the secretary of the Metropolitan Council of the Australian Labour party agreed that he did not think any one could expect the work to be done here at the added cost the Minister had mentioned. That is the attitude of the Labour party in Western Australia to shipbuilding in this country. For the time being, the Labour party in the Federal Parliament has adopted another attitude. It has done so because it is in Opposition, and not in control of the Government and responsible for the expenditure of the people’s money. Honorable members opposite find extra ordinary difficulty in -defining their attitude to defence. When this question - the construction of the cruisers - was being debated in the House last year, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) complained most bitterly that only fourteen pacifists were left to vote with him, all the other members of the party having gone out of the House when it came to a decision on the real issue. Every one remembers the treatment meted out by his party to the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) because he insisted that there should be a naval defence policy for Australia. Although there appeared in the forefront of the Governor-General’s Speech a succinct statement of what the Government has done and is prepared to do in the matter of defence, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that there was nothing in the Speech to call for comment, and that no member of the Opposition would speak on it. The members of the Opposition joined with honorable members on this side in thanking the GovernorGeneral If or his Speech, and in saying that they were satisfied with it. Fortunately for those honorable members who said they were going to do nothing, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) made* a speech, and restored their courage. They then realized that they should present some sort of united front on this question, and next morning the censure motion was brought forward. The caucus prevented its members from speaking on the Governor-General’s Speech because of the fear that they would speak in too many different terms.” The motion purports to be founded on statements made by the Prime Minister, and. the actions of the Government. In reply, I say that the Government has acted throughout in good faith, and has done precisely what it said it would do. It is not wasting millions of money, but, on the contrary, is saving hundreds of thousands of pounds, and using the amount saved to increase our naval equipment by providing work in Australia. There are two grounds of attack, the first being that a definite promise was given by the Prime Minister that before a tender waa accepted Parliament would be consulted. No one who listened unbiased to the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and to the reply of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) could doubt that the right honorable the Prime Minister absolutely shattered the case of the Opposition. He showed conclusively that on 5 th September he promised the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that when the Defence Estimates were under consideration, an opportunity for considering this question would be provided, and on the 11th September, he carried out that promise.
– He gave a definite promise that he would do nothing without consulting the House.
– - Let me read what the Prime Minister said on that occasion, the 5th September -
After the tenders have been received the Government will take whatever course it considers best in the interests of Australia.
Later on he said -
I accordingly stated that I would bring forward the Defence Estimates as soon as possible, and, while they were under consideration, I would afford the opportunity for a full discussion of this matter.
– That is not all.
– Then let me continue -
Unfortunately, tho Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) has been taken ill. When I saw that a delay was going to occur that I had not anticipated, I decided to table the report this afternoon. I can assure the honorable member that if the Minister for Defence had not been taken ill, it was my intention to ask the House to postpone consideration of other Estimates, and to give precedence to the Defence Estimates.
The debate which ensued on the 11th and 12th September shows clearly that there was no doubt in the minds of honorable members as to the Prime Minister’s intention. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), in the course of that debate, said, and I believe that the honorable member for Dalley was present at the time - “ No doubt the acceptance or otherwise of the tenders will be decided when Parliament is in recess, and we shall not have an opportunity to express our opinions about what is done.”
– He knew that the Government would trick us.
– Nothing could be more certain than that. Honorable members generally looked upon that debate as finalizing the question; the trend of all the speeches show that.
-Order ! Honorable gentlemen of the Opposition must not attempt to destroy debate in this way. Interjections must cease.
Honorable members again interrupting -
– Order ! I shall name the next honorable member who interjects in defiance of the Chair.
– At a later stage of the debate the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) said -
The Government has wisely and logically decided that it will ascertain what the cost is likely to be before it enters into a contract for the construction of a ship in Australia.
He made it clear that it was the intention of the Government to act when tenders were received) even though Parliament were then in recess. That coincides with the view expressed by the right honorable member for North Sydney. There can be no doubt that honorable members generally realized that the Government would, as the Prime Minister stated, accept full responsibility for its action once the tenders were received. The first part of the motion is, therefore, effectually disposed of, and, in the circumstances, the Leader of the Opposition should withdraw the charge of breach of faith against the Prime Minister and the members of his Cabinet. The Leader of the Opposition was absent from Australia when the debate from which he quoted took place, and should not have allowed himself to have been associated with such a motion as he has moved.
– Unfortunately for the Government, the records contain facts which have not been disputed.
– The whole case of the Opposition rests on an alleged promise by the Prime Minister which the records show was carried out. Last year, when the Government ordered a number of locomotives from Thompson and Company, of Castlemaine, at a price which was over 60 per cent, higher than that at which they could have been obtained from overseas, no objection was raised by the Opposition. Yet, on this occasion, where no different principle is involved, it has thought fit to move a motion of censure. It has been suggested that Parliament should have been summoned in February to consider this matter, but 1 remind honorable members that the tenders were not received until towards the end of March.
– We expected that the Government would honour the promise made.
– The Government has honoured every promise it has given.
– Unfortunately, the records show otherwise.
– Tho second charge which has beon laid against the Government is that it is opposed to the development of Australia. To those who know the facts, such a charge is too ridiculous to be entertained for a moment. If proof were needed of the trulyAustralian spirit of the Government, one has only to consider its defence policy. The Government stands first, last, and all the time for the proper defence of Australia. We say that if we are worthy to hold this country we should be willing to defend it, and, therefore, we have initiated an effective system of defence. The defence policy of the Opposition may be gauged from the fact that it does not want the cruisers to be built at all. Its members would take no measures towards defending the country until enemy soldiers landed on our shores. Moreover, the Government stands for the populating of the country, believing that the greater the population the more employment there will be available, and the better the home market provided for all our products. The efforts of the Government to attract people to fill our empty spaces is proof of its desire to develop Australia along sound lines. Not only have efforts been made to improve the overseas market, but by its endeavours to increase the population of the Commonwealth tho Government has tried to enlarge the home market. In addition, much has been clone to assist secondary industries. Evidence of that is seen in the contract for locomotives, which was given to a firm at Castlemaine, a matter to which I have already referred.
– That was done under pressure.
– Nothing of the sort. We did it because we thought it possible to establish a permanent and efficient industry. Why could not similar action be taken with regard to the build- ing of one or both of the cruisers to that taken by this Government with regard to the construction of locomotives last year and the small ships which were built at Cockatoo Island for the lighthouse service ? It is simply because the Labour party has no defence policy. If we were to order the building of a cruiser in this country, there would probably be no continuity of work in the event of the Ministry going out of office, because the policy of the Opposition is to have no cruisers at all. It would be inadvisable for armament or shipbuilding firms to establish works in Australia unless there was some certainty regarding the defence policy of Australia. It is well known that the planks of the Labour party’s platform do not include efficient naval defence, and therefore there is no incentive to shipbuilders to establish such an industry here. That is the reason why the construction of cruisers cannot be undertaken in Australia in the same way as the building of locomotives. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has, at great length, read extracts from the regulations under the Trade Facilities Act of Great Britain, showing that the British Government is standing behind shipbuilding and other industries. That can be done in the Old Country because the industries there are established and permanent, but, while the Labour party in Australia is hopelessly divided on the subject of defence, it is impossible to establish shipbuilding here on a permanent basis. In 1910 the party opposite set aside £1,000,000 per annum for the establishment of an Australian Navy, but now Labour members do not believe in having any cruisers.
– The honorable member thinks he knows our minds.
– I know how honorable members opposite have voted in this House. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Government nad no coherent policy, but I maintain that, if there is one subject on which this Government is united, it is that of defence. I do not intend to labour the matter, since the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) will be able to reply at a later stage to the figures furnished by the honorable member for Dalley. The records of the House show conclusively that there is no basis, on which to rest the charge of breach of faith on the part of the Prime Minister or the Government, and the record of the Government also indicates that there is no ground whatever for the latter part of the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Watkins) adjourned.
Messages received from the Senate requesting the House of Representatives to resume consideration of the following hills from last session : -
Northern Territory Representation Bill.
Lands Acquisition Bill.
That the consideration ofthe messages be made orders of the day for Wednesday next.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 o’clock p.m. on Wednesday next.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I have just received from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Baldwin, a cablegram giving his reply to a question asked yesterday in the House of Commons, It reads as follows: -
I have come to the conclusion that the existing organization of the Colonial Office is no longer in correspondence with the actual constitutional position in the Empire, and is inadequate to the extent and variety of the work thrown upon it. It fails more particularly to give sufficiently clear recognition to the profound differences between the work of communication and consultation with the selfgoverning partner nations of the British Commonwealth and tho administrative work of controlling and developing the colonies and protectorates, for whose welfare this House is directly responsible. Tho following changes are therefore proposed: - (1) The conduct of affairs with the Dominions will be under a separate new Secretaryship of State for Dominion Affairs with its own Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, who will also act as Chairman of the Overseas Settlement Committee and Permanent Under-Secretary of State. (2) For reasons of practical convenience the new Secretaryship of State will continue to be vested in the same person as the holder of the Secretaryship of State for the Colonies, and tho Department of Dominion Affairs will continue to be housed in. the Colonial Office.
This action by the British Government will be appreciated by the people of Australia. When in England during thelast Imperial Conference I stressed very strongly to the British Government the fact that, by the alteration of their condition, the self-governing parts of the Empire had reached the stage of being independent units within the commonwealth of British nations, and that it was not in consonance with our position that our communications with the British Government should bc made through a Minister whose title was that of Colonial Secretary, for the word “ colony “ did not in any way apply to the great selfgoverning Dominions. I am very glad that the use of this wordas applied to the Dominions will now be discontinued, and that the word “ dominion “ will be substituted for the word “ colony “ in all our future communications with the British Government. I am also glad that the administration of Dominion affairs will now be entirely separated from the administration of the affairs of the colonies of Great Britain.
Questtion resolved in theaffirmative.
House adjourned at 3.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 June 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250612_reps_9_110/>.