13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) tookthe chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
DEATH OF MR. D.C. McGRATH.
Mr. LYONS (Wilmot- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [3 p.m.]. - by leave - It is with very great regret that I inform honorable members of the death, early this morning, of Mr. David Charles McGrath, the representative in this House of the division of Ballarat.
The late honorable gentleman was a member of the Parliament of the State of Victoria continuously from 1904 until 1913, when he was elected to this House as the representative of the division of Ballarat, which he continued to represent up to the time of his death, except for a short period in 1919-20. From January, 1926, until September, 1929, he was a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works, and from November, 1929, until November, 1931, was Chairman of Committees of this House.
The late Mr. McGrath enlisted for active service in the great war, and for two years was a member of the Australian Imperial Force, from which he was discharged on the ground that he was medically unfit for further military service.
During the exceptionally long period of 30 years, the deceased rendered meritorious public service as a member of Parliament. Asall honorable members are aware, he advocated strenuously and earnestly the principles he espoused, and discharged faithfully and ably the duties that devolved upon him. 1. had the privilege of close association with him from the time that I entered this House, and can personally testify to his strong desire and hit earnest endeavour to promote what he believed to bethe best interests of hisfellowmon. I feel his loss very keenly. The critical times through which we have passed and are passing of necessity have givenrise to conflicting views. Many honorable members may disagree with the views which the late honorable member expressed within recent years, but none,I am sure, will differ fromme when I say that ho held those views honestly, and thai he stood up to his principles courageously. Now that the hand of death has beenlaid upon him I feel that wo are united in desiring to express the deepest regret at the loss sustained not only by the district that he represented and the Commonwealth as a whole, but particularly by his widow and family. I have the feeling that the death of our late colleague and friend was hastened by the additional responsibilities which fell upon him, in common with all other public men, in the crisis through which we have been passing. His death is but a further illustration of the strain that is imposed upon those who are engaged in the public life of Australia. The passing of one who was among us so recently, particularly on the eve of the dissolution of Parliament itself, is sincerely to be deplored. I, therefore, move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the dentil of David Charles McGrath, member for Ballaarat in the House of Representatives,places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and the membersof his family in their bereavement.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra) [3.5].- On behalf of the Opposition,I second the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), expressing regret at the death of the honorable member for Bal larat, who within the last few years suffered very greatly in health, yet remained at his post until he wasno longer able to do so.
It is just 30 years and one mouth since I first stoodon a public platform to support the candidature of the late Mr. McGrath. He was one of the most vigorous fighters withwhom I have ever come into contact. During at least 25 or 26 years of his public life, and of my public and semi-public life, we fought many sterling battles together. Immediately he entered the Parliament of Victoria us representative of the country district ofGrenville, with the characteristically breezy vigor with which he had been endowed be attacked strenuously what was then regarded on the gold-fields of Ballarat and district as the evil of leasehold monopolies, which allowed exorbitant royalties to be charged those who prospected for gold, and he continued that fight until eventually reforms were conceded. I join with the Prime Minister and other honorable members in conveying to his widow and family our deepest sympathy in their bereavement.
Mr.GREGORY (Swan)[3.7].- In the absence of my leader (Dr. Earle Page), I express onbehalf of the Country party the deepest regret at the death of our old friend and fellow member, Mr. McGrath. During his long career in the publiclife of this country he was in the vanguard of those who advocated the cause ofthe poor and the oppressed, many of whom will learn of his death with feelings of intense sorrow. That he should have been able to hold for so lengthy a period such a difficult seat to win as that of Bailarat illustrates the high degree of respect that he won from its citizens, a respect equalled by that in which he was held bythemembers of this Parliament. The members of the Country party deeply deplore his passing, and desire to express their sympathy and condolence with his widow and family.
Mr. BEASLEY (West Sydney) [3.8]. - My colleagues and I join with the Prime Minister and other honorable members in expressing regret at the death of the late honorable member for Ballarat, and sympathy with his widow and family. I was closely associated with the late honorable gentleman in this Parliament since 1923, and appreciate to the full the strength of the fight that he waged in support of the views that he held during that period. It is true, as the Prime Minister has said, that some of us strongly disagreed with the attitude that he adopted within recent years. We realize, however, that such situations do arise, and now that he has gone to the great beyond we extend our sympathy to his sorrowing widow and family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to the widow of the late Mr. McGrath the foregoing resolution, and a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.
Mr. Lyons. - As a mark of respect to the memory of the late honorable gentleman, I suggest that the sitting be suspended until 4.15 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 3.10 to4.15 p.m.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Wheat Growers Relief Bill 1934.
River Murray Waters Bill 1934.
War Service Homes (South Australia Agreement) Bill 1934.
Land Tax Assessment Bill, 1934.
Flour Tax Assessment Bill 1934.
Colonial Light Dues Collection Bill 1934.
The following papers were presented : -
Western Australia - The Case for Union - A reply to the Case for the Secession of the State of Western Australia.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 15 of 1934 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia; Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Mundiwindi, Western Australia - for Postal purposes.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1934 - No. 11 - Prisons.
No. 12 - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement).
No. 13 - Liquor.
No. 14 - Evidence.
No. 15 - Legal Practitioners.
No. 16 - District Courts.
No. 17 - Native Administration.
No. 18 - Superannuation.
No. 19 - Insolvency.
No. 20 - Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports).
No. 2.1 - Police Force.
No. 22 - Public Service.
No. 23 - Appropriation (No. 4) 1932-33.
No. 24- Appropriation (No. 2) 1933-34.
No. 25- Supply 1934-35.
No. 26 - Criminal Code Amendment.
No. 27 - Licences.
No. 28 - Stock Brands.
No. 29 - Expropriation.
No. 30 - Diseases of Plants.
No. 31 - Mortgagors Relief.
No. 32 - Divorceand Matrimonial Causes. Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of 1934 -
No. 10 - Mortgagors Relief.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amendedStatutory Rules 1934, No. 86.
Public Service Act - Regulations amendedStatutory Rules 1934, Nos. 83, 84, 85.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me why so much delay has occurred in the publication of the number of unemployed, as revealed in the last census ?
– I candidly admit that I did not know that there had been any delay. I shall make inquiries into the subject.
– I lay on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Onions in their natural state.
Peanuts in the shell.
I move -
That the reports be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The reports tabled by the Minister do not include a report on Oregon. I should like to know what has become of it.
Mr.WHITE. - I have on several occassions informed honorable members that the Government has in hand reports of the Tariff Board on many subjects. Some of these will be dealt with before the House rises, but not all of them.
– When does the Government expect to receive the report of the Tariff Board on the importation of incandescent lamps from the East?
– The report to which the honorable member refers is in the same category as that referred to by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price).
– When may we expect a statement from the Minister for Trade and Customs as to the Government’s intentions regarding the reports tabled today in which alterations of duty have been recommended?
– Alterations of duties are not required in order to give effect to the recommendations contained in any of the reports tabled to-day.
– The report of the Tariff Board dealing with binder twine recommends a reduction of duty from 6s. to 2s. Will no alteration of duty be required to give effect to that recommendation?
– If the honorable member reads the report he will see that the board makes two recommendations, and that the second is in line with the tariff schedule which was passed by this Parliament last year. The policy of the Government is to give effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board, and it is still true that no alteration of duty is required in order to give effect to the Tariff Board’s reports which have been tabled to-day.
– Is the Prime Minister yet prepared to give me any information as to the action the Government proposes to take respecting the wheat industry in relation to price-fixing and so on?
– I have many times assured honorable members that before the House rises I shall make a definite statement of the policy of the Government in this connexion. I can only repeat that assurance.
– Is the Attorney-General in a position to inform me of the progress that has been made with the preparation of the report of the Royal Commission on Petrol ?
– The Government has recently received representations from what may be described as the independent oil supplying concerns, in which complaints have been made regarding what ure referred to as “ excessive reductions in the price of petrol “, for the purpose, it is alleged, of driving these companies out of business, and they have expressed a desire that further inquiry should be made into the subject. A communication has been sent to the chairman of the commission, and I assume that consideration will be given to the desirability of hearing evidence on the matter. I regret to inform honorable members that Mr. John Gunn, a member of the commission, was last night seized with a serious illness, and it is, therefore, difficult to make any definite statement, at this stage, regarding the work of the commission. A considerable portion of the report has already been prepared.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed press reports to the effect that the High Commissioner for Australia in London, and certain other dominion representatives, have agreed to a policy for the restriction of Australian exports of meat into Great Britain as from the 1st July, on the basis of the business done in 1931-32. Was Mr. Bruce acting under directions from the Government. If not, will the Prime Minister deny the reports to which I have referred ?
– I am in a position to deny the reports that the High Commissioner has agreed to the restriction of imports of Australian meat into the United Kingdom. The whole matter is at present the subject of communications between the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, and no agreement has so far been made.
– Has the Government received a message from the British Government embodying fresh proposals for the restriction of Australian meat exports to Great Britain, and if so, what reply has been sent to it?
– As I have already stated, this matter is the subject of negotiation at the present time between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Great Britain. Those engaged in the meat industry may feel confident that the Commonwealth Government will do everything possible to conserve their interests.
– Has the Prime Minister given any consideration to the reports that have appeared in the press from time to time regarding the production of an artificial wool fibre in Germany and the exploitation of it by German manufacturers as a substitute for Australian wool? If so, has he taken any steps to obtain from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, or some other competent authority, a report on the actual quality of the fibre, and the prospects of it successfully competing with Australian wool?
– The Government is making inquiries on the subject through the High Commissioner in London; but I shall be very glad to adopt the honorable member’s suggestion to refer it to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– During last week a communication was forwarded by the then Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) to Mr. Frank Condon, M.L.C.j of South Australia, which gave an assurance that the waterside workers regulations recently introduced at the port of Melbourne would not be applied at the port of Adelaide or other Australian ports at least before the elections. Will the Attorney-General confirm that assurance ?
– The regulations introduced at the port of Melbourne are, to an extent, experimental. It is desired to observe the effect of them at that port to see whether they will be successful in obtaining full co-operation between all sections engaged in the waterside industry, in the interests of the welfare of the industry as a whole. I confirm the assurance already given that it is not the intention of the Government to introduce them at any other Australian port before the election.
– I have received the following telegram from the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia : -
This association views with alarm the Italian restriction of wool imports which is yet another retaliative measure against Australia’s protective policy, and insist? that the recommendations of the Wool Inquiry Committee, particularly in regard to turill reform, bo given effect to.
I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether his attention has been directed to the statement made by the Vice-President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, reported in the Melbourne Herald of the 24th July, in which reference is made to the possibility of our obtaining valuable export trade to Italy in wool, wheat, hides and tallow, if a trade agreement, at all favorable to Italy, could be agreed upon? Does the Government intend to arrange trade treaties with Italy, Belgium and other countries without further delay, so that the markets of those countries will not be closed to Australian exports?
– The vice-president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne is a gentleman who has his own commercial interests to serve. The Commonwealth Government makes its arrangements regarding trade treaties with the authorized representatives of the various countries concerned. The telegram read by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), or one very like it, was read by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) on Thursday last at about midnight. It was replied to by various Ministers, and on Friday I made a full statement indicating what steps had been taken by the Government in regard to the matter, and the difficulties which confronted Australia in making agreements with foreign countries while, at the same time, carrying out its contractual obligations under the Ottawa Agreement. If the honorable member will read in Hansard what I said on that occasion he will find it to be a complete answer to his question, and to the telegram which he has just read.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 (eleven o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of tha session.
Evictions - Administration in South Australia.
– Has the Minister administering War Service Homes yet received a report indicating the number of persons who have had to vacate war service homes during the last twelve months ?
– No, but as soon as the information is available it will be conveyed to the honorable member.
– In view of the fact that the War Service Homes Department is taking over from the State Bank of South Australia the administration of war service homes in that State, will the Minister administering war service homes state whether it is the intention of the Government to set up an office in that State at an early date to deal with this work ?
– As soon as the necessary legislation passed by this Parliament is confirmed by the Parliament of South Australia, a War Service Homes branch will be established in Adelaide, and as far as practicable the. employees will he persons already resident in. the State. In order to ensure continuity of administration a deputy commissioner, and one or two other officers, particularly an accountant, because of the intricacy of the system of accounts, will be appointed. Advertisements will be inserted in the Adelaide newspapers at an early date asking for applications, and preference will be given to returned soldiers. For the junior positions, preference will be given to the children of deceased soldiers, and, if there are not sufficient of these children available, preference will then be given to the children of totally disabled soldiers.
– Is the Assistant Treasurer yet able to explain the discrepancy between his widely-published statement that only £13 had been collected from relatives of pensioners, and the statement of the Prime Minister that collections up to date from this source amounted to £2,486?
– This matter has been ventilated on several previous occasions, and the misunderstanding arose because the honorable member, unintentionally, I am sure, confused two sets of figures. The figures accredited to the Prime Minister dealt with a period of twelve months, or some such considerable time, whereas the figure I mentioned covered a period of only two months, a fact which I thought had been brought out with sufficient clearness by my reply to an earlier question.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a report furnished by the Governor of Fiji, Sir Murchinson Fletcher, to the Fijian Government on the marketing of Fijian bananas in Australia to the effect that, in addition to the adjustment of an overcharge of11d. a case, he had asked that charges amounting to approximately 2s. a case should be remitted, which would reduce the marketing expenses of each case by 3s., thus enabling the fruit to be sold at a profit ? Has the Commonwealth Government given any consideration to this request !
– Last week the honorable member asked whether any change was to be made in the conditions governing the entrance of Fijian bananas into Australia, and the answer was in the negative. The answer to his further question is also in the negative, and I may add that I have not seen the statement to which he refers.
Releaseofthe “ Case for Union “ to the Press.
– Why was the Commonwealth’s reply to the Western Australian case for secession handed to the press before presentation to this House? Will the Prime Minister explain why the report appeared in one section of the Melbourne press yesterday and not in other newspapers?
– I am not aware that any injustice has been done. It was necessary that immediate publication should be given to this report, particularly in Western Australia, and the document was distributed to the press so that it would be available for publication in the morning papers throughout the Commonwealth. The fact that one section of the press in Melbourne obtained a copy in advance is being investigated. It was intended that the morning newspapers should have the document for publication on the same day on which it was released for the information of honorable members.
– I have received from the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The need for further encouragement of the Australian tobacco industry, and the reduction to consumers in the price of tobacco made from the Australian-grown leaf, by increasing the protective duty on imported tobacco leaf by ls. per lb., and decreasing the excise duty by ls. 3d. per lb., on all Australianmade tobacco “.
The suggested motion cannot be allowed, not only because it contains more than one definite subject for discussion, and is therefore in conflict with Standing Order No. 38, but also because it anticipates Order of the Day No. 15, and is therefore in conflict with Standing Order No. 117.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed
That Order of the Day No. 1 be postponed until after Orders of the Day Nos. 2 and 3, Government Business.
– It is desirable that honorable members should be given some idea of the order in which the Government proposes to deal with the business on the noticepaper. Last week a number of changes was made in the order in which the business of the House was dealt with and no objection was taken. But honorable members are entitled to know just where they stand, as Parliament will adjourn this week, so that they may be able to make plans ahead in respect of the matters to be discussed. Will the Prime Minister, before this motion is put to the House, indicate just what items on the business paper the Government intends to proceed with, and what items it proposes to allow to stand over? If honorable members are given some idea of the order in which it is proposed to deal with the business of the House, they will be able to secure the necessary information to debate ths measures intelligently.
– It is proposed to deal first with the Works and Buildings Estimates and then to resume the debate on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill, after which I hope to make a secondreading speech on the Statute Law Revision Bill. The House will then proceed with the consideration of the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill. Measures still to be introduced are: - South Australia Grant Bill Western Australia Grant Bill, Tasmania Grant Bill, a States Grant Bill, dealing with the £2,000,000 which it is proposed to make available to the States and concerning which honorable members already have some information, Invalid and Oldage Pensions Appropriation Bill, War Pensions Appropriation Bill, Defence Equipment Bill, Supplementary Appropriation Bill and a Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill. All these measures are incidental to the completion of the work of Parliament. An Income Tax Bill will also be brought down to impose the rate of tax for the current financial year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c
In Committee of Supply:
Proposed vote. - Parliament, £12,960, agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £15,000.
. -Some time ago the Parliament considered the subject of the development of the fishing industry. I understand that a sum of money was set aside for research work, and a good deal of enthusiasm was displayed by supporters of the Government, the suggestion being made that a large amount of employment would thus be provided. I notice that this vote of £15,000 is proposed for the “ purchase of a vessel for development of fisheries industry.” Will the ship be procured overseas or purchased in Australia?
– Or built here?
– I agree that it would be best to construct the vessel in Australia, and thus provide much needed employment in the ship-building industry.
– The object of the vote is to procure a vessel suitable for exploratory work in regard to pelagic or surface swimming fish. A further vote of £5,000 will be provided for under “ Miscellaneous Services “ for the carrying out of tests. The vessel to be used is of a special type and should not be confused with the Endeavour, in which various experiments were conducted some years ago with regard to semi-demersal, or bottomswimming fish. Plans and specifications have been procured from Britain, Canada and other parts of the world, with a view to, getting the best type of vessel available for the work, and when these have been further considered tenders will be called, the desire being to have the vessel built as expeditiously as possible.
– How does the Government propose to put the scheme in operation ?
– The Commonwealth Fisheries Officer, Mr. Fowler, has visited all the States and is seeking the cooperation of the State authorities in regard to the investigation.
– Will the exploratory work be carried out by the Government?
– That is the proposal.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote. - Department of the Treasury, £1,560, agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £362,300.
– Will any portion of this vote be available for the granting of assistance to the mining industry in the Northern Territory in the erection of batteries and the supplying of water.
– These are not the general Estimates of the department, but apply only to new works, and it is desirable that they be proceeded with as soon as possible, in order to provide employment.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence
Division No. 6 -
– I draw the attention of the committee to the proposed expenditure of £508,500 for naval construction. From a brief reference to this matter in the budget speech and from statements published in the press, one gathers that the Government intends to purchase a new cruiser from Great Britain at a cost of £2,280,000, and the item set down for naval construction is about one-fifth of that amount. Is Australia committed to the purchase of this cruiser, and, if so, on what authority has the expenditure been incurred? It was certainly not on the authority of this Parliament, which is the only tribunal that can give the Government the right to spend any money. If this vote is agreed to, however, the Parliament will be definitely committed to this expenditure without any information having been supplied to honorable members regarding it. The reference to the matter in the budget speech was most meagre, and only a few isolated statements regarding it have appeared in the press. We have been told that the Government intends to purchase the cruiser overseas. In the dying hours of the Parliament and on the eve of the general elections we are asked to agree to this expenditure. It appears to me that contempt is being shown for the new Parliament, and for the people who will create it. A moribund Parliament has no right to commit the next Parliament to an expenditure extending over five years. We have been informed by the press that this vessel is now under construction. Has the Government agreed to purchase it? Is it being built as the result of an arrangement or agreement that has not received the sanction of this Parliament? Surely we have some responsibility in a matter of this magnitude. The Parliament should determine whether there is need for such an expenditure, and if so, whether the money could be spent in a better way, -whether it could be expended in such a way as to provide more adequate or a better kind of defence; and, further, where the defence equipment should be made.
I shall deal first with the need for this expenditure. That is a matter which Parliament ought to consider very seriously, because it involves consideration of the European situation and of Australia’s relation to European affairs. Have we so completely lost faith in the Disarmament Conference that we should increase expenditure to the extent proposed in the general estimates relating to defence? It is questionable whether the building of a new cruiser to replace one that technically has become obsolete is the most adequate means of defending Australia. On this subject the views of experts differ. I have had the privilege of presiding at a defence council, at which are expressed the views of the representatives of the different arms of the Service, and I know that in certain well-informed quarters there is the strong belief and the definite opinion that raids on its vulnerable points constitute the only danger to Australia in time of war, and that shore batteries to repel an invader and aircraft to prevent approach to our shores, would adequately safeguard Australia without the assistance of cruisers. The money expended on a cruiser would purchase many aeroplanes, which, it is believed, would be more effective. I do not speak dogmatically, because I am not an expert ; but I have listened to experts. Their views have not been placed before honorable members on this occasion; we are asked to vote blindly for the expenditure of £2,280,000 to purchase a cruiser abroad.
I take it that this Parliament will not shirk doing whatever is necessary to defend Australia; but it must be satisfied as to the necessity, and that requires consideration. A further view very strongly held, in which I share, is that, to the extent to which defence is necessary, we should concentrate upon purely defensive, nonaggressive equipment that will not be provocative, but will emphasize Australia’s desire to live at peace with the rest of the world.
A further point that I emphasize is that we should consider most seriously where Australia’s defence equipment, including the proposed cruiser, ought to be constructed. We are told that the cruiser is to be purchased from Great Britain. With thousands of Australians unemployed and eking out a miserable existence on sustenance, the placing of this contract overseas is monstrous. There was no justification for similar action when it was taken nine years ago, and there is none now. I stress the point that whatever is needed for the defence of Australia should not ‘be purchased overseas if it can be made in Australia. I know that two contentions will be advanced which were raised in 1925, when two 10,000-ton cruisers were constructed for Australia overseas. The Labour party on that occasion fought to have both constructed in Australia or, failing that, to have at least one built in this country. The reply then was that the cost would be prohibitive, and that too great a delay would be occasioned. My rejoinder to that plea of urgency is that the only engagements in which those vessels have participated are social engagements such as the Melbourne Cup and tha Hobart Regatta. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Bruce, said that it would cost £800,000 more to have one cruiser built in Australia. His comparison waa not a fair one, because he estimated the cost of one built overseas by halving the contract price for the two. But even accepting that estimate, the difference would be considerably less in the case of a 7,000-ton cruiser. The exchange on this purchase will amount to £450,000.
– If the present rate should remain constant.
– It may go either up or down; but that is the official figure, and I am not challenging it. That would go a long way towards wiping out the difference between the cost in Australia and overseas. There is also the saving to the State Treasury in connexion with the provision of sustenance for the men who would be employed on this work. The labour cost in the construction of a cruiser of this type is estimated at round about £750,000, and the cost of local material at approximately £250,000. Expended in Australia, that £1,000,000 would employ directly and indirectly 1,000 men for more than three years. Honorable members can estimate what would be saved in sustenance alone if those men were taken off the unemployed market and given constant employment. There is, in addition, the stimulus that would be given to certain businesses aud trades, the extra revenues that would be derived from customs and excise duties, and the larger income tax returns resulting from the improved incomes of business people. It can be said without exaggeration that, taking all these facts into consideration, the cost of construction in Australia would be cheaper.
I shall quote for the benefit of honorable members a statement that appeared in a leading article in the Melbourne Age last May, which sums up the position so aptly that it is worthy of being placed on record. The statement reads -
In employing ship-builders 12,000 miles away, the Federal Government entirely ignores vital requirements, places Australia in leading strings, shows a sense of inferiority, and belittles the capacity of Australian workmanship and skill.
After all, we all stand for a policy of adequate defence. But what does the adequate defence of Australia involve ? It does not begin and end with the purchase of a few vessels that may cruise around the shores of Australia. It means, first, self-reliance. That does not imply dependence upon overseas for our equipment or replacements. If we are to be a self-reliant community for purposes of either defence or development, we must promote Australia’s basic industries, use our raw materials, of which we have an abundance, train our artisans for great constructional works, and, by constant employment, keep fit our man power, which is the ±nj great safeguard of any country. All theBe essentials have been ignored by this Government, without reference to, or the slightest consideration of the opinions of, this Parliament. The announcement made is that the cruiser is to be purchased, that it is now under construction, and that all we have to do is to pass the first item of the Defence Estimates. We should not be committed to that course.
If this work is necessary, it should be done in Australia. We should be prepared to provide our own equipment. To enable the new Parliament, which, is shortly to be elected - a parliament which, I hope, will be constituted differently from that which is about to expire - to review the whole position in the light of all the facts, I move -
That item No. I of Division No. 6, viz.: - Naval construction, £508,500, be omitted.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has challenged the need for this provision for the defence of Australia. I agree with him that, if honorable members were satisfied that there is no need for such armament, it would be wrong to approve of it.
– I did not say that there is no need, but that we have the right to consider every aspect of the matter.
– I had not the slightest intention to misrepresent the right honorable gentleman. I agree with him that it is for this Parliament to consider the need for what is proposed in these Estimates. But he has moved for the deletion of this item, thus implying that in his view there is no need for the provision of this cruiser.
– I gave as my reason the necessity for consideration being given to the matter by the new Parliament.
– As the right honorable gentleman has given reasons, I am able to deal with his proposition more readily than would have been the case had he left the matter “ in the air “. He has referred to the Disarmament Conference and it is partly on that account that I have risen at the present stage of the debate. I attended the Disarmament Conference for the purpose of representing Australia, and I recall that I left this country in March, 1932. We are now in the month of July, 1934, yet that conference, most unfortunately, has reached no decisions or conclusions. When I left Australia I hoped to take part in a conference that would open up a new era for the world; that the peoples of the world would see that, if only they could remove some of the causes of misappre- hension and mistrust that were separating them, some of which appear to many of us to be artificial and unreal, there would be a chance of mankind being relieved largely of the cost of armaments, the possibility of competition in armaments, and the risk of war which a system of competitive armaments inevitably involves.
– I thought that the last war was to end war !
– There were many who hoped that it would end war. But we have to deal with the world as it is, and not as we would hope it to be. Most unfortunately, other elements have been added lately to the disturbing international conditions, and nations such as the United States of America have had to pay attention even to their internal armaments in order to provide for the security of their own people. Other nations also have had to take similar steps. To-day the nations of the world are in a state of misapprehension and mutual suspicion. I do not wish to say anything that might add to the fears that are entertained; but without exaggerating anything I say that we have to recognize that nations must be prepared to defend themselves and that the Disarmament Conference, at present at all events, cannot be looked to for an immediate alleviation of the position.
The first duty of the Government of any self-respecting country is to see that adequate provision is made for the security of its people. The difficulty is that, with each nation having the same view, and the same right to provide for its defence, there is a risk of armaments being provided on a competitive basis. We can only look for an increasing determination on the part of the people of the world that they will see to it that in taking proper measures for their own protection they do not run the risk of adopting measures which may ultimately result in their destruction. But until there is a further realization of the need for united action to decrease armaments no country can afford to neglect the taking of adequate defensive measures against external attack. I have not abandoned hope that good results will follow from the Disarmament Conference, but I must admit that it has disappointed our expectations. We have, accordingly, to consider the steps to be taken for the proper defence of Australia. I believe that a very large number of our citizens are to-day anxious and nervous about the position.
The Leader of the Opposition has given reasons for his opinion that, whatever might be deemed necessary for defensive purposes, the building of a cruiser is not necessary. I do -not suggest that the right honorable member is not prepared to make provision for defence, according to his own views on the subject. He advanced the opinion that the greatest risk that Australia has to provide against was that of raids. I have had the opportunity to devote a considerable amount of attention to this subject iu Australia and elsewhere, and I know that it is agreed by those who have the technical knowledge and training necessary to express reliable opinions on the subject that warships are a necessary means to afford protection against raids, riot only upon coastal towns, upon which a few shells might be fired, after which the attackers run away again, but also upon commerce. To counter such raids warships are necessary, as well as the provision advocated by the Leader of the Opposition. Some people are very enthusiastic about the value of aeroplanes for defensive purposes, and others advocate very strongly the provision of shore defence. The best opinion of those qualified to speak on the subject is that each of these arms of defence is necessary with a due measure of coordination between them. One of the fundamental dangers in relying wholly upon aircraft or any form of shore defences, however powerful, is that their action is affected, and often vitally affected, by weather conditions. Seacraft are not subject to the same disadvantage. Weather conditions may entirely prevent the utilization of aeroplanes and shore defences. In the case of a fog or a mist, or operations during the night time, aircraft and shore defences may be entirely useless, whereas under such conditions mobile seacraft may be used in order to resist raids. The possession of such seacraft would place the defenders of a country in a much stronger position than they could be in without them. It. must be remembered that attack mav come upon a country and upon its trade routes from hundreds of miles beyond its coasts. The opinion of the high authorities in Great Britain, with whom I have had the opportunity to discuss this subject, is that all three arms of defence are necessary, and that it is unsafe to rely solely upon any one of them.
The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) will deal with what the Leader of thu Opposition has said concerning the relative cost of a cruiser constructed in Australia and one constructed abroad. I wish to make only one observation. Any one who has been on board a modern warship and observed the intricate and complicated mechanism of which it consists must have recognized that a very highly specialized degree of skill is required in its design and construction. I do not think that any one would suggest that we can draw upon such skill in Australia. A warship is completely different from a merchant ship. The electrical wiring alone is extraordinarily complicated, and for its design and installation requires the most specialized skill. The highest degree of naval architectural ability is necessary to design and construct a modern warship, and it is not to be had in Australia. In any case it would take four years to construct such a vessel in this country if the necessary experts were brought from overseas. The cruiser Brisbane became over age in 1932 and if we decide to retain her, and not obtain a new cruiser, Great Britain will be required, under the terms of the existing naval treaty, to scrap a better vessel. By undertaking the obligation to purchase and maintain a vessel such as is now proposed, we shall be keeping the Empire’s naval force at the full strength in cruisers permitted under the existing agreement. I might add that some further naval assistance from Australia to the fleet of the Empire is long overdue if we are to do our fair share. This cruiser will be of the most up-to-date type, and it may be as valuable as the Australia and the Sydney were. I was rather astonished to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that the only engagement that certain Australian warships had taken part in were the Hobart Regatta and the Melbourne Cup.
– That was merely in reply to the urgency argument.
– The man who says that because for the last few years we have not been required to engage in a naval war we can afford to act as though there will never be another naval engagement in which Australia will be concerned, does not realize the position.
– I hope the AttorneyGeneral will not misrepresent my argument.
– Everyone knows that a warship may never be required to go into action. I should be glad indeed if I knew that there would never be another naval action in the history of the world ; but no one can pretend to foresee the future. The fact that in the past some of our vessels have not been required to take part in naval engagementsis no guarantee that our fleet will never again be required to do so. I shall say now something that I have long desired an appropriate opportunity to say. As a citizen of the Commonwealth and a member of this Parliament I have become very tired of the cheap jokes and sneers published in sections of the press and uttered by certain individuals about our fleet always being in the principal cities of Australia at a time when they are filled with visitors from the country because some special event is about to happen. These entirely unworthy jokes about the members of the fleet attending a Regatta or a Cup are to be strongly deprecated. It is a good thing to provide opportunities for the personnel of the fleet to meet as many of our citizens as possible.
– Socially ?
– Yes, socially; and on the flat and the hill as well as on the lawns. The naval service should be made as attractive as possible. We should not attempt to keep the navy away from the people. I should like io give our fellow citizens every opportunity to see the Royal Australian Navy so that they may develop a proper pride in it. I offerno apologies for the practice of arranging for the fleet to visit the ports of the capital cities at special times. I think it is a good thing for both the fleet and the people. I have been in many countries of the world where the people are very proud of their navy, army and air force as the defenders of their rights and liberties. That should be the spirit of Austraia.
Our armaments are for purely defensive purposes. No one can suggest that there is the slightest idea of aggression in the hearts or minds of our people. Our forces should be of such a kind and character as will enable them effectively to discharge their functions if, most unfortunately, it should become necessary for us to defend ourselves. .1 do not think that one member of this House desires armaments for their own sake’. We all deplore the necessity for expenditure of this nature, and could readily suggest other avenues for spending money which would be more desirable in many ways ; but the first duty of the Government and the Parliament is to make provision for the defence of the country. I ask the committee to approve of this item because it is an indication that the Government is recognizing that its primary duty is to defend the Commonwealth. [ also ask honorable members to believe that the best advice available anywhere in the world was obtained before this proposal was formulated.
.- I regret, as I am sure every other honorable member does, that it is necessary to spend a penny on defence, but that does not alter the fact, as stated by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) - and I agree with him - that we are forced to do this. Necessity drives us to incur such expenditure as is essential adequately to defend Australia. I was a member of this House several years ago when it was decided to obtain two cruisers. At that time the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) took the same stand as he is taking to-day. He said that the vessels should be built in Australia. I, likewise, take the same stand as I took then. I regard this expenditure as an insurance premium. It was stated when we were considering the purchase of the two ships to which I have referred that they could be bought for what it would cost to build one cruiser in Australia. The Commonwealth cannot afford to pay twice as much in insurance premiums as is necessary. I pointed out then that if we bought the two ships overseas in preference to building them in Australia we should be able to construct 700 miles of roads in this country with the money that would be saved. The Government is fully justified in buying this vessel overseas, seeing that it can be obtained for little more than half what it would cost to build one in this country.
– That is not so.
– There is no evidence that costs have been reduced to any great extent in Australia. Therefore, I support the proposal of the Government, because our public debt is big enough as it is, and we cannot afford to pay more for defence than is necessary.
Mr. BEASLEY (West Sydney) [5.2GJ. - When considering this subject, the first question that arises is whether the defence of Australia can best be served by warships of this kind; and, secondly, if the vessel is necessary, whether it should be purchased overseas or built in Australia. Although no detailed information has been placed before the House, the Government is evidently convinced that it is necessary to strengthen our Navy by the addition of this cruiser, but that does not deprive the Opposition of its right to examine the Government’s defence policy with the closest scrutiny; and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) is not justified in suggesting that the Opposition, by so doing, is evincing a disregard for the adequate defence of the country. We are also entitled to consider alternative means of defence, including the development of the air arm. I have not gone into the matter myself, but we have been informed that certain foreign countries are conducting experiments for the dissemination of poisonous gases from the air so that not only the enemy 8.military forces, but also the civilian population hundreds of miles behind the fighting line, will be in danger of destruction. We are also entitled to remember that thousands of pounds of public money have been spent in sending delegations from this country to disarmament conferences; and it might not be out of place to recall that, during and after the last war, we were subjected to much propaganda designed to convince us that the war was fought to end war, mid to make the world safe for democracy. The Commonwealth budget for this year provides £19,000,000 for war and repatriation services, and nien who fought in the war are walking the streets looking for employment, while their families are in want. These facts constitute a severe indictment of our civilization, and should make us hang our heads in shame. Nevertheless, in spite of the lessons which we should have learned, but apparently have not, we are now authorizing the expenditure of millions of pounds in preparation for a similar orgy of destruction.
The Government apparently believes that this form of defence is necessary, and that this money should be spent. If we accept this as their policy we are at least entitled to demand that the money for this purpose should be spent in Australia. If it is proposed to devote £2,250,000 to the strengthening of our Navy by the purchase of thiB cruiser the money should be spent in providing employment for Australian workers, and there is not the slightest justification for sending the order overseas. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) marshalled an array of arguments to show that, even from a monetary point of view, it would undoubtedly pay us to have the work done in Australia, as we can readily understand when we consider that it would mean reduced sustenance payments, increased income tax returns, additional tram and railway traffic, and a general stimulation of business activities. Apart from that, however, the outstanding argument in favour of having the vessel built in Australia is that we have here the plant and equipment necessary for doing the work, and the skilled workmen able to carry it out. The Attorney-General said that we had not in this country men capable of doing the work, but that is an unwarrantable reflexion on our skilled tradesmen, who are second to none. I can speak with some authority on this subject, because, for many years, I worked at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and was associated with the building of cruisers, and the refitting of submarines, &c. It is absurd to say that we have not in Australia men able to do this work. The shipworkers in Britain merely work from blue prints in exactly the same way as do the men here. Every skilled worker can read a blue print, in no matter what country he happens to be situated, and he merely does’ his work according to the plan provided. This kind of work has already been done in Australia on other warships, and there is no reason why it cannot be done again. At Cockatoo Island Dockyard there is the most modern equipment for this purpose which cost over £1,000,000 of public money, and the necessary slipways arc already iu existence. All that is necessary is to give the order, and the wheels of industry can be set in motion.
Moreover, it may interest honorable members to know that the Commonwealth Government some years ago sent to Britain many skilled men, including boilermakers, engineers, electrical workers, &c, with the idea of training them to become specialists in this very kind of work. Although thousands of pounds were spent in providing them with the necessary experience and knowledge, now that they are back in Australia there is no work for them, and they are on the dole. When times were better, and when there was some activity in the shipbuilding trade in Australia, many skilled shipworkers came to Australia from the Clyde and other parts of Great Britain, and they are to-day living in my constituency, and in the constituency of Martin, in the Drummoyne district. They have made homes for themselves here, and reared their families and now there is no work for them or their children. It is well known that men trained as ship-builders find it hard to obtain employment in other industries, and that has been particularly the case during the last four years. One can see these men every day lining up at Mort’s Dock and Cockatoo Island Dockyard, carrying their bags of tools in their hands, waiting for a pick-up. They may get a job this week, and not another for three weeks. What will they think when they see, that the work, which means their bread, and butter, and upon which they might be employed, is being sent by this Government overseas?
The next most important point is the need for providing employment for the youths of the country. Shipbuilding, covering as it does, many trades and callings, affords a wonderful opportunity in this direction. Only last month the secretary of the Boiler Makers Union, in a deputation to the Government of New South. Wales, declared that during the previous twelve months only four boys had been apprenticed to the boiler-making trade, no openings being available for othei’3. I suppose inquiries would show that in other trades the number of apprentices indentured during the same period would not be much greater. To-day, parents are crying out for opportunities to place their boys in skilled trades. Whether a boy subsequently follows the trade to which he has been apprenticed is immaterial ; his early training is of immense value to him throughout his lifetime. It develops a trained mind and gives him an advantage. over the unskilled man. It assist in making him a better citizen and in many respects more capable of taking a leading part in the affairs of his country. Shipbuilding, I repeat, offers wonderful opportunities for the employment of boys covering as it does so many spheres of activity. It is work of a specialized nature, and is most interesting. Those who are fortunate enough to be engaged in the electrical side of the industry will find it a very highly skilled and most interesting work. The need to provide employment for our youths is a question which agitates the minds of all public men to-day. No particular party may claim a monopoly in this regard. Every honorable member has given serious consideration to this important subject irrespective of what his politics may be. The Government, therefore, should be prepared to afford every opportunity for the employment of boys in shipbuiding on account of the wonderful opportunities it offers and in order to help towards solving this particular problem.
The Attorney-General spoke of the pride we had in the .Royal Australian Navy, the military and air forces, &c, and said how desirable it was that the fleet should make contact with the public by visiting different Australian capital cities. But. the right honorable gentleman does not exhibit any pride in the ability of -our own people to carry out the work of building that fleet. We must, he says, go overseas to get essential defence equipment. It seems that under some arrangement with the British Government the construction of this cruiser commenced some time ago. I am not desirous of delving deeply into discussions of policy on this matter which took place during the term of office of the last Government, but I am aware that an attempt was made then to influence that Government tq follow the course which is now being taken. However, it definitely refused to place any order overseas when the work, if deemed necessary, could be done in Australia. This position is caused by unemployment having reached acute proportions on the Clyde Bank. The shipyard, employees there have demonstrated against tin? failure of the British. Government vu provide them with work, and they did so in a way with which we are all familiar. At any rate, they made their demands felt, and in order to stem the tide of revolt among these people certain ship-building work was put under way. It appears to me that the construction of this’ cruiser has been portion of that work. Indeed, I should not be surprised to learn that the cruiser on which this money is to be spent is almost completed, being one of the works entered upon by the British Government to relieve the unemployment in the Clyde Dockyards, and at the same time assist the armament firms. While it is certainly the right of the British Government to look after the unemployed in its own country, and while we may have every sympathy with the position of unemployed workers in the ship-building industry in England, we are faced with the same problem in our own country, and we in Australia have every right to view the position from the angle of our own unemployed, particularly as the money will have to be drawn from the taxpayers of Australia.
The points I raise are: - First, that we are not justified in spending such a large sum of money upon a vessel that may not be the form of defence most needed; and, secondly, if the Government is determined to proceed with the work, that it should be done in Australia. I represent a constituency which is seriously affected by the decision of the Government. In Balmain, Drummoyne, and other place.s on the waterfront, the unemployed dockyard employees are now to be found living in circumstances too horrible to describe, and I intend to fight for their rights. The greater the amount of money circulating through the wage fund in our own country the greater the market created for -primary products. The whole community is, therefore, concerned in this expenditure. This is an opportunity to give a fillip to a very deserving industry, for which help is badly needed. Although the Government has already decided upon the manner in which this money is to be spent, and as to the type of defence equipment to be purchased, I make this final plea for consideration to be extended to an Australian industry which is passing through the worst crisis of its history.
– Honorable members who have spoken have made a suggestion that there is no need for the building of a cruiser, but I would remind them that the Brisbane, which this vessel i3 to replace, became over age in 1932. Honorable members have also said that our defence proposals should include provision for defences against raids. The policy of the Government has been to provide for the adequate protection of our coasts. “When this cruiser is completed, our protection against raids will be greater than it has ever been. How better could this be achieved than by the construction of a cruiser which will be the most uptodate of its class. It is expected that the Leander will be in Australian waters in August next year. To supplement our defences against raids, provision has been made for substantial improvements in our coastal defence. In the main ports, Sydney, Newcastle, and others, guns of large calibre will be placed during this year, and the following year. Our forts will be equipped with the latest material for coastal defence. Reference has been made to the need for the provision of an uptodate air service. At no time has Australia been better equipped in this regard. The Government has arranged to import, immediately eighteen Hawker Demons, the latest type of aircraft advised by the British Ministry and our own Air Force officers as being most suitable for Australian conditions. Provision has also been made for the purchase of 24 seaplanes of the Amphibian Seagull Mark 5 type, the latest type now being used by Great Britain.
– The Minister is endeavouring to traverse the whole of the defence programme. If he is permitted to do that, he must expect that other honorable members will desire to avail themselves of the same privilege.
– I ask leave to reply to the remarks of other honorable members. I may add that the Government is taking steps to enlarge and mechanize the army and bring it up to date. We shall do the same thing in regard to munition supplies.
– The Minister is not respecting the request of the Chair. His remarks are wide of the subjectmatter before the Chair, which is expenditure on naval construction.
– This cruiser, the purchase of which is recommended by the Imperial authorities and also our own experts, will meet the needs of modern times. The policy of the Government is to maintain the Royal Australian Navy at a strength which will keep it efficient, and enable it to make .a proper contribution towards the defence of th« Empire. This policy was announced by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) at Sydney on the 25th September, 1933. It was decided in April last to purchase a cruiser of the Leander class in order to replace* the Brisbane, which has been over ago since 1932. If we did not replace that ship the British Government would have to do so, and it would be necessary to render obsolete a much better vessel than the Brisbane. If Australia is to play its part in maintaining the efficiency of the naval defence of the Empire, it is imperative that the Brisbane should be replaced by this new cruiser, which will be called the Sydney. Cruisers of this class are of 7,250 tons. The armament consists of eight 6-inch guns, four anti-aircraft guns, and six 21-inch torpedo tubes. The speed is 32- knots and oil fuel is used in the engines. The machinery includes Parsons-geared turbines and four screws. The 6-inch guns are in four turrets and are of an entirely new model. The new cruiser will be the most up-to-date vessel, of the kind afloat. Its length will be 564$ feet, the beam 55 feet 2 inches, and the mean draught 16 feet.
The approximate cost of building the vessel in Great Britain will be £1,800,000, and, with about £450,000 added for exchange, the total C03t will amount to £2,250,000. The Government considered whether such a cruiser could be built in Australia; but if it had been decided to carry out a work of this magnitude in this country the task would have resolved itself into one of merely assembling the vessel in Australia, instead of building it here. The plant for rolling steel plates of the requisite tensile strength is not available locally, and no firm or company could be expected to erect such a plant because the necessary plates could bc rolled in about three weeks, and the plant -would then be idle until another cruiser had to bc constructed. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) stated that all the plant necessary for the construction of the cruiser was already in Australia, but that is not the case. In any event, nearly half the expenditure would have to be incurred in Great. Britain, for it would be necessary to place orders there for the armament, the auxiliary machinery and other special materials and equipment not manufactured in Australia. To build a vessel of the Leander class in Australia it would bc necessary to obtain an expert staff from Great Britain to carry out the work of assembling the machinery and special equipment which would have to be obtained overseas. It was estimated that four years would be occupied in constructing the vessel in Australia. The Brisbane should have been replaced two years ago.
– What is the estimate of the cost of doing the work in Australia ? ‘
– About, twice as much as in Great. Britain.
– When will the new vessel bo delivered ?
– The Government believes that it will be in commission by August, 1935.
– From what source were the estimates obtained, and what is the estimated cost of constructing the vessel in Australia ?
– If it could be constructed in Australia it would cost over £3,000,000,. compared with £1,800,000 in
Great Britain. That estimate has been prepared by the department, after consul- tation with the British naval authorities and, as I said before, it would be mainly assembling the cruiser here.
– Since the Government is so fond of appointing royal commissions it is high time another commission inquired into this matter.
– Honorable members should not lose sight of the fact that the Royal Australian Navy is an integral part of the British Navy, and it is imperative that it should be kept thoroughly up-to-date in order that it may be an efficient unit in the scheme of0 Empire defence.
The Government entirely agrees thai it is necessary to do everything possible to encourage the building of ships in Australia, and is in entire sympathy with the necessity for providing as much employment as possible, lt has already placed an order for the construction of a sloop at Cockatoo Island dockyard at a cost of £250,000, and this year the building of a second sloop at a similar cost will be commenced. When the Brisbane was _ built, it could have been purchased in Great Britain for less than £400,000. As I have already indicated, we have neither the skilled workmen with the special experience nor the necessary plant that would be required to enable a cruiser of the Leander type to be built in Australia. The highest naval experts have urged the Government to purchase a vessel of this class. When the Government entered into an agreement with the company now leasing the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, it was losing £60,000 per annum there, and a grant of that amount had to be made annually to make up for that loss. At that time 350 men were employed at tho works. The number at present employed on the sloop is 150.
– That is not so.
– The information was obtained at 1 p.m. to-day from the management of the dockyard. The greatest number that will be employed during the period of the construction of the first sloop will be 350, which is as many as were engaged when the yard was handed over to the private company.
When the order for the second sloop is placed there, an additional 150 men will be employed, and within from six to nine months the number working on the sloops will be 650, bringing the total number of employees at Cockatoo Island to 1,000. The Government also has under consideration the construction of a patrol vessel for duty in the northern waters of Australia, involving the employment of an additional 50hands, and of two other patrol vessels which, if proceeded with, would provide employment for another 120 men, raising to 1,120 the number of men engaged at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, an increase of 770 men due to work given to that establishment by the Government within recent years. I quote these figures as definite evidence of the desire of the Government to do everything possible to promote employment and to assist the ship-building industry in Australia. Further, such units of the fleet as need attention will receive it at the island or elsewhere the effect being to supplement the figures I have given.
I submit that I have completely answered the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) for the deletion of the vote for the first instalment on the cruiser and I therefore ask the committee to agree to the proposed vote.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). If I understood the right honorable gentleman, his objection to the proposal of the Government is that the present Parliament should not be rushed into the expenditure of £500,000, which is only the first instalment of an ultimate expenditure of £2,280,000, but that the people of Australia should be allowed to consider the question thoroughly and that it should be decided by the Parliament that is shortly to be elected. Those who have read what has been written on the subject must recognize that all over the world experts differ as to which is the best arm of defence. Some writers claim that reliance should be placed on large warships and cruisers, while others advocate pocket cruisers and small ships. Having read what has been written by the leading British writers, one cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that those who are behind the agitation for the building up of armaments are the agents of the scoundrels who are associated with armamentmaking firms. , Sir Philip Gibbs and other writers are daily warning the people that they are being rushed into fanatical preparations for war by agents of armaments firms, who are robbing the people of every country. A consideration of the history of Australia in connexion with naval defence during the last 24 years will show that the political party of which the Government is the mouthpiece was absolutely opposed to the original proposal to build an Australian navy. The Fisher Government fought two elections on the question whether Australia should begin -to stand on its own feet and make preparations for its own defence rather than to make a donation to the cost of the British naval programme. That Government decided that Australia should not be left to the mercy of the outside world, but should build its own warships and other equipment for defence purposes. It encouraged the making of steel by subsidizing persons who came to Australia to open up the iron-ore deposits of this country. It further lent its support to the establishment of a rolling plant in Newcastle, which the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) says that Australia has never had. Ships’ plates have been rolled in Newcastle for the last 20 years.
– Not the sort required for this vessel.
– More than one war vessel has been built in Australia. During the last war, 90 per cent. of the assistance rendered by Australia to warlike operations overseas was prpvided by men and equipment introduced after the conflict started, without any preparation or special training, yet this nation, mentally and physically, was efficient enough not only to take its place in the ranks of the combatants, but also to supply a large number of mechanics to assist in munition work in England. All the reports received from over-seas stated that the equipment of the Australian soldiers was equal to the best in the field. We made all our small arms and uniforms, and some of our ammunition. The Minister has suggested that we have made no progress since that time, and that we should not try to increase our efficiency.
– I have never said that.
– The honorable gentleman said that we have not the men, the equipment, the plant, or anything else.
– For building this vessel.
– It is not a question of this vessel only; it would not save Australia from invasion.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– There is no need immediately to approve of the first payment of £500,000 towards the £2,225,000 which this vessel is to cost, though it is perhapsnotunfairtoassumethatthe Governmenthasalreadyinvolveditselfto some extent without consulting this Parliament. I do not question the view that adequate defence is necessary for Australia - that is a matter upon which there may be a difference of opinion - but we should not be asked, in the dying hours of this Parliament, to approve of an expenditure of this magnitude without having had submitted to us a fully considered defence policy. The majority of the people of Australia would, doubtless, wish adequate steps to be taken to provide for the proper defence of this country, but they would not wish money to be expended in a way that might be interpreted as being aggressive rather than defensive. The purchase of a ship of the class now under consideration might be interpreted in that way. It is difficult, of course, for laymen to discuss these subjects. We are more or less dependent upon the opinions expressed day by day by the naval and military experts, but I do not think that any expert would deny the statement that a warship which is up-to-date this month is partially obsolete next month.
I suggest that the Government would act decently if it postponed consideration of this subject and left the way clear for the new Government, which necessarily will have to meet Parliament within a few months, to submit a really comprehensive defence scheme. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the electors should be allowed to express their view on this proposed expenditure. My view is that the surest, best and most permanent foundation on which to build the defence of Australia is the improvement of the mental, technical and physical condition of the people. In the last four or five years our standards have undoubtedly been reduced, though I do not say that this reduction has been brought about deliberately. I suppose no one would deny that the mentality of our people has been impaired because of the depression; that their technical knowledge has suffered because of the existence of so many unemployed people for such long periods, and that their general physical standards have deteriorated because of the maintenance of thousands of people upon the dole.
– How would it be possible to obtain an expression of opinion from the people during an election campaign on the proposal to obtain this ship?
– I have no doubt that one of the outstanding issues at the election will be the defence of Australia. The people will determine whether our defence policy should be developed principally within the Commonwealth, rather than linked as closely as some honorable gentlemen opposite desire it to be with the defence policies of other parts of the Empire. As far as practicable our defence equipment of every description should be 100 per cent. Australian.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has frequently asked us to specify public works upon which our people could be employed. If we assume that a warship of the type now under consideration is necessary - personally I do not think that it is - our people could be employed upon the construction of it. It would be better for the Government to spend this money in Australia, if it has to be spent, than to send it overseas. We have the tradesmen here who could turn out this job. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) may not have intended to reflect adversely upon the technical knowledge of our people, but he certainly did so. During the Great War, many artisans were sent from all parts of Australia to Great Britain to work in the munition factories of the Old Country. Our university professors were also drawn upon to join forces with the scientists of Great Britain to try to evolve defence against methods of defying the gases used by the Germans during the war, and Professor Osborne, of the Melbourne University, actually evolved a method of using charcoal to afford a certain measure of immunity from poison gas. I resent the suggestion that we have insufficient technical knowledge in Australia.
– All that was said was that we had not sufficient technical knowledge of this type of work.
– Warships have been built, manned and launched in Australia before now, and I have no doubt that we could do better work now than we did then.
– Were those ships built or only assembled here ?
– They were built here.
– Were the plates rolled here?
– Yes ; except for certain of the heaviest plates. We had not the plant to roll them.
– And we are still without it.
– I contend that we should get it. If we are properly to defend this country, we must take care to provide adequate plant and machinery to enable us to supply all our needs. We should not be dependent upon outside agencies for shipbuilding or any other essential defence requirements. Years ago we established ship-building yards and other national workshops here which were intended as the foundation for an adequate scheme of defence; but the political party which was the forerunner of that to which honorable members opposite belong gave away or sold that plant, or in other ways alienated it from the service of the nation. We should remember that the majority of the men who go to make up the 20 per cent. of unemployment which the Commonwealth Statistician has recently reported to exist, are of the class that would be employed on the building of warships. Mechanics, engineers, blacksmiths, electricians, and, in fact, persons engaged in every section of the metal trade, form a considerable proportion of the unemployed recorded by the Commonwealth Statistician, and the Government should have regard to the interests of these men. If it must have this cruiser it should build it in Australia.
I againask, however, that the whole matter be left for consideration by the incoming government. The present Government has no right, in its dying hours, to saddle a debt of £1,750,000 on the incoming government, for I repeat that this bill provides for the payment of only. £500,000 of the £2,250.000 that the vessel is to cost.
– I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) this afternoon go so far counter to the policy which, hitherto, has been the proud boast of the Labour party. I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that the addition of this warship was not necessary to the floating defences of Australia. No one in the world can point a finger of scorn at Great Britain for the part she has taken, particularly during the last few years, in the effort to achieve the fullest possible measure of disarmament. The chairman of the Disarmament Conference, Mr. Arthur Henderson, has been a shining light in the world of unrest, and it is a matter of very great regret to all right-thinking people that, in spite of his valiant efforts, he ‘has not been able to bring to fruition through the Disarmament Conference some of the suggestions he has made. Although the conference has failed for the time being, we all hope that the failure is only temporary, and that before long it will renew its endeavours to bring some reasonable measure of peace and security out of the insanity that is at present shaking the world. So long as, there was a possibility that the Disarmament Conference would achieve some beneficial results, Great Britain purposely took no part in the armaments race. Consequently her armaments reached such a serious state of disrepair as to imperil both her own existence and that of the outlying parts of the Empire. I wish to quote briefly some remarks made at the Navy dinner at the Press Club, London, on the 28th April last by AdmiralSir Reginald Tyrwhitt, Commander-in-Chief at theNore, who is a renowned authority on his subject. He is reported as follows : -
We are short of men and ships, and there is not a bob in the locker. The navy is as efficient as possible, though I wish that there were much more of it. We want cruisers. A third of the present number is obsolete. The total is less than Lord Jellicoe had in the North Sea, apart from the CO which were hunting -German ships in the South Sea3. The next war will not last four years, and probably there will bc no time to build ships. We shall be done if we cannot protect the trade routes through which we breathe. - *
That puts in the concise words of a sailor the position of the British Navy throughout the world. A Labour government in 1911 determined that Australia should take its share in providing for local defence, and it was decided to build one battle-cruiser, four cruisers and six destroyers. What the battle-cruiser did for the protection of Australia during the early part of the war in 1914 cannot be estimated in money. There is no doubt whatever that had it not been in the vicinity of Australia, the capital city of Sydney, certainly, and the industrial city of Newcastle, probably, would have been very considerably altered in shape. They would have been blown to bits, many of their citizens would have been killed, the coastal shipping trade on which our seamen depend for a livelihood, and which is so important to interstate trade, would have ceased to move, and stagnation would have overtaken industry throughout the country.
No one who has watched world events during recent months can- feel content with the trend of affairs. In fact, during the last fortnight, there was every possibility of further trouble in Europe, and I was much impressed, when reading cablegrams from Paris, Berlin and other capital cities of Europe, to observe that the governments of continental nations were waiting to see what attitude Great Britain would take up with regard to the affair. I believe that we must thank the steadiness and stability and love of peace of Great Britain for saving the world from what might have been another European cataclysm.
The progress of the disarmament policy begun by Britain five years ago is best illustrated by quoting figures in relation to her air force. At the end of the war Britain led the world in air armaments; now she occupies not better than fifth T,l:ice. while some say that hers is only seventh among the air forces of the world. Practically the same retrogression has taken place in her army and navy as in her air force. While Great Britain has been disarming, and reducing not only her floating armaments but her air and land forces as well, other nations have refused to follow the lead, and have been actually increasing their armaments. According to the British Navy estimates, Britain’s expenditure on her navy in 1925 was £60,000,000, whereas in 1932 it had dropped to £50,200,000. Now, because of the failure of the Disarmament Conference, the estimate for 1934 has been increased to £56,500,000. The personnel for manning -the ships upon which she and we rely for our safety dropped from 100,000 in 1925, to an estimated 92,000 for 1934. Other nations, however - and I refer especially to the United States of America, France and Japan - have increased the number of their fighting ships, and of the men who man them. Thus the British Empire, alone among the nations of the world, has been doing its best to disarm, and has practically disarmed, while other nations have been increasing their armaments, and the international situation has become increasingly touchy.
– The other nations would not follow our example.
– That is so. When our Attorney-General attended the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, he said that Australia had disarmed, but that did not influence the other nations of the world to follow our example, or that of Britain, which was also reducing its armaments.
Some honorable members seem to think that it will be the duty of our cruisers to lie off Sydney Harbour or at Newcastle, and perhaps make occasional cruises between Botany Bay and the Nobbies, the idea being to protect our cities from raids. That is an erroneous impression. The primary role of cruisers is police work; to protect the floating trade of the Empire, and to look after those goods and commodities which we, for our existence, need to import or export. It is useless to say that we as a nation can be self-contained. Most of us even in this House are tea drinkers, and most of us use soap. Tea is not produced in Australia, and neither are the ingredients used in the making of soap. Those are two extreme examples, but they serve to show that we must import some goods. We must also export in order to do our share towards feeding Britain during times of stress. Otherwise we shall be left a very lonely continent without adequate protection at sea.
The battle-cruiser we had in 1911 was scrapped in accordance with the terms of an agreement entered into between the four great maritime nations of the world to reduce excessive armaments. When the vessel was practically at the end of her useful life she was sunk outside Sydney Heads. In accordance with that same agreement we have kept the remaining cruisers in commission for longer periods than would otherwise have been the case, but we are permitted to replace them up to a permissible limit at the expiration of their allegedly useful lives. Therefore, the replacement now contemplated is in accordance with international agreement, and we propose to replace a cruiser which has the unenviable distinction of being the oldest in toe British Navy, and the sole remaining coal burner. It would be inhuman to send men into action in that ship, because she has not the armour, nor the speed, nor the gun power to render her a match for the enemy vessels she would be likely to encounter. The Labour party, which initiated the defence policy of this country, should find no difficulty in supporting the Government’s present proposal. Members of the Labour party should be able to say, “We quite agree with what you are doing. We have a plank in our platform to the effect that we believe in the adequate defence of Australia, and we wholeheartedly join with you in supporting the proposal that a new cruiser should be added to our floating defence forces “.
– They have slipped back a long way since 1911.
– They have. Some people state that the purpose of our cruisers is to repel raids. I should like to correct that idea. Raids on cities are not usually made by ships if there is any possibility of their being opposed by land defences. In the first place, the attacking cruiser is very expensive, and only a limited number of them is available. Cruisers carry only a limited amount of ammunition, which, if used in attacking an enemy town, is not available for repelling enemy ships should any be encountered on the way home. It is far better to seek out the enemy wherever he may be, and prevent him from attacking you. We, however, have not a sufficiently strong naval force in these waters to pursue those tactics, so that the most we can do is to use our cruisers to prevent commerce raiders, such as the Emden, Konigsberg, Wolff, and Moewe of the last war, from attacking our sea-borne trade. In order to run down such raiders, cruisers of the latest type will be needed, because the commerce raiders of the future will be both fast and well armed.
I deprecate the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that we should take measures to find out what the people of this country want in the way of armaments. I am convinced that there is a growing desire among the people of Australia for the provision of adequate defence forces such as we have not had since Labour “ broke “ defence in 3929. We have been left defenceless, and at the mercy of the nations of the world, our only, satisfaction being that Groat Britain would undoubtedly do her best with her own depleted forces to help one of her children in, time of need. We are in the habit of saying that we are in a position to look after ourselves, and yet we have leaned on Great Britain over a period of years, and have failed to do our share in providing for the defence of the country. In actual fact, the defence vote for some years now has amounted to only half what is spent each year on spirituous liquors in Australia, only onethird of what i3 spent on beer, and very little more than one-third of what is spent on tobacco.
– It amounts to less than the cost of a wireless licence per head of population.
– I am confident that when these facts are placed fairly before the public, they will not fail to back up the Government’s defence programme.
Honorable members of the Opposition have said that this cruiser should be built in Australia. As an Australian, I favour giving every pennyworth of work possible to Australians, but I do not believe that it would be wisein this case to do as honorable members suggest. It is true that we have assembled a cruiser in this country previously, but we have not the plant, despite what honorable members say, for rolling the necessary parts of the hull and frame. Further than that, we have not in this country the necessary shops to turn out the intricate machinery, which would be required only once every five years, and which is available overseas. The work which has been done on cruisers at Cockatoo Island Dockyard has been firstclass work. Also, the work done on the seaplane carrier, Albatross, has been excellent; but how much of the construction of that vessel was really Australian work ? I think it can be definitely stated that as much as two-thirds of the material was imported as well as most of the machinery. There is no doubt that this ship could be assembled here, but it is a matter of time. Thegreater part of the useful life of the Brisbane was spent in the safety of Cockatoo Island Dockyard owing to the length of time occupied in building it, whereas the cruiser of the Leander class is expected to be here by August next.
– Then it has already been laid down and must be nearly completed ?
– That has been admitted. It was being built for the British Government, but Great Britain is allowing us to purchase’ it at cost price because of the parlous condition of the Australian Navy. Instead of criticizing the action of the British Government, we should be grateful for this concession. I am not to be understood as criticizing the facilities which exist in Australia for the carrying out of this highly specialized work. I am desirous that as much work should be done in Australia as it is possible to provide, but actually in the construction of a vessel of this type the labour cost is not so great as has been stated. For instance, the estimates of the cost of construction of ten ships of the God class, to which the Leander belongs, show that about one-fifth of the expenditure was absorbed in labour costs. Even the British naval dockyards are not capable of making all the intricate machinery required in the construction of these ships. They are not equipped with all the facilities for turning out big turbines. Machines vary in design so rapidly that it is not economically Bound for any particular dockyard to manufacture them. Accordingly, they are supplied by private contractors. Australia is fortunate in that the Government being fully seised of the necessity to safeguard Australia and Australianborne trade by the purchase of this vessel has taken this step without waiting for the election, and I am surprised at the way in which the Labour party has gone back on its original intention to provide adequate defence for the Commonwealth.
.- The speeches delivered by honorable members opposite on this proposal are typical of those delivered by them on a number of previous occasions. We have listened to their proposal to take off the hands of the British Government a cruiser of the Leander class and thereby relieve Great Britain of the responsibility for its maintenance. We have heard their suggestion that we should be thankful to Britain for this opportunity. The next war - and there will be other wars - may find another nation opposed to us equipped with armaments manufactured out of materials obtained from Broken Hill, Newcastle, and elsewhere; and our soldiers may be facing bullets which have been supplied from the same source, because the international armament ring will sell wherever it can obtain a profit. Great Britain would just as readily sell a cruiser to Japan. It cannot be denied that Great Britain has gained more from wars of aggression than has any other nation.
– If you, Mr. Chairman, are allowing other honorable members to discuss-
– Order !
– Honorable members do not get a fair deal-
– If the honorable member will not discuss the question before the Chair he will not be allowed to proceed.
– You allowed other honorable members-
– Order ! The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is out of order. I remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that if he is deliberately offensive to the Chair, I shall have to take further action.
– The point I am discussing is whether Australia should proceed with the purchase of this cruiser from the British Government, and it has been suggested that we should be thankful to the British Government for providing this vessel at cost price. That being so, it is only fair that we should bo permitted to analyse the position, and ask ourselves whether the Australian Government or the British Government lias reason to congratulate itself on this transaction. We have all heard about the necessity for the preservation of world peace, and at. i he same time a good deal about the professional soldier and professional sailor.
– Order ! The honorable member is departing from the direction of the Chair.
– It is quite true, as the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) has interjected, that I cannot help honorable members opposite. All that I can do is to tell them something. I cannot supply them with the brains to understand what I am telling them.
– Order ! If the honorable member will not confine his remarks to the question before the Chair I shall not allow him to proceed.
– I am merely applying defence measures against the continual interjections of members of the Government.
– I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to resume his seat-
.- I support the amendment. The idea that we cannot build this cruiser in Australia is to be deprecated. It has been said to-night during this discussion, that we have not the skilled artisans to carry out this work, and that we should have to bring men from abroad if the work were to be carried out in Australia. We have done similar work before. Men have been trained in this work and, as has been stated, they are now out of employment, and becausethe shipyards remain idle, many of them are on the dole. It has been said that weare unable, to roll plates in Australia,, but I ask what encouragement is given tothe big works in this country to engage in shipbuilding activities. Only recently in. my electorate £750,000 has been expended in laying down a plate mill. During the war the Newcastle Steel Works sent large, quantities of rails to the front, and thehead of the Inventions Board in England was an Australian from the Newcastledistrict. Yet it is said that Australians are helpless. If we were embroiled in another war, honorable members opposite say that Australia would he helpless. I say that there is nothing we cannot make in Australia, least of all a warship. When the last two cruisers were bought in England, exactly the same arguments were us.ed as we have heard tonight, that there was no time to waste. What was the result? Within 24 hoursafter the arrival of the cruisers in Australia, one of them had to be fitted with a new funnel. That is an example of what happens when work is carried out in Great Britain which could provide employment in this country. I hope that the Government will abandon this proposal until the new Parliament is elected, and that in the meantime the matter will be inquired into. I do not intend to go into the question as to whether cruisers are needed for the defence of Australia. My idea of adequate defence lies in the development of aerial defence. What was the position in regard to our own vessel, the Australia”1. I had the pleasure of lunching with the Admiral of the fleet, who said that it was the best vessel he had ever had under his command. Yet two years later it was sunk outside Sydney Heads because it was said to have outlived its usefulness. Consideration of the matter should be postponed until the new Parliament assembles.
.- If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had moved that the proposed vote be reduced by £1, as an intimation to the Government that in the opinion of the committee the cruiser should be built in
Australia, one could not have taken strong objection to the course followed by him; but, if his amendment were agreed to, no effort would be made to give Australia efficient naval defence. According to the expert advice received, some expenditure to ensure better naval protection is required, and a suitable vessel can be procured from Great Britain for about £1,000,000 less than the amount that would have to be expended if it were built in Australia. Machinery suitable for rolling the requisite steel plates is not obtainable in this country, and most of the armament and special equipment would have to be imported from Britain. Surely it » is preferable to save that £1,000,000, and spend it in developing Australian industries. Some time ago, the Tariff Board investigated the cost of building in Australia steamers exceeding 1,000 tons register, and it stated in its report that a duty of at least 75 per cent, would be necessary to ensure that any considerable proportion of this work would be done in Australian dockyards. When Mr. M. Charlton, formerly Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament, was Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, that body made an exhaustive report regarding the conditions then obtaining at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and it showed the impossibility of carrying out work there at a reasonable cost.
All the naval experts, I understand, agree that the cost of building a cruiser of the Leander class in Australia would be excessive, and that great delay would occur in its construction. Every effort should be made to bring about disarmament; but, when other nations are strengthening their armaments, it would be madness on our part, if we failed to afford adequate protection for our people.
.- Even if the contention of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that acceptance of the amendment would result in no cruiser being obtained, I should still vote for it. The sum of £2,250,000 could be put to bettor use than in the purchase of a ship, the life of which is determined by the experts who recommend its construction. They make a business of recommending the building of new cruisers and of condemning them almost as soon as they have left the slips. The
Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) said that the Brisbane has been obsolete since 1932, and that a new cruiser is required in order to bring the Royal Australian Navy up to date. Yet side by side with this new cruiser will be a flotilla of destroyers which, although recently brought from Great Britain, wore admittedly sixteen years old. It was reported in the press that these vessels were so ill equipped that, during the manoeuvres at Portsmouth, they were unable to put to sea owing to rough weather. It was admitted that their useful life did not exceed a further five years, during which the cost of their maintenance would total £40,000 each. In other words, Australia was to pay. during a period of five years, £1,000,000 for obsolete destroyers for which the British Government had no use !
It has been said that no ship-building yard in Australia is capable of building a cruiser of the type required; but it has been proved that Australian yards can build not only larger cruisers than this one, but also merchant vessels. At one period the Commonwealth Government incurred considerable expense in sending artisans to Great Britain to study all features of naval construction, and upon their return most of them were kept in employment at Cockatoo Island. Since that time, those skilled workmen have been dispersed, and difficulty probably would be experienced in re-assembling them. Nevertheless, the training they received enabled the Government to build cruisers at Cockatoo Island. The Assistant Minister “claimed that the plant necessary for rolling the requisite steel plates would be operated for only three weeks, and would then be thrown- idle until another cruiser had to be built. But would not that position obtain in any overseas shipbuilding yard? Ship construction will have to bc undertaken in Australia at some time. Thousands of men who arc walking the streets in the capita] cities are willing and able to do work of this kind, and even if the cost of constructing a cruiser would be greater in Australia than in Great Britain, that is no good reason why the work should not be undertaken here, having regard to the large amount of employment that would be made available. A large number of youths who are now unable to find employment in trades could be absorbed.
The Assistant Minister has repeated mis-statements made on the advice pf the management of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard as to the amount of labour provided there when the works were handed over to the private company.
– I obtained the information at 1 o’clock to-day.
– I challenge not the Minister’s sincerity in the matter, but the accuracy of the information supplied to him. He repeats the statement that when the dockyard was handed over to the private company the number of men employed there was 350; but I inform him that when the negotiations for the transfer of the dock to private enterprise were completed, tho number of men on the payroll qf the Government was 470. Between the time when the Government decided to abandon the dock and when the company took it over, the personnel was reduced from 470 to 350; so, on the Minister’s own admission, from the point of view of employment the position is not one whit better than when the Government passed the control of the dock over to the private company. If the Minister telephoned the company to-morrow he might find that 600, or even 800, men were engaged there; but about 250 or more of them would be painters and dockers whose work may last for only four or five hours. The Minister has made much of the fact that the Government, by the building of a sloop at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, is providing work for the unemployed, yet the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) recently informed mc, in reply to a question, that this job had been given to the private company, without the formality of calling for tenders being observed, not for the purpose of creating work, but in order to conform with the contract made with the company when the dock was leased to it. The Government is bound to give the company £40,000 worth of work every year, and that is the reason why it was called upon to construct the sloop. In the first place, the Prime Minister stated that the company was not required to tender for the work, because the Government desired to give it work in conformity with its contract, but now the Assistant Minister for Defence states that the company has received this job for the specific purpose of keeping work in Australia. The honorable gentleman repeated the mis-statement that he had previously made, doubtless on information supplied to him by the management of the island, that 150 men are engaged on the sloop. The fact is that only approximately 100 men are employed on this work, and that after ordinary hours they are given other repair work to carry out. A limited number of them have been working until 9 p.m. on week days, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays. When I asked the Prime Minister whether he would make representations to the management to have the work so distributed on a fulltime basis that those who are walking the streets looking for employment would benefit from it, the right honorable gentleman said that he was not inclined to interfere with the management, which should be allowed to carry out the contract as it thought fit. It will be apparent that the maximum amount of employment has not been provided by the management of the island on this sloop.
The sponsors of the Government’s proposal contend that the construction of this cruiser cannot be undertaken at the island, and when it is demonstrated that similar work has been done there in the past they retreat behind the fact that special plant would have to be brought to Australia. Surely it would be preferable for expenditure on such plant to be incurred, and this work to be done, when thousands of men are looking for work, than to delay its installation until conditions improve and more employment is available in other directions.
.- The honorable members for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) and Swan (Mr. Gregory) have interpreted the amendment to mean that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) is attempting to cut out the provision for the purchase of a cruiser, whereas the right honorable gentleman is merely questioning the wisdom of this Parliament committing a future Parliament to the expenditure involved. Since the present Government has been in power honorable members have not been given an opportunity to discuss the subject of defence, and they are entitled to do so under cover of this proposed vote.
The honorable member for Bendigo asserted that the Scullin Government had broken the defence system of Australia. 1! should like him to point to anything that Government abolished which the’ Government that he slavishly follows has restored.
– It broke everything in connexion with defence, in the army, the navy and the air force.
– It did nothing of the kind. The honorable member knows that at that particular time Australia was faced with a deficit of £20,000,000, and had to effect drastic savings. The defence vote, along with other votes, had to be substantially reduced. The expenditure of £60,000 a year on. the Royal Military College at Duntroon was reduced to £15,000 by the transfer of that establishment to Sydney.
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss either the administration of, Or the expenditure, on, Duntroon upon the item now before the Chair.
– I was merely drawing attention to the saving that was made. The honorable member for Bendigo could not suggest one direction in which expenditure might .be reduced while he was Commandant at Duntroon.
– On a point of order I object to the statement of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, which is entirely without foundation in. fact.
– That is not a point of order; but the matter referred to by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is clearly outside the scope of the discussion.
– The honorable member for Bendigo raised the question, and I felt bound to reply to him. Strong objection -was taken then by members of the present Government to the abolition of compulsory military training, but when they were returned to power they continued the policy applied by our Government.
– Order! The honorable member is deliberately defying the ruling of the Chair in referring to a matter which is clearly outside the scope of the discussion. He must confine himself strictly to the question before the Chair.
– Having replied effectively to the honorable member for Bendigo, I shall not pursue that line of argument. The point that I wish to stress is that ‘the objection of honorable members on this side to the present proposal of the Government is based on grounds similar to those on which we based our objection when the Bruce-Page Government, in 1925, ordered two cruisers from the Old Country. We were then told, as we are now, that the matter was urgent. The members of the Naval Board at no time suggested that the particular type of cruiser then ordered should be purchased. The purchase was made at the request of public men in Great Britain, who wished to ease tha unemployment situation in that country. Yet, after a recess of seven months, we are asked within two or three weeks of the resumption of the sittings of this Parliament to agree to a proposal involving an expenditure of £2,280,000! There is general agreement in regard to the provision at Sydney, Newcastle, and Fremantle of big coastal guns, which will out-range the guns of any cruiser that is likely to visit the Australian coast. They will provide an effective means ‘ of defence. Then there is air defence, which, as even the layman knows, is making prodigious strides all over the world, and can be provided for very cheaply. We are entitled to know what impels the Government to bring forward a proposal that will have to be given effect by a future government.
– It will be the same government.
– That is problematical. The circumstances do not justify the committing of a future government in a matter of this kind. The present occupants of the treasury bench are not very greatly concerned with the reduction of unemployment, which, they say, is a matter for the States to handle. Members of the Labour party, on the other hand, say that if this cruiser has. to be obtained it should be built in Australia as a means of helping the unemployed. The real patriotic stand to take in connexion with defence is to see that Australia is self-contained, and able to provide all that is needed. “We have been told by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) that, if a special plant were installed for the rolling of plates, it would be in use for only three weeks. If the plates have to be rolled abroad, well and good. The honorable gentleman also said that the cost of building this cruiser would be £750,000 greater in Australia than overseas.
– The cost would be twice as great in Australia.
– I am sure that the honorable gentleman does not mean that. Work that it is necessary to do abroad can be done there; but a large amount may be done in Australia. The expenditure of £3,280,000 being involved, it is our duty to examine the position closely, with a view, first to helping our unemployed, and secondly, to fitting Australian workmen to build all that is needed to defend this country. The view of present-day economists is that economic recovery is bound up with the doing of work in one’s own country, if necessary with loan money. I believe that, if we have to borrow money, we should raise it in Australia.
– From the Commonwealth Bank.
– We should obtain as much as possible from that institution. Economists like Keynes point out that every pound spent on work of this nature in the reduction of unemployment leads to an additional man being placed in employment. Thus we not only have two men working where none was working before, but we also have additional revenue flowing into the Treasury through the avenue of taxation, and the saving of the sustenance allowance for two men. It will be remembered that the building of a big Cunard liner was abandoned for a period in Great Britain because it was thought to be too costly a work to embark on during the depression. The British Government, however, lent the Cunard Company £3,000,000.
– Gave it to them.
– As the PostmasterGeneral says, it was really a gift, the object being to enable the company to carry out work estimated to cost £7,000,000. The British Government recognized that the sum which it advanced would return to it by way of increased revenue from taxes. If, as we are often told, one man in work carries five others on his back, it should surely be clear to the Government that the wise thing to do is to build this cruiser in Australia. ‘Considerations of that kind are undoubtedly behind the mind of President Roosevelt, of the United States of America.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item before the Chair.
– I contend that on practically every ground the Government should have this work done in Australia. The basis of the arguments of practically all economists to-day is that national recovery depends upon the replacement of the people in work. However, I suppose we must bow to the fact that arrangements are already in train for the building of the cruiser overseas.
– A cruiser is being built.
– Apparently the Government has decided that, and committed’ itself to the purchase of this cruiser overseas, without consulting Parliament. So long as a government is in office which forces Parliament to remain in recess for more than six months in the year these things will happen. Honorable members have been deprived of the opportunity they should have had to criticize the administration of the Government, and, for my part, I shall make this fact very clear to the electors in the near future.
– I have listened with interest to the reasons advanced by the Opposition against, the proposal of the Government to obtain another cruiser to take the place of the cruiser Brisbane in the Australian fleet, and it seems to me that they have missed the whole point of the argument. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis”) told us quite plainly that under the naval agreement the British Empire must scrap a cruiser in 1935.
– But the agreement does not say that it must be replaced.
– It must be replaced in order to maintain the naval strength of the Empire. The cruiser Brisbane is absolutely obsolete, and, in fact, the very last of that type afloat. It is decrepit in every respect. It would be ridiculous for us to allow Great Britain to scrap a vessel of a much more modern type while we retained this one, for that would merely have the result of impairing the efficiency of the British Navy. Honorable members opposite say that they do not think that another cruiser is necessary, but that if it is necessary it should be built in Australia. They entirely overlook the fact that with the plant and machinery available to us we cannot build a cruiser of the type required. Rolling machinery of the kind necessary to produce the high tensile steel plates needed for a cruiser of this class would cost between £200,000 and £300,000, and the installation of it would occupy about two years. In view of the fact that a cruiser has to be scrapped in 1935 it is clearly impossible for us to build another here in time for it to replace the vessel that is discarded.
It has been said that we have built other cruisers in Australia. The fact is, of course, that we have merely assembled them. Even if we were to attempt to build this cruiser in Australia we should have to import approximately two-thirds of the material from overseas. The amount of employment that would be given in assembling the vessel would not nearly compensate us for the additional cost that would be involved in doing the work here. Let me direct the attention of the honorable member to the experience we have had in Australia in cruiser building. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said a great deal about the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The figures in connexion with the building of the Brisbane are most illuminating. The estimated cost of that vessel was £600,000, but the actual cost of it was £746,000. I ask honorable members to compare our experience in building that vessel with our experience in purchasing the Sydney, which fought and so valiantly defeated the German cruiser Emden in the great war. The
Sydney, which v/as built on the Clyde, cost us approximately £340,000, or less than half the total cost of the Brisbane; and her sister ship, the Melbourne, which was built at Birkenhead, cost us approximately £405,000. In these circumstances I submit that it would not be fair to the Australian taxpayers to subsidize inefficiency by assembling the new cruiser here. Even if the work were done here employment could be given to only a limited number of mcn possessing the necessary qualifications to do the work. If firms are operating in Australia which claim to be able to do this work they should submit a tender for it and produce evidence of their ability. A necessary apprenticeship to the building of war-ships of this description would be the building of mercantile vessels. If a firm showed that it had over a period of years successfully built merchant ships in Australia, we should have some justification for placing an order with it for the building of this war-ship. [Quorum formed.’] But no such evidence is forthcoming. In the absence of definite information, we have no right to assume that there is in Australia the requisite technical knowledge and skill to produce armaments of this description.
In opposing this proposed vote honorable members opposite are merely advancing the arguments that they use, year by year, against defence expenditure when the ordinary defence estimates are under consideration. As the general defence estimates will not be considered by this Parliament, honorable members opposite are seeking to stage a full-dress defence debate on this subject. They have told us, first, that this vessel is not needed; and secondly, that, assuming that it is needed, it should be built in Australia. Yet, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) asked for further consideration of the subject !
– What was wrong with that request ?
– The right honorable gentleman followed that statement with a motion that this proposed vote be struck off the Estimates. I am surprised that honorable members who make such a big point of the White Australia principle, do not realize that we must provide an adequate defence for this country if we are to maintain it for the white race. Every time the defence estimates come before us for consideration honorable gentlemen opposite protest against such expenditure.
– The honorable member has himself reminded us that the general defence estimates are not before the Chair. I therefore ask him to confine himself to the specific subject with which we are dealing.
– Honorable members opposite are opposed to expenditure on armaments for the defence of Australia, and it is for that reason that they are protesting against the proposed purchase of this cruiser.
The Leader of the Opposition also argued that if the vessel were built in Australia the saving in exchange would go a long way to offset the extra cost involved in doing the work here as against having it done overseas, but examination shows that argument to be without much foundation. It is generally admitted that two-thirds of the material and special equipment required for this vessel would have to be obtained overseas in any case; and so considerable exchange expenditure would be involved. Cruisers are necessary for the protection of our trade routes. “We know how valuable this arm of defence was in the great war. We had a practical demonstration at that time of the value of this particular type of floating armament in protecting our commerce. Australia is so far removed from the seat of the Empire that she cannot afford to discard protective equipment of this description. I commend the Government for making this provision for the replacement of one of the most obsolete cruisers at present afloat. By scrapping this vessel and replacing it by a modern ship Australia will be doing something to increase the efficiency of the British Navy.
.- I rise a second time to correct false impressions that have been created without warrant by honorable members on the Government site of the chamber. When I spoke previously, I discussed three aspects of the Government’s proposal, first, the right of this Parliament to discuss the need for this expenditure; secondly, its right to discuss whether alternative defence measures should not be considered; .and, thirdly, its right to discuss where the cruiser should be built. I said that it should be built in Australia, but I said nothing to the effect that I did not believe in the adequate defence of Australia. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) referred to the plank of the Labour platform which favoured a White Australia, and he might well have referred to another which declared that the Labour party believed in adequate defence. We of the Labour party stand by our platform more than some honorable members on the other side stand by theirs. I did not move for the deletion of this item because I am opposed to the proper defence of Australia, but because only in that way could we successfully oppose the purchase of a cruiser overseas. If we passed any part of the item we would be irrevocably committed to the payment of the remaining purchase money, and, therefore, to the policy of sending our work 12,000 miles away to Great Britain. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Wentworth have all emphasized,’ as the kernel of their case, the fact that if we do not purchase this vessel as proposed, Great Britain will have to scrap a better vessel. I ask one question : Why ? The honorable member for Wentworth said that we are bound by a naval treaty - I presume he means the Washington Treaty - not to increase the total imperial naval force beyond a specified strength. We are expected to take delivery of this cruiser in August of next year. It takes three years to build a cruiser of this type in Great Britain, so that it has already been two years under construction. Therefore, either the Commonwealth Government entered into an arrangement with the British Government two years ago to buy the cruiser, and the matter has been kept secret until now, or Britain was building the cruiser for herself.
– It was.
– Then Great Britain, when it entered upon the construction of this cruiser, must have been prepared to scrap another one to make room for it. Now, however, it has discovered that we in Australia have an older cruiser, so it has conceived the brilliant idea that we should scrap our cruiser and take over the British vessel at a cost of £2,280,000. That seems to me to be a poor justification for sending this work overseas. Honorable members opposite have emphasized all through their speeches a point, an argument which I anticipated in my opening remarks, namely, that time is of the essence of the contract. They say that it would take four years to build a cruiser here, but I say that it would take three and a half years. We must not overlook the fact, however, that it takes three years to build a cruiser in Great Britain. If the naval authorities in Britain wanted the cruiser for themselves when they began its construction two years ago, they must still want it. The point is, of course, that we are to take it off their hands and pay them £2,280,00 in cold cash, while the vessel will still remain part of the Imperial defence force. I say that we cannot afford to spend millions of pounds of our money except for the adequate defence of our own country.
In my previous speech I referred to possible enemy raids on our territory, and the need for defending ourselves against them. The Attorney-General stretched the meaning of “ raids “ to mean possible raids on our commerce over 12,000 miles of Bea route. If we were attacked by a foreign force, we should have to keep our goods here in Australia to feed and clothe our own people. It would not be our business to keep the trade routes open. We are still paying a high rate of interest on loans raised during the war, some of which were translated from an Australian to a British domicile, so that we are paying as much as 54 per cent, to British bondholders. The load we are already carrying is too heavy for us, and I .cannot, therefore, agree that this extra burden should be imposed. At least, if we are to increase our navy to this extent, the work should be done in Australia.
I have always stood for the adequate defence of Australia. When it was first proposed to establish an Australian navy, I supported the proposal, but we must move with the times. We must consider modern conditions, and r:*2l we have a right, as the representatives of the people, to have the case put before us frankly, with time to consider it fully. The proposal should not be sprung on us after a seven months’ recess, and during the last days of the session. It should be left for the new Parliament and the new Government to deal with. It should then be decided what defence measures are necessary, and, if a cruiser is decided upon, where it shall be built. I have no hesitation in saying that it should be built in Australia.
The Assistant Minister for Defence pretended to quote expert opinion, and said that if the cruiser were constructed here it would amount to no more than assembling the parts, which would have to be manufactured overseas. The honorable member for Wentworth, who knows more about shirt buttons than about cruisers, said the same. The Minister’s statement was altogether misleading. I am not an expert, but I have sat at the feet of those who are experts, and I know that those who say that the building of a cruiser in Australia will amount to nothing more than the assembling of manufactured parts, either know nothing about the matter, or are trying to deceive. No doubt it is true that we would import some of the material for the building of a cruiser, but practically all the work would bo done in our own shipyards, except the rolling of steel plates.
The Attorney-General, who was hardpressed to meet our argument, pretended that I was casting a reflection on the Australian Navy because it had not been in an engagement for the last nine years.
– The right honorable member said as much.
– I did not. For my part I hope that the navy will never have any engagements other than social engagements. It was unworthy of the Attorney-General to suggest that I was taunting the men of the navy with their inactivity. I was at the time discussing only one aspect, and that wa3 the claim of the Government that this was a matter of urgency. I said that” the same claim was put forward in 1925, it being stated then that it would take too long to build a warship in Australia. I said that there waa no urgency in 1925, and that there was no urgency now. I said in jocular fashion that the only engagement the navy had had since 1925 was the Melbourne Cup, and I am sure that naval men will laugh at the indignation of government supporters. I notice, however, that the tender feeling of honorable members opposite are not outraged at the statements which are being freely made that our Australian workmen are incapable of doing the work necessary in the construction of a warship in this country. The Assistant Minister even mentioned electricians, and suggested that we had not in Australia the men capable of carrying out the electrical wiring. The fact is that we have here electricians who are as capable as any in the world. The Minister further stated that it would cost £3,000,000 to build the cruiser in Australia, and when I asked him how he arrived at that figure, he said that it had been supplied to him by departmental experts. I wonder why the experts ever bothered to make an estimate if it could not be constructed here and when it was already determined to purchase the vessel in Great Britain. The Minister also said that the construction of the cruiser was a work of the greatest magnitude, too great to be undertaken in Australia ; but I remind him that Cockatoo Dockyard previously tendered for a vessel of 10,000 tons in Australia, whereas this cruiser is to be of only 7,000 tons. If our skilled workmen have, for want of employment, been scattered over the country, we can collect them again. Our workmen are quite capable of working from designs supplied to them; it is not suggested that the vessel should be designed in this country. It is a monstrous thing, when we are struggling under a load of unemployment, that we should send £2,280,000 out of the country for the purchase of a cruiser when, if it were built here, at least £1,000,000 would be spent in Australia to give work to our people, and to provide for men, women and children, who arc now in want.
.- I have always admired the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) for the way in which he can tear a passion to tatters over nothing. I have a still greater admiration for him to-night because, in the speech which he has just concluded, he was able to reach such a pitch of excitement, although he said nothing that he did not say in his first speech. Of course, his trouble was that in his first effort he said too much, while, in his second he was endeavouring to water down his previous indiscretions. The debate on these proposals up to a quite recent stage was whether we should take any defence measures at all. Now the Opposition has, upon consideration, come to the conclusion that a policy of no defence is not a very good one upon which to go to the electors, so the Leader of the Opposition has put forward his modified proposals.
Every honorable member on this side of the House who has spoken to the proposal has urged that adequate defence measures should he taken, but, as Hansard will show, the speeches of honorable members opposite have consistently opposed tlie taking of any steps to bring Australia’s defence preparations up to the necessary standard. Members of the Opposition complain that they have not had an opportunity to discuss tlie Government’s proposals until just ‘before Parliament adjourns before the elections. Let me remind them that the proposal we are now discussing - or rather the scheme of defence upon which it is based - was announced by the Minister for Defence in a speech in Sydney as far back as September last. That was when this policy was laid down and there has never been since then any protest against it by the Opposition, either in the press or in Parliament. When the budget speech was delivered this scheme was set out in full and the Leader of the Opposition had full opportunity to discuss it.
– That opportunity has not yet been presented to the chamber.
– At any rate honorable members knew of the proposal when the budget speech was delivered, but they have left it until the last moment to object to it by moving that an item be excised from the Estimates. From the speech just delivered by the right honorable gentleman, one gathers that his sole opposition to this item is merely the question of where the cruiser shall be built. In fact he has found it necessary to make two long speeches merely to explain that point. Everybody who knows anything of naval defence knows also that the defence of Australia is indissolubly bound up in Great Britain’s obligations under the Washington Treaty. Great Britain is limited by the treaty to a certain number of cruisers and other vessels, and the Australian fleet is included in the British quota. Any decisions arrived at by naval experts in Australia acting in conjunction with the British Naval authorities are necessarily based on that fact. The Australian ships form portion of the British naval unit operating in the Pacific. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) has clearly set out the position. The Brisbane, which the proposed cruiser is to replace, should have been scrapped in 1932, but, because of financial difficulties experienced all over the world, it was decided to postpone the scrapping of that vessel for two years. It is now an urgent matter to replace it by an up-to-date cruiser. Every honorable member knows the difficulties which are manifest all over the world to-day, and particularly in European countries. No man knows what tomorrow may bring forth in international affairs. All honorable members are unanimous in their desire for adequate defence, but steps in that direction should bo taken now, not two years hence. The Government’s proposal is designed merely to hasten the steps. No one on this side has said that the Australian workman is not thoroughly efficient, competent and quick to pick up any new work in which he engages. We do say, however, that there are certain difficulties in connexion with the building of cruisers that the iron and steel works in Australia are not capable of overcoming to-day. For example, it would be most uneconomical to build works merely to employ them for three weeks rolling steel plates to be used in the construction of a vessel of this kind. Warships also consist largely of armaments and guns, ‘the manufacture of which involves work of an exceedingly technical character. We would have to import these armaments from Great Britain. It is true, as has been said, that we built the Brisbane here; but as the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) has pointed out, the construction of that vessel cost £750,000, whereas the Sydney, which was built in British ship-yards, cost only £300,000. For one vessel of the Brisbane class manufactured in Australia we could have purchased two from Great Britain. We have not the facilities for the building of a vessel of the Leander class in this country. Such a work presents many problems of an intricate character. This class of vessel embodies new features that would make its construction in this country a most difficult operation.
– What are these new features?
– Obviously I am not in a position to detail the items. While some honorable members opposite consider that they know more about these matters than the naval experts, I am content to accept the views of exports who have- made the building of warships a lifetime study, and know all the intricate details of their construction. The Government in its decision to acquire this ship is prompted first by a desire for the adequate protection of this country, and secondly by the knowledge that the ships constructed for the protection of this country shall form part of the British Fleet, and that we as Australians should be prepared to accept our share of Empire defences. These are the principles upon which the Government has acted in arriving at its decision. It stands unanimously by them.
. - The only point made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) was his reference to the failure of the Opposition to raise any protest against this proposal until the Estimates were under consideration. For instance, he said that tho proposal was outlined in the budget speech, and that we might have availed ourselves of that opportunity to raise our protest. He has already been reminded that that opportunity has not yet been presented to us. We also gleaned from the Minister’s reply that the defence programme was outlined by the Minister for Defence (“Senator Pearce) at a meeting of the Millions Club held in Sydney last year.
Is it necessary that members of Parliament should have to attend the Millions Club to learn matters of government policy ?
Mr.ArchdaleParkhill. - It was a public speech by a responsible Minister, and was made in accordance with the usual practice.
– I believe that it was the first time the policy of the Government on a very important matter has been delivered outside of Parliament. When honorable members ask questions on notice in regard to matters of policy the Government invariably replies that it is not the practice in answer to questions to state matters of policy. Yet on this matter the facts could be made known to a body not supposed to be associated with the Parliament. The Minister’s action in delivering this speech at the Millions Club was widely commented on at the time. But the reason for making the speech was obvious. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had commenced an agitation in association with the Associated Press of Sydney, and the Governmentbecame alarmed at the publicity he received. This departure by the Minister for Defence from the ordinary procedure shows just how much respect the Government has for Parliament. Tosome extent it justifies the protest which has been made by honorable members on this side of the House against the affairs of the country being determined in places outside Parliament. The PostmasterGeneral has stated that it is impossible to construct certain parts of the vessel in Australia. His mere bald statement is not sufficient. Details should have been supplied as to what parts cannot be manufactured in Australia. At Garden Island to-day men are employed on most intricate work dealing with gun mountings and altering the ranges of guns. At the present time the guns of our coastal defences are being reconditioned at Garden Island by skilled Australian workmen, who, in their work, display the highest standard of efficiency and are converting this type of armament into equipment equal to the best that could be imported.
Mr.Watkins. - What about themen at Walsh Island?
– Those men are equally as capable, although they are mainly concerned with the building of merchant vessels. The new cruiser is already almost completed. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) said that it would be ready for delivery in August of next year. We have been told that ordinarily three years are occupied in the building of a cruiser in Great Britain, so this vessel must have been well on the road to construction twelve or eighteen months before the Minister for Defence made his speech at the Millions Club in Sydney about the need for the “ adequate “ defence of Australia. The case presented on behalf of the Government is the weakest ever submitted in this Parliament on a defence proposal. The Opposition is justified in the course it has taken, for it has adopted the only means by which it can direct public attention tothis matter.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
So much of section nineteen of the Financial Emergency Act 1932 as is in force at the commencement of this act is repealed.
Senate’s amendment -
– This is merely a drafting amendment.The Senate seeks the omission of clause 30, which will allow section 19 of the Wine Export Bounty Act to remain in force so that such bounty as will have accumulated, and has not yet been distributed, may be paid. I move -
That the amendment he agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Additions, Newworks, Buildings, &c
In Commitee of Supply (Consideration resumed) :
.- It has been suggested by supporters of the Government that it is opposed to wars of aggression and that the purchase from the British Government of a cruiser that is already constructed is being undertaken purely in pursuit of peace. With what nation do we contemplate war? We have spent a great deal of public money ou various disarmament conferences, assemblies of the League of Nations and good-will missions to various parts of thu world. Has the Government so dismally failed that the best it can offer is the expenditure of the colossal sum of money which this cruiser will cost? Are we to believe that the world must prepare for armed conflict? The first question to be decided in considering the present proposal is whether the expenditure of this large sum is warranted, having regard to the conditions of the people. Many men who participated in the last war, and are battered and broken in health as a result of it, are suffering to-day, together with the members of their families, because the Government has robbed them of their pensions and is doing nothing to assist them. That section of the community would not regard this expenditure as warranted. If “ adequate defence “ is desired - and that term has been used fairly extensively to-night by honorable members opposite - we should ask what the term implies. It seems to me that we should try to meet the wants of our own people before spending money on armaments and other warlike equipment. The first incentive that the people require, if they are to support a policy of this nature, is a belief that they have something to defend; but many thousands of out citizens, unfortunately, have nothing to defend except their dole tickets ! The first thing to do is to clear up the wreckage and distress occasioned by the last war, and take steps to prevent a repetition of the useless slaughter of millions of men. A number of honorable members who served in that war are always prepared to support the economy proposals of the Government in opposition to the wishes and requests for assistance of returned soldiers less fortunate than themselves. It is all right for the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) to talk; he likes wars, because he did very well out of the last one. He was given a considerable sum of money for writing a history of that war.
– I consider that statement to be very offensive to the honorable member for Henty.
– The honorable member for Henty, is. capable of making his own protest.
– If it is right for government supporters to submit their views on such an important matter as the expenditure of a large sum of money for the purchase of a war ship, every honorable member on the Opposition side should have a similar opportunity. I contend that the proposal is unwarranted. The money should be used to provide better treatment than the majority of the people are receiving to-day. It has been admitted to-night by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) that policy speeches are delivered outside this Parliament. Labour members should probably be content to know that only one cruiser is to be purchased from the British Government. The country is probably fortunate that the policy speech at the Millions Club was not delivered at a later hour, when a few more drinks had been taken. Otherwise a whole fleet might have been purchased !
We have been told that the proposed expenditure is essential in order to main tain the efficiency of the naval defence of the Empire. The right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) recently returned from a mission to the East, and it was said that it succeeded beyond expectations. The Minister declared that so impressed were the people of the East with the fair treatment meted out to them by the British Empire that he could scarcely put his head out of a railway carriage window without hearing “ God save the King “ being sung. He told us that we need have no fear of aggression by any Eastern nation; that while there was uncertainty as to the attitude of Japan to China, no Eastern nation desired to attack Australia. Therefore, we have every right to ask the Minister to suggest from what direction a warlike attack may be expected. We were informed that we were on the way to a return to world-wide peace. Other countries besides Britain have put forward proposals for disarma- ment, but on many occasions the British Government has not helped towards their acceptance. Rather has it retarded progress towards disarmament. I suggest that we should not adopt a policy of despair, and say that future wars are inevitable. The argument usually advanced by honorable members opposite is that nations must arm in order to preserve peace. It would be just as logical to allow the civil population to carry guns in order to maintain order, because die argument could be used that every member of the community was prepared to defend himself. When nations are armed to the teeth, there is greater danger of their coming into conflict than there would be if their means of offence were not brought to the high pitch of perfection reached to-day. One of the principal arguments in support of the action of the Government is that this vessel can be constructed much more cheaply in Great Britain than in Australia. I should like to be informed whether the Government endeavoured to obtain quotations from any other source. If it be right to use the argument of economy to the detriment of the Australian worker as opposed to the British worker, it is equally right to suggest that the work should be undertaken elsewhere if the Australian people might thereby be saved a large amount of expenditure. The decision to purchase the cruiser in Great Britain was made long before the matter was brought before this Parliament. As the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) has said, the policy of the Government was delivered at a function held at the Millions Club, in Sydney; many months before honorable members were made aware of its intentions. If the Government intends to persist with lavish expenditure on arms of defence, why should it waste enormous sums upon the sending of delegations abroad? The jaunt of the AttorneyGeneral to the East, on what was described as a goodwill mission, cost many thousands of pounds, yet all that the right honorable gentleman could recommend upon his return to Australia was that millions of pounds should be spent on measures for the defence of this country. There are many returned soldiers in Australia to-day who would possibly find it very difficult to believe that they have very much to defend. The Government has not only destroyed their health and strength, but also withdrawn the miserable pensions that previously were paid to them, smashed up their homes, and forced them into every corner of the country to eke out an existence. It would be difficult for the returned soldiers suffering from tuberculosis, who are expectorating their lungs out in our cities, to bring themselves to believe that there is anything worth defending in this country as it is controlled by anti-Labour governments. I suggest that the policy of Labour men should be to develop our defences, not by constructing warships and establishing other arms of offence on the plea that we expect to be attacked by some foreign power, but rather by providing for the wants of our own people. If they were made happy and contented, there would be no need for Government supporters to deliver patriotic speeches every Empire Day, and to use the wireless broadcasting and moving picture facilities that they have at their disposal to stir up patriotism in the hearts of the people. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) say that, if Australia had ten more cruisers, she would be adequately defended so long as we have a desperate community and a dissatisfied personnel in the Royal Australian Navy? I could cite instances of preferential treatment of the “brass hats “ who control the Navy, at the expense of men on the lower deck.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must recognize that the treatment of returned soldiers and sailors is not involved in the question before the Chair.
– I am sorry that you were not in the chair, Mr. Prowse, while the Attorney-General was addressing the committee. . You would probably have called him to order. I am protesting against the proposed expenditure. I support the amendment of the Leader of J;he Opposition (Mr. Scullin), probably “ from motives slightly different from those which actuate him. I am opposed to either the purchase or the construction of a cruiser at the present time. I object to the building up of a force, which, when all is said and done, may be used not only in defending our shores against aggression by some foreign power, but also, in a time of civil disorder. Nobody who faces the facts, and is prepared to state them, will say that, because of the actions of this Government and its disregard of the requirements of the people, there is not a large and growing section who are desperately in need of the very necessaries of life. Desperate people may be driven to take whatever steps they consider are warranted, to provide themselves with what they require. I shall not, by my vote, help to build up an arm of defence that may be used against not only the people of a foreign nation, but also, in the final analysis, those whom we represent in this Parliament.
.- I rarely inflict myself upon honorable members; but I find it impossible to retain my seat after such a speech as we have just heard from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). This, I understand, is supposed to be a deliberative assembly. We are discussing a matter that one would think is capable of simple, commonsense statement. There is no necessity for any heat to be displayed. I sometimes think that men seek to make up in heat what they lack in logic. I always suspect the soundness of position of a man who becomes heated over a matter in regard to which there is no need for heat. 1 have the profoundest respect and admiration for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), whose selfrestraint on most occasions I greatly admire; consequently, I was astounded at his loss of control while discussing what ought to be a simple matter. We are asked to say whether the sum of £500,000 should be spent in the manner suggested bv the Government. What we have first to ascertain in a matter of this kind is, whether there is any aspect of the question on which there is unanimity. I suggest that there is one thing on which there should be absolute unanimity ; that is, the imperative duty that rests upon every government to see that the country whose affairs it administers is adequately protected against foreign aggression. We ought to know whether there is any mem ber of the committee who believes that there is no necessity for any such defence of Australia. He would be a bold man who would say deliberately that there is no necessity to provide for the defence of this country. Yet, listening to the speaker who “has just resumed his seat, I came to the conclusion that he is one who believes that no such necessity exists to-day. . His’ argument seems to be this: We see no sign of danger to Australia from any quarter; there are avenues in Australia along which we can spend our money; there are causes that are crying out for monetary assistance, and so long a3 those causes exist we should not spend a single penny upon defence. If the speech of the honorable member means anything, that is what it means. Let us examine for a moment the argument that there is no necessity for any defence because we cannot indicate the source from which we apprehend that danger will come. I wonder if the honorable member would be ready to apply that argument in the ordinary government of the community; about which he is so much concerned ! We believe, and I hope that he believes, that in this as in every other community it is necessary to maintain law and order. He surely must believe that there are within our own borders members of our community against whom it is necessary to defend ourselves. For the protection of our law-abiding citizens, we find it necessary to establish, for example, a police force. That is a defence force. Would the honorable member say, I wonder, that before we could justify the establishment of a police force we must be able to indicate the members of the community aga’inst whom we think that we may have to protect ourselves ? I have had something to do professionally with enemies of society. There are such persons in every community, and as wise people we have to protect ourselves against them. We establish a police force for purposes, not of aggression, but of ‘ defence; in other words, the maintenance of order. What is the difference between that and the establishment of a defence force, having regard to the fact that there are enemies abroad? Is there any one so far bereft of sense in this chamber to-night as to suggest that there is no possibility of attack in the future, that there is uo power in the world against which we must protect our community? If there be such a possibility, we must do what is just and reasonable in the interests of our community.
– Does the honorable member-
– I recognize that as the voice of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). I am sorry to think that such a thoughtful man, who usually speaks with lucidity and pointedness, should have so lost himself as he did to-night in dealing with this subject. He would not say in so many words that we should not spend money on the defence of Australia; but if I understood him aright, he did say that our best defence should be the development of the intelligence and the character of our people. If that meant anything, it meant that he is prepared to take up the extreme position of non-resistance to evil. He would depend upon character, upon the high standard of conduct of our people. He would depend upon the justness with which the Commonwealth acted. He would have sufficient faith that the Commonwealth would act in such a way as never to court aggression, never to give offence.
– And always to mind its own business.
– That is so. The honorable member practically admits that that is his position. He says in effect that if we mind our own business, and act justly in all our relations with other nations, there will be no cause of offence, and therefore we will need no defence at all. But surely that is a counsel of perfection if ever there was one ! My friend would evidently go the length of Emerson, who says, “ The appearance of character makes the State unnecessary.” I believe that if all the members of our own community were men of sterling character who acted according to the highest moral principles there would be no necessity for a police force or anything of that kind. But that is not the condition of affairs in Australia, let alone the world at large. Men are not acting according to the highest moral law.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Australia is in any danger, or that she is likely to engage in an act of aggression ?
– I only know that it is impossible to foretell the effect of some international move over which we have no control. Something may happen in the world to-morrow regarding which we have no say whatever, and yet it may involve us in war. We cannot get out of that situation with the world as it is to-day. I wish with all my heart that it were otherwise. We all hate war. We are surely at one with that. My friends opposite are constantly suggesting that one of the things which foment and promote war is that men engage in the manufacture of armaments and stand to make profits if war occurs. But is it only the employer who profits in that case? Do not all the workmen engaged in the armament-making industry also stand to profit if war occurs? At any rate they are sure of their work. Why should honorable gentlemen postulate that the employers are the only ones who stand to profit? Of course, the employees also reap an advantage.
– That does not make wrong right._
– I offer this suggestion to my Labour friends. They believe in the solidarity of labour - in the internationalization of labour-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– We are dealing at the moment with the question whether it it right to remove a proposed vote from the Estimates, and I am replying to the arguments that have been used by honorable gentlemen who wish that course to be adopted. I shall say one sentence in conclusion. The workmen of the world have it in their power to stop war tomorrow if they have the will to do so. Let them go out on a universal and general” strike, and absolutely refuse to put their hands to any piece of work, the object of which is to make the implements of war.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. SCULLIN’S’) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Pbowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Remainder of proposed vote, Department of Defence, agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Trade and Customs, £20,300; Department of Health, £17,300; Department of Commerce, £23,950 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £73,000.
.- I should like to know what steps are being taken to engage labour for the work of ballasting the East-West railway line in South Australia. It would be helpful if the Minister would give honorable members some information regarding the matter.
. - This work is a continuation of one which has been in progress since 1931-32, and will provide employment for a large number of men. There still remain approximately 350miles of railway to be ballasted. Ballasting ensures faster and more comfortable running of trains, and a saving in the maintenance of the track and of rolling-stock. It gives a greater margin of safety, and guards against interruption of traffic in the event of heavy rainfall. The amount to be spent on this work is £58,700.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Postmaster-General’s Department, £244,000; Territories of the Commonwealth, £183,200, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year1 934-35 for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, asum not exceeding £1,259,270.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr.ArchdaleParkhill and Mr. Marr do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr.Archdale Parkhill, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Supply.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majestyfor or towards defraying the services of the year 1934-35 a sum not exceeding £5,819,030.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archdale Parkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Mr. CASEY (Corio- Assistant Treasurer [10.53]. - Supply has already been granted for the first three months of the present financial year, that is, to the 30th September, 1934. The present Supply Bill provides for expenditure for a further three months - up to the 31st December next, including provision for salaries due on 21st December. The bill is based on the Estimates of expenditure for 1934-35, which were presented to the House on the 24th July. It is not possible to base this Supply Bill on last year’s appropriations because certain proposals outlined in the’ budget provided for expenditure in the present year on a slightly higher scale than that of last year. The budget proposals involving increased expenditure have been, or are being, implemented under special bills, such as the Financial Belief Bill. Under that bill, portion of the salaries and wages deductions made under the Financial Emergency Act is being restored. Therefore, it is necessary, in order that salaries and wages may be paid on the higher scale, that the present Supply Bill should be based on the Estimates for 1934-35.
The Estimates for 1934-35 also include increased expenditure for carrying on the ordinary services of the various departments, and particularly the increased expenditure which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department must incur to deal with the increased volume of business. This also makes it necessary to base the present supply on the new Estimates.
As all the major policy proposals of the budget affecting expenditure have been, or are being, dealt with in special bills, they do not call for explanation or debate in the consideration of the Supply Bill now presented.
The total amount to be appropriated for 1934-35, under Annual Votes, but exclusive of special appropriations is shown ou page 3 of the Estimates as being £22,516,417. On this basis the amount required for the first six months of the year would bc £11,258,209. The. first Supply Bill for 1934-35’ covered a total of £0,079,175. The total of the present bil I is £5,S19,030. Taking the two supply bills together the total is £11,893,205. Comparing this sum with half the amour.’. to be appropriated for the year, we find that the provision in the supply bills exceeds half the necessary annual appropriations by £639,996. This excess is chiefly accounted for by the fact that more than half the annual appropriation in respect of Treasurer’s Advance was included in the first supply bill so that there would be a margin for contingencies. The total provided in the Estimates for the year for Treasurer’s advance is £2,000,000, while the amount included in Supply Bill (No. 1), under this head was £1,500,000. It has also been necessary to provide in this bill the full amount required to cover the cost of the elections, namely £111,000.
Under refunds of revenue and under certain other votes where periodical payments fall due, the provision in the supply bills for the first six months slightly exceeds half the amount required for the full year.
The amounts shown in Supply Bill (No 2) may be summarized as follows : -
As the general position of the Commonwealth finances was placed before the House in the budget speech, I do not think that any further explanation regarding the finances, or regarding the moneys included in the present supply bill, is necessary. Should honorable members require further information their requests can be dealt with by Ministers during the course of the debate.
– Yes. It will bo paid on Friday next if the bill is passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answers to questions wore circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amount of peanuts has been imported since the lifting of the embargo?
– The embargo was lifted on 21st December, 1933. The imports of peanuts from 1st January, 1934, to 30th June, 1934, were 2,168,223 lb. Of this quantity 1,222,635 lb. were cleared under by-law for oil expression purposes. It is explained that peanuts for oil expression are only admitted under by-law to the extent to which the Australian industry cannot supply. The Queensland Peanut Board was consulted and concurred in the admission of these peanuts.
Mr.Forde asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Included in the figures for 1932-33 and 1933-34 are peanuts admitted under by-law for oil expression as follows: -
In addition, in 1933-34, about 800,000 lb. were admitted under by-law for the Queensland Peanut Board for distribution for manufacturing purposes.
It is explained that peanuts for oil expression are only admitted under by-law to the extent to which the Australian industry cannot supply.
The Queensland Peanut Board was consulted and concurred in the admission of these peanuts.
s: asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What were the total importations of cotton yarns n.e.i. into Australia for the years 1931-32, 1932-33, and 1933-34?
– The importations into Australia of cotton yarns n.e.i. for the vear 1933-34 were -
Prior to 1933-34, the official statistics did not separately record cotton yarns n.e.i. which are subject to protective duties, and the value of imports is therefore not available for the years 1931-32 and 1932-33.
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Use of Telephone by Burglars.
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the many day-time burglaries where the robbers first telephone tosee if any one is in the building, will the Minister consider offering a prize for any invention that would defeat aburglar by giving any answer to a telephone call that the householder thinks necessary when he leaves his home?
– The matter has for some time past been receiving the attention of the department, but, in view of all the circumstances, it is not considered that any advantage would be gained by offering a prize, as suggested.
Tennis Courts, etc., in Federal Capital Territory.
s. - The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible, in answer to a question by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) as to the number of tennis courts, &c, in the Federal Capital Territory.
Riots on Gold-fields : Compensation to Foreigners.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
North-west Air Services.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
n asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 to 3. Several years ago a movement was started for the establishment of a central air port that would be more convenient to the centre of Melbourne than Essendon. Under the chairmanship of the then Lord Mayor of Melbourne, a committee was formed representative of various interests, including the Aero Club and Civil Aviation, and this committee reported in favour of the site at Fishermen’s Bend. Although the committee had the benefit of the expert knowledge of certain officials of the Civil Aviation Branch, the Defence Department was not officially concerned in the proposal. It is understood that the proposal waa not then proceeded with, mainly on account of the intervention of the depression; but the suggestion has now been revived in the press, and is apparently receiving support from many quarters, mainly on account of the convenience of the site to the centre of the city.
Petrol: Addition of Tetra-ethyl Lead.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Fuel Adviser states that exhaustive tests have been undertaken by the Ministry of Health in England, and in the United States of America, to determine whether there is any danger of lead poisoning from petrol treated with tetra-ethyl lead, and the conclusion is that, provided the concentration of the lead is small, that is, of the order of that used in ordinary petrol, there is no danger of poisoning. Over 50 per cent, of the world’s petrol already contains lead, and, as long as it is used merely aB a fuel and not for washing, it is considered to be quite safe by recognized health and medical authorities.
n asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Estates of Deceased Pensioners.
s. - On the 25th July the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following question, without notice : - la the Prime Minister aware that the Pensions Department is still levying toll upon the estates of pensioners who died prior to December last? In view of the amending legislation that has been passed, will the honorable gentleman issue instructions to the department that this practice must be discontinued and give such instruction retrospective effect to the data provided in the amending act?
I indicated that I would look into the matter. I find that prior to the introduction of the bill to ‘amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in December, 1933, the law provided that the amount of pension paid after the 12th October, 1932, shall be a debt due to the Commonwealth to bc paid out of the estate of the pensioner at death. It further provided that, if a pensioner died on or before the 31st December, 1932, there would be no debt, and if a pensioner voluntarily surrendered his pension the amount of debt would be the pension paid after the 31st December, 1932. The amendment of the act made on the 12th December, 1933, provided that where a pensioner died after that date, the debt due to the Commonwealth would be the amount of pension paid after the 31st December, 1932. In accordance with these provisions claims have been made on the estates of pensioners who died after the 31st December, 1932, and had drawn pension since that date.
e. - On the 26th July, the honorable member for. Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
On the 26th July, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 August 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340802_reps_13_144/>.