14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andreadprayers.
The following papers were pre sented : -
High Commissioner for Australia in London - Report for 1935.
Orange Bounty Act (1936) - Report on working of the Act, together with return showing amount of bounty paid.
– I ask the Minister directing negotiations for trade treatieswhether, in view of the elections in the United States of America being certain to result in the re-election of President Roosevelt and a victory for the Democratic party, he will commence negotiations for a trade agreement with the Government of the United States of America in the near future.
– I do not know that the position has been altered by the return of the retiring President and Administration. The Government of the United States of America previously refused to enter into negotiations with the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Can the Minister for Commerce state whether there is any likelihood of an early conference with Canadian trade representatives in Australia?
– The Minister for Commerce of Canada is leaving that dominion about the 7th November, and is expected to arrive in Australia about the 30th November.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Artificial Flowers, Fruits, Plants, Leaves, and Grains, of all kinds and materials.
Cartridges, n.e.i.; Felt Wads for Cartridges; Cartridge Cases; Percussion Caps.
Photographic and X-ray Plates, Films and Materials, Sensitized Blue Print and Heliographic Papers and Fabrics, &c.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of the preference given to French planters in the New Hebrides by the Government of France, shipping companies, and others, which is tending to establish a French national spirit that may lead to the acquisition of the New Hebrides by France, will the Minister for Trade and Customs consider the advisability of granting to Australian and . British planters in the New Hebrides such concessions in regard to coffee and other products as are granted to the planters in New Guinea?
– Already some favorable treatment is being extended to British planters in the New Hebrides. Sympathetic consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request, and if he will supply me with details I shall make a full reply.
Position or New Zealandairman
– What action does the Minister for Health propose to take, following the refusal to be vaccinated of the New Zealand airman Clark, who has just reached Darwin after a 10-days’ flight from overseas? Is it a fact that this airman is now in quarantine, and has applied to the Government to be released so that he may continue his flight?
– I know nothing of the facts to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall make inquiries immediately, and give him a considered reply to-morrow.
– Can the right honorable gentleman give it on the motion for the adjournment of the House to-night ?
– I shall endeavour to do so.
– Does the Minister for Defence consider that the proposed railway from Sandy Hollow to Maryvale is of sufficient importance from the viewpoint of defence to warrant the Commonwealth Government assisting in its construction? Would not a railway from Charleville to Blackall or from Bourke to Cunnamulla be of greater strategic value?
– I am unable to say whether a railway connecting the centres mentioned would be of value from the viewpoint of defence, because that matter has not been investigated. An application was made by the Government of New South Wales tor Commonwealth assistance in connexion, with the railway from Sandy Hollow to Maryvale, on grounds of defence, but the view of the Department of Defence was that there were many other directions in which expenditure was more urgently needed, and that this line had no strategic value because troops could be moved over other lines in close proximity to the proposed route even though the operation took a little longer to complete. Consequently, the request for assistance was not complied with.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House as to correctness or otherwise of the statement published in to-day’s Canberra Times, namely, that the Government has decided to set up a select committee of members of this Parliament to supervise the development of Canberra?
– I ask the honorable gentleman to await a pronouncement by the Prime Minister on that matter.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether it is a fact, b.s set out in the Canberra Times this morning, that the Government proposes to appoint a select committee of this Parliament to go into the question of the development of Canberra over a period of ten years?
– -I have just informed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that it would be well to await « pronouncement by the Prime Minister.
– by leave - Tha need for the publication by the Department of Trade and Customs of a consolidated Customs Tariff schedule has long been felt by the business community and by honorable members. It was not practicable to prepare and publish one while several schedules were awaiting debate, but with the passing of the Customs Tariff 1936, such a consolidation can now be issued. The consolidated tariff incorporates the Customs Tariff 1933, the Customs Tariff (No. 2) 1933, and the Customs Tariff 1936. The Excise Tariff 1921, as amended to date, is also incorporated in the publication. The Customs Tariff resolution of the 22nd May, 1936, which honorable members have not yet had the opportunity to debate, has been shown, separately, and a reference has been made in the main tariff against the items affected by this resolution. In the foreword to this publication, the operation of the British preferential tariff, the intermediate tariff, and the general tariff is explained, and a complete list of British non-self-governing colonies entitled to the British preferential tariff rates under certain items is incorporated. A comprehensive index is given on the blue pages at the back, and a separate inset gives the primage rates. A copy of the publication is being issued to each honorable member, and copies are available for sale to the public at the various offices of the Customs Department throughout the Commonwealth.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been directed to the statement that the New Zealand Government welcomes Mrs. Freer to New Zealand, and that the Acting Minister for Customs (Mr. Fagan) says that he has obtained a full statement from the Commonwealth Government as to Mrs. Freer’s position, and sees no justifiable reason for preventing her from landing in the dominion? Does the Minister consider it more important to give a full statement of the case to the New Zealand Government than to this Parliament and to the people of Australia on a matter which involves a great principle ?
– I have seen the report referred to by the honorable member. I have only to say that no communication has been sent from the Commonwealth Government to the New Zealand Government.
– Yesterday, when honor able members were discussing the budget proposals of theGovernment, I rose in my place and endeavoured to obtain an opportunity to state my views to the committee. The Chairman of Committees (Mr. Prowse), who was then presiding, failed to give me the call, although he had not at that time submitted the question to the committee. I had carefully prepared a speech, relating to many matters of importance to my electorate, which I desired to bring under the notice of various Ministers. Several honorable members who were in the chamber at the time will recall that the Chairman had not put the question to the committee. The questionhad not been resolved, nor was I given an opportunity to state my views.
– If the honorable member is referring to the action of the Chairman of Committees, he may not do so by way of a personal explanation. If he merely wishes to explain why he did not speak to the question then before the committee when he desired to do so, he is at liberty to make that explanation.
– I may explain that the reason why I did not speak yesterday, on the occasion to which I have referred, is that I was prevented from doing so by the Chairman of Committees.
– Order ! That is at least a criticism of the Chairman of Committees, with which the House cannot deal. The matter should have been raised in committee, as the committee is the master of its own proceedings. Without reflecting on the Chairman of Committees, the honorable member could have said that he had no opportunity to speak.
– I desire to make a personal explanation following the statement just made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I feel -
– Order ! The ruling which I gave when the honorable member for East Sydney was making a personal explanation was that he should make such an explanation in committee. If, however, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) wishes to explain what happened. I suggest that he should ask leave of the House to make a statement.
– We will agree to leave being granted to the honorable member for Forrest to make a statement if similar leave is granted to the honorable member for East Sydney.
– by leave-I have no objection to similar leave being given to the honorable member for East Sydney. Since the honorable member feels that he has been wronged, I want to say distinctly that it was only after having scanned the committee on both sides, I, as Chairman, put the question and asked for a vote. I felt that the point had gone too far when the honorable member for East Sydney caught my eye. I think honorable members who were present at the time in committee will agree that this was the position. I had previously taken the names of honorable members who had risen in an endeavour to get the call from the Chair, and the honorable member for East Sydney had risen at no stage. I had, therefore, no indication that he intended to speak on the budget. There was no intention on my part to do any injustice to the honorable member or any other honorable member. Personally, E am sorry if the honorable member feels offended, but I feel that, in acting asI did, I carried out my duty as Chairman impartially.
– by leave- Had the Chairman of Committees confined his remarks to expressing the regret be felt that I had been wronged, without accompanying his statement, with certain inaccurate remarks in regard to what transpired in committee, I would probably have accepted his explanation. It is true that in the earlier stages of the debate I did not rise, but that was because I was not ready then to address the committee on the budget. However, I came into the House yesterday prepared to make a speech on the budget and was quite within my rights in endeavouring to obtain the call. Prior to my rising, four members on the Government side had spoken, and the Chairman of Committees, when he stated the question to the committee, only glanced on the Government side of the chamber. Honorable members who were sitting on this side of the chamber will clearly recollect that immediately the Chairman had stated the question, and before even the question had been either resolved, or put, I rose in my place and called in a very audible voice, which only a person who was absolutely deaf could have failed to hear. Imre ediately I did so there were calls from some Government members that I was too late, and thereupon the Chairman decided that I was too late. On many occasions, even after a question has been resolved, if an honorable member has risen unnoticed by the Chairman of Committees, as an act of grace or courtesy he has been given the opportunity to address the committee. On this occasion, however, I was asking, not for a privilege, but for my right to address the committee when no other honorable member was on hia feet. Thus, not only was I not extended the ordinary courtesy which has been extended to honorable members on numerous similar occasions, but I was also even denied my right in this chamber as provided under the Standing Orders and practice governing the conduct of business in this chamber. As a matter of fact, on one previous occasion it was necessary for the Opposition to draw attention to the unfair attitude of the Chairman of Committees in regard to these matters, and this is, therefore, the second occasion on which his impartiality has had to be challenged. I sincerely hope that no occasion will arise in the future when it will be necessary for any honorable member to make protests not to get any privilege, but in order that he shall not be denied the rights he possesses under the Standing Orders.
– In view of the great losses caused to wheat-farmers and pastoralists because of the grasshopper plague which is ‘being experienced in certain States, will the Acting Prime Minister give an undertaking that the Government will co-opera.te with the State governments concerned, particularly the Government of Western Australia, to see if effective action can be taken to combat this pest?
– I shall bring the request of the honorable member under the notice of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, with a view to making certain that the whole of its resources are used to assist the States in connexion with the matter.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to an incident during the debate on the 27th October last on the second reading of the Constitution Alteration (Marketing) Bill, when the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) was addressing the House, and quoted extensively from Mansard. Objection was taken to his action, and you gave a ruling that an honorable member was in order in reading Hansard extracts from a current debate, but on perusal of Hansard I find that no reference whatever is made either to the objection taken or to your ruling. I desire to be informed whether you have any personal knowledge as to why that important, ruling was excised from Hansard, and, if not, whether you are prepared to take steps to discover why no reference to the incident or to your ruling appears in the official report?
– I remember the incident referred to by the honorable member, pr at least I think that I have a correct, recollection of what occurred. Some honorable member, by interjection, referred to what had been done by the honorable member for Wannon. The main point, as far as I remember, was that I said that an honorable member was in order in quoting from a current debate. In regard to no reference to the matter appearing in the Hansard report, I have to inform the honorable member that I did not excise it. Inasmuch as my remark was made from the chair without rising and in reply to an interjection, the Hansard staff may have thought it unnecessary to record the incident. However, I shall, if the honorable member considers it of sufficient importance, give a definite ruling upon it, but the Standing Orders are perfectly clear on the point.
– Has the Minister for Defence any information to give to the House regarding the press report, that Australia is contemplating the purchase of American equipment for the Royal Australian Air Force?
– I saw a paragraph in the press stating that American planes had been offered to the
Government. I am not aware of the source from which the report emanated, but newspaper men waited on me and I informed them that a man representing American firms had written to the department offering planes for sale at a certain price. I also said that it was purely a commercial transaction, and was being dealt with in that way by the department. I suggested that the matter had no significance, but I notice that it has been featured in a section of the press. However, that is all the explanation I can offer.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether his attention has been called to reports that the British Government is sending a special financial expert to China, to inquire into the possibilities of expanding British trade by the extension of credits to Chinese purchasers, and whether he will communicate with the Australian Trade Commissioner in China to ascertain . if Australia can be associated in any way with those investigations, and also with any organization which may be set up to foster British trade with China, so that the activities of such an organization can be extended to foster dominion trade, as well, with China?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement referred to by the honorable member, and inquiries will be instituted by the Australian Trade Commissioner in China in the direction he desires.
– In view of the statement made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) last night that certain honorable members on this side of the House were wasting public money, I ask the Minister for the Interior for particulars of the public money wasted by the honorable member and his colleagues.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior if it is a fact that the Lang Labour group-
– Order !
– I rise to a point
Crf order. I submit that the terms used by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall), alleging a certain class of improper conduct on the part of the honorable member for East Sydney and certain of his colleagues, are necessarily offensive to all of the colleagues of the honorable member for East Sydney on this side of the House, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– Order r I called the honorable member for Martin to order.
– But he did not withdraw.
– He was not asked to withdraw by’ the honorable members referred to. The honorable member for Batman (Mr.. Brennan) is not entitled to ask for a withdrawal, seeing that no reflection has been made upon his conduct. The honorable member for Martin was not in order in reflecting on any honorable member, but in that regard any request for the withdrawal of any remark or allusion considered to be offensive must come from the honorable members reflected upon.
– I heard what was said, and it was a reflection on the colleagues of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– The honorable member for Martin referred to the honorable member for East Sydney and other members of the Lang group.
– I ask for the withdrawal of the insulting remarks made by the honorable member for Martin when he said that my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney, was wasting public money. I also desire to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that we are now all’ members of one party.
– The honorable member for Martin will withdraw the reflection which he made upon certain other honorable members.
– I am not quite clear regarding what I am to withdraw.
– I am sure the honorable member will not deny that he intended to reflect upon certain other honorable members by the remarks hemade, and they must be withdrawn.
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remarks objected to. I desire to ask the Minister for the Interior, whether it is a fact that certain members of this Parliament, elected by constituencies in New South Wales, and sitting on the other side of the House, are conveyed in luxurious limousines to and from Queanbeyan each day, a distance of approximately twenty miles, at the Government’s expense? If so, what is the cost of those joy rides, and will the Minister consider-
– Order! The honorable member for Martin must obey the rules governing the asking of questions. He should not express opinions, or offer comments. References to joy rides and luxurious limousines are not in order.
– Will the Minister for the Interior, in the interests of economy, consider discontinuing the practice of conveying certain honorable members to and from Queanbeyan? Furthermore, is it a fact that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) were conveyed in government cars to Sydney last week for the purpose of addressing a public meeting in the Paddington Town Hall, at which meeting the Government was attacked ?
– Order ! I insist upon the strict observance of the rules governing the asking of questions.
– Will the Minister state the cost of the transport?
– It is a fact that transport has been provided to take certain honorable members to Queanbeyan to their hotel at night. Two cars have been provided, for the simple reason that they cost a little less to run than does one bus. The necessity for providing this transport will not long continue, because the additions to Hotel Kurrajong will shortly be completed, and sufficient accommodation will then be available in Canberra for all honorable members. With reference to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I have no knowledge of the incident referred to.
– Will the Minister for the Interior, at the earliest possible date, have prepared a list showing the expenses incurred by each individual member in respect of transport for himself and his relatives over the last three years, including the cost of transporting members’ wives to official functions in various parts of the Commonwealth?
– I do not believe that any useful purpose would be served, or that the Government would be justified in going to the expense involved, by providing the statistical information asked for.
– Is it a fact that, out of public moneys, the cost of transporting the wives of honorable members to official functions has, from time to time, been met? Is it also a fact that the wives of honorable members have been provided with free transportation to Canberra four times a year, and that they are provided annually with one free interstate pass at the public expense, and also one free pass within the State?
– That is a practice which has been followed during the life of many parliaments.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state whether Ohe privileges regarding transportation referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) are usually availed of by honorable members?
– Many honorable members do not avail themselves to any extent of the transport privileges referred to. Indeed, some do not avail themselves of those privileges at all.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation state whether the report is correct that he proposes to introduce legislation to amend the Repatriation Act? As a great many unfortunate ex-soldiers may be affected by this legislation, can the Minister give an assurance that it will be introduced before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess?
– I can give the honorable member that assurance. There has been some delay, but the bill is now ready for submission to Cabinet, and I am hopeful of being able to introduce it in this House in the near future.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state when it is intended to release the Tariff Board’s report on oregon?
Mr.WHITE. - The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked that question more than once, and was informed that, pending negotiations with another dominion regarding a trade treaty, the report would not be tabled.
– Can the Minister inform this House for how many years the Tariff Board report onoregon has been held up pending the completion of trade negotiations, and for how many more years it is anticipated that his department will be able decently to hold up the report for the same reason?
– I refer the honorable member to the answer I have just given to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison).
– As the information gleaned by the inquiry into oregon held in 1932 is obviously out of date, will the Minister for Trade and Customs convene another inquiry on oregon before taking action?
– The honorable member must be aware that an alteration of the duties on oregon was made recently. He will have an opportunity next week to debate them, and to. go into the matter more fully than is at present possible.
– Some time ago, the Prime Minister stated that legislation was being prepared dealing with the matter of shipping services in the Pacific. Oan the Acting Leader of the House state whether that legislation will be considered before the present period of the session ends?
– Every effort will be made to have it considered during this period.
– In view of the opinion expressed in London, that victory is in sight for Australia in the trade dispute with Japan, has the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties any information which he can make available to Parliament?
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether Cabinet has considered the possibility of holding the Commonwealth elections on any date prior to the first Saturday of July of next year ?
– The honorable member’s question involves a matter of policy, which it is not usual to divulge in answer to questions.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that the Censor has banned the film. Ten Days that Shook the World, which has been freely exhibited in Great Britain and America?
– No; the appeal censor has released the film.
Issue of Import Permits
– With respect to the recent regulations governing the issue of permits for the. import of goods from certain countries, will the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties inform me whether the phrase, “territories under the British Crown “ covers a dominion, such as Canada?
Discussion on Report.
– Will the Minister in charge of the House inform me when it is proposed to discuss item 20 on the business-paper, namely, the motion for the printing of the report of the Royal Commission on Mineral Oils and Petrol? Can he give an assurance that it will be discussed before the next general election?
– The stage at which this item will he reached on the business-paper will depend upon the passage and conduct of Government business.
– I have to inform the House that I have this day issued the writ in connexion with the by-election for the Kennedy Division, and that the dates fixed were those announced to the House on the 22nd October last.
– I have to inform the House that I have received from Mrs. Webster a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
WAYS AND MEANS (‘ Grievance Day”)-
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means - proposed.
.- I lake advantage of this opportunity to ventilate a grievance. The grievance relates to the ease of one, T. J. Ingram, who, for years, was employed as a temporary searcher in the Customs Department, Fremantle, and whose services were terminated in 1931 owing to the depression, and who, during the last three months has been re-engaged but still in a temporary capacity. Honorable gentlemen who were in Parliament in 1931 will remember that I directed attention then to what I regarded as extraordinary features associated with the employment nf Mr. Ingram. Before the war, he came to Western Australia as a settler and took up land. He had hoped to make a home for himself and his wife and children then resident in Great Britain. He had hardly arrived in Australia when the war broke out, and, as I have informed Parliament on a previous occasion, he endeavoured to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force at Perth, but, on his knowledge of the technical side of munitions being disclosed, he was urged by the recruiting officers in the 5th Military District to proceed to Melbourne where there would be greater scope for the employment of his special attainments. He proceeded from Fremantle to Melbourne entirely at his own expense.
– Why was this man dismissed?
– He was dismissed in 1931 from his temporary position as a customs searcher, and about three months ago he was re-engaged in a similar capacity. I am now applying for his permanent employment as recommended by the Sub-Collector of Customs at Fremantle on three occasions prior to 193.1, and on one occasion since his reemployment. The recommendation has been refused by the Public Service Board, the ground of the refusal being solely that he is not qualified for employment because he was not a member of the Australian Imperial Force within the terms of the Repatriation Act. Let me disclose how he failed to be a member of the Australian Imperial Force. He endeavoured to enlist in Perth. At that time it was never assumed that so many men would be required, and there were certain conditions attaching, to enlistment. He went to Melbourne at his own expense. At Victoria Barracks he reported and sought to enlist there. He was then asked if’ lie had his wife’s consent, to enlist and. on his telling the authorities that hi3 wife resided in Great Britain, he was told that he should proceed to Great Britain; he did so. As a matter of fact, he paid his own third class passage back to England after having paid the first class passage from Fremantle to Melbourne. On his return to Great Britain he found that his wife was ill, and being a technician he was employed by one of the firms turning out munitions. When his wife recovered her health, he enlisted with the Royal Engineers, and was drafted to France where he was in active service for two years and two months during which time he received double promotion, and at one period occupied the rank of acting sergeant. He was in hospital on three occasions, and during his period of active service he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. This man is not eligible for permanent employment at the Customs House, Fremantle, because he is not a member of the Australian Imperial Force. That is the sole objection.
Mi-. White. - That is a Public Service Board ruling; it is not a Customs Department ruling.
– That is so. I have directed the attention of Parliament to the anomalous position which this man is in. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), if he will refer to his senior officers in Fremantle, will discover that Mr. Ingram is held in the highest repute. He is not merely regarded as a satisfactory employee in the department; he is also regarded as being eminent’ suitable for the duties he undertakes. As a matter of fact, so interested is he in the efficient performance of his work that he is probably one of the few officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who, in their private studies, have made some acquaintance with marine architecture. It was as the result of his special knowledge in this direction that he was able to locate on the vessel Almkerk certain Chinese whom it was attempted to smuggle into this country. For that service he was rewarded by the department. I have only to say that, although he was out of the department from 1931 until quite recently, none the less the Sub- Collector of Customs at Fremantle was so eager to avail himself of this man’s1 undoubted qualifications that he engaged Lim immediately there was a chance to do so. Since then, once more, according to my information, the Sub-Collector has recommended his permanent employment in the department. This man loses considerable advantages by not being permanently employed. The branches of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia at Fremantle, Palmyra, and Beaconsfield have carried resolutions to the effect that they would not regard Ingram’s permanent employment as being in any way a breach of the Commonwealth policy of preference to returned soldiers. This man is a soldier. He holds the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and he would have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces but for the fact that at the time men were not being recruited in great numbers, and objection was taken to his enlistment because his wife at the period was in Great Britain. It was on their advice that he proceeded to Great Britain to enlist. When I raised this subject in the House in 1931, the then Leader of the Opposition, now Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court, said that this was a most anomalous case about which he felt certain something should be done.
– What has been the basis of the decisions given on the subject?
– The Public Service Board holds the view that this person is not qualified for appointment in accordance with the Public Service Act, because he was not a member of the Australian Imperial Force. I again wrote to the Prime Minister on the subject on the 18th September, and I have no doubt that he referred it to the Public Service Board, but I have not since received a reply from either the Public Service Board or the Prime Minister, under whose jurisdiction the board is. I therefore wrote to the Prime Minister’s Department on the subject again only yesterday. Decisions of the kind of which I am complaining bring Australia’s policy of preference to returned soldiers into grave disrepute. It is grotesque and absurd that an ex-soldier who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the last war should be denied employment in the Commonwealth Public Service on the ground that he is not- a returned soldier.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 4th November (vide page 1519).
Department of External Affairs
Proposed vote, £12,670.
– The proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs shows an increase of £4,843 on the amount expended last year. The Government is to be commended for the development of this department during the last twelve months, and the Commonwealth itself should be congratulated upon the outstanding ability of the officers engaged upon the work of this most important branch of the Public Service. The significance of the department is daily growing, and so is the interest taken in its operations. As an illustration of this, I mention the rapidly increasing circulation of Current Notes issued by the department. These Notes are of untold value to honorable members, and in addition are tremendously interesting to a very wide constituency beyond the Parliament. Originally 230 copies of each issue of the Notes was distributed, but this number has now increased to 753 copies. Of these, 46 copies go to schools, 58 to universities, 258 to newspapers throughout the Commonwealth, and 41 to various societies which study international affairs. The variety of interest represented by the societies which have applied for the Notes is enlightening. The list of names includes the Hobart Trades Hall Council, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Workers Educational Association, the Furnishing Trades Society of New South Wales, the Shanghai Municipal Council, and many other bodies of widely divergent interests. It is generally assumed that Australia’s interest in external affairs is of comparatively recent growth, and that prior to federation it was practically non-existent, as the people of the various colonies were so fully occupied with their internal and local programmes that they had no time to concern themselves with outside affairs. But it would probably be more correct to say that our interest in external affairs was there all the time. Often, it must be admitted, it was regrettably dormant, but it was liable on occasions to be roused to a very high pitch. I remind honorable gentlemen of one occasion when the interest of our people was widely awakened in an external matter. In 1883, Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, the far-sighted Premier of the then Colony of Queensland, was extremely desirous to bring under British control the eastern part of the island of New Guinea. His aim was not to acquire new territory - he fully appreciated the fact that we already had quite enough - so much as to prevent a foreign power from establishing itself on our doorstep: Sir Thomas Mcllwraith was convinced, quite rightly, as subsequent events showed, that Germany was contemplating the annexation of this territory. He was unable, however, to move the home authorities, and in April,1883, he decided to send one of the officers of. the Queensland Government, a magistrate from Thursday Island, to take formal possession of that territory in the name of Queen Victoria. It will be remembered that the Queensland Government was censured for taking this practical interest in external affairs; the home authorities considered the action precocious, and the annexation was promptly disallowed. Public interest was aroused, however, not only in Queensland, but also in the other colonies, particularly when, only a year later, the territory in question was annexed by Germany. This development had the effect of making the people, of Australia generally realize the need for federation, so that Australia could speak with one voice, and a strong voice, to the outside world. It is interesting to note in passing, that Queensland was the only State which adhered to the trade treaty negotiated in 1894 between Great Britain and Japan, to which all the British colonies were asked to subscribe. Under section 51 of the Constitution power is vested in the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with external affairs. Immediately after federation was achieved a Commonwealth Department of Externa] Affairs was established. From its inception or shortly afterwards, it dealt with such matters as Australia’s relations with the Old Country, the government of Papua, mail services to the Pacific Islands, immigration, and matters undertaken by arrangement and in collaboration with foreign countries, such as investigation of tropical diseases. The department was first set up in .1901: this is interesting in view of the fact that Australia has been regarded in many quarters as lagging behind the other dominions in its development with respect to international affairs. The Dominion of Canada is generally looked upon as the pioneer among the dominions in the sphere of international relations. That dominion won the right in 1907 to negotiate alone - though not to sign alone - a trade agreement with Prance, and later it was also granted the right to sign such treaties alone. I refer in particular to the Halibut treaty with the United States of America signed in 3931. In 1920, Canada obtained the right to appoint separate diplomatic representatives abroad although, actually, the Irish Free State was the first to avail itself of this privilege when, two years earlier, it established its own legation at Washington. South Africa, however, has now outdistanced all of the other dominions, having no less than eight legations abroad; they are established in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United States of America, France, Portugal, Germany and Sweden. Australia’s development in regard to international relations has, we must admit, been along somewhat different lines; but it is not without significance, I maintain, that Australia was the pioneer in one important direction at least. The Australian Department of External Affairs, small as it was, was established in 1901. Similar departments were set up in Canada, in 1909 ; in New Zealand, in 1920 ; and in South Africa, in 1927. The Irish Free State department traces its history back to 1919. It will thus be seen that, after the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Department of External Affairs is the eldest department of international relations in the whole British Commonwealth of Nations. Although it was the first, and for some years the only, dominion department of external affairs, the Australian department did not have an unbroken career. It was abolished in 3.916 when, as honorable members will recall, its work was taken over by the Prime Minister’s Department, and the then Department of Home and Territories. It was reconstituted in 1923, and re-organized to some extent in 1924: but although the work it had to carry out was extremely and increasingly heavy, it remained almost microscopic in size until early this year when, for the first time, it was established on a basis corresponding to the importance of this aspect of government policy, and given the full status of a department with its own secretary. Australia has also led the way in at least one other direction in the sphere of international affairs, and in my opinion, a very important one. In 1924, as honorable members will remember, an external affairs branch was set up in London under the control of ‘ an officer of such standing and character as to enjoy the full confidence of the Foreign Office. This step led to the establishment and continuance of the closest liaison between the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Government, which enables the Australian Government to be second to none in its knowledge of current events in connexion with foreign policy. The very heavy work entailed in the London office devolved solely upon one man until this year when an assistant officer was appointed. It was an overwhelming burden for one man to carry. The appointment of the additional officer will effect a great improvement, and will make it possible for the liaison officer, when absent at Geneva or in attendance at some international conference, to have some one in London to carry on the work without interruption. I know that the time allotted for the discussion of the Department of External Affairs is limited, and I have no desire unduly to encroach upon it, and so prevent other honorable members from expressing their views of the work of this most important department. We all realize the necessity for taking a keen interest in foreign affairs, but I cannot help making an appeal to the people generally for the cultivation of an intelligent interest in this important subject. We should endeavour to obtain all the information available on world problems; we should acquaint ourselves with both sides of such questions, and discuss the issues of the moment so that our opinions on matters of foreign policy shall be based on knowledge and reflection. If that be done the opinions and actions of Australia will, undoubtedly, count for much in restoring sanity and balance to a disordered world.
.- I regret that the time at the disposal of the committee for the discussion of matters of such importance as those relating to external affairs is so limited. No question is of such profound interest or is likely to have more far-reaching effects than is the foreign policy of this and other countries. The external situation affects Australia’s relations with the outside world, and, therefore, a period of one hour for the discussion of this subject by 75 members is totally inadequate, and does not permit of justice being done to it. The unreasonably short period allotted for the discussion of this department is evidence of the Government’s lack of appreciation of its importance. Although, according to the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron), the Australian Government is second to no other dominion in its knowledge of foreign affairs, through its liaison with the Foreign Office, that knowledge is not passed on to this House as it should be. The Government treats this House with scanty respect in regard to this country’s foreign policy. State ments by the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs on matters of foreign policy are rarely heard in this chamber. In fact, the portfolio of External Affairs itself is in the nature of a spare part.
– Surely the Senate is entitled to some consideration in the allotting of portfolios.
– This House is entitled to more information, not only in regard to the work of the liaison officer at the Foreign Office, but also as to the activities of the High Commissioner in London, Mr. S. M. Bruce, who, during recent months, has taken a prominent part in the diplomacy of Europe, and, indeed, of the world generally. Although that right honorable gentleman occupies an exalted position in the councils of the nations, I do not know of one occasion in which this House has been taken into the confidence of the Government and informed of the activities of Mr. Bruce. The Government should remember that, whatever may be that gentleman’s responsibility to the League of Nations, his duty is first and foremost to Australia.
– The honorable member will recollect that I raised that subject.
– I am not taking the honorable member for Lilley to task, but am endeavouring to focus attention on the desirability of the Government taking Parliament fully into its confidence, so that honorable, members may be well informed on matters of foreign policy which affect the welfare of the world. Seeing that the Australian High Commissioner in London occupies so high a position in the counsels of the nations, we in this House have a right to be better informed than we are in regard to his activities in international affairs. It may he well if this Parliament were to follow the example of the British Parliament and appoint a committee, consisting of members of all parties, to deal with foreign affairs, such committee to have access to documents and communications which now are exclusively available to the Government. Leaders of thought in countries on the other side of the world are desirous that public men generally should be better informed in regard to international affairs than is now the case.
In this connexion I do not think that I shall betray any confidence if I mention that, when I was in England, Sir Howard D’Egville, of the Empire Parliamentary Association, suggested that a committee of this Parliament should be appointed to discuss freely and frankly questions of public policy in regard to international affairs. He indicated that if we in Australia were prepared to undertake a review of such subjects, we would be supplied with more information than is now made available to honorable members by the Government. Whatever will add to our knowledge of international -affairs will be of advantage to Australia. This House has a right to complain of having been kept in the dark about many aspects of foreign policy. That is the more deplorable when we reflect that from time to time Ministers make important pronouncements on such subjects to semi-public bodies before making any statement to Parliament. Instead of being treated as a deliberative chamber, this House gets vital information second-hand. Frequently honorable members learn through the newspapers of decisions and opinions which the Government should announce first on the floor of this House.
– That is not always done in Great Britain.
– During the brief period that I sat as a visitor in the House of. Commons listening to the debates I heard more statements in relation to Great Britain’s foreign policy that on any other subject. Any honorable gentleman who has visited Great Britain during recent years will bear similar testimony. But what is done in Britain is no answer to the contention that we in this House are entitled to information on matters of public interest before the Government’s policy is announced at some semi-public gathering. I hope that honorable members will not have cause to complain in future of the attitude which the Government has adopted in this particular connexion. I ask that we be given much fuller information in regard to the relations of the Commonwealth with other countries, and its foreign policy, which is of the utmost importance in view of the unfortunate and chaotic condition of world affairs to-day. In fact, it is a matter of urgency that we should be as fully informed as possible regarding international developments. Such information should not be collected from one source alone, but should truly and intelligently reveal the trend of international events, as they affect Australian affairs and the responsibilities of our people.
– In reply to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), I point out that the Department of External Affairs for many years was an appendage of the Prime Minister’s Department; but the Lyons Government, recognizing the importance of foreign relations, made it a separate department with full status.
– The Government has made it an appendage of the Treasury. [Quorum formed.]
– The Department of External Affairs is an entirely separate department, with a ministerial head in the person of Senator Pearce. Surely the Senate has the right to be represented in the Ministry; all Ministers cannot be members of this House. Senator Pearce, as Minister for External Affairs, makes frequent statements in the Senate regarding foreign affairs and the relations between Australia and other countries. I also desire to explain that., as has been emphasized by the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron), the summaries which have been issued from time to time by the Department of External Affairs are exceedingly full and complete.
– They are not.
– That is my view, and I believe that it is endorsed by the majority of honorable members. The statements of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, in regard to the great interest which is taken by the Labour party in foreign affairs, are somewhat discounted by the emptiness of the Opposition benches.
– That is very cheap.
– When the honorable member for Hindmarsh was complaining about the lack of interest, only two members of the Labour party were present in the chamber.
– Surely the Minister for Defence does not expect them to come here to listen to him.
– No ; but their absence from the chamber showed how little interest they had in what was being said by their colleague (Mr. Makin). The policy, adopted by the Government is to make statements on foreign affairs to the House, and not to outside bodies, as was suggested by the last speaker. So long as I have been a Minister that has been the practice of this Government.
– I am one of those who regard the matter of external affairs as being of importance. They are in themselves of much more importance than the mere matter of the allocation of ministerial representation between the two chambers of this Parliament. I have always held the view that the League of Nations justifies its existence in the fact that it does enable the representatives of many nations to come together for the purpose of discussing matters of mutual interest-
– And achieve nothing.
– Even if it were a fact that in substance nothing positive is done, consultation itself is valuable and tends to the creation of friendly relations amongst nations. For that reason, I think that the League of Nations justifies its existence, in that, if in no other way. The honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron), who always applies a thoughtful mind to this and other subjects, gave to the Government credit, and congratulated it upon the issue of Current Notes on foreign affairs. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) also applauded the Government, through its Department for External Affairs, for producing this fortnightly summary of international developments. It is a very interesting document. It deals, I hope, intelligently with foreign affairs as they are understood by the Government; but it has the cardinal defect of affording no information at all as to the attitude of our Government in regard to foreign affairs. Not very long ago I asked a question in this House as to what the Government al thought and what it was doing in reference to the trouble in Palestine. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) thought fit to treat my question flippantly, and postponed the answer, which, by the way, has not yet been given to me.
– Palestine is a British mandate - not an Australian mandate.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member. It therefore becomes a matter of the first importance for honorable members to know how. far this Government, which colours its foreign policy entirely in accordance with the views of Great Britain, is pledging itself, in respect of trouble of the kind that I have indicated in Palestine and Trans-Jordania. We wish to know what the Government proposes to do.
– It cannot do anything without money.
– I do not desire that it should do anything. I take the view that we are not responsible for the trouble in Trans-Jordania ; that we have no ambition and no cupidity in respect of the oil wells in Mesopotamia and Iraq, and that we do not desire to bs drawn into the international troubles that are developing there. I do not agree, as some appear to do, that the mandatory system is by any means perfect. In the way in which it is being operated, it is merely a veiled form of annexation. The manner in which various territories were parcelled out to the successful powers at Versailles, was an indecent exhibition of grab on the part of those nations which had declared that they were not engaged in the Great War with the object of acquiring additional territory, or for any other but the loftiest of moral objects. Now we find that Britain is involved in trouble in Palestine. Britain, of course, for all practical purposes, exercises a substantial measure of- sovereignty in Palestine. It is a question for lawyers to determine where the sovereignty does lie in these various mandates, but we know that, for all practical purposes, sovereign powers are exercised under a mandate, and that Britain is exercising such powers in Palestine. In doing so. it has, through the British statesman. Balfour, set up in Palestine a Jewish home. My sympathies and friendship, so far as my experience goes, are to the full with the Jewish people, and my spirit revolts against the intolerable wrongs to which they have been subjected in various countries of the world. But I cannot agree that the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine is at all consistent with that cardinal principle of the mandatory system, as laid down by the late President Woodrow . Wilson- self-determination, the consent of the governed. That principle has never been applied in Palestine. The Arabs are thu dominant race numerically, and are very politically minded, and that great soldier, Lawrence, when he fought with them to drive out the Turks,- did not do so with the idea that the Arabs, in turn, should be driven out by the French and British, and treated as an outcast race. That fact is at the bottom of the trouble in Palestine ‘to-day. It is a trouble that, will never bo settled, except by a recognition of the predominant rights of the Arabian people in their own home. They regard Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Trans- Jordania as being substantially Arab lands - Arabia. Any one who imagines that that great Moslem race, with its rising tide of learning, its intense religious .fervour, and its ‘developing political-mindedness, can be suppressed as a race of outcasts, entirely misapprehends the position in the near East. Therefore, when I asked the Treasurer to give to the House some information concerning what the Government was thinking about the trouble in Palestine, I expected the ordinary courtesy of a formal reply, instead of a flippant answer which represents the full measure of courtesy I have received at his hands in this matter. I have always taken the view, and at the risk of being grossly misrepresented by those looking for ulterior and base motives where, on the face of it, an honorable and decent one is apparent, that Australia can best serve the interests of world peace and harmonious relations by minding its own business and not associating itself with matters that lead to conflict with other nations. Let us have consultation, certainly, with other countries; let us acquire knowledge of international affairs; by all means, let us take an interest in other peoples; but, in the last resort, we cannot make a better contribution to world peace than by influencing this sector in the direction of peace. We cannot expect for a moment to preserve peace for Australia if we think of entangling ourselves in Imperial ambitions in which the British Government is necessarily involved - ambitions from, which it is impossible now. to extricate itself. Its tremendous material interests in India, the Far East, and elsewhere, and its close proximity to Europe, create difficulties for Great Britain which do not exist for Australia, and, while our deepest and warmest friendship must necessarily be extended to those who speak our own language - the English, Scottish, and Irish people, from whom we have sprung - yet, politically and socially, we shall serve the highest interests not only of Australia, but also of the world at large, by keeping ourselves aloof from any kind of European or Imperial entanglements, whether of Britain, our Dearest friend, or of any other country. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that we obtain very little information as to the policy of this Government on international affairs. I want to know what the Government is doing in respect of foreign affairs, not so much what other governments are doing. I wish to know how far this Government is committed by consultations, advice or policy, and in what manner Australia is involved. Apart from the policies of other countries, we obtain very little information at all. I trust that the Minister will convey my message of protest to the Minister for External Affairs.
– I congratulate the Government upon reorganizing the Department of External Affairs. Apparently, it realizes foreign relations are of sufficient importance to warrant a widening of the powers hitherto exercised by this rather emasculated department. That being so, the Government should have given honorable members longer than one hour to discuss its activities. Prior to the war Australia was more or less isolated; we knew very little of what was happening internationally. But conditions have altered, and the Government now recognizes that Parliament should be regularly advised of the developments in external affairs.
As a signatory of the Peace Treaty, Australia entered into certain contractual obligations with foreign powers, and became an international entity. This necessitated a definite organization and the establishment of a department to handle external affairs in such a way as to facilitate international communication and avoid unnecessary complications. These obligations necessitated a remarkable widening of the scope of this department’s activities. Certain officers were appointed to act in collaboration with the British Foreign Office. In this respect there is an avenue for the obtaining of information upon possible repercussions resulting from the making of trade treaties and other acts of policy. Hitherto this has seemed to be a sealed book, and the governments of Australia have taken more or less definite action trusting to good fortune attending them in their international relationships. To-day, however, because Australia is committed to approximately 190 treaties and 130 multilateral conventions, whatever the Government does to give effect to its policy may have a very definite re-action internationally, and advice in this regard may be obtained through this very able department. Quorum formed.’ Australia not only has the right to collaborate with Great Britain in the determination of foreign policy, but also, because of its dominion status, may act independently. But such action must be based upon wellinformed public opinion, and therein lies the value of this department. I commend those who are in charge of it for the foresight they have displayed in issuing fortnightly a circular containing information which helps to educate public opinion as to the necessity for paying greater attention to international affairs. This publicity is most desirable, and the information thus disseminated is of considerable value. The international obligations that we have assumed necessitate the smooth and progressive movement of our departmental machinery. In this connexion the appointment of a liaison officer in England is very valuable. Obviously, his task is to smooth out the slight misunderstandings that are bound to arise between governments that are widely separated by distance. Misunderstandings must occur following on our dominion status, and realizing to the full the possible effects of the fact that Australia is not called upon blindly to follow British policy, and is empowered to negotiate and conclude treaties, I consider that in this department there must be a gradual infiltration of the best human material available. The officers in Australia and England should be exchanged frequently, so that all may gain the necessary experience by contact with the British Foreign Office, possibly the best branch of the public service in the world. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has spoken rather disparagingly of the powers which the department may exercise. He has contended that it is not a department in the full sense of the term, because no Minister gives the whole of his time to it.
– The Minister for External Affairs administers no other department.
– Is he not in charge of the administration of Papua and the Mandated Territory?
– No; they are administered by the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I am happy to receive the assurance that the Government considers this department of sufficient importance to warrant a Minister’s whole attention. Ultimately, it must assume responsibility in regard to such subsidiary matters as passports, naturalization, and the outside territories. The position now occupied by Australia compels a more active interest in international affairs than has been taken in the past. (Quorum formed.]
.- [ regret the shortness of the time that has been allotted to this important department, but realize that it is of a piece with the attitude of the Government towards the subject of external affairs. Since 1934, there has been on the businesspaper the item “ League of Nations - Fifteenth Assembly - Report of Australian Delegation - Motion for Printing Paper”. That is now Item No. 21, at the bottom of the list of matters to be considered. Only a couple of months ago there was placed on the businesspaper the item “League of Nations - Suggestions for Covenant Reform - Motion for Printing Paper “. When the statement of the Government was made in respect of that matter, the promise was given that the House would have an early opportunity to discuss it, but so far that promise has not been fulfilled.
– It still holds good; the opportunity will he afforded..
– I have no doubt that a lot of things will happen. But the important fact is, that the Government has proceeded to give effect to its policy. It embarked upon a trade war with the United States of America and Japan, without consulting this Parliament. But that is not the matter with which I ‘ wish to concern myself in the few minutes that I have at my disposal. The power in relation to external affairs is one that has developed tremendously in the 36 years of the life of this Commonwealth, and an important part of it is the relation of Australia to the rest of the world, not merely for war, but also for peace purposes. The power to make and to give effect to conventions governing labour and other matters is possessed by this Commonwealth. I suggest that Australia ought to take more seriously its responsibility in connexion with the International Labour Office. Peregrinations to Geneva, which are regarded as being of the nature of an annual picnic, representatives of the Government, the employers, and the employees having a free trip at the expense of Australia, are of very little value, if effect is not given to the multilateral conventions which are there made. Australia occupies a very unfavorable position among the nations that are parties to those conventions. Rarely do we make any attempt to carry them out. It is said that many of them, involve action by all the organs which constitute the federation: that they involve State as well as Federal action. That may be; but that is no reason why the Commonwealth should not give effect to them, so far as it can do so within the ambit of its powers. Much has been said concerning a 40-hour week. AH that I would add is, that there is quite a considerable domain in which the Com monwealth could give effect to the principle. It is laid down in a general convention, and the Commonwealth ought to make some attempt to apply it to its own employees, and to territories and other places which are under its exclusive control. Australia ought to play a leading part in the International Labour Office. There was a time when this country particularly, as well as New Zealand, led the world in attempts to settle industrial troubles by peaceful, legal means, and to improve and advance the conditions of the masses. In that respect we were looked up to by all other countries. But at that time the people of Australia were led by men of former generations. It seems deplorable that Australian-born persons have apparently become unable to contribute to industrial leadership. The real industrial leadership which Australia gave to the world was supplied by either British-born or the children of Britishborn individuals. A great stimulus came from the contributions to this country by the Chartist and the Young Europe movement, representatives of which came here and enabled us to become the standard-bearer of industrial leadership and reform for the rest of the world. Legislative measures passed in various parts of Australia were accepted as models, and were adopted by other countries, small and large. But that leadership is slipping from us. I suggest to this House, to the Government and to the people, of Australia generally, that our work in connexion with the International Labour Office is of the greatest importance, not merely to this Commonwealth, but also to the world at large, and that we should try to give a lead. As a country which devotes more time to the work of peace than to that of war, and the preparation for war, we ought to be prepared to take 9 leading part in the International Labour Conferences, and, as a condition of our participation in those gatherings, we ought to be able to assure the rest of the world that we are doing our best to give effect to the conventions adopted by it.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this proposed vote has expired. [Quorum formed.]
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of the Treasury, £778,580; Attorney-General’s Department, £194,720; and Department of the Interior, £431,710 - agreed to.
DEPARTMENT of Defence.
Proposed vote, £5,713,290.
– I have distributed to-day a memorandum which sets out the estimates of expenditure for the purposes of defence, and furnishes all necessary details for the information of honorable members. Had I known that this vote would have been under consideration so soon, I should have distributed the statement, at an earlier stage. The total expenditure on defence this year will amount to £8,783,070, which will be the largest outlay in any year since the late war.
At the conclusion of my speech of the 11th September on the defence Estimates for 1936-37, mention was made of the extent to which the recent additions to the Labour party’s defence policy were in accord with the essential basis of the Government’s policy. In view of the concluding hope expressed by me “ that a common ground exists here to raise the vital question of national defence above party issues “, it is not desired to prejudice the overture for co-operation by pointing out that, although the additions to the Labour platform are in general agreement with the Government’s policy, there are important-omissions which limit the completeness and adequacy of the policy outlined by the Opposition party for the defence of Australia.
As the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said, according to a press report of the 6th October last -
Australia’s own defence has to be assured by Australia herself. That is the essence of the situation as I sec it in Australia, and realization of this fact dictates Australian Labour’s consideration of defence.
I am constrained, in view of the necessity for the people and the Parliament being accurately informed on this matter, to traverse in detail certain vital differences between the policy of the Government and that of the Australian Labour party. In pursuance of the spirit of my original appeal, this examination is made in no hypercritical manner, but with a full appreciation of the common desire of both parties to realize the same end, namely, the security of the Commonwealth. The platform of the Australian Labour party, as it stood before the recent Labour conference in Adelaide, was understood to provide for “ adequate home defence against possible foreign aggression “. The recent additions to the policy of the party elaborated this in some detail under the following headings: - Navy, Army, Air Force and the organization of industry and resources.
Wide publicity has been given to the reported words of the honorable the Leader of the Opposition which I have quoted, and which indicate that Australia’s defence is a matter to be viewed in isolation as one of home or local defence. This statement cannot be allowed to pass without challenge.
It is fully conceded to the honorable gentleman that support for his view can be obtained from recent utterances by numbers of our citizens, who have expressed opinions as to the impossibility of the British Navy helping us in the event of a European war and the consequent necessity for us to rely absolutely on our own resources. In view of the prevalence of this opinion, it is the duty and obligation of the Government to make an authoritative statement. Realizing my responsibilities as Minister for Defence, no one is less likely than I am to under-estimate the efforts required for local defence of the Commonwealth, an obligation which Ave accepted at the Imperial Conference in 1923. I would, however, submit that, whilst the old colonial idea of Empire defence as one of complacent trust in the Royal Navy, and nothing more, has been replaced by a conception of the defence of the common interests of a family of sovereign nations, the backbone of the defence of the British commonwealth is still essentially naval, and will remain so as long as oceans link the shores of its members.
It is frequently said that Britain’s naval strength is not what it was. The old two-power standard against the next two strongest fleets certainly does not exist, owing to the growth of the American Navy since the Great War ; but the possibility of the British Empire having to take the navy of the United States of
America into account was disposed of in the following words addressed by the Foreign Secretary to the American repre sentative at the London Naval Conference in April last: -
We are in full agreement that there must be ito competitive building between our two countries, and that neither country should question the right of the other to maintain parity in any category of ship. I can, indeed, go further than this and say that, in estimating our naval requirements, we have never taken the strength of the United States of America Navy into account.
I am sure honorable members will agree that this confidence between Englishspeaking nations is very refreshing and desirable in an international atmosphere of fear, suspicion and feverish rearmament. Taking into consideration the fleets of the rest of the world, we know that the standard of British naval strength contemplated will provide adeterrent against aggression and afford naval protection of all parts of the Empire territories in both hemispheres. It is, of course, a fact that the naval strength of the United Kingdom has fallen owing to its unilateral lead in disarmament and the restrictions of treaty limitations. Whilst this has entailed some risk, as was revealed in the recent Italo-Abyssinian dispute, it has not been without compensating advantages. It has been said that without the experience of the failure of this gesture, the peace-loving British people would not have been so overwhelmingly united in endorsing the policy of the British Government for the Strengthening of its defences.
A German philosopher has observed of British character that it is slow to be aroused to impending clanger, but, once alarmed, acts vigorously to meet the situation. This has been demonstrated since the Government of the United Kingdom announced, in March, 1935, its decision to augment its defences, and,
Under the naval part of the programme, the construction of the following ships is either under way or projected: - Two capital ships, 17 cruisers, 43 destroyers, 3 aircraft carriers and 15 submarines. In addition, the modernization of certain of the existing capital ships is being carried out, the personnel is being increased by 6,000 and a large expansion is being carried out in the fleet air arm. The Singapore Naval Base is nearing completion, and the defences of other bases are being strengthened.
– When will the Singapore base, be completed?
– In approximately eighteen months, but it can already render very material assistance to the Empire’s defences.
The fundamental importance of adequate naval strength has been described by the Government of the United Kingdom in the following terms: -
If peace should be broken, the Navy is, as always, the first line of defence for the maintenance of our essential sea communications. Our special problems of defence arise, firstly, from the dependence of Britain for ite existence on sea-borne supplies of food and raw materials, and, secondly, from the unique conditions of the British Empire, its worldwide distribution, and the fact that all parts of it are, to a greater or less extent, dependent on communications by sea for their well-being, or in some instances for their very existence : furthermore, in the last resort, it is on the transport of adequate forces and their supplies by sea that the different parts of the Empire rely to resist aggression and to ensure the security of their interests ami the integrity of their territory.
Thus it is that the security by sea passage to this country, as well as to and from all parts of the Empire, forms the bas’s ami foundation of our system of Imperial defence, without which all other measures can be of but little avail.
So long as the Navy is strong enough to perform this task, and the other defence services are equipped to. co-operate in the defence of ports and of the narrow seas, our food supplies will be safeguarded; the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations will be able to render each other mutual support to the extent that each may decide, and the trade of the different parts of the Empire, both with one another and with the rest of the world, will be maintained. Failure to make sufficient provision for the Navy and the other defence services would, in the event of wat, reduce supplies to the point of starvation, render impossible mutual support within the Empire. lead to a cessation of trade, and inflict incalculable suffering on the community.
It is the practice of some people, in estimating risks, to conjure up all manner of combinations in which the British Empire is greatly outnumbered. An examination of history will show that alliances beget alliances, for States are driven together to maintain their interests against threatening coalitions. As the Government of the United Kingdom has given a pledge that its armaments will never be employed in contravention of the Covenant of the League or the Pact of Paris, it is obvious, if Britain is at war with more than one enemy, that it should not lack allies.
Honorable members will agree, in regard to the strategical aspect of Empire naval defence, that no one can speak with greater authority than the First Sca Lord of the Admiralty. This is what he said last January at the London Naval Conference, when stating the policy of the Government of the United Kingdom on Japan’s proposal for a common upper limit for the naval forces of the leading naval powers -
A power with world-wide responsibilities must, in the first place, devote naval forces t’> the protection of the sea communications between its various parts as well as to the protection of the long line of communications between its principal naval forces. Vor this reason alone it is necessary for it to have forces in excess of those of a power which is able to maintain its whole naval forces in or near .its own home waters. Moreover, it must in all equity be admitted that a power with distant possessions must bc able in a time of emergency to despatch an adequate naval force for the defence of those possessions without denuding or seriously impairing its own home defences. Apart from these purely strategical necessities, it is clear that political considerations would always prevent tlie concentration of the whole naval forces in one part of the world. It is not to be supposed that under any conditions the people of the home country would bc prepared to permit tlie whop naval forces of their nation to be despatched to some distant part of the world, leaving them entirely exposed to attack. They must, indeed, always insist upon the retention of a substantial naval force in home waters.
In estimating our requirements, we have to take into account responsibilities in European waters, in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. These imply the necessity for a fleet of sufficient strength to bc able to dispose simultaneously in more than one area forces adequate to meet all reasonable defensive needs.
– That means that a squadron of the British Navy will be stationed at Singapore?
– It means that it is the intention of the British Government to provide an adequate naval force, not only to defend its own shores,- but also to supply adequate and substantial assistance to this country should, at any time, we need assistance.
– But that would depend upon the factual position existing at the time.
– I suggested that.
– It is possible that we may not get any support.
– I do not agree with that. I am quoting the views expressed by the First Sea Lord in his explanation of the position at the last conference, and for the benefit of the honorable member I shall again read a relevant passage -
In estimating our requirements we have to take into account responsibilities in European waters, in the Atlantic, Indian and Pa.ci.fie oceans. These imply the necessity for a fleet of sufficient strength to be able to dispose simultaneously in more than one area tha forces adequate to meet all reasonable defensive needs.
This means, as I said before, that it is the intention of the British Government to provide for possible engagements in the waters specifically mentioned. A British fleet cannot act as a shield against the invasion of Australia without a completed and adequately defended Singapore naval base. Therefore, the Commonwealth has a vital interest in the security of this base, particularly in the early stages of any hostilities when the fleet is en route.
– When will the Singapore base be finished?
– I have already answered that question. The work will be completed in about eighteen months, but already the base is a powerful defensive agency. This base, which is as far from the waters of the nearest naval Dower as Portsmouth is from New York, is purely defensive; it is a. threat to no one, and cannot take offensive action like a fleet. The Singapore base is being constructed at great expense for the defence of British interests in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
– Is it possible for our air force to co-operate with the air force at .Singapore?
– Most decidedly. The United Kingdom has an immense stake in the eastern hemisphere, and the same strategical dispositions that cover Australia and New Zealand are also the shield for
India, South Africa, the rich colonies, dependencies and protectorates whose shores are washed by the Indian and South Pacific oceans, and a vast trade. Even though no commitment exists, any more than a commitment exists for Australia to co-operate with the rest of the Empire, the United Kingdom would have, apart from its great common interests with Australia and New Zealand, an overwhelming motive to send a strong fleet to Singapore.
It has been argued that, in the event of a European war, British public opinion would insist on the retention of British naval strength in European waters. I have already mentioned that the standard of strength contemplates defence for all parts of the Empire and that Britain has an immense stake in the eastern hemisphere. There is nothing that can be more authoritative than the policy of the Government of the United Kingdom and its utterances on the subject, and these are entitled to a greater degree of credence than the opinions of those in a much less favorable position to judge the reactions of British public opinion, in the contingencies we have in mind. An eminent Australian, fully acquainted with these matters and with excellent opportunities to sense British opinion, recently spoke as follows on his return from London -
I found no thought in any circle (as has often been suggested in Australia) that Australia would be “ left in the lurch “ in the event of a world-wide war.
An English journal of high standing and authority recently published a series of articles contributed by authors representative of all shades of political opinion, on “What Should We Fight For”? In no case was it indicated that aggression against any part of the Empire would be a matter of indifference to British opinion and action.
In war the fate and future of overseas territories have always been decided by the outcome of the war in the main theatre. An overseas expedition aimed at Australia may he said to be a highly improbable undertaking as long as the position at Singapore is secure and the fleets of the British Commonwealth of Nations are maintained at such a strength as to enable a force to be despatched to the eastern hemisphere should the occasion arise. British sea power also ensures the safe despatch of our export trade of wool, wheat and other products to their markets at the large centres of population overseas. Exports are the means by which we pay for our imports and pay the interest on our external public debt. When the national income was at the peak figure of £650,000,000 before the depression, the value of the overseas trade was £290,000,000, but during the depression, these figures fell to a national income of £435,000,000 and an overseas trade valued at £130,000,000. During the same period the figures for unemployment rose from 7 per cent. to 29 per cent. The disastrous repercussions on our national economy of an entire stoppage of seaborne tradewhich might be enforced by an enemy with command of the sea, will be apparent. He could put a stranglehold on us which could force us to terms without the landing of one soldier on our shores.
The freedom of movement at sea also guarantees the power to send reinforcements and munitions to our aid. The Battle of Jutland was won just as surely as if the German Fleet had been sunk, for British sea-borne trade continued to flow and reinforcements and supplies could he transported over the oceans of the world, while the enemy’s fleet remained in its base and his trade was swept from the seas.
I have already said in an earlier speech that these safeguards of sea power are the justification for the Royal Australian Navy, and that for Australia not to participate in Empire naval defence would be a confession of a lack of national conscience, and a reckless disregard of our interests and security. It is accordingly the policy of the Government to maintain the Royal Australian Navy at a strength which is a fair contribution to Empire naval defence.
Though the main purpose of my remarks is to emphasize the importance to Australia of Empire naval defence, it is not desired to minimize the joint aspect of Australian defence. The British main fleet is the basis upon which our naval strategy rests, but the cover it can provide is rarely complete, and it may always be expected that detached enemy units may evade the main fleet and carry out sporadic attacks on territory and trade. To deal with, these attacks, considerable numbers of cruisers are required over and above those forming part of the main fleet, and fixed defences are provided at vital localities with supporting troops. The Australian army provides a further deterrent to invasion, and the Royal Australian Air Force exists for co-operation with the other services and for the independent role it may be called upon to exercise. If the several parts of the Empire participate in Imperial naval defence and provide for their own local defence the security of all will be provided for, and the collective strength will be such that it will be a deterrent to the strongest aggressors or their probable allies. j
Having dealt with the vital importance to Australia of Empire naval defence. I now briefly mention the main considerations underlying the advantages of Empire co-operation in defence generally. If the international order is such that territorial integrity and political independence are ‘ only respected where strength is sufficient to deter aggression, it will be evident that the weaker nations will exist merely on the sufferance of those more powerful. The present fears of small nations are illustrated by the increased defence preparations of Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Sweden, and by Belgium’s recent proposal for a guaranteed neutrality.
Like the weaker European States, we are a member of the League of Nations, and look to the Covenant for whatever degree of security it would afford us in the event of aggression against the Commonwealth. However, we have the great good fortune, in comparison with those States, of also being a member of the British Empire. Accordingly, subject to the sovereign control of its own policy, and without prior commitment in any shape or form, the Government stands for co-operation in Imperial defence. . The advantages of this policy are : -
It is earnestly hoped that the policy of Imperial co-operation will receive the endorsement of the Labour party. The peaceful nature of the Empire’s policy is clear, for the Government of the United Kingdom has stated that the establishment of peace on a permanent footing is the principal aim of British foreign policy. It has also been declared that the forces now being created by Britain will never be used contrary to the Covenant of the League and the Pact of Paris.
The number of nations in which the sovereign will of the people is capable of effective expression is diminishing to such an extent that the rights and privileges of democratic government, freedom and tolerance threaten to become the essential marks of distinction between a new grouping of the nations. If the wheels of political progress are not to be turned back by centuries, we must be prepared, if necessary, to defend our rights with the same zeal and sacrifice with which our forefathers won them. There is a grave danger that Lincoln’s words “ That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth “, may become as vital an issue in the twentieth century as it was in the nineteenth.
In the reform of the League of Nations, a common basis of co-operation exists for like-minded States, who are bent on the maintenance of peace, and the preservation of the welfare of the mass of the people. The threats to peace to-day do not arise from the democratic countries. The British Empire, as a community of democratic and peace:loving peoples, and a lesser League within the League, is peculiarly fitted to take its place in the vanguard of international efforts for peace.
As the policies of .the Government and of the Opposition are in essential agreement on the aspect of home or local defence, I make an earnest appeal for consideration of the case I have outlined on the complementary aspect of empire defence. My examination of this question has been made not in any narrow spirit to make political capital from the Opposition’s defence policy, but with a sincere desire to establish a common ground on every aspect of a national policy which has as its aim the realization of the maximum degree of security for the Commonwealth. The Government’s developmental programmes represent a considerable step forward, but much remains to be done. It is the desire of the Government that the continuous development of an effective policy shall be pursued irrespective of party considerations, so that the ultimate strengths of the services necessary for the defence of Australia may be realized within the shortest time compatible with the financial resources of the country, and the economical development of the forces.
I have taken up half an hour of the five hours allotted for consideration of this department, but I consider that the time occupied was not unreasonable in view of the importance of the subject. I have distributed copies of an explanation of the Defence Estimates. This I should have done earlier, but I thought that this department would not come on for discussion to-day. To my surprise, the Estimates for a number of other departments were allowed to go through without opposition, and the Defence Department came up much earlier than was expected. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition has not had more time in which to consider the details of this proposed expenditure.
The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale
Parkhill) has given us an elaborate and well-considered statement, in which he has emphasized the naval phases of Australia’s defence policy. I remind him that he ought to counsel his Cabinet not to indulge in provocative policies in respect of our neighbours in the Pacific, policies which might have the effect of making the need for naval defence more urgent than at present. There are two ways in which we can defend ourselves; the better and wiser course is to preserve friendly relations with our neighbours, and not to trail our coats in the course of trade and commercial contacts with others with whom it is in the best interests of this country to he at peace, and to remain at peace. Much of the speech of the Minister for Defence would probably not have been necessary, but for trade complications which have arisen in the world generally during the last decade, and more particularly in respect of our own position in the Pacific. I leave the matter at that.
In the present defence programme it is proposed to spend this year nearly £8,750,000. The Minister has informed us that expenditure on the maintenance of the navy will amount to about £2,500,000, while capital expenditure will amount to a little less than £1,250,000, making a total of approximately £3,750,000. On the army it is proposed to spend somewhat less than £3,000,000, of which £1,700,000 is for maintenance and £1,200,000 for capital equipment. In regard to the air force, maintenance and capital expenditure will he about equal,- making a total of £1,500.000. About £500,000 is to be spent on civil aviation, making, as I have said, a total of nearly £8,750,000 under the heading of defence, of which £5,700,000 is to be for maintenance purposes, and approximately £3,000,000 will represent capital expenditure.
This is an extraordinary increase on the obligations which these Estimates impose on the public. Defence expenditure this year, together with costs arising out of the last war, will amount to no less than 44 per cent, of the total revenue from taxation for the year. Nearly half of our total revenue from taxation must thus be earmarked for defence purposes, and for paying for the last war. The estimated revenue from taxation for this financial year is £61,000,000, and we propose to spend £’27,000,000 on repatriation charges, interest ‘on war debts and on provision for defence.
The Minister for Defence has asked me to regard this matter, not so much in its relation to Australia, as in relation to the Empire. I propose to discuss the subject, having regard to the strategical aspect. As Australia is an insular continent, with a sea-borne trade valued at approximately £!35,000,000, many people pin their faith entirely to naval protection. In a discussion on thd defence of Australia, the Singapore naval base must necessarily assume a position of prominence. That fortified base cannot he regarded as a measure of Australia’s defence, except in
COl junction with a fleet based upon it. 1 1 is the presence of the fleet which is the vital element, the fortifications being but an enabling factor. I suggest that a fleet nf the magnitude necessary for this purpose is quite beyond the power of Australia to provide. Lord Jellicoe, Lord Beattie, and other high authorities, have strongly voiced the opinion that the British fleet is not powerful enough to perform the role of protecting the heart of the Empire and ensuring essential imports into the United Kingdom during war time. How, then, could a fleet, busy in European waters be capable of despatching sufficient ships to the Western Pacific and thus deny to an enemy the use of these seas for offensive operations? If an Eastern first-class power sought an abrogation of a basic Australian policy, such as the White Australia policy, it would most likely do so when. Great Britain was involved or threatened to be involved in a European war. Would the British Government darc to authorize the despatch of any substantial part of the fleet to the East to help Australia? I put that question having regard to the circumstances of the situation. The Minister for Defence cited certain authorities. I quote what Admiral Webb Mid in 1930j thus -
We are not only an Asiatic power in the widest sense, but alSO a European country with all Europe’s complicated troubles and responsibilities at bor door. That being so, to imagine that we arc going to uncover the heart of the Empire arid send our fleet or the best part of it thousands of miles into the Pacific with only one base for our supplies and damaged ships is to write us down as something more than fools. The British people would not tolerate it.
That is the statement of Admiral Webb.
– Who is Admiral Webb? In any case, the statement is five years old.
– The statement is five years old, but our defence policy commenced five years ago, and orientation of the international situation in its present outlook only commenced in 1930 with the advent of the world depression. We Australians can thus see that the naval forces of the Empire at their present strength - by treaty on an equality with three other powers - are inadequate to ensure to us immunity from attack by a determined enemy. According to tlie Treaty of London 1930 - the Minister referred to the Pact of Paris, which was arrived at at the same time - the naval forces of Great Britain must include the Royal Australian Navy. Were Australia to double or quadruple its naval unit, the home fleet would be correspondingly reduced. That is part of an international agreement, which demands that the whole of the naval forces of the British Empire are to be considered as one unit, and if we were to spend more on naval organization under the terms of the treaty, that expenditure must hp. taken into account and included as a representative part of whatever is Britain’s fleet, in accordance with that agreement. The capacity of the naval forces of the Empire to ensure the security of this continent is open to very grave doubt. Another British admiral has said that the loss of Australia during a war would, not be vital, and that if the Empire Navy were successful in the main struggle, Great Britain would again reconquer Australia at its leisure. That is not a nice situation for us ‘to be in!
– Who said that?
– That was said by a British admiral.
– Why not give his name?
– The Minister for Defence said that ho would supply a name later. I simply did not write down the name of this admiral; that is al’.
Britain has only recently decided to increase its air force, thereby making it clear that its first concern is its own local security, lt could not indulge in a naval armament race concurrently with a threefold expansion of its air force. The cost would be colossal. A greater degree of self-reliance in Australia’s defence is essential.
– I do not disagree. “ Mr. CURTIN. - I do not want the honorable Minister to imagine in any respect that I disregard our obligations as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I look at this in the light of the facts of the situation in Australia and in other countries. We are a sovereign member of the League of Nations. In respect of the League, we have to act for ourselves and decide for ourselves*. I also put it to the country that, in the determination of the measures that shall be taken in order to make Australia safe, the general and paramount consideration is to view the problem also from the viewpoint of our own sovereign judgment.
– The honorable member will help us?
– Yes I will, and I have done so. The Minister has not been able to quarrel with one portion of the policy of Labour in respect of the defence of Australia.
– No; it is the same as our own.
– Very well. I repeat that a greater degree of self-reliance in Australia’s self-defence is essential. This need not imply any real conflict of interest between local and imperial defence. On the contrary, an improvement of our self-reliance would assist the Empire fleet to be kept concentrated at the decisive point wherever that may he. There is no escape from the conclusion that with the development of air power and the re-emergence of Germany, Great Britain is becoming more and more a European and less and less a world power. Who can deny then that Australia too, like England, must look to its own security? It is fashionable for the Blue Water School to voice the opinion that Australia need only fear minor raids by a naval unit and the depredations of commerce raiders like the Emden and the Wolf. Many citizens in consequence look upon local defence expenditure as unnecessary. In this misplaced enthusiasm for the sea service many politicians and others with pacific tendencies seize upon this idea as an excuse to do nothing whatever for Australia’s defence. That is looking at the situation from a viewpoint altogether different from that of either the Minister for Defence or myself. The assumption upon the idea that minor raids only need be guarded against is that the British fleet will arrive in Singapore in time, that it will find a properly equipped base not captured or. seriously damaged by naval or air bombardment, and that it will win the naval battle when forced into action. What would be happening in the meantime? It is only reasonable to think that generally we can rely on Imperial assistance^ - on the British Fleet coming to our aid; but how long will that take even assuming that the circumstances in which Britain finds itself at the time justify British statesmen in “uncovering the heart of the Empire”. It is unreasonable to think that the British Fleet will leave European waters until the situation there is thoroughly satisfactory. That is not a statement of contempt for British policy. It is not to be considered as a reflection on British statesmanship. If our Minister for Defence were first War Lord or First Lord of the Admiralty in the United Kingdom he would say that that is a fair statement of the case. If he were responsible for the defence of the United Kingdom as he is responsible for the defence of Australia he would not allow the forces he deemed essential for the defence of his own territory to be despatched thousands of miles away until he had first guaranteed the defences of the territory for. which he was responsible.
– I said that.
– That is our case. The dependence of Australia upon, the competence, let alone the readiness, of British statesmen to send forces to our aid is too dangerous a hazard upon which to found Australia’s defence policy.
– Great Britain has never failed us.
– History has had no experience of the situation I am visualizing.
– It is imagination.
Mr.CURTIN.- No, it represents a reasonable examination of the possibilities of the situation. Great wars in which Australia’s security is to be. imperilled will not be European wars. They will be wars in the South Pacific. The delay in despatching the British fleet to our aid would be bound to be prolonged. This delay would provide an enemy the opportunity to capture or damage the Singapore base. It must be obvious to any thinking person on the face of these considerations that Australia’s danger is more than a mere hostile tip-and-run raid. Some may argue that with the main fleet in European waters light cruisers based at Singapore and augmented by the Royal Australian Navy would be a deterrent against anything but raids.
Let me examine that aspect of the question. Singapore is well placed for the defence of India and the trade routes of the Indian Ocean, but it is nearly 3.000 miles west off a direct line from Japan to the eastern coast of Australia as far as Gibraltar is across the Atlantic from New York. The great expenditure by the United Kingdom on the base at Singapore was dictated by no paramount consideration for the security of Australia but was influenced very profoundly by the desirability to ensure the integrity of India from hostile cruisers. That a naval unit based on Singapore which would obviously be weak in relation to Japan’s naval strength would be a real deterrent to any hostile overseas intentions on Australia is contrary to all naval history.From my reading of naval history there is nothing so inferior as an inferior fleet. If a nation has a fleet that cannot conquer it would be better off without one. Britain’s Grand Fleet bottled up the German High ‘ Fleet for practically the whole of the war. The Minister for Defence has just said that the Battle of Jutland meant absolute immunity for British naval forces and British mercantile marine as thoroughly as though every naval unit in the German strength had been sunk. What I mean is that however great the extent of the expenditure , on naval preparations may be, unless it ensures victory, every pound of it is wasted. The German High Fleet was impotent in any sphere except the banditry of submarines.
Rather than a deterrent, an inferior force at Singapore, pending the arrival of the main British fleet, would be much the same as Von Spec’s squadron in the Pacific Ocean; it would be chased across the ocean and sunk. Therefore, much more than minor raids is to be feared. What then is the possible extent and object of more extensive offensive operations? The political object of a probable enemy would vary between the enforcement of a demand or a policy of territorial conquest. The first step would be the capture of Hong Kong and/or Singapore, but as long as the principal Australian ports remained intact there would remain in the mind of an enemy the lurking possibility of the eventual arrival of the British fleet to use these ports as a commencement of operations to recover step by step the losses sustained. It is true that these ports are capable of being used as, or of being transformed into, first-class naval bases to re-establish British interests; but a long delay would be inevitable. It might be that the enemy would consider a major attack on Australia essential to the elimination of British sea-power, even if it had no intention of remaining in permanent occupation of the country. Hence our provision for local defence should contemplate the possibility of a major land and air attack.
Another forcii of attack ‘ or pressure suggested is a blockade. The Minister for ExternalAffairs (Senator Pearce) Said recently-
If Australia’s markets were closed and her imports and exports stopped by enemy action she wouldbe forced to sue for peace without a single enemy soldier coming within sight of her shores. Against such an attack she has only one defence - an efficient and powerful Empire navy.
That argument has just been submitted to the committee by the Minister for Defence.
– That is so.
– It will be readily admitted that the bestoffence against blockade is superior naval forces. The question whether such forces can be concentrated at the base where they can prevent the blockade has already been discussed. Would a blockade affect us very much? Australia, unlike Britain, is more or leas self-contained as regards tha necessaries of life. To be deprived of some luxuries would do us no harm, but the cessation of oil supplies would affect transport and certain phases of our industrial life. I have, therefore, repeatedly urged the Government and the country to take the utmost possible steps to ensure cither that adequate oil supplies are discovered in Australia or that reserves are secured in sufficient volume to make us independent at any rate for a long time of external supplies. As late as last night I dealt with the need for Australian oil. If we have not got it, the greater part of this expenditure would not give us efficiency even on the principles laid down by the Minister. A blockade certainly might prevent the payment of our overseas interest bill. This might worry other people more than ourselves. Are we, as a young, virile selfsupporting nation, likely to surrender because of the comparatively minor hardships imposed by a blockade? I do not think so. 1 put that to the country, and answer by saying, “ No, we are not going to surrender merely because we are blockaded “. Other countries are not in that Position The feasibility of the application of a blockade against Australia is also a matter which needs more than passing notice. The trade routes around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, which give access to our southern ports, lie many thousands of miles from the bases of any possible enemy. Sporadic commerce raiding could not produce .anything but a very partial result. In order to blockade our southern ports effectively it would be necessary for an enemy to secure advanced bases from which to operate his ships within convenient reach of the objectives. In view of the scattered location of our ports between Fremantle and Sydney two such advanced bases at least would be required - one in the east and one in the west. It so happens there are no places, except within Australian territory, which are so placed as to serve effectively as advanced blockade bases. In order, therefore, to establish his blockade, should he think such a proceeding worth while, it would be necessary for the invader to take, hold, and guard against land and air attack at least two places within our territory. This would involve military operations on a considerable scale. Assuming that the British fleet had its hands full in European waters, a major land attack upon Australian territory would be an essential preliminary to the establishment of an effective blockade. Our land and air forces, therefore, are an essential element in the prevention of the application of an effective blockade. 1 shall now consider the degrees of land and air attack. To determine the defensive measures it would be obviously necessary to consider tlie degrees of hostile attack. First, let us take the naval bombardment of our chief ports.’ This is the form of attack which our fixed defences are designed to meet. These defences are gradually being brought up to date as regards guns and aircraft. A sound progressive policy has already been laid down.
Secondly, there could be air attack from, aircraft carriers. This form of attack implies an offensive on a limited scale both in form and in time. The number and offensive capacity of aircraft which can be borne by carriers arc limited. The difficulties of taking off from, and still more, of landing upon, the decks of the carrier restrict the number of aircraft which can be brought into effective action at one time. The carrier itself is a vulnerable object, which must, during the process of attack, steam in a particular direction relative to the wind. The aircraft borne by carriers, moreover, are designed primarily for fleet reconnaisance and for operations directly related to those of the fleet. Attacks from aircraft carriers must necessarily be sporadic in nature, since it is impossible, to maintain the ships continuously at th*> place on the sea from which the attacks must be made. The consequence is that air attacks from carriers are unlikely to have decisive results against a determined opponent. It is unlikely, moreover, that, if we possessed an air force of even moderate dimensions, an enemy would expose his vulnerable aircraft carriers. which are highly valuable to the operations of his fleet, for such a period of time and in such a place as would threaten thom with destruction or serious damage by our aircraft. One bomb on the deck of a carrier might render it useless as a mobile air base. The conclusion is that we need not be unduly apprehensive of this form of attack.
We must consider, thirdly, the possibility of an air attack from a shore base. In order to apply this form of attack, an enemy must first effect a landing, and then establish and guard his air base. Once the base is taken, aircraft, being carried in transport, can be assembled with their necessary requirements in personnel, materiel, and anti-aircraft guns prior to operating from a stable base. The aircraft borne in carriers would conceivably be used temporarily for the defensive operation of covering the landing. It will be readily seen that after the preliminary processes have been effected, air attack from a shore base would be a much more serious proposition
I hari air attack from carriers. An. essen.tial element in this form of attack, apart from the actual capture of the base and the landing and organization of air forces, is its continued protection from attack by land and air forces. For this, military forces would be required on a scale conditioned by the probable extent of the military attack to which it would be liable. The aircraft itself could not defend the base against even a minorscale attack by land forces. It is impossible, therefore, to contemplate an attack from a shore base by aircraft, except in conjunction with a combined operation by naval, land, and air forces.
Fourthly, a combined land and air attack may be attempted. It is not to be expected that an enemy, finding it necessary for his purpose to despatch a combined military and air expedition, would be content to rely entirely upon either the military part of his force by itself, or the air part of his force by itself, to bring the offensive to a successful conclusion. It is at least open to doubt whether an air offensive alone, unaccompanied by the immediate and personal exercise of forces entailed by military occupation, could, in fact, succeed.
In other words, Australia is one of the countries of the world which would be most difficult to attack, and most difficult to occupy. The co-operation of at leasttwo services would be essential. The size of the expedition would be relative to an enemy’s total available forces, his commitments in other parts of the world, and the availability of shipping. It must be remembered also that no prospective enemy could place the whole of his force in operation against us, any more than Great Britain could send the whole force “ of its navy to Australia to defend us. It is this latter factor which imposes the principal limitation upon the strength of a hostile force, and which enables us to contemplate measures of defence. The capacity of the shipping likely to be available to any power for transportation can be calculated fairly accurately. We should provide forces sufficient to deal with the initial convoy before his ships would have time to return and bring another load. [Leave to continue given.] If that object be achieved and if the enemy realizes our strength up to date as to materiel and so forth, he would hesitate to despatch an expedition. Our forces then are an effective deterrent - in fact, the best defence of all.
An important factor bearing upon this question is the efficiency of our inland transportation, upon which, as regards our military forces, we are dependent to effect a concentration at a selected point with due celerity. It may be said with certainty that an essential consideration at present in envisaging an attack upon Australia is the effectiveness of our land transport facilities to handle our own forces in our own country. I regret to say that no advance of any substantial value has been made in respect of the organization of our land forces in order that they may be speedily moved from point to point. Our differing railway gauges, for example, are an insuperable obstacle to the efficient transportation of our men.
– Transportation could be done by air nowadays.
-If that is so, the Government should not be seeking authority to spend such a large proportion of the proposed vote on naval works. Decidedly, it should spend more in the preparation of aerial defences. That surely is a reasonable contention. The enemy would aim at a quick decision. It is, therefore, unlikely that his main attack would be at any place the loss of which would probably not effect our national life. While, therefore, a minor landing at a remote place must not be left out of reckoning, sound strategy would demand that his principal attack should be made against one of our vital centres. This would place it within the areas of our transportation system. Our forces must of necessity be mobile and highly trained for offensive action.
Whilst for combating the major attack, military and air forces are essential, the latter in addition have a special function in relation to enemy operations in remote centres, slight though that opposition may at first be.
I shall now give some consideration to the determination of the forces required and shall refer first to the Royal Australian Navy. It is obviously impossible for a country of the population and resources of Australia to provide a navy able to meet single-handed a first class naval power. Even if we had the money the naval force to which we are entitled is allowed for in the Empire fleet by an international treaty. The placing of our ships is at the disposal of the Admiralty, as it was in the Great War. This is wise, since the Royal Australian Navy, even if it were doubled in the meantime, would be hopelessly inadequate to play a real part in the defence of Australia in the absence of the British fleet in European waters. If the greater part of the Royal Australian Navy were so disposed it could be expected to play a useful part in the course of events, but this could not be expected if it were tied to local defence. If this country provides a navy for itself our people must bear in mind conclusively that the navy would be of no use unless operated in conjunction with the British Navy. In such circumstances it is almost inevitable that our naval force would be used thousands of miles away from our own coastline. That sums up the history of the past, and I think it can be accepted as the principle upon which we shall operate in the future.
– Not at all.
– An Australian navy would, by itself, be an absolutely futile force in Australian waters because it would obviously be the inferior naval force if an attack were made upon us.
Dealing with air forces I would say that offensive operations against us from aircraft carriers must be practically ruled out if we possess an air force of even moderate dimensions. Aircraft possess the capacity for long-range reconnaissance to detect the approach of hostile convoys and to attack them both before and during a landing. It would be unsafe, however, to place complete reliance on the ability of aircraft to prevent a landing. An enemy would naturally make his approach beyond the range of reconnaissance aircraft and turn in at right angles to his objectives, making full use of the hours of darkness. After his convoys had been discovered, the next step in the air plan would be to concentrate our offensive aircraft against the convoys. To combat this, an enemy would use stratagem and not keep his ships in one body. The appearance of several small groups of ships, at widely separated places off our coast, would make it difficult to decide where to concentrate our aircraft. We should first have to ascertain whether, in fact, the ships were hostile, and then determine which was the main convoy, or whether the main landing might not be made elsewhere while our air command was still in a state of uncertainty.
– Whose views are these?
– They are the views which I have formed myself, as I presume the views the Minister gave us were views which he formed for himself oa the information available to him. For the reasons that I have given I am of the opinion that to rely wholly on aircraft for defence would be unwise. I acknowledge that to defend Australia by aircraft alone would require the provision of an air force such as it would be beyond the capacity of this country to maintain.
– Then it could not be effective.
– Evidently the Minister for Defence does not think the views that I am enunciating are so foolish as the honorable member for Barton would suggest.
– Air force could not defend us without a navy.
– That is arguable. The ability of aircraft actually to stop a landing when opposed by aircraft and antiaircraft guns of the hostile convoy, and, in the fact of other possible intervening clements, such as adverse weather and fogs, must also remain open to doubt.
In any case, any attempt to defend this country by aircraft alone, would possibly necessitate, as I have said, the creation of an air force of such a “size as to be beyond the capacity of this country to maintain. Nevertheless, the power of aircraft to reconnoitre and attack at a distance, would be of the greatest importance to our system of defence. Aircraft are essential to combat the air forces of the enemy after he has effected a landing, and to perform essential functions for, and in co-operation with, the land forces.
I come now to a consideration of the place of land forces in defence. In the last resort the principal factor in our local defence will be our land forces. The size of the enemy expedition would necessarily be regulated mainly by the strength of the military forces he would be likely to meet. If our land forces are negligible, the enemy’s shipping problem would be simplified, and, by the use of shipping in full measure, the force despatched could be of such a size as to avoid the risk of defeat in detail. On the other hand, if our land forces were of sufficient strength, an enemy would be unable to send the expedition at all, except at grave risk of defeat in detail, unless this was a deliberate policy deemed necessary to hold out against us until subsequent trips bring reinforcements, and so attain superiority for him. It would be upon the relation between the size of the force required and the quantity of shipping available that the enemy’s problem would mainly turn, and a point is readily reached, but not until our land and air forces are given substantial strength, where the limitations of his shipping would force an enemy to abandon the idea of sending the expedition.
The maximum strength of an enemy’s initial force could be fairly deduced from his shipping problems. Our problem, therefore, resolves itself into the provision of land forces of such a strength as to have a reasonable chance, in conjunction with our air forces, of defeating the enemy before reinforcements could arrive. That is my central position in a survey of the defence needs of Australia.
It so happens that a land force of these proportions is within our financial capacity to maintain. This force would be almost entirely militia and distinct from the permanent units stationed at our defence ports. Our militia, that is our citizen field army, is the nucleus of a war organization capable of expansion. The present peace strength could not be expanded completely into the approved war organization in the time likely to be available. The present peace organization, in order to be able to achieve that object, needs considerable additions to its personnel, armament and equipment, as well as a much higher degree of training, especially for its leaders.
To sum up, therefore, I invite the committee to give attention to the following six considerations: -
The final point I make is that the true basis of Australian defence should be the development of our industrial capacity to supply every requirement of the forces we may seek to put into the field. This country is not safe while depending upon other countries for essential supplies of either munitions or equipment. Therefore, the policy which this party has adopted through the years of building up Australian industries, and of granting sufficient protection to enable them to live competitively, is justifiable, because it has given to us technical equipment out of which it is now possible to produce the things essential for the maintenance and equipment of forces that we may have to put into operation. The Labour party acknowledges the obligation to make proper and efficient preparation for the protection of this country against possible aggression. Never at any time has it had any doubt that the people of Australia would expect this country to be capable of defending itself should the occasion arise; but that does not in any way alter our abhorrence of those policies which make war more probable than it would otherwise be. We believe that there are two main principles of a peace policy: The first is, that nations should not be provocative ; and the other, that they should resort to war only when no alternative offers. The last war imposed a colossal burden on the resources of this country, apart altogether from the distress and suffering it occasioned in thousands of homes. It i3 my prayer that wiser counsels will prevail amongst the nations of the world, and I suggest that we should set an example to the rest of the world by our tolerance of other countries. We should not rest on the advantages that the Treaty of Versailles gave to us. We should consider how far it is possible, in the best interests of Australia, to take a new view of the Treaty of Versailles, and deal justly with the claims of ex-enemy countries. We should reconsider the claims of German citizens to the territories which we have acquired, and the properties we have confiscated from them; We should look upon the people of the “United States of America, our neighbour across the Pacific Ocean, with a degree of fraternity, disregarding altogether the direct trade relations which their circumstances and ours have produced, as men and women who speak our language and who are of the same common origin. ‘ We should not be engaged in saying, as apparently we have been saying in the pam that we do not “ care a dump “ for them, and in making difficulties for them. With respect to another great power in the Pacific, I say that this Parliament ought to hesitate, not once, but several times, before putting into operation a policy which is capable of being misunderstood, to use no stronger word, by that country. To the Pacific powers we are in geographical proximity, and it pays us to remain on terms of amity with them. I hope that the defence policy of the Government will not be regarded by any country as the logical outcome of certain tariff proposals which have been promulgated lately.
– Why suggest it, when you know that it is not?
– I merely express the hope that no country will so regard itI hope that this country will never consider that it is able to continue its great export trade, which we are asked to defend, by seeking markets only in certain countries with which we wish to foster trade relations. If we want to be on terms of friendship with other countries our right course is to say to the component parts of the British Empire. “ We and you belong to the British Commonwealth of Nations. You are entitled to closer relations with us than is the rest of the world.” Having done that we should treat the’ rest of the world as friends, and not treat some countries as those for which we do not care a rap, and with others make special trade agreements. Special agreements with selected countries can only be considered ultimately as discrimination against others.
.- In the first place, I express pleasure at the the observations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in regard to the defence policy of the Labour party. For a long time his party has been sidestepping any definite declaration on this matter. No one knew where it stood, except that great numbers of its supporters were opposed to training for defence. I am sure that the speech of the honorable member will do a lot to encourage interest in the defence of this country, and will give a great fillip to recruiting. In the past, there has been a good deal of indifference on the part of the Labour party towards the necessity for adequate provision for the defence of this country. That lack of policy on the part of the Labour party has been most discouraging to the defence forces. I nui in full accord with the Government’s policy as enunciated by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), and am gratified to note that the defence vote has been increased from a total of £3,194,000 in 1932, to the present provision of £8,730,000. I should like also to express my satisfaction at the proposed apportionment of the defence provision. The recommissioning of several naval vessels, which have been laid up for some considerable time, and the allround improvement of our naval defence will, I am sure, give to the people an additional sense of security and much satisfaction.
Everybody abhors Avar intensely. Europe has recently been described as a smouldering volcano which may erupt at any time and destroy civilization. Therefore, every penny of expenditure on defence is justified. In nearly every country outside of the British Empire we see hatred and distrust exhibited towards other countries, and even preparation for war. It is the obligation of this Government to see that preparations are made for the adequate defence of Australia, in order that we may ensure peace to our people at all times. For that reason, I heartily endorse the defence policy of the Government, with the reservations which I have made. I contend also that there should be a more thorough overhaul of manufacturing industries in Australia which, in the event of the outbreak of hostilities, could be pressed into national service. A survey should be made with a view to ensuring that, in the event of such an emergency, every factory capable of manufacturing munitions of war and defence equipment could be readily utilized. Such a survey should also cover both aerial transport. and land transport facilities, so that the whole of the resources of the nation could be readily marshalled in an emergency. It can reasonably be said that our manufacturing industries are our first line of defence. No matter how keen our defence personnel may be, if the forces are not properly equipped with munitions and materiel, they will be greatly handicapped. I hope that this phase of our defence organization is receiving full consideration. I rose particularly to express my pleasure at the. enthusiasm of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for the defence proposals of the Government. For a long time many industrialists who have been anxious to do their share in the defence of their country have awaited such a declaration from the Labour party, and have complained of its apathy towards defence.
– The Leader of the Opposition has merely given expression to what has been the policy of the Labour party all along.
– Never previously since it smashed our defence organization during the depression has the Labour party declared its defence policy so clearly as to-day. The delay which has occurred in making that declaration has had. a serious effect on recruiting, but as a result of the concurrence of the Opposition in the defence policy of the Government I anticipate that recruiting will now be expedited.
– The supplementary information which has been distributed by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) contains some references to naval defence about which I desire to obtain some further particulars. I should like the Minister to give to the committee some detailed information as to the Government’s intention regarding the proposed expenditure. For instance, naval maintenance expenditure for 1936-37 is estimated at £2,439,067, and capital expenditure at £798,320. The amount set down for maintenance appears to be large, and I should therefore like to know how the money is to be expended, and under what beading it will be classified. The fleet does not appear to have increased to such an extent as to justify such heavy expenditure, unless something more than ordinary maintenance of the existing units is con templated. Does the sum cover only the maintenance’ necessary to meet ordinary wear and tear in connexion with the existing fleet, or does it include the modernizing of the existing units ?
– Such work would be capital expenditure.
– My purpose in raising this subject is to seek an assurance that, if possible, the expenditure will be confined to Australia, and thereby provide the maximum amount of employment in this country.
I am inclined to think that the proposed capital expenditure of £798,320 is to provide for two additional destroyers, because on page 8 of the supplementary report we are informed that -
H.M.A.S. Yarra has been commissioned, and H.M.A.S. Swan, which has completed her trials satisfactorily, will commission in January, 1037. Both vessels were built at Cockatoo Island, Sydney, and the final instalments of their cost will be paid to the contractors during the year. The cost of construction of each of these vessels is £305,000.
If we double that sum, we. arrive at an amount a little in excess of £600,000, and, therefore, it seems ‘ reasonable to assume that the additional capital expenditure of £79S,3’20 includes provision for two additional similar units. If that bo so, I should like the Minister to say where the vessels will be constructed. I am desirous that the money shall be expended in Australia, so that employment may be given to Australians who are in need of employment. The only definite reference to local expenditure in the new programme is the provision of a sum of £50,000 in respect of the construction at Cockatoo Island of another vessel of a type to be determined. From time to time questions have been asked in this House in regard to this vessel, and the ship-building programme generally, but so far the Minister has not yet been able to state definitely the policy of the Government in this connexion. The concluding remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) touched upon a vital point in connexion with national defence, when he stressed the necessity within Australia at the highest level, for maintaining industrial development
That his remarks appeared to he accepted by honorable members generally on both sides of the chamber indicates that the committee is of the opinion that the Government should confine its defence expenditure of all kinds to Australia, as far as is spossible for it to do so.
– Hear, hear !
– As the capacity of Australian ship-building establishments to carry out such work has been established beyond doubt, I do not think that the argument that costs in Australia may be greater than in Great Britain would justify the Government in having its defence requirements constructed outside Australia. I need not emphasize the ability of Australian workmen to perform the work. Those who witnessed the launching of H.M.A.S. Siuan, the last vessel to be constructed at Cockatoo Island, remember the laudatory speeches by the representatives of the Government as to the workmanship in that vessel, and have reason to believe that the policy of the Government is to have similar vessels constructed in Australia. We have reached the stage at which the policy of the Government in this connexion should be made known, because a good deal of preliminary preparation is necessary before a shipbuilding programme can be put into operation. If the intention of the Government were known, some of the preliminary work, such as the preparation of plans and the making of patterns could be proceeded with, and those who are anxiously looking forward to securing employment would be given some hope of obtaining it. The cruiser which the Commonwealth Government purchased recently was obtained from overseas, and I understand that it cost approximately £2,000,000.
– That is correct.
– There is no need for me to elaborate on the effect that the expenditure of this money in Australia would have had, not only directly upon those who would have obtained employment in the construction of the cruiser, but also, indirectly j through the purchasing power, which would have been reflected throughout the community. In fact, all sections of the Australian public would have benefited from the expenditure of that large sum of money in the Commonwealth. ‘This aspect cannot he stressed too strongly. Only recently I read an article by Brigadier General Bennett who, a few years ago, was a commissioner for the City of Sydney, and who claims to be well versed in matters of defence. Comparing the relative values of the armed forces and the industrial forces to our national defence, he considered that the industrial forces should be developed to a degree six times greater chan chat of the military forces. In reviewing the importance of the necessity for having skilled artisans who could apply their talent3 to the manufacture of the material that would be needed, if the occasion should arise, to defend this country, he pointed out that at this stage we should not be considering defence preparations merely in the light of pounds, shillings and pence, by comparing the relative costs of cruiser construction overseas and in Australia; on the contrary, he asserted we should consider primarily the impetus to the industrial development and other advantages which would accrue from having the work done in Australia. This is a further reason, which can be advanecd in the discussion of these Estimates, to cause the Government to frame a definite policy in regard to the construction of our war vessels. I might add, as an appeal on behalf of a particular section of workers who follow this occupation, that during the last six years the shipbuilding industry has suffered more than any other industry. This trade has been almost at a complete standstill.
– Not during the last two years.
– I admit that some assistance has been given to the industry since 1934 by the building of two destroyers.
– One thousand men are now employed at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– While admitting that, I am most anxious that the service of the men who are now employed there shall not be dispensed with.
– Hear, hear !
– I can well remember the day when 4,000 men were employed at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard ;
I wa8 one of th,:iii. hi the iron trades, particularly, the skilled ‘workers up to the last two years secured little or no employment in their ordinary calling. As a matter of fact, ali efforts that could bo put forward by interested parties to influence private firm’s to place the orders for the construction of their vessels in Australia, thus helping in some small degree to absorb the unemployed, were without avail. I recall the fight we made against the decision of the Broken Mill Proprietary to have two vessels which it required for the coastal trade built abroad. We failed to secure any satisfaction, and, as a result, a considerable amount of employment was lost to our people. I again stress my hope that the Minister for Defence will be able, before this discussion is concluded, to indicate the extent to which my proposals will be adopted by the Government in connexion with the naval construction programme for 1936-37. In supplying such information the Minister need not disclose exactly the types of vessel that will be built but can indicate whether the construction will be carried out in Australia or not. If my advice is followed by the Government, and a policy of having as much as possible of this work done in Australia is adopted, it will mean a lot to those who are engaged in or are dependent upon the ship-building industry. I hope that honorable members will excuse me for approaching this subject from the viewpoint of its vital concern to the electorate of West Sydney. When all is said and. done, we are elected to this Parliament to represent the interests of. our constituents, and we have a duty to look to their welfare. But even if T speak primarily in the interests of my electorate in this regard, it can be said that the effect of the expenditure of large sums of money in Australia on naval construction would be reflected, nor only in the districts which I represent, but also throughout New South Wales and even beyond. I emphasize that aspect with all the power at my disposal, because the effect of the loss of employment in these districts, not only on the workers themselves but also on the business people and property-owners, is patent to ‘ all. On several occasions I have been impressed by representatives of my con-
Mr. Beasley. stituents with the necessity for paying close attention to these Estimates, in order to endeavour to influence the Government to have all possible orders executed in Australia. The Minister for Defence was good enough some time ago to listen to the opinions expressed by a representative deputation of men engaged in the ship-building industry; I think that the case which they submitted to him, based upon reasonable grounds and couched in temperate language, was a convincing argument for the carrying out of this work in our own country.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) referred to the pleasing nature of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) iu regard to the Labour party’s attitude towards defence, but lie commented on the apathy of certain sections towards war preparations. I remind him that, still ringing clearly in the memory of all of us, are the promises and declarations which were made d tiring the last war when most of us were led to believe that it was a war to end war and a war to preserve democracy. Apart from that, living examples of the horrors of that cataclysm are to be seen in practically every street of every town throughout the Commonwealth. In such an atmosphere nobody can be enthusiastic on the subject of war. These dreadful facts confront all of us. It is not a matter of what one party or another has said on this subject; everybody must study it and come to a conclusion for himself. I state quite frankly that it is a sorry situation in which we find ourselves that at this stage of our civilization, this fair country of Australia should be voting 44 per cent, of its revenue for preparations tor war .or to ameliorate the dreadful consequences of the last war.
– Is it not necessary to spend this money in that direction ?
– I am emphasizing the sorry contrast of this vast expenditure in connexion with past and possible future wars with the spectacle of thousands of men in every State of the Commonwealth living on rations and dole relief. Such a crazy situation causes me to consider seriously whether the world, despite our vaunted civilization, has developed to a stage that is satisfactory to any one. I recall the speech which was delivered by Sir Samuel Hoare at the League of Nations, in which he stated that international peace depended on the world arriving at an understanding that the raw materials should not be cornered by any particular nations, but should be made available to all peoples for the proper advancement of the world. This suggestion is worthy of consideration, by those who have power and authority over such matters. It appears to me that the basis of our trouble arises from these difficulties. The efforts of various countries to secure their share of the resources of the world lead to extraordinary expenditure on armaments, friction, and ultimately, war with all the horrors of which we have living evidence in our midst to-day. I have hopes that somebody with sufficient strength, vision and influence will arise in the world to bring the nations to such an understanding that this isolated and peace-loving country of Australia, instead of having to’ spend £8,000,000 a year on armaments, will be able to use that money in providing homes, comfort and proper sustenance for our people, [f that could happen, Australia would become all that was predicted of it after the last war. If all members will strive to this end, I am hopeful that even in our time, we may be able to do something hig and practical to make the world what Christianity and civilization expected it to be at this stage of its development.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- Most persons will agree entirely with the concluding remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). It seems a travesty that in this year of grace and after approximately 2,000 years of civilization the nations of the world should be considering, as we are, increased armament votes, and that to-day they should be living in an atmosphere of distrust towards one another. This is due in a very great measure to the fact that, in many countries, individual freedom has ceased to exist, and power has fallen into the hands of a few dictators who seem to agree with the words of the Australian poet, Henry Lawson : “ For ever the nations rose in storm, to rot in a deadly peace “. At any rate that is apparently the sentiment of the Italian dictator. He seems to believe that a nation is decadent and out of the race of national progress unless it is actively preparing for war. Owing, therefore, to the suppression of individual freedom and to the doctrines held by dictators on the other side of the world, we in this chamber are now discussing a proposal for increased expenditure on defence. Undoubtedly it has been brought home very forcibly to the Motherland and to different parts of the Empire in late years that unless the Empire is strong enough from the viewpoint of armaments it cannot play a decisive role in the preservation of world peace.
Having only a short time to speak on defence matters I shall deal with only two subjects. One is the development of our ground organization for civil aviation, and the other is the purchase of aeroplanes from Great Britain for the Defence Department.
Australia is one of the ‘best adapted countries in the world for flying, being superior in fact to even the United States of America. Yet civil and commercial aviation in Australia has not progressed as it should have done. The first setback to commercial aviation in Australia was the loss of the Southern Cloud followed by the loss of some D.H.8 machines and certain inexplicable losses in Bass Strait, all of which aimed a severe blow at the extension of civil and commercial aviation in Australia. It is an aspect of aviation which cannot be considered apart from the general subject of defence, because in developing commercial aviation we undoubtedly supply reserve pilots whose services would be most advantageous to Australia in time of war. In some of the accidents to which I have referred the mind and hand of man had no control, but in others the hands of governments and of man undoubtedly played a part. That brings me to the importance of an efficient and extensive ground organization at the different centres connected by air routes in Australia. Last year I had the privilege of visiting an aerodrome at Croydon, in England, and of making a careful inspection, of the control tower, where I was initiated into the mysteries whereby the movements of aircraft are controlled. It was interesting to hear a plane crossing the English Channel seeking directions, and to learn how three different directionfinding stations, including Croydon station, were able to determine the position of the plane. Having heard from the other stations, within two or three minutes it was possible for the official on duty at Croydon to plot out on the chart the exact position of a plane and to notify the pilot. It was also interesting to learn that by means of beam wireless a plane could land in what could be termed a blind fog. Undoubtedly because of the measures taken to preserve the safety of aircraft, commercial and civil aviation on the other side of the world has developed to the degree that it has. I was informed by an Imperial Airways pilot that by means of the beam wireless it was possible to land a plane safely without the pilot actually seeing the ground. I trust that when the Minister for Defence replies to the debate he will give the committee more information upon the extension of ground organization in Australia than he has done up to the present, and that he will leave no stone unturned to obtain the finest equipment available in the world to-day. Apart from the aviation viewpoint, this is a subject of great importance to Australia, and I trust that an efficient and extensive ground organization will be laid down. If necessary, the Government should bring from abroad instructors to direct our airmen in the use of these amenities. I mention this matter because I believe that the K.L.M. line of Holland, one of the most efficient air lines in the world, obtained an instructor from the United States of America to tutor pilots in the use of beam wireless instruments.
Approximately two years ago, the Government ordered from Great Britain a number of planes of the latest type then in use, but, up to the present, only a portion of the order has been delivered. Every one knows that during that period aviation has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. In fact, it is not incorrect to say that a bomber, which is usually referred to as a slow plane, as turned out to-day has a speed which approximates closely to the
Schneider Cup machine of a few years ago. According to the Minister, the planes that have been landed in Australia after two years delay have a speed of approximately 190 miles an hour, while the bomber on the other side of the world has developed a speed of from 270 to over 300 miles an hour. This is the point that we have to remember : Have we paid for these planes, and, if so, have we received obsolete machines? Are we equipping our air force with aeroplanes that are obsolete in every way? If that is the case, I trust that when future orders are placed and delivery cannot be guaranteed within a reasonable period the Government will place the orders elsewhere in an endeavour to ensure that the Australian Air Force is equipped with the most modern planes it is possible to buy.
On the general subject of defence I should like to make a few remarks. To me at any rate, the first line of defence is not the Navy, the Air Force, or the Army. The first line of defence lies in the unity and solidarity of the British Empire. It was admitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in the speech he delivered this afternoon, that Australia, unaided, would hardly be a match for a first-class power.
– The honorable member should not attribute that opinion to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I understood the Leader of the Opposition to express that sentiment. Personally, I do not think that alone Australia would have any prospect of defending itself against a first class power. The first line of defence is therefore the maintenance of close relationship between the component parts of the British Empire. This afternoon, the honorable member for Batman (“Mr. Brennan) correctly stated that we should not go out of our way to provoke any nation. He also said that we should stand aloof from the trouble of the old world. If, as a part of the British Empire,’ we expect the Test of the Empire to come to our rescue in time of trouble, it is only right that we should be prepared to render assistance to any other portion of the Empire should it be in need of aid. It is a selfish doctrine to expect help for ourselves while refusing to accept any responsibility elsewhere..
All parts of the Empire should be in frequent and friendly consultation, and should endeavour to adopt a common foreign policy, because, by so doing, they would be maintaining the security of the component part of the Empire.
I am sufficiently old-fashioned to believe that the Navy, as a part of an imperial plan, is still the second line of defence. I do not agree with those optimistic individuals who believe that aeroplanes provide a really effective fighting force for the future. In fact it is quite impossible for any military, naval, air or layman to determine exactly along what line3 the next war will be fought. I do not believe that the day of the battleship, destroyer, cruiser and submarine has passed. At Hendon last year I witnessed an attack by fighting planes being repulsed by anti-aircraft guns, and a bombing display. Although the cream of the British air force was engaged in that display, I could not be too complimentary about the effectiveness of the war planes. In a mimic battle between the fighting planes and the anti-aircraft guns, the latter seemed to me to come off best. The bombers had to come down to a very low altitude to knock over the target. I contend that the aeroplane is inferior to the battleship or cruiser. The British Admiralty and the Admiralty of the United States of America have ascertained that modern cruisers equipped with modern anti-aircraft guns are more than a match for raiding aeroplanes. I do not agree with those who say that we could send our fighting machines 400 or 500 miles from Australia to attack advancing battleships and their convoys, and that they would be able to stave off attack. A smoke-screen could seriously interfere with such tactics. I wish to make it plain to the committee that I have no intention of belittling the part that aircraft will play in the next war; far from it. Time alone prevents me from making a more extended reference to what I believe will be the real role of the Air Force. But, however we may regard the Navy and the Air Force, ultimately the conquering force in any war is always the infantry. It may be said that the use of poison gases and attacks from the air first conquered Abyssinia. My reply is that Abyssinia was not con quered until it was actually occupied by infantry; nor is any other country. Therefore, the infantry is a most important part of our defence system. I criticize the present policy only in regard to the period devoted to training, which appears to me to be altogether too short. I speak, of course, as a layman. I understand that the period spent in camp is six days. I have yet to learn that very much can be done with the average individual in such a limited space of time. I hope that if the time should arrive when the Minister for Defence and his officers become dissatisfied with the position, they will not be slow in changing the policy and the principles in order to make our Army the efficient instru-ment we all wish it’ to be.
In conclusion, I compliment the Government upon the action it has taken. This action does not spell aggression or provocation, but is in line with Empire policy, the object being to make this country, and the Empire generally, strong in the cause of world peace.
.- I think that I can congratulate the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) upon the very excellent manner in which he read the speech that had been prepared for him by the bunch of militarist imperialists whose business it is to discharge that function.
– The honor.orable member might, with more justification, pass that comment upon the speech of his leader.
– Before the honorable gentleman becomes really angry with me-
– The honorable member is not worth it.
– I should like to say that I quite appreciate the fact that he is well able to make a very good speech for himself.
– A good fighting speech.
– Yes, but not on this subject. I understand that we are now considering estimates of expenditure upon defence involving £8,372,580. This represents two parts - the last year of the first period of three years, and the first year of the new programme. Some honorable member has said ‘that an expert would be heard when I spoke. I modestly and blushingly deny the soft impeachment. I am not an expert in these matters, and do not really know why all this money is being spent. I have been looking for information upon that matter. I cannot find anywhere, any person, outside one of our mental institutions, who is prepared to say that any nation is threatening Australia with invasion. I cannot even discover any military expert who is prepared to say that the invasion of Australia would be a practicable proposition even if it were desired. Nor can I find anybody to say that even if Australia were invaded by an army, which so far has been not seen but imagined, such an array could continue i’n occupation of this country. If, however, such an invasion did take place, if we could imagine a foreign army located in Australia, we should be dependent for our defence, not upon the navy, but upon our land forces - such an army as that constructed in broad outline in the very excellent speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I repeat, however, that there is no nation which i3 threatening us with invasion. I addressed myself to this subject not long ago, and examined the question as to what nation might conceivably threaten us, with the result that I reduced the possibility of an attacker to the one little friendly nation of Japan, which is not threatening us. To me it is a matter of the most intense regret that in its economic policy this Government should do its utmost to buy into a quarrel with that perfectly friendly nation, which was our ally in the last war, and is a neighbour which has not exhibited the slightest predatory intention, which has ample room for development in close proximity to its own shores, and which, nationally, has never given indications of a migratory disposition, not even to the same extent as, for example, that other Eastern nation, China. Generally, I have found not the slightest ground for the supposition that that neighbour has any design other than that of friendly intercourse with us. On the other hand, I submit that if the experts really know anything about the matter - and I must confess that they are generally proven to be wrong - it is perfectly clear that nothing can save us from the danger of attack, a very different thing from invasion. The truth is that much more attention has been directed to the development of the capacity for attack than has been devoted to the much more importantmatter of real defence. The consequence is that the methods evolved for the destruction of human life have proceeded far in advance of those evolved for the saving of human life. So nothing can save us from attack. Nothing can save any European capital from attack and, apparently, from destruction, except the policy which I have so long advocated - not altogether in the wilderness ; I have been well supported by honorable gentlemen On my own side of the House - namely, friendly intercourse and understanding.
– The honorable member said that during the last war.
– Surely the honorable gentleman might have had the grace to keep quiet about ‘ that giant tragic futility! We have a background of 20 years of experience of that colossal folly. Surely the honorable gentleman will not pretend to defend. the last war as having produced any useful purpose in this world! Surely he does not suggest that we received a quid pro quo for our 60,000 priceless dead, or our 160,000 mutilated and wounded! Surely he does not argue that we have made the world safe for democracy, or that we have fought a “ war to end war “, seeing that, Europe to-day is like an armed camp ! I advise the honorable gentleman to remain silent as to the last war, and to let us deal with the next war which we are led to believe is imminent, and which will be imminent if talk about it is continued long enough, preparation for it is made hard enough, and coat tails are trailed often enough and in a sufficiently provocative manner. I was about to point out calmly, dispassionately, and in reasonable mood, that nothing can save us from attack. We can be bombed with poison gases by vessels standing off some 35 miles from our coasts. The experts admit that every European capital - London, Berlin, Paris, all those great centres of art, culture, and Christian civilization - can be destroyed overnight by poison gases. Nothing could prevent that destruction. My honorable friend, the Minister for
Defence, has a scheme for the provision of gas masks for the civilian population of Australia, so that they may face the worst. What shocking make-believe ! - Has the honorable gentleman had the time in his leisure hours to read that excellent work of Beverley Nichols. Cry Havoc! and to form some opinion of the effect of this practice of women and children going about their daily tasks wearing, fo,r their protection, those instruments of torture known as gas masks? Has the honorable gentleman informed his mind as to the futility of these utterly impossible devices for saving human life when the militarist chemists get busy disseminating foul gases designed to encompass human destruction? There is, however, no danger of invasion on the one hand, and there are, on the other hand, no means of defence against an onslaught. That is where we stand.. And more important than any of these facts is the outstanding fact that wo are not threatened by an enemy. While this war is imminent, so it is said, while tlie honorable gentleman is consulting his chemists as to how he can best destroy his fellow nian with various kinds of excruciating, noxious gases, while he is busy determining how many millions of pounds he can afford to spend to enable one Christian gentleman to destroy another Christian gentleman who has an equally patriotic notion as to what ought to be done, while he is occupied in arming the working class of this country in order that they may rend the bodies of their brothers in the working class of some other country with whom they have no quarrel, my particular task is to say a word on behalf of abstinence from this policy of folly and wickedness which the honorable gentleman i3 pursuing.
I still believe in the theory of Christianity. I do not profess to be a good sample of a Christian, but I still have some respect for the ideal. I consider that it is possible to reason with my fellow man. 1 recognize that mere geographical boundaries do not determine the moral excellence of human beings, and that far the most potent, weapon for the defence and safety of Australia is communication between nations, and a mutual understanding of one another’s ideals and objects. As far as the working classes are concerned, the great mass of the people of this and every other country have, or ought to have, the same ideals. They should desire to throw off the canker of capitalism and high finance, which the Minister for Defence has implemented in this country a.t the behest of capitalists iti Great Britain and other parts of the world, whose instrument he is. Why is he advocating, this policy? Because a gentleman came here from Great Britain to explain to him how it was to be put into operation on imperial lines, and why we should adopt it. Does the honorable gentleman think that I am going to lend him the slightest support in buttressing British or European imperialism?
– Certainly not British imperialism.
– I am not. Let me tell the honorable gentleman at once that, when I speak of high finance, of imperialists and of men or ghouls - call them by which name you will - who are making large fortunes out of the manufacture of armaments to be used indiscriminately for the destruction of the so-called enemy, or for the destruction of their own brothers, I am not to be put off by the suggestion that I am anti-British, merely because I am anti-ghoulish or anti-high finance, or because I stand for the rights of the common people in this country. Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, and every other country, who have been batoned down, bayoneted, poisoned, and exploited to fill the coffers of these disciples of Mammon. I have no truck with them. Do you think I will support a vote which means greater dividends for the gentlemen who, under the pretext of a mandate, .are now endeavouring to exploit the oil wells of Mesopotamia? Do you think I will buttress dividends for armament-makers? Do you think I will lend the strength of my vote and voice to dividend-seekers amongst peoples in India or in other parts of the world who arc suffering for claiming the right of selfexpression and self-determination? I will not. I said in this Parliament twenty years ago that I would not. I will never lend any countenance to this policy of tragedy and folly, which has left its trail of blood and murder on the fair face of this world, in order that a few , ma q become richer, and that the mass of the people may become poorer and more degraded. I will lend no support to it whatever.
I shall now refer to our association with the British Navy. I know that honorable gentlemen opposite, and in the corner will misrepresent me. They will throw it back at me that my loyalty is sullied; that I am a traitor to my own country. Honorable members who say that speak twenty years too late. They tried it with some success in the period of the Great War, but they cannot use it effectively now. My heart goes out in admiration to the great men of Britain - some of them were referred to at this table to-day - who have led the way in revolutions for human liberty. My heart also goes out to the great masses of the British people in sympathy and in the spirit of brotherhood. No subtle innuendo challenging my loyalty to Australia, and to the Crown which I have served will deflect me in the slightest degree from my duty to those who sent me here or, above all, from my duty as a member of this Parliament who has sworn to serve the people of Australia. Our association with the British Navy is entirely an evil one. We have gone into Chinese waters; we have sent our battle craft there as messengers of ill-will. How dare we send our ships into the waters of a friendly nation? We have despatched them at times to the Solomons, and we have paraded our craft in the Mediterranean; they have been emissaries of ill-will wherever they have gone, and they ought to have ‘been recalled. Par better that they should be scrapped now - I understand that they have to be scrapped every few years - than that they should be maintained as agents of evil intercourse between ourselves and friendly nations. The Navy, in truth, can no longer serve any useful purpose, as far as Australia is concerned. I know of no more inveterate fallacy than that which is constantly being reiterated, ad nauseum, that we in Australia are dependent for our safety on the British Navy.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Barker remarks “hear, hear “. The assertion is taken as a foregone conclusion. I had the pleasure of dining in this House one night with an Admiral, whom I count as a very cour? teous, social gentleman. We dined oh excellent terms, and he went away much better informed than he was at the beginning of the meal as to the views of at least one member of the Labour party concerning our so-called dependence on the British Navy. That belief, I repeat, is an inveterate fallacy. When did the British Navy protect Australia? I believe that I heard the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) interject that Captain Cook defended Australia. Are we bound to maintain the’ navy at an adequate strength in order to recognize properly the services which Captain Cook rendered to us? It is the greatest fallacy in the world.
– The honorable member will do his party an immense amount of good by this speech.
– My party is quite happy about it. I am making a speech in support of my leader. We have gone beyond the boundaries of our own country to take up other people’s quarrels. We have sent our troops to foreign battlefields. There our men have shed their blood and lost their lives.
As to the need for defending Australia, this country has never been threatened with attack. Even at the time of the greatest provocation, when we were supporting the Allies of Great Britain on foreign battlefields, one enemy ship only was discovered patrolling our coast, and this was speedily disposed of. There was never even a suggestion of an attack upon Australia. If we attended to our own business, and bent our best efforts to the maintenance of this country as a bright jewel in the world, free from the entanglements of imperialism and war, we should be making a contribution of real value to world peace. . Australia should keep aloof from dividend hunting, from the profiteering of armament makers, and from the financiers who have made themselves millionaires and patriots by overcharging the men they send to the trenches to become cannon fodder, sometimes even for their own guns. If we did that much good for the world, we should be doing something worth while. ‘We should do it with good heart and grace, and with our hands extended to our brothers across the seas. In Great Britain and elsewhere we should not be misunderstood; indeed, we should be well understood. I have had the honour of attending meetings of the Imperial Conference. Without wishing to be boastful, I may say that I had, and fully appreciated, the distinction of being thanked personally by the Lord Chancellor for my contributions to the discussions on Imperial affairs. I found in talking over these matters with British statesmen, that they have a much broader and more generous outlook than persons in this country, who are disposed to toady to the British Government. In a word, their attitude to us is infinitely more manly than that of pseudoimperialists in Australia to British statesmen. They understand my point of view. At all events, I shall not exploit unduly ‘the limited time at the disposal of honorable members for consideration of these Estimates. I have said just a few things, and I have endeavoured to say them frankly, so that when I go to my electorate I will go with a clear conscience that the electors will know precisely that I stand to-day exactly as I stood twenty years ago. I make no boast about this, but I would remove once and for all, this chimera, this phantasy, that influences in his dreams the Minister for Defence when he reads over the speech prepared for him by his militarist and imperialist advisers. Those gentlemen say to him, “ Read that piece to the House of Representatives, and see how they take that. First read it to your party and see how it takes it. If your party takes it, and you can force it down the throats of members of tlie House, including members of the Labour party, then run up the flags, call out the dogs of war, and let us have a few more million human beings destroyed in order that profiteers may profit and thrive in the land “.
– We have listened to an impassioned discourse by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on the absorbing subject of defence. Boiled down, his argument is that if we are prepared to abandon every pretence at a defence system in this country, then we have nothing to fear whatsoever from any other country. May I point out to the honorable gentleman, who, I understand, has some scraping acquaintance with the history of the world, that the paths of the centuries are strewn with the wreckage of countries that relied on that very principle. Let the honorable gentleman consider the history of the land of his forbears. I ask him whether the people of Ireland offered any resistance to the aggression of William II. Ireland was not in a position to offer any resistance to Cromwell, but that fact did not save them on that occasion. And so far as Scottish history is concerned, the fact that the Scottish people are a very peace-loving and angelic race, of which I happen to be a descendant, did not save their country from invasion by Edward II. or Cromwell. If the honorable gentleman goes back further into history, he must recognize that the departure of the Roman legions from England, when military training was abolished for every one but their own troops, did not save England from invasion by Germanic hordes from across the North Sea, and when he studies American history he will find similar examples in respect of the conquest of Mexico and Peru by the Spaniards in the loth century. Reverting to European history, the honorable gentleman will find nothing to support his argument. The people of middle Europe offered no offence to Attila and his Huns when they went through to France - the French had not even heard of Huns until the invading hordes had crossed Russia into Europe proper. No offence was given by the French when France was invaded by the Moors, and the Spaniards gave no offence when Spain was placed under Moorish domination for a period of 600 years. The argument advanced by the honorable gentleman does not stand investigation; it would not be put up by a child in a kindergarten.
– The honorable gentleman has a head like a swallow’s nest - full of mud.
– When Napoleon Bonaparte was complimented on the character of the men he found to lead the French Army he said, “ Gentlemen, I made my marshals out of mud “. All I can say is that if B. H. Liddell Hart, the great military historian, had taken a trip ro Australia, and had looked at the very elegant assortment of distinguished personages whom Mr. J. T. Lang elevated into his party following, and having in mind what Napoleon said of his marshals, he would not have used Scipio Africanus hut J. T. Lang as the subject of his book, A Greater than Napoleon.
The problem of defence is a very serious one from Australia’s viewpoint. The honorable member for Batman is evidently at cross purposes with bis leader on this matter. A challenge has been made by honorable members oppo site that they will divide the committee on these Estimates. I shall be pleased if they do. Following a conference of the Labour party in Adelaide, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has expressed some rather profound and unusual opinions concerning tlie Labour party’s attitude on defence. Needless to say, I do not share them altogether. I fear that the attitude of the Labour party today on this matter is one whereby it is prepared to talk enough in public about the necessity for a defence system to entitle it to support from those people who really see the dangers of the present position, but, at the same time, it wants to see that system so utterly ineffective and useless that it will .appeal to the pacifists, of whom the honorable member for Batman is a very illustrious example in this chamber. The honorable gentleman has said that no country is capable of attacking Australia.
– I said that we could not prevent attack, but that there wa* no danger of invasion.
– I hold the view that attack on this country is quite possible, and from not a very great distance. There is no necessity to name certain places, but I put this point to the Opposition : If the viewpoint of the honorable member for Batman is accepted by honorable members opposite, why does the Leader of that party have anything to do with any defence system at all? If they claim that this country cannot be defended’ - an assertion which I denyand that, as we cannot prevent any invasion, it is useless to agree to an extension of our defence system, why do they not come out as a party and say so? The Leader of the Opposition is not pre pared to rise in his seat in this chamber and say that his party stands for the principles enunciated to-night by the honorable member for Batman.
I submit that we must look at ou>defence position to-day from two viewpoints, first, the Imperial viewpoint, and, secondly, the local viewpoint. One of the first things that any man who joins the forces is taught is that each formation is responsible for its own protection or security. That is a principle which, I think, must be applied throughout the British Empire as it is organized to-day. Each country within the British Commonwealth of Nations - Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, and Great Britain - must be prepared to accept responsibility for its own local security, and must be prepared to put up a fight until such time as it can be assisted by other members of the Empire. Under present conditions our defence system as a whole must be viewed from tha* viewpoint, and from that alone. It is useless for honorable members to pick one arm of the defence system, or one manufacturing industry behind the defence system, and claim that it is allimportant. That is a wrong attitude to take up. I have heard honorable members say that in the next war everything is going to depend on the Air Force. The press of this country is taking on its shoulders a terrific responsibility in publishing the balderdash it has pub:lished during the last few years on the function of aircraft in defence. If we study this matter in the light of the last military campaign undertaken, that is. the Italian campaign in Abyssinia, we must realize that the Air Force played a very important part in that campaign, but it did not play so great a part as people in Australia think it did. It was effective for two reasons. First, the Italian aircraft were able to gain information concerning the position of enemy forces; and, secondly, they were used to supply the fighting divisions in the Italian front line. Any one who studies this subject must realize that one of the main and most important roles which aircraft will play in future wars, will be that of sUnnI ying the forces in the front line with the necessaries to carry on the combat. This has been proved in Russia, and more recently in Spain, where reinforcements were brought up by aircraft, even to the extent of dropping them out of parachutes. I do not say that that practice is going to be carried out on an enormous scale.
The other vital consideration, so far as war in the future is concerned, will be transport. This fact also was proved in the Italian campaign in Abyssinia, when it was shown that tractors were capable of removing three batteries of 6-in. guns a distance of 300 miles in sixteen days over unmade roads. Those things have to be seriously considered by honorable members, and I say so with all due respect to the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill). Although we do not agree on -quite a number of things, the honorable gentleman, since he took charge of the department, has acted in a vigorous manner. Whether I agree with him or not, he certainly has imparted vigour into his administration, and I am always prepared to stand ‘behind a Minister, even if he makes a mistake, provided he is prepared to make up his mind and carry out his policy vigorously. A lot of people, like the Leader of the Opposition, judging from his speech this afternoon, seem to think that the defence of this country depends on the development of certain secondary industries. They endeavour to avoid facing the facts. Defence is not a matter of solely the Navy, or solely the Air Force, or solely the Army, or solely the secondary industries, but consists of the proper combination of every one of those factors working towards a carefully thought out idea and objective necessary for the defence of this country.
I propose now to deal with internal defence, passing over the matter of Imperial considerations, and taking the viewpoint’ as to what we oan expect under present conditions and present prospects. The Minister is aiming at the establishment of a land defence force of 35,000, and I understand that number includes Air Force personnel as well.
– Well, if we allow for Air Force personnel, that will bring the strength of the proposed land and air forces to about 40,000. My view is that that strength will not be nearly sufficient to deal with any threatened attack at our most vulnerable point, which I shall not name. The Opposition, again, has come into this matter and, if it desires to put up a defence policy, it must have, in its thoughts, some idea as to the direction from which possible invasion or attack is likely to come. They must have some idea as to th* strength of that possible attack, of the composition of the enemy forces, of the forces which we could raise here, and of how long it would take to deal with an invasion before the enemy could secure adequate reinforcements. I have not been able to learn from any statement by members of the Opposition, or through any publication in the press, that members of the Opposition have any real knowledge of the subject with which we are now dealing. However, it now seems that the Opposition have had their ears to th* ground, and realize that there is a public demand for the provision of adequate defences for Australia, and they, being good democrats, have stated their willingness to satisfy that demand.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) made reference to the postwar condition of Europe. Let me point out that powerful armed forces have only recently been created in those European countries governed by dictators, but ever since the conclusion of peace at Versailles, the arch-criminal in regard to armaments has been the democratically governed country of France. Recently, this country absolutely rejected the offer of Germany to limit armaments in return for similar limitation by Franco. In my opinion, the present unrest in Europe is, in large measure, due to the foolish, oneeyed, militaristic and domineering policy pursued by France ever since the conclusion of the Great War.
– But France is a peaceful nation.
– I say that France is a menace to peace. At the Peace Conference following the Great War France used its position to have established in Europe certain States for the existence of which there was no historical justification. They have existed by virtue of French military support, and they will cease to exist when that support is withdrawn.
– The re-armament of France was actuated by fear of Germany.
– Other nations have excellent reasons to be fearful of France. Does the honorable member for Indi justify the garrisoning of German towns in the Rhineland, after the war, with black troops?
– I do not justify that, but I say that France had good, reason for re-arming.
– France never disarmed. That country has never carried out any of the obligations of the Treaty of Versailles, and has never made any attempt to do so. Many of the difficulties of Europe to-day are due to the age-old feeling of the French people that they can lord it over the rest of Europe. Therefore, the Government of Australia should impress upon the Government of Great Britain at the next Imperial Conference that if this eternal wrangle between Germany and France, which has lasted now for more than 1,000 years, is to go on, the best thing for all concerned is to allow them to settle it among themselves; and we all know how it will be settled then. “We have enough to do to maintain the integrity of the Empire as it stands to-day, and we should not allow ourselves to be committed to the furtherance of the ambitious projects of any European country.
In regard to the defence policy of the Government, I have one criticism to offer : I am opposed to the present system of voluntary enlistment. In my opinion, in any democracy, every able-bodied man, as a first principle, should be prepared to undertake the defence of his country in case of need. I regret very much that this is not the policy of the Government. National military service, in some form or other, is bound to be introduced before long. The Minister for Defence has made an heroic attempt to make a success of the voluntary system, but it is an impossible task. The great objections are that it does not create any reserve, there is no turnover of man power, and it is impossible to achieve a high degree of efficiency. I put it to that section of the Opposition which apparently believes that an invasion of this country is pos sible that if an invasion did take place, it would be made, not by members of a citizen army raised on a voluntary basis, but by picked and highly trained men, the very flower of the army of the country opposed to us.
The honorable member for Batman may laugh, but he has had no experience of these things. A conflict between two groups of ‘ trained men under arms is known by the ugly name of war, but a conflict between an army of trained men and one of untrained men is known, in military circles, by the still uglier name of murder. Those who would pit our untrained citizens against the trained forces of an enemy country are preparing for murder on a pretty large scale.
There is a test which must be applied to determine the defensive efficiency of any force. To be useful in a defensive capacity, it must be sufficiently trained, and capable of being mobilized rapidly enough to meet an enemy at any point threatened. I am sure that the Minister for Defence will not pretend that Australia’s military forces would be able to do that. It is not reasonable to suppose that they could, seeing that our present force of from 35,000 to 40,000 men is scattered at various points extending from Townsville to Perth. It is evident that a great deal remains to be done before our defence system can be regarded as effective.
We still hear arguments .as to which arm of our forces, the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, we should most rely upon in case of trouble. If there is one European country which ought to have formed useful ideals on the subject, it is Germany, and it is interesting to note that the infantry training manual, recently issued to the German army, contains the followpassage in italics: -
Infantry brings about the decision in battle. To ensure and facilitate the achievement of the success of this arm is the task which settles the battle action of all the other arms.
We thus see that, even in the newly constituted army of Germany, the “cardinal principle is laid down that the decision in any campaign rests not with an air force, not with armoured cars, not with cavalry, not with gas, but with the infantry, the arm which forced the decision in the last war, as in every other war, and was the deciding factor recently in Abyssinia, just as it is now deciding the issue in Spain. In the same way, the decision in any future conflict, whether here or elsewhere, will rest with the infantry. Under the system of voluntary enlistment, the infantry is notoriously the arm for which it is difficult to obtain recruits. The bulk of the fighting usually falls to this arm, and men, being only human, are not anxious to enlist in what might be termed a suicide club, when there are other more attractive units which they may join. I speak on these matters with all diffidence as one who has seen some active service as a member of an infantry force.
– Where was the honorable member when the shell burst?
– About 12,000 miles from where the honorable member was at that time. If there should be another war, I would lend tlie honorable member to enemy headquarters, which could assign to him the task of opening correspondence. This is not a subject which can be treated lightly. Honorable members on this side of the House, and one or two of those on the other side who have had close acquaintance with active service, know that this should not be made a party issue. The defence of the country is too big a matter to be used for party purposes. Though I may have said one or two hard things about my friends in the Opposition to-night, I did not go so far as did the honorable member for Batman in his attack on the British Navy, and what it stands for. Had it not been for the British Navy, and the protection it has at all times afforded to the various parts of the Empire, we should not now be meeting here in this Parliament. It is an historical fact that ships of the French Navy were in Australian waters about one hundred years ago, and the dramatic meeting between them and representatives of the British Navy is recorded in the name of Encounter Bay on the coast of South Australia. At that time it depended practically upon the toss of a coin whether Southern Australia was to be a British or a French possession. Australia was protected and sheltered by the British Navy right up to the outbreak of the Great War. I say to the credit of the old Australian Labour party, which exists now neither in body nor in spirit, that to it, under the leadership of Andrew Fisher, belongs the credit for founding the Australian Navy. If it had not been for that navy, including the cruisers Sydney, Australia and Brisbane, the German cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, instead of making for South America, would probably have given Sydney a taste of what they carried in their magazines. Had it not been for the Australian Navy, there is no doubt that our expeditionary forces would have suffered heavy casualties before ever they crossed the Indian Ocean. This is too big a question to be. made the football of party politics. If there is one thing for which I would give credit, not only to the Ministry, but also to the Opposition, it would be that they were prepared to form in this chamber, or jointly with the Senate if need be, a defence committee representative of all parties where thequestion of defence could be discussed dispassionately, or without any desire to score against political opponents. I feel strongly on this matter. I have been through part of one war and, as far as my vote is concerned, if we have to fight it will be to fight outside this country, and not in it!
I am one who believes that this Government should shoulder its responsibilities in regard to one of the greatest protective measures in the Pacific to-day - the naval base at Singapore. Thi? country should stand behind any government responsible for the dispatch of an Australian garrison to the fortress at Singapore as a contribution to its defences, because the base will be of considerable advantage to the Commonwealth in the event of any emergency. I know that this is a matter of policy upon which a private member may not be expected to speak.
– The honorable member is entitled to show his enthusiasm.
– If there is any meaning in the protestation of the Opposition that it stands for the integrity of the British Commonwealth as constituted to-day, and if there is any sincerity in the expression of opinion that members of the Opposition favour an effective defence system in Australia, this question must be faced, and no amount of camouflage or dodging the issue, or talk of factories instead of fighters, will get us away from the facts.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The majority of those who have spoken in this discussion have examined the question whether the armed forces of Australia are adequate to meet any challenge that may be made by some overseas nation. To the Labour party at least, one of the most important aspects of consideration of this question, is what causes war. To hear honorable gentlemen opposite, including the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), talking about defending thi3 country makes me wonder just what ii is that many of the unfortunate citizens of this country would have to defend against any foreign aggressor. Surely no one imagines for one moment that if Australia were unfortunate . enough to come under the heel of some foreign country the whole of the existing population would be wiped out of existence, or that the material conditions of the people relatively would be’ much worse than they are at present. What is it that the worker in’ any country desires to obtain? He desires economic security, to be free from unemployment and the dire consequences which follow it, and to secure himself and his family against hunger, against having to attend at soup kitchens and labour bureaux, or to wait for the paltry dole which the State governments hand out to the unemployed. If that is denied them by the civilization in this country, it will be difficult to rouse in any of them enthusiasm to defend it. Let us, however, examine the question of whether this country is actually in danger. Panic-stricken, the Commonwealth Government, along with the Imperial Government, is spending an enormous amount of money on what it claims to be defence provisions, and is using the same propaganda as was used to usher in the Great War. But what circumstances will bring about a war between Australia and another part of the world? I agree with the honorable member for Barker in re gretting the recent statements in the Japanese press of a nature definitely hostile to this country. The principal reason for them is that this Government is foolishly following an imperial policy which is not in the interests of this country, and by means of which the very people with whom Australia should maintain friendly relations are being antagonized. The Japanese press has become hostile towards Australia because its opinion is that this Government has declared a trade war against Japan. Previously we . were told that Japan wanted to expand its territories, because it had no room for its expanding population, but the policy of this Government » has accentuated the difficulties of the Japanese Government because a population such as that which is possessed by Japan can find employment only in secondary industries, and no secondary industries can exist unless there is a market for their products. By what this Government terms its trade diversion policy under which trade is diverted from one country to another Japan is denied a market in this country, and it is only natural, therefore, that the Japanese should resent the treatment it has received. To say that Australia ha.3 the right to deny Japanese access to a market for their goods in order to permit of a larger market for the goods of another nation is an affront to them, and to their national pride.
As the result of the policy which is pursued by the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, the Japanese and the United States of America have refused to renew the naval agreement which will expire in December next. No mention has been made of that by honorable gentlemen opposite. The British have been appealing to the Japanese to renew the agreement which exists between Britain, Japan and the. United States of’ America on a basis which would prevent the expenditure of additional money on naval bases in the Pacific. The Japanese have rejected that proposal, simply because they realize, although they have not specifically stated it, that if they are to be forced out of the markets of the world their only remedy lies in force of arms to provide outlets for their surplus products, just as the forces of the European nations opened the doors in China.
– And in Japan.
– That is true. Japan is preparing with some purpose in view. It has established a base in Formosa, which, when it pends additional money in perfecting it, as it will do, will compel Bri tain to improve the defences and equipment of Hong Kong and Singapore. Yet we find this Government is foolishly sailing on, seemingly, unaware of the fact that this country will be led into war if it allows the Imperial authorities to dictate its policy.
Wc were unable to obtain this information during the last war, but I remember that after its close members of the Labour party who visited the battlefields found at Gallipoli that many of the outofdate and deserted guns and equipment that had been used by the Turkish troops to shoot down the Australian soldiers bore as the maker’s imprint the name of the Vickers-Armstrong Company. The same circumstances that made that deplorable thing possible apply to-day. Whenever industry is used by capitalists for profitmaking, the same circumstances will prevail. As a matter of fact, what this Government and every other government operating in capitalist countries are concerned with is not the interests of the workers, but the right of a few capitalists to exploit the native populations. Supporters of the Government talk about Australia’s defence policy being one of Imperial co-operation, but what does that mean? One would imagine from the remarks made by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) that the solepurpose of the Imperial defence policy is co-operation with a view to the defence of this country. Imperial cooperation, however, means more than that. It means that Australia must be prepared to sacrifice its manhood on battlefields throughout the world for the sole purpose of defending capitalistic interests. Armed forces may be used not only for the purpose of preventing aggression within the confines of Australia, but also we may be required, as we have been previously, to send armed forces overseas, say, to China or India in order to prevent, not aggression by an outside power, but popular uprising amongst the native populations against the exploitation practised upon them by the capitalists. From remarks made by some’ honorable gentlemen opposite, one might bo pardoned for gathering that it is a boon for native populations to come under the domination of imperialism. The honorable member for Barker referred to history, and spoke of the battles fought and won, and what generals said to marshals; but he failed to refer to the history of the people, the history of how they have suffered as the result of imperialistic domination. The maintenance of British domination of other countries is not worth the waste of a single Australian life. In the many years that Britain has dominated India, the conditions of the natives have not improved ; indeed, by far the greater portion of the inhabitants is still illiterate. Moreover, despite the fact that India in return for participation in the war on the side of the Allies was promised selfgovernment, it is still denied that right, and it will be denied it until its people, driven in desperation to do something of a drastic nature, will rise to obtain their rights. If the Indian population were to put up a fight for self-government, which would be not unreasonable, would any honorable member stand up and say that Australian soldiers should lay down their lives in an endeavour to prevent them achieving their end? Are we any different from, the natives of India? I should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country whether they be German or of any other nationality. As a matter of fact, because I am not prepared to do that, I am not prepared to tell others to do so.
I believe, and judging by statements made by honorable members on both sides of the committee it seems to be generally agreed, that Australia would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to defend itself against an aggressor.
– That would be true if the people were all like the honorable member.
– In reply to the honorable member I may say that I recognize that all the enemies of the workers are not ouside of Australia. If the workers had taken the opportunity afforded them to rid themselves of their enemies inside this noun try they would long ago have removed from this Parliament representatives of the same type as the honorable gentleman.
I believe in the workers having the opportunity to defend their rights, but I have heard honorable gentlemen opposite who prate about the boys who spilt their blood overseas raise every objection to, and put every obstacle in the way of, ex-soldiers obtaining the assistance that they needed to live decently. These men who spent themselves abroad in what they believed to be the defence” of the country and returned to Australia broken in body and spirit, are now deprived of their rights and. many of them, like the widows and children of other returned soldiers, have even been evicted from war service homes. Is this an adequate return for what honorable members opposite describe as the invaluable service that our soldiers rendered to the country in the last Avar? I think it would be found that if another - war occurred many of the returned men still with us would display ah outlook on enlistment very different from that which they adopted during the last Avar. If the Government had so much confidence in the men who fought in the last war why did it take the precaution to disarm them before they returned to Australia? T. Suggest that it was because it was afraid of the returned soldiers. The Government feared that if the men retained possession of their arms they would, on landing in Australia, demand many of. the things that were promised to them before they enlisted. The members of the Government talk Avith their tongue in their cheek when they suggest that the country should be defended in the interests of the working people.
Any one listening to the speeches delivered in this debate and on certain other occasions would imagine that the people of Australia had attained a measure of social justice. Many citizens, including returned men, are walking our streets looking vainly for employment. In such circumstances are we to believe that we have reached the apex of civilization? Are Ave even on the road to perfection? The Labour party believes in a defence policy, but it also believes that the workers should first be given something to defend. “What the workers desire more than anything else is economic security.
Instead of seeking to implement a policy to provide for the veal needs of the people, the Government has embarked upon trade wars which may lead to armed conflict Avith either of two great Pacific powers. If Australia were required to defend itself against Japanese aggression to-day, to which countries should it be entitled to look for support? In my opinion every endeavour should have been made by the Government to maintain friendly relations Avith both Japan and “the United States of America but particularly with the United States of America. But the Government, by its foolish trade policy, has offended both Japan and the United States of America. Apparently, in the event of a conflict, it prefers to rely upon the British Government for assistance by means of the British Navy. Honorable gentlemen opposite would have us believe that the sole objective of Great Britain is to maintain this country in the interests of the people. But did the British Government seek to do that at the termination of the last Avar when it allowed Japan to annex certain territories in the Pacific very close to the shores of . Australia ? What were termed mandates were given over these particular territories, but everyone who has examined the subject without bias will agree that the territories over which Japan Avas given mandates were really annexed by that country. If Ave are to judge by the present outlook the United States of America Will eventually evacuate the Philippine Islands, which will not only expose Australia to the north, but will also expose, to a much greater extent, the Dutch East Indies, which includes very valuable country. The Japanese, realizing the necessity to obtain raw materials to maintain their industries and also to develop armaments to defend those industries, would naturally desire to obtain control of the rich oil deposits and rubber plantations of the Dutch East Indies.
It might be assumed from the speeches that have been delivered in the course of this discussion that the Government had done everything possible to defend the interests of Australia, but I remember that not long ago many questions were directed tothe Prime Minister by certain honorable gentlemen who desired information as to what was being done in connexion with the exploitation of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound, off the west coast of Australia. The Prime Minister stated in reply to the questions that the Government was watching the interests of Australia very closely and acting in close collaboration with the Government of Western Australia. He added that nothing would be done to permit foreign capital to be introduced to exploit the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound for the Government intended to see that British capital remained in control. But what has actually happened? It is true that British capital has been introduced, but so has capital from Japan. I fail to see, therefore, that the interests of Australia have been protected. The agreement entered into for the development of Yampi Sound has been framed in such a way as to circumvent Australian legislation. I make that statement very deliberately, and, as a justification for it, direct the attention of honorable gentlemen to the following report which appears in the Japanese. Weekly Chronicle of the 10th September, 1936 : -
An agreement has now been reached between the Nippon Mining Company and a London firm, in regard to the exploitation of an iron mine on Yampi Sound Island, west coast of Australia, which is owned by the latter. Mr. T. V. Salt, managing director of the British firm, is now in Japan in this connexion. He expects to sign a formal contract with the Nippon Mining management within a few days. Below is the basic agreement already reached: -
Messrs. Brassert to establish a subsidiary concern in Australia through which to exploit the mining concession which they have acquired on Yampi Sound for £35,000.
The Nippon Mining Company to establish, as a joint undertaking with Messrs. Brissert, an investment company in Japan tlirough which to invest 6,000,000 yen in the above mining concern in the shape of its equipment, &c.
The above investment company to undertake the transportation and sales of the ore in Japan.
It is explained that such a complicated procedure has been necessitated by internal laws in Australia.
Yampi Sound ore has a purity of over60 per cent. Construction work will require at least a year, and it is believed that actual mining will be commenced early in 1938. The output will be 500,000 tons a year at the beginning.
It will thus be seen that, in consequence of the trade war that has been made upon the Japanese we may, in the event of another armed conflict, find a condition of affairs in existence similar to that which marked the last war. The Australian troops at Gallipoli were shot at from guns manufactured in Great Britain, and the ammunition used was probably made from minerals obtained from Australian mines. In the next war - which many honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be afraid to refer to very specifically, though we all know that they think Japan will be the aggressor - we may find that war equipment will be used against Australian troops which has been made from minerals obtained from Australian mines.
– And the clothes worn by the opposing soldiers may be made from Australian wool.
– I realize that that is part of the policy of certain of our political colleagues. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), for example, would agree to sell our primary products anywhere, so long as a profit could be made. I believe that if the honorable gentleman had the opportunity he would be quite prepared to supply adulterated foodstuffs to troops who had gone from this country to the war, so long as a profit could be made on the transaction. He would also, I believe, be quite willing to sell his wool to any other country that required it, so long as the price was profitable. That is not the policy of the Australian Labour party. Certain honorable gentlemen opposite talk a great deal about our standards of living,but while the standard of living of the politicians may be quite satisfactory, and may allow them to enjoy a decent living, there is reason to ask what these same gentlemen mean when they talk about defending the Australian standards of living against the standards of people in what are described as cheap labour countries. Anybody would imagine that we enjoyed a uniform standard of living in Australia, but the
Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) stated quite recently that many of our people were suffering from malnutrition because of the low-wage standards of the country. Moreover, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney ) has had to appeal to the people of Australia for subscriptions of a penny to provide milk for the unfortunate children of workers in our big cities. Is a foreign aggressor likely to come here to take from us our poverty, want, and privation? Are we to be so zealous that we must lay down our lives to defend these paltry standards?
My advice to the workers is that, before they allow themselves to ‘be stampeded into responding to the flamboyant, patriotic speeches of the flag-wavers they should examine their whole circumstances very closely to ascertain who are, after all, their enemies, and whether their greatest enemies are outside or inside Australia. The greatest enemy of the worker to-day is unemployment, with its consequent starvation and insufficient clothing and shelter. Must our men don the khaki and go overseas to fight in order to obtain adequate food, clothing, and shelter? We all know that an abundance of food is produced in Australia, and an abundance of material is made here to provide homes for all our citizens, but many of our people are still without proper food, clothing, and shelter. In these circumstances, are honorable gentlemen opposite arguing logically when they state that it is necessary for our people to set out to fight the Japanese or the Germans or the nationals of any other country to obtain a decent standard of living? As a matter of fact, the workers of Japan, Germany, and other overseas countries are fighting for the identical things that the Australian workers desire. The workers should therefore examine the position to find out who are their real enemies; and when they make this discovery, they should avail themselves of the earliest opportunity to destroy them. Those sections of the community which batten upon the sweat, labour, and misery of other people, deserve no sympathy.
The honorable member for Barker, who has just returned to the chamber, had something to say about British history. I ask him whether it is not a fact that the wealth of Britain was built upon the sweat and blood of the workers ? Has the honorable gentleman read the history of the industrial revolution in Great Britain? Has he read of the struggles of the workers of that country to better their lot? Has he read of the manner in which the employers of Great Britain exploited the women and children by secting them to work in the mines? If he has done so he will probably understand why it is that the under dogs of this community are fighting so strenuously against the machinations of the flagwavers and war-mongers. The honorable gentleman may find himself in a fairly affluent position. If so, I should not deny him the right to defend himself in the event of an attack; but I should certainly deny him the right to call upon me to defend what belongs to him. As a matter of fact, if war did break out and enlistment were put on a proper basis, there would be no repetition of our experiences in the last war, when industrial troubles were forced upon the “ people and the economic weapon was utilized in an endeavour to compel men to join the forces in order to secure food, shelter and clothing. On the contrary, a roster would be drawn up and those with most to lose would be sent first into the firing line and the workers with the least to lose would be sent last.
– There would be no wars if that were done.
– If that procedure were adopted there would be no desire on the part of those in control of this or any other country to engage in warfare. There is one pleasing feature about the development of defence methods in recent years. I have heard a good deal of talk of aeroplanes -raining down bombs filled with poison gas on the big cities and destroying them overnight. That, however, may have its advantages. In the past, when it has been possible to place the combatant armies in a circumscribed area, the non-combatants, those whose patriotism took the form of urging others to take the risk of fighting, did not care how long the war went on. But if an enemy aeroplane flying over* Sydney to-morrow began to rain down poison gas bombs on the city, they would be just as likely to drop in Potts Point, wherethe plutocrats live, as in Woolloomooloo, where the workers live. The development of these methods of offence will constitute one of the greatest defences of the workers against the war-mongers.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Rosevear) put -
That the honorable member have leave to continue his speech.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Makin).
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. Frost having claimed to have been prevented from voting because the door by which he sought to enter the chamber was locked before the division bells had ceased to ring,
The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Makin), with the concurrence of the committee, directed that the name of the honorable member be included in the list of honorable members voting with the “ Ayes.”
– I have seldom listened with greater interest to an important statement in Parliament than I did this after noon when the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), as Leader of the Labour party, expressed his views and those of his party on the allimportant subject of national defence. I have always maintained that the National Parliament undertook no greater responsibility under federation than that of providing for the defence of this country, in accordance with its man-power and ability to pay. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian people are the most peace-loving people in the world. They have no desire to go to war with the people of any country, but simply wish to be allowed to develop their great heritage as they think best. Australia can claim to have done everything possible to remain on friendly terms with its neighbours, particularly its great neighbours in the Pacific, and it is essential that it should continue to do so. I have said these things before in this chamber, and I say again now that, in the final analysis, there exists no greater influence for the maintenance of world peace than the English-speaking countries of the world. I am in real sympathy with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in his concern as to the direction in which the nations of the world are moving in these days of ceaseless and feverish unrest. Although the world to-day is at peace, I am sure that even the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will agree that it is an armed peace, for nearly 10,000,000 more men are under arms to-day than in 1914, or at any other time in the world’s history, apart from times of war. The military budgets of the Great Powers show great increases of expenditure each year, in some cases amounting to 50 per cent. of their total revenue, despite the fact that the world has not yet escaped from the economic blizzard, and requires enormous expenditure for social amelioration and rehabilitation. There can be no room in our minds for martial glory; on the contrary, as we recall the terrible cost of the Great War - the immolation of 1,000,000 of our kinsmen, the killing of 10,000,000 of our fellow men, and the maiming of 20,000,000 more - we must realize deeply and poignantly the blessings of peace. Since I first entered this national parliament in 1919, I have repeatedly heard the honorable member for Batman express his views on defence; and although I have never for one moment doubted his sincerity, I have on each succeeding occasion been more amazed that he should express such views. At times the honorable gentleman has addressed the House immediately after I have expressed my views regarding defence, and listening to him, I have almost been persuaded to regard myself as a bloodthirsty buccaneer, armed with pistols or other lethal weapons, and seeking some one to destroy. But, as the honorable gentleman knows, there is no member in this House who is more anxious that peace shall be maintained than I am, particularly so far as Australia is concerned. Although the world is at peace, there is feverish unrest, and a race for armaments, and the Commonwealth Government would be failing in its duty if it did not take what steps it could to provide for the adequate defence of this country. [ have always expressed the gravest doubt as to whether a country like Australia with a coastline of 12,000 miles and a population of a little under seven millions could defend itself against a definite attack by a strong power. For that reason, although I was intensely gratified by the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of his party, regarding defence generally, I regretted to hear him say that he did not think that Australia had any obligation to participate in a co-ordinated scheme of Empire defence. We all know that Australia could only play its part through its navy, in co-operation with the navies of the world, keeping open the trade routes of the world. If there is any sub-
Sir Donald Cameron. jectwhich should be above party politics, it is the defence policy of the nation. I commend the Minister for Defence for his determination to propound and implement a defence policy which can be maintained irrespective of the Government in power. Honorable members will recollect that, when the late Lord Kitchener came to Australia to advise this country in regard to defence matters, he said clearly and definitely that it would be a foolish waste of money to embark on a system of defence which would be subject to change with every change of government. At this stage I desire to express my keen admiration of the manner in which the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has carried out this most important work of administering the Defence Department. His unfailing energy has been amazing, and his keenness must, I am sure, have appealed tremendously to all sections of this House, as it has no doubt appealed to the Australian public generally. The honorable gentleman is doing an important and strenuous job ably and well.
I again appeal to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to reconsider at least one or two of the statements which he made this afternoon, having regard to the national importance of defence, and the absolute treating of it as a nonparty subject. His suggestion that a blockade of Australia would not cause any damage quite astounded me.
– Hear, hear !
– I did not say that. I said that we were in a different position from the United Kingdom with respect to the effect that a blockade would have.
– There are blockades and blockades. The blockade is an important consideration in the scheme of Imperial defence in which, I maintain, we should participate. We, for a time, may be compelled in certain circumstances to carry on without assistance from other units of the Empire ; but it would be tragic for Australia if a blockade directed against us were continued for any length of time.
– I also said that a blockade could not be completely imposed upon us because our Southern Ocean routes would give access to the Old World via Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope.
– There is no guarantee that those routes would be open.
– But there is fairly reasonable prospect that they would be.
– One of the first duties of the British Navy would 4>e to keep open the important trade routes.
– That is the reason why Australia wants a navy.
– The Australian Navy would require the assistance of naval forces from Great Britain and the sister dominions in order to keep open those sea ways ,and make it possible for us at all times to communicate with other units of the Empire. Perhaps I may have misunderstood the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. I agree that Australia is much more fortunately placed than many other countries, inasmuch as it could carry on for a certain time despite a blockade. The point that the Leader of the Opposition raised in regard to oil supplies would come into consideration if the blockade were of long duration. Unless we are able to discover our own oil supplies, our plight would be serious if our communications with other countries were severed.
– The honorable gentleman will not convict me of being indifferent to the importance of oil, especially in regard to our defence requirements.
– No. The Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly expressed his views in that regard.
I desire now, briefly, to refer to the 7Empire mail services in connexion with which I feel that there has been a certain amount of misunderstanding. Just ;as the conduct of overseas shipping services is different from that of local shipping, so there must be a difference between overseas air-mail services and internal air services. After all, the overseas services being of an international character, are obviously an Empire matter. Australia cannot afford to stand out and dictate in this regard, but must co-operate with other units of the Empire; for instance, “in connexion with the proposed service Between the United Kingdom, Australia., and New Zealand. The control of the key Empire lines must be unified as far . as possible in order to provide the necessary strength against competition. At the present time, there is great competition in connexion with the operation of world airways. For instance, the PanAmerican service this month inaugurated a route from the United States of America, through Manila, and terminating at Hong Kong. There are also other great air services which undoubtedly will be later in competition with our own Empire services. It is absolutely necessary that, in regard to any one of the overseas services, we should allow for rapidity of action when necessary in order to obviate such damaging situations to the Empire as are undoubtedly contained in the present long arguments which must be of vast satisfaction to our rivals in the struggle for world predominance on the world’s aerial highways. Australia should, however, rightfully take a full share of the conduct of its section of the Anglo-Australian airmail route. In’this connexion the Minister for Defence has given the committee an acceptable assurance that Australia will assume its full share of the control of that section. The present system appears to be working satisfactorily. With modifications to allow for more cooperation, such a system should be effective with regard to the flying-boat service. On more than one occasion the Minister for- Defence has assured honorable members that complete control will be maintained by Australia of our section of the Anglo- Australian air route. As for the operating company - Quantas-Empire Airways - which has been conducting this service. I am satisfied that its interests are adequately protected. This company, definitely expects to operate the section from Singapore to Sydney as a unit, and employing its own staff. Concern was expressed by some honorable members of the Opposition, when this subject was debated some time ago, that with the introduction of the new scheme for the operation of the Anglo-Australian air service, Australian pilots and engineers would lose their jobs. I can only characterize such a belief as being utterly ridiculous. I am convinced that a big step forward will be taken in the employment of an
Australia”, staff, because the flying-boats which we have been led to understand will be used on this service, will carry a crew of five instead of a crew of two, operating the present Quantas-Empire Airways aircraft, and additional ground staff will be necessary to cater for tha much larger machines.
The internal air services of Australia are of vital interest to all honorable members. They are solely the responsibility of the Commonwealth, and I atn glad indeed to receive the Minister’s assurance that instead of any reduction of our internal services talcing place, an expansion of them is almost certain. In regard to the original Quantas route, which was inaugurated in 1921, and linked Brisbane with Western Queensland, the Barkly Tableland and Darwin, it would be unthinkable that the operation of such a useful line should be discontinued. Again, the Minister foi Defence has assured honorable members that no such action will be taken. Thu coming of the flying-boats, apart from giving additional employment to Australians, will incidentally provide a better service for the people of the outback than can be provided at present, owing to the natural predominance of the overseas air-mail and passenger aspect. Towns like Tambo and McKinlay in far western Queensland, which lost their air connexion through the introduction of the overseas air-mail service, will no doubt be reinstated as stopping-places when the internal services are reorganized. I emphasize for the information of the Minister, that the calling of aeroplanes at those and other small towns, means much to the inhabitants, and I hope that many other outback centres of Queensland and other States will subsequently be served by air.
The use of flying-boats appeals to me as being the correct policy, because they appear to have -more future than land planes, when really big units come to be used. We should not fail to realize our responsibility to plan wisely in such a rapidly advancing transport system as aviation, particularly civil aviation. Even the most stubborn opponents of flyingboats must admit that if, within a few years, we are operating aircraft of 50 tons and upwards, the flying-boat will be the most practicable. If this be so, let us then get on with the job of preparing the ground work. While the rest of the world’ is developing flying-boats, we in Australia have made no move.
I again express to the Minister for Defence how definitely I appreciate the manner in which he has come to a decision in connexion with the best service for, not only Australia, but also, taking a wider view, the great Empire airways themselves. After all, they are included among the great airways of the world.
– The debate on the proposed vote ‘ for the Defence Department has related principally to the general defence policy of the Government. The Government’s defence policy is of great importance to the Australian people, but I propose to deal more particularly with specific items of proposed expenditure, because this is really the only opportunity to do so. I do not think that there is anything contradictory in the statement of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that we should avoid being embroiled in international differences, and the declaration of the Labour party’s policy made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Both were excellent speeches, and I subscribe to a great extent to the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Batman. We should organize our defence activities in such a way that in the event of war the profiteers would not have the opportunity to fleece the nation and the people as they did on a previous occasion, but so that the Government should control all those activities associated with the defence of the country. There should be no manufacture of munitions or armaments by private concerns for profit. The budget provides for the expenditure this year of £S,809,000 for defence purposes, and it is important that this expenditure should bc analysed very closely by every honorable member. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) declared that the navy is our first line of defence, but the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), another expert in these matters, who has had military experience, said that the army is the first line, while others contend that the air force is more important in the defence of a country than the other two services mentioned. It is not surprising that varying opinions should be expressed concerning the best way in which Australia can be adequately defended. Railway transport is an important problem, upon which differing opinions may bc offered. Personally, I favour the appointment of a committee, on which representatives of all parties in this House should act, to scrutinize the proposed expenditure of nearly £9,000,000 per annum on defence. I do not, however, support the contention of the honorable member for Barker and other government supporters that members on this side of the House should be appointed to a council of defence, because it is the responsibility of the Government to formulate a defence policy. A committee such as I have suggested could, however, scrutinize expenditure and render valuable assistance to the Government. For instance, I understand, that £3,000,000 is to be used” this year on federal aid roads, and it appears to rae that some of that money should be expended in constructing or improving roads that would have a military value for defence purposes. If a committee were appointed, it could examine all expenditure relating to defence proposals and indicate the way in which the best return could be obtained for the expenditure incurred. Surely if l.he Commonwealth Government is providing some of the money to be used on roads it should have some voice in determining how the money shall be spent. Similar action could also be taken in respect of the manufacture of munitions, a large proportion of which is made in the Maribyrnong electorate. According to a report published and distributed to honorable members only to-day, the number of men engaged in munition factories has increased by over 1,000 since 1933. When such a large number of men are employed in munition manufacturing establishments, we naturally ask where these men could be placed, if, as the result of establishing friendly relations with other nations, the output of munitions decreased. The policy adopted by the Labour party when it was in office. namely, the conversion of defence factories to the production of ordinary commercial commodities, would not be* acceptable to many supporters of the Government, who do not believe in socialistic enterprises; but with an effective organization on a war basis, we should be able to so organize our industries that they could employ skilled men in times of peace who, if we are forced to fight, would be available for the production of munitions in a national emergency. The budget provides for the expenditure of nearly £30,000,000, a proportion of which is to be used for repatriation and other purposes ; but even if the defence vote were decreased substantially, the total expenditure budgeted for in that regard could not be reduced to any great extent. A non-party committee such as I have suggested should be appointed to examine all expenditure, and advise the Government on the best manner in which the money could be used. I do not suggest that such a committee should interfere with the work of the Public Works Committee, which I understand is to be reconstituted at the end of this period of the session. In referring to the declaration by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) said that at last there had been a definite pronouncement of Labour’s defence policy. Apparently the honorable member for Moreton has not previously been conversant with the platform of the Labour party, which provides for adequate home defence against possible foreign aggression. That has been a plank in the Labour party’s platform throughout my association with the Labour movement, extending over a quarter of a century. I am pleased to learn that the Government has at last realized the need for giving encouragement to voluntary recruiting. The voluntary system was not responded to largely because of the inadequate reward offered to those who enlisted. Moreover, many employers refused to allow their men time off to engage in the necessary training. It cannot be said that honorable members on this side of the chamber have ever endeavoured to interfere with the voluntary system, or that we have been apathetic in regard to the defence of this country. I agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward*), that the standard of living of many Australians is so low that they feel that they have really little to defend. When we realize that no fewer that 1,841,549 persons receive an income of less than £3 a week, it is not difficult to understand why the voluntary recruiting system has not been entirely successful. Many of them I suppose are breadwinners only in the sense that, not being able to work, they are in receipt of pensions; but there are also a great many who are really breadwinners in the sense that they are wage or salary-earners. It is indisputable that, in the case of a large number of them, the standard of living is considered not worth fighting for. If by the development of our secondary industries we could provide employment and give training in skilled occupations for artisans whose services would be available for the manufacture of munitions and equipment, and at the same time improve the standard of living, there would be no need to talk about compulsory military training. I pay this tribute to the Minister for Defence, that he has stood strongly and valiantly by the policy of voluntary enlistment. The greater measure of popularity enjoyed by that system to-day is due to his having made provision for a slightly more reasonable payment to be made to those who offer their services. The expenditure from revenue this year is £1,187,000 greater than the amount expended last year. Is an ever-increasing proportion of our revenue to be absorbed in this way? I sincerely trust that it is not. We should aim at collective security, by establishing the friendliest relations with the powers with whom we have to trade. We should do everything possible to avoid any possibility of war by reason of the restriction of trade. In my advocacy of such a course of action I am not departing from the policy for which the Labour party stands, of protecting and assisting our secondary industries in every way. If we look at the matter fairly ““and squarely, we can so develop our trade policy as to avoid causing enmity, such as has been aroused’ in the recent past.
Apart from the appointment of an allparty committee to inquire into expenditure on defence, provision should be made for a national survey of our industries with a view to the encouragement of those which could be most readily availed of for defence purposes in times of national emergency or war. We should know exactly the nature and the extent of our resources. Possibly this survey is being made by the defence authorities, but, if so, no indication of it has yet been given. I believe that it is essential to keep under government control the manufacture of arms and munitions. Any attempt to give to private firms the right to manufacture munitions would be resented by every member of the Labour party, and perhaps also by some honorable members who sit behind the Government.
From time to time this Government has been requested to grant assistance in the construction of railways which would be useful for defence purposes. Mention was made to-day of a proposed railway in New South Wales which was said to come within that category. Such a proposal could very well be examined by an allparty committee, to see whether Commonwealth assistance was warranted.
In my view, this Government is neglecting its duty in not making provision for the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia. The Minister for Defence has stated to-night that the transport of troops could be effected by air. That statement has been ridiculed by some honorable members on his own side of the chamber who claim to possess military knowledge. The honorable member for Barker has expressed doubt as to the practicability of such means of transport. As a practical man who has been associated with transport systems over a lengthy period, I should regard as absurd the suggestion that troops could be moved to Western Australia by air in sufficient numbers to defend that State if it were attacked.
– In what other way could the Northern Territory be defended?
– It is conceivable that we. should have to relinquish that territory for the time being, until our forces were so organized as to enable us to retake it. From statements that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, I am led to believe that out-of-the-way parts of this continent could not be defended in any circumstances. Even the defence experts must acknowledge that. But it is much more likely that an attack would be directed against the thickly-populated parts of Australia than against areas that are sparsely populated. The principal object would be to cause the greatest amount of destruction because occupation is a most difficult, if not .an impossible task, for an attacking force. Action should be taken to redeem the Prime Minister’s election promise that one of the first works to be undertaken if -his Government were returned would be the standardization of the railway gauges, for the relief of unemployment and for defence purposes. No such provision has been made in this year’s budget. The Inspector-General of the Australian Military Forces, who is an expert on this matter, has said -
The linking up of our capital cities by railways, beyond striking distance from tlie coast, and the establishment of a uniform gauge throughout the Commonwealth are matters of paramount importance.
Later he said -
It is beyond question that a uniform gauge will avoid many of the disadvantages of possible troop movements caused by breaks of gauge with the necessary transfer from one system to another. Apart from the delay, inconvenience, and the wastage of man power at transfer stations, the disorganization of units due to the varying capacity of trains of different gauge is serious, and may mean considerable delay at a critical time.
Surely the defence authorities will not continue to ignore this matter simply because aviation has been developed to some extent! I am not in disagreement with the contention of the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) that if we have to spend large sums on defence a substantial proportion of the expenditure should be devoted to the assistance of aviation. I make no complaint about that. But if, as the honorable member for Barker asserts, the infantry is the backbone of military operations, the railways will be the backbone of transport operations in time of war. No matter what the newer ideas in regard to defence may be, the opinions that I have quoted are on record in the Department of Defence. 1 quote again -
Tlie disabilities under which Australia is suffering on account of the breaks of gauge in its civil transportation, and the difficulties which would be imposed upon military transportation in war, are generally recognized, and it is regrettable that the production of a practical scheme to remedy this matter has been so long delayed.
It is still being delayed, and I criticize the Government on that account. I know that, at a recent conference of the Australian Railway Council, the body which would have charge of transport arrangements should war break out, the statement was made that it was no longer necessary to consider the standardization of gauges. We have not been given the names of the authorities who hold this view, but we do know that the InspectorGeneral of the Australian Military Forces has expressed a contrary view. These other gentlemen do not want to undertake this work. One reason advanced against it is that it might lead to trouble with the States. It is a difficult problem, towards a solution of which no progress ever seems to be made. When I asked a question upon it some time ago the Prime Minister said that it would be the subject of discussion at the Premiers Conference in Adelaide. Either that conference avoided it, or the business-paper was so arranged that it was never reached. I propose to refer to it whenever I have the opportunity to do so. I believe that some honorable members opposite are as convinced as I am of the necessity for the standardization of railway gauges. The quotations that I have made are from published documents. Many of the reports in the Department of Defence are secret, and from the view-point of the Government, which is deferring this important work, it is just as well that they are. If the public were made acquainted with the deplorable predicament in which the railways would be placed because of breaks of gauge were they required to transport troops, horses, munitions and all the other impedimenta of an army in motion, they would, rise up in wrath. But they are not aware of the truth, because much of it is contained in secret documents which are not available for publication. Although, for reasons of secrecy, the existing conditions can only be hinted at, it may be mentioned that the transport of only one division of troops across the continent from Perth to Sydney would occupy more than a month. In fact, it has been suggested that the operation would occupy two months. The confusion that would be witnessed in the event of a hostile force landingon our coast can readily be imagined. Under modern methods of warfare it would be useless to send the troops at all, but, if the break of gauge difficulty were remedied, the time occupied in their transport would probably he only three or four days, owing to the improvements made in railway tracks and in train speeds. I have no desire to be a scaremonger, and I hope that the need for transporting an army division from the east to the west of Australia, or vice versa, for defence purposes will never arise. Yet the defence authorities, while demanding and spending immense sums of money for arms and munitions, are, with Micawberlike procrastination, allowing the elementary problem of the transportation of the fighting forces and the necessary equipment and impedimenta to sink into a morass of inertia, irresolution, and incompetence from which no amount of energy and enthusiasm developed in time of emergency could rescue it. I feel that the Government has not stood up to its election pledges, but has neglected an important arm of defence. Even if the Commonwealth Government were asked to provide half of the total sum required for the standardization of the railway gauges, that expenditure would be justified, seeing that the Defence Department thinks nothing of spending over £2,000,000 for a cruiser, which, in the event of war, may be sent overseas. There is need for an awakening among the people of a live transportation conscience, and a realization of the fact that while the present diversity of railway gauges remains, we cannot hope for effective mass transportation on a. nation-wide basis, either in times of peace or in an emergency. If the matter were thoroughly examined by a committee such as I have suggested we could look for some movement in the direction of the standardization of gauges. Otherwise a great deal of the expenditure that the committee is asked to authorize for defence purposes will be wasted.
The road over which highly explosive materials required by the Defence Department are transported from the Maribyrnong cordite factory is in a disgraceful condition. Probably from 85 per cent. to 90 per cent, of the traffic which passes over that road consists of vehicles connected with the Defence Department, and the Commonwealth should be prepared to grant some financial assistance to the local governing authorities which are responsible for the maintenance of the road. Perhaps the Minister for Defence can tell me whether, under the new Federal Aid Roads agreement, provision will, or can be, made for a portion of the road grant to be expended on the road leading to the cordite factory. The Minister has undertaken that he will inspect the road, and I am sure that when he does so he will realize that some such assistance should be rendered. The local governing authorities obtain no rates from government properties, and can hardly be expected to undertake the necessary expenditure. For two years I have been endeavouring, without success, to obtain a grant towards the cost of keeping this road in order.
As it is said to be the desire of the department to make voluntary enlistment attractive, I point out that the drill hall at Footscray needs considerable alteration and repair. I hope that this work will be attended to at an early date. I do not say that I am in favour of the huge expenditure incurred for defence purposes, but, as the proposed vote will doubtless be agreed to, it is the duty of all parties to make every effort to see that the money is expended to the greatest advantage. I repeat that our policy should be so directed as to establish amicable relations with other countries. Our expenditure on defence measures should, as far as possible, be directed in such a manner as will enable the machinery and plant required to be used for purposes of peace. Peace is the chief aim and policy of tha Labour party.
, - Replying first to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), I may say that the subject of railway gauges has received attention repeatedly from the responsible officers of the Defence Department, who meet the Railways Commissioners at the time of their annual conferences, but the standardization of gauges is not regarded as being so important as the duplication of lines at many railway junctions.
– Where may we see that information in print so that we may examine it carefully?
– Certain aspects of the defence problem cannot, in the national interest, be discussed in public, but I shall be prepared to afford the honorable member further information on the subject. The arguments which he has advanced have been given serious consideration.
Another matter mentioned by the honorable member for Maribymong is the maintenance of roads used by the Defence Department out of funds provided under the Federal Aid Roads agreement. This Parliament provides considerable sums to be used by the States in the construction and maintenance of main roads, and it seems to me that roads leading to defence properties should be regarded as falling within that category. I understand that this matter is to be taken into consideration in connexion with the new agreement which is to be arranged at an early date. I sympathize with the honorable member in the particular request that he has made, but I point out that about £60,000 would’ be required to meet all of the claims being advanced in regard to these roads. If one request were acceded to, many others would have to be treated in a similar way.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) spoke of delays in the delivery of aeroplanes required for the Royal Australian Air Force, but I assure linn that the delays are not nearly so great as he has suggested. I desire to inform the honorable member for Indi. (Mr. Hutchinson) that the machines have recently been coming to hand at a more rapid rate than in the past. The latest planes being ordered from Great Britain are not yet in production, but the British Air Ministry is including Australia’s requirements in its initial orders, so that the planes to be sent to us will be of the latest British type. That is the course which is being pursued in respect of all aircraft, but here again it is not advisable to make public the number, or details, of aircraft that are being imported. I mention these facts, however, to indicate to the House that this matter is receiving the serious attention of the Government.
With regard to the inquiry of the honorable member for Indi as to what is being done in respect of aerodromes I point out that provision is made in these estimates for an expenditure of £128,500 for the improvement of aerodromes, £20,000 for meteorological services, and £132,000 for wireless services. This should considerably improve aviation in this country.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has betrayed a natural concern regarding the employment of Australian workmen in the manufacture and supply of defence equipment. I point out that provision is made in these estimates for an expenditure of £187,300 for “ temporary and casual employees “. These include storemen and workmen engaged on storehouse duties, workmen engaged on the repair and refit of ships and fleet auxiliaries, caretakers, and workmen, and gardeners, labourers, and watchmen on general maintenance duties, and temporary draughtsmen, foremen, clerks, typists and messengers. In addition, a sum of £50,000 is provided for the acquisition of a further vessel the exact nature of which has yet to be decided upon. In respect of employment generally so far as defence is concerned this Government has done a very great deal. Under the old regime 400 men were employed at Cockatoo Island dockyard compared with 1,000 men employed there to-day, and the Government, instead of losing £60,000 annually on that dockyard, as was the case in the past, is to-day receiving an annual rental of from £15,000 to £20,000. We have already spent £600,000 on two sloops and steps are -now being taken to establish the aircraft manufacturing industry in which employment will be found for another ],000 men. The Government has, therefore, given clear evidence of its intention to provide as much employment as it possibly can for Australian workmen in connexion with defence expenditure.
The exact defence requirements of this country for the future are matters for experts to determine. I certainly cannot decide them, but they are now under consideration. If it is decided to build a cruiser I do not think that the construction of such a vessel would give much employment in Australia because of difficulties arising in respect of the rolling of the steel and the necessity for the erection of a plant for the manufacture of high tensile steel. If, on the other hand, as seems most likely, further defence requirements necessitate the construction of destroyers or sloops, such vessels, as has been the case in the past, will be built in Australia. I shall regard my administration of this department as having achieved something substantial if, when I leave it, the naval and aircraft requirements of this country are being manufactured here. I further inform the honorable member for West Sydney that, although certain difficulties have yet to be overcome, I am endeavouring to push on to a decision at the earliest possible moment to expedite the work at Cockatoo Island dockyards in order to prevent experienced workmen and engineers, whose services would be eagerly sought after in dockyards overseas, from leaving that establishment.
Time will not permit me at this stage to review fully the general principles of the defence policy of the GovernmentThe policy laid down by the Labour part: is exactly similar to that which the Government is pursuing, and has been pursuing for some time. As to the references made by the Leader of the Opposition to oil supplies, I claim that no government could have done more than this Government or spent more money in order to find oil in this country and provide for reserves of oil until such time as natural oil can be found. In all other respects also this Government is carrying out a defence policy identical with that announced recently by the Labour party, the only difference between the two being that the Labour party, as I said this afternoon, is silent on the aspect of Imperial co-operation. It does not make any reference to the Navy, and as a matter of fact we have heard the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) describe Australia’s dependence on the British Navy as being “ entirely evil “. At all events, he described the Navy as “agents of evil, emissaries of ill-will and agents of evil intercourse that serve no useful purpose”. I refute entirely those statements; they are utterly contradictory of the policy for which the Government stands, and I suggest that the people of this country can ascertain at a glance what kind of defence they would have provided by a Labour government in which the honorable member for Batman expects to be a prominent member. [Quorum formed.] That is one of the basic differences between the defence policy of this Government and that of the Labour party.
The honorable member for Batman said that for twenty years he had enunciated the views which he expressed to-night. I have heard him do so on a number of occasions, and I have read reports of statements made abroad by the honorable member expressing exactly similar statements, and claiming that the defence of Australia can best be provided for by Australia disarming itself absolutely and standing defenceless before the world. The honorable member’s idea of defence, apparently, is to make a speech to the enemy; that, probably, would constitute a gas attack of the most fearsome character. He has spoken of the policies of smaller nations to illustrate his ideas on defence, but he has not realized what has happened to those nations which have denuded themselves of defence, and depended on treaties and agreements embodied in various pacts entered into since the Great War. A pledge was made to every one of them in the following terms: -
A pledge to respect territorial integrity and political independence. The right of selfdetermination and freedom “ of minorities. Safeguards against the exploitation of undeveloped native races.
Those were three of the provisions laid down as ideals to be followed, yet none, of them has been maintained, and the smaller nations, such as Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and Switzerland, are now increasing their armaments, knowing that there is no security in agreements of the kind suggested by honorable members opposite.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) denied that the British Navy would or could come to the assistance of Australia. He quoted various authorities, but he cannot claim, any more than I can, to know for certain what would actually happen if war broke out. We have to depend on the statements of the British Government, and on the pronouncements of experts who have dealt with the matter. The following statement was made by the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty : -
In estimating our requirements we have to take into account responsibilities in European waters, in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. These imply the necessity for a fleet of sufficient strength to be able to dispose simultaneously in more than one aron forces adequate to meet all reasonable defensive needs.
Included in those defensive needs is the defence of Australia, as well as of the other parts of the Empire. I have no hesitation whatever in accepting the view that, as part of the British Empire, we are entitled to, and would receive, from the other parts of the Empire the support and succour necessary to sustain us if we were attacked. I confess that I am unable to understand the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. He said that he would not regard the blockading of this country as a serious matter. It might be serious, he said, for those who had lent money to Australia, because they would not obtain their interest. Surely, however, the honorable member must admit that it would be a serious thing for the wool-growers who could not send a pound of wool overseas, and for the wheat-growers and butterproducers, who could not export their produce. Would the Leader of the Opposition not regard it as serious if, as the result of a blockade, the country were cluttered up with surplus produce of which we were unable to dispose? Statements of the kind made by the Leader of the Opposition indicate a shocking lack of appreciation of the consequences of a blockade of the Australian coast, and indicate an entire failure to understand what is required for the defence of Australia. The Government does not want to provoke any country. Honorable members opposite have shown themselves to be peculiarly sensitive regarding our treatment of other countries, and have taken the Government to task for buying into rows “, as the Leader of the Opposition said. They have not, however, displayed anything like the same sensitiveness regarding the need for providing adequate defence for their own country. They have paid lipservice to this ideal, but they have shown no real earnestness regarding it. The Government stands for the defence of Australia. It has no desire to provoke anybody, but it stands for decent standards of living, and insists that it shall control its trade arrangements, and keep them in its own hands. There is more than one way to subjugate a country. It can be done by force of arms, resulting in the suppression of all resistance, and it can also be done by means of peaceful penetration, in the course of which the aggressor country so dominates the trade and economic life of its victim that, in the end, all independence is lost.
– The Minister foi Defence is trying to provoke war in order to justify his defence policy.
– The only suggestion regarding the provocation to war has come from the Opposition. This Government stands for the defence of Australia, whether the necessary defensive measures be carried out on Australian soil or elsewhere. The Government does not stand for provocative action, but stands for the progressive development of the defences of the country, placing reliance first upon the Navy, and then upon the Army and Air Force. Australia owes its existence as a dominion to its membership of the British Empire. Some honorable members opposite have asked what, the British Navy has ever done for us. My answer is that Australia would not now be a land of liberty and freedom, were it rot for the British Navy. We have declared for a White Australia policy, but it would be a worthless declaration were it not that the strength of the British Navy is there to back it up. There is, therefore, no need to ask where this Govern- ment stands in relation to the British Empire or the British Navy, nor is its position in question regarding participation in imperial defence.
– There is room for question about where the Government stands in regard to Australia.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.None are so blind as those who will not see. The Government realizes that as Australia participates in the benefits of Empire membership, it should also participate in the solution of Empire problems. Certain honorable gentlemen opposite seem prepared to take all the benefits and enjoy all the freedom which the Empire affords Australia, but, apparently, they are not prepared to share in Empire responsibilities.
In reply to the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition, I am happy to be able to say that the defences of Australia were never in a better condition than they are to-day. They have been carefully and steadily developed following upon the slashing and cutting down of expenditure for which the Labour Government was responsible in 1931-32.
– There was also a cutting down by the Imperial Government in 1931.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite have only latelY made decisions which the Government made many years ago. For the last five years, to my knowledge, this Government has been pursuing a sound defence policy, but it was apparently only after the adumbrations of the Adelaide conference some months ago that the Leader of the Opposition made any decisions on this subject. As a matter of fact, the Government is giving effect to the policy enunciated at the Adelaide conference, and has been doing so for several years. I find that that conference decided -
That the Commonwealth Government should endeavour to establish and maintain friendly relations with other nations.
– That is not being carried out.
– The honorable gentleman is in error. The Government is giving such substantial effect to that desirable object that I need make no further comment upon it. The next decision of the conference to which I shall refer, reads -
That the complete control of the production of munitions, and war materials of all kinds, should be vested entirely in the Commonwealth Government.
That is exactly the policy of the Government. The manufacture of munitions is being kept strictly in the hands of the Government.
– What about the manufacture of aeroplanes?
– That, has been deliberately excluded from the general description of munitions by national agreement. Notwithstanding all that has been said to-night about the fortunes made by manufacturers of armaments, the fact remains that every piece of armament made in Australia has come out of a government factory. I may, therefore, dismiss as so much claptrap the talk that we have heard about the fortunes made out of the blood of the people. Insofar as the defences of Australia are concerned, at any rate, there is not an atom of truth in such a suggestion, as no one should know better than the honorable member for Maribyrnong, in whose electorate most of the munitions factories are situated. The third decision of the Adelaide conference to which I direct attention reads -
That preparation, to counter any possible foreign aggression, be made by the establishment of a defence scheme commensurate with Australia’s ability to maintain it and adequate for our needs, and that this bo done by concentration on the following essentials : -
That preamble is in accord with the present basis of the Government’s defence policy. It appears to me that these decisions were really framed from declaration of government policy on this subject. Some reference is then made to aerial defences, but in this respect also the Government’s policy, which is in accord with the Adelaide decision, was framed years ago. I could go right through these decisions, and make almost the same comment upon them.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this proposed vote has expired.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:- -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Willhe state the total amount of bounty paid, to the30th June, 1936, in respect of (a) wire netting, (b) wire fencing, (a) galvanized sheets, (d) iron and steel, (e) traction enginess, and (f) all other items where bounty is paid under the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act?
Mr.White. - The amount of bountypaid under the provisions of the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-1934 since its inception to the 30th June, 1936, totals £1,946,952 covering -
I might mention that information in regard to all bounties paid by my department, in addition to being tabled in both Houses of Parliament, is published each year in the Production Bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Statistician.
Postal Department: Revenue: NowOfficial Post Offices.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What was the whole revenue from each of the following post and telegraph offices in Western Australia for the financial years 1930-31 and 1935-36: - Coolgardie, Southern Cross, Norseman, Menzies, Laverton, Gwalia, Mount Leonora, Wiluna (including Wiluna Gold Mines), Meekatharra. Cue. Mount Magnet, Yalgoo, Boulder and Kalgoorlie?
– The total revenue derived from the offices referred to was as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state how the AustralianGovern- ment representative at Geneva voted in regard to the draft convention applying an 8-hour day to seamen?
– Advice has been received that the Maritime Conference adopted a convention on hours of work on board ships and manning applicable to trading vessels in international voyages. The authority of the government delegate would enable him to record an affirmative vote for the convention, and it is assumed from telegraphic advice that he did so. Definite advice on the point will be obtained for the information of the honorable member.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Tlie answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - . The Commonwealth Government recently communicated with the governments of the States inquiring whether they would be agreeable to a conference of Commonwealth and State representatives being held in the near future with a view to examining the whole question of youth unemployment.
Public Service Board : Recommendations.
son asked the Prime Minister, upon ‘notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available to the honorable member at as early a date as possible.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he consider the question of allowing persons who under the immigration regulations are prevented from landing in Australia for other than existing international reasons, to have the right of appeal to an independent tribunal ?
– The matter will receive consideration.
l asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he consider the desirability of laying down some general rule for future guidance to immigration officials on the question of applying dictation tests to white British subjects ?
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is there any precedent for subjecting a British subject to a dictation test in similar circumstances to those surrounding the case of Mrs. M. M. Freer, and refusing such British subject permission to land in Australia?
– The dictation test has been applied on previous occasions in respect of British subjects whose admission into the Commonwealth was considered undesirable.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What grants have been made by the Government out of the fund of £250,000 appropriated by Parliament recently to encourage the search for oil, to whom have such grants been made, and what amount was approved for each person or company?
– No advances have yet been made.
Trade with Japan.
e. - On the 28th October, 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 : - 1 and 2. The total value of exports from Australia to Japan in 1934-35 and 1935-36 was f9,l»57.097 (sterling) and £14.100,784 (sterling), respectively. The total value of imports from Japan in 1934-35 and 1935-36 was £4.024,740 (sterling) and £4.9110.57 1 (sterling), respectively. A statement showing details of Australian exports to -lapun and the imports from Japan in 1934-35 and 1035-30 is being supplied to the honorable member
Japan in 1934-35 and1935-36 were £7,896,265 (sterling) and £8,895,981 (sterling), respectively. Export a from the United Kingdom to Japan inthe same years were £4,050,438 (sterling) unci £3,542,923 (sterling).
– On the 22nd October, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked me a question concerning the transmission by post of advertising matter relating to contraceptives. I promised the honorable member that I would communicate with my colleague, the Postmaster-Generalon the subject. He has advised me as follows : -
The position is that this department has no legalpowers to refusethe transmission of literature or advertisements of the character mentioned. Doubtless when the Post and Telegraph Act was framed regard was had to the Fact that senders could utilize the sealed letter post, and it was realized that the granting of power to refuse transmission would have no beneficial effect in checking the distribution of such matter. It is suggested, however, that the mere refusal to transmit the literature through the post would be of no real value in putting a stop to the activities of the people who purvey contraceptives; for instance, it is quite a common practice for price lists and other advertising matter relating to these articles to be deposited in the receptacles privately provided at residences for the receipt of correspondence, without their circulating through the post. It would seem that if suppression of this sort of information is to be enforced, the post office is hardly the proper organization for the purpose, hut that some other authority must be clothed with the requisite . powers. The matter really appears to bo one which would come rather within the purview of the State authorities.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished at soon as possible.
s. - On the 23rd October, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked me whether finality had been reached in the arrangements between the Comonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales in connexion with the maternal and infant welfare fund. In reply, I pointed out that the New South Wales portion of the fund had been handed over to the State government, and that I would endeavourto obtain further particulars from the State Minister for Health. I have been advised by the Minister that a committee was formed to advise as to the best means of utilizing this money, and that the report of this committee has been placed before the New South Wales Cabinet for consideration and final determination. Mr. Fitzsimons states that as soon as the matter has been dealt with,an announcement will be made in the press regarding future action.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361105_reps_14_152/>.