4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he can inform the Senate of the arrangements which have been made in. regard to the proposed visit of a delegation consisting of eighteen members of this Parliament to the Mother Country in connexion with the Coronation ceremonies next year ?
– I have communicated with the Acting Prime Minister on the subject, and I am informed that the Government have not yet received a reply to the communication which they have addressed to the Colonial Office. As soon as that reply is forthcoming any information it may give will be placed before Parliament, which will then have an opportunity of considering the matter.
– In view of an answer which has been given in another place in regard to the strike of rifle markers at Williamstown, I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he has received from Colonel Sellheim an explanation of the reasons why he neglected to report his action in filling the places of the strikers to headquarters ?
– No, not yet.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether his attention has been called to a paragraph which appears in today’s newspapers and which states that the sorters in the General Post Office, Sydney, are working in the back yard?
– In the stable yard.
– The paragraph states that these men are engaged in sorting the correspondence of the people in the outhouses attached to the post office. I desire to know whether the statement is correct, and, if so, what he proposes to do in the matter?
– I did read in the newspapers this morning a statement to the effect mentioned by Senator Stewart, and if that statement be correct, immediate action is, in my opinion, imperative. But at present I do not know whether it is correct. Attention having been called to the matter,I will get into communication with my colleague as speedily as possible with a view to having it investigated.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives, and (on motion by Senator McGregor), read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How many men over the age of twenty-one years are employed in the General Post Office, Sydney, at a lower rate than £110 per year?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
There are seventy-six officers in the Sydney Post Office who have not yet served the period of three years prescribed by sections 21 and 25 of the Public Service Act to entitle them to £110 per annum.
NORTHERN TERRITORY ACCEPTANCE BILL (No. 2).
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
Clause 11 -
The Government Resident of the Northern Territory, and all officers in the Public Service of the state of South Australia, whose salaries are paid out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament of that State, for the service of the Northern Territory, shall, by virtue of this Act, be transferred to the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
Houseof Representatives’ Amendment -
Leave out “shall, by virtue of this Act,” and insert . “ may.”
– The amendments which have been made in this. Bill by the other Cham-, ber are merely of a formal character, and are intended to bring it into conformity with the Act which has been passed by the South Australian Parliament. Consequently there is no necessity to debate them. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has described these amendments as being merely of a formal char- acter. Butthere seems to be something more than a mere formality involved in the amendment which is now under consideration. The object of the clause is to insure that those officers who are now administering the public affairs of the Northern Territory shall be transferred to the Commonwealth, and that they shall not suffer any loss thereby. But if we adopt the amendment they will be very uncertain as to their future position. In such circumstances they may or may not be transferred to the Commonwealth. Hitherto, when any public Department Has been transferred from a State to the Commonwealth the practice has been to give to the officers of that Department an assurance that they would not suffer by reason of such transfer.
– Suppose that some nf these officers do not wish to be transferred ?
– There is a simple way of meeting such cases. If we adopt the amendment which is now proposed, the Commonwealth may or may not take over these officers. If it does not take t hem over their occupation will be gone. I feel that they ought to receive the same assurance which has hitherto been given to every other officer of a Department which has been transferred to the Commonwealth - an assurance that their positions will not be jeopardized by reason of the transfer.
– In this amendment there is no question involved either of retaining the services of the gentlemen who at present occupy public positions in the Northern Territory, or of dispensing with them. Seeing that the South Australian Government were satisfied to allow the Commonwealth to determine what officers it would require to take over, I think that we should be acting very unwisely if we pledged ourselves to transfer every officer, irrespective of whether or not his services will be required in connexion with Commonwealth administration. I have recently heard a great deal in regard to giving greater freedom and latitude to the Commonwealth. This amendment, whilst affirming the South Australian Act, is doing what was urgently desired by honorable senators in a previous discussion. I may add that under the State Act those officials who are not taken over will be compensated. Consequently no grievous hardship will occur. If it had not been so I have no doubt that the South Australian Parliament would have seen to it that the officers were duly protected.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.46]. - It would have been better if this clause had been somewhat amplified. I am quite sure there is no intention to do an injustice to officers who at present hold positions in the Northern Territory, but at the same time I do not see that there ought to be any obligation on the Commonwealth to retain in its service all the officers who are at present in the service of South Australia. There is no constitutional obligation on the Commonwealth to take them over. They are placed under the control of the Executive Government, and it is for the Commonwealth to take over such officers as it thinks fit. The interests of those who are not taken over are protected by the Constitution. In that respect Senator Millen’s criticism is well founded. It would have been well if the section of the Constitution applying to this point had been embodied in the Bill pretty well as it stands. But clause 9 does, I think, all that is necessary. It provides that all magistrates and justices of the peace in and for the State of South Australia residing in the Northern Territory at the time of the acceptance, and all public officers and functionaries in the Northern Territory at that time, shall continue to hold office under the Commonwealth in relation to the Northern Territory on the same terms and conditions as they hold office under the State. That clause is to the same effect as section 84 of the Constitution, which relates to State officers being placed under the control of the Commonwealth. But while I think it would have been better if the terms of the Constitution had been embodied, still I think that the clause is sufficient to protect the officers who will be placed under the control of the Commonwealth ; and then if the Commonwealth chooses to retain them permanently in its service they will retain all their rights under the law of the State under which they were appointed.
– I should like to know whether the Government propose this session to ask for legislative sanction for the working of the railways in the Northern Territory. When the Territory is surrendered, the Commonwealth will become responsible for the working of the Port Augusta to Pine Creek railway, and also for the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway. At present we have no railway department, no legislative machinery for working railways, and no regulations affecting them. Therefore, I wish to know what the Government propose to do. Is it intended to introduce legislation providing for the management of the railways taken over, and is it intended to take over all the railway servants employed on the two lines for which we shall become responsible?
– There is no cause for alarm with respect to the working of the railways which the Commonwealth will take over in connexion with the acquisition of the Northern Territory. . We shall take over the officers immediately connected with those railways, and the Government will enter into an arrangement with the South Australian Government for carrying on the work until we are able to do everything required in form. Honorable senators may rest assured that the Government will do everything to see that the railways are worked in the interests of the public.
– Senator Symon seems to be satisfied that clause 9 is satisfactory ; but I should like to know what interpretation is to be put upon the term “ public officers and public functionaries.” Are these persons paid by the Government of South Australia, or do they merely hold honorary positions, like justices of the peace? If they are paid officers, it seems to me that clause 9 will come into conflict with the amendment made in clause n.
– No; clause 9 merely places the officers under the control of the Commonwealth, and clause it is that under which the Commonwealth is empowered to take them into its service.
– The words used are, “shall continue to hold office under the Commonwealth in relation te the Northern Territory on the same terms and conditions as they have held office under the State.” That means that they will be transferred to the Commonwealth on the same terms and conditions as applied lo them in the State service.
– That is right; if the Commonwealth requires to retain their services.
– I do not know whether the State could summarily dispense with their services. If they are in the position of ordinary civil servants, the State would not do anything of the kind.
– The State can dismiss any servant without any notice.
– As far as my experience goes, it is difficult for a Government to dismiss anybody. If these public officers and functionaries are paid, and under this Bill they are transferred to the Commonwealth with all their rights preserved, the Commonwealth cannot interfere with a single right that they possess at the time of transfer. Clause 9 says that the officer “shall” be transferred, and then clause it qualifies clause 9 by saying that they “ may “ be transferred. Which of the two clauses is the effective one ? I suppose this is another means of finding work for that noble profession which Senator Symon so eminently adorns.
– The honorable senator does not object to that, sure y ?
– I do not in the slightest degree; but I think we ought to be clear as to whether the public officers and functionaries referred to are merely honorary officers. If they are paid, it appears to me that clause 9 unmistakably comes into conflict with the amendment in clause 11.
– Some people who are interested in the Northern Territory are not provided for in this Bill. The Territory is represented in the South Australian Parliament by two members. How are their interests to be conserved?
– - I must insist, in the interest of good legislation, upon having an explanation in connexion with the matter that I have mentioned.
– No explanation may be possible.
– It ought to be possible. We have had too much of this slip-shod legislation from every Government, and members of Parliament have sat under it like a lot of sheep.
– With the exception of one Government.
– I said “every Government;” the honorable senator can make an exception if he pleases. I do not profess to understand the jargon of Acts of Parliament. I think that they ought to be couched in as plain English as possible. I wish to know whether clause 9 comes into conflict with clause 11 as amended. That is a question which a layman may fairly ask.
– The honorable senator surely does not expect any Government to give a candid answer to that question.
– I should not expect it from some Governments, but I do expect the present Government to be candid and honest above everything. My experience with regard to Acts of Parliament has convinced me that they are drawn up by lawyers in the interests of lawyers, and that nobody else can understand them. Each Act is capable of as many interpretations as a text in Scripture. Accordingly, nearly every section - one might say nearly every phrase in every section - gives rise to numberless opinions, suits, and disputes, and pours out cash and credit for the benefit of members of the legal profession. I desire to do away with that sort of thing as much as possible. I think that lawyers might be far more usefully employed than they are.
– They are like kings ; off with their heads !
– Yes, off with their heads; or, rather, put a plough into their hands and let them till the soil instead of promoting litigation. Of course, if the Government cannot give any explanation I shall have to sit down and be content to let the thing take its course.
– I am in favour of the proposed amendment, because it appears to me that under it the Government are not compelled to take over all the public officers in the Northern Territory. It will be possible to leave some of the officers in the hands of South Australia and let her pay them. The history of the Northern Territory has been one of gross mismanagement from beginning to end. I am not prepared to say whether the fault was entirely that of South Australian Governments or whether it was the fault of officers in the north. It may have been partly the fault of the Governments and partly that of the officers. But, at all events, when I was in the north I found that there was nothing but condemnation for the officers with the exception of a few notable men such as the Government Resident. There was nothing but condemnation for the whole system of government there. If you go into the history of the Northern Territory you will find that gross mismanagement has occurred. The large cedar forests on the Coburg Peninsula described by Earle as far back as 1845 or 1850 have all disappeared. They have been cut down. The pearl shelling industry has gone down, and cultivation on the Daly River has disappeared. A smelter was put in at the Daly River settlement, and the South Australian Government sent up a man to look after it who made a hopeless muddle of the business for a considerable time. The same thing applied to the western coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. There is excellent land there, which has never vet been properly surveyed, and no attempt has been made to open up that country tor settlement. Whether some of the local men or some of the Adelaide officials are to blame for these things, it cannot be denied that there is something rotten in the Civil Service of the Northern Territory.
– The honorable senator is going beyond the difference between “may” and “shall.”
– On an amendment of a clause dealing with the taking over of the public servants of the Northern
Territory by the Commonwealth, I am surely entitled to express my opinion of those public servants.
– The honorable senator is talking of a hundred-and-one other things.
– I have referred to the attitude adopted by the public servants of the Northern Territory towards the development of its resources, and I say that, so far as history and information obtained on the spot can guide us, the whole of the public servants in the Northern Territory should not be taken over by the Commonwealth. The VicePresident of the Executive Council need not have complained, because I agree in this matter with the Government that they should be at liberty to exercise some discretion. They should be in a position to take over public servants who have proved themselves capable administrators and officials, and to refuse to take over a certain number of men of whom the less said the better.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) [3.2j. - .1 have no objection to the amendment, but I should like to point out that when honorable senators on this side have suggested the substitution of the word “may” for the word “shall” in various Bills, their suggestion has been laughed at by the Government. When such an amendment is proposed from the other side, the Government take an altogether different view of the matter. Where they have said “shall “ in this Bill, they are now invited to say “ may,” and this is one of the little compensations for the hard fighting of honorable senators on this side. I indorse the remarks which have been made by Senator Chataway. I admit that I have only a short personal acquaintance with the Northern Territory, but I found that, without a single exception, everybody there, public officials as well as private individuals, desired to get out of the hands of the South Australian authorities. In view of the fact that we have been unable to prevent the imposition upon the Commonwealth of one incubus, in the shape of the proposed railway in the Northern Territory, I compliment the Government upon some little wisdom displayed in refusing *o impose upon the Commonwealth the burden of officials and the traditional policy that has been responsible, directly or indirectly, for one of the greatest howling failures of Australia. If the Commonwealth must be saddled with an enormous debt in connexion with the Northern Territory, it is well that we should be in a position to prevent the transfer of those who may have been responsible for the mistakes of the past in its management. Nothing struck me so much when in the Northern Territory as the utter hopelessness of public servants, as well as of private individuals, under the existing Administration.
– The honorable senator never saw anything there. He was there only for about twenty-four hours.
– If Senator Findley had remained there for the rest of his life, he would never learn what was wrong, though an ordinary individual might find it out in a few minutes. I do not know how the honorable senator could have failed to notice that the public officials up there were jaded and dispirited. Are we going to take over these relics of a useless past?
– We should do so, if it were only on grounds of philanthropy and humanity.
– When, in discussing politics, a man talks of philanthropy to me, I at once put my hands in my pockets and wonder what it is he wants.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 12 -
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit “ by “ and insert “ under.”
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I do not intend to oppose the amendment, but it enables me to direct attention to the fact that this clause deals with the transfer of public officials who are not dealt with in the previous clause. Clause 1 1 refers to officials engaged in the Northern Territory. This clause goes fur.ther, and applies to public servants whom the Commonwealth will employ in carrying on the railway service on the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. Under the agreement the Commonwealth is to construct a line from some point on the Port AugustaOodnadatta line to the northern boundary of the State of South Australia. That will involve the employment of engineers, surveyors, and all sorts of people, and I venture now to repeat the question put by Senator Givens on the previous clause. Do the Government intend this session to submit a measure to enable the Commonwealth to deal with these officials? The moment the proclamation is issued completing this agreement between South Australia and the Commonwealth, the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line will fall into our hands. We shall acquire that railway - including the lands now used for and reserved for such railway, together with all stations and other buildings, sidings, wharfs, and other accessories used in connexion with the working of the said railway, except the railway carriages, trucks, and other movable plant and rollingstock.
– We may have the whole of the old rolling-stock of the South Australian railways handed over to us.
– What I wish to know is what steps are to be taken by the Commonwealth this session for the control of the matters which will come into our hands on the completion of the agreement? Are we to understand that the agreement is to be allowed to remain a dead-letter until next session. The South Australian people, as well as the people of the Commonwealth, are entitled to know what is to be done. We shall be taking over from South Australia a non-paying railway within the borders of the State, as well as the accessories and officials connected with the working of it. We should know whether the Government, without consulting Parliament, intend to carry on the railway under a sort of dictatorship, or whether they propose, as 1 hope they do, to allow the agreement to remain a dead-letter for the next twelve months.
– I hope we shall get some explanation from the Vice-President of the Executive Council in answer to the questions submitted by Senator Chataway. The amendment relates to the status of public servants in the employ of the South Australian Government, and raises a very big question. The Government might proclaim the Act to-morrow ; and whether we do or do not build the proposed railway, we shall be responsible for two of the largest menageries of white elephants that the world has ever seen. We should know how the Government propose to provide for and carry on these blessed menageries. The VicePresident of the Executive Council ought to be able to assure us of one of two things. First, that they are not menageries after all, and, secondly, that if they are, until it is shown that they can be made more or less self-supporting, the proclamation bringing the Act into force will be delayed. Information on the subject will be welcome to honorable senators; and it is eagerly looked for by the people of South Australia. As a matter of fact, there is not a member of the State or Commonwealth Parliaments that has the remotest idea where the proposed railway is to be built, or how it is to be constructed. There appears to be no doubt that we shall be saddled with an unproductive service involving a huge expenditure. If the proclamation is to be delayed, so much the worse for South Australia, and so much the better, possibly, for the Commonwealth. We should know whether the matter is to be suspended for ever and ever like Mahomet’s coffin, until Mahomet or his ghost rises” to tell us what is to be done with the coffin. That might be good enough for legislation amongst Mohammedans, but it ought not to be sufficient for us. If the issue of the proclamation is to be indefinitely delayed, that must be in consequence of some contingency. What is the nature of the contingency ? Is it to ascertain the route of the railway or the conditions of the servants who may be affected by this amendment ? For how long is the issue of the proclamation to be delayed? I hope that some of the cloud which has been raised round this question will be dispelled by the answer which, I hope, the Minister will be able to give. Clause 12, like every other clause, depends upon clause 2, which deals with the issue of the proclamation, f cannot spc any reason for changing “ by “ into “ under,” but we have a right to know what the Government intend to do as regards the issue of the proclamation under which the amendment will operate. I await with some anxiety the Minister’s answer.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Coun- c’0 [3-1/]- - 1° discussing a simple question such as an amendment to a clause it was not necessary for Senator St. Ledger to go into geological reminiscences and poetical incidents. He ought to have come down to what is a bare matter of fact. There are no white elephants in the Northern Territory, but there are a great many potentialities - white ants, which are the food of the natives, and brown buffaloes, which are a very valuable asset. The question of where the proposed railway is to be constructed, or how the lines are to be managed, is not involved in the amendment. If honorable senators desire to know the powers which the Commonwealth will have in connexion with railway construction, they have only to read clauses 17 and 18 to be satisfied that it can do as it really desires in that regard. If the word “ shall “ had been retained in clause 11 the public servants of South Australia would have been taken over by this measure, but the word “may” was substituted to the great satisfaction of Senator St. Ledger. Is it not necessary now to substitute “ under “ for “ by “ in this clause so that the servants who may be taken over shall have their rights preserved. That is the whole explanation of the amendment. Senator St. Ledger spent nearly a quarterofanhour in talking nonsense, and looking for it.
– We have not yet received an answer.
– Under this clause, as proposed to be amended, the Commonwealth will become responsible at once for all the employes on the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, and all the employes at Port Darwin, who are under the control of the State Government. We shall also become responsible, I take it, though, perhaps, I may be wrong, for the upkeep of the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. Before we spend any money we shall have to meet the interest on the debt of the Northern Territory, and an annual deficit of about £80,000 on a railway in South Australia proper. What I desire to know is whether, from the enactment of this measure, the Commonwealth Government will be responsible for the employes I referred to and the expense of working a railway on which, I believe, a train is run about once a fortnight? We are becoming responsible for the payment of a large sum. Between the two lines it is estimated that the annual cost to the Commonwealth, in interest and working expenses, will be from ^200,000. fo ^250,000. That, of course, is a very small sum compared with the total amount for which we shall be responsible, and which we shall have to find in order to develop the Territory. Can the Minister say if it is likely that the Commonwealth Government will run the railways on tlie same lines as the State Government have been doing, or whether they hope to be ableto obtain some traffic, and so earn the working expenses? A statement to that effect would bring a great deal of comfort to honorable senators, and, I dare say, to a great many persons in the Common.wealth. Otherwise, we shall be left in the dark, as we are with regard to the steps to be taken for managing and developing the Territory. Surely the country, as well as the Parliament, is entitled to the information which I have asked” for ! As regards the matter before the Committee, I have only to remark that, sometimes the alteration of one word varies the meaning of a page, though I do not see anything to cavil at in the amendment.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) [3-25l- - The Vice-President of the Executive Council is provoking a “stone wall.” It is of no use for him to pretend to be indifferent. He knows very well that this amendment raises a very large question. We all know that the operation of the clause, even as proposed to be amended, hinges largely on the question of the issue of a proclamation.
– That is not involved in the amendment.
– It is. When the Senate is asked to amend a clause, the operative effect of which depends on the issue of a proclamation, and the question has been discussed for so long, the Minister ought to be able to give an explanation on the main issue on which the amendment depends.
– I have told the honorable senator.
– When ?
– I cannot speak while the honorable senator has the floor.
– Can the Government say definitely when the proclamation is to be issued or what steps are to be taken before it is issued, and before this or any other clause of the Bill can operate ?
– The honorable senator would not like to get an answer which would deprive him of an opportunity to talk.
– I shall stop right away.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council has given us an opportunity to allude to one or two matters by his reference to clause 18, in which he pointed out how that explains the operation of. clause 12.
– Nothing of the kind. 1 only made those remarks in reference to something to which honorable senators had referred.
– The honorable senator stated that if we wanted an explanation regarding certain questions which we had raised, we should turn to clauses 17 and 18. Clause 18 reads -
Until other provision is made in that behalf by the Parliament, the Commonwealth, in the construction, maintenance, and working, of any railways required or authorized by this Act to be acquired or constructed in South Australia proper, shall be’ bound by the Railway Construction Acts of the State and the laws relating to the State railways to the same extent as the State would be so bound if the railways were being constructed, maintained, or worked, by the State, but not to any greater extent.
We are entitled to know whether the Government propose to give effect to this agreement at an early or a distant date?
– As soon as possible, after the Bill is passed.
– I think it will be absolutely impossible for the next sitting of Parliament to begin before July or August next. During the recess, and for a- month or two afterwards, the officials and the general business of the Territory must be regulated by Acts of the Parliament of South Australia. I remind the Minister that one of the most evil things to be found in this agreement is contained in paragraph / of clause 1. Under the paragraph -
The Commonwealth …. shall …. give and continue to give to the State and its citizens equal facilities at least in transport of goods and passengers on the Fort Augusta rail way to those provided by the State Government at the present time and at rates not exceeding those at present in force.
– I remind the honorable senator that he is entering now into the question of the taking over of the railways and their management.
– I am referring to the taking over of the officials and the railway ; not the railways.
– I ask the honorable senator to keep as closely as possible to the question which is immediately under consideration.
– I merely wish to point out that under paragraph / of the agreement, the Commonwealth will not be entitled to increase the rates, at present in force in respect of the transport of goods and passengers on the Port Augusta railway. Whatever price it may pay South Australia, it must never increase the freights upon that bit of railway. That is a leg-rope to which the Commonwealth ought not to submit. To make the railway in question pay, it may be necessary for us to dispense with the services of anumber of highly paid officials, and to replace them by lower paid officials. I support the amendment.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) [3-32l- - The Vice-President of the Executive Council must recognise that the Commonwealth will, in reality, not take over the Northern Territory, or any of the officers who are at present charged with its administration until the date fixed by proclamation for the commencement of this Act. Before I allow the Bill to pass from this Chamber I wish to know something about that proclamation, without which this clause cannot be operative.
– We shall have to proclaim the honorable senator’s want of sense in this matter.
– It is refreshing to witness Senator Vardon rushing to the rescue of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I refuse to subscribe to all the humbug with which this clause is surrounded. An amendment has been wisely made in it by the House of Representatives to which I assent conditionally.
– The South Australian Government have to proclaim the Act passed by that State, and the honorable senator does not know that they will do it.
– Nobody knows better than does Senator Vardon that though South Australia may issue any number of proclamations, they will not affect us “ a brace of shakes.” I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to say when the proclamation bringing this Bill into operation is likely to be issued. The honorable gentleman remains silent. Consequently we must deal with him as criminals are sometimes dealt with when they refuse to answer questions. We must draw our own conclusions as to what his silence means.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Motion (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That the Bill be re-committed for the reconsideration of clauses 11 and 27.
– I have not the slightest objection to the proposal of the Honorary Minister to recommit the Bill. Indeed, I had intended to submit a motion to that effect myself. I understand that the Government are now willing to accept two amendments to which they previously objected.’ But, when the Government seek the recommittal of a Bill, I think it is due to the Committee that they should furnish honorable senators with their reasons for so doing. The Honorary Minister has treated us very cavalierly in this matter.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has charge of the Bill, and, as he moved the adoption of the report, he was prevented from submitting a motion for the recommittal of the measure.
– But any honorable senator who proposes the recommittal of a Bill is under an obligation to inform the Committee of the reasons which impel him to take that course. However, the interjection of the Honorary Minister is really an admission that there is something in the complaint which I have launched, and, therefore, I shall say no more about it. I had intended to move the recommittal of the measure myself, because I wish to secure an amendment of clause 11 by striking out the words “ after the thirtieth day of June but.” That will have the effect of making the clause apply to any agreement or lease which was made or entered into prior to 30th September.
– I do not know why the Leader of the Opposition should object to the recommittal of the Bill, seeing that the action taken by the Honorary Minister in that connexion was taken in deference to the arguments which he had previously advanced. If he desires me to resist the amendment, I am quite prepared to do so. Had 1 seen him before the Senate met, I would have asked him to move for the recommittal of the Bill. But, as I could not propose that the measure should be re ported and recommitted at the same time, I had to request Senator Findley to move for its recommittal. That course has been adopted to afford Senator Millen an opportunity to submit an amendment to clause 11, and to enable Senator Walker to move an amendment in clause 27. I told Senator Walker at the time he brought forward his proposition that it would be considered, and that if the legal adviser of the Government was of opinion that it would not interfere with the vital principles of the Bill, we would consent to the recommittal of the Bill. But now, because we propose to adopt that course, honorable senators opposite raise objections. I am only sorry that I did not see the Leader of the Opposition before the Senate met, so that I could have asked him to move for the recommittal. However, that cannot be helped now. The Government are prepared to accept the amendment of clause 11, which was previously submitted by Senator Millen, and also the amendment of clause 27, which was proposed by Senator Walker.
Motion (for recommittal) agreed to.
In Committee (Recommittal):
Clause 11 -
Land tax shall be charged on land as owned at noon on the thirtieth day of June immediately preceeding the financial year in and for which the tax is levied :
Provided that an owner of land who, after the thirtieth day of June but before the thirtieth day of September, one thousand nine hundred and ten, has sold or agreed to sell ot conveyed part of the land or has sold or nsrreed to sell or conveyed all the land to different persons, shall, if the Commissioner is satisfied that the sale, agreement, or conveyance was bond fide and not for the purpose of evading the payment of land tax, be separately assessed, ….
– I move-
That the words “ after the thirtieth day of June but,” lines 5 and 6, be left out.
The purpose of the clause is to determine the date of ownership of land for the purposes of taxation. Having provided for that, the clause goes on to say that where an owner has sold, or agreed to sell, or conveyed part of his land, between the 30th June and the 30th September, he shall be charged with land tax as if the land were owned by him. I wish to make it perfectly clear that any person who has agreed to sell his land before the 30th September shall be entitled to the benefits conferred by the clause.
in which it emerged from Committee, any person who agreed to sell his land on the 29th June would not be considered “ within the pale,” so to speak. But those who made an agreement after the 30th June, and before the 30th September, would. That would be an anomalous position. If the date 30th June is struck out, the clause will mean that all who made an agreement before the 30th September will have the benefit of this arrangement. The amendment gets rid of an anomaly, and will make the working of the clause straightforward.
– This matter was threshed out on a former occasion, when the VicePresident of the Executive Council took exactly the opposite view from that which he has just submitted.
– Oh, no, I did not.
– I remember the circumstances well, because I took part in the debate. I hold the same opinion now as I did before. It does not matter two straws whether the amendment is made or not. The Bill, as it stands, would, in my opinion, be just as good as the Bill will be if amended. That being the case, I have no objection to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 27 - (1.) The owner of a freehold estate in land who has before the commencement of this Act entered into an agreement to make or granted a lease of the land shall, for the purpose of his assessment under this Act, be entitled, during the currency of the lease, to have the unimproved value (if any) of the lease deducted from the unimproved value of the land.
– I am much indebted to the VicePresident of the Executive Council for having furnished me with this opportunity of moving an amendment in clause 27. As the clause stands, it only allows the present owner of a freehold estate to deduct the unimproved value of a lease from the unimproved value of his land as a whole. My amendment gives the benefit of the deduction to the present owner’s predecessor, lt is an absolutely equitable thing to do. I therefore move -
That after the word “ who,” line 2, the following words be inserted, “ or whose predecessor in title.”
– The Government have taken the advice of legal gentlemen who are responsible for the drafting of this Bill, and have been informed that Senator Walker’s amendment makes the clause more equitable, and even more justifiable, than it is as it stands. Consequently, we have no objection to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council accept an amendment in this clause giving owners the right, after the Bill comes into operation, that owners before the commencement may have, to enter into an agreement to lease their land ? The object of such an amendment would be to encourage owners who cut up their land and use it to the best productive advantage, after the commencement of the measure, the same privilege as is applied to those who, before the commencement, cut up their properties. The object would be attained by striking out the words “ before the commencement of this Act.”
– - The Government have considered the position which would arise out of such an amendment, and have come to the conclusion that it would not be to the advantage of the Commonwealth, nor would it tend to the proper administration of the measure. We consider that it was only fair to give the privilege conferred by the clause to those who lease land before_.the commencement of the measure, but I do not think that it would be advisable to extend the privilege to those who lease at a subsequent date.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
– - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is closely connected with the Land Tax Assessment Bill, with which we have been dealing. It is scarcely necessary to enter into any arguments concerning it. We have gone fully into the matter of land taxation, and this measure merely applies the tax. It is a Bill of only five clauses, which are simple in their nature. There is a short title, a clause which incorporates the Bill with the Land Tax Assessment Bill, clauses imposing the tax, and a clause specifying when the tax shall be levied. Those are the essential clauses. The Bill is accompanied by two schedules which specify the rate of tax. It will be found by those who have studied the schedules that the rates run as follow: - On estates valued at from £15,000 to £15,001, the rate will be 2d. in the £1 ; from ,£30,000 to £30,001, 3d. ; from £45,000 to £45,001, 4d. j from £60,000 to £60,001, 5d., from £75,000 to £75,001, 6d.
– Why stop there?
– If the honorable senator desires ;the Government to increase the tax in the same proportion up to £1,000,000, we shall be prepared to take into consideration any amendment that he submits. The second schedule deals with absentees. As is generally understood, we propose no exemption in regard to them. Even if an absentee’s estate is less than £5,000 he is taxed. Consequently, the rate for absentees runs from £20,000 to £20,001, 3d. in the £1, and so on, rising by proportionate rates as in the case of the schedule affecting non-absentees, except that the rate for absentees is id. in the £1 higher in each instance. Attached to these schedules there is a formula for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of tax payable. The best way of illustrating the operation of the formula is to give one or two examples. I intend, therefore, to give an example or two in order that honorable senators may thoroughly understand how the rates of taxation will apply. The tax does not rise step by step from id. to 1½d., from 1½d. to 2d. in the £1, and so forth. It rises gradually from the first £1 of taxable value up to £75,000 of taxable value. A flat rate of id. in the £1 applies to all absentees, no matter whether their land may be worth £1 or £1,000,000. Let me give an example. Suppose that the unimproved value of a person’s land within the Commonwealth was £17,000. The taxable value for a non-absentee would be £12,000. Applying the formula, the rate would be id. plus I 2/ 10,000ths ; and 12/30,00ths means 2/sths. Consequently, the tax would be id. and 2/5ths of id. on £12,000. One penny and 2/5ths on £12,000 would yield a tax of £70. If, however, the owner was an absentee, his tax would be id. in the £1 from £1 up to ,£17,000, and inasmuch as there is no exemption for absentees, the yield of tax at id. would be £70 16s. 8d. Therefore, the tax payable by an absentee being 2d. in the £1 would be £140 16s. 8d. That is the way in which the tax works out in every instance. I will give another example. Honorable senators will notice that I have selected examples for my own use that are easily worked out mentally, but the same principle applies in all cases. If the formula be applied, it will invariably give the correct result. Take an estate worth £35,000, The taxable value of that estate would be £30,000. Then the rate of the tax would be id. plus £30,000/30,000^, which would mean 2d. in the £1 ; and, of course, 2d. in the £1 on £30,000 would yield £250. If the owner were an absentee, he would be charged id. in the £1 from £1 up to £35,000 - there being no exemption - and the tax would be £395 16s. 8d. By way of final example, I shall take an estate £100,000 in value. Working out the formula, the tax for a non-absentee on the unimproved value up to £80,000 would amount to £1,093 I5S- From £80,000 up to £100,000 - that is, £20,000 at 6d. in the £1 - the amount would be increased to £1,593 15s. Then, if we take the same estate owned by an absentee, all we have to do is to calculate the number of pence from £1 up to £100,000, and we get the amount of £416 13s. 4d. That added to the amount I have previously stated - £1,593 15s. - will give a total of £2,010 8s. 4d. as the tax to be paid by an absentee on an estate of this value. If, by the adoption of this formula, the tax upon estates of different values may be so easily calculated mentally, how much more easy will it be for those in the Taxation Office to assess the tax on estates of any value ! I think that little else remains to be said. We have argued the justice of a land tax, and from the Opposition side the injustice of it has been argued. From this side we have argued the economic value of the proposal, and honorable senators opposite have contended that it will be to the detriment of the Commonwealth. We have argued the matter from every point of view, and I have, therefore, now much pleasure in submitting my motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– I agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council that this Bill, being so intimately assocated with the Land Tax Assessment Bill, and being, indeed, complementary to it, it is unnecessary to debate it at any length. The only remarks I desire to make in connexion with it will be made to emphasize the fact which must be apparent to most honorable senators that this Bill represents a considerable departure from the proposition submitted by Mr. Fisher and his colleagues to the electors prior to the 13th April last.
– Hear, hear ; and in the wrong direction. It makes the tax much lighter than was proposed.
– In either direction, it ought to insure the condemnation of Senator Givens. There was not a single elector who had before him any intimation of an intention on the part of the Labour party to propose a land tax in excess of 4d. in the £,1.
– Yes, some candidates suggested a tax as high as 2s. 6d. in the £i, and they were elected.
– There is, of course, an obligation upon members of this Parliament who advocated a tax of 2s. 6d. in the £1 to seek to give effect to what they proposed.
– The honorable senator will admit that some of our opponents industriously circulated the statement that the tax would be is. in the £1 ?
– They did not. I can speak for one of the opponents of the present Government, and I know that I said, as I say now, that, whilst the Labour party might pretend to be moderate before the election, once they were placed on the Treasury benches their moderation would disappear, and they would then seek to impose a tax which was never talked of before the elections. The result has justified what I said. The fact remains that the Labour party placed before the electors a proposition to impose a progressive land tax with an exemption of ^5,000 unimproved value, starting at id. in the £z and running up to 4d. in the £1.
– And it was to be an average of 4d. in the £1 on an estate of ^60,000.
– At the time to which I refer, there was nothing said about an average at all. The first gentleman occupying a front-rank position in the Labour party to put forward the proposal was Mr. Watson, but, coming to more recent times, the present Prime Minister, in his speech at Gympie, clearly stated that the rate of the tax was to progress from id. up to 4d. in the £1, at which rate it would stop. An explanation has been offered that he had a reference to a rate of 6d. in the £1 somewhere in his notes, but that explanation is too thin to find a ready acceptance in or out of this chamber. Even if ii be correct that the honorable gentleman had a reference to a rate of 6d. in the £1 in his notes, I say that the only authority the Government have from the electors is to give effect to that portion of Mr. Fisher’s notes which was disclosed to the. public They have no authority to carry out a proposition which was never submitted to the electors, and certainly there never was a proposal submitted to the electors for the imposition of a tax as high as that proposed in the Bill now before us. I recognise what has happened. I honestly believe that when Mr. Fisher put before the electors a tax running from id. to 4d. in the f.x he intended that the tax to be imposed should be at that rate. But he had to deal with another constituency. He had to deal with a constituency whose meetings are not held in the open, and are not usually attended by representatives of the press. That constituency having decided that a tax of 4d. in the £1 was not sufficiently high, or did not bring them sufficiently near their ideal of the ultimate acquisition by the community of all the lands of the country, decreed that the tax of 4d. in the £1 submitted to the electors should be increased by 50 per cent., and hence we have a proposal in this Bill running the tax up to 6d. in the £1.
– That is inaccurate.
– Perhaps the constituency “to which I refer proposed that the tax should be higher, and only came down to a tax of 6d. in the £1 as a compromise to help Mr. Fisher out of the difficulty in which he was placed.
– The honorable senator is guessing.
– It is easy for honorable ‘Senators opposite to tell us that we are wrong, but it would be just as easy for them to explain exactly what did take place at the meetings of the constituency to which I refer. But it does not matter whether the change took place in or out of the caucus. The fact remains that 4d. was the highest rate put before the electors by any one entitled to speak on behalf of the Labour party, and the moment they were returned to power they sought to give effect to the imposition of a tax 50 per cent, in excess of what they promised the electors it would be.
– The Labour party went out of office after the declaration in favour of a tax of 4d. in the £1, and were again returned.
– Yes; but no one would pretend for a moment that when the party was before the electors on the last occasion they intimated an intention to depart from their previous declaration.
– It was to be an effective land tax.
– If the party intended to repudiate their previous declaration, it would have been nothing but common honesty to have informed the electors of the fact. If, after Mr. Fisher’s declaration at Gympie, the members of the party had again reviewed the matter, and come to the conclusion that a higher tax than we propose was necessary, they should in common honesty have told the electors before the last election what taxation proposals they intended to submit.
– Have not the people of New South Wales indorsed this proposal since the Federal Labour party were returned to power?
– That is just what they have not done. We have only to look at the two sets of figures representing the voting on both sides on the 13th April and the 14th October to see that, if the increase has been indorsed at all, it has not been in the State, of New South Wales.
– The last State elections in New South Wales gave the Labour party in the State a majority.
– If my honorable friends are satisfied with the result of the election, I have no objection. I may say, as one of the Liberals who took some part in the election, that I am abundantly satisfied with the result. If the reduction of a sweeping majority on the 13th April to a beggarly equality of numbers on the 14th October is a victory, my honorable friends are welcome to it. But I am not dealing now with political victories, but with a departure by the Labour party from their promise to the electors.
– A number of the electors are astonished at our moderation.
– I am not at all surprised at that interjection. I do not care whether honorable senators think they are moderate or not. My contention is that the party in office ought to make an effort to carry out the pledges which secured the votes that placed them there. In this case, the votes of the electors were sought on a definite proposition to impose a land tax running up from id. to 4d. in the £I
– Indeed, they were not.
– I invite the honorable senator to refer me to any official declaration by the Labour party proposing a tax of 6d. in the £1.
– We never went into such particulars.
– Is not a statement that the tax would run from id. up to 4d. in the £1 going into particulars?
– We advocated an effective land tax, and it was on the understand-, ing that we would impose such a tax that the electors sent us here.
– What was regarded by the Labour party as an effective land tax was shown clearly by the proposal that the rate should progress from id. up ‘to 4d. in the £1 upon estates over a certain unimproved value.
– In Tasmania, a Labour candidate advocated that the tax would be is. in the £1.
– But I remind the honorable senator that that candidate did not bind the party, and the electors were entitled to depend upon what the official heads of the party had to say. There was not one of the leaders of the Labour party who told the electors that they must not be misled by the previous declaration of the leader of the party, and that if they got into power they would impose a higher tax. The electors were entitled to believe that the party, if it succeeded, would adhere to the proposal to impose a tax up to 4d. in the £1. But the Government have one unanswerable argument on which they rely every time, and that is their majority. In view of that argument, I recognise that it would be futile to continue this discussion. I wish, therefore, merely to place it on record that it has not passed unnoticed in this Chamber, as I hope it will not pass unnoticed outside, that in this case, the first time they were tried, the Government have wilfully thrown behind them the pledges on which they secured their position at the last general election.
– I am astonished that Senator Millen should complain that the Labour party have not adhered strictly to the proposals in regard to. the land tax which they put before the electors prior to the 13th April last, because, if they had adhered strictly to those proposals, the tax would have been a very much more severe one than that proposed in this Bill. Those who have any right to complain in the matter are those who believe that the land tax to be of much use should be really an effective tax. The first proposal put before the electors was that the tax should be 4d. in the £i on estates of the unimproved value of £60,000 and over. Under this Bill, an estate of that value will only pay a tax of 3d. in the £1, so that the taxpayer is getting off very much lighter than he would have done if the original proposal of the party were carried out.
– If he was, the honorable senator would not be supporting this Bill.
– I agree with the proposal that the graduation should be worked out in accordance with the formula included in this Bill. It is an admirable idea; because it makes every £1 of taxable value carry its own burden of taxation.’ The tax is on a graduated scale for each successive £1, and is not graduated by arbitrary intervals of value. But the formula has not been made to carry out the original proposals of this party, which were that on an estate of an unimproved value> of £60,000 the taxation should be at the rate of 4d. in the £1. Under this Bill, the taxable value of an estate must be more than ,£75,000 before the average tax will amount to 4d. in the £1.
– What the honorable senator means is that the land-owner ought to be very glad that the Government have not proposed to take the lot.
– I say that if. any one has a right to congratulate himself that the Labour party are not strictly adhering to the proposals they made before the 13th April it is the taxpayer. A man owning an estate of the unimproved value of £75,000 will pay an average tax of only 3½d. in the £1. He would have to own an estate of over that value before he would be called upon to pay an average of 4d. in the £1, and after that the higher rate would be payable only on the amount in excess of £75,000. We have been told by honorable senators opposite that a man owning a large estate of £140.000 or £150,000 will suffer under this taxation the confiscation of one-half the annual value of his property on a 5 per cent, basis.
– That is so.
– Senator Vardon cheers the statement, but it is not a fact. The land-owner will never pay under this Bill an average tax of 6d. in the £1.
He will pay a tax of 6d. in the £1 only on the excess value above £75,000, and he will pay only an average of 3½d. in the £1 on an estate of the unimproved value of £75,000.
– We shall ‘ see when the formula is worked out.
– A schoolboy can understand this formula. Under it the value in pounds is divided by 30,000, and the product, plus 1, is the rate in pence. If you have an estate of the unimproved value of £75,000, that divided by 30,000 will give you i, and that, plus 1, gives a rate of 3^ as the tax of an estate of that taxable value. Yet honorable senators have the audacity to tell us that we propose to confiscate one-half of the estates over £100,000 in value.
– You are admitting the confiscation, but only disputing the incidence.
– I am admitting the audacity of honorable senators in putting forward their contention.
– That is not in dispute.
– Honorable senators opposite talk about confiscation, but, according to their argument, all taxation is confiscation. What is the position of a man who is employed on the streets, in the erection of buildings, in the construction of railway or telephone tunnels, or in mines? In Victoria the average wage which such men earn, week in and week out, is not more than £2. Yet, because a man happens to smoke, the Government come along and take is. a week in taxation from him. Is that confiscation?
– But it is taken from all men.
– No; if the honorable senator does not smoke we do not take a farthing from him in that way.
– Unfortunately, I do smoke.
– A man can evade the land tax just by ceasing to be a landholder. If that is a good argument there is a very easy way out of it. I think I have shown that the contention that onehalf of the value of very large estates will be taken by the land tax will not stand examination for a moment; it must go by the board, because it is not based on fact. Almost any land-owner can avoid” Ihe heavier portion of this tax straight away. Most persons, except those who desire to found a family and institute the old law of primogeniture in Australia, and hand their estates down in entail from father to son, will divide their landed property up amongst their family. Let- them do so now, or let those who have not a family and do not want to pay the tax, get rid of so much of their land as will relieve them of the greater proportion of the taxation. If they have £60,000 worth and sell £40,000 worth, they will have to pay only very little on the remaining area. That is the way for such persons to get rid of the tax. One of our objects - not the main object, I confess - is to try to induce more settlement. My fear is that this tax will not be heavy enough to accomplish that object. On a £25,000 estate, with a taxable value of £20,000, the tax will only be one and two-thirds of a penny in the £1, a mere nothing. I feel almost certain that as a bursting-up tax it will be entirely non-effective. The man with an estate of £35,000 will be asked to pay a total of only £250. The chief estates which stand in the way of closer settlement are not the extra large estates, not the mighty estates which we have in the western parts of the country or in the far back pastoral areas, but comparatively small estates in the agricultural districts.
– But you tax them all the same, though they are not suitable for closer settlement.
– I refer to estates from £20,000 to £40,000 in value. A man, with an estate of from .£20,000 to £40,000, unimproved value, can pay the tax and laugh at it as a bursting-up impost, because what he will have to pay, will be comparatively small. Land-owners are getting off so cheaply that I am afraid that the bursting-up effect of the tax will not amount to very much.
– Remember that, in some States, this tax will be superimposed on a State land tax.
– The more the States exercise their right to impose a land tax the better “I shall be pleased. The honorable senator has .stated there has been no evil in large estates in the western areas of the States, because the lands are not fit for closer settlement. That is an entire misconception. Although the lands are not, perhaps, suitable for close settlement as we know it in agricultural districts, yet it is an undoubted fact that they are eminently suitable for much closer settlement than we have. Even in the western country of Queensland it is found that, in an ordinary season, a man with 5,000 acres of the average pastoral country out there-
– Whereabouts ?
– In any part of western Queensland.
– At Thargomindah ?
– Even there.
– Well, you must have some bitter enemies if you would send them out there to live on an area of 5,000 acres. It could not carry 1,000 sheep.
– I know that people have been applying wholesale for grazing farms out there, and have not been able to get them.
– Under the influence of good seasons and high prices.
– I know men .who are making a living on 5,000 acres of what was commonly called desert country. At any rate, where a man could not make a living on 5,000 acres he could do so on 20,000 acres. There is scarcely any country in western Queensland, or any pastoral country belonging to other States,’ where a man could not “make a living on 20,000 acres ; and if he could not manage on that area, he could do so on 50,000 acres. It would be infinitely better for us to have men scattered all over the country living on blocks of from 5,000 to 50,000 acres, rather than have one man occupying an area the size of a principality.
– The “ bulk of that country was leasehold, and your party was careful to let it off the fax.
– I admit that; and I am one of those who regret very sincerely that these persons are allowed to escape. I should not care a straw if I thought that the States were getting the full rental value of the land ; but I know, as a matter of fact, that they are not,_ because in Queensland a grazing farmer, that is a man with a small area, is paying from four to eight times as much rent as a big squatter. That is how a small man is encouraged there. We have squatters in almost every State occupying an area the size of a principality. A run of from 200 to 300 square miles is .quite a common thing. Some of the runs are very much larger, and some others are not quite so large, but all comprise a large area. It would be infinitely better for Australia, and I believe we should produce a great deal more wealth, if we had thirty or forty families settled where we have only one big station at present. It would be an advantage in another way. It would make the western country more attractive, because people would be able to enjoy each other’s society, and to have schools where there are none at present. It would give possibilities of social life. All these considerations encourage me in the belief that we shall never have really close settlement all over Australia to the desired extent, until we make this land tax more effective than it is likely to be. In New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, especially in the last-named State, there is a very large area of western pastoral country which is freehold. It has been “peacocked.” It was put up to auction by the Government, and sold at as low as ros. an acre. By the possession of a 20,000-acre block, a man may command all the surrounding country. It is of no use to any one without the possession of this freehold, because that commands water, or has some other special advantage. This “ peacocking “ has been going on in every State. It will be a good thing if the land tax will help to cut up the land in the western country, and make room for closer settlement. I regret very much that this tax will not be as effective as I firmly believed it would be under the proposals which were put before the electors, and which they indorsed on the 13th April. However, it is the best that ‘we can get at present. The consensus of opinion seems to be in favour of it. I certainly consider that the graduation formula is an admirable idea, and deserves the cordial approval of everybody. I only regret that it was not graded .so as to bring in exactly the results which we promised the people in the shape -of a tax before the 13th April.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Land Tax Act 1910.
– The title of a Bill ought to indicate clearly its character; and I do not think that this is a proper title to give to this measure. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the word “ Tax,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Confiscation.”
The short title of this measure should, be, “ The Land Confiscation Act,” because that expresses its true intention to a very large extent. It is not by any means a
Land Tax Act. It is not sound in principle, and it is not properly worked out in any way. The first reason given for this legislation was to burst up big estates ; but that has now entirely disappeared in favour of the revenue-producing aspect of the tax. There is no discrimination with regard to the situation of the land. It does not matter whether it is situated in a closelysettled area such as Melbourne, or in the back-blocks of Queensland. Evidently, the intention is to take away the value of land by means of this tax. No one could possibly object to a fair land tax. But, as I have said previously, this is not a fair land tax. It is not a true taxation measure in any way, but a Land Confiscation Act.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the request is not frivolous and vexatious, and moved, evidently, with the intention of bringing the proceedings of the Committee into disrepute?
– I must rule that the request is of a character which comes under the head of frivolous ; and therefore I refuse to accept it.
– I should be the last to submit a proposal which was frivolous or vexatious. I moved the request in the exercise of my right, and because my honest conviction is that it is the right title for the measure.
– I am not aware, sir, although I may be wrong, that there is any standing order which empowers you to rule out a request because it is of. the character suggested. I should not like to think that we are acting under a misapprehension. I would suggest to Senator Vardon that, under the circumstances, he might withdraw his request.
– I have moved that the other Chamber be requested to make an amendment in the title of the Bill.
– And I have refused to accept the honorable senator’s proposal. If he does not agree with my ruling, he must submit a motion to disagree with it.
– I did not hear any reasons assigned as to why the proposal is out of order.
– I have ruled that it is out of order.
– I should like to know upon what standing order your ruling is based ?
– If the honorable senator chooses to challenge my ruling I will give my reasons for it.
– I do not wish to occupy time unnecessarily, because I recognise that I shall not gain anything by so doing. I have already entered my protest against the Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 5, schedules, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 13th October vide page 4495) on motion by Senator Pearce - ‘
That this Bill be now read a second time.
4-35]– )ye have to look back only a short period to ascertain the reason why we have arrived at the position which we occupy to-day in regard to the naval defence of the Commonwealth. Ever since the inauguration of the Federation, the question of the form of defence which should be adopted in Australia has been a fruitful theme for discussion. In 1901 the matter was referred to the Admiral on the Australian station - Admiral Beaumont - who reported to the Prime Minister that for the adequate defence of the Commonwealth we ought to rely upon a cruiser fleet. He went so far as to indicate the number and the class of vessels which were required in this connexion, but nothing further appears to have come of the project. Subsequently the idea gained ground that our most effective form of defence lay in a torpedo flotilla. If honorable senators will peruse the records relating to this matter they will see that a report was obtained from Captain Creswell as to the number and class of these craft which would be required for the effective defence of the Commonwealth.
– A report was first obtained from a Committee of local officers, and subsequently a report from Captain Creswell.
– Exactly. But I do not propose to discuss those reports in detail. I merely wish to point out as briefly as possible the reasons which have impelled us to conclude that for the adequate protection of Australia it is desirable that we should have a sea-going fleet, the services of which may also be utilized in the defence of Imperial interests generally. Honorable members will recollect that in 1.908-9 the question of the naval strength of Great Britain was brought prominently before the House of Commons. Brassey’ s Annual, for 1909-10, contains a very succinct account of the position which then arose. It says -
This was the condition of affairs in regard to Imperial defence when, on 16th March, 1909, statements were made about the naval strength and resources of Germany by the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty on the introduction of the Navy Estimates for 1909-10. The gravity of the international situation was made clear in a speech by Sir Edward Grey in a debate on the vote of censure brought forward by the Opposition.
It then proceeds to narrate the action which was taken by the New Zealand Government, and continues -
The question of Imperial defence was thus raised in a most acute form, and, on 22nd March, the Government of New Zealand telegraphed an offer to bear the cost of the immediate construction of a battleship of the latest type, and a second of the same type if necessary.
I have heard it stated more than once in this Chamber that the question of the naval strength of Great Britain was merely raised by the Opposition in the Mother Country with a view to belittling the policy of the Government in the matter of naval construction as compared with the developments which were proceeding in Germany. I recollect perfectly well - because I was in London at the time - the manner in which the debate was initiated. It arose purely as the result of the action of the Government when the Naval Estimates were under consideration, and I have always been impressed with the idea that that action was taken for the purpose of stiffening the backs of some of their supporters who were Little Englanders, and who did not recognise the necessity for Great Britain continuing her naval preparations for the defence of the Empire. They failed to realize that the position of the Empire was not by any means so secure as it was generally supposed to be until the matter was placed before them in such a lurid light. Previously, the general impression was that Great Britain was maintaining her two-power standard, and that she was keeping well to the fore in the matter of naval supremacy. It came as a revelation to many persons in the Old Country to learn that the strength of the fleet of Great Britain was rapidly being overtaken by Germany, as the result of the vigorous policy of construction which, had been adopted. This position was accentuated by the speeches of members of the Ministry; and Mr. Balfour, the Leader of the Opposition, joined with them in urging on the people the great necessity which existed for England waking up. That circumstance evidenced that, whatever differences of opinion may exist between political parties in the Imperial Parliament, upon the great question of defence they are absolutely united. No doubt there will always be divergences of opinion as to what steps should be taken for the ade- quate protection of the Empire. But when once a nation has awakened to the fact that its integrity may be assailed owing to an inadequate defence system, it is only natural that it will strain every nerve to maintain its power and prestige. It is absolutely necessary that it should do so, even if the task absorbs the whole of its revenue for the time being. New Zealand was not the only country which at once recognised the necessity for some steps being taken to assist the Motherland. In Australia a strong feeling was aroused, and a. similar desire was exhibited. Although the Government of the day, headed by Mr. Fisher, were not prepared to adopt the proposal to present a Dreadnought to Great Britain, they indicated their willingness to assist the Mother Country to the extent of their last man and their last shilling. Both in Sydney and Melbourne the question of contributing a Dreadnought to Great Britain was taken up with considerable energy by a large number of leading citizens, and a very substantial sum was collected towards the project. But it soon became apparent that it would be impossible to find a sufficient amount by means of private subscriptions to pay for a battleship which would cost about £2,000,000. However, as the Commonwealth authorities would not take steps in that direction, it was definitely arranged between Victoria and New South Wales that those States should do so. However, as all those know who have followed up the history of this matter, a change of Government took place, and a Dreadnought was offered to the Imperial Government by the succeeding Deakin Government. The outcome of the offer was that an Imperial Defence Conference was convened in London, of which the proposal that has since been taken in hand by the present Minister of Defence was the out- come. That proposal was that, instead of presenting a Dreadnought to the Mother Country, and allowing Australia to continue to contribute £200,000 a year to the cost of the Fleet in these waters, we should undertake the construction of a unit, and pay all the expenses connected with the manning and equipment’ cif it. At that time it was in contemplation that the Go- vernment of Australia should be assisted to the extent of £250,000 of the estimated cost of the upkeep, maintenance, and sinking fund of the ships to be purchased, and it was also contemplated that they should be built by means of a loan. I understand, however, that it is not the intention of the Government of the day to seek any assistance whatever from the Mother Country in regard to the manning and equipment of the unit; whilst, instead of borrowing the money and contributing to a sinking fund for a series of years, it is proposed to pay for the vessels out of the current revenue of the country. That is a question of policy that has already been debated, and I do not propose to reopen it just now. There has, however, been considerable difference of opinion as to whether this is really a policy that originally commended itself to the party that is now in power. The fact is that, in 1909, the Labour party indicated a desire on their part to defend Australia ; but, as I understand, the policy of the party at that time was not to provide great ships to traverse the deep waters of the ocean, but rather to defend the coasts of this continent by means of a torpedo fleet. Mr. Fisher, in his Gympie speech, stated that it was the intention of (he Government to provide twenty-three vessels of this class, which would be stationed at various portions of the coast and utilized to maintain the independence of Australia.
– In co-operation with the Imperial Fleet.
– When I turn to the speech delivered by the Governor-General, at the opening of the session of 1909, I find that in dealing with the matter of defence Ministers, representing the party at present in power, enunciated their policy as follows -
Recent events have shown the necessity for the Empire to develop new centres of strength, and with this end in view my Advisers some time ago cabled to the British Government suggesting the advisability of a conference of theselfgoverning Dominions of the Empire with the Government of the United Kingdom on the question of Naval Defence. A similar sugges- tion having been made by the Dominion of Canada, the British Government has now convened an Imperial Naval and Military Defence Conference, and has invited the Commonwealth to send representatives. The invitation has been accepted, and the Minister for Defence has been appointed as the representative of the Commonwealth. He will be accompanied by naval and military experts.
The Government also went on to say in paragraph 12 of the Governor-General’s speech -
As a contribution towards Imperial naval defence and for the more effective coastal defence of Australia, engagements have been entered into for the building of three modern torpedo boat destroyers, and you will be asked to approve of a policy of naval construction for the building in Australia of similar vessels as well as for the training of crews to man them.
I am sure that we all heartily re-echo ihe sentiment underlying those pronouncements of policy. The result of the Conference which was held later on, was that, instead of deciding to build a small fleet of torpedo vessels primarily for the protection of our coasts, it was determined to launch out in another direction, and to provide in a more effectual manner for the defence of Australia, recognising that a battle involving the defence of the integrity of Australia may have to be fought out very far from Australian waters. The only way in which Australia can be protected is by maintaining the supremacy of the British Empire upon the oceans of the world. If that supremacy went, the integrity of Australia would go with it,’ and this country would soon fall under the domination of some other Power.
– Why should that be?
– I am not going to debate that question; but I may remind the honorable senator that the present Minister of Defence has shown clearly enough that he recognises that our integrity is maintained by virtue of the Union Jack, under which we have the honour and privilege to live. Brassey’s Naval Annual, dealing with the Conference of 1909, says -
Mr. McKenna said, “They must helphow and when they decide it best,” and Lord Esher added the advice, “ By developing individually as centres of naval strength and developing in such a way as makes for the closest possible coordination between their navies and that of the Old Country.” An entirely novel note was struck on this occasion in the discussions on naval defence which took place between the representatives of the Dominions and the Admiralty. For the first time a sympathetic desire was shown by the Home authorities to bring about such an arrangement as might co-ordinate the aspirations of the colonists with the strategical needs of the situation.
This authority goes on to say -
On all sides a determination was apparent to harmonize differences and arrive at an understanding upon which definite action could be taken for the provision of such maritime defence as should give a sense of security in peace time and prove effective help in time of war. lt is further pointed out -
The spontaneous offers of the Dominions were to materialize in the shape of armoured cruisers, which would considerably strengthen the fleet: for the protection of commerce and coasts within the Eastern and Pacific waters.
Another question arises in connexion with the establishment of the Fleet. The’ Minister of Defence, in moving the second’ reading of this Bill, pointed out that this is really a case of a Fleet being provided by a nation within a nation. The desire is not to establish a separate Fleet, but a Fleet which will be able to co-operate with the Imperial Navy in maintaining the integrity of the Empire. The one great principle which must underlie the whole of that policy is that whatever we may do in time ot peace - whatever force we may develop - our naval unit must be placed unreservedly under the control of the Imperial authorities in time of war. There must be no question of shilly-shallying then; no question of saying that the Commonwealth authorities will have to consider the propriety of the war, and whether they are prepared to allow our ships to leave Australian waters. Clear and unmistakable evidence must be given to Great Britain, and to the whole world, that this Navy of ours is not going to be an independent navy, but an integral portion of the great Imperial Navy of Great Britain.
– It has to be remembered that in time of war, foreign Powers, if they attacked vessels of the Imperial Navy, would also attack ours.
.- Undoubtedly, if the Imperial Navy is attacked, we shall be attacked. Some may be foolish enough to say, “ We should keep these ships upon our own coasts, instead of allowing them to be placed under the control of the Admiralty authorities in the event of war.” But it must be impressed upon our people that the defence of Australia will probably be determined hundreds of leagues away from the Australian coasts, and far removed from immediately Australian interests. In accordance with that idea, the Minister of
Defence has made provision that the training of our men shall be on exactly the same lines as the training of men in the Imperial service; that our men shall be subjected to the same regulations and to the same rules of warfare, so that when the forces come together, there will be no trouble whatever with regard to their working and fighting under one command. On. this point Brassey’s Naval Annual says -
Local squadrons having a separate or isolated existence could never attain to the requisite standard of efficiency. Such squadrons would be a source of weakness and not of strength. But squadrons or groups of ships provided locally, manned locally, and using local bases; ships useful for defence and of sufficient range of action to protect the local water-ways - these groups linked up one with another, and with the Imperial fleet, would, in a large measure, fulfil the strategical requirements, and, at the same time, satisfy the national wishes of the children of the Empire oversea.
Then he goes on to say -
On the horizon of the future, we may picture a fleet in which are representative, ships from Australia, New Zealand, perhaps South Africa, and possibly India, as well as from the Old Country - a fleet partly Imperial and partly Dominion-owned, but. with one discipline, one. organization, and one flag ; a fleet of eight or ten cruising battleships with their auxiliaries, which would make periodical visits to the ports of each portion of the Empire represented in its composition.
I am glad to believe that the Minister recognises .the importance of this consideration, and that we shall not have in Australian waters what some people erroneously imagine that we are seeking to have - a local navy . that will be independent of the Imperial Navy. I have heard people say, in regard to this matter, “ When you have a navy of your own, what good will it be?” It can be of no use by itself. But it can do a great deal of good if worked in conjunction with the Imperial Navy. I hope, in the not far distant future, to see additions made to our Fleet from time to time. People have to realize that we have to do our part in the defence of the Empire. Some years ago Mr. Chamberlain spoke of the Mother Country as a weary Titan bearing upon her shoulders a vast burden, almost too great for her to sustain. Probably the burden would become too great if it were confined to the nation residing within the limits of the United Kingdom. In view of the steps now being taken by foreign nations comprising huge populations to build great navies, the task may be beyond the Mother Country if she is to undertake it alone. But her Dependencies and Dominions should look upon it, not merely as a right, but as a privilege, to take their part in maintaining the integrity of the Empire to which they owe so much. We form an integral portion of the Empire, and we are not subject to, but are on equal terms with other portions of it, and no distinction is drawn between us and other members of the Empire. The Ministers spoke of the ships that are being built, and referred to the chief vessel of the Indomitable type as likely to be completed by the end of 1912. There are other vessels of the Bristol type to be constructed, and I think the honorable senator said that some improvement was to be made in connexion with these vessels.
– They are now to be of what is called the Yarmouth type.
– Speaking of the Bristol vessel, Brassey says -
The weak point of the Bristol class is the armament, which is very poor for cruisers of nearly 5,000 tons displacement, and compares unfavorably with the present armament of the Eclipse class (eleven 6-inch guns); of ihe German Hansa class (two 8.2-inch and eight 6-inch), which are only 600 to 800 tons larger. It may be doubted whether the Bristol could even fight a merchant-cruiser armed with ten or twelve 6-inch guns. Speed is- doubtless a valuable element for a cruiser intended for the protectionof commerce ; but it may be too dearly purchased. It is useless to be able to overtake your enemy if you cannot fight him when you catch him.
In view of this expression of opinion by such a well known and recognised’ authority, the Government are wise in leaving the Admiralty authorities a free hand to adopt any improvement they think desirable in the construction of the other vessels. Every year great improvements are being made in guns and ships, and I have no doubt we shall be supplied with a better class of vessels than we originally anticipated. We shall obtain the latest and most up-to-date vessels that can be secured for the expenditure we are prepared to make. I presume that these smaller vessels will have the important work of assisting in keeping the highway of the sea open for our commerce. Though our shores should be inviolate, we must fall hack as a nation if the highways of the sea are not kept open for our commerce, because we must have an open road to the markets of the world.
– They must get our wool.
– They could do without it for a long while.
– They could do without our wool for a longer time than we could afford to do without payment for it.
– No, we could last longer than they could.
– Even so, we should ultimately succumb, and we do not want to be put into that position. We cannot expect to keep the highway of the sea open with our Fleet alone. We must recognise that it will form only a unit of the Pacific Squadron, and can only render assistance in keeping the highway of the sea open for our commerce. We must also recognise that it will be necessary that we should adequately protect our principal ports and naval bases. Wherever the principal naval base of Australia may be, it will be necessary for us to render it practically impregnable, so that if it should become necessary our ships may go there for the purpose of refitting with perfect safety. When, in 1905, the defence of Australia was considered, the necessity for naval bases, and the adequate protection of them and of our principal ports, was strongly emphasized. It was contemplated at that time that probably the only attack we should have to meet would be from lightly-armed cruisers. It was not thought that we should be called upon to face an attack of a more serious character in the immediate future, and it was suggested that 6-inch guns would be as effective weapons as we should require for the defence of our naval bases and forts. I am glad to learn that the Minister quite realizes that the position of affairs in 1910rr is very different from the position in 1905-6. Some of the most important developments have since taken place in connexion with the type of ships and guns adopted by foreign Powers, and what a few years ago might have been looked upon as practically impossible has now become quite possible, and we may have to defend our ports against a very much superior class of vessel than was anticipated six or seven years ago. While many of the Home ports were protected by 6-inch guns, these have been supplanted by 9. 2-inch guns, which are now considered the most suitable weapons for the purpose, and it is considered that guns of this class are now necessary for the protection of our naval bases and ports. Though attacking vessels might approach more nearly to the coast of the United Kingdom than they could to the coast of
Australia, it has become necessary for us to see that our fortifications are equipped m an up-to-date fashion. Recently I had an opportunity of reading an article which appeared in the Royal Artillery Journal, published in May last, in which the writer laid some stress upon the need there is for improving the class of arms hitherto adopted for defence purposes. I feel quite sure that by the time he gets the whole of his reports in the Minister will realize the great importance of materially strengthening the existing equipment for the defence of our fortifications. I am not prepared to go so far as to say that the whole of our fortifications are antiquated, or that the guns are obsolete and useless, but I do say that it is urgently necessary that the whole of our fortifications should be carefully inspected, and should be armed with more up-to-date weapons than we have at the present time. While it is necessary that our fixed fortifications should be properly equipped, it is equally necessary that we should have an adequate land force to meet any possible landing of an enemy at a distance from a fixed fortification. It would be futile to prevent the enemy entering at the front door if he were given an opportunity to enter by a back door and use his guns to shell our cities or ports. The experience gained in the RussoJapanese war showed that it was possible for Japanese vessels to pour shells into Port Arthur from a position in which they were immune from attack by the forts.” We must see to it that we are prepared to defend ourselves against such an attack. I do not intend to go into the details of the Bill at this stage. The Minister has pointed out that it makes provision for many of tt te matters to which I have alluded, but to may be necessary to introduce some slight amendments when we get into Committee. Whilst there is power taken to place our vessels and men under the control of the Imperial authorities and to assume the control of vessels and mcn from the Imperial authorities, it is provided that they shall be subject to the regulations “ as far hs’ they are applicable.” That leaves us in some doubt as to the nature of the control. My own impression is that the control should be so absolute and complete that there can be no mistake as to what it means. There should he no doubt as to whether the Commonwealth Government will place their ships and men under the absolute control of the Imperial authorities, certainly in time of war. This is a matter which should be made quite clear. The Bill very properly provides for the establishment of naval training colleges for those who will enter the service of our Navy. I am glad in this connexion to recognise the fact that a large sum of money subscribed in New South Wales towards a proposed offer of a Dreadnought to the Mother Country is to be devoted to assist in the defence of Australia, and will be used for the establishment of a training college. 1 am glad to think that the persons who subscribed that money never asked that it should be returned, but have patriotically agreed that it should still be devoted in aid of the defence of Australia. My own impression at the time was that some of the money might be used to provide one or two modern up-to-date field batteries which I know would be of very great service to the Commonwealth. I am glad to recognise that, owing largely to the patriotism of citizens of New South Wales who contributed money so generously for Imperial defence it will be possible for us, at an early date, to establish a training college for our navy. The site of the college has been settled, and I think, very wisely. It is to be established at the place which has continuously been the naval base of Australia up to the present time. The Minister has told us that one of the cruisers is to be built in the Commonwealth.
– Put together here.
– No, it is the torpedo boat destroyer that is to be put together here. The Minister has said that the materials required for the construction of one of tM cruisers are to be obtained, and it is to be constructed here by our own people. The object is to determine whether it is not possible for Australia to take in hand the construction of the greater number of the vessel’s of war we shall require. No doubt there will be rivalry among the States for the honour of constructing these ships. While I believe that there is a strong desire on the part of the people in Victoria to do all they can to assist in that regard, I would remind the Minister and the Senate that in Port Jackson great facilities for ship-building exist.
– What about Brisbane?
– It has some facilities, but not so many as the older-established ports. In a recent article in a Sydney newspaper the superintendent of the Fitzroy Dock, which is situated on Cockatoo Island, pointed out that it was in a position to construct any ship up to 450 feet in length - that is, 20 feet longer than a ‘ cruiser of the Bristol type. He says that frequently they have constructed steam-ships between 200 and 300 feet long for local purposes, but, of course, their construction is not comparable with the building of a battleship. Within Port Jackson there are three other dockyards which are suitable for our purpose. One dock is capable of taking a vessel up to 600 feet long; Mort’s Engineering Company has a graving dock 640 feet long ; and the Woolwich dock has a length of 675 feet. The Alfred graving dock in Victoria is 470 feet long. In South Australia there is a dock 500 feet long; in Queensland a dock 430 feet long; and in Western Australia a graving dock with a length of 850 feet is in course of construction. In each case there is a proportionate width and depth for vessels which may have to enter the dock, or which may be constructed therein.
– On the question of naval defence, sir, I think we might have a quorum. [Quorum formed!
– It must be abundantly evident to the Minister that there would be no serious difficulty in constructing in Australia vessels of the class which he contemplates. Of course, I realize that Australia will not be in a position for many years to construct ships of the Indomitable or Dreadnought type. As the years pass by such vessels are being constructed of larger dimensions and with greater power, and are being armed with larger and heavier guns. It is quite impossible to say when the limit of naval construction will be reached. In any case, we are in a position to construct the second class of our defence ships, and day by day we shall be getting into a position to construct the larger class of vessels that will be necessary for the purpose of efficiently maintaining that portion of the Navy which we contribute to the Empire. Of course, the question of cost will arise. A few days ago I pointed out that in the defence of the country that question should not be regarded as the be-all. We want to bil in a position to provide for our defence, because, whenever the time of stress or trouble arrives, we shall unmistakably have to depend upon ourselves to a very great extent. Lately we have taken action to provide ourselves with small arms and cordite, but we must go further, and pre- pare to construct large ordnance for the defence of our coast and to be placed on our ships. That is a big task to undertake, but it is one which we cannot afford to ignore. Every nation is now arming itself to the teeth, and trying to get an advantage over other nations with regard to the class of vessels to be employed in war. They are exerting every effort to outvie each other. It appears to me that the only way in which these countries can depend upon having peace is by arming themselves to the teeth at an enormous cost in order to be prepared for an eventuality which everybody prays may not occur. I sympathize a great deal with the feelings of those who believe in disarmament, and who point to the enormous bodies which are withdrawn from the productive industries of the world simply for the purpose of learning the arts of war. But while people may believe, and properly believe, that universal peace would be a great tiling to achieve, they may depend upon it that it will not be achieved simply by absolute disarmament. Each nation seems to be afraid to make a start in that direction lest it might be taken at a disadvantage by another nation. We talk about the troubles between different classes in our community, and establish Arbitration Courts, but we find that despite all our civilization, we cannot always settle our own difficulties by the simple means of arbitration. If this be impossible under ordinary circumstances, how much more difficult must it be to settle differences between great nations by such a method? Each nation has its own aspirations and needs. One nation may be perfectly content to remain within its recognised boundaries, but as population increases, and troubles arise from the density of population, so a country comes to look round to see whether its people cannot overflow into some other country which will adopt a similar form of government, and eventually become a portion of its own dominions. To-day, persons from different nations are proceeding to America, and consequently those nations are losing a certain proportion of their effective manhood. That strength is being transferred to another nation which may possibly in the future - not in the very remote future - find itself in antagonism with the nations from which that additional population was drawn. It- must be obvious to every man that as time goes on the cost of defence will become an increasing burden on the people of different nations. In our case, we must be prepared to face the increased cost. Whether the problem is to be solved by the imposition of additional taxation, or the abolition of a great many conveniences, is a matter for future consideration. It is only possible to get a certain amount of taxation out of the people of a country. No matter what form’ of taxation we may prefer, it must have a limit, but there must be no curtailment of the provision for necessary defence. On the contrary, we must be prepared to forego some of the conveniences, pleasures, and comforts of civilization in order that we may be better prepared to protect our country. I am glad to have an opportunity to commend the Bill to honorable senators. I trust that it will effect the many advantages which I feel quite sure the Minister hopes it may. I look upon it as the inauguration of a great system of defence by the Commonwealth for the purpose of maintaining the integrity, not of Australia alone, but of the British Empire. I regard it as a means of assisting the people at Home. Instead of subsidizing war ships as heretofore, we propose to build and maintain ships, and have them ever ready to be placed at the disposal, and under the control of the Imperial authorities whenever war arises, or any very serious trouble is contemplated or feared in connexion with its intercourse with other nations.
– I am very glad to welcome this measure, because, in my opinion, it is a step forward in the perfecting of our system of defence. It will put us in a proper position with regard to not only our own defence, but our relationship to the Old Land. Defence is not, and ought not to be, a party question. I am pleased that it has not been so treated here. The military defence scheme which Senator Pearce submitted when He was in a former Ministry was taken up practically by the succeeding Government, and adopted. Here we have the proposition of the Deakin Government to form an Australian unit as part of the British Navy adopted by their successors. I believe that our provision of one unit of the British Navy will tend to place the Commonwealth in a position of greater dignity than it has yet occupied in the matter of naval defence. I welcome this measure on that ground. In the civilized world, there is no seaman who stands exactly in the same class as the British seaman, because he is the product of generation after generation of training. Of course, I intend no disparagement to other people. I was very glad to hear the Minister of Defence say that, with the object of bringing them up to the same standard of efficiency, the training of our Australian seamen would be similar to that of British seamen. I am not going to quarrel with the Government for having reversed the policy of their predecessors by insisting that the cost of this naval unit shall be defrayed out of revenue, instead of out of loan money. But I rose chiefly to quote the speech of a gentleman who is eminently qualified to speak upon this question of naval training, because he has had a very wide experience. I am sure that the Minister of Defence will recognise the weight which should be attached to- his utterance, and will be glad to have it embodied in Hansard, so that it may receive as wide a circulation as possible. This gentleman says -
The personnel is the most important point in a fleet, and the education and training and discipline of the personnel are the whole end-all and be-all of a navy. I was stationed in Ceylon some years ago, when 4,000 Boer prisoners arrived there, and I heard an intelligent Boer general, who commanded one of the detachments, say, “ Ah, the mistake we made in the beginning was that we did not make old Kruger buy a fleet.” Buy a fleet ! You may buy ships, armaments, and machinery, but you cannot buy a fleet. Money can do almost anything, but all the gold in the world would no more buy a fleet than the moon and stars. It is the men that count. ‘ You cannot buy men. First of all, in the characters of the men you require certain qualities. You require courage, and self-reliance, endurance, and obedience. These qualities, I know, are in the breasts of all Australians, but, alone, they are insufficient. These qualities must be polished and developed - polished like the metal of a tempered sword. How is that done? It is not a thing of a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, or of two or three years. I tell you, you may build three battleships one after another on the same slip and in the same time that you will train one man to be a seaman. When I was engaged in the training service a few years ago we selected boys at the age of 16, and we rejected 35,000 boys every year in order to enter 7,000. You can imagine that, although the men in England are not so strong constitutionally as those in Australia, there was considerable selection, and the best only were taken.- From the ages of 16 to” 18 we were developing their moral qualities, from 18 to 20 their physical and sailorlike qualities, and from 20 to 23 the qualities required in the higher gunnery, torpedo, and engineer-artificer rating. Without these ratings you may have ships, men, and officers and not right an action successfully. It depends on the qualities of these ratings whether you will have success. That is where I want to sound a note of warning. Do not run away with the idea th;it it is easy to make th-se ratings. It is the most painful, tedious, and arduous process, wearying to all the faculties of the officers engaged in the training; but it must be done. There are few who can tell when it is done. One ship may look smart, and the men may look smart, and another ship and her men may not look so well ; but it will lake the eye of an expert to tell whether the men in one are inefficiently and inadequately trained, or in the other fully trained and disciplined. When the crisis comes, when the hour of the trial arrives, the slight difference which only the eye of an expert can detect, is sufficient to send one ship to the bottom in ten minutes, and leave the other untouched. It is training and discipline that tell. If training and discipline are inadequate, yon may spend money by millions and the result would be useless - absolutely. I might put it this way - an inadequately trained personnel is a terrible danger which is most difficult to discover until war actually commences. When a First Lord of the Admiralty took up his position, it was my privilege to preside at a dinner given to him by the naval officers, to congratulate him upon his appointment. We made speeches in which we expressed the hope and the trust that he, as ^ First Lord of the Admiralty, would continue to maintain the fleet, not only in its present proud position as the finest and greatest fleet in the world, but in instant readiness for war should turbulent conditions suddenly arise. The First Lord afterwards said, *’ Why do you naval officers always want to be talking about war? It is 100 years since you fought a great battle on the seas.” That is correct. We have had a little fighting here and there, and it is 100 years since we fought a great naval battle; but this is another thing which shows the confusion of thought - the astounding confusion of thought, for what do naval officers and fleets exist? I am as opposed to war as any other man ; but we exist for war, for victory, and for no other purpose. If we are inefficiently trained and inadequate in our knowledge and discipline, sweep us away ! It is far better. Then you know what you have to expect. You must “not rely upon anything in the nature of training and gunnery and torpedo instruction or discipline unless it is the very best. The very best is removed from the second .best by only a light ‘degree ; but it means the difference between victory and defeat. That is why it is almost impossible to convey to the mind of a civilian what naval training really means. The discipline must be severe. At first it is severe, because the men are unaccustomed to it, but as it is carried on it is not felt so severely. The training must be strict anc! prompt. It is by slow, painful, and arduous efforts and constant striving for efficiency that a navy can be created. Anything less than the very best is no good at all. If it is not the very best it is worthless, and should be thrust aside. In the middle watch, when the officer is on deck with 300 men perhaps in his watch, the captain is in bed asleep. He might as well be dead for any effect he could have on the course of events which happen suddenly, and that officer has to think. Suppose a fire breaks out, or a man falls overboard, or the wind is rising. What should he do? He is constantly thinking of these things, and has the order ready instantly when the emergency arises. It is the same with war. Every Admiral on every station, is constantly thinking of war, and nothing else. It is his business, and what he is trained to do. He is thinking and deciding what he should do if war happened with that nation or with the other nation to-morrow, or in six hours’ time. These things occur suddenly, and he must have these matters constantly in his mind. Yet people ask, “ Why are these officers always talking and thinking about war?” If they did not they would be useless. Send them away ! Drown them ! Sink them in the middle of the Atlantic ! With this new navy of the Commonwealth, pursue your way steadily and immovably ; but let it be thorough. You will have good success and bad success. You will have unexpected failures in creating this navy, but you are at the beginning. Whatever you do do it thoroughly. The men you train, train them thoroughly, or they will be useless. A man begins training at 18, and is not thoroughly trained for gunnery, torpedo, and steam, and all the other exigencies required by the service in the highest necessary ratings, until he is 25. Australians are very intelligent and clever, and may do it in a year quicker ; but not much more. The training must be from 18 to 24, if it is to be of i.ny good at all. Avoid like poison the influences alike of society and politics upon your navy and the eventful’ result, although it may be long delayed (because it is a wearying process - instructors get weary and require cheering, as your teachers do in the back blocks), cannot fail in the end to be satisfactory in the establishment of a maritime force adequate to the duties required of it.
I have quoted that deliverance because I think it is singularly appropriate to this Hill. It was made by Admiral Sir Day Hort Bosanquet, the present Governor of South Australia, on the occasion of the annual dinner of the Royal Society of St. George. The sentiments which he has expressed in that speech are those of a man who is thoroughly in earnest, who knows exactly what he is talking about, who realizes all the qualities that Australians have in them, and who only desires to make the very best use of those qualities.
– I do not think there is much sense in the. suggestion that Kruger should have bought, a fleet.
– That statement was made by a Boer general, and not by Admiral Sir Day Bosanquet. I believe that Australians will be found equally as capable of being trained, and of becoming efficient seamen, as are the British seamen of the present day. It should be our aim to make our naval unit as effective as possible, to render our officers and men as capable as are. those to be found upon the vessels of the British Fleet. I am glad that the Minister of Defence laid so much stress upon this matter of. training. Unless we insist upon our men receiving the very best training, we shall find that in the hour of emergency our naval unit will be a failure, instead of a success. I have no fear that Australians will fail to realize their duty in this matter of defence, and that they will do what is necessary to insure that the Commonwealth shall be represented in time of danger oy a thoroughly efficient naval force. I do not intend to discuss the provisions of the Bill generally, as Senator Gould has done. I recognise that in those provisions an earnest attempt is being made to establish a naval unit upon a sound basis, and to bring it up to a standard of efficiency, and I wish the Minister every success in his efforts.
– If I have any regret, it is that upon this important matter of naval defence there has been too little interest taken by honorable senators.
– Cheer up !
– A little while ago I cheered up Senator de Largie by calling attention to the absence of a quorum, and by attracting him to the chamber. Whilst I regret the small amount of interest which appears to be centred in the question of naval defence, I must say that attention is now being focussed upon it in this Parliament as it was never focussed before. The late Deakin Government initiated a certain system of naval defence, and introduced into that system certain new principles. The present Government now come forward with a practical indorsement of those principles.
– The Government kicked out the other proposals.
– I venture to say that the Minister of Defence will not deny that the principles laid down by the previous Government are being indorsed. The only difference between the Government and the Opposition now is in regard to how this defence policy is to be paid for; and that question does not arise in connexion with this measure. The issue that we have before us is one on which all parties agree - the Labour party, the Liberals, and the Conservatives.
– And the People’s party; do not leave them out.
– For Heaven’s sake be serious sometimes.
– I do not expect the Vice-President of the Executive Council to be serious at -any time. All parties are now agreed that we have to provide for the defence, not only of our shores, but of what Lord Charles Beresford described as the “ commerce routes “ of the Empire. It is recognised that naval defence implies, not merely the defence of this part of the Empire, but that we have to take our share in the defence of the whole Empire. It is obvious that we do not fly the Australian flag for war purposes. As was rightly interjected this afternoon, if a foreign nation attacked Great Britain to-morrow Australia also would be attacked. If Australia “ bumped up against “ German New Guinea by means of a war-ship, Germany would not hesitate to attack Great Britain. The consequence is that for war purposes there is but one flag for which we can fight, and under which we can be attacked. In the Imperial naval manoeuvres of 1907 an extraordinary experiment was tried in order to determine what would be the effect of detaching a portion of an attacking fleet to make inroads on the commerce of -the defending rower. The Admiralty report upon those manoeuvres points out that the great advantage that a belligerent would secure by attacking some outside portion of an enemy’s interests would not be that such tactics would determine the issue of the War, but that by “bluff” the country attacked, would be prevailed upon to make peace on unfavorable terms, owing to the local prejudices and local interests that would be affected. We can have no better illustration of that thesis than was afforded at the beginning of the South African war. Owing to the pressure exerted by the Natal Government, General Sir George White was compelled, against f lis better judgment, to allow Major-General Penn-Sy’mons to go up to Dundee and face the enemy in a situation which it was hardly possible properly to defend. Any one who reads the history of the South African war will realize that it was to placate local prejudices - because it was thought in Natal that the coal-fields of Dundee might fall into the hands of ‘he Boers - that British troops were placed in a position which it was exceedingly difficult to maintain. Eventually, Sir George White, with his Whole force, was tied up in Ladysmith, and the whole of the earlier phases of the war were dominated by that strategical mistake. It is undesirable to allow any portion of an Empire to remain undefended, because, in time of war, an enemy may strike at the undefended portion ; but, at the same time, the greatest care must be taken to defend the vital parts. When our ancestors put on their armour, which part of the body did they take most care to defend ? Their armour was most effectual over the skull and the heart. They did not take so much care to arm the legs and the arms, because they knew that an injury to those limbs would not necessarily kill the man. In exactly the same way, in providing for our naval defence, we have to take particular care to protect the heart and the brain. Only a few years ago, the idea was prevalent that all that Australia need do was to protect her own coasts. Indeed, for a considerable time we .paid what has been termed by some people - and I am not prepared to dispute the term - “ tribute ‘ ‘ to the Imperial Government for the defence of our coasts. But, at length, we have come to a clearer understanding of what is required. It is now understood that, not only Australia, but Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand, and even the Crown Colonies, are to contribute a certain naval force towards the defence of the Empire, realizing that the heart and the brain of the Empire must, in the first instance, be made secure. Incidentally, I may mention that I am not one of those who have been particularly keen for military training. I have always felt that we should do more good by providing for naval training. Probably I entertained that idea because I have been living for so manyyears in a part of Australia where we never saw a war-ship, or even a gun-boat. In the north of Queensland, we see very little evidence of naval defence. Possibly that is the reason why I had the idea that too little attention was being directed to that aspect of the problem, and too much to military defence. A much saner idea is spreading amongst Australians to-day. 1 do not know whether my honorable friends will agree with me, but I venture to claim that a great deal - or nearly the whole - of the alteration in the opinion of the .people of Australia on this subject has been brought about, not by the speeches of politicians, nor by statements made by experts in the Old Country, but by the reports issued from time to time by the present Naval Director of the Commonwealth, Captain Creswell.
– He has certainly done a very great deal in that direction.
– I have heard many things said against Captain Creswell, but I have been looking, through his reports furnished to the Minister from timeto time, and I find that throughout he has held firmly to one ideal. When he found that circumstances were against him, he did not allow himself to be discouraged, nor did he accept the ordinary Civil Service view of his duties. He stuck to his point; and he has stuck to it until he has become successful. Indeed, he has come to see his ideal accepted riot only in Australia ; for whereas formerly he was practically snubbed in the Old Country, he has at length seen his views adopted by the Imperial Naval authorities. Let us see what the genesis of this new idea of defence is. I find that the Naval Director, in his report for the year 1906, wrote as follows -
Already there has been some progress towards a mutual understanding - a realization of the fact that there are two distinct points of view, each entitled to the consideration of its claims. This is notably evident in the leading organs of the British press, and particularly in the “ Service “ section. It is to be hoped that this question will be settled on a basis mutually satisfactory to the central power and its oversea dependencies at the forthcoming Conference.
The solution is surely not a difficult one. The Imperial fleet can give much, but not complete, protection. To do so would weaken its strategy and effectiveness. Why should not Australia add that which the fleet cannot give? The interests threatened are of vital concern to our daily life and business. They affect us immediately, and cannot bc left open to attack. The solution is, therefore, an Australian Force, supplementary to the Imperial fleet, supplied by Australia for specially Australian duty, and to act in intimate co-operation with the Imperial fleet.
That was the policy laid down in 1906. It was difficult for Captain Creswell to stand to his guns at that time, particularly in view of the changes that were going forward in this country. But, nevertheless, he did so. Again, in his report for 1907, the Naval Director laid it down - quoting, I believe, from Professor Biles -
One condition must always dominate designs for Australian service - ocean sea conditions are met with immediately outside all Australian ports. Sea-keeping, and that in strong seas and weather, is the sine qua non qualification for vessels for Australian service.
I wish to make a particular reference to justify Mr. Joseph Cook, the late Minister of Defence, who was attacked rather severely at the last election for certain statements he made. In the original reports, as issued to members of this Parliament, the figures of Professor Biles were quoted as, for instance, “ depth ii ft. 8 in.,” instead of “ draught 11 ft. 8 in.” I expected to find them stated in that way in the bound volume of the Parliamentary Papers, but honorable senators will take my word for it that they appeared, as I have said, in the reports, as originally issued. It was on the strength of that statement, to which I directed the attention of Mr. Cook, that he made the statement to which exception has been taken. I felt that a vessel that was only 11 feet deep could not reasonably be considered to De sea-keeping or sea-going in the waters on the Australian coast. So far as the late Minister of Defence is concerned, if he made any mistake in the matter, I am responsible for it. I have mentioned that our theory of defence has largely changed during the last few years, and the effort which now must be made is not only to protect our shores from sudden landings, of which I have no great fear, but to protect our trade routes. It is not necessary that we should merely protect goods coming into Australia. We must realize that for a certain distance, and until the work can be taken up by vessels of the Imperial Navy, it will be necessary for u> to protect our export trade, not for the sake of what it means to us, but in order to enable our wheat, meat, and other foodstuffs to be safely transported for the benefit of other parts of the Empire. As honorable senators are aware, certain naval stations have been established in various parts of the world, with the object of protecting the trade routes of the Empire. This really means the trade routes which are followed by vessels supplying the United Kingdom with foodstuffs. I believe it is true that if for forty-eight hours, or, at any rate, for a week, it were possible to cut off food supplies from the United Kingdom, any nation could bring her to her knees, and so bring the rest of the Empire to its knees. We, therefore, need a type of vessels which will enable us to protect our trade routes, not merely within the 3-miles limit of our shores, but to take our part in the general protection of the trade routes to the United Kingdom, so that when they have done their share of the work it may be taken up by the China Squadron and other squadrons of the Imperial Navy. It has been suggested that we might be liable to invasion by a Japanese Fleet, but I should like to say that I think Germany is the country from which we have the greatest need to fear an invasion. It should not be forgotten that Germany has a fine establishment inNew Guinea already, and a good chance of a reversionary interest in all of the Malay Archipelago, which at present belongs to Holland. If Germany secures possession of Holland, as appears to be likely, even within the life-time of some of us, the Malay Archipelago, Sumatra, Java, Timor, and other islands will become hers, and we shall then have a German ring around the northern and north-eastern portion of Australia. I do not say that we have anything to fear from any country, but if we have, I should have a greater fear of the great military Power of Europe, which is fast becoming a great naval Power, than I should have of Japan. I really apprehend no danger from these raids. .1 believe that our danger lies in the fact that the United Kingdom may be found to be the Achilles’ heel of the Empire. My honorable friends will understand the allusion. Achilles was vulnerable only in the heel. He did desperate and valorous things until a chance arrow struck him in the heel and brought about his death. I am inclined to think that the United Kingdom will be found to be the Achilles’ heel of the Empire, not because Great Britain could not defend herself in the ordinary sense of the word, but because she cannot supply herself with a sufficiency of foodstuffs, and it might be found possible to cut off her supplies from outside. I do not wish to continue the discussion further, except to say that I am entirely with the Government in the matter of naval defence. I do not know that I should not be prepared to support, in almost every defail, the present or any other Government that proposes to give us what I consider to be the naval force we require for the defence of Australia. I am exceedingly pleased to note that this is the first Government that !has ever brought down a Bill entitled a Naval Defence Bill. We have had submitted in this Parliament a Bill to make a Naval Defence Agreement with the Old Country, and a Bill to raise money for the building of ships of war, but we have before us to-day a Bill bearing the dignified title of “The Naval Defence Bill.” We !have had a Naval and Military Defence Bill submitted, but at last we have a Bill placing our naval defence on a separate footing. On this I consider that the present Government are very much to be congratulated. There are one or two matters to which I should like to refer very briefly. I notice that a Naval Board is to be appointed, and 1 hope it will be something more than the Military Board has been. I (hope is will not be a body behind “Which the Minister of Defence may find shelter. I hope it will do some work and will meet, not once in every three or four years, but frequently, and will be practically a Naval Defence Board. There is mention in the Bill of the appointment of officers “by promotion, and I hope it will be made quite clear, as a principle of this measure, that there will be no promotion by seniority in our Naval Force. I speak after inquiries made when the American Fleet visited Australia when I say that its administration was cursed by the adoption of a system of promotion by seniority. Under that system, when a man becomes sixty or sixty-five years of age, he steps ashore when his vessel reaches port, and another man steps into his place, because he happens to have reached the age of, it may be, sixty-four years and nine months. That is not the way in which men are promoted in the Imperial Navy. The famous work done by Percy Scott did not leave him still in the ruck, able merely to keep himself alive, until all the officers who were senior to him died. Where there is promotion by seniority, a man need not trouble himself about what he does. So long as he “keeps within reasonable bounds, he has only to keep himself alive, and if those above him will only die, he will, in time, become an Admiral. I hope that such a principle will not be allowed to creep into the administration of the Naval Defence Force of Australia. I think it was Senator Gould who said that he would not only be glad to see the ships of the proposed unit built, but hoped that they would be added to from time to time. One thing I should like to say in this connexion is that we must clearly understand that if we are going to establish a naval force that will be worth anything, we must have a force which will open to a man a career. It will not be sufficient if we have merely a force in which a man enters the lower ranks without any hope of attaining a position worth working for. Honorable senators will admit that men could not be persuaded to join our Military Forces, if they believed that they could only hope to reach the rank of a corporal, a sergeant, or, at best, a sergeant-major. Some of the best officers of the Imperial Army, such as General Macdonald and General. Finn, who was in charge of our Military Forces in Australia for a time, were men who rose from the ranks. There is a great inducement to men to join the Military Forces when they know that they may rise not only through the noncommissioned ranks, but through the commissioned ranks, until they hold the highest positions in the Army. If we are to have only a number of tin-pot torpedo boat destroyers, we cannot expect to attract good men to our Naval Forces. We have already on the stocks a vessel of the type which is called a Dreadnought cruiser, and I hope that that will not be the best ship we shall obtain in the not far distant future. We cannot do everything at once, but I hope that in future we shall have better ships than the best that are proposed now. We need to be able to offer smart young fellows, and it is only the smart men about whom we need be concerned, an opportunity to make a career for themselves in our Naval Force, and they should be given to understand that if they work well, and are sufficiently clever, they may expect to rise to the dignity of an Admiral’s cocked hat. If we do not offer young Australians a career in our Naval Forces, we can hope to do very little good. We need to be able to assure smart young fellows that if they decide to join our Naval Forces they will not have to retire at forty-five, but may attain a desirable position after they have reached that age. Though our Navy will form a part of the Imperial Navy, it will be self-contained, and if it is not of such a character as to afford clever men a career, we shall not be able to induce our best men to join it. On the whole, I must congratulate the Government upon bringing down a Naval Defence Bill, and not mixing up naval defence with land defence. Re-echoing the words of Senator Vardon, I hope that this continuation of the departure made by the late Government may be thoroughly successful.
– The question of naval defence, so far as it affects Australia as a part of the British Empire, is so important that I do not think that any apology or excuse need be given by any honorable senator for proposing to discuss it. From the Imperial point of view, issues fraught with greater importance are involved. I do not intend to deal with that side of the question, but one cannot forget the fine speech of the Minister of Defence on these points. Nor can one drive out of his memory all that is going on in the world around, or which hinges on naval defence, without being inspired by a sense of duty, even if it is a mere echo of the Minister’s own words, lo remind Australia how urgent it is to think of carrying out one clear policy with regard to naval defence. I prefer to approach the discussion of this question by pointing out some things which I shall not discuss. That our policy is being carried out by the present Minister matters to us perhaps not a fig. The question is, “ Was our policy sound?” Whether it is our policy, and the presentment of it practically comes from another party, the fact stands out that it marks a sound restingplace and a sound, safe point of advance for the naval policy of Australia.
– lt will be all the better if it belongs to no party.
– I am glad that the Minister has caught the echo of the spirit with which I approach the question. Whether it is sound policy to defray the cost out of revenue I shall not discuss now, because the proper time to deal with the financial question will be in connexion with the Budget. From many points of view the speech of the Minister of Defence on this measure gives a fine, intellectual, and historical warning to the people of Australia as to their duty in regard to national defence. We are beginning on the right track. There is one note, however, in the Minister’s speech, and I detected in it a somewhat uncertainty of tone. Our relationship with the Imperial Navy is a very delicate and great question. It involves two things. What is our- duty to ourselves from the national defence point of view? According to the first law of nature, self-preservation is, perhaps, one of the first things we have to consider. The Minister considered the question in. that light, and put it fairly clearly before the Senate. But we have to consider the question in relation to the Empire, to consider, not only our separate duty of defending ourselves, but the bigger problem of what shall be, in time of war, the relation of the unit we are creating to the Imperial Navy. I will do the Minister the credit of saying that I detect a reason for the uncertainty of his tone. I can quite understand why any Minister with a sense of grave responsibility at this early stage in the building of a navy for Australia, and the formulating of a naval policy, should hesitate. On that point, if there is hesitation, may I, in the capacity of a mere senator, ask the Minister, the party on the other side, and the whole Senate, to listen to an historical anecdote. When the States of America were considering whether or not they would make the final act of revolt against the tyrannical oppression of their King; when the point was in issue, and they were wavering, a man got up, and, in order to help to decide it he said, “ After all, I wish you to remember that we are determined to be a free people and free from that oppression. Now that you are taking that step, you must hang together or you will be hanged together.” The result was that they fought and stood together. The application of the anecdote is that, so far as the formulating, the carrying out, and the perfecting of a naval policy from an Australian point of view is concerned, you have to remember that the Australian unit will be part of the Imperial Navy whenever the clash of war strikes the Mother Country or us. In a crisis, we cannot afford to separate ourselves for a moment from that Navy. It is well for us to-day, viewing the developments of historical movements in Europe and in the East, that that cardinal note of policy shall be sounded here, that we are one, that in a crisis we shall stand together, and, in the words of Patrick Henry, whom I quoted before, we shall hang together or be hanged together. 1 think the Minister’s speech shows that he has conceived that idea. We may be taunted from the other side that this is an Imperial speech - a sort of high Tory Imperial tone - and that, by reason of that, it is more or less antagonistic to Australia. One has to remember the possibility of the taunt. I detect in the Minister’s speech that he is not going to be led away by that, because, as I pointed out previously, we have a dual duty to perform because of our dual position ; that is our duty as almost a separate and independent nation in the matter of defence, and our duty to the Empire when a crisis comes.
– The obligation is reciprocal.
– I thank my honorable friend for his interjection, which helps me along. How may we fulfil our obligation to ourselves and to the Empire? Probably, as the Minister has indicated in his speech, the best way in which we can serve the Empire, not only at present but in any terrible emergency in the future, is to place ourselves in such a position that our defence on the sea shall be so effective in our own immediate vicinity that even great Powers will think twice before they strike at us. I think that I detect in the .policy which has been outlined by the Minister, and which I hope he will pardon me for saying he has gathered from ours, that he is carrying out that idea. So far, his policy is, to my mind, sound and correct.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to- 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was referring to the importance of an efficient naval defence, both to ourselves and the Empire. A train of thought upon that aspect of the question was suggested to me by some remarks of my colleague, Senator Chataway. He was referring to the important part which the Imperial Navy had played during a critical period of the Boer War, when Senator de Largie derisively uttered the word “Kruger.” I wish to cast no reproach upon that man’s tomb. What is happening to-day? The Empire of which we form a part is building stepping-stones to an altar by which it may rise to higher things. Why is the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth representing us in South Africa if it be not to express this great Imperial ideal ?
– Bunkum ! He is there merely to express our good feeling towards the South African Dominion.
– I should not have . referred to this matter but for the derisive remark made by an honorable senator upon the opposite side of the chamber. I mention it because I hope we all recognise that we form part of a great Empire, and that, whilst it behoves us to do our best to preserve our national ideals, it is equally incumbent upon us to seek to make that Empire strong and self-contained. I trust that the unfortunate allusion to which I have referred does not receive the slightest indorsement from the Minister of Defence. It may be asked why I speak so strongly upon the Imperial ideal ?
– The honorable senator would speak strongly on the price of a tin pail.
– Senator Rae is no authority upon this question. I speak strongly upon it because I believe that our Empire is the greatest human achievement on earth.
– The solar system is nothing to it.
– I am quite prepared to stand the fire of my honorable friend. Whilst I speak so strongly in support of the view taken by the Minister of Defence, I ask the press to note the derision with which the bare mention of the Imperial ideal has been received by honorable senators opposite.
– It is simply awful.
– I say that we must bear our share of Imperial responsibilities, and I do not know whether the Minister is easy or uneasy while I am making this speech.
– Very uneasy. Cannot the honorable senator see him shivering ?
– I think that the Minister has shown a sense of his responsibility, and that he does not approve the derision in which his supporters are indulging.
– Why all this funereal talk?
– Senator Stewart is a descendant of a tyrant race, and he ought to remain quiet. It seems to me that we should consider this question from a dual point of view. I quite appreciate the policy of the Government and of their predecessors in endeavouring to perfect our land defence force. The complement to that line of defence is our naval defence. Whilst I am not a blind adherent of the blue-water school in the Old Country, which seeks to repose entire confidence in the Navy, I say that what we have done in connexion with our land defence force constitutes a step in the right direction. But we must look to the Imperial Navy for our security. Our first line of defence must be the Navy.
– What Navy ?
– Our Navy; and if it be not Imperial it is not ours. Whilst equipping our land force as our last line of defence, we should be worse than foolish if we did not endeavour to build up a strong and efficient Navy. The Minister of Defence, in moving the second reading of this Bill, emphasized the necessity for adopting that policy. He pointed out one reason why he attaches such importance to it. It is that Australia is the last place on earth to which the rest of the European nations may come. That is a magnificent, an absolute, and unchallengeable truth. He urged that in order to preserve to our race this last portion of the earth in which other nations may desire to find a lodgment, it is essential that we should build up a defence force, not only upon land, but also upon the sea. I quite agree with him. Notwithstanding the derision with which my remarks have been greeted by his supporters, I wish to congratulate him upon his effort to achieve that ideal. What is the significance of the events which are transpiring both in Europe and in the East?
We know that a great Empire of kindred people is building up a navy of such strength that it is doubtful whether we can maintain our naval supremacy. What is the object which it has in view ? I wish to say nothing disrespectful of- that great Power. I desire to say nothing in derogation of the great energies which are inspiring a certain movement in the Empire of Germany. We have also to consider that the nations of the East are awakening. One of our immediate neighbours is one of the first Powers in the world. She is massing her navy and her army. For what purpose? When we reflect upon the fact that one of the greatest European Powers must find an outlet for its people, we involuntarily ask ourselves, “ Where is that outlet to be found?” What is the meaning of the feverish energy which is being exhibited by China and Japan? We in Australia are closest to what may be termed the ‘ vortex ‘*’ of the political disturbances in those countries, and we are bound to prepare to defend ourselves against attack. I do not entirely agree with the allusion of Senator Chataway to the Achilles’ heel. He stated that he thought the United Kingdom itself represented the Achilles’ heel. I do not think so. I think that Australia is the Achilles’ heel of the Empire. My reason for that opinion is that any Power which might succeed in winning Australia from the Empire would, by so doing, fatally weaken the Empire itself. I thought that I detected a note of warning in the Minister’s speech on this subject. I do not know whether he had studied what I have placed upon record upon this subject in permanent form. But, at any rate, lie agreed with me upon the point. I can understand the Minister’s diffidence and caution when dealing with the subject, especially as he has behind him supporters who are ready to treat the Imperial idea with derision and scorn. Nevertheless, I compliment him upon the Imperial tone of some parts of his speeches. I am justified in asking him whether he thinks that he stands alone in his party on this matter, or whether he is standing with us. On some matters, Australians are inclined to hurry too fast. On our own particular local questions we are hurrying so fast that thought has not time to collect itself. We are inclined, on this subject of defence, which is equally vital, to hurry too fast also. We are inclined to think, because we have a big continent and fine streets in our cities, that we solve all our difficulties merely by saying that we are Australians.
That is an awful delusion. We can afford to learn much from the great Mother Country, which is the head and heart of our Empire. I compliment the Minister that, in his speech, he recognised the fact that we can learn from the Imperial Navy. May I ask that that policy shall be continued, and that, while building up a Navy of our own, we shall teach our officers and men to follow the model that the Mother Country has set before us? If we do so, I have no doubt that we shall be successful. Another thing that I should like to point out in connexion with this matter is that any blow at any portion of the Empire is bound to upset the whole equilibrium of that Empire, and that it would be one of the greatest mistakes we could make to regard our means of defence as separated in the slightest degree from the means of defending the Empire as a whole. The Minister made reference to Canada; and 1 agree with what he said about that great Dominion. But may I point out that Canada is doing something that we are neglecting to do? Canada recognises that naval and military defence is not a matter of predominant necessity so far as local requirements are concerned, because she always has the protection of the Monroe doctrine. As long as the United States maintains that doctrine, Canada is secure. But, nevertheless, Canada is taking- steps for her own defence in a direction to which we are paying insufficient attention. She recognises that defence policies are of little avail unless a policy of peopling the country goes with them. I hope that a corollary to this defence policy of ours will be that the Government will take steps to bring into Australia the men who, in case of emergency, must stand behind the guns, whether on land or by sea. May I mention, in connexion with this point, that some time ago the present Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Wilfred Laurier, pointed out what was the destiny of his country in relation to the Empire? A few years since, it was said that at some time Canada would be detached from the Empire, and by the volition of her own people would become part of the great neighbouring republic. But Sir Wilfred Laurier pointed out that the people of Canada had no wish to join the United States, and that their national instincts prompted them to remain part of the Empire. It is in order to carry out that idea, and to preserve their integrity as part of the Empire, that they have built up their means of defence I hope that the Government will recognise that it is essen- tial to any defence policy for this country to bring in people who will take their part in defending Australia in time of war. Four or five Defence Bills have been dealt with by this Parliament ; but it has not been sufficiently realized that our land arm is not our real line of defence. Our true defence must be through the Navy, and by co-operation with the Imperial Navy. I may here point out that in a few months the representatives of Australia will meet in conference representatives of other portions of the Empire in regard to defence matters. We must have a definite declaration of policy agreed upon, and affecting every one of the various “portions of the Empire. While assenting, as I do, to this Bill, I wish it to go forth that in passing the measure we recognise our duty to ourselves, and are fulfilling it, and that, while helping the Empire and ourselves, we recognise that in European and Eastern countries there is a certain drift of policy which may be fraught with serious consequences to us. Our Navy must be regarded as an expression of the idea that, we are one with the Empire. I add to my assent to this policy the reason for it that it is an expression of the idea that we are assisting the Empire in building up a force for our own effective defence. There should not be the slightest chance of friction between our Navy and the Imperial Navy when we are called upon to face the difficulties with which we shall, sooner or later, be assailed. I believe that the Minister of Defence has submitted this Bill with the intention of giving effect to the principles and ideals
I have expressed.
– It is hard to say whether the honorable senator is a bigger nuisance when he agrees with us or when he opposes us.
– When it is time,to talk about nuisances to the country and the Empire, possibly the honorable senator will be remembered, and the speech I am making to-night may also be referred to.
– I thought the honorable senator was speaking to the gallery.
– This is not the first time I have spoken to the gallery, and the gallery has often saved me. I am here now, after fighting my way through the gallery, and I welcome the opportunity to express these strongly Imperialistic, though none the less Australian, ideas. I hope that the Minister of Defence get» more consolation from the criticism of the measure by honorable senators on this side than he is able to derive from the attitude of the members of his own party.
. -I am quite in accord with this Bill, and glad to see that the Government are following out the policy of the previous Government in the establishment of a navy, which, though small, will, I believe, be effective. I believe that, in time, Australia will develop a big navy. I hope that the young men of the Commonwealth will take to the sea, and will look upon our Navy with pride.
– I should prefer to see them growing potatoes.
– Growing potatoes is a very good thing in its place, but if we have no means of defence we may have no land on which to grow potatoes.
– We shall be all right.
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator will be all right, but I am afraid that the people who will come after him would not be all right if his policy were carried out. I am pleased that the Government have taken this matter properly in hand. I hope that if ever Australia should have the misfortune to be engaged in a war, our Navy, in conjunction with the Imperial Navy and the ships of other British Dominions, will be able to give a good account of itself. Some people, I am aware, think that the course which is being followed in New Zealand at the present time is the right course to adopt, but we have launched upon a definite scheme, and I hope the Government will carry it to a practical conclusion ; that they will not halt half way, because half measures in a matter of this kind are worse than useless. It may be many years before Australia will become involved in a war, but I have no doubt that, when she is, the seamen of our Navy, whether natives of Australia or of the little islands in the North Sea, will be found to be worthy descendants of the men who have held the command of the sea for so many years. The people of New Zealand seem to take to the sea even more readily than do the natives of Australia, but I hope that if we are ever involved in a war we shall, with the assistance of the people of New Zealand, be able to bear our part well, and show that we are worthy descendants of a worthy race.
Senator STEWART (Queensland) in this debate, but my Imperialistic sentiments have been stimulated by the very thoughtful discourse to which we have been treated by Senator St. Ledger. That honorable senator seems to be of opinion that in the event of Great Britain losing her command of the sea, it will be a very bad day for Australia. I agree with him that if Great Britain loses her present position as mistress of the ocean, Australia will have to fall back upon her own people for her defence. We agree so far, but I do not know whether the honorable senator will agree with what I am going to say next, but I believe I am correct in my forecast. I think it is just as sure that Great Britain will lose her present position as that every other country which previously held it lost that position. It may not happen in our day, and we hope that it will not, but that it will come some day is as sure as that I am standing here to-night. Honorable senators are aware that history has a marvellous trick of repeating itself, and if I am correct in my forecast, what we ought to do now is to begin the development of a defence policy for this country, and not depend upon any outside assistance. We should rely upon our own strong arm and the patriotism of our citizens.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to rest on that alone to-day?
– No; but we ought to begin to prepare now for the event which will inevitably happen, and which Senator Millen is as sure will happen as I am if he cared to speak his mind. There is another point with which I am in agreement with Senator St. Ledger. I repeat to-night what I have often said before, that it does not matter what kind of a navy or an army you have, unless they are backed up by a large and patriotic population, every effort of ours in this direction will be in vain. I have never known members of the Opposition in the Senate do a single thing to make Australia fit to carry a larger population. I have heard them hundreds of times cry out that we want immigrants, but I have always found them standing in the way when any attempt has been made to find work or land for those immigrants. They have exhausted the English language in their denunciation of a measure which I believe will do more to open up land for the people of Australia than any previously submitted in the history of this country, and by doing so will assist materially to bring about the defence policy of which we have heard so much to-night.
– It will not assist our defence policy one bit, and the honorable senator knows it.
– I believe that this land taxation policy of ours is equivalent to 100,000 men in arms, so far as the defence of Australia is concerned.
– To fill up the waste places !
– The honorable senator talks about filling up the waste places, but I ask him whether he considers Victoria a waste place in the Commonwealth ? The honorable senator talks about the waste places. We are not talking about land settlement now, I suppose.
– You started the discussion.
– The country districts of Victoria carry only about six persons to the square mile, whereas they ought to be carrying 600. In any case, although the question is intimately bound up with the defence of Australia, perhaps it wouldnot be quite in order for me to continue the discussion of it. With regard to our present position, nearly every speaker has laid great stress on naval defence. I do not pretend to be a military genius or to have very much knowledge of military or naval affairs ; but it appears to me that if the people of Australia have to choose between two things, one, of which they cannot get, they will be wise enough to choose the thing which they can get. They cannot get a navy which will be able to cope with the navies of the world. By the time Australia has a population of 40,000,000 they may be in a position to have a navy. But now the few vessels which they can build or provide would be brushed aside at the first breath of war. From that position I fall back upon the fact that we are in a state to provide an effective land defence. In our present circumstances, that ought to be our first line of defence. I heard one honorable senator speak in a very derisive fashion of the Boers. He referred to one honorable senator as a pro-Boer and a Little Englander. Whatever our opinions of the Boers may be, I think that every one will admit that they put up a splendid fight for their liberty, for their nationality. I hold that the event which is now being celebrated in South Africa is proof positive of the justice of the cause of the Boers, because public opinion has compelled Great Britain to do now what she ought to have done before. What I wish to point out is that the Boers have shown us a most excellent example of how a small people can defend their country against a great Power. There were only about 150,000 or 200,000 people in the Transvaal. They never had an army or more than 50,000 or 60,000 untrained men. Great Britain’s resources were exhausted almost to the last man in defeating that small people, and she only accomplished it by the skin of her teeth, so to speak. Some of the military authorities declared that if the Boers had had the courage, the enterprise, and the skill to pursue their advantages, Great Britain would never have beaten them.
– Would you have been glad of that?
– I am not pre, pared to answer the honorable senator.
– I think not.
– He is a fine Government supporter.
– I said all I had to say on that subject years ago. I am here in spite of having said it.
– Say it again.
– I am prepared to say what I think again anywhere and in any circumstances. The point I wish to impress on honorable senators is that we have in that little people an example which shows us what organization, determination, courage, and patriotism can do. With a population of between four and five million people in Australia, we can, if necessary, put a quarter of a million men into the” field.
– The only fault with your analogy is that, whereas we have a coast-line of 12,000 miles, the Boers had none.
– There fs an” answer to that. Our large coast-line is one of the best defences we have. Within a very short period I believe that we shall have a population of 5,000,000 ; and I think I am well within the mark in saying that we can put 250,000 men into the field at any time.
– We are, therefore, in a position to defend ourselves even against the greatest European or Asiatic Power.
– We have not rifles enough for that number.
– How long would it take us to send 20,000 men to the Northern Territory by land?
– How many points are there on our coast-line on which any foreign army could land? Where could the troops land? In a desert where there would hie no water or food. They might as well land on the moon. An invading army with any chance of success would have to land near the centres of population, where supplies could be found. Napoleon used to say that an army marched on its belly. It was quite true then as it is to-day, and any army landing on the outlying portions of Australia would have to bring everything it wanted, and keep open its line of supplies during the whole time it was here, making its task very much more difficult. The Minister asked how long it would take to send 20,000 men up to the Northern Territory by land. The Territory has been there for hundreds of years, probably millions, and its capabilities are well known to the people of Asia. Thirty or forty million- people have been living within striking distance of it for a hundred years or more, but have never troubled to take it. If honorable senators claim that we must be in a position to defend every portion of Australia, I reply that it cannot be done. Even if we had a population of 40,000,000 instead of only 4,000,000, it would be almost impossible for us to put such a ring of defence round the continent as would make it impregnable against assault from every and any quarter.
– That is a splendid argument for a navy.
– But we cannot afford a navy. ‘
– What is the good of this Bill then?
– It is all very well for honorable senators to talk about a navy, but we have not the money for the purpose. If every farthing of our revenue were devoted to the upkeep of a navy, it would only be a mosquito navy, as compared with that of Great Britain, or Germany, or Japan, or America. It would not be worth considering so far as our defence was concerned. It need not be considered for a single moment.
– Is the honorable senator going to vote against the Naval Defence Bill?
– I shall tell the honorable senator by-and-by what I intend to do. In the ultimate, we have to depend upon ourselves for our defence. But while Australia cannot afford a navy, she can afford a citizen army, sufficient, at any rate, to defend her against any likely assault. I have no intention to vote against this measure. It is all right for us to lay the foundations of a navy - to begin to play at having a navy.
– No; .that is humbug.
– I hope that we shall have a navy, when we are numerous enough and have revenue enough to afford one, or that we shall not need a navy, which would be a very much better state of affairs than the present one. I wish again to say a few words to Senator St. Ledger. Some time ago, he wrote a book dealing with Socialism, in which he denounced that political faith as being something which, if carried into effect, would be ruinous to the human family. Let me point out that the only political party in Europe to-day which is in favour of peace as opposed to war is the Socialist party.
– They are the biggest humbugs in the whole world.
– Just as Socialism grows, so will the expenditure on armies and navies decrease, until ultimately, when Europe has become a Socialistic republic, war will be at an end, so far as it is concerned. That is the ideal towards which’ every intelligent man - I do not wish to reflect on honorable senators on my right - is directing his attention, not to building up more and more armaments, to providing for the shedding of more and more human blood, but to bringing in that reign of peace when men will turn their spears into pruning hooks, plough the fields, and cultivate potato patches. I know that we are all trying to bring about a better condition of society.
– It is not to shed human blood that we provide for our defence, but to prevent the other fellow coming here and shedding our blood.
– I am quite aware that my honorable friend on the left is of a belligerent disposition, and would probably rather fight than do anything else. But I must confess that I am past that stage. I would rather run away ; indeed, I am afraid that I could not even run very far. I suggest to Senator St. Ledger that if he is really anxious for the advancement of the human race, he should become a Socialist, and write a book in favour of Socialism. If he does so, I am sure that with his great gift of exposition he would do more to convert tens of thousands of
Australians to that political faith than perhaps members of the Labour party could do in a generation. The more Socialists we have the nearer we approach to the era of peace. Every Socialist believes in peace as opposed to war.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator discussing the question before the Chair, which is the second reading of the Naval Defence Bill?
– I think that Senator Stewart is in order. So far as I can gather, he is pointing out that the tendency at present is towards peace, when naval or other defence will not be necessary.
– Every capitalist, as opposed to every Socialist, believes in war. Why is Germany building up her Navy ?
– Because the Socialists are increasing in number.
– It is to take the command of the sea, so that she may gain Great Britain’s trade. , Every war of which we have any record has been a war for trade,- or land, or some substantial monetary advantage. That is the reason why the countries of the world are arming against each other. Why is Great Britain providing an immense’ fleet?
– To guard us. .
– Why, Great Britain has just as much as she can do to look after herself at the present moment. But I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the affairs of that country.
– Is not that all the more reason why we should make an effort to defend ourselves?
– That is the point which I am endeavouring, to impress upon honorable senators. Why is Great Britain compelled to keep such a huge fleet upon the oceans of the world? To keep her trade routes open. To insure that her foodstuffs may be poured into her shores without interruption. Why does she not insist upon a very much larger proportion of her foodstuffs being grown within her own territory? Why does she allow millions of acres to run to waste, to be occupied as deer forests, or by Yankee sportsmen ; to be occupied, indeed, by everything except the farmer, who would till those lands ? That is the rock upon which Great Britain is going to perish.
– Here is a prophet !
– I do not pretend to be a prophet. I am merely taking a common-sense Scotch view of a palpable situation. The thing is staring us in the tace, and yet a great number of us cannot see it. Why is Great Britain compelled to maintain the largest fleet in the world ? To keep the ocean highways free, so that her food supplies may be poured in regularly. If, by some strange accident, something went wrong with the works of this huge machine, so that Great Britain was not supplied with food tor a month, what would be the result? One of the greatest catastrophes in human history. That greatest catastrophe could be brought about within a month by a single Power - I refer to the United States - without striking a blow at, or firing a gun against, Great Britain. If the President of America were to issue a ukase that no foodstuffs were to be exported to Great Britain, and if every one of the American ports were blockaded, within one month of the commencement of that blockade Great Britain would have to capitulate.
– The Federal Supreme Court would rule such a ukase ultra vires of the Constitution.
– In a great crisis, the people of the United States would sweep aside the Federal Supreme Court just as we hope to sweep the High Court of Australia aside before very long. In a great crisis in human history, Courts would count for very little.
– But the almighty dollar would count.
– No doubt. “ But I am talking of a probable dispute between the United States and Great Britain, lt is not impossible that such a dispute may be brought about.
– Does the honorable senator limit his statement to the United States and Great Britain?
– Not necessarily.
– If the dispute were limited to those countries, the British larder would not be starved.
– Would it be possible to prevent the people of the United States from exporting? They would export, in spite of the order of any Government
– I do not think so. If the Government were in earnest in their desire to prevent the export of foodstuffs to Great Britain, that export could not possibly be carried on. The Government could prevent foodstuffs from being conveyed by the railways to the ports of the United States; it could blockade those ports, and thus see that effect was given to its orders. In a great crisis, too, l believe that the people of the United States would be sufficiently patriotic to loyally give effect to the order of the Executive. But I am merely speaking of a contingency which may arise some day. I do not say that it will arise. Nevertheless, the possibility exists. I claim that that possibility ought not to exist. The people of Great Britain should grow a very much larger proportion of their food supplies than they do. That is all that I suggest. Great Britain is needlessly wasting huge sums of money in giving effect to her policy - a policy which is largely dictated by the capitalistic parties who are represented by the landed aristocracy and the Cobden Club, by the Free Trade supertition. It is true - as has been dinned into our ears until we are tired of listening to it - that we ar-j part and parcel of the British Empire, and what affects Great Britain must affect us. Consequently, we are entitled to express our opinion upon Imperial policy. Although it may not sound orthodox to say so, I confess at once that I am not an Imperialist. I never was. I may be a Little englander, or a very small Scotlander, or a little Australian, but 1 am not an Imperialist. If honorable senators would only open their eyes, they would see that the Empire is crumbling to pieces before them. Before the end of the twentieth century Canada will have been absorbed by the United States, and South Africa will have drifted from the Empire. The thing is as sure as fate. India will have gone. It is even now seething with discontent ; and by the end of the twentieth century, 1 hope that Australia will be an independent Republic. I shall not live to see it ; but I hope that in ‘ the year 2001 my spirit will be brooding over the broad fields of Australia and rejoicing that she has thrown off the shackles of monarchy, has. abandoned her connexion with Great Britain, and has become a free and independent republic. I am merely forecasting what I believe will happen before this century has come to an end. To my mind, the Empire is becoming rotten. It is falling asunder of its own weight. It is not a racticable proposition, and cannot be continued for an indefinite period. That being so, it behoves us to recognise the possibilities of the future, and’ to prepare ourselves for them. The key note of every thought in regard to Australian defence should be Australia first, Australia last, Australia all the time. Let us get more population, burst up the land monopolist, and secure the communitycreated increment.
– Order ! The honorable senator has touched upon that subject three dr four times during the course of his remarks. I did not interpose, because I thought that he was merely making a passing reference to it. But I wish that he would connect his remarks with the Bill which is under consideration.
– It must be evident to the meanest intellect that there is no subject which has a closer connexion with the defence of Australia than has the subject of population. Without population Australia cannot be defended. The more people we have here, the easier will it be for them to carry the burden of its defence. When a man tells me that the population question has no relation to the question of defence, I decline to argue with him. Under the policy which is embodied in this Bill, it appears that in time of peace our small Navy is to parade up and down the coast of Australia. That is to say, when it is not wanted, it will be here ; but, in time of war, it will become part and .parcel of the British Navy, will be under the control of the British Admiralty, and may be sent to any spot to which the British authorities may choose to order it. That may be in accord with the best traditions of naval defence. But I ask honorable senators just to consider the position for a moment. When the great time of difficulty arrives, Australia may be left, so far as her Navy is concerned, absolutely undefended. There may not be a single ship upon our shores. We may be left absolutely unprotected at the very moment when protection is most necessary.
– We shall have our land defence force all the time.
– I hope that we shall. I think I have insisted that we ought to depend more upon our land defence than upon anything else. But I am now calling into question the arrangement under which our Navy may be ordered away from Australia when we might naturally expect it to be here. I ask honorable senators to say whether that is a common-sense proposition ? Ought we to leave the shores of Australia entirely unprotected, so far as our Navy is concerned, at the very moment when Britain,, and consequently Australia, is at war with some of the nations of the earth? Suppose, for instance, that Germany and Japan entered into an alliance for offensive and defensive purposes, as I have recently seen suggested in the newspapers. What would be more likely than that while Germany was struggling with Great Britain in the North Sea, and while the Australian Fleet had been called away to assist in that great fight, Japan would make a descent upon our shores? In such circumstances, we should not have a single ship left to protect us. The country would be free of access to any foe which might choose to come here. Is that a state of affairs which honorable senators care . to contemplate? Let me put the position in another way. Our Fleet is a very small one. If Great Britain cannot beat Germany, or any other Power, without the assistance of the present Australian Fleet, or of any Fleet that we are likely to have within the next twenty years, Britain’s day has past.
– She says so herself.
– If our Fleet can be of no earthly assistance to Great Britain in the great struggle to which some persons look forward, why should it be taken away from our shores? Why leave our own shores unprotected? If our Fleet is small it cannot be of the least service in assisting Great Britain in such a time of struggle and crisis as has been referred to. I do not wish to pit my opinion against the opinion of great naval authorities. I do not know anything of naval strategy. All that I know is that the present proposal is that the Navy( shall remain in Australia only in time of peace. Probably it will be in Melbourne during Cup time, and in Sydney during some ether carnival, lt will dawdle round to Brisbane in the winter months, and go over to Hobart during the apple season. But in time of war not a single vessel will be upon the Australian shores.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– That was the idea that seemed to be running through the honorable senator’s mind during the whole of his speech, and it is the idea that appears to be in the mind of nearly every man whom I have heard speaking in connexion with the matter. Indeed, that is the arrangement that has been come to between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government, and it is the idea embodied in this Bill. “ In time of peace,” say the authorities, “ you can con trol your Navy; you can have it in Australia to play with ; you can do with it just as you please ; you can invite the officers to balls and fetes; you can let them have a high old time generally on your toy Navy. But in time of war we want your ships 10 go where we choose to send them.”
– A toy navy is not of much use to. any one.
– Not much, lt would not be of much use to Australia. But it would be of more service to Australia than it could possibly to be to Great Britain. And if it is going to be of any service at all, it ought to be kept here in time of war. That is my opinion. Our Navy could not turn the scale in a great struggle as between Great Britain and any other great Power ; and if it cannot do that let us keep it upon our own shores so as to prevent any raiding of our coastal traffic or any probable attack upon our exposed cities. That is my idea with regard to arrangement which ought to be made in connexion with the Navy. I have heard honorable senators say time after time that they trust that Australia will become a great maritime power. It seems to me that those who speak in that way have never been able to get the situation of Great Britain out of their minds. They seem to forget that beneath their feet, here in Australia, they have a huge continent to develop. After all man is a land animal. He is not a water animal. He lives on the land, not on the sea. The reason why every Britisher seems to have the salt ocean in his veins is because Britain is a small country, because Britain is the great ocean-carrier of the world, because the sea is essential to her trade, and particularly because a large proportion of her inhabitants must derive their livelihood from the sea. But Australia is in quite a different position. We have here a huge continent to develop - a continent almost as large as Europe; nearly as large as the United States of America. But there are 400,000,000 people in Europe, and there »re nearly 100,000,000 people in America, lt is our task to develop the lands of mls great continent; and as we develop our lands, sea power will develop of itself. Our first duty is with the land which is under our feet, which is the source from which we must draw our sustenance. If we have a sufficient population on the land our sea trade and commerce and everything else connected with the ocean will take care of itself. I have no more to say in connexion with this matter. If it will give any pleasure to Senator St. Ledger I may say that I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill ; not that I lay very much stress upon it, but because I think that our people are determined to have a navy of some kind and that we might just as well begin to lay the foundations now, so that the people of the future may build something substantial upon them.
– I do not entirely agree with the views put forward by Senator Stewart. With some of them I do most cordially agree, and more particularly with the latter portion of his remarks in which he dealt with the idea that whatever naval force we possess may be taken in time of war to the other side of the world. I have read what naval authorities have said on this question. I am aware that it is generally recognised’ to be of vital importance not to split a navy up into different squadrons, but to hold it in a position to be concentrated if it is to be effective in time of war. But even so it seems to me that the only valid reason for establishing a navy al all in Australia - I do not at all share Senator Stewart’s idea that we should have none - is this : It would doubtless take an enormous time to convey troops considerable distances across this continent by land ; and, consequently, if we were faced by an Asiatic invasion we might require to convey troops by water. We should then want war-ships to convoy the troop-ships, and under such circumstances a navy would be of considerable use. It would enable us to convey troops to the point of danger, where they might be able to repel an attack or to drive off those who had effected a landing. I dissent altogether from the idea that the fate of this country is going to be decided by some great battle in the northern seas. I do not for a moment believe that the defeat of Great Britain could be averted by any naval assistance which we could render to her. Inall probability any such defeat would be brought about before our ships had time to reach the point of danger.
– That is not the question. The existence of an Australian Navy enables Great Britain to concentrate her Fleet at home.
– Hear, hear.
– So far as concerns that point - which the Minister of Defence cheers - I would ask whether Great Britain has not now practically concentrated ail her ships that would be of any use in a great naval engagement in her own waters?
– That is because of an alliance which terminates shortly.
– What would be the use of the Australian Squadron for warlike purposes in a really big battle? It would be so hopelessly out-classed that it would be a nuisance to have it anywhere near.
– No; the armoured cruiser is fit to go into the line of battle.
– I am not referring to the armoured cruiser which is in course of construction, but to the ships of the Australian Squadron which are now in our waters.
– They are counted out.
– Just so. I say, then, that this naval squadron which we are about to place in our own waters is not for the purpose of relieving Great Britain from placing her own ships in our waters, because she has already taken all the ships that are of any use away from this part of the world.
– Because there is an alliance which relieves Great Britain of the necessity for policing our waters.
– The honorable senator refers to the alliance with Japan?
– One may be mistaken, but it is not unreasonable to assume that our chief source of danger lies to the north of us, and that it is from that direction that our trouble will probably come. It would be practically impossible for us, for many years to come, to build a navy sufficiently large to defend our huge coast-line against serious aggression from that direction.
– Our Navy will only be a unit, consisting of one-third of the Imperial Navy in the Pacific.
– I know that; but still, while our Fleet will be one of the units making up the Pacific Squadron, each of those units will have its own piece of coast-line to defend. But the point that I wish to make is this: 1 do not think that Great Britain can permanently defend Australia. I have not a hope of her continuing to do so, and my honest opinion is that she will not.
– She ought not to be asked to do so.
– I agree that she ought not to be asked; and that is why I welcome the taking of the initial steps to establish a fleet- of our own, as well as an army, which will grow as we grow in numbers, and increase in power as we develop in wealth. For that reason I think that this is a sound policy. But I fall foul of my honorable friends opposite in another aspect of the matter. Senator St. Ledger construed a remark which I made by way of interjection as being spoken in derision of his sentiments.
– The honorable senator was merely speaking jocularly.
– Not entirely. I was expressing my honest disgust at the honorable senator’s Jingoistic sentiments.
– I am for the Empire all the time!
– Well, I have no use for this “ Empire-all-the-time “ business. lt is to me the rankest and most repugnant bunkum. I was at one time asked why I refused to allow my children to take part in some Empire Day celebrations. I wrote to their school-teacher, stating that my reason was because I believe that every Empire had been founded on force and fraud, and maintained by the same methods, and that the British Empire was no exception to that rule.
– A nice, patriotic sentiment ‘
– I have no time at all for the hog-wash that does duty for “patriotic sentiment” with the honorable senator and his like. I believe that the first patriotic duty of Australians is to look after their own country. As far as concerns the talk about what we owe to the Mother Country, I say that it was our forefathers in Great Britain who fought for and won the liberties which we enjoy, and that we no more owe them to the present generation of Englishmen than we owe to them the liberties, of the land that we occupy. Whatever privileges and rights and liberties were wrung from the ruling class generations ago were extorted equally by our ancestors as by the ancestors of those who are at present residing in Great Britain. The rights which we possess were secured by those who came to this country years ago, and we owe nobody in Great Britain anything for them. Therefore, as far as Imperialism is concerned, I believe that it is the duty of every sane individual to fight strongly against any attempt to forge any other Imperial bonds than those which already exist. As far as relates to the Imperial Conferences, which are shared in by the representatives of various parts of the British Empire, I have no doubt that they do a great deal of good.
– The Prime Minister is on an Imperial mission now.
– The Prime Minister is on a journey for the purpose of conveying good-will to a kindred people across the seas.
– And he is going to the Coronation.
– I have nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s contemplated visit to Great Britain. That is his concern. But I do contend, with Senator Stewart, that this Navy of ours should be our own entirely, and I resent altogether the idea that if a war-scare is raised in Europe our Fleet is to steam away to do duty where it will probably arrive too late, and, in any case, where it would be too small to be of any real service. We ought to prepare for the time that is coming if we are to judge by the events that are taking place in the world now. Great Britain was at one time a part of the Roman Empire, and, as when the heart of that Empire was menaced Imperial Rome withdrew her troops from her outposts for her own protection, so the same process is now going on in the British Empire to-day, and Great Britain has begun to draw her ships nearer to the heart of this Empire. I consider that we have been given a practical and plain intimation by Great Britain that we must be prepared to look after ourselves. I cannot understand the talk about establishing a naval unit which, in time of danger, is to be sent to the other side of the world, when, as Senator Stewart has said, we should most need it here. Our danger is from Japan, or an awakened China, and not from any of the great European nations.
– Will the honorable senator permit me to ask this question: Pending the time when Australia is prepared to defend herself, is the honorable senator willing to accept assistance and protection from Great Britain?
– I am prepared to let existing conditions continue until we can replace them with better. I do not advocate any wild proposal for separation from Great Britain.
– Not so long as she is in a position to help us.
– Well, I should be prepared to trust even the present Government with such a power.
– I say that I would not trust any Government with such a power. We are not such asses over here as to claim that the members of the present Government are above the ordinary frailties of humanity. I say that our laws should be passed in such a. manner that they might be safely administered by any Government. For this reason, while I believe we should have a navy, I do not agree with those who believe that Australia is doomed to destruction if it should happen, as the fortune of war, that Germany or some other great Power should temporarily secure a victory over Great Britain.
– -Which side is the honorable senator on?
– - I am on this side. I believe that an enormous amount of absolute nonsense has been written by people who ought to know better about the effects which would follow from a disaster to Great Britain. I think that Ge, many has quite enough to do to manage her own country, and would never attempt a conquest of Australia, or the annexation of any of our territory. I believe that no other European Power would have any better reason for doing so. The trade of a country is only of value so long as something can be got in return for it. I do not believe that the most powerful Government in America could prevent the people of that country sending foodstuffs into England in time of Avar. While it pays Great Britain to import foodstuffs, we know that it pays America equally to
– Suppose they were both at war?
– Even if they were, it seems to me to be the greatest moonshine to suggest that an absolutely effective blockade of English ports could be set up.
– A blockade of America would not starve Great Britain.
– It might make the food supplies of Great Britain very dear.
– There would be the rest of the world to draw upon.
– Just so. There could be no question of the American nation attempting such a thing as to prevent the export of their own foodstuffs. An attempt might be made to blockade the ports of Great Britain to prevent the entry of foodstuffs into that country, but I do not believe such a blockade could be successfully maintained. If it were, it would recoil upon the nation that effected it, and would do it almost as much harm as it would do Great Britain.
– Surely these- high international problems can wait?
– Just so. According to. the Minister, everything should wait the convenience of the Government, but I have yet to learn that because honorable senators were elected to follow the Government they are merely to be registers of the decrees of Ministers.
– That is all they have been for some time, and they might be allowed to break out now and again.
– Whatever I may have been generally, when I feel strongly upon any matter, I claim the right to speak my mind upon it. I have not delivered very many lengthy speeches on the measures brought before the Senate.
– Fortunately for us.
– It is bad enough, perhaps, that the Senate should have to endure the honorable senator, and it might break down hopelessly if it had to submit to two such inflictions. In the circumstances, I hope that some amendments will be made in this Bill to secure an absolute Australian control of our Navy, so that we may be able to exercise some check upon what I consider to be the absolutely idiotic policy of allowing our Fleet, in time of danger, to be taken away to the other side of the world, where it can be of very little use, whilst we might suffer great injury from its absence from our waters.
– I had not intended taking any part in the discussion on the second reading of this Bill, for two reasons. One is that the policy underlying the Bill, and outlined in the speech of the Minister of Defence, is practically a development of the policy which now finds acceptance at the hands of all political parties in Australia. The second reason why I intended to abstain from speaking is that we have now visiting Australia an expert in naval matters, and I assume that whatever is right or wrong in this Bill will be the subject of review after that expert has furnished us with his report. That being so, it did not appear to me that we are called upon to scrutinize this measure too closely at the present time. I have risen only for this one reason : I should not like this debate to close after two such speeches as we have just heard, or that any one who may chance to read the records of Hansard should assume that the honorable senators who made those speeches correctly voiced the opinions held in this Chamber. Happily, Senator Stewart is not the only Scotchman who has giventhe world the benefit of his views. There was another named Macaulay, and I could not help thinking to-night of a sentence from his writings, in which he says that all his life he had listened to predictions of evil, and had seen nothing but signs of progress.
– Would not the collapse of the Empire be progress?
– We have listened to-night to predictions of the collapse of the Empire, and may I now express a hope that Senator Stewart, in indulging in those predictions, was not allowing the wish to be father to the thought. It did seem to me that the honorable senator was merely drawing a picture of that which he desired to see brought about. I hope I am wrongly interpreting his utterance, but it is the only interpretation which it is possible for me to put upon his words.
– He was contemplating his state after death, and the honorable senator should make some allowances.
– That would be too awful for me to contemplate. Let me say that I could hardly listen with patience to the mean and contemptible selfishness which marked the policy the honorable senator outlined for our acceptance. What was it? He admitted, in reply to an interjection of mine, that to-day we are dependent upon the might of Great Britain for our national salvation. But he went on to say that the time would come when the power of Great Britain would be broken, and that we should prepare ourselves for that time, so that when it arrives we might be able to protect ourselves.
– Would that be a very foolish thing to do?
– Does not my honorable friend see where that policy would lead us? Senator Rae, in reply to an interjection, made the same admission. Both Senators Rae and Stewart agree that, so long as Great Britain is strong and we are weak, we should recognise our alliance with her; but when the time comes when the might of Great Britain is broken, when she is weak and we are strong, in the words of Senator Stewart, it will be “ Australia for herself, first, last, and all the time.” I decline to believe that sentiments of that kind will be indorsed by the people of this country. If, while we continue to be the weaker partner, we accept all the advantages of the Imperial connexion, it is contemptible to assume that when the position is reversed, if it ever is, and we become the strong partner in the firm, we shall repudiatethe partnership.
– Senator Stewart never suggested anything ofthe kind.
– No, he did not suggest it; he said it.
– He did not.
– Senator Stewart is able to correct me if I am wrong.
– What I meant was that we should begin now to prepare for the day which will inevitably come.
– When Great Britain’s might will be broken?
– We should be prepared to defend ourselves then.
– We are then to protect ourselves.
– I say that if, when the time arrives when the naval might of Great Britain is broken, we do not stand in with her, but look only after ourselves
– That is another question.
– That is what the honorable senator declared we ought to do.
According to him, we are to stand in with Great Britain so long as she remains a great Power; we are to recognise without any gratitude all the advantages we derive by reason of our Imperial connexion, but when the time comes when Great Britain is unable, according to the honorable senator, even to protect herself, we are then to be in a position to look after ourselves, and we are to say to Great Britain, “ You must accept the fate which awaits you; we shall look after ourselves.”
– Will not that be a sufficiently large contract?
– The honorable senator overlooks the fact that Great Britain might say to-day that it is a sufficiently large contract for her to protect herself. “ Senator Rae. - She is protecting herself hi protecting her commerce with us.
– Great Britain has made it manifest to the world that to her last man and her last shilling she stands by the Empire. Is Australia going to adopt the same policy, or are we in these days to be the recipients of benefits and when the time comes for us to repay, in some measure, that which we owe Great Britain today, to turn round and adopt a selfish policy and say that we should think only of ourselves ? I do not believe for a moment that a policy of that kind would be indorsed by the electors of Australia. Coming to another aspect of the matter, the last two speakers have questioned the wisdom of allowing the Australian unit, when completed, to become incorporated in time of necessity with the British Navy. They have pointed out that that would be the very time when it would be most needed here, although both have admitted that the Australian unit would of itself be useless against any of the modern navies of the world. What is going to happen to the Australian unit if it is kept here and the Imperial Fleet is destroyed?
– It may defend us from raiders, anyhow.
– You would save your carpet-bag while the house was being burnt down.
– That is a very happy simile. I repeat that, to keep here the Australian unit, which Senators Stewart and Rae have admitted is not capable of standing for a moment against a modern navy, is to fill yourselves with the delusion that you are safe because you can see the smoke of your warships from the cliffs on the coastline, when, at the same time, the Imperial Navy is fighting for its existence elsewhere. If it is destroyed or crippled, what will become of your unit? It will be here, certainly. You will have the satisfaction of looking from the cliffs and saying, “ Here is our unit.” How long could you say that after a foreign Navy had had time to come here?
– In a tight struggle, the extra pound of assistance which the Australian unit would give might snatch victory from defeat.
– Exactly. Apart from that, the retention of the unit here when it was required elsewhere would not save it or Australia, because, if a catastrophe overtook the British Navy, the Fleet that we can hope to have in these waters at present,- or for a considerable number of years, would not save Australia from the polluting touch of a hostile foot.
– We all admit that.
– If so, what objection can you urge to the proposal in the speech of the Minister - contemplated in the policy of this Government, as in that of its predecessors - to allow the Australian unit, when an emergency arises, to be incorporated in the British Navy?
– It would be of more use against Japan or China, I think.
– The honorable senator may hold that opinion, but he spoke of a Russian ship in our waters.
– I said that the Australian unit would be of more use up north.
– As regards where it shall go, those who will have charge of the Navy at the rime must be the better judges. We were told by Senator Stewart that the obligation on Great Britain to-day in maintaining its Navy is largely that of keeping open the trade routes. Is there no similar obligation on Australia as on Great Britain, which certainly desires to purchase food and other supplies from abroad ; for instance, from Australia? Is the obligation to keep open the trade routes to be thrown solely upon the shoulders of Great Britain? Are we not equally concerned in seeing that they are kept open?
– Close the trade routes to-morrow, and you will bring about in Australia a position of industrial stagnation which I almost shudder to contemplate.
– We do not depend for our food on the maintenance of the trade routes.
– What keeps up the price of our wheat, butter, minerals, or wool ?
– Exactly. Close the trade routes, and your wheat, butter, minerals and wool will become unsaleable commodities.
– We shall all die of starvation from having too many good things on hand.
– I have not said that for a moment. But I have said that if you were to break down the industrial life of Australia, you would bring about a catastrophe which would lay upon her an obligation probably heavier than was ever contemplated.
– Did Senator Rae never hear of what occurred in Ireland during the potato famine?
– We would not submit to what the Irish had to suffer.
– Would the honorable senator be able to get a meal by contemplating warehouses stuffed with bales of wool ?
– There would be butter, wheat, and other articles to eat.
– You cannot eat all the wheat and butter which Australia produces, nor all the minerals, nor all the wool.
– We cannot swallow all the rubbish.
– My honorable friend’s swallow is pretty capacious. If any ona ventures to say that what I am stating is rubbish, he takes a very limited view of the position which would confront Australia.
– When the honorable senator referred to “ rubbish,” he only wanted to remind the honorable senator of the rabbit industry.
– It is idle to disguise this fact, much as I know some of my friends would like to do so, that Australia to-day is wealthy largely by reason of that which she receives in return for her products. If you were to stop that trade, you would bring about a catastrophe here.
– Every one admits that.
– Then why should the obligation to keep open the trade routes be thrown solely on Great Britain ? The obligation is equally ours, because the advantage is ours. But it does seem to me that there are honorable senators, as there may be persons outside, who believe that Australia should reap all the advantage, while Great Britain should carry all the burden. This unit and the liberty which is provided for sending it away from our shores, if necessary, is also part of the contribution which we are making to a joint fleet to maintain the trade routes, as well as to keep the flag of Empire flying. Senator Rae contemplated such a position as the defeat of Great Britain and Australia remaining unharmed. I wish I could, share that view. My opinion is that, if anything ever happened to break down the naval might of Great Britain, Australia is the prize which would be demanded by the victor. What are modern nations looking for? They are all, more or less, looking for large areas of land carrying a few people. What other portion of the world offers that prize to-day? If a European nation did defeat Great Britain, do honorable senators think that it would seek for a moment lo conquer that country in the sense of occupying it? What advantage would it be to a continental nation ? It would be useless for such a nation to go to Great Britain, because she is already heavily populated. Having destroyed Great Britain, having swept it from the ocean, so to speak, there would be no satisfaction or profit to the European nation in establishing its own power within Great Britain. It would look round, and ask, “ What portion of the British Empire will meet my needs? Where can I hope to develop a colonization policy of my own?” There is no other portion of the earth’s surface which offers such attractions as does Australia. The same thing would happen if the conqueror of Great Britain were an Eastern nation. It can turn its eyes in the East as much as it likes, but it cannot find so many acres carrying so few people as does Australia. Therefore, much as we, in our selfishness, may wish to stand aloof from Great Britain’s quarrels and the wars in which she may be involved, we may rest certain that, although we may wash our hands of the fight while it proceeds, we cannot wash our hands of the consequences. Given the defeat of Great Britain, and Australia, in my judgment, is the prize which will be demanded and taken by. the foe.
– Do you think that we , shall put up no “ scrap “ to prevent them? You seem to think we are going to sit down like a lot of bunnies.
– I have no doubt but that the honorable senator will put up what he calls “ a scrap,” but if it did come to a “ scrap,” I am rather inclined to say, with regret, that the Kaiser William would be likely to win, and the honorable senator to go down. Of course, we would fight for Australia, but we cannot fight against the inevitable. The Boers fought; but what happened? In my judgment, taking into account the circumstances of their country, and the fact that e large number of them had had training, of which our people are deficient - that is, training in wars with natives, and in other ways - they were better equipped to put up a .fight for national existence than we are to-day, with an untrained population scattered over vast areas.
– In some respects ; but we are very much farther from Germany than is South Africa.
– As regards army transport, we are really not so far.
– Senator Rae completely overlooks the fact that every day science is annihilating distance.
– Troops could be landed more easily in Victoria than in the Transvaal.
– - Honorable senators seem to think that there is an obligation on a Power which invades Australia to conquer it. I dissent from that view. It is not necessary for a nation which effects a landing to immediately set about the work of subjugating this country. All it need do is to take whatever portion it requires, establish itself by means of its troops, bring its settlers in, and then say to Australia, “ If you demur to our presence, come and conquer us.” That is the position which is likely to confront us. The expenditure on the Australian unit is absolutely necessary as an insurance fund alone to protect the interests which are at stake. I am pleased to say that in the speech with which the Minister introduced the Bill, he at least gave no countenance to views expressed here to-night. On the contrary, he put forward a view which, I am sure, will commend itself to those who believe, as I do, that the fate of Australia stands bound up with the fate of the Empire.
– I desire to say a few words on this all-important topic. I feel sure that the authorities in Great Britain will rest very content when they read the message conveying the remarks of Senators St. Ledger and Millen. I feel satisfied that there will be no danger of a German invasion, or anything else, when the Em pire is backed up by the splendid assurances of such great authorities. I have, perhaps, just as much love for the rest of the Empire as has either of those liployalist senators.
– Ledger. - Lip-loyalists?
– Yes. I claim, however, to have a little more love for my native land, Australia. The way to defend the Empire is to prepare for our own defence, to prepare to keep up our end of the log.
– So we said.
- Senator Millen has spoken of the splendid advantages which the other side of the world has conferred upon us. I, as an Australian, wish to say that we, from the very beginning, have been doing our share. Our pioneers have made this a defendable part of the Empire. We have made it, if nothing else, a place which, in time of stress and danger, can supply food and material of war, whilst our brothers across the water are fighting. This is not the place to discuss where our Fleet will go in time of war. Any man who watched the course of the American Fleet round the world in time of peace, when every hand extended a welcome, realized what a difficult task it had to perform. Why talk about sending our Fleet to the North Sea to fight? It will be required here for the defence of this portion of the Empire? What are the advantages which pioneering Australians have conferred on the British people? We have trade routes which have to be protected, and the song from the other side is, “ Shall the whole burden of protecting the trade routes fall on Great Britain?” I want to point out that we have built railways, cleared forests, and made two blades of grass grow where one grew before. We have paid dearly for every shilling’s worth we have received from the Motherland to make those things possible. If there is any advantage, it is mutual, each side contributing in coin or kind. We have done our sharing fully. I, as an Australian, resent the imputation that we have received a dole of charity from Great Britain. We have given full value for every sovereign which we have received, and will continue to exhibit the same spirit of independence in commerce or war.
– Great Britain has never said so, nor does she say so now.
– No; but the liployalists do. They are always taunting
Australians with receiving charity, and refusing to be equally generous. 1 recognise, of course, that we speak from different stand-points. I speak from the stand-point that I love not Great Britain less, but Australia more. That is the sentiment I have as regards the question of defence. It is a matter of mutual advantage for Australia to be part of the British Empire.
– No; it is not a bargain.
– I venture to say that the workers of this country or, for the matter of that, of any other country, are equally well off under any form of government. Will any man say that, so far as the great bulk of British workmen are concerned, their position would be materially changed if any nation conquered Great Britain? Under the government of America, would the present workers and toilers of Great Britain be materially worse off than they are at present, or, to put the case in the reverse way, would the toilers of America be any worse off under the government of Great Britain? The same argument can be applied to all civilized nations. I regard these defence proposals as the natural result of a condition of things over which we really have no control, but of which we have to make the best. I regret that we are not going about the work of preparing for the defence of Australia as an integral part of the Empire in that reasonable calm manner in which we should act if we considered for one moment what a huge task we have to undertake. Not only our naval force, but also our land force, must continue to increase. Before we commence to establish an Australian navy, or to prepare for our land defence, it would be wise for us to know exactly what the undertaking is likely to cost, what outlay will be involved each year, and from what source the revenue is to be obtained with which to meet that outlay. If we are to successfully defend Australia, which is such a splendid prize in the eyes or’ ail (he nations of the world, the first thing we should do is to get possession of the national sources of wealth, and to permit the honey gatherers to gather that wealth. The mineral and coal-fields of this continent should be in possession of the Commonwealth which has to provide the revenue for our future defence. I venture to say that the statesmen of Great Britain recognise that when we undertake the establishment of an Australian navy and the creation of an effective land defence force, even if we do absorb a little more of the taxpayers’ money, we are giving them a first-rate security for it, in the form of a more efficient defence system than we have previously attempted to provide. In the course of his remarks, the Leader of the Opposition marie a reference to the Boer war, which furnishes another objectlesson that we may well take to heart. I do not know whether it is too late to ask the Minister of Defence to submit an estimate of the probable cost of a successful raid upon Australia by any of the nations of the world. What would such a raid cost Germany or Japan ? - What would it cost any nation which is likely to attempt such a huge task? We ought to have some estimate from expert men in this connexion, so that we may know whether it would be worth the while of any nation to attempt it. Notwithstanding that the British had bases on every side in South Africa, and that the food supplies of the world were open to them, we know that it required 250,000 troops and an expenditure of £300,000,000 to subdue a few Boers. Further, the loss of life involved was considerable. We also know that, although the Boer nation was conquered, one of its generals is to-day the Prime Minister of the Dominion of South Africa.
– The honorable senator would scarcely call that war a raid?
– But the war ended in such an unsatisfactory manner that the people who were in possession of the country when it commenced are in possession of it to-day. We may attempt to disguise it as we will, but we are up against the simple fact that the Boers were in possession of the country before war was declared, and that a Boer general occupies the position of Prime Minister to-day.
– Who gave them their privileges?
– I venture to say that the privileges to which the honorable senator refers were not given generously, but because nothing better could be obtained. Seeing that the greatest Empire in the world, with all the forces at its command, could not crush a handful of Boers, I say that in the matter of our defence we should appeal, not to the assistance of the Home -land, but to the Australian national spirit, which, when the critical time arrives, will not be found wanting. I am satisfied that when the crisis does come, we will show to the world that we can defend our portion of the Empire against any force which may attack us. Let any honorable senator consider the ease with which Australia can be defended, and also the cost of attacking it. I know that Senator Gould understands a good deal about military matters, and I am sure that he recognises how readily Australia lends itself to land defensive operations. This continent is a prize of which any nation may be envious - one which any nation would greedily stretch out its hand to grasp. But it is a prize which, if guarded by the stout hearts and strong arms of independent Australians, is beyond the reach of the most powerful nation or of the most powerful combination of nations. I have no fear - and 1 do not speak from the valour arising from ignorance - that men of such independent character and of such determination as Australians will not be able to successfully defend their hearths and homes. They will not be found wanting when the call comes, despite all the forebodings of the lip-loyalists.
– The forebodings of Senator Stewart.
– I think that Senator Stewart and myself approach each other very closely in our views on this question. But I rose chiefly to call attention to the fact that there is one section of the British people which always patronizes Australians, and which endeavours to make it appear that we have received something from the Empire for which we are not prepared to pay. I say that we have never received a pound From the Empire for which we have not paid.
– This is not a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence.
– We have paid in pounds, shillings, and pence, and we have made this country a portion of the Empire, the advantages of which will yet be appreciated by the British people.
.- I hope that my friend, Senator Rae, did not regard my interjection as an expression of a desire that he should curtail his remarks upon this Bill. But it did seem to me that a portion of the debate had got rather far away from the measure. In a large measure old-world politics have been discussed to-night ; and I am sure that any Imperial statesmen who may read the debate will get some very useful hints from it. But the immediate question which we have to consider is whether the Bill which is now before us provides for the commencement of an Australian navy upon sound lines.
– If there were no world politics, we should not require a navy.
– I do not mind a reference to world politics of the present day ; but I think that we are getting rather far from the subject under consideration “ when we attempt to deal with world politics at the end of the twentieth century. Senator Gardiner set me a nice little sum in arithmetic when he asked what would be the cost of a successful raid by a foreign Power upon Australia? I would suggest to him that he may inform his mind upon the subject by reflecting that if we had not the protection of the British Fleet, and if, iri the event of war, Japan chose to send a single battleship to Sydney, _ Melbourne, or to any of our capital cities, we could not make an effective reply to it. That fact of itself evidences that we owe our present safety to the British Empire. I recognise that it is in the interests of Great Britain that she should keep that Empire together, because it is her greatest commercial asset. At the same time, we are receiving the benefit of her protection ; because, in the absence of that protection, our White Australia legislation could not stand for a day. A single Japanese battleship at any one of our ports might demand the repeal of that legislation, and a few shots from such a vessel would make the population of that port think seriously about repealing that legislation.
– We should pull down the flag at the first shot?
– For all the effective reply that we could make to any battleship off our coast, we might as well pull down the flag. Such a vessel could batter every one of our coastal forts, and we could make no response.
– Is there no fort which could reply?
– There is not a single fort along our coast which could reply effectively to the fire of a battleship armed with 12-inch guns. Senator Rae has objected to the proposal in the Bill to place our naval unit in time of emergency under the control of the British Fleet, and to subject it to the orders of the senior officer of that Fleet, whoever he might be. That senior officer might be an Australian. The British unit in China waters might thus be placed under the orders of an Australian Admiral, and the New Zealand unit might be similarly placed. But the idea is that the Pacific Fleet must be one. It must be one to be of any use. The battle which will determine the mastery of the Pacific may be fought in the North Pacific, and yet Senator Rae suggests that before our ships are sent away from the Austraiian coast, Parliament should be called together to decide the conditions under which they may be so despatched. What a splendid prospect ! In the case of a war, with, say, Japan, before a decision could be arrived at, and the necessary legislative authority could be given, the Japanese Fleet would be able to sail round the Pacific, attacking and defeating each unit in detail. But if the Government have power to hand over the control of these vessels to the Imperial authorities, and so to permit of the various units of the Fleet being welded into one, they may be able to put up a decent fight against any force which may be set against them. The Canadian Government has taken to itself a similar power. The Defence Act t 903-9 provides that Parliament shall be called together at once, and of course no Executive would take action unless they were pretty sure that it would meet with the sanction of Parliament, to which they are responsible. I do not know that there are any other points connected with the Bill to which I am called upon to reply. I am glad that it has met with such a f avorable reception ; and I do not think that its consideration involves the points which have been raised by some persons, and notably by Senator Stewart. At this stage of the session we should make fairly rapid progress with business, and therefore I appeal to honorable senators not to debate questions which are not particularly affected by the various -clauses of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Power to appoint officers).
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.18].- I notice that as the Bill is drafted it would not be possible to give commissions to persons who had not passed examinations. Tt “night be considered desirable to appoint some men in the Imperial service to commissions in our own forces. Would it be possible to do that ?
– Yes, under sub-clause 4 of clause n.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause jo (Appointment does not create a civil contract).
– What does this clause mean? It provides that the appointment or promotion of an officer shall not create a civil con.fract between the Commonwealth and the officer. I cannot understand it.
– A clause similar to this is inserted in every Defence Bill. It is put in for legal purposes. 1 am not quite clear why it is considered necessary to deal with officers in the Army and Navy differently from officers in the ordinary Civil Service, but I presume that theirs is not considered to be “ employment ‘ ‘ in the ordinary sense.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.21].- The granting of a commission by the King places a man in a different position from that of entering into a contract in regard to the performance of certain services. Such appointments are always made “ during pleasure,” and it is within the competency of the Crown to withdraw a commission from an officer without assigning a reason or granting compensation, except under special circumstances. The theory is that the subject may rely absolutely on the fairness and justice of any decision that may be arrived at by the Crown. There have been one or two cases in which the question has been reviewed by the law Courts j but speaking in general terms the appointment nf an officer is during pleasure, and when it is terminated there is no such right to compensation as would be the case in connexion with an ordinary civil contract.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
Clauses 13 (Resignation by officer of his commission).
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT COULD (New South Wales) [10.23].- This clause gives an officer power to resign his commission by giving three months’ notice. But the Government retain power to refuse to accept the resignation. Subclause 2 provides that the resignation shall not have effect until it has been accepted by the Governor-General. I do not know whether it is wise to deal with the mattei in this way. I presume that men who enter the service will be compelled to join for a certain time, and that they will nol have the power of resignation, even in time of peace. I feel that it would be just as well if, in connexion with the permanent forces, officers were placed in a similar position, and were engaged for a period of years. There would then be a certainty that a proper number of officers would always be available. I do not suppose that the Minister is prepared to recast the clause now, but it is just as well that this point should be raised. We are dealing with men who will have to go into permanent active service on board our ships. They must learn their profession. I believe it has been estimated that it takes seven years to train a first class gunner on board a man-of-war, and no man should be permitted to go into the service and leave it again .after six or twelve months, or even a couple of years.
– The first part of the clause is similar to the provision in section 17 of the Defence Act, applying to permanent as well as militia officers, both naval and military. That has not been found to be inconvenient in either service. It has not been discovered that officers desire to resign. The reason why a greater discretion is given to the GovernorGeneral, under sub-clause 2, in regard to the naval service, is that an officer must serve until the Government is ready to part with his services. The three months’ notice might end when a ship was on a voyage, and it would be necessary for him to continue to serve until it was convenient to discharge him. Sub-clause 3 is also necessary, because before the three months’ notice was up the ship might have to start on a cruise, and it might be necessary to tell the officer that he must go at once, as “the ship could not be Kept for him. Shortly, the provision is the same as already exists in the Defence Act, except that lt gives the Governor-General greater discretion regarding naval officers only.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.29].- We contemplate going to considerable expense to train officers, by establishing a Naval College, and in other ways, and then, when it has cost the country a good deal of money to educate a man as an officer, he may suddenly take it into his head that it is not worth while to bother any longer with naval work, and tender his resignation.
– The experience is that they do not do that.
– Men generally take up work of this kind because they think they will like it, and want to succeed in it; but certain men are flighty, and there ought to be some provision to compel a man who has taken on the obligation of service to remain in the permanent force for a fixed period. I think the Minister will find that it is not possible, in the Imperial service, for an officer to throw’ up his commission, even in times of peace, on three months’ notice.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
The seniority of officers in their respective ranks shall be as prescribed.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.31].- In what way does the Minister contemplate dealing with the question of seniority of officers in the Permanent and Citizen Naval Forces, to which, under clause 19, different duties are assigned ? Some time ago a good deal of feeling was caused in connexion with the Military Forces by the question of seniority. The officers of the Permanent Forces claimed that they were entitled to seniority over those of the Citizen Forces, who, in turn, contended that the only reasonable way to determine seniority where men were equal in rank was by the date of the commission. In that way, a citizen officer might be senior to a permanent officer of the same rank. This clause leaves it entirely to the discretion of the Minister to prescribe seniority among naval officers, and I should like an indication of the Minister’s feelings in regard to. the matter.
– The honorable senator wants me to meet the devil half way. This is one of the most prickly and thorny subjects that a Minister has to deal with. The difficulty has been got* over in the Military Forces here by deciding seniority by the date of the commission. Still, that has not got rid of the soreness. In the British Navy the man holding a commission in the Royal Navy ranks senior, the man in the reserve next, and the man in the volunteer reserve next. I have not thought out the problem whether, for our Navy, we should adopt (Eat practice, or the course followed in the Military Forces.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.33].- The question, although thorny, will eventually have to be tackled. I am satisfied to let the clause go, and follow the Minister’s example of offering no opinion as to which course it will be best to adopt. I think the Minister, like myself, rather likes to hold his judgment in suspense ; but he has the responsibility.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 42 agreed to.
Clause 43 (Transfers between King’s Naval Forces, and Commonwealth Naval Forces).
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.40]. - I ask the Minister whether he will see if provision can be made for the transfer of officers and seamen of our Naval Forces to the Imperial Navy, not only for the purposes of training, but also for the purposes of promotion. It should be possible to arrange that an officer who has served in our Navy for a period entitling him to promotion should, if there is not then a vacancy, be given an opportunity to be transferred at a higher rank to the Imperial service.
– We cannot legislate for that.
.- Of course not. Still, it might be possible to make an arrangement with the Imperial authorities. If men are told that there will be no opportunity for promotion in our service, except as vacancies occur on the half-dozen vessels comprising the Australian unit, many who would otherwise be desirous of entering our Navy will be deterred from doing so. But if the possibility of transfer to and promotion in the Imperial Navy were held out, it would be an inducement. There are men now in the Imperial Navy who, having friends or relatives in Australia, would be glad to take sen/ice in our Navy, but they naturally wish to know how this would affect their future. In the Imperial Navy an officer of ability who behaves well, and has good fortune, may ultimately climb to some of the higher rungs of the ladder of rank, but in a small Navy like ours men would eat their hearts out before getting promotion. In the Imperial
Navy, many men have to retire on half -pay with the rank of captain, and occasionally with the rank of lieutenant, and that would happen much more frequently in a small service like ours. I recognise that we ourselves cannot do this, but that it must be done by mutual arrangement. If it can be accomplished, however, it’ will make the Australian unit more truly an integral portion of the great naval defence forces of the Empire.
– The point raised is one of great importance, which cannot be settled by our legislation. It is a matter, however, which is ripe for dealing with, and will undoubtedly be discussed at the forthcoming Imperial Conference, both in the interests of the service and of our own officers. 1 feel, no doubt, that the Imperial authorities will cordially approve of the arrangement, provided we are prepared to adopt the British standard of efficiency. The matter has occupied the attention of the Government; and it is their intention, at the Imperial Conference, to endeavour to bring about a satisfactory settlement in the direction indicated.
– This clause provides that any transfer may be for “ such period and subject to such conditions as the GovernorGeneral “ may think desirable; and I take it that that means the Government. The Minister, in replying on the second reading, said that Parliament , would be called together in the event of an emergency, in order to sanction any action by the Government; but I fail to see any provision in the clause for calling the Parliament together.
– This clause deals, not merely with a time of war or emergency, but also, possibly, with a time of peace; that is to say, it may be necessary, for instance, to send some of our ships to train for a short period in the China waters. We shall have oceangoing torpedo destroyers attached to both the China Squadron and the New Zealand Squadron, and it may be desirable tobring the whole, or a section of them, together for training purposes. This clause gives power to accept torpedo destroyersfrom the China Squadron, and to send’ ours over to that squadron for the purposes of training. That will operate ir» time of war; but it is also governed by section 46 of the Defence Act, which provides -
The Governor-General may, in time of war, by proclamation, call out the Citizen Forces, or any part thereof, for active service.
In time of war the Citizen Forces will be our first line of defence on land, and in any trouble of such importance that any portion of our Navy would have to bc handed over to the control of British officers, this proclamation would issue. The section proceeds -
The proclamation shall slate the reason for calling out the forces. If the Parliament is sitting, the reason for calling out the forces shall forthwith be communicated by the GovernorGeneral to both Houses of the Parliament. If the Parliament is not sitting at the date of the issue of the proclamation, it shall be summoned to meet within ten days after that date.
In time of war members of the Citizen Forces may be called upon to man the ships, and then Parliament will have to be called together within ten days.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 (Funds for annuities or gratuities in case of injury or retirement).
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.52]. - I see this clause provides for annuities or gratuities to members of the Permanent Naval Forces who are retired on account of age or infirmity, and I assume that these payments will be similar to those granted in the Imperial service. I am pleased to see such a provision, because after , a man has given the best years of his life to the service it would be cruel to turn him out without any resources.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 46 agreed to.
Schedules, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 10.54 P m-
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19101103_senate_4_58/>.