8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
League of Nations: Report by the Secretary
General to the First Assembly of the League on the work of the Council. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Basic Wage: Supplementary Report ofRoyal Commission!
Public Service Act. - Regulations amended. - StatutoryRules 1921, No. 12.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether he is in a position to give the facts regarding the last flotation ofa Commonwealth loan in London - thatis to say, the amount of the loan, and the terms upon which it was issued?
– I should hesitate to rely entirely upon my memory to give the particulars soughtby the honorable senator, hut if he will give notice of his question I shall see that he is furnished with the information on the next day of sitting;
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council in connexion with the Public Service Bill, Which was introduced by him yesterday, whether, in view of the comprehensiveness of the measure, and the fact that it consolidates a great deal of the present law, and modifies or repeals certain provisions of the existing Act, he will see that honorable senators are provided with a differential print which will indicate to what extent the present law is adopted, in what respects it is modified, and what provisions appear for the first time in the Bill now before the Senate, because as honorable senators will agree, it is a difficult matter to read the Bill in conjunction with the existing Statute?
– I had in mind the advisability of adopting the course suggested by the honorable senator. I do not wish to commit myself as to what it will be possible to do, but I shall make inquiries, and will make a statement on the subject to-morrow.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
Validityof Certain Provisions
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
Loans to Co-operative Companies.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether the Government intend to extend the provisions of the Repatriation Act in its relation to loans for businesses, so as to enable loans to be obtained by co-operative companies such as the Geelong Woollen Mills?
– The matter is under consideration, and it is anticipated that a further announcement will be possible at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Did the Government bring the question under the notice of the State Governments?
– I imagine theydid, as it was on the agenda paper, but I cannot definitely answer that question.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to -
That Senator Crawford be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Standing Orders Committee.
Debate resumed from 13th April (vide page 7380), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– It is not without some little temerity that I rise to address myself to this very important question, because prominent members of the Senate, who have had wide experience of actual warfare, are to a certain extent opposed to the principles enunciated by the Minister for Defence’ (Senator Pearce), and to the Bill itself. The arguments that have been adduced against the measure are worthy of the most serious consideration of the Senate. I refer in particular to the argument put, forward that the condition of the finances of Australia to-day is not such as to warrant us extending in any way the activities of our Defence administration, or of any other Government Department. We owe a very great sum of money, and we know that the financial position throughout the world is such that it is extremely difficult for any Government to carry on the affairs of a country.
– The passing of this Bill will not add a single £1 to our liability. That has been determined already by Estimates passed by this Parliament.
– I am coming to that point. I wish to emphasize, at the beginning, that we cannot afford to endanger our national existence for one moment, whatever the cost of preserving it may be to the people of Australia. The first thing of which we must be quite sure is the preservation of our national existence. We have had to pay very dearly for it in the past, and the very difficult financial position in which we find ourselves to-day is due to that fact. But is there any honorable senator who . will assert for a moment that we have paid too highly for the maintenance of our national existence ? Is there any member of the Senate who will say that whatever we may be called upon to pay in the future will be too high a price to give for the right to continue to govern ourselves, to develop this great Commonwealth of ours in the way in which we think it ought to be developed, and to secure to those who come after us equal, and, if possible more extended opportunities than we have ourselves enjoyed? I do not think there is a member of the Senate who would stand to any assertion of that sort. So I say that, whatever the price we are asked to pay for our national preservation, that price we ought to pay. But the question arises whether the Government propose to expend the money, which, as Senator Pearce has reminded us, has already been voted by Parliament, in a way which will insure to us such a complete measure of defence as will preserve our national existence.
I believe that the proposals ofthe Government are good. I believe that Ministers, in entering upon this more or less new undertaking, are making a very big advance upon right lines. I ask honorable senators to consider for a moment the growing importance of the Air Force so far as our defence measures or warlike operations are concerned. It is generally recognised that the Air Force is the eyes of the Army, and it ought to be known that upon the Western Front the predominant position which the Allied Armies were able to attain towards the close of the recent war was, to a large extent, due to the fact that the eyes of the Germans were blinded by the superiority of the Allied Air Forces. For a time the Germans were in the ascendant because their Air Force was superior to our own, but eventually the latter became so strong that the Allies were able to make their attacks at their own time and in their own way. That is a very important matter. Is it likely that the Air Force will continue to grow more important in the future? I say with confidence that it is. In the future, victory will rest with the side which possesses the more efficient Air Force, and which is able to handle it in such a way that the enemy will be at a distinct disadvantage.
– It will be a case of the best Air Force and the best chemists.
– I shall come to that point presently. Within the next few years it is quite probable that there will be very great developments in the aeroplane. To-day it is very far from being a perfect machine from the standpoint of warlike operations. But in the near future it is quite possible that we shall see a noiseless aeroplane, which will be capable of being handled much more efficiently than are the machines of today. Flying at a speed of hundreds of miles per hour, an almost noiseless aeroplane would prove, perhaps,the most efficient weapon of destruction that was ever put into the hands of man. That being so, can Australia afford to lag behind so far as an efficient Air Force is concerned? Certainly not.
We cannot afford to be dependent entirely upon our Navy and our Army. What is the position so far as these branches of our Defence Forces are concerned ? In regard to naval defence, it will be absolutely impossible for us to compete with the wealthier nations of the world. To-day we can see the result of our naval expenditure. We have spent millions sterling upon the Navy, yet most of our ships, when contrasted with those of other nations, will be found to be obsolete and out of date. Whatever else the Australia did, she at least insured us a large measure of protection against Germany during the war. Yet to-day she is obsolete. Our most recently constructed cruiser, the, Adelaide, which is now lying in Sydney Harbor unfinished, and which has already cost us more than £1,000,000, is ob solete before she has been equipped with a single gun. I point to these facts, and affirm with confidence that it will be impossible for us in the future to compete in any effective way with the other nations of the world, who have so much more money than we have, who possess a greater population than we can hope to possess for many years, and who can thus replace their fighting fleets much more readily than we can. Consequently we cannot afford to depend upon the naval arm of our defence if the adoption of any other means will provide us with an equal measure of protection. Similarly, though not to the same extent as the Navy, we cannot hope by mere force of numbers, or by means of artillery or machine guns, to put up an effective defence of Australia against a powerful invader. But we do not need to wait till an enemy is here before proceeding to fight him. What we are concerned with is how to prevent him getting here. The way in which wo can accomplish our purpose most readily and in the least expensive fashion is by the establishment of an efficient Air Force.
I ask honorable senators to consider for a moment the point from which we are in most danger of attack. It has been said that from a naval standpoint we are most likely to be attacked by raiders, which would shell our c ties. To repel them weneed a certain Naval Force. But it is not likely that we shall be called upon to provide a Naval Force of sufficient strength to engage an enemy fleet. Wa could not hope to do that. We can, however, com bat raiders with light cruisers. In the future, an invading Force may possibly come from the north. I cannot conceive despite the utterances of Senator Gardiner, of Germany becoming a potential enemy for many years. I am not in the least afraid that Germany will attempt to invade this continent of ours. The great danger in that connexion lies in the north, where one nation at least possesses efficient fighting organizations, and a degree of military preparedness, which we cannot hope to rival. How shall we meet this danger if it comes? We can meet it much better by means of an efficient Air Force than by means of naval or military preparations. The Government propose to establish the nucleus of an air defence organization which, in future years, will guarantee to Australia immunity from attack. If an invading Force should come, or propose to come, to Australia from the north, they would consider very hard and for a long time before they came, if they knew that we had here an efficient Air Force of, perhaps, thousands of machines ready and eager to fight them .and disperse them, as they would be dispersed if we had sufficient aeroplanes to do it. Honorable senators who studied the conditions as they obtained on the other side know what power for mischief even one aeroplane has, and can imagine what increased power for mischief even one aeroplane may have in the future with the continued application- of science and invention to explosives. From the way explosives are being developed, it seems that in a few years they will become so perfect that one bomb may be sufficient to scatter a whole city, or devastate a whole area of territory. These considerations make me think that we must rely upon the air for at degree of defence in the future which we hope to have to keep Australia white, and to preserve those ideals that we hold so dear. The Government propose to establish an Air Force, and I be’lieve they are going on right lines in doing it. From the financial standpoint this Air Force is not going to cost anything near as much as .a Naval Force would cost, or an ordinary Military Force would cost. It may be said with confidence that the average price of the aeroplane to-day, taking the whole range of aeroplanes from the big fighting machine down to the little scouting machine, would be about £2,000. If we put 50 or 100 aeroplanes at £2,000 each against the cost of a cruiser such as the Adelaide that is lying in the Sydney Harbor today, and compare the efficiency and fighting capacity of those 100 aeroplanes with the efficiency .and fighting capacity of the Adelaide, we shall find that the balance is all in favour of the Air Force from the stand-point of effective defence. If the Adelaide were away on the north coast of Australia, what chance would she have against an invading Naval Force with a huge fleet of transports? If we placed there, however, a thousand aeroplanes, which would not cost any more, manned by Australians who, I’ believe,, ought to make the best fliers in the world, they would be a Force to be reckoned with, and would have ten times more capacity for doing damage to an enemy than would a cruiser of the Adelaide type. These are facts that there is no getting away from. The Government propose to give us a powerful mobile Air Force to build up a form of defence that offers us ever so much more protection than we have had at any time in the past.
If ever such an unfortunate thing should happen as that the British Navy has to take second rank among the Navies of the world, and that seems extremely probable - ^
– That should never be!
– It should not be, but we know the position in Great Britain, where whole political parties, and even the leaders of the nation, .are declaring that Britain can. no longer continue to lead the world so far as Navies are concerned. They are talking about drawing the fleets back to Britain and looking after Britain only, not concerning themselves so much with the other parts of the Empire. That sort of- thing should make us extremely careful before we do anything to cripple the proposals of this or any other Government for the efficient defence of Australia.
– Do you suggest an Air Force* in lieu of the Navy ?
– I am just showing that it would be for all practical purposes a more efficient fighting Force than the Navy, and it would certainly cost us a great deal less. If it is feared,’ as my honorable friend suggests, that defence ia going to .cost us too much, I think, in view of the whole of the facts, that it would be better for us to economize on the Navy and the other branches of the Defence Forces, and have a thoroughly efficient Air Force located in those areas where we are most exposed to danger.
– Has the efficiency of aeroplanes to sink a battleship ever been proved ?
– It is not pro- “ posed, I hope, to rely entirely upon our Air Force to do that sort of work. There is the submarine arm which has not been mentioned.I believe submarines and aeroplanes would give us almost entire protection against an invading fleet of transports.
– Has the submarine ever done that?
– I think so. We know that the mighty North Sea Fleet of Britain had to stay within its base; almost afraid to come out on account of submarines and mines.
– Why libel our Navy by such a wild statement ?
– I am not libelling it.
– The duty of the Navy was to protect the Empire, and they did it. What more do you want?
– Of course, they did. It is a pleasure to find Senator Gardiner standing up for the British Navy and the Empire nowadays. I am very pleased to be able to agree with him that the Navy did protect the Empire, because they were an efficient fighting Force. The British Naval authorities and the Admiral in charge had sufficient sense to keep them at their base, instead of sending them cruising about the seas where they were exposed to danger.
– It was the German Fleet that was bottled up and afraid to come out.
– The German Fleet did not come out either. The development of the aeroplane and the submarine has made it a vital question in Great Britain, amongst even the experts themselves, as to whether the day of the big ship has not altogether gone. We who are not experts would be presuming too much to answer that question either one way or the other. All I say is that the Air Force offers us a greater measure of protection than does any other arm that we can develop. It is certainly the only arm that we can develop according’ to our financial strength. It offers us the cheapest kind of defence, and if the Government propose to go in for it in a proper way I am prepared to support them in doing it.
There is one other serious point about which I should like to be sure. In another place questions have been asked regarding the fighting ability of the seaplanes which the Government have pur chased, and with which they propose to form the nucleus of the new Air Defence scheme.
– We have not purchased any seaplanes yet. We are going to purchase some.
– It has been asserted that the Government are negotiating for certain seaplanes of the F5 type. This type was built in 1918, and to a large extent is out of date. If that is correct, as I believe it is - and if it is not I should like the Minister to say so - then this new branch of the Government’s defence proposals is going to be loaded down right at the beginning with out-of-date and inefficient machines. If we are to do the thing properly we must do it with machines that are right up to date.
– Is it not a fact that the submarine is out of date also?
– I do not think that that view is being put forward, even by naval experts.
I believe the proposals of the Government are worthy of acceptance. They offer us, to a large extent, the possibility of efficient defence at a reasonable cost, and the development of aeroplanes and explosives will make almost every other arm, as we know it to-day, out of date. If that is so, the Government are proceeding on right lines. I hope honorable senators will support the measure. No doubt certain amendments will be necessary, but we can deal with them at a later stage. As far as the main principles of the Bill are concerned, the Government are on safe ground, and I hope the people of Australia will be behind them.
– I propose, at a later stage to move, for several reasons, that consideration of this Bill be postponed. In the first place, I think it is time the Senate should take its stand and do everything possible to enforce economy. In the second place, I want the consideration of the Bill postponed until the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) from the Imperial Conference, so that he may be able to tell us something about the true position of the. League of Nations. We have just come through a terrible war, the winning of which every one hoped would go a long way towards preventing the recurrence of another war. Right through the whole pages of history one reads of views, and ardent desires, given expression to by philosophers, jurists, lawgivers, and rulers concerning the vital need for amity among the nations of the earth. In our study of Greek history we learn of the amphictyonic councils of Delphi and Thermopylae, gatherings which took the form of semi-religious festivals, and sought to unite .in one partnership for mutual protection the different races which spoke the Hellenic tongue, and upheld Hellenic ideals. Might we not get a good example from those people « to what we should do in these days ? I wish it were possible there could be such an understanding between the Englishspeaking peoples of the world as would prevent all wars in the future. I believe that if America and England could, come together in a rapprochement, and get in amongst the Chinese to put a S.top to the “ Japanizing,” if I may coin a term, of the Chinese, and instead, Anglicize them so that they would appreciate som.e of our national ideals, a great move would be made towards maintaining the permanent peace of the world.
Passing from the Greets . to the Romans, we are reminded of the Roman ideal, Paz Romana, depending on the annexation, incorporation, and consolidation of those peoples within the Empire. Their ideal stood until the dawn of Christianity. When Christ stood before Pilate He was asked the question, “What is Truth?” and as He refrained from answering, Pilate was surprised. Standing before him dejected and broken down was the central figure of the greatest power-system which history has ever seen. Pilate could not he able to understand the passing of power from the individual to the social integration. In the early days the Papacy claimed to he the centre of the Respublica Christiana for the unity of the people. Owing to its secularization and, at times, to its tyranny,- it brought a protest from Henry IV. of Navarre, who wished to throw off the Papal yoke so that he might bring about Christian unity among the nations; but Ravailac, in .1610, thrust the assassin’s blade into his body.
Passing on from those times through the Middle Ages to the rise of modern States, we remember a number of jurists and legislators whose purpose it was to bring about this amity among the nations. Principal among them was Grotius, who, in 1625, published his book, The Law of Peace and War, in which he tried to secure international amity outside of the Christian religion and the Bible. In 1692 William Penn endeavoured to bring together a Diet of the nations of Europe ‘ for the purpose, it is said, of putting an end to the trade in soldiery, in order to improve education and stimulate the pursuit of industry, science, and art. I do not for a moment suggest that I am a pacifist, but I do say that we want to give this League of Nations, which has come into ;being, a chance. The Treaty of ‘Utrecht, in 1713, which put an end to the Spanish war of succession, was an occasion when the Great European Powers thought they had the key to the amity of peoples by means of territorial equilibrium. But having no permanent organization, it was foredoomed to failure. Then followed the Holy Alliance, in 1815, between Francis I. of Austria, and Frederick William II. of Prussia, and Alexander I. of Russia,’ called at the instance of, the Czar, who was inspired by the eccentric and’ mystic Baroness von Kruldener. But. that came to nothing for the simple reason that it was merely a matter of one ruler wanting to help another. This was exemplified in the case of Austria and Hungary.
I pass now horn ISIS to 1871, when the German States came into being, and from that to 1888, when the ex-Kaiser came to the throne. He spoke of being a good and dutiful ruler, but the next page of history revealed his declaration to the army that it had developed in blood, that it had been born for him, and he for it, and, therefore, it was his duty, to see that, as time went on? it was handed over to his successor more powerful than ever. In 1899, during the Socialist troubles in Germany, he urged the soldiers to take an oath, in which they agreed to slaughter even blood relations at the bidding of the Emperor. This was what Tolstoy described “ as the abyss of degradation.”
Thus we have the position of militarism defined; and I want to say definitely that if we can get Article VIII. of the Covenant of the League of Nations in effective operation, and do away with this war spirit which hitherto has torn the very soul of the world to tatters, we shall be doing something of the greatest moment for the people of the world. What does the League provide? It provides for two sorts of cases, justiciable or or non- justiciable. In the latter case it is agreed that in the event of disputes amongst nations which they cannot settle they shall submit same to the League. If then one nation member declines to accept the dictation of the League, it will be in the position of having to oppose practically the balance of the League. In other words,it will lose the moral support of all the others. That mighty power of moral support was illustrated in the last war. It led to England’s participation in the struggle, and subsequently it brought America in. We must realize that the principal nations of the world are dependent on instantaneous communication and international commerce, and it seems to me that any nation would hesitate to declare war, in the certainty that in the war it would have to depend on its own resources - that in other relations it would be treated as an outsider. It is also impossible to imagine that in the struggle for supremacy, rivalry among the monarchs of Europe will ever againplay a part; but we should realize that, if war comes again, it will tear the very soul out of the nations.
It is in the hope that we may be able to fulfil the ideal of the League of Nations that I ask that consideration of this measure be postponed until the Prime Minister shall have returned and informed us of the position in relation to the League. In reference to the second fundamental point, in regard to the reduction of armaments, we should await his report. Then, if we can do away with the need for spending vast sums upon armaments upon munitions, upon warships, and the like, we shall be able to expend more in the furtherance of the arts of peace. When the Great War came about the people of Germany were prepared for it as an outcome of the crushing burden of taxation. If all people and nations endeavour to bring to perfection their armaments and military organization, then I do not care whether there be a League of Nations or any other league, it will be impossible to prevent further war. At present the people of the world are aspiring to what the League of Nations connotes. They are in travail with the birth of a new era, and there is a grave possibility that we shall have passed from a Democracy to a military autocracy. We must guard against that peril, and, as a member of the League of Nations, do all that may be possible to uphold the hands of the League, and try to bring forward a scheme which will do away with armaments. I appreciate what Senator Elliott said, namely, that we can continue to keep the skeleton of our military arrangements. But, pending that day when we shall know what the League is going to do, and what the economic position is to be - when the Prime Minister shall have returned and informed us- I move, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “That” he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ further proceedings on the Air Defence Bill be postponed until the return of the Prime Minister from the Imperial Conference.”
– Following the very academic speech to which the Senate has just listened, I intend to address honorable senators in the course of seconding the amendment, along entirely practical lines. My desire is to do whatever I can to prevent the Commonwealth from becoming bankrupt owing to the extravagant policy of the Government. The laws of nature,’ unfortunately, are such that our exports are going to fall off to so alarming a degree that there will be very little income to tax; and we shall have comparatively little money with which to import, so the result will be that the Government will collect relatively little by way of Customs taxation. Senator Duncan remarked that he considered that aeroplanes would be our first line of defence. I maintain, though not as an expert, that our first line of defence always has been, and ever will be, the British Navy. We should concentrate our efforts, in relation to any money that we may have to spend,. in giving some adequate contribution in order to assure that the British Navy shall remain supreme. Without’ it, we would not be able to maintain our trade or, indeed, hold this continent. We would not require any flying machines if the British Navy should recede from its place of supremacy.
I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E.’ D. Millen) is not present, as I desired to add my congratulations to those which have already been expressed concerning the splendid ‘ manner in which he carried out his mission to London and Geneva. I regret to recall that, in the course of an interview which I had with the Minister some time prior to his departure, I remarked that I considered that the only man for Geneva was our great Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), That was a faux pas, for at that very time it would appear that Senator E. D. Millen had been chosen for the important mission - one which he has so thoroughly and so satisfactorily carried out. We have heard from the Minister for Repatriation that he was able to arrange for the funding of our debts to the Mother Country of £93,000,000, which sum was bearing interest at rates from 3$ to 5$ per cent. The Minister made the wonderfully satisfactory arrangement that this enormous sum should be paid back by an interest rate of 6 per cent, forming a sinking fund.
– ‘Order! The honorable senator cannot proceed along the lines which he is now pursuing, because, in addition to the fact that his remarks are scarcely relevant to the Air Defence Bill, he is transgressing a rule of the Senate that an honorable senator may not discuss the subject-matter of a motion which is, upon the notice-paper. In the course of discussing the motion to which I allude the honorable senator will be perfectly in order in traversing everything that was mentioned by the Minister for Repatriation in the statement which he made to the Senate yesterday, but he is not in order in discussing that subject under the present motion.
– Then, sir, I shall state the reasons why I support Senator J. D. Millen’s amendment. My attitude is based on the fact that I be lieve in the urgent necessity for economy. That is no parrot cry, but a very live and pressing need of the Commonwealth to-day. We cannot afford to spend the large sum of money involved in the venture set forth in the measure under discussion. We have in Australia loans maturing during the next seven years amounting to £359,795,204, on which we are only paying interest of £4 12s. 0½d. per cent., so far as the Commonwealth’ is concerned, and £4 0s. 3d. per cent, with respect to the States. When these loans mature, and must be renewed, we are not likely to get the money under 6 per cent., which would mean an extra interest bill of £5,400,000 per annum. In the course of the next twelve years we shall have loans falling due amounting to the huge aggregate of £508,000,000. I would like all honorable senators to read the very able speech delivered in Perth the day before yesterday by Sir Henry Braddon. At the same time, I should like honorable senators to read that wonderful book by Owen Wister, called “A Square Deal.”
I maintain that instead of spending money at the present time on air defence the Government would be better advised in increasing the expenditure on immigration. The best defence of this country is to be found in increased population. Not only will it lessen the taxation per head of the people, but it will be by far the best and safest way of defending the country. In my opinion, the optimistic view adopted by the Commonwealth Treasurer at the present time represents quite a menace to- the financial stability of this country. He has been basing his estimate upon the great prosperity of the last few years, when Australian producers, concurrently with good seasons, have had record high prices for our raw products. It is by the export of raw products and the margin of our exports over our imports that Australia lives. I draw attention to the fact that, owing to the huge returns from the high prices of wool and other commodities the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has been able to secure from income taxation a revenue of £13,000,000 a year. We have, at the same time, been overimporting, and we have enjoyed a huge Customs revenue owing to the fact that we have imported a tremendous volume of commodities at record high prices. There is a decline in the volume of our exports staring us in the face. I make the statement that, during the next two or three years, exports from Australia will decline by 5.0 per cent. During the next few years there will be practically no income on which to levy taxation, and, therefore, the Treasurer must look forward to a greatly reduced revenue from that source. Because of the tremendous decrease in our exports we shall have no money wherewith to buy imports, and. there must, therefore, be an enormous decrease in the volume of our imports, and a . consequent decrease in our Customs revenue.
Taking wool, which is the staple product of this great continent, I may inform honorable senators that for the last three years the average amount of money that has come into Australia as the result of our sales of wool has been £47,823,688. For the year ending 30th June, 1921, we will not receive £15,000,000. I do not like to be pessimistic on the wool question, or .any other, but I do not think that we can rely upon a return from wool in the next two years of more than £15,00.0,000 per. annum, as against an average of over £47,000,000 per annum for the preceding three years.
If we take wheat, the position has been saved this year simply because we have had the benefit of a record crop of 16 bushels per acre, the highest yield ever known in Australia, and wheat is at a record price. The result is that this year’s wheat crop is valued at £58,500,000. That is not going to recur. It was more or less a fluke, and we must be guided by averages.
– It is not all paid for yet.
– No, but it will be paid for. I am afraid that, because of the return we are receiving this year from wheat, the Treasurer has been led to believe that all is safe and serene, when, as a matter of fact, in my opinion, our financial position is desperately dangerous. We must be guided by averages, and the annual average amount of money obtained from wheat in Australia has been only £19,000,000 for the last fourteen years, as against £58,000,000 this year. ,
– Has the honorable senator referred to the total return for wheat or only from wheat exported?
– - 1 say that the average total value of the wheat crop of Australia for the last fourteen years has been £19,234,096. The value of this year’s crop is £58,500,000, at 9s. per bushel. That covers the value of the total crop. The value of the wheat for export this year, according to the estimate of the Department, is £52,000,000.
Let us consider” now another great primary product which- we’ export, namely, meat. In 1919-20 we exported meat from Australia to the value of £10,000,000. Owing to the excessive freights charged by ‘the Shipping Combines on frozen produce and the declining value of meat in the world, I doubt whether in the next two years we shall be able to export a quantity of meat sufficient to earn for this country any substantial revenue.
If we take the gold production per annum we shall find that in ten years it has declined from a value of £10,557.000 to £4,537,000. I am referring to these matters in detail, to show that our great primary products are collapsing in value to such an extent that we are not likely shortly to have any material income upon which to levy taxation or with which to import largely, and,’ therefore, our revenue from Customs duties must fall off enormously. If we go on spending money as we have been doing in the past we shall send the good ship of State slap-bang on to the rocks. I feel that the Government have not taken into consideration the enormous slump in the value of our great raw products, upon which we depend, and I maintain that the export of raw products from Australia for the next two years will be 50 per cent, below the average of the past two years. I. therefore, ask whether we can afford to go on spending in the lavish way we have been doing?
Direct taxation. has been so heavy that we cannot possibly further penalize ‘ the producers ‘by increasing it. On the contrary, I believe that they will be unable to continue to bear the taxation already imposed upon them unless the prices for raw commodities such as wool, meat, skins, oats, and other grains improve. If the Government must increase taxation to meet the decline of revenue which may be expected’ on the important items to which I have referred, they must tax luxuries. I do not care to what extent they tax luxuries - but they will receive no very great income from that source.
I consider the state of affairs so serious that in order to balance the ledger the Government may find it necessary to tax articles of necessity such as tea. kerosene, and similar articles.
– Order! The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the principles of taxations Such a discussion cannot be regarded as relevant to the motion now before the Senate. I have allowed the honorable senator considerable latitude to show that, in his view, the state of the finances does not justify the passing of the Bill, but a general discussion upon taxation is not relevant to the question before the Senate, and I cannot allow the honorable senator to continue further on those lines.
– Can I point out why I think we have no money to spend on Air Defence?
– If the honorable senator’s remarks are relevant; but he should not labour the financial aspect of the matter at too great length.
– I say that we have the aftermath of the war upon us. We have enormous obligations to face, and this, therefore, is nor the time to spend money on the establishment of a great air fleet. I should like to point out that a huge sum is being spent on the Public Service. The salaries paid to the Public Services of the Commonwealth and States amount to £33,000,000 per annum, and there is one member of the Public Service for every ten adults in the country. I remind honorable senators also that the total debts of Australia at the present time amount to £820,000,000, and that the Taxation Office alone costs this country £440,000 per annum. Our national debt is nearly equal to the national debt of Great Britain in 1913, and the expenditure on the government of Australia is altogether too great in proportion to our population. I point out that the cost of Parliaments in Australia amounts to £425,412 per annum, as against a cost in Canada of £313,488 for a population of 7,300,000, and as against a cost in Great Britain of £556,314 for a population of 45,000,000. I point out, also, that we have 800’ legislators in Aus- tralia.
– Order! The honorable senator is going quite beyond what is relevant to the question before the Senate. A passing referencetothe financial condition of the Commonwealth may be permitted as a reason why the Bill should not be passed, or why it should be postponed, but the honorable senator appears to be using the motion for the second reading of the Bill in order to hang upon it a general discourse upon the financial condition of the country. That cannot be allowed. If I were to allow the honorable senator to take that course other members of the Senate could claim the same right, the discussion would become interminable, and the purpose of the motion before theSenate would be lost sight of.
– The honorable senator has been using most convincing arguments against the Bill.
– I am not concerned with the weight of the honorable senator’s arguments, but with their relevancy, and I must ask him to keep more closely to the question before the Senate.
– May I elaborate in some detail the tremendous fall in the value of raw products in Australia?
– The honorable senator has already done that t& some extent.
– I want to show that we cannot afford to spend money on the proposed Air Force.
– There is no proposal under this Bill to spend any money.
– The decline in the value of our raw materials is very serious. It is very doubtful whether the present price of wheat, 9s. per bushel, can be maintained. The value of oats has fallen 55 per cent, maize 47 per cent., tallow 84 per cent., hides 64 per cent., skins 65 to 71 per cent., rabbit skins 80 per cent., and lead 51 per cent. Practically everything we export has fallen in value. Beef has fallen 45.8 per cent.
– Not in the household.
– I am going to deal with that. I am referring now to the prices obtained for their produce by the producers of Australia, and it is they who have to bear the bulk of the taxation. Mutton has declined 63.2 per cent., and lambs 54 per cent. The price to the consumer is a very different matter. “Whilst beef is 5d. per lb. wholesale in Melbourne to-day, which i3 50 per cent, less than it was twelve months ago, the public are 3till paying ls. per lb for it.
– No, 14d. per lb.
– One shilling per lb. is the average retail price. The wholesale price is 5d. per lb.
– Order! The honorable senator’s remarks might be verycogent if addressed to some other question, but they cannot be regarded as arguments relevant to the Bill before the Senate. They might be relevant to a financial Bill, or the discussion of a financial statement, or a general statement of Government policy. The difference between wholesale and retail prices can have no relation to the question now before the Senate.
– On a point of order, may I suggest that the question now before the Senate is not whether the Bill should or should not pass, but whether now is a proper time for the discussion of the Bill at all? The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has moved that this Bill be now read a second time, but Senator J. D. Millen has submitted an amendment to the- effect that the consideration of the Bill be deferred for a certain time. Is not the question now before the Senate not so much one of the merits or demerits of the Bill, as of the propriety of considering it. at all at this juncture? If the latter be the question before the Senate, are not Senator Guthrie’s arguments perfectly relevant to that question?
- Senator Keating is quite right in saying that the question before the Senate now is that the Bill be postponed, but how he can contend that the difference between “the retail and wholesale prices of commodities is relevant to that question I cannot understand. Under the Standing Orders and practice of the Senate, when an amendment is moved to the second reading of a Bill like that now before the Senate, the original question and the amendment may be spoken to, but, so far as relevance is concerned, an honorable senator i3 given no further right of speech merely because the amendment is submitted.
– I was dealing with the prices of our raw commodities wholesale in Australia, in order to show the danger which lies ahead, and to stress the fact that we shall not have a sufficient income to warrant us in incurring the large expenditure which is n»r; proposed. Wool, which is our main product, has fallen in value 60 per cent., and some classes of wool have declined 85 per cent. I do not know whether I am at liberty to deal with the details of the high cost of living at the present juncture. I suppose that I am not. But I maintain that this is a time when we should stop squandering money upon nonreproductive works, otherwise we shall produce conditions in this country which will lead to unemployment and strife of all kinds, and which will breed such a spirit of discontent that we shall need to look after our own house instead of building aeroplanes to keep other people away from us. I do not know whether I shall be permitted at this time to say that, in view of the urgent need which exists for economy, the display in the Queen’s Hall by the advocates of Canberra -is a lamentable one.
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to respect the ruling, which I have already given more than once. I have endeavoured to extend to him the fullest latitude, but, obviously, there is a limit beyond which I cannot go.
– Then I shall conclude my remarks. I have endeavoured to prove that, owing to the enormous decrease in the value, both of our exports and imports, our revenue must seriously diminish, and consequently we cannot afford to spend money upon the establishment of a large Air Force, at any rate until the Prime Minister has returned from the London Conference to tell us’ what ought to be done in this matter.
– It seems to me that both Senator J. D. . Millen and Senator Guthrie have quite misconceived the purpose of this Bill. ;The amendment would have been a perfectly proper one to move when the Estimates were under consideration, because it was then that the approval of Parliament to the expenditure of a certain sum of money was sought.
– But there has been a very material change in the financial market since then.
– Not such a material change. Neither of the honorable senators to whom I have referred can urge that their attention was not directed to the fact that in the Estimates they were asked to vote money for the establishment of this Air Eorce. In another place both the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in a special statement upon defence expenditure, and the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), when introducing his Budget, referred to the vote of £500,000, which was proposed for military and civil aviation. In this Chamber the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) in a general statement of Government policy dealt with the same matter, and I did likewise when submitting the Defence Estimates. Parliament agreed to the vote for this purpose. Its action was a direction to the Government to go right ahead, and we accepted it as an indorsement of our proposals. Consequently we proceeded with the establishment of an Air Force, and we have been expending the money voted by Parliament for that purpose.
– There is probably very little of it left.
– Only the portion remaining for the balance of the financial year. In incurring that expenditure we have been acting in the very objectionable way mentioned by Senator Pratten. In other words, not having upon our statute-book an Act authorizing us to establish an Air Force we have been acting on regulations framed under our Defence Act. The Government agree with Senator Pratten that that is not a desirable course to adopt, and that Parliament should be asked to lay down in an Act the lines upon which our Air Force should be established. In this measure, therefore, we do not ask the Senate for authority to spend money, but merely to give us statutory authority, in lieu of authority under regulations, for the for mation of an Air Force. If the amendment be carried, we shall not save a single penny, but we shall merely continue government by regulation instead of by statutory authority.
– We can reduce the amount which is provided upon the next Estimates for an Air Force.
– That would be an effective way in which to curtail expenditure in the future. When the next Estimates are under consideration, honorable senators will have an opportunity of saying that, in the light of our experience, they will not vote a single penny for the maintenance of an Air Force.
– And in the meantime the Government will have committed itself to the appointment of officers.
– The Government will do nothing of the kind. It will con-, tinue to act under the regulations which Senator Elliott and other honorable senators have, by their actions, indorsed. I intervene at thi3 moment in order that we may get back to a discussion of the question of whether the Bill provides sound principles upon which our Air Force should be governed. The discussion of whether we are prepared to spend more money must be postponed until the introduction of a Supply Bill affords honorable senators a convenient opportunity for expressing themselves upon it.
.- For the first time upon record I find myself in complete accord with Senator Gardiner.
– We are both Australians.
– And good Australians, I hope. Senator Gardiner’s objection to this Bill is that we should cut our coat according to our cloth. I am afraid, however, that we have not any cloth.
– Oh, yes, and we have cut it, too.
– We have had the cloth. It is possible that we might borrow cloth, but I think we have borrowed as much as we could possibly get. I recognise that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) occupies a very difficult position. It is true that some time ago, when the financial stringency was not what it is to-day - because the slump wliich has come upon us has been like a bolt from the blue - we indorsed tbe air defence proposals of tbe Government. Consequently, tbe Minister cannot be blamed for expending the money which he was authorized to spend. But, under this Bill, we do not wish him to enter into agreements, perhaps with certain officers - agreements which may tie the hands of Parliament in the future. I propose to submit arguments with a view to showing that we ought ‘to curtail our expenditure for the present. Personally, I would like to see Senator J’. D. Millen’s amendment carried. I recognise that the Minister has undertaken certain works with the authority of Parliament - works which must be completed. For that he is blameless. The Bill which is now before us seeks to give effect to a part of our great defence policy. I quite agree with Senator Duncan that we must have an efficient defence policy, and I am of opinion that the maintenance of an Air Force is one of the most important parts of that policy. But we must remember that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is about to leave for England to attend an Imperial Conference upon defence matters. At that gathering this question will be threshed out by the leaders of the different parts of the Empire. Let us suppose that they arrive at the conclusion that an Air Force for the Empire is not required, all this expenditure will be as useless as has been the expenditure upon our Naval Bases. The latter were thought to be right up to date at the time they were undertaken.
– They were located in the wrong places.
– Yes, and, as a result, millions of good Australian money have been squandered. How do we know that we have not the wrong type of air ship ? The Prime Minister, we recognise, is an absolute genius; and, I think, we ought to ask him to advocate at the Imperial Conference the abolition of war through the League of Nations, or if America will have it so, through a conjunction of nations. Apparently, the Americans do not favour the creation of a super-national authority. Instead of the League of Nations, which is going to cost Australia £52,000 per year, America desires a combination of nations to prevent war. Suppose it should happen that some means’ are devised to prevent war after we have made arrangements for the maintenance of a large Air Force. The money which we have spent will then have been uselessly expended.
-Itis far better to spend money and have no war than not to spend money and have war.
– I desire to avoid both the expenditure and wax. Senator J.D. Millen has mentioned the conditions which obtained in the past, but the conditions which exist to-day are entirely different. To-day we have rapid communication by means of fast steamships. The people of the various nations are thus linked together more closely than they ever were before. An event which happens in one country to-day is known all oyer the world to-morrow, but what happened at the time of which Senator J .D. Millen has spoken, was nor. known for months afterwards. I am very anxious to see the Government proposals treated in a rational way, but I would like the Minister for Defence to give an assurance that he will incur no more expenditure than is unavoidable until we have a concrete scheme of defence before us, if that should prove to be necessary. I have great hopes . that Mr. Hughes, with his tremendous abilities, will be successful in bringing more closely together the powerful nations of the world. We all know what a maris he made for himselfat the PeaceConference. It would not take very much to bring together America, Japan, and Great Britain, and if that were done we should not require any armaments atall. I therefore urge the Minister to spend as little money as possible in that direction. If he gave an assurance to that effect I think Senator J. D. Millen would withdraw his amendment. We know that the Minister hadthe authority of Parliament to spend certain money, andit has been hia duty to dp it, but every one of us here has in the last six weeks taken an altogether different view about the financial condition of Australia.
– I can give the honorable senator the assurance that of the £500.000 voted by Parliament I shall save in this financial year - that is, I shall not expend - at least £100,000.
– The bulk of the money must be already spent, because we have only until the 30th June of the financial year to run.
– We have -wo and a half months to go, and that is on a year’s expenditure.,
– I am sorry Senator J. D. Millen is not now in the chamber, because I think the Minister’s assurance would satisfy him. Of course, the Minister has been only doing his duty in spending the money put on the Estimates. All he has to do is to see that it is spent properly and efficiently. Apart from the financial question, I have no objection whatever to the Bill, but the Minister must see that financially we are in a parlous condition. What has happened recently, as Senator Guthrie pointed out in great detail, it: spite of your intervention, Mr. President, has no doubt come upon us so suddenly and unexpectedly that things have completely changed since the Estimates were passed. Senator J. D. Millen cannot object to the Minister doing what he has done, or to necessary steps being taken, but I want to see that the power of the purse remains with this Parliament. That must be assured. We” hope, therefore, that no regulations will be passed which will carry this expenditure over the 30th June next, because in the first place we are in a financial condition that admits of no trifling. I have also great hope that the Prime Minister may by his efforts bring about something that will make this enormous expenditure on aeroplanes and seaplanes unnecessary. These are ‘points that I commend to the attention of the Minister. If the Minister gives us a clear and .explicit statement, I hope Senator J. D. Millen will fall in with our views and withdraw his opposition. We seem, to be always hearing of great .amounts of money being required, and one day we shall find ourselves in a very uncomfortable and deplorable condition. We heard of an expenditure of £52,000 for the Geneva Con.ference yesterday, and mightily little we are getting out of it so far. To-day it is £500,000 for an Air Force, and i suppose to-morrow it will be something else. We ought to ask the Prime Minister, instead of trying to heap up more expenditure on making the Navy efficient, and spending a tremendous amount on armaments, every shilling of which will be wanted for civil employment, to endeavour from Australia’s “point of view to bring the great Powers together in peaceful agreement. We are on the verge of an agreement now. England has laid her cards 6n the table, and Japan has signified her willingness to do the same, but the astounding thing to me is that the only opponent appears to be the great peace-loving United States of America. What their reasons are I cannot conceive, but it is possible that they may be shamed into joining the other Powers if prominence is again given to the question at the great Conference which the Prime Minister is going to attend. I hope the Minister will give us his absolute assurance that no more money wil’ be spent than has already been spent or contracted for, so that Parliament may retain the power to curtail expenditure if that is thought to be absolutely necessary.
. ^-1 cannot support the amendment moved by Senator J. D. Millen, because I cannot see what great benefit we should derive by postponing the further consideration of the Bill until the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) returns from England. We in Australia have never got out of the habit of seeking the advice of other countries in any big enterprise which we may think necessary for our own advantage ot protection. ‘ We pride ourselves on the fact that Australia is a nation, and has to take its place alongside the other nations of the world, and for that reason the time has arrived, and. indeed, is much overdue, when Australia should deal with her own internal affairs with such ability, wisdom, and care as her Parliaments can compass. Apart altogether from the fact that this money has been nearly all spent, as the Minister has told us, I think that, rightly or wrongly, wisely or unwisely, Australia should now take her own stand so far as the government of the country and its defence policy, whether, naval or military or in the air, is concerned. I do not. agree with the. conclusions of Senator Guthrie, who has very ably, so far as you would permit him, pointed out the financial position of Australia. I have taken an interest in Australian politics for over thirty years, and have never yet known an Australian Government, State or Federal, that was not going to run the country on the rocks. Yet we are still here, still maintaining an even keel, and still sailing our good ship of State, not very close to the wind, as one honorable senator interjects, or certainly not closer to the wind than other nations are. Our ship of State is just as well and capably steered, and just as far from disaster, as is that of any other nation on the globe.
– Hear, hear! But I do not think that that is saying much.
– It is saying a good deal, in view of the amount of money which we have had to expend during the last six years, and the great undertakings that Australia has carried out so successfully, that a people comparatively few in number has done tremendous work, both financially and in other directions.
– A great deal of the credit is dueto those who have lent us the money, and not to us for what we have done ourselves.
– Other nations have borrowed money.
– I am pleased that our credit has been so good.
– So far as borrowing money is concerned, Australia has offered as good an asset to the lenders as has any other country. Those who have lent us their money are not philanthropists, and I believe Australia would still continue to get the money if she wanted any more. I do not share the fears of those honorable senators who think that Australia is running a headlong course to ruin. I do not remember a Government in the course of my life against which that accusation has not been levelled. Those who are in power are always found fault with by those who are out and want to be in, and they in their turn are criticised. This Government is no exception to the rule. It must not be supposed, however, that I am advocating a reckless expenditure of money. Far from it. I claim to be as much of an economist, not only in defence, but in all other expenditure, as any other person. Whilst it is easy to advise the Government to stay their hand in the expenditure of money, very few people tell us exactly what expenditure should be curtailed, and what should be stopped altogether. I should not be permitted to refer to certain items of expenditure that loom in the near future, and that might, in the opinion of some persons, be profitably curtailed, although in the opinion of others it would be a crime to attempt to curtail them. So far as the Bill before us is concerned, we have lost our opportunity. The time when we ought to have curtailed this expenditure was when the last Estimates were’ before the Senate; but there is some excuse for us, because, as a rule, very little time is allowed for the consideration of the Estimates. They come down late, there is generally a rush of business towards the end of the session, and things are allowed to go through-. The member? of this and another place cannot possibly expect to escape the condemnation that falls on the Government if unreasonable expenditure has been incurred in this direction.
I had hoped that, in connexion with this branch of the defence of Australia, other methods would be adopted, and that the Defence Department and the Government would see their way to spend more money in encouraging civil aviation. I thought when the war was oyer that there would be an early development of civil aviation in this country before now, and that private enterprise would establish a service which would aid in the defence of Australia to a very great extent in time of need. There is no doubt that Australia must keep pace with other nations in the defence of its territory. I agree with Senator Fairbairn, and others, who are looking with anxious eyes and hopeful hearts to other countries to have this huge expenditure on war material ended. But what do we see all around us ? We see at least two nations running neck and neck with each other in an effort to build for themselves the biggest Fleets in the world. They are not building those Fleets for amusement, or even for the defence of their own countries. I am confident that they are doing it with the idea of aggression at some future time. There are those who believe that Australia should continue to assist the Mother Country by paying towards the upkeep of the Imperial Fleet, or in other ways, but I believe that we should build our own means of defence, including our own warships, if necessary, and certainly our own aeroplanes. I am sure that the aeroplane will be, for many years to come, a very important branch of the defence. From the knowledge I have of the processes of war, I believe Air Forces will be the most effective means of defence for any country, and should be so for this country. We are isolated in an island continent,, and in time of war we should find ourselves, as we did in the previous war, cut off from other countries for anything that we might require. In this regard I join Senator Gardiner in regretting that the Government are not undertaking the manufacture of engines for aeroplanes. I have no doubt that the other parts of an aeroplane could be manufactured in Australia, though at present we have not the necessary machinery. I know that a large number of aeroplanes have been presented to Australia by the British Government, and, therefore, the Government may be justified in pleading that at presentthere is no need to establish works here for their construction, but as a matter of policy it should be as important to have such works in Australia as it is to create the Air Forceitself. I am aware that the Bill gives authority to the Governor -General to take certain action in this direction, and I hope the Government will lose no time in the matter. We all remember the warnings that were issued in England for many years prior to the war ; warnings by such a great soldier as the late Lord Roberts, who went up and down the country preaching of the danger that confronted Great Britain because of her unpreparedness for war. Somecritics regarded him as being in his dotage, and generally people took no notice of him; but we know now that if Great Britain had been prepared for war hundreds of thousands of valuable lives would have been -saved. We ought to benefit from theexperience of other nations, and even if it does coat the taxpayer a little more, we should prepare for such a contingency, and not wait until war breaks upon us. I disagree with many of my friends who are advocates of peace at any price. I do not believe for one moment that Australia would be secure if she were not adequately prepared. I am confident that instead of preparedness for war encouraging war, it is the best possible means we can adopt to prevent war. In connexion with the Bill, there are several other points I desire to make, and at this stage I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Government Defeat in House of
SenatorPEARCE (Western Australia -Minister of Defence)[4.40]- - Certain events that have occurred in another place render it necessary that T. should move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to take advantage of this early adjournment to make a few remarks concerning the announcement by you, Mr. President, yesterday, that an early date you intended to revert to the former practice of donning the paraphernalia of your office, the wig and gown. In this connexion I should like the attention of honorable senators while I read the remarks made by you, sir. on 10th December, . 1908. I gathered from your announcement yesterday that you are only going to wearthe wig and gown now because of pressure that has been brought to bear upon you by certain honorable senators who have signed a petition; but I venture to say that if there is a desire that the President of this Chamber should appear in a regalia that is distasteful to him, the proper way to have the matter ventilated would hie by open, discussion on the floor of the Senate. Why should a secret petition be taken round ‘ for signature by honorable senators to induce the President of this Chamber to wear something that maybe distasteful to him ? I desire to read for thein formation of honorable senators the opinion which you, sir, expressed upon this question in 1908 ; views winch I have never heard you recant. In fact, your announcement yesterdaygave me the impression that you still held thorn views. This is what you said on the occasion referred to: -
– I wish to discuss the item “ Incidental and petty cash expenditure, £ 80,” in Division 1, “ The Senate.” I do not know what . this vote is intended tocover, but I assume that it is used to maintain the ridiculous paraphernalia and dress in which, apparently, the officers of the Senate are compelled to rig themselves out. I notice that the President is expected to preside in this Chamber in a ridiculous wig and gown. In fact, the only officer of the Senate who seems to be permitted to act as a sensible individual is the Chairman of Committees, whois allowed to take his chair in ordinary dress. The wig and gown of the President might have been appropriate five centuries ago. But in this 20th century they are altogether out of place. I am satisfied that the President would prefer to take the chair in his ordinary dress. It can be no pleasure to him, on a sweltering day in summer, to have his head wrapped in 6 or 8 lbs. of curled horse hair.
SenatorPEARCE. - I suppose that the President pays for his own dress.
– Who pays for the ridiculous little black stick which the Usher of the Black Rod carries when he ushers in the Governor-General!
– I suppose it is not necessary to buy a new black stick every yenT.
– It may be necessary to put a fresh coat of polish on . it every year. I enter my protest against all this ridiculous flummery. It can be no pleasure for the Clerks to have to sit in this Chamber on a sweltering day in heavy flowing gowns. They might as well wear a pair of double blankets.
– Is not the whole of this rather contemptible?
– It is contemptible that, in the 20th century, we should consent to all this ridiculous flummery. Why should we not conduct the proceedings of the Senate in a sensible way?
– Some people might consider the honorable senator’s collar ridiculous.
– It is in conformity with the customs of the society in which I live.
– Is the honorable senator in oTder in discussing on this item, the President’s wig, and the wigs and dress of the officers of the Senate?
– Until I know what is covered by the item to which the honorable senator is addressing himself, I am unable to say whether his remarks are in order or not.
– I wish to know whether this item covers the cost of the uniforms, wigs, and ridiculous paraphernalia of the officers of the Senate?
I assumed from your remarksyesterday that you had been forced to adopt this ridiculous paraphernalia, this flummery of 500 years ago, by a petition signed by honorable senators. I am sorry that this is so, and harking back to a meeting of our party in 1910. I may say that I was the only man who voted against tha abolition of the wig andgown.
– No you were not.
– You are claiming too much ?
– I am not referring to the proceedings in the Senate, but to our party meeting, where it was decided to abolish the wig and gown. I do not know why it is, but these emblems of authority have alwavs appealed to me. Perhaps it is because I think they give added dignity to the occupants of our high offices.
– You think there is something familiar about them ?
–I am afraid my classical education was sadly neglected in my boyhood. But it remains in my memory that the origin of the. wearing of the wig is said to have been something’ like this. In the, days when the gods interfered immediately in the affairs of men, a judge, having given an unjust and ridiculous decision, found that a god had caused an ass’s ears to grow out of his head, whereupon another god, favorably disposed towards him, caused his hair to grow to cover his deformity. I do not know, Mr. President, whether you have been conscious of late of any extraordinary growth. My eyesight enables me to see none. It may bethat since 1908 you have altered’ your opinions concerning the wearing of what you then termed “ ridiculous flummery.” Unless you have done so, honorable senators should not, by the presentation of a secretly-prepared petition, inflict upon you the hardship that now threatens you. Had they known that you hold the views which you expressed in 1908,. they would surely not have been so cruel as to ask you to sit in this Senate dressed in the flummery, and accompanied by the ridiculous paraphernalia which you then so unreservedly condemned. I hope, sir, that you will recognise that those are not your true friends who insist upon your wearing here a dress altogether repugnant to your good sense and judgment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19210414_senate_8_94/>.