14th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I have received from His Excellency the Gover.norGeneral a commission authorizing me to administer tho oath or affirmation of allegiance to members of the Senate.
Commission read by the Clerk.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have to inform the Senate that, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, the Lieutenant-Governor of the State of Queensland was notified of a vacancy caused in the representation of that State by the death of Senator John Valentine MacDonald, and that I have received, through His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, a certificate of the choice of BenjaminCourtice as a senator to fill such vacancy.
Certificate laid on the table and read by the Clerk.
Senator Courtice made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have to inform the Senate that I have received through his Excellency the GovernorGeneral, the following reply from His Majesty the King in connexion with the Address of Congratulation presented by the Senate on the occasion of the Coronation of His Majesty: -
Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia:
I have received with much gratification your message on the occasion of my Coronation. I values greatly the loyal assurances which it contains, and on behalf of The Queen and myself, I wish to thank you sincerely for your congratulations and good wishes. We join with you in earnestly hoping that the British Commonwealth may be vouchsafed the blessings of peace and prosperity during my reign. (Sgd.) Georger.I. 16th July, 1937.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Bill 1937.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1937.
States’ Grants Bill 1937.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1937.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Postmaster-General’s Department - H. D. Lodewyckx.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Darwin, Northern Territory - For Gaol purposes.
Liverpool, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Nhill, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Passports Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 93.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Attorney-General’s Department - S. A. Mathew-Dakis.
– Last week I promised Senator Millen that I would have inquiries made concerning the work and remuneration of the officials in charge of allowance post offices. I am advised that this matter is regulated by a committee of financial and other officers of the Postmasiter-General’s Department, and that an inquiry is in progress which will cover the whole field of the remuneration paid to officers in charge of non-official post offices.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been directed to the following statement of Labour’s defence policy, to be found on page 22 of the booklet published on behalf of the party by Mr. Curtin, Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives : -
The Australian Labour party expresses its greatest abhorrence of war and fascism, and urges that the Commonwealth Government should endeavour to establish and maintain friendly relations with other nations.
The right honorable gentleman will note the deletion of the word “ communism “. Also I ask, has the attention of the Government been directed to leaflet No. 1, issued by the Communist party of Australia in connexion with the forthcoming federal elections, headed: “ Why We Want a Labour Government “ ? The leaflet advances its reasons why a Labour government should be returned, and states -
The Communist party, to show its sincerity, has withdrawn all but one or two candidates, and will give full support to the endorsed Australian Labour party candidate.
If the Leader of the Senate has read these publications, can he state whether there is any connexion between the two?
Senator ‘Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I am not in a position to answer fully the first part of the honorable senator’s question, because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has not yet fulfilled his promise to supply honorable senators on this side with copies of the booklet issued by the leader of his party in the House of Representatives.
– The quotation from it made by Senator Hardy is correct.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.When I receive and read the publication in question I may be able to express an opinion.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, and I may add that my question is not inspired, whether the Support which Senator Hardy alleges is to be given by the Communist party to the Australian Labour party candidates in the coming elections is part of an arrangement under which the Communist party is being subsidized by the United Australia party and the United Country party to take this action -with a view to discrediting the Austraiian Labour party candidates? Also whether the Government’s decision recently to withdraw the prosecutions of the Communist party was in order to’ secure ite friendship and alliance with th’e Government parties?
– From my knowledge of the finances of the United Australia party - I cannot speak with any certainty about the United Country party - that organization is not in. a position to subsidize anybody, not even its own candidates. As to the latter part of the honorable gentleman’s question, the attitude of the Communist, party during the coming elections most certainly was not considered in connexion with the withdrawal of the prosecutions of members of that body.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of any arrangements whereby passengers on steamships travelling between the United Kingdom and Australia have the privilege of sending radio lettergrams at a cost of something like 5s. for twenty words to either the United Kingdom or New Zealand, but not to Australia? Will the honorable senator inquire whether this concession can be extended to radio lettergrams sent to Australia ?
– I have already made inquiries and representations in regard to radio lettergrams despatched from steamers operating the service between Australia and New Zealand. The matter is having my personal attention at the present time.
The Minister for Commerce lias supplied the following answers: -
– In view of the success of his department and its natural desire to encourage the use of telephones, I ask the Postmaster-General whether it is true that he proposes to reduce the rental of telephones?
– The honorable senator well knows that it is not customary to make statements of policy in answer to questions.
Reported Treasure Hunt tomontlivet Islands.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to a newspaper report that the H.M.A.S. Sydney has gone on a treasure hunt to the Montlivet Islands at the request of the Western Australian Go vernment? Will the right honorable senator inform the Senate where these islands are situated?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Alas for another romance ! The Minister for Defence has already declared in the newspapers that that statement is incorrect.
– On the 26th August, Senator Brown asked me, without notice, whether Sir DavidRivett, while abroad last year, had made any inquiries into the production of fuel oil from vegetable matter.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that Sir David Rivett’s inquiries in connexion with liquid fuels were restricted almost entirely to the production of oil from coal. He did, however, make some inquiries into the question of the production of power alcohol in Europe. He found that Germany and France were producing about 50,000,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum; that legislation operated in both these countries rendering compulsory the use of alcohol in fuel mixtures, but that the development of the industry is dictated by reasons of national self-sufficiency with a total disregard for economic considerations.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister’ for the Interior, upon notice -
Will itbe possible for the Government to have an analysis made of the black coal deposit near Geraldton, in the State of Western Australia, to ascertain the petroleum content of suchcoal,if a sample is forwarded?
Senator , Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer: -
Any analysis of the composition of black coal at Geraldton should be carried out in the first instance by the Government Analyst of Western Australia. If Commonwealth cooperation is desired, sympathetic consideration will be given to any representations made by the Government of Western Australia inthis regard.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Debate resumed from the 2nd Septemr ber (vide page 453) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the paper bo printed.
– In the early part of the visit of the Prime Minister and other Ministers to London in order to attend the recent Imperial Conference a suggestion was made, unfortunately, that Australia might be committed in some haphazard way to a policy of Empire defence dictated by Great Britain. Our friends of the Labour Opposition went further than that, and, in press statements, hinted that there was something sinister in the whole conception of the Imperial Conference, and that the Australian representatives would have to be very careful of what they said and did in order not to commit the Commonwealth to a widespread Empire policy. Most regrettably that suggestion was broadcast throughout Australia, but no better declaration of thefreedom enjoyed by the dominions is to be found than that of the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Mr. Savage) -
We have found no difficulties, and expect to findno difficulties, in conducting the affairs of our dominion with complete freedom and ability to carry out any policy we may decide upon.
– He is a Labour man.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Yes, and a good one. There is no hint of anything sinister in that. I suggest that the unfortunate impression created by members of the Opposition, was very illadvised and incorrect.
– Is the honorable senator attributing the statement to me?
– I am attributing it to the members of the Labour party who have said in the press of Australia on numerous occasions, that there was something sinister in the last Imperial Conference. Whether or not they were alluding to the Spanish embroglio I do not know, but the suggestion was made, and the words of Mr. Savage completely refute it. As regards Australian representation at the conference, I feel that the words of the Prime Minister fully described our position in the scheme of Empire defence. He said at page 30 of the printed report -
The dominions, however, have the great good fortune to be members of the British Commonwealth, the main source of whose military, financial and economic strength ia the United Kingdom, but to receive we must be prepared to give. ‘ Australia, therefore, subject to the sovereign control of its own policy, and without prior commitment, stands for co-operation in defence between the members of the British Commonwealth, and it has adopted the guiding principles laid down at Imperial Conferences as the basis of its policy for co-operation in Empire naval defence and for its own local defence.
I, with other honorable senators, rejoice to think that we were so ably represented at this Imperial Conference, that the subject of dominion and intra-empire defence was fully thrashed out, and a definite forward policy adopted. It will be remembered that as far back as 1922 when the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) returned from the Washington Conference on disarmament, not only the parliaments, but also the people of Australia, were veering round to agree, after the great debacle of the war, that the time had come for a policy of disarmament to be pursued by the leading nations of the world. The great desire then was that all the nations should agree to a common policy of disarmament, but we all know what happened. Great Britain, the United States of America and Japan, the principal signatories to the Washington Disarmament Treaty, fulfilled their obligations under the treaty, so far as disarmament went, by scrapping certain warships; but the treaty contained other conditions which permitted the building of new ships of war, and only Great Britain, respected the spirit of the treaty by not building the new vessels which it was entitled under the treaty to construct. The other nations continued to ‘build vessels which were modern in every respect. Although legally they were entitled to do this, it was, as I say, not within the spirit of the. conference of 1922. All this led to placing the British Empire in a condition of naval weakness in which it had not been for centuries; that was especially noticeable during the very critical period of the ItaloAbyssinian affair, when the Mediterranean was a very tender spot so far as the movement of ships was concerned. At that time Great Britain, I think unfortunately, was not able to exert its full influence on the aggressor nation, mainly owing to its policy of disarmament, which the other great powers had not followed. Now, however, the people of Great Britain and Australia have seen the great mistake which was made, and the utter fallacy of disarmament by one country when others fail to carry out the real spirit of the movement. If it has done nothing else, this conference has caused an upward tendency in defence expenditure, in order to increase our communications with the other dominions, find to solidify the .position of the British Empire. I hope that very soon the Empire will again be the leading naval power of the world. As Senator Grant interjected, it will then be of much more use and value than the League of Nations has been so far in the settlement of international disputes. It is very foolish to believe, as the members of the Opposition do, that a policy of splendid isolation will meet the needs of Australia.
– The Opposition has never preached that policy.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The Opposition’s policy of defence, with its bomb-proof shelters and so on, is only another version of the old Labour policy of the hollow log. They have simply camouflaged the log by putting a steel structure over the top, and calling it a bomb-proof shelter, but it is still the same old hollow log. No matter what they do or say, the fact remains that by their expression of belief in isolation, and their efforts to persuade the people that Australia, even when completely isolated from other parts of the Empire, can be defended, the real value of their defence policy can be gauged. We have heard, during this debate, what the position would be if the sister dominion of New Zealand- was threatened with invasion by a foreign power. Senator Macartney Abbott ably expounded that theme, and I need not reiterate what he said. We now have the opportunity, and the Government has seized it-, to push our defence policy to its utmost limit. In my opinion, it is quite time that this was done. The other matter which I wish to stress as part of Australia’s defence policy is the training of our manhood. No matter how perfect our staff may be, or how competent our ships of war and their complements, there is yet, under our voluntary militia system, great leeway to be made up in the training of our man power. Even the members of the Opposition will admit that such a training would fit in very well with their own expressed defence policy. In 1914, when many of us were called to the colours, we underwent very intensive training. From the middle of August of that year right up to the 25th April, 1915, we went through a very severe course, and even after those seven or eight months we were not what could be called a highly trained army. The first division of the Australian Imperial Force was a very competent army, but still, in comparison with other armies, we were not what an expert would term highly trained. With that experience behind us, it is very necessary to do something for the early training of our manhood, and I think that the time is very near for the re-introduction of universal training as the law of the land.
– It is still really the law of the land.
– I should have said that the existing law should be allowed to operate, and that universal training should again be part and parcel of Australia’s policy with regard to its .young manhood. “We realized that ourselves in the early training which we underwent in the Australian Imperial Force. The young men amongst us who had undergone military training under the then compulsory system showed to great advantage as against those of us who had been a little too old to come under it. With that experience in om- mind, the time is ripe for something to be done in the form of the universal training of our youth, in order to make them competent in the defence of their own country. I deplore the fact that the Labour party has brought forward such a hollow sham of a policy not only with regard to the defence of the Commonwealth, but also in relation to the whole scheme of intra- Umpire defence. I could only wish that the present leaders of the Labour party had the vision and foresight possessed by some of the older men in the Labour movement in 1910 and 1911. Unfortunately, wc do not see in the present day Opposition the statesmanship that we saw in the early days, when the great men of the Labour movement brought forward those very necessary and urgent reforms in our legislation which were ultimately of such great benefit to the Commonwealth. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues and the members of the Labour party generally, that, until such time as they return to those larger issues and eschew the pettifogging tactics in which they now indulge, the people of Australia will refuse to give them so much of their confidence as would put them back on the -treasury bench.
– I wish to comment briefly on the results shown to have followed from the recent very important conference. Naturally, the debate has related principally to defence, because, after all, defence is paramount in these days, when we find the world suffering from policies that a few years ago were almost unknown to civilized man. I should like to see a rearrangement of the system under ‘which the defence of Australia is discussed, and even controlled. The United States of America has departed from the traditional idea by the appointment of select committees of Parliament to deal with many important administrative matters.
– We have royal commissions in Australia.
– The committees functioning in the United States’ of America are entirely different from the royal commissions to which the Leader of the Opposition refers. I am speaking of Parliamentary committees. I believe that defence should be left in the hands of a committee of members of all parties in both Houses of the Parliament. Such an important subject as defence should be above party; a defence policy should be determined by the representatives of the people in both branches of this legislature. Certain methods adopted in the Parliament of the United. States of America and in the British House of Commons regarding Parliamentary committees are somewhat similar; but in regard to the Committee of Public Accounts in Great Britain they have gone, so far as to provide that the member of the Opposition, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in a previous administration shall be a member of the committee. If war were to break out tomorrow, or if Australia even threatened seriously, the complexion of the party in power would not signify much, because all political parties would support a common policy to ensure the effective defence of the country. My suggestion would bc a distinct departure from, the present practice, but I believe that such a committee could render very effective service, and the executive power would still rest with the Cabinet. Such a committee would be fully seised of what was needed if Australia had to be defended against an aggressor. Of course it will be said that the Cabinet of the day benefits by the advice of the experts in its service, but history records that many important aspects of defence have been overlooked by experts, and that valuable suggestions have been made by practical men. The memoirs of Mr. Lloyd George, who applied his practical knowledge with great benefit to the nation, disclose that during the Great War the conflict, between British Cabinet. Ministers and military experts was intense and continuous. The responsibility should be placed on every member of Parliament, regardless of party, to ensure that a sound defence policy is adopted. The present Leader of the Opposition and many members of the Labour party contend that the navy as a fighting force can be disregarded, and that Australia can be .properly defended by a fully equipped ,air force. But Australia is an island continent and its trade routes can be protected only by naval vessels. Capital ships are still regarded by the Government of the United Kingdom as essential for the protection of British interests. As evidence of the remarkable progress that has taken place in gunnery in recent years I may mention that a shell weighing one ton can now be projected seventeen miles at the rate of 1,200 miles an hour, and that ;i naval vessel, travelling at 35 knots an hour can hit a moving target over seventeen miles away. Once it was considered ;i wonderful achievement if a shell could bo. projected a mile, but during the Great War the German guns were able to hurl shells 90 miles. In the conflict raging between Japan and China Japanese capital ships are moored at exposed points and yet modern Chinese aircraft have failed to destroy or even seriously damage I’ hem. Why do the members of the Labour party support their present defence policy? They are only playing up to people who like to hoar their representatives say that they will not send men, guns or money out of Australia in the defence of this country. A t the outbreak of a war in which Australia was involved, the members of the Labour party would be forced to do those tilings which they are telling the people they will not do. Nothing could be more ridiculous than the declaration that a referendum shall be held before any men or ships are sent from Australia. Only fools would make such a suggestion. There are always some who wish to avoid the responsibility of nationhood. Which portion of the Empire carries the greatest burden in the matter of defence? Excluding the war years the proposed expenditure this year of over £10,000,000 on defence is greater than it has ever been, yet over a period of seven years Great Britain proposes to spend £1,500,000,000. and the taxpayers of that country are shouldering the burden.
– The British Government was going to impose a special defence tax but the people “ jibbed “ at it.
– The first proposal was withdrawn and another involving almost the same taxation was adopted. Senator MacDonald referred to universal training which was introduced by the Labour party.
– It was suspended by the same party.
– Universal training is not conscription.
– Conscription was defeated bv the Labour party
– .Will the Leader of the Opposition be honest enough to say that the members of his party feel their responsibility in the matter of the defence of Australia and the Empire?
I have previously advocated in this chamber a thorough topographical survey of Australia. With all the sincerity of which I am capable, I again urge the Government to have a thorough examination made of every section of the coastline of Australia and its hinterland. A committee of military experts and mcn with a knowledge of bushcraft should be appointed for this purpose.
– Would the honorable senator appoint to the committee any one with a sincere desire for peace?
– The greatest thing that we can do for the preservation of peace is to prepare against attack. The happenings of the last fifteen years show clearly that only the defenceless have been attacked. Dictators and others have refrained from attacking strong nations.
– History has shown also that the nations which think that they are strong enough to defeat other nations are anxious to show their supremacy.
– I do not know whether a survey of the coastal districts of Australia has ever been undertaken, but only recently the MacKay expedition, which visited Central Australia by aeroplane, reported that a number of lakes . and other prominent physical features are not in the positions indicated on existing maps. It may be that many of the plans of other parts of Australia are similarly incorrect, for it. must be remembered that this is a country of 3,000,000 square miles. The survey which I advocate should be continued over a number of years.
– Would the honorable senator also advocate a survey of the private wealth of Australia, with a view to its confiscation in time of war?
– Yes. If Australia were at war, the position would soon be reached when both the wealth and the man-power of the nation would have to be organized.
– That was not done in the last war.
– On the contrary, a study of post-war taxation in Britain reveals- ,
– I am concerned with what happened in Australia. In this country the profiteers got away with the lot.
– Australia also was heavily taxed to pay for the war. The honorable senator will remember the imposition of taxes upon excess profits.
I advocate also the construction o’f two main systems of arterial roads running into North Australia - one from South Australia and the other from Queensland. Concrete roads and low level bridges should be constructed where necessary. Moreover, this work should be commenced at once. Any government which wishes adequately to develop the northern portion of the continent should be willing to spend £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 in the construction of arterial roads. One has only to read The Awakening, by Mitchell, to realize Australia’s defencelessness. The author has pictured an alarming state of affairs. He describes an attack on Australia, without warning; and his picture is so vivid that the reader can readily imagine the things that he describes. Mr. Mitchell is probably Australia’s greatest war writer.
I congratulate the Government on having embarked. on a policy which provides for the building of aeroplanes in Australia. In many respects, the future of this continent depends on the development of aviation. It is probable that within the next fifty years Australia will see remarkable developments of air transport, and I am, therefore, pleased, that the Government proposes to establish the manufacture of aeroplanes here on a solid foundation. In no branch of war activity is the wastage of both men and materials so great as in the air force. Before a pilot is competent to carry out war manoeuvres he must undergo a course of hard training. Although the Government has done good work in thi® direction, much more remains to be done. I should like to see thousands of young Australians trained as air pilots and mechanics. Iri Soviet Russia the people are becoming air-minded by the introduction of up-to-date and previously un though t-of methods. During a recent visit to Queensland, I was pleased to notice that the people of that State are probably the most air-minded in Australia.
– There is a Labour Government in Queensland.
– That has nothing to do with it. We must do more, not only in the training of air pilots, but also in the recruiting of them. The training of mechanics has also been sadly neglected. The present unsatisfactory position in regard to trained mechanics in industry generally is largely due to the wrong policies which have been pursued in the past. That state of affairs must be altered. We must train pilots and mechanics. New Guinea Airways, which is one of the most successful airways in the world, has realized the wisdom of having highly trained men on its staff. That company, which has made history by carrying by air heavy dredges over almost impassable mountains to gold-fields inland, has obtained the services of a highly trained mechanic, whose salary amounts to about £2,000 a year. Before leaving on a flight, every machine is personally inspected by him. The wisdom of the company’s policy is revealed by the success which has attended its aircraft in most difficult country. We must learn the lesson and train both pilots and mechanics.
– That part of defence has been neglected.
– To a great extent, that is so. The present Government is the only Australian Government which lias <made a start towards obtaining greater .efficiency in these matters.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of the Australian navy which was started by the Labour party?
– I come now to the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. I realize that many difficulties must be overcome before this industry can be established on a sound footing, but I emphasize the necessity to manufacture locally internal combustion engines which may be utilized for defence purposes. In the event of war, our supplies of motor vehicles or parts required for such vehicles might be cut off.
It is essential also that Australia take stops to provide its own oil fuel for aeroplanes, motor cars and other defence units. Practically all the oil fuel used in Australia to-day is imported. I do not know, what quantity of oil is stored in this country, but I imagine that supplies would not bust, for more than twelve months if fresh stocks did not arrive.
– They would probably not last three weeks.
– I am glad that the ‘Government has taken step3 to produce oil fuel. The Senate will probably have before it within a few hours a bill to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth Government, the Government of New South Wales and a Mr. Davis for the development of the oil shale deposits at Newnes. Should success attend the efforts at Newnes, Australia will not be entirely dependent on other countries for fuel supplies. Why is it that, instead of wholeheartedly supporting the Newnes project, the Labour party has tried to destroy it?
– The honorable senator should not point at Opposition senators.
– The Labour party has been fighting for years for the development of Newnes.
– Then why is it that in the New South Wales Parliament, the Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Lang, tried so hard to prevent the agreement from being passed? It is useless for Senator Brown to say that “For years the Labour party has advocated the development of Newnes”, if, when a bill for that purpose comes before Parliament, that party opposes it. Oil is an essential fuel for the internal combustion engine which plays so prominent a part in naval vessels and aircraft, and yet those gentlemen who say what they would do to produce oil in Australia have done their best to oppose the very project that would make its production possible.
– That statement is untrue.
– It is true, as the honorable senator will see if he studies the Hansard reports of the proceeding in the New. South Wales Parliament.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator, pointing at the members of the Opposition, has stated that we have opposed the development of the Newnes deposits, whereas he must know that we have advocated action to that end, and have been miserably disappointed because of the failure of the Government to do anything worth while in this connexion. The Opposition in this chamber has never been guilty of that of which the honorable senator has accused it. I object to his attempting to side-track this matter by referring to the Ilansard reports of the New South Wales Parliament.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson) . - I do not think that Senator Arkins referred specifically to members of the Opposition in this Senate. He was speaking of the Labour party in a general way.
– I was speaking of what had taken place in New South Wales.
– But the honorable senator was pointing at me and my colleagues.
– Surely I can have my suspicions?
– Perhaps, but the honorable senator will not be allowed to voice them here without my protest.
– I agree that the Leader of the Opposition does not very much like the former Premier of New South Wales. In fact, I believe he dislikes Mr. Lang very much.
– He has said so once or twice in this chamber.
– I believe that he does not now like the New
South Wales Labour leader, but I remind him that Mr. Lang controls practically all the Labour representatives of New South Wales in the House of Representatives, and I suggest that the honorable gentleman might do good service to Labour’s cause if he appeared on election platforms in New South Wales to* tell the people something about the gentleman who, whenever he has a chance, does all in his power to prevent the Newnes shale oil deposits from being developed. As a rule, I appreciate the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition, and I believe that he is in agreement with most honorable senators as to the value of Newnes.
– I believe that the Government should retain control of that enterprise and not hand it over to Mr. Davis. The Government ought to do the job of developing the’ deposits.
– Now we have the kernel of Labour’s objection to any constructive project. If a proposal is mooted for the development of oil from coal, Labour members want something else; now, in the case of Newnes, the Leader of the Opposition objects to the method of control. What are the facts? Let us examine the record of Mr. Davis. For the last twenty years, he has been, perhaps, the most prominent figure in the industrial life of New South Wales. He had to his credit the establishment of the Australian gelatine manufacturing industry which is the pride of our people and the envy of the world. Industrialists everywhere are agreed as to Mr. Davis’ outstanding ability. The success of the gelatine industry is the more gratifying because, the by-products from which gelatine is manufactured were, for many years, regarded as worthless. To-day the industry employs thousands of men in all parts of Australia in its various phases, and returns a substantial profit. He has had similar success in the ship-building industry. For many years the dockyard at Cockatoo Island, while under government control, was operated at a heavy loss to the taxpayers. Eventually, Mr. Davis became interested, and from the highest possible motives, namely, to put it on a sound economic basis and give employment to Australian opera tives, he assumed control of that great undertaking. Even now the shipbuilding industry is again employing large numbers of Australian workmen and showing a reasonable return on the-, capital invested. I venture the opinion that practically all the trade unionists in Sydney, if they were given an opportunity to express their opinion., would declare that Mr. Davis was the most beneficent industrialist in New South Wales. It is now hoped that when the agreement for the exploitation of the Newnes shale oil deposits is completed, the development of the industry will be promoted along sound lines. It is only natural that before risking his capital in the enterprise, Mr. Davis should ask for a certain amount of protection from the huge oil corporations with which he will be in competition, and it is right that the governments concerned should give it to him, because he has proved himself to be a public benefactor, a man who is always ready to do things instead of talking about them.
– He expects to make a success of Newnes.
– Mr. Davis id about to engage in the business of producing oil and its by-products which are so essential for the defence of this country.
– And the Government is giving him a splendid opportunity -to become a profiteer.
– Apparently the Leader of the Opposition, having spent all his adult life in the Labour movement, has developed the mentality _ of trade union circles. He has been moving for so many years on one political stratum that he is convinced that to be a good trade unionist is the beginning and the end of everything. He is unable, to appreciate the motives of men like Mr. Davis, whose ability and energy have been directed to the establishment of industries which’ give employment to thousands of Australian workmen. If the Leader of the Opposition and his friends in the Labour movement had done what Labour leaders have done in the United States of America, for example, and had established friendly societies, hanking institutions and other organizations to ‘help the working men, we should perhaps have a higher regard for them.
I impress on the honorable gentleman that the development of industrial enterprises, such as the one under discussion, ;i rises out of the resolutions carried at the Imperial Conference, which was attended by representatives from all the dominions; in all parts of the Empire governments are now giving their attention to implementing its decisions. If, for example, the Dominion of Canada, with its population of approximately 10,000,000, decided to spend money on the development of its air defences, its action could be regarded as a contribution to the defence of Australia or any other dominion of the Empire. Canada itself is protected by the Monroe Doctrine, which guarantees the inviolability of the American Continent.
– It would be difficult for Canadian aeroplanes to play an important part in the defence of Australia.
– I know what is in the honorable gentleman’s mind, but in time of need there would be nothing to prevent an aircraft carrier from transporting a large number of Canadian military aircraft to Australia. I undestand that modern aircraft-carriers’, such as those attached to the navy of the United States of America, have accommodation for about 150 planes.
– An aircraftcarrier would have to be convoyed across the Pacific; that would be a difficult mat tei1.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman, but the same difficulties would be encountered by” the British navy in transporting military aircraft to or from any of the dominions.
I am pleased to know that the Government has established works for the manufacture of arras and munitions, and that there is reason to believe we shall have an adequate supply in time of need.
– Why not hand that job over to Mr. Davis also?
– I would not oppose that course, if events proved it to be necessary, because Mr. Davis is a man of outstanding business ability, and. actuated by the highest motives. Another essential to the effective defence of Australia is the manufacture of the Bren machine gun.
This Government has reason to be proud of its achievements during the .last five years. The gratification expressed at the Imperial Conference with reference to the constructive proposals advanced by the Prime Minister of Australia was well deserved. If we look at the Government’s defence proposals from any aspect - naval, air, military, munitions, the co-ordination of secondary industries or the production of oil - we have to acknowledge that the Lyons Government has rendered a distinct service to the people of this country. Following upon the greatest depression in the history of this country, the Lyons Government has been able to institute a remarkable defence construction programme that will redound to its credit and the credit of those associated with it.
.- It is natural, I think, that the debate on the Imperial Conference report should have centred largely in the subject of defence. The objective of the Imperial Conference was to evolve a scheme for the’ co-ordinated defence of the Empire. We sent our own Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) abroad to attend the conference, and his main job was to take the advice of the greatest experts in the world on all matters pertaining to defence, as to the best way, considering all the circumstances, in which Australia, in making preparations to defend itself, could help in the defence of the Empire. I would have no quarrel with the Opposition for the attitude it has taken in regard to this matter if its members knew definitely that the building up of our aerial defences was the best method of defending Australia; but honorable senators opposite are not competent to express an opinion in regard to this very important subject. I would not think of expressing an opinion as to whether we can best defend ourselves by building up an air force, a navy or a land force, or by a combination of the various arms. We sent our Minister for Defence to the Imperial Conference to ascertain that, and if he did his job properly, these are the very matters that he must have discussed with the greatest experts in the world, men who have spent a lifetime sur’veying the tactics and strategy of modern warfare. I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister for Defence did his job very thoroughly, and is now putting into operation a defence policy based on the advice given to him abroad. For me or any one else without a knowledge of the tactics and strategy of war, or only a very minor knowledge of them, to say that this or that is the best method of defending Australia, without heeding the advice of world experts in these matters, is nonsensical.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that one should not discuss finance because economists have expressed expert views?
– No, but I say that men who have spent a lifetime in studying defence should have a better knowledge of it than I or any layman can have, and I should certainly be prepared to trust the defence of Australia to experts.
– Experts always disagree.
– I do not know that they do. Undoubtedly there is rivalry between the various arms of the defence forces, and experts in one particular arm do not always agree with those in other arms, but, after all, it is the duty of the Minister to co-ordinate the opinions of experts and, knowing all the facts, having regard to Australia’s manpower and peculiar circumstances, finally come to a decision.
– And Parliament is not to criticize.
– It is the right of members of Parliament to criticize the policy of the Government in such matters, but before they do so they should be in possession of all the facts. Not only have strategy and tactics to be considered; supplies also are an important factor in war. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) asked when saturation point would be reached in regard to money and other requirements. I say that saturation point is safety point, and as we have not the manpower in this country it is all the more necessary for us to have proper organization not only of the muni tions of war - shells, guns and so on - but also of supplies of foodstuffs, &c, necessary to keep the civil population alive. Munitions of war mean a lot more than merely guns and shells, and I shall endeavour to indicate some of the things that are necessary. In respect of these matters laymen are competent to criticize, but I contend that criticism of the defence of Australia should be utterly without party bias.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that all munitions can be made in Government factories, and Senator Arkins has said that our existing factories are sufficiently organized to supply our requirements of small guns and munitions of war. I can assure Senator Arkins that in the event of an attack by a first-class power the whole of the Government munition factories in Australia would not be sufficient to arm one-fifth of the number of men it would be necessary to place in the field. It would, therefore, be necessary to seek the aid of private enterprise. The Government factories already established are a good nucleus, they can be the foundation of an effective organization; but the laying down of plants to turn out the big guns, rifles, shells, shrapnel, and other munitions that would be required in an emergency would entail an expenditure of from £100,000,000 to £120,000,000.
– That is not the only way ; there is such a thing in a case of national emergency as commandeering factories. The honorable senator has never heard of that.
– I was going on to suggest that we should have our factories so organized that they could be readily converted for the production of munitions when they are needed.
– We are told that they are already organized.
– I believe that a start has been made in the right direction. No manufacturer in Australia desires to make a shell or a gun or any munitions of war; our manufacturers want to know what will be required of them so that in time of necessity they can, as the Germans did in the last war, readily convert their establishments for the production of what is most needed for the defence of their country. They want to do their best, and they do not seek a penny out of it. If it be necessary to commandeer factories, well and good; but the commandeering of a factory that was not adaptable for war purposes would be childish. Many millions of pounds are being expended on the erection of factories, and so far as I know - and my information on this matter is pretty good - no advice has been given to the owners as to how they should be able to turn their factories to the production of what will be needed in time of national necessity. Australia at the moment is a thousand times better prepared to defend itself than it was twenty years ago, because of the development of the steel industry. At the time of the Great War we had no steel factories at all.
– Some steel was being produced.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited commenced the manufacture of steel in 1915, and a little steel was turned out by Hoskins ; but the total output was insignificant. We now have large factories turning out practically all of Australia’s steel requirements. At Port Kembla approximately £3,000,000 is being expended on the erection and equipment of steel factories, and in cases of emergency we can look to the works there and at Newcastle to turn out our essential requirements. What I am worried about in that connexion is that both Newcastle and Port Kembla, the keystones of our defence, are situated on the coast. I would like to be assured that the Defence Department is taking adequate steps to have these vital ports properly defended’ from attack. They are more vital to us than the big cities. If Australia were attacked and it was impossible to keep those steel works in operation, we would be in peril. Reference has been made to the production of oil from shale at Newnes. There is some comfort in the thought that a small quantity of petrol will be produced at Newnes, but it will be merely as a drop in a bucket; it will never be sufficient to meet peace-time requirements, let alone the increased demand in time of war. The Government should insist upon the big oil companies keeping on hand at least sufficient petrol for six months’ normal requirements.
– At present we have not got six weeks’ supply.
– The supply is probably more than that, although much less than it should be. Another aspect of this question which concerns me very greatly is the fact that our large storage tanks are placed in vulnerable positions on our coastline, and offer a very easy target for attackers.
– That is not so at Darwin. The oil tanks there are almost hidden from view.
– Nevertheless, -the actual position of the tanks is known.
– The Defence Department should take steps to see that adequate petrol supplies are hidden inland, and are safe from attack, instead of having the principal supplies at coastal depots which are conspicuous targets. At present a few bombs would not only destroy our reserves of petrol, but would also immobilize aeroplanes and some of our naval vessels, which are dependent upon oil fuel. ‘ I have no doubt that the experts of the Defence Department are just as alive to the necessity for protecting our fuel supplies as I am, but I should be glad to receive an assurance to that effect.
I claim to have some knowledge of the organization of the industries of this country, and am capable of expressing an opinion about them. When we talk about munitions of war, most people think in terms of guns, aeroplanes, shells and gasmasks; as a matter of fact, however, in modern warfare there are hundreds of other things just as vital as are shells and a well-equipped army. I have grave doubts that departmental officers, men trained in military matters, are the best qualified to undertake such an organization. I should like to see the peace-time mobilization of the industries of Australia, and of the necessary supplies, placed in the hands of some hig outside organizer, with a couple of departmental men to help him. The defence forces’ should be able to state their requirements to the various industries, and to ask them in what quantities, and at what times, these could be supplied. Then a man, who has been conducting a big business concern, who has been used to buying in quantities, and who knows how to set about the organization of affairs, should be made the chairman of a board to control supplies.
– The coordinator of defence in England is a lawyer.
– I am not particular what he is, but he should be used to organization, and have some knowledge of how factories work and what they turn out. Taking boots as an example, there are many boot factories in Australia, but they have not been told how many pairs of boots would be required in case of emergency or at what times they would have to be supplied, and particularly they do not know how many pairs would be required to make up wastage. In the first place, the Defence Department should be able to say to the boot manufacturers of Australia, for example. “ We want 300,000 pairs of boots in three weeks’ time, and 100,000 pairs every month after that. Can you do it ? “ The manufacturers would immediately begin to organize their factories, and allot quotas to different ones to make up the quantity required. Then they could return to the defence organizer and say, “Yes, we are right for boots.” The organizer would then ask “How are yon off for leather? “ He would have to go to the tannery people, and ask how long it would take them to supply the particular kind of leather required for military boots, and so also with boot laces, until the complete quantity required in case of emergency was assured. As I said, I do not think the Defence Department or departmental men are the best for this kind of work. Each industry should he consulted, and told how much would be wanted in case of emergency. I am sure that every one of thom would immediately rise to the occasion.
– In Victoria the whole of that information is already in the war books, and can be obtained at half a day’s notice.
– The information to which the honorable senator refers is at least twenty years old, as the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) would tell him if he were in the chamber. The Leader of the Government could tell him also something of the difficulties he had to face as minister organizing the first units that went from Australia in 1914. The records to which the honorable senator refers are not up-to-date, whatever he thinks. There has been a great development since then in factory methods and employment in the different industries, which should be taken at once into the confidence of the Government. There is no need for secrecy ; it is simply an ordinary matter of supply. If the industries were told what would be wanted, they would, always be in a position to supply the minimum, or even the maximum demand. Another example is the supply of films, which are necessary for taking photographic observations from aeroplanes. I doubt whether there is in Australia a sufficient quantity of films, or of the necessary chemicals to treat them without calling on overseas supplies. These requirements will be as essential as munitions in the next war. As I said before, the Maribyrnong factories and the Lithgow factory could not, in case of emergency, turn out the total quantity of arms and munitions required, and therefore the various steel factories and engineering establishments should have the requisite jigs and dies and machines to make up any deficiency - not that any one factory could make a particular gun or shell, but each of them could turn out some component, so that our requirements could be met whenever supplies were wanted.
We should proceed along those lines of organization. The Government may hu pursuing them already, but I do not think it has advanced very far in that direction, and the sooner a complete survey of all the industries of the Commonwealth is made the better it will be for our efficient defence. As I have already pointed out, there is no saturation point in defending Australia. The saturation point is the safety point. In calling attention to these matters I am not in any way criticizing the Government. I believe that organization is proceeding on the right lines and that the Minister for Defence, when he went to England, must have taken the advice of the finest experts available there, and has now a. policy that will be adequate for the defence of Australia.
But for the implementation of that policyit is essential that the whole of our industries shall be able to play their proper parts in a time of emergency.
. - I should not have spoken on the subject of defence but for certain remarks made by Labour members. I realize that I have a very elementary knowledge of the subject, and I think that applies also to the majority of the members of the Labour party. I regret that that party did not take the opportunity to be represented by one of its leaders at the Imperial Conference. Members ofthe Opposition have referred to the report of , the conference asa “dud”, but I venture to say that had one of their leaders gone to the conference, where he would have had the opportunity to meet the best military experts in the British Empire, who I believe are the best in the world, he would have come back with opinions entirely different from those which are being expressed by the members of his party at the moment. Like myself, they are groping in the wilderness. They have not the faintest idea of defence, and yet they propose to put out to the people a policy as something adequate to defend this country. I have followed the debates very closely, and I noticed that one honorable member in the House of Representatives charged this Government with doing nothing more than preparethe youth of Australia to be gun-fodder in the next blood bath. That is a most disgusting statement by an ignorant individual. If he had not been ignorant-, he would not have made it. I am glad that the members of the Opposition in this chamber have been too intelligent to stoop to such references, but I would remind the honorable member who made that statement that sitting on the Government benches in this Parliament are thirty odd members who are returned soldiers. They are men who have experienced the horrors of war, and I do not think that any one of them is prepared to rush the youth of this country into another war. The honorable member admitted that he was chased all over Australia to enlist, and hounded from place to place because he did not enlist. What qualifications has such a man to submit a defence policy to the electors of Australia? He knows nothing about it; indeed, very few men in the Labour party know anything about defence matters.
– Nonsense! The workers supplied most of the man-power in the war.
– Thirty of those who went to the war are sitting on the Government side in this Parliament, but all I can find on the Opposition side is one returned soldier from the last war and one from the South African war.
– The honorable senator has counted them up badly.
– The honorable senator is at liberty to make another count, and will probably find that I have erred on the generous side. I feel quite confident that the returned soldiers in this Parliament will review very carefully the defence programme put forward by the Government. Those who went overseas recently, and had the privilege of consulting with the best military brains of the Empire, must have come back much enlightened and with firm convictions as to the best defence policy for the safety of Australia.
– One of those experts organized Japan for the present conflict. That was Lord Sempill. Did the honorable member ever hear of him ?
-I do not believe that. I think the fight thatis now going on would have come in any case. The Government also has the opportunity to consult all the military experts in Australia and I am sure that the people will recognize that it has plenty of reliable material from which to mould a defence policy. The reason why the members of the Labour party refer to the Conference as a “ dud “ is that, so far as they are concerned, it is a “ dud,” because they lost a golden opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of what was taking place. Much of the information given to that Conference could not, I believe, be made available even to the members of this chamber, but Mr. Curtin or SenatorCollings was invited to go to England and attend the the Conference, and I, as an Australian, very much regret that one or the other did not accept it. It would have been a great thing for Australia if the whole Parliament could have tackled the defence problem on a national plane.
– We jibbed at the silk stockings, knee breeches, and satin coats.
– There was no need for the honorable senator to wear them. He lost the oportunity of a lifetime. Had he gone to the Conference he could have come back, and dealt with defence matters intelligently. Ho would have known something of the subject r.e is tackling that he does not know to-day. Surely defence is not going to be made a party political issue at the elections? But if I am to take notice of what Ihave seen in a certain little blue book, that seems very likely to happen. The Labour party says that the great difference between its policy and that of the Government is thatLabour advocates air defence, whereas the Government regards’ the navy as the principal arm. I do not think there is a great deal of difference in the expenditure proposed on the air force and the navy. The amount to bo provided for the navy is £3,616,000, whilst for the air force, if civil aviation, which must be an arm of the air force, be included, the total vote is £3,612,000, or a difference of only £4,000. Provision is made in the naval programme for the construction of at least one seaplane carrier to work in conjunction with the air force. Defence should not be made a party issue at the forthcoming general election.
– The party to which the honorable senator belongs wishes to make it one.
– That is not so. As I usually read Hansard from cover to cover, I am able to learn the views of the members of the Opposition in both Houses on the subject of defence, and it makes me shudder to think what would happen to this country if, by some miracle, the party now in opposition should be given the right to occupy the treasury bench after the next general election. The Australian people realize that the Labour party lost a golden opportunity when it declined to send its leaders in this Parliament to attend the important functions associated with the Coronation. I support the motion, and sincerely trust that the Government has already started to give effect to the defence programme it has laid down for the present financial year.
.- I join with Senator Marwick in expressing regret that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin) and the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Collings) declined to accept the invitation to visit Great Britain during the Coronation ceremonies. I realize that Imperial Conferences are attended by the representatives of the British and dominion governments, but provision should be made for accredited representatives of all parties in Parliament to attend such gatherings at which matters of vital importance to the Empire are discussed. I agree with Senator Arkins that it is ridiculous for members of the Labour party to say that a Labour government would not allow forces to be sent overseas until a referendum had been held.
– There is nothing about a referendum in the policy of the Labour party.
– The Leader of the Opposition knows that the blue book which outlines the policy of the Labour party states that the party will not supply our defence forces outside the Commonwealth “Except by decision of the people. “ The only way in which the decision of the people can be ascertained, is by means of a general election or a referendum.. If any portion of the British Empire were attacked by one nation or a group of nations, we would disregard our political differences and organize the facilities at our disposal with the sole object of defending our interests. It would be stupid to suggest that while the Empire was at
Avar Australia should adopt a policy of neutrality. Does the Leader of the Opposition think that if Britain were attacked one of the dominions could remain neutral and that that neutrality would be respected by the enemy? A declaration of war against Great Britain would be a declaration of war against all parts of the Empire. Even if Australia declared that it would not send troops over- seas to participate iri war, such, a declaration of neutrality would not he heeded by the aggressor.
– We have not suggested anything so ridiculous.
– During the general election in 1914, the late Mr. Andrew Fisher said that if Britain was at war, Australia was also at war, and that Australia would send not only the last man but also the last shilling. That statement is as true to-day as it was then.
– That settled him. The Australian people would not stand that.
– The party led by Mr. Fisher won the election; its policy in regard to the war was approved from one end of Australia to the other. Later a split in the Labour party occurred over the conscription issue, but many members of the party who supported the policy that had been enunciated by Mr. Fisher remained in control of the Government of the Commonwealth for several years.. If Britain should again be engaged in a major war, Australia would again have to organize its forces to defend this portion of the Empire.
– That is the point; we should defend Australia.
– But the Leader of the Opposition contends that no troops should leave Australia. I trust that it will not be necessary for forces to be sent overseas, but it is better to defend Australia in the territory of the enemy than to allow it to destroy our cities and kill, perhaps, thousands of innocent women and children. Those engaged in modern warfare have no respect for individuals, and women and children are very often the first victims. I do not think that the Labour party will gain a single vote from intelligent persons by putting forward its present defence policy.
I deplore the statements made in this chamber and in the House of Representatives that certain nations are potential enemies of Australia. I have heard veiled references to our neighbours in the far east; but there is no justification whatever for assuming that any nation is our enemy.
– Is that the reason why this Government proposes to spend £30,000,000 on defence?’ It must regard some nation as a potential enemy.
– At present, the Commonwealth is doing only what practically every other nation is doing. Australia, as a portion of the British Empire, must do its share. One of the nations referred to by some as a potential enemy of Australia has been an extraordinarily good customer of ours for some years past.
There has been some discussion as to whether Australia should fall into line with Great Britain or should pursue its own course in matters of foreign policy. It is true that the dominions have the fullest possible independence and the most complete self-government, but I doubt whether it would be wise for them to exercise their undoubted right to make independent foreign treaties. In my opinion, the British Empire should have only one foreign policy. It is better that all the dominions should meet at the heart of the Empire with representatives of the Mother Country, and formulate one foreign policy for the Empire, than that each dominion should negotiate its own treaties. At the moment I am not referring to ‘trade treaties.
– The Prime Minister recently suggested a Pacific pact.
– Australia has adopted the White Australia policy, believing that it is in the best interests of this country, but does the Leader of the Opposition imagine that South Africa or India is in full sympathy with that ideal ?
– I am sure that they are not; indeed, the Empire as a whole is not.
– Even Great Britain, with its millions of coloured subjects, cannot view this matter as we in Australia do. Were Australia to exercise its undoubted right to follow its own policy in its dealings with other nations, and, as a consequence, become involved in a conflict arising from its White Australia policy, does the Leader of the Opposition think that the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations would be enthusiastic about coming to our aid in the upholding of that policy? The several dominions would be more likely to get into trouble by acting independently than by walking in step with the rest of the Empire.
Senator Allan MacDonald said that it might become necessary at some future date to re-introduce military training of the youth of this country. I understand that at the moment sufficient young men are coming forward to keep the units which are operating under our present defence scheme at full strength, and that, therefore, it is unnecessary under present conditions to reintroduce compulsory military training. There is, however, much to be said in favour of teaching the younger generation something of .what they would have to do if ever they were called upon to resort to arms in the defence of their country. When on Gallipoli in the early days of the war, I had an opportunity to see the effect of having untrained men sent as reinforcements to battalions which had incurred great losses in the early stages of the campaign.
– As a result of British guns and munitions being used by the Turks.
– Many of the men who were sent to Gallipoli to reinforce battalions which had suffered heavily at Lone Pine and elsewhere were insufficiently trained. At Shell Green I myselfsaw men who, almost immediately afterwards were sent into the front line trenches, being instructed in the loading and unloading of rifles. Their lack of training resulted in heavier casualties than would otherwise have been caused.
– Untrained men are more likely to shoot their own companions than any one else.
– The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has announced publicly that he is satisfied with the numbers of men who are enlisting in the various units at the present time. Indeed, some units - I refer particularly -to technical units in Queensland –actually have a waiting list. No shortage of men exists at the moment. I think, however, that great advantages would accrue from the introduction of some form of physical training along the lines of the exercises for which Sweden is famous. I advocate, not so much drill of a military nature as is practised in many older countries, as the physical training of our youth.
– It would be better to ensure to them jobs and three good meals a day, so that they might become physically fit.
– That is what we all want to ensure. The Leader of the Opposition knows that young men who are fit physically are more likely to obtain jobs than are those who are under-nourished and under-developed. A scheme of physical training such as I suggest would assist many of the lads who are now out of work to obtain employment. The honorable senator is not alone in his desire to see the youths of this country in employment. I take it that that is the desire of us all, irrespective of the political party to which we belong. From my own experience, I assure the Senate that one of the reasons why there are so many persons unemployed in Australia is the enactment mainly at the instigation of the Labour party, of legislation dealing with apprenticeship. There are jobs awaiting trained men which cannot be filled because sufficient trained men are not available. That is true particularly in the iron and steel industry. Employers are unable to obtain sufficient skilled men for their requirements, because of the legislative restrictions which have been placed on the number of apprentices who may be. employed. One of the best ways to overcome this difficulty would be the subsidizing of industry to allow more and more lads to be trained as tradesmen. Unfortunately, too many young men are not skilled in any trade at all. There are in Australia too many unskilled workers, and too few skilled tradesmen. I could name half a dozen concerns in Queensland which could give employment to skilled men if they were available. In order to obtain them, advertisements have been inserted in newspapers circulating in New South Wales and Victoria. If the Leader of the Opposition goes to western Queensland during the forthcoming election campaign and makes investigations there, he will find that there is plenty of employment awaiting men who are willing to work as station hands. Senator Brand said that numbers of young men who wished to join the citizen forces were rejected because of physical unfitness. If those youths, many of whom were rejected for some temporary physical deficiency, such as insufficient chest measurement, were given an opportunity to attend free gymnasiums, they themselves, as well as the country, would reap on advantage.
I deplore the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that . the recent Imperial Conference was a “ dud “. Had rhe honorable gentleman availed himself of the offer made to him to visit Great Britain as a member of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation, he might have come to a different conclusion. In my opinion it would be a good thing if the leaders of His Majesty’s oppositions in all the parliaments of the Empire were given the opportunity to attend such conferences, for then I believe that much of the criticism which is now indulged in for party political purposes would not be heard.
– In the very full discussion which has taken place on the subject of the Imperial Conference, a good deal of heat has been engendered. Many members of the public, speaking for the most part with their tongues in their cheeks, and 90 per cent. of. the conversational reports regarding the delegation to Great Britain which have appeared in the press from time to time, roundly condemn these visits, which they describe as “pleasure trips at the public expense.” Indeed, the political opponents of the Government have coined a new slogan - “ Join theU.A.P. and see the world “. When they are more fully conversant with the work done by the conference they will be satisfied that Australia has received full value for the expenditure incurred. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), who, shortly after the return of the Prime Minister, said that the deliberations of the conference were of little value to Australia, now admits that some good may come from it, although he qualifies that statement by saying that the work could have been done as well through the ordinary channels of communication. But every one knows that conferences are the accepted method for the discussion of differing views, and that decisions of conferences are of great value.In this country, all organizations, be they political, social, or national, meet in conference once a year or more often at some agreed upon centre, and the members of those organizations regard the decisions as essential to their progress. This being so, how much more essential is it that the. widespread dominions of the British Empire should likewise confer from time to time as to their common policy and relationship with the Mother Country? As we pay homage to one sovereign who is domiciled in the British Isles, it was appropriate that when representatives of the dominions were gathered together to take part in the Coronation celebrations, they should also discuss matters of vital concern to the Empire as a whole.
The impression which one gained from the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), was that the delegates of all the dominions realized the seriousness of the Empireposition, and that defence was of major importance in order to discourage potential aggressor nations.
I have no doubt that members of the Australian delegation were well informed on this subject before they left our shores, but it is certain that they returned with a very much fuller knowledge of world conditions, and fully determined to co-operate with the other dominions in any scheme for Empire defence. It was early realized that, to be effective, there must be no overlapping of Empire defence schemes, and that each dominion should evolve proposals making possible the rendering of mutual assistance. I am fully convinced that, in presenting a summary of the conference proceedings, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), did not desire to stampede the people of this country into the acceptance of the Government’s proposals. All the right honorable gentleman did was to present the world position in its true light.
Even critics admit that every party must have a defence policy, and the Leader of the Opposition has promised to supply honorable senators with copies of the famous little blue book, issued under the authority of the Leader of the
Opposition in the House of Representatives, in which, are set out what our Labour friends are pleased to term their “ adequate “ defence policy. We differ with them as to the interpretation to be placed on the word “ adequate “. Labour’s defence policy is purely one of home defence ; it does not envisage assistance being rendered to any other dominion. This has been on the platform of the Labour party ever since I have had anything to do with politics, and it seems to me that in the course of time it has become somewhat threadbare. Consequently, our Labour friends have deemed it necessary at this juncture in world affairs, to add something to it in order to make it acceptable. Therefore they declare that no member of the Australian defence forces shall be sent overseas until after the taking of a referendum.
– That is not in, our platform. ^Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yes it is, and I understand it has caused the honorable gentleman and his colleagues a good deal of inconvenience. During his speech on this motion the Leader of the Opposition himself alluded to the taking of a referendum.
– No; I referred to a decision of the people.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.And that means the taking of a referendum. Now the honorable gentleman wishes to disown that statement.
Most honorable senators will recollect the referendum taken in 1917 to decide whether or not Australian men should be conscripted for Avar. I shall not now discuss the merits or demerits of that proposal, but shall content myself with the statement that, on the occasion referred to, the verdict of the people was very definitely in the negative. Our Labour friends were quick to appraise the significance of that vote and I have no doubt they realized that it might be of some use in the future. That momentous decision convinced them that an appeal to the people on a similar issue would evoke the same reply ; so they have added to their “ adequate “ defence platform this provision relating to the taking of a referendum.
There is a division of opinion as to the best means of defence in the event of war. Some people regard the military forces as paramount, others consider that we should develop the air force, and still others hold to the belief that a strong navy would be a determining factor. It is, I think, beyond doubt that a strong naval force is necessary to protect our trade routes and transport foodstuffs and men, if necessary, to the theatre of war. We should also bear in mind that a strong navy may be instrumental in determining where the theatre of war shall be. That, to my mind, is worthy of a great deal of consideration. No country, as Senator Foll has pointed out, would desire to see its women and children slaughtered and its industries devastated by war. All would prefer to meet the enemy somewhere else than in their own country. In 1815, when Napoleon was rampant over Europe and appeared likely to destroy established civilizations, Great Britain did not wait until the aggressor, having dealt with his enemies on the Continent, could turn his attention to England itself. There was then no talk of a referendum. The British Government acted promptly and at Waterloo, in alliance with other European powers effectively destroyed Napoleon’s power. A similar decision was made in 1914. When German troops were moving to invade France the British Government did not wait till the Germans had crushed France and were ready to cross the Channel to invade England. England and France, acting in concert, took military measures to prevent the German armies from reaching their objectives and we know with what result eventually.
This idea pf taking a referendum to implement Labour’s defence policy is absolutely brand new, not only to Australia, but to the world ; and Senator Brown, who usually is not at a loss for words, found some difficulty in answering the devastating criticism of the Leader of the Senate, of Senator Hardy, Senator Dein and other honorable gentlemen who exposed the extreme folly of Labour’s proposal.
– The situation must have been unusual for Senator Brown to have been at a loss for words.
– It was most unusual. I think Senator Brown must have forgotten, as the Leader of the Opposition apparently had forgotten, that this is only a child, a weak and sickly child that they will not be able to rear.
Our delegates at the Imperial Conference were prominent in the debates and we, as a dominion, are now preparing hy our defence provision to substantiate the utterances of our representatives and to prove that theirs were not empty words. We are showing that we are ready to co-operate with the other British nations for the defence of the Empire as a whole. I feel sure that I shall not be regarded as parochial when I appeal to the Government to see that at least some of the proposed defence provision is, wherever practicable, distributed in the smaller States.
I congratulate the Government on the Newnes agreement, which I hope to see validated by legislation during the present sittings of the Parliament. I agree to a great extent with what both Senators Brown and Arkins have said in regard to this important new industry. I ask the critics of the agreement to realize what ample supplies of petrolmean in modern transportation, even in peaceful times ; and how much more they would mean in time of war. ‘ I feel sure that if the critics of the Newnes agreement would consider the question from that angle they would be quite satisfied that in. time of war, petrol would be cheap in this country at any price. I hope that the Government will pursue its policy for the establishment of industries for the extraction of oil from coal, vegetable matter, or any other source. There is no reason why the extraction of oil from shale should, be confined to New South Wales. In Tasmania there are large deposits of shale, and having regard to the constant . agitation by members of the Labour party in the House of Representatives, that the shale deposits in New South Wales be worked, I am rather surprised that no effort has been made by the Labour Government in Tasmania to exploit the shale deposits in that State. The Adelaide Oil Exploration Company, which has spent large sums of money in research and experiment in connexion with shale deposits in Australia, has asserted that the Tasmanian deposits would yield 48 gallons of oil to the ton of shale, a better output than is promised at Newnes. I urge the Government not to confine its attention to the Newnes project, but to give equal consideration to the development of shale deposits in all the States.
– And keep the industry in its own hands.
– Not necessarily. Personally I do not want the Government to keep it in its own hands. In my opinion, the function of a government is to govern, not to trade.
– The honorable senator is a good old conservative; he does not march with the times.
– Queensland marched with the times, and later sold all the government enterprises.
– Western Australia tried various government enterprises but could make a. profit only on pubs.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Another important subject dealt with at the Imperial Conference was the nationality of women, a problem which had considerable attention at the last preceding conference. Legislation has since been enacted to give to women in Australia, and New Zealand improved nationality rights, and I hope that as a result of the recent conference that reform will be extended to other parts of the Empire. , The conference also discussed the matter of further Arctic exploration. I do not know very much about whaling, and I do not think much will come of the proposals for the commercial development of the Arctic.
– Other countries are making a lot of money out of it.-
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.I agree that that it is so. A suggestion was also made that a meteorological station should be established in the vicinity of the South Pole. Weather reports issued from such a station upon which long range forecasts could be based would be of great value to a country like Australia, large portions of which have sparse rainfall and irregular seasonal conditions. Empire trade was also discussed. The original term of the Ottawa agreement, which has’ been of great advantage to Australia, and the benefits of which we shall continue to reap, has now expired. I understand that there is to be a conference of representatives of the British and Australian Governments on the trade relations of i he two countries, and, I feel sure, that the result will be of great benefit to Australia, despite the fact that there are some who believe that’ we do not profit by sending representatives to conferences of that hind. The very important subject of Pacific shipping was also under consideration ; there is need for cooperation between British countries in regard to shipping as in regard to many other matters. I suggest that, instead of reducing the number of conferences between the Mother Country and the dominions, it would be to our advantage if more of them were held.
Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia [5.53]. - I do not propose to deal with this subject in detail to-day. As it appears to me, the. Imperial Conference dealt in generalizations rather than in concrete and specific details, and I propose to follow the same line. At the outset, I want to refer briefly to our representation in Great Britain, and its cost. On the question of cost, I would say, shortly, that, if the work be well done, the cost is a matter so negligible as not to be worth consideration. I have no reason to believe that the work was not well done. I happened to bo in Great Britain while the Imperial Conference was sitting. . Whilst that, of course, does not necessarily give me any special knowledge, I was able to look at the work of the conference perhaps from an angle different from that of other honorable senators. I know, as a matter of fact, that the Prime Minister was very cordially welcomed on the other side of the world. The representatives of the British Government would indeed have welcomed cordially any Prime Minister of Australia, of whatever party, but it was natural that a country, the people of which are so courteous and so insistent upon straight dealing in financial matters, should very gladly welcome the Prime Minister of Australia who, himself, has always been courteous, and who, six years ago, gave to the whole of the world an example of what rectitude in public finance means. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), of course, is an old friend of many people on the other side of the world, and the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) also had been there before. Australia is indeed fortunate in having as High Commissioner a great Australian, Mr. Bruce. Sometimes, I am afraid for political reasons, there is a tendency to attack that gentleman. I, myself, was in Parliament with him, and was substantially a follower of his, although I had frequently reasons to disagree with him; but I had not quite realized until I went to England this time, how great a position our former Prime Minister holds in the opinion of the world. Mr. Bruce is, without question, regarded in Great Britain as a very great man, not because he is an Australian, but by virtue of his own intrinsic qualities. Australia is very fortunate to have such a good representative as be is occupying the position of High Commissioner.
In discussing the reports of overseas delegations, I always wish that one could say a fuller word about the public servants , who have accompanied the Australian representatives. It always seems a little hard that members of the Public Service who attend these conferences should be collectively dismissed with the general tribute that they had done good work. Anybody acquainted with these matters knows that sometimes the chief largely depends upon the work done for him by his assistants, and while to group -them collectively as having done good work may be sound in principle, I am of opinion that a public servant who has done specially good work may get individual recognition.
The real advantage of the ‘Premiers Conference was that it brought the whole of the Empire together in a way hardly ever achieved before. The coronation year is an historic year in the life of the Empire, and whilst the actual coronation was the crown of the coronation proceedings, the “parliamentary proceedings that followed it were also on a very high level. They started with the meetings of the Empire Parliamentary Association; at the lunch in “Westminster Hall 800 members of parliament sat at table, and the King for, I believe, the first time in history, attended and addressed the gathering. These proceedings were followed by the Imperial Conference. At the first plenary meeting the chairman, in the course of his opening speech, said -
Though we shall discuss other important subjects we are agreed that the questions of foreign policy and defence shall be our main subjects.
That in itself accounts for the fact that, as one reads through the report, one finds it somewhat nebulous in its conclusions, and somewhat general regarding the subjects with which it deals. That is quite inevitable, and does not mean in the least that very valuable work may not have been done. It surely should be obvious
I hat, at a time like the present, foreign affairs and defence, which are so interlocked, are in their very nature subjects that cannot be discussed in public in the fullest detail. I have never been one of those who believe that open diplomacy is a possibility where you are dealing with other nations. It is obvious that you cannot say frankly and fully all that you believe to be the case. You cannot, for instance, speak specifically of what nations might be a potential enemy, because those thing3 would be an. affront and an offence to the people concerned. That is one of the last effects that one desires to cause. There must, therefore, also be a certain amount of reticence when we are dealing with armaments, and with all the implications of possible war. You cannot give the statistics of all the dominions, or their inmost thoughts, or tell the world at large the difficulties that there may be in bringing them .all into line. You could no more do it in a parliamentary paper than by speech in the Senate. It is not to the advantage of peace, and it is not to our own advantage, that these disclosures should be made.
– Why not admit that, and not suggest that the honorable senator’s party has the lot?
– I speak my own opinion, which may be entirely wrong. All I ‘am trying to explain is that to me the fact that there is no more concrete achievement in this report, in the matters of defence and foreign affairs, is, in the nature of things, inevitable. These things cannot be placarded to the world.
– Does not the honorable senator think that Parliament should know thom?
– No. 1 do not, although I am a member of Parliament.
– Then everything should be kept secret?
– I do not want to evade the question, but i. desire to keep to my main theme, which is that a certain amount of secret diplomacy is always necessary.’ Does the Labour party make no use of secret diplomacy? Even we, .as members of Parliament, do not always blurt out everything we think in the broad light of day. If the honorable member does, he must be very nearly alone in that respect.
I spent some weeks on the continent, where I went to half-a-dozen different countries, and the one thing brought home to me most forcibly was that the rearmament policy of Great Britain had done more towards the peace of the world than anything else that has happened for very many years. One heard, not only while abroad, but after returning, from people who had also been abroad on every side, that the very fact that w© had rearmed, and that our aims and intention? were so obviously peaceful and not warlike, had the greatest effect over the whole of Europe at least. It made those who were inclined to be aggressive a little less so, and it made those who thought they might have aggressiveness applied to them somewhat less timid and more anxious to combine with one another than they had been in the past.
– It did not stop Japan and China fighting, nor Italy in Abyssinia.
– I am speaking of about March and April of this year, long after the Italo- Abyssinian affair. The reason why wars of aggression were likely to happen was the fact that we had not proper power behind our statements. Had we seen to it that we had that power, as I have urged all through these later years that we should, it is possible that these things might not have occurred at all. But, whether that be so or not, if there was one fact that I came back from the other side of the world absolutely certain of, it was that the British rearmament policy, for purely peaceful purposes, had done more for peace than had anything else for years past, and that, if we make our proper contribution to the same end and in the same way, we shall have done more to achieve peace than by splendid resolutions about the brotherhood of nations, and all that kind of thing, which really, at the moment, are very little credited on the other side of the world.
– That kind of resolution is a bit too Christian. In the honorable senator’s material world, there is evidently no room for Christianity.
– I entirely join issue with that statement. I admit that there is still plenty of room for Christianity at the present time. We should try to face facts. There is too great a tendency to pick up phrases and to emphasize them. We ‘are told, for instance, that we have the nucleus of seven divisions in Australia at the present time, but everybody knows from our statistics, which are open to the world, that wo have hardly one division. Possibly, two. would be the absolute maximum, if we took in the whole of our militia. What then is the use of talking about the nucleus of seven divisions? I quite agree that we must have materiel, as well as personnel. I heard Senator Leckie’s interesting speech to-day, but he approached the subject solely from the stand-point of what could bc turned out by the factories; but said not a* word about who were to wear the boots required, or who were to fire the guns to be provided. After all, you cannot do anything with these articles unless you have somebody who knows how to use them. I do not suggest that there is any difficulty about using boots, but certainly there is in the use of such things as machine guns. I do urge that we should try to remember that it is not only a matter, and it is not even mainly a matter, of supplying work for people, nor is it a matter of what material the country can provide. I am not interested in producing oil from shale for war purposes. I am interested in seeing that this country is made safe, and that is what some people will not come up to. They will not realize that you cannot defend a country unless the people are trained to it. They say, “ Oh, well, let us produce this and that “. Senator Arkins was somewhat of an offender in this way this afternoon, when he said, ‘Let us produce motor cars, let us produce aeroplanes, let us produce oil. from shale “ - no doubt all excellent things in themselves, but costing enormous sums of money, and possibly not of very much use to us then, unless we have the personnel which can make the most effective use of them, particularly when we remember that we have by no means sufficient people in this country. That brings me, just in passing, to a point which is omitted from the report of the proceedings of the conference. Deal with defence certainly, and deal with foreign affairs, and it is eminently desirable that we should co-operate with the rest of the Empire - those are the people who are most likely to co-operate with us - but do not forget to discuss at least the matter of migration. I can find nothing about it in this report. If Australia is back in the position which the Treasurer claims for it in the very first words of his budget speech, there ought to have been at least some discussion of migration. I noted about the time of the Imperial Conference that the English papers were calling for such a discussion.
– The honorable senator will probably receive very soon a document on the subject.
– I have already received a document from Great Britain. Many people there regard migration as one of the essential features of defence. I think they are right. . One of the things that we cannot ignore in the proper development of the Empire is the necessity of easing the over-crowded parts a little, and strengthening the parts which have very few people by more personnel.
– In other words, ship your unemployed about the world, keep them on the move, in order to solve the problem.
– The honorable senator would say that we should have nobody in here until all those already here are provided with jobs.
– One hundred and twenty men were sacked last Friday in Canberra alone.
– After all, either we or our parents came into this country. ‘ What right have we to say that people from the same Empire shall not do the same?
– We do not. We say that we should find jobs first for those who are here.
– Such an attitude does not come decently from us. The Leader of the Opposition says on the question of defence that we should not lot anybody go outside Australia to fight. It is written in our Defence Act that nobody is by it compelled to go outside Australia, but, putting that question aside, what a mean policy it is. If we were attacked here, should we not be looking for every man that Great Britain or any other part of the Empire could provide to come to our assistance? Then, are we going to sit bore and say, “ Yes, we want you to help us, but we will not give you a man if you are attacked “ ? That is a poor-spirited, mean way of looking at the matter.
– We say that our first job is to defend this country, which is part of the Empire.
– And we say we defend it best by defending the British Empire as a whole. The honorable senator recently gav6 statistics regarding Empire defence, showing per capita expenditure as follows: New Zealand, 12s. 7d.; Canada, 5s. 7d.; South Africa, 3s. 5d.; Australia, 21s.10d. I have looked up the British figures, and, on the basis of this year’s Estimates, the per capita amount for the people of Great Britain is something like £3 10s. Under the loans which have since been floated, it will raise something like £2 a head for each of the four years, so that the total is more likely to be £5 10s. or £6.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should come up to that?
– I suggest, at least, that whilst we are doing much better than some other parts of the Empire are, we are making nothinglike the contribution that the Old Country ia making. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 6.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 September 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19370907_senate_14_154/>.