Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 23 November 1938

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) .- I intend to confine my remarks to two subjects: first, defence, which gave its name to this budget, and, secondly, a subject, closely allied to defence, but not of such moment - migration. A great deal of the concern that is being expressed to-day by the public and of the criticism that has been directed against the Government in respect of defence is to a certain degree mis-timed ; because defence entered the minds of this Government in the early days of its existence. As soon as money became available as the result of increased earnings by the Treasury from the improved economic conditions,' the Government immediately began to tackle the defence problem. It can look back with satisfaction on the fact that in the early days of its career it set aside £4,000,000 as a trust fund for the purchase of defence equipment. Honorable members can also call to mind that two or three years ago, when concern was expressed about the inability of Australia to obtain first-class fighting aircraft, the then Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, to whom great credit is due, investigated the possibility of the manufacture of aircraft in Australia, with the result that we have to-day at Fisherman's Bend a. factory for the supply of aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force. More to-day than at any other time in our history, except in the "great war, the people of Australia are interested in the subject of defence. They have been called out of the apathy from which they should havebeen called long ago. This concern for adequate defence is typical of the British people throughout the British Empire. The people of this country, in common with the people of Great Britain, desire a more vigorous defence policy, one that will not only guarantee security, but also make the Empire so powerful as to enable it to speak in the councils of the world in such a way as to counteract the policies of certain other powers. In September, there was a crisis of such magnitude that, until the eleventh hour, it appeared that Aus- tralia would, with the rest of the world, be, against its wish, involved in war. It was realized then that we possessed an inadequate navy - in fact some naval vessels were in dock undergoing an overhaul and, consequently, were incapable of putting to sea. It was also alarming to find that the Royal Australian Air Force did not possess one aeroplane which could be described as strictly modern, and that, with the exception of a small permanent force to man our fixed defences, there was no military force to safeguard Australia against an attack by a raiding force. When these facts percolated into the minds of the people there was a sudden awakening among them to the need of the country.

Almost since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles certain countries have adopted a policy which cannot be described as other than armed blackmail. That policy has on every occasion been successful. I' cite, for example, Vilna, Corfu, Manchuria, Abyssinia, Austria, and Spain. Who will doubt that Germany and Italy have not had more than a finger in the Spanish conflict pie? Undoubtedly they aim at power in the Mediterranean. The culmination took place at Munich where we had what, in some respects, was a. sorry spectacle of three nations meeting to determine what should be done to Czechoslovakia, a small democracy which, since its inception, had been loyal to the spirit of democracy, and had treated its minorities better than minorities are treated by any other country in Europe - undoubtedly better than they are treated in Germany, the country which demanded some reparation for the disabilities which it alleged were suffered by the German minority in Czechoslovakia. Germany is to-day treating a minority within its population in a way which is an affront to God and man. On the debit side two things emerged from the Munich discussions: first, that the small country of Czechoslovakia was to be carved into pieces for the benefit of the larger country of Germany, and secondly, a loss of prestige of democracy throughout Central Europe. On the credit side we have to take into consideration that, for the first time in world polities since the policy of armed blackmail was adopted, the democracies came to the point of discussing terms and prepared, if necessary, to back their demands by force. That aspect possibly marks the turning point in world, affairs in what may be termed the post-war era. We have to remember, however, that on every occasion the policy of power politics lias been attempted it has been successful and the prelude to a further step forward. After the Munich conference the Prime Minister of Great Britain returned with what was thought to be a policy of peace within our time; but recent world events are such that peace is again threatened. Democracies are being played by Germany one against another in a very clever manner. In the matter of colonial possessions that nation is even attempting to play the dominions against one another in order to weaken the British Empire. In the East and in the Mediterranean trouble might easily occur. With these facts before us is it any wonder that the Australian people are demanding an efficient defence policy?

For some time we have been carrying on under the voluntary system, and we pay tribute to those public-spirited youths of the militia forces who render such valuable service to their country. In dealing with the present system, and particularly the period in which trainees are in camp, I shall enumerate some of the faults of the system; because it is only by so doing that we can effect improvement. Under the present voluntary system the training period is only twelve days a year, although it has been suggested that that period is to be increased by six days. In criticizing the present system I am not speaking, of course, from the point of view of a military man; I am endeavouring to discuss the problem in a common sense way. [Quorum formed.] If a -soldier can be trained in fourteen days, or even three weeks, I have no hesitation in saying that it must be a " mug's job ", because I know very few avocations in which a person can be brought up to a state of efficiency in such a short period. I would not even suggest that a man could be regarded as competent to milk cows after fourteen days' experience in the cow-yard. However, I know that a soldier's task is by no means a simple one. and that ample time must be provided for. training purposes. I remind honorable members that a few d-ys ago Major.General Squires, when referring to a contemplated increase of the militia forces from 35,000 to 70,000, said that to have a militia force of 70,000 men does not means that we shall have 70,000 trained soldiers. That is the first fault that I have to find with the present system; we are not producing trained men. Moreover, only 60 per cent, of the men enrolled in the militia attend camps regularly, and during the half-day camps the personnel varies considerably. What efficiency can be expected under such a system? By increasing the numbers we enlarge the system, but we are not increasing its efficiency. It is a colossal waste of money to embark upon ti more extensive scheme of voluntary training when the basis on which it is built is unsound. We should get down to sound principles and remove some of the faults that exist. It will be useless to induce increased numbers to join the militia unless the men arc properly trained. I should prefer to see a force taken from the 70,000 of 20,000 or even 10,000 men who would sign a definite contract to place themselves under military orders and to attend a camp for at least three months in the first year, three weeks in the second year aud a fortnight, as a refresher course, in the third year. The others could be learning the fundamental work of the military system. If that policy were adopted, wc would then have at least a number of fairly well-trained men. Under the compulsory system trainees were brought to camp and made to fulfil their obligations, but there is nothing under the present voluntary system which places men who do not attend on the days set aside for training under military orders and makes them subject to military control. I can see no reason why this defect cannot be remedied. It would simply mean the signing of a contract that would embody ' military discipline by the military trainee. It is only by compelling the full complement to attend regularly for training purposes that any progress can bo made and an efficient service established. If there is to be a changing personnel, and a marked varia- tion in the knowledge possessed by trainees, progress is definintely hampered. One of the best features of the compulsory system is that a record is kept of the names of trainees, their physical condition, their occupations and, should the occasion arise, the centres at which they are to report. Such groundwork must be of inestimable value in the event of a crisis. The system which is known as the national register could be adopted under the present scheme and so achieve as near as possible the same results. Again, a small standing army might be provided. I believe that honorable members on this side of the chamber - although they may "not believe in the present system - would be willing to help the present drive for additional trainees if something of the kind suggested were adopted, because they would have the knowledge that, in doing so, they would be assisting to establish a force that would bc of some value to Australia. By merely strengthening the militia on the present basis, we are merely tinkering with the problem, and preventing the establishment of an effective force. In. (September last, we were faced with a crisis almost overnight, and another similar crisis may como upon us at any time. In these circumstances, Australia should have a military force sufficiently strong to repel an invader. I have always supported the compulsory system, but have believed until recently that, with our limited means, we could not carry out the policy effectively. During recent months it has been suggested that we should adopt a single age unit. It appears now that it is practicable for us to embark upon this system, but, once again, efficiency must be secured. My idea is that we should take youths of 18 years of age, an age when military training would interfere least with their private lives and one at which they would be much more susceptible to the assimilation of military knowledge than any other, and train them in camp for three solid months with a refresher course of three weeks during the next year and a further refresher course of a fortnight in tho following year. That would ensure that we would have a reasonably well-trained army always at the beck and call of Australia for its defence in time of emergency. If that system were adopted, youths could be trained cheaply to a high state of efficiency and would be ready to give a good account of themselves if the need arose. It might still be necessary, of course, to have, as I said earlier, some small standing force. Mr. Liddell Hart, a well-known writer on military tactics, dealing with the professional army that is always available in case of need, and always in constant training, as against the citizen or conscript army which is trained only for a sufficient period to allow of real proficiency being exhibited, writes: -

Aprofessional army may be reckoned as ready for instant action and as tetter trained. The importance of training has increased with the elaboration and mechanization of modern warfare, but, on the other hand, ir is noc so purely military. Thus a civil technician, of many kinds, may have an increased military value and adaptability. This fact benefits thu country with a conscript army according to its industrial development. Again, the latter can expand its strength far more, and far more rapidly. Classes of conscripts who have completed their "active" service within recent years, and are receiving annual refreshers, can take the field efficiently almost at once

In the opinion of that gentleman, it appears a system that provides for adequate training, but which does not necessarily mean a standing army with all the expense involved, may be the best and cheapest system for Australia to adopt. Even though I believe that the compulsory system is the only proper and correct one to adopt, I am prepared to help forward the voluntary system as the second best scheme, but I sincerely hope that when the Government announces shortly the improvement of its present militia system, it will initiate a system which will take us along the road to efficiency, one that we can genuinely support, conscious of the knowledge that we are doing something to satisfy the Australian people on this most important point of policy and settle their fears to some degree by the provision of an efficient force to look after the security of this country.

I pass now to migration, which is a subject, as I said earlier, very closely allied to the subject of defence. One of the most striking points in the secondreading speech of the Treasurer (Mr.

Casey) on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was that if the present birth-rate in Australia is maintained, the population of this country, forty years from now, will begin to decline. That is by no means an outlook which we can face with equanimity.

Mr Rosevear - What is the honorable member proposing to do about it?

Mr HUTCHINSON - It is not an outlook which we can face, as some honorable members opposite do, in a highspirit of levity as if it were of no moment that this country should be more densely populated. The present immigration policy is designed to endeavour to attract to Australia people of British stock. I am quite in agreement with that policy, as indeed most honorable members are, but we must realize that in the Old Country, and, in fact, in most civilized parts of the world, the birth-rate is also falling. Unfortunately, it seems, that the birth-rate falls along with the advance of civilized education. In a recent book entitled, The Future British Empire, the author, Mr. Piddington, after a careful survey of the question, said that on present indications the population of ' England and Wales will have declined by 1975 to 31,480,000. If that is a fact- and after all one has to pay a certain amount of regard to figures of this description - and with the knowledge that other parts of the British Empire are also in urgent need of increased population, it appears to me that if Ave arc to increase Australia's population to the maximum it is capable of carrying, that is, between 30,000,000 and 40,000,000-

Mr Brennan - Oh!

Mr HUTCHINSON - Apparently the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who comes from the city of Melbourne, judges the absorptive capacity of a country by the miles of paved streets, and the number of brick buildings and alleys in the cities. I believe that the capacity of any country to carry a population is the extent of its natural resources in the shape of minerals, and the capacity of its agricultural areas. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that I believe Australia could carry a population of between 30,000,000 and 40,000,000 on a fairly high standard of comfort. If that is the position, and assuming that the present position as we know it to-day in Great Britain continues, wo have to face the fact that if we are to increase the population of this country to its capacity, we cannot confine ourselves to migrants of British stock, and we shall have to permit aliens to come to Australia to help us do the job. That will mean the lowering of the British content of Australia, but it would be within the power of this Parliament from time to time to fix the .point below which we would not allow the British content to fall. "We should be thinking along these lines at the present time. Having decided to admit foreign migrants, the question is the type to be selected and the basis upon which they should be admitted. The principle we are applying to immigration to-day is one of admitting, first of all, British stockland then, so long as certain landing money is in the possession of migrants, to allow them to come into Australia by the consent of tho Minister for the Interior. Any variation of that very anaemic policy goes from the Minister to the Cabinet room, and from the Cabinet room to this House. We have, however, no really long-term policy on this subject. To-day we have the spectacle of a steady stream of immigrants of a type which the majority of the people of Australia do not want. There are two main theories in the world regarding the policy of race?, the theory in Germany of complete Aryan purity, and tho policy of the open door adopted by the United States of America, a policy of " no d discrimination " which has resulted in people pouring into the United States of America from all countries of the world, leading to a most peculiar position. The United States of America lias become a nation almost incapable of being able to adopt any distinct straight line on foreign policy, and having other difficulties of an almost insuperable character. I do not believe in either of these theories. On the contrary, I believe that there is a middle course which might be pursued. We have to look at the history of the British race, from whence we .have sprung, to try to obtain a sensible con,ception of what our policy in regard to immigration should be. Honorable members are aware that if they are to look for the home of the Anglo-Saxon stock, they have to look a good way from the United Kingdom. The Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danes came from the continent, and Britain was invaded by these races in succession. Last of all came the Norman conquest, and out of this admixture of races was evolved this great imperial race which is now known as the race of the British peoples. The British peoples therefore came from a mixture of races who were conquerors, and were peoples of a fine type who readily blended to produce a great people. If we are to seek an increase of the population of this country, we should allow it to be populated if not wholly, at lea3t to the greatest degree, by people who will readily mix with us, inter-marry with us, and who over the years will gradually absorb into one entity. This being the case, I think we have sooner or. later to adopt a quota system as applied to immigration. I do not mean that we should adopt a quota system of the sort adopted by the United States of America, under which migrants equal to 2 per cent, of the present population ; divided into races, are admitted. If wo applied such a policy as that, Ave would be merely working away from the desired end. Again the migration system in the United States of America depends for its existence on most expensive consular machinery in all parts of the world, machinery which we could not afford. My idea is that we should fix the percentage of types of migrants that should be admitted on a basis agreed upon. Let me put the position more clearly. Suppose we decide to admit to Australia year by year 25 per cent, only of Southern Europeans of the total number of - migrants offering. It would not matter very much how many alien migrants came into Australia, we would admit them in the proportion of approximately three of Nordic extraction to one of Southern European extraction. I think this is a most important subject. There is, in Australia, at the present time, a gentleman who has recently returned from New York as Australian Trade Commissioner for the United ' States of America. I refer to Mr. Dow. Not long ago I. heard a broadcast over the national network on this subject by Mr. Dow. He said, in effect, that if large numbers of Southern Europeans were allowed to enter Australia it would result in a serious .interference with our standards of- living and culture. He spoke from a wide experience of the United States of America, which country could probably teach us more than any other country of the world on this subject. Yet", apparently, it is proposed to allow Southern Europeans to enter Australia in practically any numbers, although they do not readily, absorb with the Australian people. I am not so fearful as some honorable gentlemen opposite about the effect of immigration on unemployment. I am much more fearful that we may reach a condition of stagnation in Australia. If we do so, we shall bo faced with a more serious unemployment problem than is ever likely to develop otherwise. Stagnation in national affairs undoubtedly causes depression. If the policy which I am advocating were adopted no damage need necessarily bo done to our relations with other countries of the world. If we decided, for example, to limit the number of Southern 'Europeans entering this country in accordance with some quota system which has relation to Nordic countries, or even which has relation to the comparative populations of different countries, international antagonisms need not be awakened. I assert emphatically that we should not continue to admit into Australia the people of other races without having a considered policy on the subject. If we do so, we shall create a problem similar to that of the United States of America. Further, a policy in regard to this subject must have associated with it some definite principles to ensure that the aliens shall be distributed throughout the Commonwealth. They should not be allowed to settle in national groups in different places and there develop their national characteristics and traditions if such a position can be avoided.

One of the most effective ways to ensure the assimilation, of alien peoples with our own is a common press. I say emphatically and distinctly, after some personal experience of the United States of

America, and some consultation with people overseas who have studied this problem, that we should not allow newspapers to be published in Australia in foreign languages. To-day newspapers are being published in the Italian language in north Queensland, and streets in our towns even bear Italian names. It is an altogether wrong policy to permit the development of these tendencies. We need a national press which will express the national sentiment. I have no desire to interfere with the culture of the Italian people, or of the people of any other foreign country. I would not place an embargo on the importation of foreign books, newspapers and magazines, and would not interfere with the teaching of foreign languages in our schools. In fact, I should like to see bilingualism practised in Australia far more than it is to-day; I believe Australia will absorb people more through a common press than by any other means. When I was in Canada some little time ago I was surprised - and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) can bear me out in this - to discover that after some hundreds of years there were politicians, in the provincial parliaments who could not address their audiences in English. They spoke in French, and a French that was far from pure at that.

Mr Frost - Is not the honorable member aware that a newspaper is published in English in Russia?

Mr HUTCHINSON - Yes; if is a propagandist "rag" intended to distort the minds of unthinking English travellers in Russia. The problem which I am now discussing has developed to unhealthy dimensions in South -Africa, and has even been observed in some degree in New Guinea. I know that steps were in contemplation to curb the publication of a newspaper in a foreign- language in that territory.

The best way to assimilate people of a foreign race is to oblige them to read a common press. Our newspapers should be published in English. They should express the traditions of the British race, and describe our mode of living and manner of thinking. We shall make a fundamental error, such as was made in the

United States of America, if we permit the publication of newspapers in this country in foreign languages, and keep alive minority elements that may seriously disturb our national unity.

Suggest corrections