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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - The vote for this department has been very largely increased. We know perfectly well that in defence matters the National Government is more or less obliged to accept the advice of its experts. The only comment I have to make at this juncture is that it seems to be too easy to persuade the people generally, and governments also in times of unrest, due to international un'rest, to agree to any expenditure which happens to be suggested; at the same time, when other matters of the nature of social services which appear to some of us to be of equal national importance are advocated, the cry of economy is invariably raised. Those charged with the responsibility of government in the national sphere should raise their voices in protest against such a practice, in order to ensure that at such times our people are not stampeded by the race in armaments, which is now going on in almost every country, and is merely an indication of a fear complex. Once an armament race commences, however, nations generally join in within a very short period. Whilst undoubtedly it is essential that we should provide adequate defences, we should be careful to see that we do so only to an intelligent degree. We must ensure that our defence policy is not dictated by that common fear which is now overpowering the different countries of the world. This was one of the reasons why honorable members of the Opposition declared yesterday their wholehearted support of .the appeal made by Senator Abbott for the establishment of a common thought exchange; we believe that, by such means, this psychology of fear could be counteracted. Every honorable senator, irrespective of party affiliations, will agree that, whilst a definite defence policy is essential to any country, those charged with the responsibility of framing such a policy should always keep in mind the danger of being unduly influenced by existing international unrest. We should temper such a policy with wisdom, and keep in mind that the small population of Australia can bear only a certain expenditure for defence purposes, and that we can never be justified in allowing unreasonable fear to govern our policy in this direction.

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