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Thursday, 2 August 1934

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - It did nothing of the kind. The honorable member knows that at that particular time Australia was faced with a deficit of £20,000,000, and had to effect drastic savings. The defence vote, along with other votes, had to be substantially reduced. The expenditure of £60,000 a year on. the Royal Military College at Duntroon was reduced to £15,000 by the transfer of that establishment to Sydney.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member may not discuss either the administration of, Or the expenditure, on, Duntroon upon the item now before the Chair.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I was merely drawing attention to the saving that was made. The honorable member for Bendigo could not suggest one direction in which expenditure might .be reduced while he was Commandant at Duntroon.

Mr E F HARRISON (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - On a point of order I object to the statement of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, which is entirely without foundation in. fact.

The CHAIRMAN - That is not a point of order; but the matter referred to by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is clearly outside the scope of the discussion.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable member for Bendigo raised the question, and I felt bound to reply to him. Strong objection -was taken then by members of the present Government to the abolition of compulsory military training, but when they were returned to power they continued the policy applied by our Government.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member is deliberately defying the ruling of the Chair in referring to a matter which is clearly outside the scope of the discussion. He must confine himself strictly to the question before the Chair.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Having replied effectively to the honorable member for Bendigo, I shall not pursue that line of argument. The point that I wish to stress is that 'the objection of honorable members on this side to the present proposal of the Government is based on grounds similar to those on which we based our objection when the Bruce-Page Government, in 1925, ordered two cruisers from the Old Country. We were then told, as we are now, that the matter was urgent. The members of the Naval Board at no time suggested that the particular type of cruiser then ordered should be purchased. The purchase was made at the request of public men in Great Britain, who wished to ease tha unemployment situation in that country. Yet, after a recess of seven months, we are asked within two or three weeks of the resumption of the sittings of this Parliament to agree to a proposal involving an expenditure of £2,280,000! There is general agreement in regard to the provision at Sydney, Newcastle, and Fremantle of big coastal guns, which will out-range the guns of any cruiser that is likely to visit the Australian coast. They will provide an effective means ' of defence. Then there is air defence, which, as even the layman knows, is making prodigious strides all over the world, and can be provided for very cheaply. We are entitled to know what impels the Government to bring forward a proposal that will have to be given effect by a future government.

Mr White - It will be the same government.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - That is problematical. The circumstances do not justify the committing of a future government in a matter of this kind. The present occupants of the treasury bench are not very greatly concerned with the reduction of unemployment, which, they say, is a matter for the States to handle. Members of the Labour party, on the other hand, say that if this cruiser has. to be obtained it should be built in Australia as a means of helping the unemployed. The real patriotic stand to take in connexion with defence is to see that Australia is self-contained, and able to provide all that is needed. "We have been told by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) that, if a special plant were installed for the rolling of plates, it would be in use for only three weeks. If the plates have to be rolled abroad, well and good. The honorable gentleman also said that the cost of building this cruiser would be £750,000 greater in Australia than overseas.

Mr Francis - The cost would be twice as great in Australia.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I am sure that the honorable gentleman does not mean that. Work that it is necessary to do abroad can be done there; but a large amount may be done in Australia. The expenditure of £3,280,000 being involved, it is our duty to examine the position closely, with a view, first to helping our unemployed, and secondly, to fitting Australian workmen to build all that is needed to defend this country. The view of present-day economists is that economic recovery is bound up with the doing of work in one's own country, if necessary with loan money. I believe that, if we have to borrow money, we should raise it in Australia.

Mr Holloway - From the Commonwealth Bank.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - We should obtain as much as possible from that institution. Economists like Keynes point out that every pound spent on work of this nature in the reduction of unemployment leads to an additional man being placed in employment. Thus we not only have two men working where none was working before, but we also have additional revenue flowing into the Treasury through the avenue of taxation, and the saving of the sustenance allowance for two men. It will be remembered that the building of a big Cunard liner was abandoned for a period in Great Britain because it was thought to be too costly a work to embark on during the depression. The British Government, however, lent the Cunard Company £3,000,000.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Gave it to them.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - As the PostmasterGeneral says, it was really a gift, the object being to enable the company to carry out work estimated to cost £7,000,000. The British Government recognized that the sum which it advanced would return to it by way of increased revenue from taxes. If, as we are often told, one man in work carries five others on his back, it should surely be clear to the Government that the wise thing to do is to build this cruiser in Australia. 'Considerations of that kind are undoubtedly behind the mind of President Roosevelt, of the United States of America.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the item before the Chair.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I contend that on practically every ground the Government should have this work done in Australia. The basis of the arguments of practically all economists to-day is that national recovery depends upon the replacement of the people in work. However, I suppose we must bow to the fact that arrangements are already in train for the building of the cruiser overseas.

Mr Francis - A cruiser is being built.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Apparently the Government has decided that, and committed' itself to the purchase of this cruiser overseas, without consulting Parliament. So long as a government is in office which forces Parliament to remain in recess for more than six months in the year these things will happen. Honorable members have been deprived of the opportunity they should have had to criticize the administration of the Government, and, for my part, I shall make this fact very clear to the electors in the near future.

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