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Thursday, 3 November 1910

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) 4-35]-- }ye have to look back only a short period to ascertain the reason why we have arrived at the position which we occupy to-day in regard to the naval defence of the Commonwealth. Ever since the inauguration of the Federation, the question of the form of defence which should be adopted in Australia has been a fruitful theme for discussion. In 1901 the matter was referred to the Admiral on the Australian station - Admiral Beaumont - who reported to the Prime Minister that for the adequate defence of the Commonwealth we ought to rely upon a cruiser fleet. He went so far as to indicate the number and the class of vessels which were required in this connexion, but nothing further appears to have come of the project. Subsequently the idea gained ground that our most effective form of defence lay in a torpedo flotilla. If honorable senators will peruse the records relating to this matter they will see that a report was obtained from Captain Creswell as to the number and class of these craft which would be required for the effective defence of the Commonwealth.

Senator Pearce - A report was first obtained from a Committee of local officers, and subsequently a report from Captain Creswell.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Exactly. But I do not propose to discuss those reports in detail. I merely wish to point out as briefly as possible the reasons which have impelled us to conclude that for the adequate protection of Australia it is desirable that we should have a sea-going fleet, the services of which may also be utilized in the defence of Imperial interests generally. Honorable members will recollect that in 1.908-9 the question of the naval strength of Great Britain was brought prominently before the House of Commons. Brassey' s Annual, for 1909-10, contains a very succinct account of the position which then arose. It says -

This was the condition of affairs in regard to Imperial defence when, on 16th March, 1909, statements were made about the naval strength and resources of Germany by the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty on the introduction of the Navy Estimates for 1909-10. The gravity of the international situation was made clear in a speech by Sir Edward Grey in a debate on the vote of censure brought forward by the Opposition.

It then proceeds to narrate the action which was taken by the New Zealand Government, and continues -

The question of Imperial defence was thus raised in a most acute form, and, on 22nd March, the Government of New Zealand telegraphed an offer to bear the cost of the immediate construction of a battleship of the latest type, and a second of the same type if necessary.

I have heard it stated more than once in this Chamber that the question of the naval strength of Great Britain was merely raised by the Opposition in the Mother Country with a view to belittling the policy of the Government in the matter of naval construction as compared with the developments which were proceeding in Germany. I recollect perfectly well - because I was in London at the time - the manner in which the debate was initiated. It arose purely as the result of the action of the Government when the Naval Estimates were under consideration, and I have always been impressed with the idea that that action was taken for the purpose of stiffening the backs of some of their supporters who were Little Englanders, and who did not recognise the necessity for Great Britain continuing her naval preparations for the defence of the Empire. They failed to realize that the position of the Empire was not by any means so secure as it was generally supposed to be until the matter was placed before them in such a lurid light. Previously, the general impression was that Great Britain was maintaining her two-power standard, and that she was keeping well to the fore in the matter of naval supremacy. It came as a revelation to many persons in the Old Country to learn that the strength of the fleet of Great Britain was rapidly being overtaken by Germany, as the result of the vigorous policy of construction which, had been adopted. This position was accentuated by the speeches of members of the Ministry; and Mr. Balfour, the Leader of the Opposition, joined with them in urging on the people the great necessity which existed for England waking up. That circumstance evidenced that, whatever differences of opinion may exist between political parties in the Imperial Parliament, upon the great question of defence they are absolutely united. No doubt there will always be divergences of opinion as to what steps should be taken for the ade- quate protection of the Empire. But when once a nation has awakened to the fact that its integrity may be assailed owing to an inadequate defence system, it is only natural that it will strain every nerve to maintain its power and prestige. It is absolutely necessary that it should do so, even if the task absorbs the whole of its revenue for the time being. New Zealand was not the only country which at once recognised the necessity for some steps being taken to assist the Motherland. In Australia a strong feeling was aroused, and a. similar desire was exhibited. Although the Government of the day, headed by Mr. Fisher, were not prepared to adopt the proposal to present a Dreadnought to Great Britain, they indicated their willingness to assist the Mother Country to the extent of their last man and their last shilling. Both in Sydney and Melbourne the question of contributing a Dreadnought to Great Britain was taken up with considerable energy by a large number of leading citizens, and a very substantial sum was collected towards the project. But it soon became apparent that it would be impossible to find a sufficient amount by means of private subscriptions to pay for a battleship which would cost about £2,000,000. However, as the Commonwealth authorities would not take steps in that direction, it was definitely arranged between Victoria and New South Wales that those States should do so. However, as all those know who have followed up the history of this matter, a change of Government took place, and a Dreadnought was offered to the Imperial Government by the succeeding Deakin Government. The outcome of the offer was that an Imperial Defence Conference was convened in London, of which the proposal that has since been taken in hand by the present Minister of Defence was the out- come. That proposal was that, instead of presenting a Dreadnought to the Mother Country, and allowing Australia to continue to contribute £200,000 a year to the cost of the Fleet in these waters, we should undertake the construction of a unit, and pay all the expenses connected with the manning and equipment' cif it. At that time it was in contemplation that the Go- vernment of Australia should be assisted to the extent of £250,000 of the estimated cost of the upkeep, maintenance, and sinking fund of the ships to be purchased, and it was also contemplated that they should be built by means of a loan. I understand, however, that it is not the intention of the Government of the day to seek any assistance whatever from the Mother Country in regard to the manning and equipment of the unit; whilst, instead of borrowing the money and contributing to a sinking fund for a series of years, it is proposed to pay for the vessels out of the current revenue of the country. That is a question of policy that has already been debated, and I do not propose to reopen it just now. There has, however, been considerable difference of opinion as to whether this is really a policy that originally commended itself to the party that is now in power. The fact is that, in 1909, the Labour party indicated a desire on their part to defend Australia ; but, as I understand, the policy of the party at that time was not to provide great ships to traverse the deep waters of the ocean, but rather to defend the coasts of this continent by means of a torpedo fleet. Mr. Fisher, in his Gympie speech, stated that it was the intention of (he Government to provide twenty-three vessels of this class, which would be stationed at various portions of the coast and utilized to maintain the independence of Australia.

Senator Pearce - In co-operation with the Imperial Fleet.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - When I turn to the speech delivered by the Governor-General, at the opening of the session of 1909, I find that in dealing with the matter of defence Ministers, representing the party at present in power, enunciated their policy as follows -

Recent events have shown the necessity for the Empire to develop new centres of strength, and with this end in view my Advisers some time ago cabled to the British Government suggesting the advisability of a conference of theselfgoverning Dominions of the Empire with the Government of the United Kingdom on the question of Naval Defence. A similar sugges- tion having been made by the Dominion of Canada, the British Government has now convened an Imperial Naval and Military Defence Conference, and has invited the Commonwealth to send representatives. The invitation has been accepted, and the Minister for Defence has been appointed as the representative of the Commonwealth. He will be accompanied by naval and military experts.

The Government also went on to say in paragraph 12 of the Governor-General's speech -

As a contribution towards Imperial naval defence and for the more effective coastal defence of Australia, engagements have been entered into for the building of three modern torpedo boat destroyers, and you will be asked to approve of a policy of naval construction for the building in Australia of similar vessels as well as for the training of crews to man them.

I am sure that we all heartily re-echo ihe sentiment underlying those pronouncements of policy. The result of the Conference which was held later on, was that, instead of deciding to build a small fleet of torpedo vessels primarily for the protection of our coasts, it was determined to launch out in another direction, and to provide in a more effectual manner for the defence of Australia, recognising that a battle involving the defence of the integrity of Australia may have to be fought out very far from Australian waters. The only way in which Australia can be protected is by maintaining the supremacy of the British Empire upon the oceans of the world. If that supremacy went, the integrity of Australia would go with it,' and this country would soon fall under the domination of some other Power.

Senator Stewart - Why should that be?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am not going to debate that question; but I may remind the honorable senator that the present Minister of Defence has shown clearly enough that he recognises that our integrity is maintained by virtue of the Union Jack, under which we have the honour and privilege to live. Brassey's Naval Annual, dealing with the Conference of 1909, says -

Mr. McKennasaid, "They must helphow and when they decide it best," and Lord Esher added the advice, " By developing individually as centres of naval strength and developing in such a way as makes for the closest possible coordination between their navies and that of the Old Country." An entirely novel note was struck on this occasion in the discussions on naval defence which took place between the representatives of the Dominions and the Admiralty. For the first time a sympathetic desire was shown by the Home authorities to bring about such an arrangement as might co-ordinate the aspirations of the colonists with the strategical needs of the situation.

This authority goes on to say -

On all sides a determination was apparent to harmonize differences and arrive at an understanding upon which definite action could be taken for the provision of such maritime defence as should give a sense of security in peace time and prove effective help in time of war. lt is further pointed out -

The spontaneous offers of the Dominions were to materialize in the shape of armoured cruisers, which would considerably strengthen the fleet: for the protection of commerce and coasts within the Eastern and Pacific waters.

Another question arises in connexion with the establishment of the Fleet. The' Minister of Defence, in moving the second' reading of this Bill, pointed out that this is really a case of a Fleet being provided by a nation within a nation. The desire is not to establish a separate Fleet, but a Fleet which will be able to co-operate with the Imperial Navy in maintaining the integrity of the Empire. The one great principle which must underlie the whole of that policy is that whatever we may do in time ot peace - whatever force we may develop - our naval unit must be placed unreservedly under the control of the Imperial authorities in time of war. There must be no question of shilly-shallying then; no question of saying that the Commonwealth authorities will have to consider the propriety of the war, and whether they are prepared to allow our ships to leave Australian waters. Clear and unmistakable evidence must be given to Great Britain, and to the whole world, that this Navy of ours is not going to be an independent navy, but an integral portion of the great Imperial Navy of Great Britain.

Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - It has to be remembered that in time of war, foreign Powers, if they attacked vessels of the Imperial Navy, would also attack ours.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- Undoubtedly, if the Imperial Navy is attacked, we shall be attacked. Some may be foolish enough to say, " We should keep these ships upon our own coasts, instead of allowing them to be placed under the control of the Admiralty authorities in the event of war." But it must be impressed upon our people that the defence of Australia will probably be determined hundreds of leagues away from the Australian coasts, and far removed from immediately Australian interests. In accordance with that idea, the Minister of

Defence has made provision that the training of our men shall be on exactly the same lines as the training of men in the Imperial service; that our men shall be subjected to the same regulations and to the same rules of warfare, so that when the forces come together, there will be no trouble whatever with regard to their working and fighting under one command. On. this point Brassey's Naval Annual says -

Local squadrons having a separate or isolated existence could never attain to the requisite standard of efficiency. Such squadrons would be a source of weakness and not of strength. But squadrons or groups of ships provided locally, manned locally, and using local bases; ships useful for defence and of sufficient range of action to protect the local water-ways - these groups linked up one with another, and with the Imperial fleet, would, in a large measure, fulfil the strategical requirements, and, at the same time, satisfy the national wishes of the children of the Empire oversea.

Then he goes on to say -

On the horizon of the future, we may picture a fleet in which are representative, ships from Australia, New Zealand, perhaps South Africa, and possibly India, as well as from the Old Country - a fleet partly Imperial and partly Dominion-owned, but. with one discipline, one. organization, and one flag ; a fleet of eight or ten cruising battleships with their auxiliaries, which would make periodical visits to the ports of each portion of the Empire represented in its composition.

I am glad to believe that the Minister recognises .the importance of this consideration, and that we shall not have in Australian waters what some people erroneously imagine that we are seeking to have - a local navy . that will be independent of the Imperial Navy. I have heard people say, in regard to this matter, " When you have a navy of your own, what good will it be?" It can be of no use by itself. But it can do a great deal of good if worked in conjunction with the Imperial Navy. I hope, in the not far distant future, to see additions made to our Fleet from time to time. People have to realize that we have to do our part in the defence of the Empire. Some years ago Mr. Chamberlain spoke of the Mother Country as a weary Titan bearing upon her shoulders a vast burden, almost too great for her to sustain. Probably the burden would become too great if it were confined to the nation residing within the limits of the United Kingdom. In view of the steps now being taken by foreign nations comprising huge populations to build great navies, the task may be beyond the Mother Country if she is to undertake it alone. But her Dependencies and Dominions should look upon it, not merely as a right, but as a privilege, to take their part in maintaining the integrity of the Empire to which they owe so much. We form an integral portion of the Empire, and we are not subject to, but are on equal terms with other portions of it, and no distinction is drawn between us and other members of the Empire. The Ministers spoke of the ships that are being built, and referred to the chief vessel of the Indomitable type as likely to be completed by the end of 1912. There are other vessels of the Bristol type to be constructed, and I think the honorable senator said that some improvement was to be made in connexion with these vessels.

Senator Pearce - They are now to be of what is called the Yarmouth type.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Speaking of the Bristol vessel, Brassey says -

The weak point of the Bristol class is the armament, which is very poor for cruisers of nearly 5,000 tons displacement, and compares unfavorably with the present armament of the Eclipse class (eleven 6-inch guns); of ihe German Hansa class (two 8.2-inch and eight 6-inch), which are only 600 to 800 tons larger. It may be doubted whether the Bristol could even fight a merchant-cruiser armed with ten or twelve 6-inch guns. Speed is- doubtless a valuable element for a cruiser intended for the protectionof commerce ; but it may be too dearly purchased. It is useless to be able to overtake your enemy if you cannot fight him when you catch him.

In view of this expression of opinion by such a well known and recognised' authority, the Government are wise in leaving the Admiralty authorities a free hand to adopt any improvement they think desirable in the construction of the other vessels. Every year great improvements are being made in guns and ships, and I have no doubt we shall be supplied with a better class of vessels than we originally anticipated. We shall obtain the latest and most up-to-date vessels that can be secured for the expenditure we are prepared to make. I presume that these smaller vessels will have the important work of assisting in keeping the highway of the sea open for our commerce. Though our shores should be inviolate, we must fall hack as a nation if the highways of the sea are not kept open for our commerce, because we must have an open road to the markets of the world.

Senator Stewart - They must get our wool.

Senator Chataway - They could do without it for a long while.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - They could do without our wool for a longer time than we could afford to do without payment for it.

Senator Stewart - No, we could last longer than they could.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Even so, we should ultimately succumb, and we do not want to be put into that position. We cannot expect to keep the highway of the sea open with our Fleet alone. We must recognise that it will form only a unit of the Pacific Squadron, and can only render assistance in keeping the highway of the sea open for our commerce. We must also recognise that it will be necessary that we should adequately protect our principal ports and naval bases. Wherever the principal naval base of Australia may be, it will be necessary for us to render it practically impregnable, so that if it should become necessary our ships may go there for the purpose of refitting with perfect safety. When, in 1905, the defence of Australia was considered, the necessity for naval bases, and the adequate protection of them and of our principal ports, was strongly emphasized. It was contemplated at that time that probably the only attack we should have to meet would be from lightly-armed cruisers. It was not thought that we should be called upon to face an attack of a more serious character in the immediate future, and it was suggested that 6-inch guns would be as effective weapons as we should require for the defence of our naval bases and forts. I am glad to learn that the Minister quite realizes that the position of affairs in 1910rr is very different from the position in 1905-6. Some of the most important developments have since taken place in connexion with the type of ships and guns adopted by foreign Powers, and what a few years ago might have been looked upon as practically impossible has now become quite possible, and we may have to defend our ports against a very much superior class of vessel than was anticipated six or seven years ago. While many of the Home ports were protected by 6-inch guns, these have been supplanted by 9. 2-inch guns, which are now considered the most suitable weapons for the purpose, and it is considered that guns of this class are now necessary for the protection of our naval bases and ports. Though attacking vessels might approach more nearly to the coast of the United Kingdom than they could to the coast of

Australia, it has become necessary for us to see that our fortifications are equipped m an up-to-date fashion. Recently I had an opportunity of reading an article which appeared in the Royal Artillery Journal, published in May last, in which the writer laid some stress upon the need there is for improving the class of arms hitherto adopted for defence purposes. I feel quite sure that by the time he gets the whole of his reports in the Minister will realize the great importance of materially strengthening the existing equipment for the defence of our fortifications. I am not prepared to go so far as to say that the whole of our fortifications are antiquated, or that the guns are obsolete and useless, but I do say that it is urgently necessary that the whole of our fortifications should be carefully inspected, and should be armed with more up-to-date weapons than we have at the present time. While it is necessary that our fixed fortifications should be properly equipped, it is equally necessary that we should have an adequate land force to meet any possible landing of an enemy at a distance from a fixed fortification. It would be futile to prevent the enemy entering at the front door if he were given an opportunity to enter by a back door and use his guns to shell our cities or ports. The experience gained in the RussoJapanese war showed that it was possible for Japanese vessels to pour shells into Port Arthur from a position in which they were immune from attack by the forts." We must see to it that we are prepared to defend ourselves against such an attack. I do not intend to go into the details of the Bill at this stage. The Minister has pointed out that it makes provision for many of tt te matters to which I have alluded, but to may be necessary to introduce some slight amendments when we get into Committee. Whilst there is power taken to place our vessels and men under the control of the Imperial authorities and to assume the control of vessels and mcn from the Imperial authorities, it is provided that they shall be subject to the regulations " as far hs' they are applicable." That leaves us in some doubt as to the nature of the control. My own impression is that the control should be so absolute and complete that there can be no mistake as to what it means. There should he no doubt as to whether the Commonwealth Government will place their ships and men under the absolute control of the Imperial authorities, certainly in time of war. This is a matter which should be made quite clear. The Bill very properly provides for the establishment of naval training colleges for those who will enter the service of our Navy. I am glad in this connexion to recognise the fact that a large sum of money subscribed in New South Wales towards a proposed offer of a Dreadnought to the Mother Country is to be devoted to assist in the defence of Australia, and will be used for the establishment of a training college. 1 am glad to think that the persons who subscribed that money never asked that it should be returned, but have patriotically agreed that it should still be devoted in aid of the defence of Australia. My own impression at the time was that some of the money might be used to provide one or two modern up-to-date field batteries which I know would be of very great service to the Commonwealth. I am glad to recognise that, owing largely to the patriotism of citizens of New South Wales who contributed money so generously for Imperial defence it will be possible for us, at an early date, to establish a training college for our navy. The site of the college has been settled, and I think, very wisely. It is to be established at the place which has continuously been the naval base of Australia up to the present time. The Minister has told us that one of the cruisers is to be built in the Commonwealth.

Senator Chataway - Put together here.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - No, it is the torpedo boat destroyer that is to be put together here. The Minister has said that the materials required for the construction of one of tM cruisers are to be obtained, and it is to be constructed here by our own people. The object is to determine whether it is not possible for Australia to take in hand the construction of the greater number of the vessel's of war we shall require. No doubt there will be rivalry among the States for the honour of constructing these ships. While I believe that there is a strong desire on the part of the people in Victoria to do all they can to assist in that regard, I would remind the Minister and the Senate that in Port Jackson great facilities for ship-building exist.

Senator Stewart - What about Brisbane?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It has some facilities, but not so many as the older-established ports. In a recent article in a Sydney newspaper the superintendent of the Fitzroy Dock, which is situated on Cockatoo Island, pointed out that it was in a position to construct any ship up to 450 feet in length - that is, 20 feet longer than a ' cruiser of the Bristol type. He says that frequently they have constructed steam-ships between 200 and 300 feet long for local purposes, but, of course, their construction is not comparable with the building of a battleship. Within Port Jackson there are three other dockyards which are suitable for our purpose. One dock is capable of taking a vessel up to 600 feet long; Mort's Engineering Company has a graving dock 640 feet long ; and the Woolwich dock has a length of 675 feet. The Alfred graving dock in Victoria is 470 feet long. In South Australia there is a dock 500 feet long; in Queensland a dock 430 feet long; and in Western Australia a graving dock with a length of 850 feet is in course of construction. In each case there is a proportionate width and depth for vessels which may have to enter the dock, or which may be constructed therein.

Senator Chataway - On the question of naval defence, sir, I think we might have a quorum. [Quorum formed!\

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It must be abundantly evident to the Minister that there would be no serious difficulty in constructing in Australia vessels of the class which he contemplates. Of course, I realize that Australia will not be in a position for many years to construct ships of the Indomitable or Dreadnought type. As the years pass by such vessels are being constructed of larger dimensions and with greater power, and are being armed with larger and heavier guns. It is quite impossible to say when the limit of naval construction will be reached. In any case, we are in a position to construct the second class of our defence ships, and day by day we shall be getting into a position to construct the larger class of vessels that will be necessary for the purpose of efficiently maintaining that portion of the Navy which we contribute to the Empire. Of course, the question of cost will arise. A few days ago I pointed out that in the defence of the country that question should not be regarded as the be-all. We want to bil in a position to provide for our defence, because, whenever the time of stress or trouble arrives, we shall unmistakably have to depend upon ourselves to a very great extent. Lately we have taken action to provide ourselves with small arms and cordite, but we must go further, and pre- pare to construct large ordnance for the defence of our coast and to be placed on our ships. That is a big task to undertake, but it is one which we cannot afford to ignore. Every nation is now arming itself to the teeth, and trying to get an advantage over other nations with regard to the class of vessels to be employed in war. They are exerting every effort to outvie each other. It appears to me that the only way in which these countries can depend upon having peace is by arming themselves to the teeth at an enormous cost in order to be prepared for an eventuality which everybody prays may not occur. I sympathize a great deal with the feelings of those who believe in disarmament, and who point to the enormous bodies which are withdrawn from the productive industries of the world simply for the purpose of learning the arts of war. But while people may believe, and properly believe, that universal peace would be a great tiling to achieve, they may depend upon it that it will not be achieved simply by absolute disarmament. Each nation seems to be afraid to make a start in that direction lest it might be taken at a disadvantage by another nation. We talk about the troubles between different classes in our community, and establish Arbitration Courts, but we find that despite all our civilization, we cannot always settle our own difficulties by the simple means of arbitration. If this be impossible under ordinary circumstances, how much more difficult must it be to settle differences between great nations by such a method? Each nation has its own aspirations and needs. One nation may be perfectly content to remain within its recognised boundaries, but as population increases, and troubles arise from the density of population, so a country comes to look round to see whether its people cannot overflow into some other country which will adopt a similar form of government, and eventually become a portion of its own dominions. To-day, persons from different nations are proceeding to America, and consequently those nations are losing a certain proportion of their effective manhood. That strength is being transferred to another nation which may possibly in the future - not in the very remote future - find itself in antagonism with the nations from which that additional population was drawn. It- must be obvious to every man that as time goes on the cost of defence will become an increasing burden on the people of different nations. In our case, we must be prepared to face the increased cost. Whether the problem is to be solved by the imposition of additional taxation, or the abolition of a great many conveniences, is a matter for future consideration. It is only possible to get a certain amount of taxation out of the people of a country. No matter what form' of taxation we may prefer, it must have a limit, but there must be no curtailment of the provision for necessary defence. On the contrary, we must be prepared to forego some of the conveniences, pleasures, and comforts of civilization in order that we may be better prepared to protect our country. I am glad to have an opportunity to commend the Bill to honorable senators. I trust that it will effect the many advantages which I feel quite sure the Minister hopes it may. I look upon it as the inauguration of a great system of defence by the Commonwealth for the purpose of maintaining the integrity, not of Australia alone, but of the British Empire. I regard it as a means of assisting the people at Home. Instead of subsidizing war ships as heretofore, we propose to build and maintain ships, and have them ever ready to be placed at the disposal, and under the control of the Imperial authorities whenever war arises, or any very serious trouble is contemplated or feared in connexion with its intercourse with other nations.

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