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Thursday, 3 November 1910

The PRESIDENT - I think that Senator Stewart is in order. So far as I can gather, he is pointing out that the tendency at present is towards peace, when naval or other defence will not be necessary.

Senator STEWART - Every capitalist, as opposed to every Socialist, believes in war. Why is Germany building up her Navy ?

Senator Chataway - Because the Socialists are increasing in number.

Senator STEWART - It is to take the command of the sea, so that she may gain Great Britain's trade. , Every war of which we have any record has been a war for trade,- or land, or some substantial monetary advantage. That is the reason why the countries of the world are arming against each other. Why is Great Britain providing an immense' fleet?

Senator St Ledger - To guard us. .

Senator STEWART - Why, Great Britain has just as much as she can do to look after herself at the present moment. But I do not wish to enter into a discussion of the affairs of that country.

Senator Long - Is not that all the more reason why we should make an effort to defend ourselves?

Senator STEWART - That is the point which I am endeavouring, to impress upon honorable senators. Why is Great Britain compelled to keep such a huge fleet upon the oceans of the world? To keep her trade routes open. To insure that her foodstuffs may be poured into her shores without interruption. Why does she not insist upon a very much larger proportion of her foodstuffs being grown within her own territory? Why does she allow millions of acres to run to waste, to be occupied as deer forests, or by Yankee sportsmen ; to be occupied, indeed, by everything except the farmer, who would till those lands ? That is the rock upon which Great Britain is going to perish.

Senator Vardon - Here is a prophet !

Senator STEWART - I do not pretend to be a prophet. I am merely taking a common-sense Scotch view of a palpable situation. The thing is staring us in the tace, and yet a great number of us cannot see it. Why is Great Britain compelled to maintain the largest fleet in the world ? To keep the ocean highways free, so that her food supplies may be poured in regularly. If, by some strange accident, something went wrong with the works of this huge machine, so that Great Britain was not supplied with food tor a month, what would be the result? One of the greatest catastrophes in human history. That greatest catastrophe could be brought about within a month by a single Power - I refer to the United States - without striking a blow at, or firing a gun against, Great Britain. If the President of America were to issue a ukase that no foodstuffs were to be exported to Great Britain, and if every one of the American ports were blockaded, within one month of the commencement of that blockade Great Britain would have to capitulate.

Senator Chataway - The Federal Supreme Court would rule such a ukase ultra vires of the Constitution.

Senator STEWART - In a great crisis, the people of the United States would sweep aside the Federal Supreme Court just as we hope to sweep the High Court of Australia aside before very long. In a great crisis in human history, Courts would count for very little.

Senator Pearce - But the almighty dollar would count.

Senator STEWART - No doubt. " But I am talking of a probable dispute between the United States and Great Britain, lt is not impossible that such a dispute may be brought about.

Senator Millen - Does the honorable senator limit his statement to the United States and Great Britain?

Senator STEWART - Not necessarily.

Senator Millen - If the dispute were limited to those countries, the British larder would not be starved.

Senator Rae - Would it be possible to prevent the people of the United States from exporting? They would export, in spite of the order of any Government

Senator STEWART - I do not think so. If the Government were in earnest in their desire to prevent the export of foodstuffs to Great Britain, that export could not possibly be carried on. The Government could prevent foodstuffs from being conveyed by the railways to the ports of the United States; it could blockade those ports, and thus see that effect was given to its orders. In a great crisis, too, l believe that the people of the United States would be sufficiently patriotic to loyally give effect to the order of the Executive. But I am merely speaking of a contingency which may arise some day. I do not say that it will arise. Nevertheless, the possibility exists. I claim that that possibility ought not to exist. The people of Great Britain should grow a very much larger proportion of their food supplies than they do. That is all that I suggest. Great Britain is needlessly wasting huge sums of money in giving effect to her policy - a policy which is largely dictated by the capitalistic parties who are represented by the landed aristocracy and the Cobden Club, by the Free Trade supertition. It is true - as has been dinned into our ears until we are tired of listening to it - that we ar-j part and parcel of the British Empire, and what affects Great Britain must affect us. Consequently, we are entitled to express our opinion upon Imperial policy. Although it may not sound orthodox to say so, I confess at once that I am not an Imperialist. I never was. I may be a Little englander, or a very small Scotlander, or a little Australian, but 1 am not an Imperialist. If honorable senators would only open their eyes, they would see that the Empire is crumbling to pieces before them. Before the end of the twentieth century Canada will have been absorbed by the United States, and South Africa will have drifted from the Empire. The thing is as sure as fate. India will have gone. It is even now seething with discontent ; and by the end of the twentieth century, 1 hope that Australia will be an independent Republic. I shall not live to see it ; but I hope that in ' the year 2001 my spirit will be brooding over the broad fields of Australia and rejoicing that she has thrown off the shackles of monarchy, has. abandoned her connexion with Great Britain, and has become a free and independent republic. I am merely forecasting what I believe will happen before this century has come to an end. To my mind, the Empire is becoming rotten. It is falling asunder of its own weight. It is not a \ racticable proposition, and cannot be continued for an indefinite period. That being so, it behoves us to recognise the possibilities of the future, and' to prepare ourselves for them. The key note of every thought in regard to Australian defence should be Australia first, Australia last, Australia all the time. Let us get more population, burst up the land monopolist, and secure the communitycreated increment.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator has touched upon that subject three dr four times during the course of his remarks. I did not interpose, because I thought that he was merely making a passing reference to it. But I wish that he would connect his remarks with the Bill which is under consideration.

Senator STEWART - It must be evident to the meanest intellect that there is no subject which has a closer connexion with the defence of Australia than has the subject of population. Without population Australia cannot be defended. The more people we have here, the easier will it be for them to carry the burden of its defence. When a man tells me that the population question has no relation to the question of defence, I decline to argue with him. Under the policy which is embodied in this Bill, it appears that in time of peace our small Navy is to parade up and down the coast of Australia. That is to say, when it is not wanted, it will be here ; but, in time of war, it will become part and .parcel of the British Navy, will be under the control of the British Admiralty, and may be sent to any spot to which the British authorities may choose to order it. That may be in accord with the best traditions of naval defence. But I ask honorable senators just to consider the position for a moment. When the great time of difficulty arrives, Australia may be left, so far as her Navy is concerned, absolutely undefended. There may not be a single ship upon our shores. We may be left absolutely unprotected at the very moment when protection is most necessary.

Senator St Ledger - We shall have our land defence force all the time.

Senator STEWART - I hope that we shall. I think I have insisted that we ought to depend more upon our land defence than upon anything else. But I am now calling into question the arrangement under which our Navy may be ordered away from Australia when we might naturally expect it to be here. I ask honorable senators to say whether that is a common-sense proposition ? Ought we to leave the shores of Australia entirely unprotected, so far as our Navy is concerned, at the very moment when Britain,, and consequently Australia, is at war with some of the nations of the earth? Suppose, for instance, that Germany and Japan entered into an alliance for offensive and defensive purposes, as I have recently seen suggested in the newspapers. What would be more likely than that while Germany was struggling with Great Britain in the North Sea, and while the Australian Fleet had been called away to assist in that great fight, Japan would make a descent upon our shores? In such circumstances, we should not have a single ship left to protect us. The country would be free of access to any foe which might choose to come here. Is that a state of affairs which honorable senators care . to contemplate? Let me put the position in another way. Our Fleet is a very small one. If Great Britain cannot beat Germany, or any other Power, without the assistance of the present Australian Fleet, or of any Fleet that we are likely to have within the next twenty years, Britain's day has past.

Senator St Ledger - She says so herself.

Senator STEWART - If our Fleet can be of no earthly assistance to Great Britain in the great struggle to which some persons look forward, why should it be taken away from our shores? Why leave our own shores unprotected? If our Fleet is small it cannot be of the least service in assisting Great Britain in such a time of struggle and crisis as has been referred to. I do not wish to pit my opinion against the opinion of great naval authorities. I do not know anything of naval strategy. All that I know is that the present proposal is that the Navy( shall remain in Australia only in time of peace. Probably it will be in Melbourne during Cup time, and in Sydney during some ether carnival, lt will dawdle round to Brisbane in the winter months, and go over to Hobart during the apple season. But in time of war not a single vessel will be upon the Australian shores.

Senator St Ledger - How does the honorable senator know that?

Senator STEWART - That was the idea that seemed to be running through the honorable senator's mind during the whole of his speech, and it is the idea that appears to be in the mind of nearly every man whom I have heard speaking in connexion with the matter. Indeed, that is the arrangement that has been come to between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government, and it is the idea embodied in this Bill. " In time of peace," say the authorities, " you can con trol your Navy; you can have it in Australia to play with ; you can do with it just as you please ; you can invite the officers to balls and fetes; you can let them have a high old time generally on your toy Navy. But in time of war we want your ships 10 go where we choose to send them."

Senator Vardon - A toy navy is not of much use to. any one.

Senator STEWART - Not much, lt would not be of much use to Australia. But it would be of more service to Australia than it could possibly to be to Great Britain. And if it is going to be of any service at all, it ought to be kept here in time of war. That is my opinion. Our Navy could not turn the scale in a great struggle as between Great Britain and any other great Power ; and if it cannot do that let us keep it upon our own shores so as to prevent any raiding of our coastal traffic or any probable attack upon our exposed cities. That is my idea with regard to arrangement which ought to be made in connexion with the Navy. I have heard honorable senators say time after time that they trust that Australia will become a great maritime power. It seems to me that those who speak in that way have never been able to get the situation of Great Britain out of their minds. They seem to forget that beneath their feet, here in Australia, they have a huge continent to develop. After all man is a land animal. He is not a water animal. He lives on the land, not on the sea. The reason why every Britisher seems to have the salt ocean in his veins is because Britain is a small country, because Britain is the great ocean-carrier of the world, because the sea is essential to her trade, and particularly because a large proportion of her inhabitants must derive their livelihood from the sea. But Australia is in quite a different position. We have here a huge continent to develop - a continent almost as large as Europe; nearly as large as the United States of America. But there are 400,000,000 people in Europe, and there ┬╗re nearly 100,000,000 people in America, lt is our task to develop the lands of mls great continent; and as we develop our lands, sea power will develop of itself. Our first duty is with the land which is under our feet, which is the source from which we must draw our sustenance. If we have a sufficient population on the land our sea trade and commerce and everything else connected with the ocean will take care of itself. I have no more to say in connexion with this matter. If it will give any pleasure to Senator St. Ledger I may say that I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill ; not that I lay very much stress upon it, but because I think that our people are determined to have a navy of some kind and that we might just as well begin to lay the foundations now, so that the people of the future may build something substantial upon them.

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