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Thursday, 3 November 1910

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) - I had not intended taking any part in the discussion on the second reading of this Bill, for two reasons. One is that the policy underlying the Bill, and outlined in the speech of the Minister of Defence, is practically a development of the policy which now finds acceptance at the hands of all political parties in Australia. The second reason why I intended to abstain from speaking is that we have now visiting Australia an expert in naval matters, and I assume that whatever is right or wrong in this Bill will be the subject of review after that expert has furnished us with his report. That being so, it did not appear to me that we are called upon to scrutinize this measure too closely at the present time. I have risen only for this one reason : I should not like this debate to close after two such speeches as we have just heard, or that any one who may chance to read the records of Hansard should assume that the honorable senators who made those speeches correctly voiced the opinions held in this Chamber. Happily, Senator Stewart is not the only Scotchman who has giventhe world the benefit of his views. There was another named Macaulay, and I could not help thinking to-night of a sentence from his writings, in which he says that all his life he had listened to predictions of evil, and had seen nothing but signs of progress.

Senator Stewart - Would not the collapse of the Empire be progress?

Senator MILLEN - We have listened to-night to predictions of the collapse of the Empire, and may I now express a hope that Senator Stewart, in indulging in those predictions, was not allowing the wish to be father to the thought. It did seem to me that the honorable senator was merely drawing a picture of that which he desired to see brought about. I hope I am wrongly interpreting his utterance, but it is the only interpretation which it is possible for me to put upon his words.

Senator Pearce - He was contemplating his state after death, and the honorable senator should make some allowances.

Senator MILLEN - That would be too awful for me to contemplate. Let me say that I could hardly listen with patience to the mean and contemptible selfishness which marked the policy the honorable senator outlined for our acceptance. What was it? He admitted, in reply to an interjection of mine, that to-day we are dependent upon the might of Great Britain for our national salvation. But he went on to say that the time would come when the power of Great Britain would be broken, and that we should prepare ourselves for that time, so that when it arrives we might be able to protect ourselves.

Senator de Largie - Would that be a very foolish thing to do?

Senator MILLEN - Does not my honorable friend see where that policy would lead us? Senator Rae, in reply to an interjection, made the same admission. Both Senators Rae and Stewart agree that, so long as Great Britain is strong and we are weak, we should recognise our alliance with her; but when the time comes when the might of Great Britain is broken, when she is weak and we are strong, in the words of Senator Stewart, it will be " Australia for herself, first, last, and all the time." I decline to believe that sentiments of that kind will be indorsed by the people of this country. If, while we continue to be the weaker partner, we accept all the advantages of the Imperial connexion, it is contemptible to assume that when the position is reversed, if it ever is, and we become the strong partner in the firm, we shall repudiatethe partnership.

Senator Long - Senator Stewart never suggested anything ofthe kind.

Senator MILLEN - No, he did not suggest it; he said it.

Senator Long - He did not.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Stewart is able to correct me if I am wrong.

Senator Stewart - What I meant was that we should begin now to prepare for the day which will inevitably come.

Senator MILLEN - When Great Britain's might will be broken?

Senator Stewart - We should be prepared to defend ourselves then.

Senator MILLEN - We are then to protect ourselves.

Senator Stewart - Certainly.

Senator MILLEN - I say that if, when the time arrives when the naval might of Great Britain is broken, we do not stand in with her, but look only after ourselves

Senator Stewart - That is another question.

Senator MILLEN - That is what the honorable senator declared we ought to do.

According to him, we are to stand in with Great Britain so long as she remains a great Power; we are to recognise without any gratitude all the advantages we derive by reason of our Imperial connexion, but when the time comes when Great Britain is unable, according to the honorable senator, even to protect herself, we are then to be in a position to look after ourselves, and we are to say to Great Britain, " You must accept the fate which awaits you; we shall look after ourselves."

Senator Long - Will not that be a sufficiently large contract?

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator overlooks the fact that Great Britain might say to-day that it is a sufficiently large contract for her to protect herself. " Senator Rae. - She is protecting herself hi protecting her commerce with us.

Senator MILLEN - Great Britain has made it manifest to the world that to her last man and her last shilling she stands by the Empire. Is Australia going to adopt the same policy, or are we in these days to be the recipients of benefits and when the time comes for us to repay, in some measure, that which we owe Great Britain today, to turn round and adopt a selfish policy and say that we should think only of ourselves ? I do not believe for a moment that a policy of that kind would be indorsed by the electors of Australia. Coming to another aspect of the matter, the last two speakers have questioned the wisdom of allowing the Australian unit, when completed, to become incorporated in time of necessity with the British Navy. They have pointed out that that would be the very time when it would be most needed here, although both have admitted that the Australian unit would of itself be useless against any of the modern navies of the world. What is going to happen to the Australian unit if it is kept here and the Imperial Fleet is destroyed?

Senator Rae - It may defend us from raiders, anyhow.

Senator Pearce - You would save your carpet-bag while the house was being burnt down.

Senator MILLEN - That is a very happy simile. I repeat that, to keep here the Australian unit, which Senators Stewart and Rae have admitted is not capable of standing for a moment against a modern navy, is to fill yourselves with the delusion that you are safe because you can see the smoke of your warships from the cliffs on the coastline, when, at the same time, the Imperial Navy is fighting for its existence elsewhere. If it is destroyed or crippled, what will become of your unit? It will be here, certainly. You will have the satisfaction of looking from the cliffs and saying, " Here is our unit." How long could you say that after a foreign Navy had had time to come here?

Senator McGregor - In a tight struggle, the extra pound of assistance which the Australian unit would give might snatch victory from defeat.

Senator MILLEN - Exactly. Apart from that, the retention of the unit here when it was required elsewhere would not save it or Australia, because, if a catastrophe overtook the British Navy, the Fleet that we can hope to have in these waters at present,- or for a considerable number of years, would not save Australia from the polluting touch of a hostile foot.

Senator Rae - We all admit that.

Senator MILLEN - If so, what objection can you urge to the proposal in the speech of the Minister - contemplated in the policy of this Government, as in that of its predecessors - to allow the Australian unit, when an emergency arises, to be incorporated in the British Navy?

Senator Rae - It would be of more use against Japan or China, I think.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator may hold that opinion, but he spoke of a Russian ship in our waters.

Senator Rae - I said that the Australian unit would be of more use up north.

Senator MILLEN - As regards where it shall go, those who will have charge of the Navy at the rime must be the better judges. We were told by Senator Stewart that the obligation on Great Britain to-day in maintaining its Navy is largely that of keeping open the trade routes. Is there no similar obligation on Australia as on Great Britain, which certainly desires to purchase food and other supplies from abroad ; for instance, from Australia? Is the obligation to keep open the trade routes to be thrown solely upon the shoulders of Great Britain? Are we not equally concerned in seeing that they are kept open?

Senator Stewart - No.

Senator MILLEN - Close the trade routes to-morrow, and you will bring about in Australia a position of industrial stagnation which I almost shudder to contemplate.

Senator Stewart - We do not depend for our food on the maintenance of the trade routes.

Senator Pearce - What keeps up the price of our wheat, butter, minerals, or wool ?

Senator MILLEN - Exactly. Close the trade routes, and your wheat, butter, minerals and wool will become unsaleable commodities.

Senator Rae - We shall all die of starvation from having too many good things on hand.

Senator MILLEN - I have not said that for a moment. But I have said that if you were to break down the industrial life of Australia, you would bring about a catastrophe which would lay upon her an obligation probably heavier than was ever contemplated.

Senator Pearce - Did Senator Rae never hear of what occurred in Ireland during the potato famine?

Senator Rae - We would not submit to what the Irish had to suffer.

Senator MILLEN - Would the honorable senator be able to get a meal by contemplating warehouses stuffed with bales of wool ?

Senator Rae - There would be butter, wheat, and other articles to eat.

Senator MILLEN - You cannot eat all the wheat and butter which Australia produces, nor all the minerals, nor all the wool.

Senator Gardiner - We cannot swallow all the rubbish.

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friend's swallow is pretty capacious. If any ona ventures to say that what I am stating is rubbish, he takes a very limited view of the position which would confront Australia.

Senator Long - When the honorable senator referred to " rubbish," he only wanted to remind the honorable senator of the rabbit industry.

Senator MILLEN - It is idle to disguise this fact, much as I know some of my friends would like to do so, that Australia to-day is wealthy largely by reason of that which she receives in return for her products. If you were to stop that trade, you would bring about a catastrophe here.

Senator Rae - Every one admits that.

Senator MILLEN - Then why should the obligation to keep open the trade routes be thrown solely on Great Britain ? The obligation is equally ours, because the advantage is ours. But it does seem to me that there are honorable senators, as there may be persons outside, who believe that Australia should reap all the advantage, while Great Britain should carry all the burden. This unit and the liberty which is provided for sending it away from our shores, if necessary, is also part of the contribution which we are making to a joint fleet to maintain the trade routes, as well as to keep the flag of Empire flying. Senator Rae contemplated such a position as the defeat of Great Britain and Australia remaining unharmed. I wish I could, share that view. My opinion is that, if anything ever happened to break down the naval might of Great Britain, Australia is the prize which would be demanded by the victor. What are modern nations looking for? They are all, more or less, looking for large areas of land carrying a few people. What other portion of the world offers that prize to-day? If a European nation did defeat Great Britain, do honorable senators think that it would seek for a moment lo conquer that country in the sense of occupying it? What advantage would it be to a continental nation ? It would be useless for such a nation to go to Great Britain, because she is already heavily populated. Having destroyed Great Britain, having swept it from the ocean, so to speak, there would be no satisfaction or profit to the European nation in establishing its own power within Great Britain. It would look round, and ask, " What portion of the British Empire will meet my needs? Where can I hope to develop a colonization policy of my own?" There is no other portion of the earth's surface which offers such attractions as does Australia. The same thing would happen if the conqueror of Great Britain were an Eastern nation. It can turn its eyes in the East as much as it likes, but it cannot find so many acres carrying so few people as does Australia. Therefore, much as we, in our selfishness, may wish to stand aloof from Great Britain's quarrels and the wars in which she may be involved, we may rest certain that, although we may wash our hands of the fight while it proceeds, we cannot wash our hands of the consequences. Given the defeat of Great Britain, and Australia, in my judgment, is the prize which will be demanded and taken by. the foe.

Senator Rae - Do you think that we , shall put up no " scrap " to prevent them? You seem to think we are going to sit down like a lot of bunnies.

Senator MILLEN - I have no doubt but that the honorable senator will put up what he calls " a scrap," but if it did come to a " scrap," I am rather inclined to say, with regret, that the Kaiser William would be likely to win, and the honorable senator to go down. Of course, we would fight for Australia, but we cannot fight against the inevitable. The Boers fought; but what happened? In my judgment, taking into account the circumstances of their country, and the fact that e large number of them had had training, of which our people are deficient - that is, training in wars with natives, and in other ways - they were better equipped to put up a .fight for national existence than we are to-day, with an untrained population scattered over vast areas.

Senator Rae - In some respects ; but we are very much farther from Germany than is South Africa.

Senator Pearce - As regards army transport, we are really not so far.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Rae completely overlooks the fact that every day science is annihilating distance.

Senator Pearce - Troops could be landed more easily in Victoria than in the Transvaal.

Senator MILLEN - - Honorable senators seem to think that there is an obligation on a Power which invades Australia to conquer it. I dissent from that view. It is not necessary for a nation which effects a landing to immediately set about the work of subjugating this country. All it need do is to take whatever portion it requires, establish itself by means of its troops, bring its settlers in, and then say to Australia, " If you demur to our presence, come and conquer us." That is the position which is likely to confront us. The expenditure on the Australian unit is absolutely necessary as an insurance fund alone to protect the interests which are at stake. I am pleased to say that in the speech with which the Minister introduced the Bill, he at least gave no countenance to views expressed here to-night. On the contrary, he put forward a view which, I am sure, will commend itself to those who believe, as I do, that the fate of Australia stands bound up with the fate of the Empire.

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