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Wednesday, 21 April 1915


Senator READY - I am glad the honorable senator indorses it, but apparently Senator Bakhap does not -

It is no more than simple justice to the Labour Ministry to observe that it has displayed a rare quantity of wisdom and courage in its management of the finances. It had to face conditions of exceeding difficulty, and to solve problems wholly foreign to the experience of Australian statesmanship. With little or no help from its political opponents, and in the teeth of much partisan objection, the Government effectively discharged its onerous and unprecedented obligations, and in a manner that bids fair to indemnify the credit of the nation from remote or proximate depreciation. The Ministry also deserves applause for its vigorous and successful administration of our Defence system, which has already resulted in an Australian representation of armed forces at the seat of war, which is likely to serve the Empire passing \2fll, and the continuous preparation of reinforcements for the front. And these great tasks have been, and are being,, satisfactorily carried out without imposing on the people a sensible economic strain.


Senator Shannon - Does the honorable senator say that that part of the article, to the effect that the Government met with party opposition when they had their war measures before the House, is true?


Senator READY - In another branch of the Legislature, yes. I have already proved it. Perhaps that is what is unpalatable to my honorable friend.


Senator Shannon - An untruth is always unpalatable to your honorable friend.


Senator READY - It is not an untruth, and I take exception to the term. I have shown that the leaders of Imperial thought commented adversely on the partisan tactics of the Opposition in another place during the early part of the session. The Age also said the same thing. The honorable senator knows it is true, and all his offensive interjections will not alter the fact. Senator Bakhap alsosaid we could have been better prepared. When he said that, he knew the facts. I cannot speak openly in this Chamber, for it is not advisable to deal in detail in public with these military matters. Our leader has refrained from doing so, and we must follow his example. Yet Senator Bakhap sends broadcast over Australia the allegation that we are notdoing enough. Does Senator Shannonindorse his colleague's statements?


Senator Shannon - I do not indorse all that everybody else says.


Senator READY - I am glad to hear it. Whose fault is it that we are not better prepared 1 The Liberal party are in a large measure responsible, and I hope, with Senator Bakhap's aid, to show it. He was very ready, when challenged by the Minister of Defence, to quote Mr. Hughes' remarks from Hansard. In 1903 Mr. Hughes was the first man to move in favour of inserting in the Defence Act provision for the creation of a Citizen Defence Force. He has every reason to be proud of this, but Senator Bakhap quoted from his speech to show that he made no proposal to pay the men. He omitted to mention that the training was to be only in times of peace. Nothing was said in Mr. Hughes' motion of war times. What was proposed was that there should be a national militia force, which would have fourteen days' continuous training, and not more than thirty-two detached drills, aggregating 112 hours, per annum, in addition. It is quite true that at the time Mr. Hughes did not advocate payment, because it was never anticipated, when the force was first established, that we should need so much training as Lord Kitchener and other expert advisers proved in their reports later on to be necessary. As Senator Bakhap seemed to get some solace out of his quotation from Mr. Hughes, let me quote from the same Hansard the attitude of Mr. Joseph Cook towards the proposal. Senator Bakhap cannot say that in quoting Mr. Cook I am quoting an irresponsible member of the Liberal party. I am quoting the Leader of the party who, on 5th August, 1903, immediately following Mr. Hughes, made a speech to the following effect: -

Although I have listened carefully to the speech of the honorable member, to see if I could bring myself to accept his conclusions, I find myself unable to do so. For one thing. I think that the system of defence for which he wishes us to provide is altogether beyond our requirements. It would be excessively costly, and T do not think it would result in the physical improvement of the race, of which he is so certain.


Senator de Largie - It was to be costly, even if it should cost nothing.


Senator READY - That is so.


Senator Guy - Which goes to prove that he did not intend what Senator Bakhap imputed.


Senator READY - It was to be a well-munitioned and well-provided force. The only difference was that, although everything was to be found for the Force, the men were not to receive any pay when they went into camp. On the next page Mr. Joseph Cook went on to say -

It proposes to levy a military tax for which there is no necessity, and which would involve an expenditure fully three or four times as great as that represented by our present outlay for defence purposes. The time is not ripe for entertaining such a proposal, because our present methods of defence are adequate for all purposes.

Senator Bakhapis absent just now, probably purposely.

Mr. Hughes.Would the honorable member object if the men volunteered ?

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK. Yes; because the expense would so largely exceed our requirements. I should object, because I think we are already doing enough to effectively guard Australia against attack.


Senator de Largie - He repeats it twice, and we were doing nothing just then.


Senator READY - The Leader of this great party, of which Senator Bakhap was a member, was doing enough, and no more was needed. Concluding his speech, Mr. Joseph Cook said -

Furthermore it is not compulsory for the purely volunteers to go, and I venture to say that some of them would not go if they had to lose a fortnight's pay. There is all the difference in the world between compelling men to go into camp and leaving the way open for them to voluntarily make the sacrifice, and I strongly object to the compulsory element. I am not condemning the honorable member's proposal in toto. I am, however, condemning its compulsory provisions, and the cost which its adoption would involve.

Even with no rates to pay to the men, it was too dear for the great Liberal Leader. The last words of his speech are -

I say, further, that it is contrary to the genius of our race, and that up to the present time the necessities of Australia have not shown any necessity for it. I do not see my way to support a scheme which is so drastic and so entirely unnecessary.


Senator de Largie - He was not able to see over his own nose.


Senator READY - No; he is the same gentleman who raised the hysterical cry of the gift of a. Dreadnought to Great Britain, and impeached Mr. Fisher and the Labour party for disloyalty because they adopted the saner course of establishing an Australian Navy - a policy which every honorable senator must admit has amply vindicated itself in this great world war.

Talking of opposition to this scheme, Senator Bakhap seemed to be very particular that we should quote purely Tasmanian instances. My leader quoted, by interjection, something which the secretary of the Liberal League of Australia or of New South Wales had said. But that was not enough for Senator Bakhap. He wanted something that was said in Tasmania. I have looked carefully through the files in the library, and taken extracts from the newspaper most warm in support of the Liberal party, and one of the greatest Liberal newspapers in Tasmania, namely, the Launceston Examiner.Senator Bakhap said that we could have been better prepared than we were. When we were preparing for international troubles, when we were preparing to defend ourselves, what stand w.is taken, not only by Mr. Joseph Cook, but in the great press organs in Tasmania? I ask honorable senators to listen to one or two brief extracts from the Launceston Examiner. On the 2nd April, 1909, it published a leading article on our Citizen Compulsory Defence Force as proposed by Mr. Andrew Fisher, then, as now, the Leader of the Labour party. It said -

We contend that the double programme -

The double programme, I might explain, was a Citizen Defence Force and an Australian Navy.

We contend that the double programme is altogether too ambitious, and likely to lead to a useless waste of public money. How the Australian youth would take to the conscription remains to be seen.

On the 7th April, 1909, only five days later, the Examiner, in a leading article, again condemned the idea of an Australian Navy. It said -

If we turn to the history of the United States we do not find that in the first decade of their national life there was anything like this. They did not start to build a navy, or establish a conscript army, before they were fairly started on their Federal career. The statesmen of that time knew there was wisdom in making haste slowly.

One day later the Examiner again attacked the compulsory training scheme, and remarked "How the German military officers would laugh to scorn the notion of a half-trained bod" of citizens taking the field." Again, on the 20th July of the same year, the Examiner, in a leading article, said -

Mr. Fisherand his colleagues, though they did not represent a majority of the Commonwealth, took it upon themselves to order vessels from England. Mr. Fisher was so eager to start his scheme of port defence that he ordered the destroyer and torpedo boats on his own responsibility.

If Senator Bakhap wants clearer proof than that of the attitude of the Liberal party in Tasmania, he will take a lot of convincing. But the fact is, as he knows, that during many of the stages of the evolution of the idea of an Australian citizen defence force and an Australianowned navy no more bitter opponents ever materialized than the gentlemen who have been left sitting on the opposite benches.


Senator Bakhap - Why did any of your men vote against the proposal?


Senator READY - They may have done so, but our leader never took a straightout stand in opposition to the proposal to compulsorily train our manhood the same as Mr. Joseph Cook did. And our party cannot be judged by what a. small minority said or did. Just as I did before by quotation from Hansard, so during the absence of the honorable senator from the Chamber I showed by quotations from its leading articles how the Launceston Examiner bitterly followed the lead of Mr. Cook, and roundly condemned our scheme for the defence of Australia on land, and also the idea of an Australian-owned and controlled navy.


Senator Bakhap - They are as good Australians as the honorable senator, who says that it is defective, and is only a boys' scheme.


Senator READY - That may be so, but it gets away from the position that, while the honorable senator in this Chamber complained that we could have done better, he ignores the fact, which I have proved, that his party is largely responsible for the situation, and put every impediment it could in the way' of efficiently and effectively defending the Common weal th .


Senator Bakhap - You have full power ; why do you not do better now?


Senator READY - I have already indicated - my honorable friend was not here at the moment - that the present Government have done all that is possible. The man in the street recognises that, too.


Senator Bakhap - If you have done all that is possible, you cannot do better; is that it?


Senator READY - We cannot do better as regards getting men away under present conditions. We have strained our resources, as my honorable friend knows very well.


Senator Bakhap - We are spending the last shilling they will lend us in Great Britain ; is that so ?


Senator READY - No. But for the State requirements we could finance the war expenditure in Australia. This gibe about using the money of the British taxpayers is a very empty one. We have used British money to the extent of £300,000,000 to develop this country in the past.


Senator Bakhap - Yes, but we have assets.


Senator READY - And so have they. They have got security, and drawn interest.


Senator Bakhap - But by borrowing this money and spending it as we are doing we are impairing the value of their assets.


Senator READY - There is no obligation upon Australia when she offers good security for money. It is a business transaction. We are not using British taxpayers' money, but we are using money which was given to us on our credit, because that was recognised as good enough. We are using just the same class of money as we have used for fifty years to develop the resources of this country.


Senator Bakhap - Lent by whom?


Senator READY - By those who have confidence that they will get a good security and receive a fair rate of interest.


Senator Bakhap - But are they British taxpayers ?


Senator READY - They may be. But the fact remains that were it not for the needs of the State Governments, the Australian note issue would have financed this war to the present time, whatever the future may hold in store.


Senator Guy - The British Government have thanked us profusely for what »e have done.


Senator READY - Yes; everybody but Senator Bakhap thanks us.


Senator Bakhap - We ate thanking ourselves very profusely now.


Senator READY - The British Government have thanked us, the New Zealand Government have notably thanked us, for the services which our Navy has performed. We have won, I think, the general approval of the Empire by our exertions in the cause of defence, and Senator Bakhap said so himself. He said that British statesmen were oblivious to the need for conscription. Everybody but himself is wrong.


Senator Bakhap - Within the last two years British statesmen reduced their military force. Does the honorable senator know that?


Senator READY - That may be so; but I have yet to learn that Senator Bakhap is an oracle, who can speak against the force of public opinion everywhere; that he can criticise the whole of the responsible leaders of this Empire, because they have not done as much as he thinks they should have done. Although, perhaps we have not been as prepared as we might have been - I have pointed out that the Liberal party must take most of the blame for that position - it is recognised that, in the circumstances, the self-governing Dominions have done marvellous work for the Empire in this time of stress, and any attempt to talk conscription, and attribute blame to everybody but Senator Bakhap, at this juncture, is not only injudicious, but absolutely criminal.


Senator Bakhap - Do you deny that your party said that a vote of £400,000 per annum was sufficient for the needs of Australian defence, and moved to reduce the defence vote?


Senator READY - A few individual members of our party may have thought so, but that does not alter the fact I have dealt with. I have clearly shown the attitude of the honorable senator's leader on the matter. Let him deny that if he can.


Senator Bakhap - Will the honorable senator deny my assertion that his party moved to reduce the insignificant Australian defence vote by hundreds of thousands of pounds only a few years ago ?


Senator READY - We are the party who, as I have shown, can, and do, claim credit for the institution of this naval and military policy of ours, which has been so successful. Senator Bakhap puts his opinion against the greatest authorities' of the Empire, but, while recognising his profound learning, I prefer to put my trust in the great statesmen of the Empire rather than in the erudite honorable senator. When it comes to talking of conscription at this juncture, what are the facts ? The position is that Great Britain has not wanted men. I admit that if she had made greater preparations she could have acted sooner.


Senator Bakhap - Why do you not go to the picture shows, and learn the facts of the situation ?


Senator READY - I am pointing out that, as regards an appeal for men - which is an entirely different thing - we have never been disappointed. We can get sufficient men to enlist, not only in Australia, but throughout the Empire, without the aid of conscription - by merely calling for volunteers. In the Commonwealth we are getting as many recruits as we can deal with, and in England a greater number are offering their services than the authorities can equip. Yet Senator Bakhap talks of conscription.


Senator Bakhap - Why does Lord Kitchener say that conscription can only be staved off by the adoption of certain measures ?


Senator READY - If my honorable friend will search the files of the British newspapers, he will discover that, at the present time, there is no movement in the Old Country in favour of conscription. Here is a cable which appeared in the Melbourne Herald only on Monday evening last - " Conscription an Insult."

London, Sunday.

It is declared by the Star that the nation is furnishing volunteers foster than the War Office can arm them, and that any attempt to impose conscription on the people making sacrifices so eagerly and readily would be an insult that would be fiercelyresented.

I am quite ready to put the opinion of that influential newspaper against even the opinion of Senator Bakhap. There is no movement in England in favour of a policy of conscription.


Senator Bakhap - And foreign nations in alliance with Great Britain are asking why?







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