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Friday, 25 June 1915

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - When last I had the opportunity of speaking to the Senate, I was referring to the work done at the Small Arms Factory, and particularly to criticism of those who had levelled their witty shafts at that institution. Now, I do not think that we are living in a time when criticism of that kind should be indulged in, and I urge that those who are engaged in this criticism should have chapter and verse for everything they say. All who are unprejudiced must admit that the Minister of Defence has acquitted himself most creditably, and I venture to say that not one of his critics would as adequately fill the position as the Minister has since he took charge of the Department. Therefore, we have to look for the motives underlying all this criticism, and we must come to the conclusion that an attempt is being made to fasten some blame on the Minister and the party which he represents. We ought to get away from that altogether, and, for a time, devote our joint energies to the task of seeing what can be done, by friendly %o-operation and suggestion, to pull this country through. Whatever may be the shortcomings in connexion with the Defence Department, when we consider what has been done, and done so well, in the short space of time, ' we must admit it is inevitable that mistakes should occur; these are inseparable from a great feat of organization such as was undertaken by the Commonwealth during the last eight months. When we recall the state this country found itself in eight months ago, unused to war, and faced with the problem of mobilizing something like 80,000 soldiers, and when we consider how well it has been done up to date, we have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon the success which we have achieved, and the help we have given to the Mother Country in this time of struggle. Who are those critics? To begin with, we have in Victoria twonewspapers which take a leading part in moulding, or attempting to mould, publicopinion. But, after all, we are only in, one small corner of the continent, and while I am on this point, might I be permitted to express the earnest wish that the time is close at hand when we shall shift the Seat of Government to our own Territory, so that we may be removed from the pernicious influence of these people who are taking it upon themselves, to guide, direct, and control public opinion ?

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator must remember that there is a very large concentration of population in the cities of Australia, and that public opinion will evidence itself in any case.

Senator LYNCH - Quite so; but the point I wish to emphasize is that it is not wholesome for the Federal Parliament to be under the influence of a local press. We do not represent one corner of this country; we are here as representatives of the respective States.

Senator Bakhap - Quite so.

Senator LYNCH - It is not satisfactory, therefore, that we should beunder the influence of the local press.

Senator Bakhap - But we will haveto read some newspapers wherever we are.

Senator LYNCH - I understand that.. The press is a necessary evil, and we cannot escape it.

Senator Watson - Why not read the Bible?

Senator LYNCH - That would be au improvement on the Melbourne press aswe have it to-day. A section of the Melbourne press, notably the Age, is now vigorously opposed to every action of the present Government. We have only torecall what has been the attitude of that organ in regard to defence. Not longago it urged the curtailment of the vote for defence at a time when this Parlia ment was considering the question of putting this country in a condition of security. It now comes forward, ratherlate in the day, when public opinion israther excited and inflamed, and it wants the people to believe that it is the guide, philosopher, and friend of public opinion in Australia, when, as a matter of soberfact, its influence was against defence expenditure at a critical period of ourhistory. That is the guide whose- directions we are now asked to take, the unstable finger-post whose pointing we -are asked to follow. That is the press which is endeavouring to influence public opinion, entirely heedless of the attitude it took up some time ago. When I see the press of this city lashing itself into a frenzy of excitement over the imaginary shortcomings of the Government, I ask myself what has been done by the remnants of the Opposition in this Chamber and the other.

It is true that the Opposition is represented here by a very small number, and when called upon to refute the attacks of -a party which has for its mouth-pieces in this Chamber such an insignificant few, I often feel myself almost unmanned. "To be in the position of a giant pitted against a pigmy must make one inclined, if he has any generous sentiments at all, to extend as much leniency to his opponent as possible. When I. apprehend -the insignificance of the numbers of the Opposition in this chamber, I am often .impelled to tone down the severity of what I might "Otherwise be tempted to say. But while the Opposition in this chamber is indeed a remnant, it still represents a very large body of public feeling in the country, and an arrogant

We are living in an age that is almost too great for the imagination to compass.

We do not know where this great trouble will end, and we are far from being assured that the struggle will end soon, and end victoriously.

Senator Bakhap - It cannot end victoriously for us if it ends soon. .Senator LYNCH. - We certainly have the hope that it will end- eventually in our favour; but while we are putting forward efforts which, to some may seem to represent our maximum, I still believe that this country, although it has done remarkably well, could, and should, do a little more, not only to sustain its own credit, but to bring the combat to a victorious conclusion. The Mother Country has under arms one man in every fifteen .of her population. Australia has called to arms, up to the present, and in a voluntary way only, about one man in fifty. Australia and the Mother Country have every interest in common in this struggle, and it is our plain and straightforward duty to put up an effort proportionate to that of the Mother Country. I am here to say, in the most public manner possible, that this country is not doing its duty, and has not done it up to date. It should occur to the average citizen that we have an equal interest with those now holding the trenches against the mighty legions of the enemy. Has the Mother Country a greater interest in securing a pronounced victory than we have? I say that it has not. We have an equal right to put forward our fair share of effort in order to insure the ultimate beating down of the terrible forces arrayed against us. If any honorable senator says that Australia is doing her share by putting in the field one man in fifty of our population, as against one man in fifteen of Great Britain's population, I totally disagree with him.

Senator Watson - Does the honorable senator mean to say that Australia is not doing her pro rata share ?

Senator LYNCH - I do.

Senator Watson - The Minister of Defence says the opposite.

Senator LYNCH - If we are not putting forward our best efforts we are sacrificing the lives of those whom we send to the front now. I have given the figures, and it is open to any honorable senator to check them for himself. We must recognise that we are participants in this struggle. It has been said that Great Britain's battle is our battle, and that Australia's fate is being decided on the battlefields of Europe just as substantially as if the struggle were being waged on our own shores. If that be so, it is the most reasonable thing in the world that we should share equally in the effort which is now being put forward by the Mother Country. Should not there be equality of sacrifice in the field of warfare, just as there is in the field of economics? Have we only a one-third interest with the Mother Country in seeing that the present titanic struggle is brought to a successful issue? tip to the present we have only put forward one-third of the effort which she has put forward.

Senator GUY (TASMANIA) - And it is costing ustwice as much per head.

Senator LYNCH - I am not sorry in the least for that, because we have a> higher standard of living in Australia than obtains in the Mother Country, and it is a standard which we hope to maintain. Consequently we must submit toa greater expenditure in placing our forces in the field. But it is rather a waste of effort and of life to send forward troops in the way in which we are now sendingthem forward. We must bestir ourselves to the. point of doing as much as is beingdone by other portions of the Empire, and particularly by the Mother Country herself.

Senator Senior - The honorable senator is losing sight of the fact that our expenditure is equal to our present income for one year, whereas Great Britain's expenditure is not.

Senator Bakhap - But we are borrowing the money from Great Britain.

Senator LYNCH - I do not think it is a question of money, after all. I donot think we have got down to the pounds, shillings, and pence aspect of our participation in the war. But I am of opinion that the majority of the people of this country are not seized of the momentous consequences of the present struggle. If they were - if they oncerealized that even, the safety of Australia is bound up in it - they would awake from their lethargy and put forward a better effort.

Senator Bakhap - We can hardly blame the people for failing to rise to the situation, seeing that Parliament has not done so.

Senator Barker - That is about the cheapest argument I have heard.

Senator LYNCH - I am not blaming the Parliament or any political party. But this is an occasion on which we should endeavour to centre public attention upon the war.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - What more can we do than we are doing ?

Senator Russell - Senator Bakhap has kept the Minister of Defence in this chamber for hours. If he would shut up and let the Minister do his work it would be better.

Senator Bakhap - I rise to a point of order. In what respect have I occupied the attention of the Minister of Defence? I object to the statement of the Assistant Minister that I have occupied the attention of the Minister of Defence to the exclusion of other honorable senators.

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