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Friday, 25 June 1915

The PRESIDENT - There is no point of order involved. The interjection of the Assistant Minister may, or may not, be accurate. But I can take notice only of offensive interjections.

Senator Bakhap - I will let the remark pass, and will deal with it presently.

Senator LYNCH - I merely wish to record the opinions which I hold on this allimportant matter, and I shall not fail to give expression to those opinions on every public occasion. I believe that volunteering in Australia should proceed at a much more rapid rate. But while we have not yet turned to the right course by compelling every fit person of military age--

Senator McKissock - Is the honorable senator advocating press-gang methods ?

Senator LYNCH - I am advocating a system under which there will be an equality of sacrifice in connexion with this struggle. I have come across numerous cases in which married men have left their wives and families behind them, and have gone to the front to lay down their lives for the Empire, and for the cause for which she stands, whilst thousands of young fellows assemble every Saturday at football matches and other sports, and exhibit not the slightest thought of playing a manly part in this stupendous war. Whilst we have men of that class in our midst, we are lacking in our duty if we fail to compel them to recognise their national obligations. We do not know where the present struggle will end. We are hoping for the best, but, at the same time, Australia occupies a different position from that occupied by any other portion of the Empire. Australia is a country with no racial problems to solve, a country which is easily accessible, and it naturally constitutes a very tempting prize in the eyes of Germany. As a matter of fact, I have come across opinions expressed by Germans to the effect that this country will be Germanized in the very near future. I have it on the very best authority that the captain of one of the German liners lying at Sydney not long ago remarked that that city is not Hamburg yet, hut it soon will be.

Senator McKissock - We could settle the Germans as fast as they landed.

Senator LYNCH - Perhaps we could, and I heartily sympathize with the patriotic impulse which prompted that remark. But even though we were victorious in the end, the struggle would be a long and bitter one. We must recollect that victory does not always rest with the big battalions, notwithstanding the historical reference to that effect. Small numbers have frequently scored wonderful successes. If victory always rested with the big battalions we should have been celebrating the triumph of our arms months ago. The Allied countries have a population of 270,000,000, whereas the enemy countries, Germany, Austria, and Turkey, have only 125,000,00. Why has not victory been achieved by the Allied nations? The reason we have not been victorious, and have been losing rather than winning, on the eastern front in Europe is because we have been unprepared and unorganized. That is why we have not been in a position to hold our own against the huge machine Germany has taken so long to perfect.

Senator Henderson - I fancy that the honorable senator's statements are a little wild.

Senator LYNCH - Senator Henderson may take up the Statesman's Year-Book for himself, and he will find that what I have said is correct. He will see that the Allied nations have a population of 270,000,000, and that the enemy countries have a population of 125,000,000.

Senator Henderson - No one questions that.

Senator LYNCH - Then why have we not won, and why are we not winning?

Senator Watson - Because of our unpreparedness.

Senator LYNCH - That is just what I have said.

Senator Henderson - I object only to the pessimistic nature of the honorable senator's utterances.

Senator LYNCH - I like to take stock of my position. I do not throw dust in my eyes, or, like the ostrich, hide my head in the sand, regardless of events that are taking place. I see that the war has been in progress now for a considerable time, and that the enemy countries, in spite of their smaller population, are holding their own, aye, and are doing more than that on the eastern front. The bravest of our men are pouring out their life's blood to maintain our position, and in the circumstances it is foolish on our part not to make supreme efforts to prevent further sacrifice of the lives of those who, braver than their fellows, have volunteered for the defence of their country. On a population basis, instead of sending 90,000 men to the front, we should send nearly 300,000. Only the other evening I met married men from Western Australia, one of whom is leaving behind a family of five, and another a family of four. They are relinquishing good positions, and are going to the front in response to what they consider their country's call. At the same time we know that there are vast numbers of young men who put the suggestion that they should go to the front aside, and say, " Me to go ! Why me ? " There are numbers of young single men in the country who have not allowed the thought of enlisting to enter their minds. I ask, again, why only one patriotic section of the community should go to the front when it is the duty of all able-bodied men to do so, and the duty of all who can be mustered for the purpose ? It is not fair to those who have volunteered, to their dependants, or to those who are already mourning their loss, that large numbers of single young men should remain behind, without any sense of their duty to the country. It is my view that some form of compulsion should be adopted to enlist every man who is able to bear arms, the same as is done in other countries. Conscription is adopted in

Italy and in France, countries that to-day are our Allies in the struggle that is taking place.

Senator McKissock - Not in Great Britain.

Senator LYNCH - Not in Great Britain yet, but we do not know when it will' be adopted there. We are probably verynear the time when it will be adopted in. Great Britain.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - Weare very close to it now.

Senator LYNCH - I agree with thehonorable senator. I remind honorable senators that it was very close also at the time of the battle of Waterloo, when peopledid not know when the press-gang would; come round and press them into the service of the country. I emphasize my contention that in this struggle we are called! upon to put forth our most supreme effort, in order not to further sacrifice the livesof the men who are holding positions at the front which they can barely hold today for lack of numbers.

Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's utterance does him credit.

Senator Needham - Does the honorable senator advocate conscription?

Senator LYNCH - We have conscription at present for the defence of thiscountry.

Senator Needham - We have not.

Senator LYNCH - What system havewe got, then ? Does the honorable senator mean to tell me that if Australia were invaded to-morrow we should not enforceconscription for its defence?

Senator Needham - Every man whohas gone to the front is a volunteer.

Senator LYNCH - I say that to persist in the policy of enlisting only volunteers is to continue a policy that is lacking in courage, whether it be adopted byGreat Britain or by any other country. I repeat that conscription has no terrors for me, and never will have any. If the country is worth defending, all who areable to defend it should be called upon to do so, and we should not depend upon the braver and more patriotic section of our fellows to fight our battles for us. I think that it is my duty to express theview that the present position is entirely unsatisfactory. The position in GreatBritain to-day is unsatisfactory, and they are getting very close to conscription there. We in this country should takestock of the position, and as one who does- not wish to see greater sacrifices of the lives of the bravest of our people, I am prepared to give my voice and vote for compulsion, to insure that greater num, bArS shall enter the lists in defence of this country, and bring the struggle to a crowning victory.

I was about to refer to the question of the extension of telephone facilities to country districts. Honorable " senators are aware that the remote districts of this continent have but infrequent mails, and very meagre means of communication. Representatives of country constituencies know that the people in remote centres of population are greatly handicapped on this account. I hope that, in order to develop the country more vigorously, an increased vote will be provided on the Estimates for the current year for the purpose of connecting the isolated districts of Australia with the business centres. Facilities of communication count for everything in these days, and I trust that the Government, in preparing the Estimates, will take this into account. I thought it my duty to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to express the opinions I held, for what they are worth.

Senator Lt Colonel O'LOGHLIN -(South Australia) [11.48].- The discussion upon the Bill so far has dealt chiefly with the referenda proposals and the necessity for further exertions in the prosecution of the war. Honorable senators on the other side seem to wish to claim credit for all the patriotism and for the greatest zeal and earnestness in the prosecution of the war. If I thought that the carrying out of a campaign for the alteration of the Constitution would prevent a single man from going to the front or retard in any way the necessary preparations to enable us to take our share in the great struggle in which the Empire is engaged, I should say at once that the referenda proposals should be set aside, and we should confine ourselves entirely to carrying on the war. But I have not heard a single argument to show that the referenda campaign would retard preparations for the war in any way, or prevent a single extra man being sent to the front. "What it has been found imperative to do to carry on the war has shown more emphatically than ever the absolute necessity for the Commonwealth Parliament having greater powers than it now pos sesses, not merely to deal with matters of ordinary concern, but with crises such as that through which we are now passing. The position in which the Labour party stand in this regard must be clear to every one. The proposals to amend the Constitution are not new. They were amongst the most important matters of debate during the election campaign which closed so recently as the 5th September last. We may be told that the conditions wore different then. They are to some extent different. When the proposals were put before the country, and indorsed by a big majority of the people, the Germans were at the gates of Paris. There was a German squadron in the Pacific, and we did not know the moment when Australia might be attacked. We do know that New Zealand was in imminent danger of attack. The Emden, the Karlsruhe, and the other German raiders were in possession of the high seas, and doing immense damage. But to-day we find that the Germans have been driven back, and that no longer is there a hostile squadron in any part of the seas of the world. The Emden, the Karlsruhe, and the other German raiders have been destroyed. So I contend that, although we have not achieved any marked advance in the way of bringing this great war to a termination, we are in a stronger and better position than we were in on the 5th September last. Taking our own German population - they are excellent colonists - I think that the sympathies of those who have been here for any time are not with the German barbarities. I know that in South Australia the German press with all their influence are on the Liberal side. I have just come back from Queensland, and I know that during the recent electoral campaign a German newspaper in Brisbane did all that it could to boost up Herr Denman, Herr Blair, and all the other Liberal Ministers and their party. If their sympathies lay in that direction, and they thought that the advent of Labour would be likely to prevent the prosecution of the war to the utmost extremity, I think it is probable that they would have been found supporting, the Labour party instead of the opposition side. I desire to utter a few words in regard to a statement by Senator Lvnch. Last night I interjected during: his speech that a proper comparison to make in regard to what Australia is doing is not with the Old Country, but with the other Dominions. Compared with Canada, with her much larger population, T think that we have about held our own.

Senator Russell - Is even that comparison fair ?

Senator Lt Colonel O'LOGHLIN - I think so. Another consideration, and a very strong one, too, is the cost of transportation. Australia is situated some 12,000 miles from the field of operations. If honorable senators will take into account the statement made by the Minister of Defence as to the amount of transport and the expense of conveying the Expeditionary Forces we have already dispatched, even to Egypt, which is not all the way, it will be seen at once what a much greater handicap the cost of transport is to us . than it is to England, whence the troops have to be sent only a few miles across the channel; or to Canada, which is situated only about 3,000 miles from the front, that is, about one-fourth of our distance. In the matter of warlike operations time is the essence of the contract, and that factor ought to be considered in estimating the proportion of our share in the conduct of this great war. I am rather inclined to agree with Senator Lynch that the time is fast approaching when further steps will have to be taken both in the Old Country and in the new. I do not say that the position is any worse now than it was during the first few months after August, but the disappointment is due to the fatuous optimism of the press and our own people in leading the public to believe that after the first set-back was obtained, after the Germans were driven from the Marne to the Aisne, they would be across the Rhine in a few weeks, and the Russians would be in Berlin in a month or two. Those expectations have not been realized, but there was no ground for them in the first place. It was mere fatuous optimism to expect that anything of the sort would happen.

Senator de Largie - Now the press is rushing to the other extreme.

Senator Lt Colonel O'LOGHLIN .- Of course, there has been a set-back on the eastern frontier, which I think is due mainly to the fact that Russia is isolated. With the Black Sea closed, with the Germans and the Austrians on one frontier, and with the Baltic Sea not available to commerce, Russia has not had the supply of arms and munitions which would enable her to fully arm the immense resources in men she has at her disposal. I suppose it is a small estimate to make to say that 80' per cent, of the men we have sent to the front were drawn from the labouring class. We, as particularly representing that class, though we claim to represent all classes, are more interested in giving them the necessary support to maintain the positions they have gained, than are honorable senators on the opposite side. Therefore, it is not likely that we would entertain for a moment any action which would retard in any way the furnishing of necessary support. We have enemies within our gates as well as without them. I do not wish to make any general accusation against commercial firms of commercial people, but it has been shown absolutely that there are those who are taking advantage of the war for their own purposes, and endeavouring out of the necessities of the people to acquire extra and exorbitant profits for the goods they have to dispose of. If that were not the case where would be the necessity for our War Precautions Act, and all the extra powers, we have taken to deal with such men ? I noticed in the press to-day that Lloyd George, in the Old Country, has been dealing with the matter of munitions, and securing the co-operation of both labour and capital in pressing forward in every possible way the necessary preparations for supporting the men at the front. I observed, too, that he has publicly thanked the Labour party for the assistance they have given him. Further than that, he used these words which, no doubt, honorable senators have read in their newspaper -

The difficulty is not with labour, but with employers, some of whom have actually demanded compensation for allowing their employees to go to the front.

That is a public statement by the man who is mostly responsible for keeping up the supplies in connexion with the war. In Australia the press has reported a number of cases - I do not say that they have been very general - where employers had been summoned for penalizing men who had to attend .drill from time to time to render themselves effective for defending the country if called up. The policy of our opponents, it seems to me, is to say, " Labour is in power ; we cannot help that, although we did all we could to- prevent it. An overwhelming verdict of the country has placed Labour in power, and the next best thing to do is to prevent the party from doing anything. If we can, by agreeing that all attention is to be devoted to the war and nothing else done, prevent Labour from achieving anything or from carrying out the programme it is pledged -to the country to carry out, it will not matter about the party in office." After two or three years we shall have to go to the country, and, naturally, our supporters will ask, "What have you done? Have you carried out the programme which you pledged yourselves to carry out when we put you in power?" Suppose that we go to the country as a discredited party who have not carried out their pledges. That is just what our opponents would like to see. It may appear trumpery to pass to minor matters after dealing with the great issues which have been discussed in this debate, but I desire to call the attention -of the Minister to one question which arises out of the war, and on which I have had a brief conversation with the Assistant Minister of Defence, who is particularly interested in the subject, not from the fact that he is a fruit-grower, but from the fact that he has mainly to deal with the matter of transport. The Commonwealth has commandeered all the available means of transport, and the States, of course, cannot take any action. The fruit-growers have had one or two bad seasons. The last season was particularly disastrous, at any rate in South Australia. There is every prospect of the fruit-growers in that State having a good season this year, and there probably will be, and I suppose in other States, especially in Tasmania, where fruit-growing is a prominent industry, a considerable surplus for export; but that will be of very little use to the growers if there is no means of getting it carried across the seas to the countries which may have a market for it. The question is not urgent now, but in February or March next extra means of transport will be required for marketing the surplus abroad. I desire to impress upon honorable senators generally - and I think that the Assistant Minister of Defence recognises the necessity - that an effort should be made to see that, at that time, means of transport is made available to the fruit-growers. I hope that Ministers will make a note of my suggestion.

Senator Russell - Will the honorable senator permit me to interject that the Government have under consideration the question of the export of the products of Australia next year, because there is bound to be a difficulty?

Senator Lt Colonel O'LOGHLIN - 1 am very pleased to receive that assurance, and, having got it, I have no more to say on the matter.

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