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Wednesday, 13 April 1921

Debate resumed from 8th April (vide page 7311), on motion by Senator Pearce -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

Senator GARDINER(New South did the most interesting statement made by Senator E. D. Millen, asthe Australian representative at the Geneva Conference, and endeavouring to follow Senator Russell in his lucid explanation of the Public Service Bill, and again becoming deeply interested in Senator Pearce's remarks in regard to the Defence Bill, I feel somewhat unsettled at the prospect of entering upon a serious discussion of the Air Defence Bill which Senator Pearce introduced last week. Accordingly, my remarks will not be very lengthy. I view with concern the ease with which the Minister introduced this Bill - a war measure - the purpose of which is to add another arm, or shall I say wings, to our present system of defence. I view with concern the ease with which he is prepared to commit this country to what he states will be an additional, a commencing, expenditure of £500,000 per annum. I do not think I am quoting him unfairly when. I say he was sufficiently candid to admit that this is the anticipated amount required to establish the proposed Air 'Service.; and that if we go further in this scheme, we shall have to provide more money to pay for it. Is it wise at this juncture, when people who claim to have sound financial information are so concerned about the finances of the country, to ask. this Parliament to authorize such a huge expenditure for another arm of the Defence Service? We had four years of war, which we were told was to make the world safe for Democracy, and yet the people of Australia, the freest Democracy in the world, are now asked to tax themselves to provide, for war purposes, a sum greater than those who tried to hurry us into Federation declared would be the whole annual cost qf Commonwealth administration. One of the most intellectual and distinguished statesmen of New South Wales - I refer to the late B. R. Wise - estimated during the Federal campaign that the cost per annum to Australia of Federation would be just as much as the dog registration tax in New South . Wales-2s. 6d. per head of the population. But what do we find? We find that the cost of Federation exceeds that amount more than a hundred-fold.

Senator de Largie - But the dog has grown up since then.

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