Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 22 April 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - There has been a-fear exhibited amongst quite a number of honorable senators that the passing of this Bill will of necessity involve the Commonwealth ina very large additional expenditure from the standpoint of the administration of the Defence Department. But during the week-end I went very carefully through the measure, with the result that I am perfectly satisfied that the statements made by the Minister himself are correct. The honorable gentleman told us that the administrative cost of this new branch of our Defence Force will be infinitesimal, as he intends to utilize for administrative purposes the services of officers who axe already in the employ of the Commonwealth. Nobody can question the necessity for bestowing special attention upon this branch of our defence. During the great war we were all satisfied that the Air Services of the Empire were practically the yes of the Army and Navy. But for them the Empire would have cut a very sorry figure indeed. Thanks to the energy displayed in bringing those services to the perfection which they reached, we were able to emerge from the great struggle victoriously. A few days ago I was told that I had only to look at one of the Melbourne newspapers to seethat a large expenditure had already been incurred upon the aviation branch of our Defence Department. But reference to the journal in question merely served to show that the appointments which have been made are confined to those who are engaged in the practical operations of the Air Service. I have the list before me now. Lest any honorable senator should be under the impression that these are administrative appointments at large salaries, I wish to say that they comprise the the appointment of a wing commander, a squadron leader, flight lieutenants, a flying officer, an observer, and squadron leaders. All these appointments affect only the practical operations of the Air Service.

Senator Pearce - Practically all of the appointees are flying men.

Senator PAYNE - Exactly. I intend to support the second reading of the Bill, chiefly because, in the present condition of the world's affairs, we must recognise that we are far from having reached a position in which the need for maintaining our armaments to a reasonable extent has disappeared. The suggestion that we should delay the passing of this measure until the return of the Prime Minister from the Imperial Conference is a most dangerous one, because nobody can foresee what may happen in the course of a few months. I amnotpessimistic enough to believe that we are likely to be plunged into a great war in the immediate future. But as long as there are threatening clouds it would be folly for us to neglect the maintenance of our Defence Force. Before the outbreak of war, we in Australia had been paying an annual insurance premium in respect of both our military and our naval defence. We are now asked to pay an annual premium upon a policy connected with the Air Branch of our Defence Force. No reasonable person, no matter how anxious he may be to economize, particularly at a time like the present, will be foolish enough to suggest that we can afford to rub along without taking out an insurance policy in connexion with our air defence. In his remarks upon this . Bill, Senator Gardiner seemed to entirely ignore the statements which were made by the Minister for Defence in moving the second reading of the Bill. Practically the whole of his observationswere directed to the very large expenditure which he affirms will be involved in its passing.

The Minister has pointed out that through the generosity of the British authorities we have been presented with a large number of aeroplanes, and it would be folly on our part if we did not utilize them in times of peace in such a way as to bring into existence a really efficient Air Force that would be exceptionally useful in any future hostilities. I heard reference made the other day to the enthusiasm which had been displayed by the Minister regarding Defence matters. One remark was that the Minister was so saturated with this enthusiasm that he had no time to think of the financial obligations entailed in carrying out defence operations.I am pleased that we have a Minister who is saturated with Defence, and so enthusiastic as to throw his whole heart and soul into these great questions. Although I hold no brief for the Minister it is only fair to remember at this time of peace the fine work putin byhim during the war. If we had not had a Minister who threw his whole heart and soul into the work intrusted to him there, we should probably not have had such a fine administration of the Defence Department during the war period.

Some honorable senators have expressed the view that we are not holding out sufficient inducement to those who might be capable of proving themselves very good officer's and men in our flying department,, because we are making no provision for their position in life after they reach the age of forty. I indorse a good deal that has been said in this connexion, and am hopeful that the time is not far distant when, not only in this and all other branches of the Defence Department but also in all Departments of the Commonwealth, ample provision will be made, by the establishment of a Superannuation Fund based on a sound foundation, to insure that any man who enters the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall have something to keep him when age ' forces him to retire.

I think we are all satisfied that, having voted a large sum of money, as we did last year, for Air Defence, the time has arrived when we should see to it that the Air Defence Department is properly administered. During the interval between the time the money was voted and to-day, the Air Defence Force has been administered by the Naval and Military authorities, but the branch has grown to such an extent quite recently that it behoves us to see that we have a thoroughly efficient administration of it in regard to the operations to be carried out in the future. I give my hearty accord to the second reading of the Bill, and trust that any feeling that may exist that it will entail for administrative purposes heavy expense on the people of the Commonwealth, who are already very severely taxed, can be swept away for the time being. Surely the Parliament of Australia will be able, if any effort should be made by the Minister to increase the administrative costs unduly, to put the brake on. At the present time there is no necessity to do so, because I am satisfied, as I think most honorable senators are, that the administrative portion of this Department will not add any material burden to our finances. If in the future an attempt should be made to overburden the administration by making a very large number of appointments at high salaries, we shall have it in our power to enter our protest, and that will be the right time to do it.

At present we can do "no more than support the second reading of the Bill in order to give the Minister the power he requires to make this new branch of our Defence as permanent and as satisfactory as possible.

Suggest corrections