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Wednesday, 30 June 1926

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) (Minister for Home and Territories) [3.8]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill will appropriate from the Con* solidated Revenue, first, an amount of £1,000,000 for the Defence Equipment Fund, which was established in 1924 to give effect to the naval construction policy then decided upon, and, secondly, an amount of £250,000 for aerial services. In 1924, the defence policy of the Commonwealth was decided upon, and a definite programme of naval construction agreed upon to be completed in 1928-29.' The estimated total cost of the programme, including the seaplane carrier now under construction at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, is £7,000,000. Of the amount, appropriated by this bill, £1,000,000 is for the liquidation of the liabilities already incurred, and includes £586,520 on account of the seaplane carrier. The policy of Australian defence is based on the principle that the primary responsibility of every British Dominion is to provide for its own local defence. Since the inauguration of our five years' programme, the strategists and technical advisers of practically all nations have urged the provision of greater air forces as a necessary cooperative factor with the Naval and Military Forces. The reasons for this are more or less self evident. In fact, no military or naval force would to-day contemplate any forward move without a thorough reconnaissance by air. No defence should be undertaken without sufficient forces in the air to meet the attack of enemy air forces. Those honorable senators who took part in the Gallipoli campaign, and more particularly in the operations on the western front, will know what an important part the air service plaved in movements of the allied armies. Not only did it play a part in opposing enemy air forces, but its presence in any sphere of operations always had a splendid moral effect on the Naval and Military Farces. During the great war, the strength of the Air Force fluctuated considerably; but it was always noticed that the supremacy of the Air Force of the Allies had a great moral effect upon our men. The airmen are the eyes of the armies, and of the fleets. As air co-operation has now become a vital necessity, the Government has allotted £250,000 for Air Force purposes, as specified in the bill. The air branch of the Defence Forces must be developed, and therefore the Government is asking Parliament to vote an additional amount as a trust fund for air defence purposes over and above the £1,000,000 sterling required for commitments already entered into. This is not the occasion on which to make any announcement concerning the defence policy of the Government - that will be done when the Estimates are under consideration.

SenatorNEEDHAM (Western Australia) T3.12]. - We are asked to vote a sum of £250,000 to form a trust fund for air defence purposes, £500,000 towards the cost of the - construction of cruisers, and £500,000 towards the cost of a seaplane carrier now being constructed at Cockatoo Island. I realize that Parliament has already placed its imprimatur on the policy of constructing cruisers abroad; but I hope that decision will soon be reversed, so that if further cruisers are required for home defence, they will be constructed in Australia.

Senator Drake-Brockman - It will be interesting to see what the seaplanecarrier will cost.

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