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Friday, 23 July 1926

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I also wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to the annual report of the Inspector-General of the Australian Military Forces, Sir Harry Chauvel, who has endorsed many of the statements made in previous reports, which have also been supported by General Sir J ohn Monash. As General Sir Harry Chauvel and General Sir John Monash are two of the greatest military authorities in Australia, their opinions on defence questions cannot be disregarded. Every one realizes that Australia cannot possibly afford the expenditure of £50,000,000 per annum on defence, and that it is unnecessary to establish a standing army in Australia; but it is absolutely essential that the nucleus of a highly trained staff should be available in every department of defence. That is the clear duty of the Government. With an overflowing Treasury, an accumulation of surpluses, and a general state of prosperity, it cannot be said that insufficient money is available for embarking upon a defence policy sufficiently comprehensive to ensure the protection of the Commonwealth. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said, we cannot rely upon land forces as the only means of defending a country which is enormously rich and dangerously empty. I have always advocated a progressive migration policy, and the maintenance of our White Australia policy, but the difficulties of the Government are increased because the Labour party, so far as we are able to judge, is opposed to the Government's defence and migration schemes. The members of the Labour party are imbued with the idea that in encouraging immigration we are endeavouring to' decrease the standard of living and to reduce wages in. Australia ; but those who directly or indirectly oppose migration should realize that the larger our population the greater will be our development and progress. If the population of the Commonwealth were larger the taxation per head would be less, and with increased numbers we would also be in a better position to defend ourselves. Those opposed to immigration should study the position in the United States of America, where, with a population of 115,000,000, the people individually and collectively are better off than they were when the- population was only 10,000,000 or 15,000,000. The Government should therefore proceed with its development and migration schemes more energetically than it has done in the past, in order to ensure greater production, and indirectly the safety of the Commonwealth. With an unprotected coastline of 12,000 miles, we must work in close co-operation with the British Navy. We ought to be thankful that we are under the protection of the British Navy, which has defended Australia and the great water-ways of the Empire for very many years. But as Great Britain is carrying a terrific financial hurden - her taxation per head of the population is higher than in any other part of the world, and she is paying her debts - we should not saddle her with additional responsibility.

Senator Graham - Are we not assisting to some extent ?

Senator GUTHRIE - Yes, and I am very glad of what we are doing. I am proud of the fact that within the next three years the Government proposes to spend £7,000,000 on naval construction, and that, according to the Prime Minister, Australia is spending more in defence than all the other dominions. As Australia is the richest of the dominions, we should spend a larger amount on naval defence than the others. Canada, because of her comparatively short coastline, and her proximity to the United States of America, need not incur heavy defence expenditure. The United States of America, as a neighbour of Canada, is not likely to calmly submit to an attack upon that dominion. Whilst we are spending over £7,000,000 in the next few years on naval construction, I emphatically disapprove of the Government's policy in some respects, more particularly in- regard to interfering with the continuity of policy of training Australian youths for the Navy. The other day the Prime Minister made the following statement : -

In 1924-25 the Ministry embarked on a programme of development extending over five years, and involving an annual' expenditure of £1.000 000, in addition to the expenditure of 1923-24 - the total annual appropriation for defence purposes being £5,500,000. This additional amount has been devoted to the training of the extra personnel required in connexion with the new naval construction. . . . In addition, the Ministry has embarked on a naval construction policy - to be completed by the year 1928-Z9 - involving an expenditure of £7,000,000.

He went on to say that £200,000 had been set aside for the charting of the Great Barrier Reef. I intend to show that a paltry £50,000 is standing in the way of our youths being given adequate training to fit them to man the cruisers when they have been constructed. Unfortunately, a certain amount of money has been wasted on naval construction. It will be remembered that when it was found necessary or advisable to construct two 10,000-ton cruisers honorable senators opposite, and those persons outside who sup- ' port them, endeavoured to force the Government to have them built in Australia.

Senator Graham - They should have been built in Australia.

Senator GUTHRIE - On that occasion the Government proved that the taxpayers' money would have been flagrantly wasted had the vessels been constructed in Australia. There was no guarantee that they would be built to specification, and it was not known when they would have been delivered.

Senator Graham - They will be obsolete when they are delivered.

Senator GUTHRIE - When the Commonwealth Government had the cruiser Adelaide constructed in Australia, years were necessary to complete it, and the total cost was double that which was estimated. Even then it was obsolete at the date of delivery. Had the contract for the lastcruisers been let in Australia each vessel would have cost at least £1,600,000 more than the Commonwealth will have to pay by having them con- structed on the Clyde. The Government was desirous of giving employment to Australian workmen, and it therefore decided to devote to the construction of a seaplane carrier and ocean-going submarines the amount that it saved by having the cruisers constructed abroad. What has been the result 1 Because of a stupid Act that was passed by the Socialistic Government in New South Wales, which is led by Mr. Lang, the cost of that seaplane carrier will be at least £1,300,000 instead of, as was estimated, £800,000. That information was supplied to me in reply to a question that I asked the Minister yesterday.

Senator Kingsmill - And the end is not yet in sight.

Senator GUTHRIE - That is so. Whan it will be delivered, Heaven only knows. I do not contend that the additional expenditure is due to the inefficiency of the Australian workmen. They are thoroughly efficient.

Senator Graham - Why, then, does not the Government keep them fully employed?

Senator GUTHRIE - I believe in keeping them employed, and so does the Government. The very stupidity of the New South Wales Workmen's Compensation Act, to which I have referred, will cause it to break down. It has already resulted in thousands of people being thrown out of employment in both city and country. Hundreds of men are walking the streets of country towns cursing the New South Wales Government for having passed an Act which makes it practically impossible for married men with families to be kept in employment. If a farmer wishes to have his farm worked by a share farmer he must enter into an arrangement with a single man, or a married man without a family if he wishes to protect himself from the responsibility for any accident that may happen to whoever resides upon the farm. It is quite a right principle that the owner of a property should be responsible for those who are working for him, and should insure them against accident. I am in perfect agreement with that provision. But I entirely disagree with the provision that he must bear the consequences of any sickness or accident that may befall the cousins, the nephews, the nieces, or the children of the share farmer, merely because they reside on his property. Is not that farcical in the extreme? It cannot but result in the employment of only single men and the throwing out of employment of those who should be kept fully employed. The saw-mills at Narrandera have closed, and the men are walking the countryside in hundreds. That same

Workmen's Compensation Act is the cause of the seaplane carrier costing £500,000 more than the estimate. Where would the taxpayers of Australia have been if the Government had stupidly consented to have built in Australia the two 10,000- ton cruisers ? Would they ever have been built?

Senator Graham - Of course they would.

Senator GUTHRIE - They would have cost millions of pounds above the estimate. I am surprised that Senator Graham is unable to see that if the additional expenditure on a seaplane carrier amounts to £500,000, the extra cost of two 10,000-ton cruisers would be a great deal more.

Senator Graham - It was well known that not more than 40 per cent. of the material for the cruisers could be provided in Australia. You know that.

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