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Thursday, 26 August 1937


Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I shall endeavour, to the utmost of my power, to deal calmly and logically with the number of subjects brought under our notice by the propaganda speech of Mr. Joseph Aloysius Lyons which was read to honorable senators by the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce). The Imperial Conference of 1933 resolved-

It is the prime responsibility of each part of the Empire to provide for its own local defence.

Since then, that resolution has been reaffirmed. So far as my experience of the Labour movement enables me to speak, we are still in hearty agreement with that principle. This debate is not a matter of defence versus no defence, as some of ouropponents would like to make out. They have been very crude in their accusations against the Labour movement; but every thinking man and woman who reads Mr. Curtin's speech onthe defence policy of the Labour party will readily perceive that the Labour movement and the Government are equally desirous of ensuring that Australia shall be thoroughly and efficiently defended. I do not understand the mentality of honorable senators who, after contending that we should lift the matter of defence beyond the level of ordinary political argument, deliberately lie in regard to the policy of the Opposition. It is plain that the real difference between the Labour party and the Government lies in the fact that we pin our faith to an extension of the air arm. On the other hand, the Government proposes to build two more cruisers; possibly they are essential, for our navy, although larger than the fleets of South Africa, Canada and New Zealand, is small. Yet Australia actually spends more money on its navy than the combined appropriations ofthe other dominions. The Government adopts the attitude that we must concentrate more on the development of the navy than on the extension of the air arm. For certain reasons outlined by Mr. Curtin, the Labour party has expressed its faith in the development of the air force. In my opinion, there is no reason why the Government supporters should raise such a hullabaloo because the Labour party has pinned its faith to that policy. The only reason that I can discover for the heated speeches made in this chamber, and in the House of Representatives, on Labour's defence policy is that the Government and its supporters are anxious to make political capital out of this matter. I do not for one moment assert that they are " rabble-rousers " - that would be an insult to Australian democracy - but, at the same time, even in a democracy people can be bluffed at election time into accepting something which is not right; and evidently the Government, fully understanding this human weakness in our modern democracy, proposes to use this means to further its ambition to be returned to the treasury -bench. If Government supporters were fair, they would not descend to the silly deba ting-school tactics of Senator Hardy, Senator Pearce, and various interjectors.


Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator would prefer us to remain quiet?


Senator BROWN - No ; but I desire honorable senators to exercise their Godgiven brains in an intelligent manner. I deplore the many foolish interjections that have been made, largely, Mr. Deputy President, because of your extreme leniency. I propose now to read clause e, paragraph 23, of the platform and objective of the Labour party.


Senator Marwick - Can I have a copy?


Senator BROWN - Yes; I should be pleased if honorable senators, instead of talking so stupidly as they have done to-day about Labour's aims, would analyse and digest the contents of this booklet. I fail to understand why such intense heat should be generatedin this debate, unless it be due to that dynamic force, the desire of honorable senators to win political preferment. We should proceed with the discussion of the defence of Australia like good Australians, anxious only for the welfare of this country. A plank of the Labour party's platform reads -

No raising of forces for service outside the Commonwealth or for participation infuture overseas wars except by the decision of the people.

That is of the essence of modern democracy. We. give to the people the right to say whether they shall or shall not take part in any overseas conflict. According to the speeches delivered by some honorable senators opposite and interjections made when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was so ably expounding the defence policy of the Labour party, it is the intention of the Government to disregard the will of the people and to send forces overseas under any circumstance. But the Labour party believes that the people who pay the taxes by which the administration of the country is financed should say whether they will or will not participate in an embroglio in Europe or elsewhere. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who is an ex-Minister for Defence, foolishly asked if, during an attack upon Australia, a Labour government would allow bombers to operate beyond the three mile limit. I am surprised that this socalled statesman should ask such a stupid question.


Senator Sir George Pearce - But what is the answer?


Senator BROWN - I shall give the answer. Senator Hardy, the Leader of the Country party in this chamber, for whom I have a great deal of respect, also asked whether the bombers would be equipped with elastic to prevent them, when chasing an invading plane, from going beyond the three-mile limit. It is difficult to understand why a responsible representative of the Australian people should ask such a stupid question.


Senator Sir George Pearce - Will the honorable senator tell us now whether the bombers would be allowed to operate beyond the three-mile limit?


Senator BROWN - If bombers -were engaged with, invaders they would probably have to go beyond that limit. The Australian people know that the Labour party is anxious to organize the defence forces in order to defend Australia, which is a country worth defending.

The capable Leader of the Labour party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin), in explaining the defence policy of the party, said, " I do not urge that we should scrap our navy or that we should not maintain it at its present strength." Notwithstanding that definite statement Senator Hardy said that a Labour government would sell the vessels of the Australian Navy to Japan as scrap iron. The Labour party, which was responsible for the establishment of the Australian navy, would not think of doing anything so foolish.


Senator McLeay - But the party has changed since then.


Senator BROWN - The objectives of the Labour party have not changed since from what they were when its supporters in this chamber included Senator Pearce, Senator Plain and Senator Lynch. Although the Government speaks so freely of the necessity to defend Australia, what has it done to ensure its protection? During the six years it has been in power provision should have been made for the manufacture of all the arms and munitions Australia is likely to require, instead of purchasing, as it has been doing, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth from other countries. Although we have been told that the air force is an auxiliary of the navy, the Sydney Bulletin has said, and leading authorities contend, that many of the planes now used by the Defence Department were obsolete before they were purchased from private companies. A Sydney manufacturer stated recently that suitable gauges so essential in the manufacture of munitions and other war material are not available. If existing factories are to be used for the production of war material the Government should have standard gauges so that parts made in Brisbane will be interchangeable with parts made in Melbourne. Senator Brand as an experienced campaigner knows that in war one of the main essentials is a trans port system by which troops may be moved , rapidly from one part of the country to "another. The policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) six years ago, and also that presented three years later, promised that the railway gauges would be standardized. '

It is true that about 56 miles of new railway of standard gauge has been constructed. What has been done here, however, compares very unfavorably with the achievements of European countries which are controlled by dictators. It is no wonder that democracy is becoming a laughing stock. I suppose that the Government means well ; but if it had been in earnest it would have ensured the construction of more than 56 miles of railway of standard gauge in six years. By parity of reasoning, how long will it take the Government to build a fleet capable of defending Australia ?

The Government accuses the ' Labour party of having no defence policy, but what has it done to ensure supplies of oil fuel which is so essential to the defence of Australia? How much oil is in storage in Australia ; how many plants have been erected to extract oil from shale, or coal, or vegetable matter? It is true that the Government proposes to devote a considerable sum to assist a private company to extract oil from shale, but many difficulties will have to be overcome before oil is produced at Newnes in any considerable quantity. Were the Government really in earnest in regard to the defence of Australia, it would years ago have established plants which by this time would have been producing large quantities of oil. At a Nazi conference recently, Herr Hitler stated that within three years Germany would be independent of oil from outside sources. Germany realizes the need for providing its own supplies of oil fuel, and has taken action to ensure that they will be available. That has been done under a dictatorship; but in Australia, the Lyons Government has not, done more than make promise after promise. Now, in order to divert attention from its inactivity in this direction, the Government is endeavouring to turn the people against the Labour party. It is the old old story of the man who has failed, abusing the other fellow.


Senator Duncan-Hughes - What has the Labour party done towards the standardization of railway gauges?


Senator BROWN - I am dealing, not with the Labour party, but with the failure of the present Government to take steps which are essential to the defence of Australia.


Senator Duncan-Hughes - The Kyogle to Brisbane railway was constructed by a Nationalist government.


Senator BROWN - That does not excuse the failure of the Government to develop transport to meet the requirements of an emergency.


Senator UPPILL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Senator Brand said last year that, there was no military objection to the present breaks of gauge.


Senator BROWN - His view was that the troops could rest while the transfer of equipment took place. The logical deduction from that argument is that the more breaks of gauge we have the better will our railway transport system be because the troops will have more opportunities to rest.


Senator Marwick - Senator Brand is a practical soldier.


Senator BROWN - That is so. I admire him greatly ; but even a practical soldier may make mistakes, as was, unfortunately, proved on numerous occasions during the Great War.

In the opinion of the Labour party, armaments and munitions should he made by the nation, so that no incentive shall be given to private manufacturers to make profits. I know that in many countries the making of armaments has been left to the racketeers of death. Reports by various committees which have investigated this matter show that the great armament firms of the world are closely interlocked. Mr. Pethick Lawrence, M.P., of England, has shown that since Britain embarked on a policy of rearmament, there has been a rapid rise in the value of shares in armament companies. According to him -

John Brown's 6s. ordinary shares stood at 19s. 3d. in November, 1935, and now stand at 40s., an increase of no less than 108 per cent. Cammell Laird's 5s. ordinary shares stood at 7s. 6d. in November, 1935, and to-day stand at 16s., an increase of 113 per cent. Hadfleld's 10s. ordinary shares stood at 18s. fid. in November, 1935, and to-day stand at 40s. 6d., an increaseof 119 per cent. Vickers' 6s. 8d. ordinary shares, which stood at 19s. 9d. in November, 1935, stand at 37s. to-day, an increase of 87 per cent.

Labour believes that the manufacture of the munitions necessary for the safeguarding of the nation should not be entrusted to profit-making private enterprise. The Canberra Times of to-day contains the following paragraph: -







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