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Wednesday, 7 December 1938


Sir CHARLES MARR (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If we attempted to apply every idea held by individual honorable members we should make a horrible mess of our defence. We can only be guided by our experts in so vital a matter. I do not agree with the honorable member for Batman that, in order to ensure the permanency of their positions, our military advisers are prone to encourage war and preparation for war. I know from my experience with members of the Indian Forces that, although they were desirous of holding their positions, they were most anxious that war should be avoided.

As the result of happenings in September last we cannot escape the conclusion that the rule of force has definitely come to stay, for a period at least, in the settlement of international difficulties. I make that admission with very much regret. Events in Czechoslovakia have shown what will be the fate of a nation which is not prepared to meet force with force. Listening to the previous speech on defence delivered by the Leader of the Opposition I understood the policy of the Labour party to be that if Great Britain were attacked Australia should say to Britain's enemy, " "We are not at war with you at all ; we keep ourselves isolated ". Evidently the Labour party believes that in a time of emergency Australia shall regard itself as being outside the Empire, in the belief, apparently, that the enemy who attacked Britain, or any other part of the Empire, would consequently leave Australia alone. In the light of present international dissension and chaos, can any one who claims to have the interest of this country a,t heart, come to any other conclusion than that we should be living in a fool's paradise if we thought we could defend this country by word of mouth?


Mr Brennan - How many shares has the honorable member in New Guinea?


Sir CHARLES MARR - I do not hold any at all.


Mr Brennan - Well; what is the honorable member after?


Sir CHARLES MARR -I am urging that we should adequately defend Australia as a part of the British Empire, and it is on that point that I differ from the honorable member. I know where the honorable member stood in the last war; to-night he has repeated utterances which he made in 1914, and, I suggest, he would repeat his actions of 1914 in the event of Australia becoming involved in another war.


Mr Brennan - Has the honorable member learned nothing from the last war?


Sir CHARLES MARR - I have learned quite a. lot. I have learned, for instance', that there are several coldfooted members of this Parliament who would not defend Australia if the necessity to do so arose.

The defence of the Empire, and of Australia, lies primarily on the water and in the air. I agree with the policy enunciated by the Labour party that we should build more aeroplanes and strengthen our defences at sea. In building up our navy we should be prepared to provide more than one battleship. It is within the bounds of possibility that we could raise as much as £100,000,000 for the purpose of constructing and manning ten pocket battleships, providing for the amortization of that debt at a cost of about £6,000,000 annually.


Mr Street - In addition to the cost we are now contemplating?


Sir CHARLES MARR - I suggest that we could possibly provide £6,000,000 annually in order to build up our navy. Such an undertaking would be fully justified considering that we have a coastline of 12,000 miles and several vital sea routes to defend. Honorable members opposite declare that they would not go outside Australia to defend any of our trade routes. But they are the arteries upon which the life of this nation depends and, therefore, we need to guard them as effectively as possible. As individuals we pay insurance against fire, burglary and accident, and as a nation we provide for the welfare and security of our people by social legislation, such as the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, which will cost more than £20,000,000 annually. Over the years our workers have won, very tardily I admit, standards of living and working conditions far superior to those operating in any other country. Returning to Australia from overseas one cannot but feel that this is the finest country in the world. I am aware that we still have some people unemployed; nevertheless, our people enjoy the best living and "working conditions of any country. We can only retain those conditions if we are prepared to defend them. We cannot defend them through industrial boards or arbitration courts, or by merely speaking from a soap-box. We can- do so only by building up our defences to such a degree of efficiency that no enemy will dare attack us. No honorable member of this Parliament desires to see war break out, but we should merely be inviting attack if we did not attend to our defences. The Munich Pact has not put a stop to re-armament. What has happened since that pact was signed by Britain, Franco, Germany and Italy? The mad armaments race has still gone on. I agree with honorable members opposite that the manufacture of armaments by private enterprise has, in the past, been largely responsible for war. I would go further. I would not allow any firm to build armaments for profit. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) objected to the placing of trial orders for munitions with private firms. My information is that the orders were given only to test the ability of the firms to produce munitions in time of war. If war should break out, the Commonwealth would probably take over those firms and manufacture munitions for itself.

I commend the Government upon having inaugurated this intensive defence policy. The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has only recently taken over the job, but his experience in the last war, and his association with defence units since then, should be of great value to him. No one wants to spend more money on defence than is necessary, but if we are to preserve our. hard-won liberty, we must be prepared to defend it.

Reference has been made to the subject of compulsory training. I would go further than introduce compulsory training; I would introduce universal training. In time of war I would not hesitate to conscript the wealth of the country. If we would conscript a man's dearest possession, his life, we should also be prepared to conscript wealth in the interests of the country. Defence considerations are paramount; everything must give way before them.

Frequent reference has been made to the need for the physical training of our population. I believe that all our boys and girls should be given physical training. Honorable members opposite claim to represent the workers, but the party of which I am a member would not be in power to-day were it not for the support of a great many of the workers. They recognize that we must make the defences of this country so strong as to discourage aggression. Recently, we were addressed by a member of the House of Commons, who was visiting Australia. He said that he was a member of the right-wing group of the Conservative party, while the Government of Czechoslovakia represented the opposite school of political thought. Yet he found himself in sympathy with Czechoslovakia, and I think that the sympathy of every honorable member of this House went out to that nation during its time of trial. The population of Czechoslovakia is more than twice that of Australia and, according to this speaker, Czechoslovakia has the best soldiers in Europe. They are well trained and well equipped, and Czechoslovakia at that time held the mountain ranges of which Napoleon said that the country that held those mountains held Europe. Al] this, however, was not sufficient to preserve the integrity of Czechoslovakia. I could never see that Czechoslovakia had done anything to antagonize the Germans, or any other country; yet, as a nation,. it has been practically wiped out of existence. The same thing could happen to us in Australia hut for our association with the British Empire. What could New Zealand do to defend itself with a population only equal to that of Sydney? Do honorable members suggest that we in Australia should stand by if New Zealand were attacked? If we did, we should not be worthy of the name of Australians, or of our place as members of the British Empire.

In the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Australia was given a mandate to govern the former German territory in New Guinea. I agree that the Treaty of Versailles has brought a great deal of trouble to the world. Many matters were included in the treaty which might well have been left out, and the treaty, instead of drawing countries closer together, has, in. many instances, merely aggravated international differences.

In the interests of the defence of the country and of the welfare of the population, we should embark upon a scheme of physical training for our boys and girls. All of them should be trained, as are the boys and girls who belong to the surf clubs up and down our coasts. I have never seen better physical specimens in any part of the world than the young men and women who take part in the beach carnivals from time to time.


Mr Brennan - Show them how to use the bayonet!


Sir CHARLES MARR - I would do as Hitler does. I would give them a broom-handle, and let them practise with that. Some time ago, I attended a jamboree of boy scouts at Birkenhead, in England, when scouts from 54 countries were represented, from the blackest negroes of Africa to the fairest lads from central Europe. All of them had one common ideal - they stood for the promotion of what was best in life. We should endeavour to instil the same ideals into our boys and girls. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is an idealist, and I can go a long way with him in what he advocates. I know that he desires to abolish war. He said, "Let us show an example to the world." I remind him, however, that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Arthur Henderson set out to show an example to the world by disarming Great Britain, and most of the international troubles from which the world suffers to-day are due to that policy of disarmament and peace at. any price inaugurated by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. Do honorable members think that the Germans would have given us the box on the ears that we recently received if we had been in a position to stand up and defend ourselves?


Mr Brennan - Have we been attacked?


Sir CHARLES MARR - We have received several knocks from the Germans and the Italians. If the policy of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) were adopted, we should close up the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow and the munitions works at Maribyrnong.

I wonder what the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) would have to say to that. It would be an education to honorable members to inspect those factories, and the T.N.T. factory, which is capable of producing more explosive of this type than any other factory in the Empire. Our munition factories are also turning out guns and gun carriages. Our defence policy is being directed along proper lines. It has been said that we should enlist the aid of engineers for our defences. I would not take an engineer from the railways and put him into the army because, in time of war, he would be much more useful doing his job in the railways, but I would form special corps in Holdens' body-building works, and in similar factories, for the repair of wagons and trucks for defence purposes. I would also create technical units in Newcastle and other manufacturing centres. The men associated with various trades should be placed in special units, where their skill would be of value in an emergency.


Mr Gander - Would the honorable member give the unemployed a job?


Sir CHARLES MARR - I would start with them.


Mr Gander - Well, the honorable member can start with 1,000 of them in Bankstown to-day.


Sir CHARLES MARR - I would put them into camp, and give them broomhandles to train with.


Mr Drakeford - Will the honorable member say how the defences of the country can be made secure in the absence of standardization of railway gauges?


Sir CHARLES MARR - I am grateful to the honorable member for the interjection. He and other honorable members have consistently advocated the standardization of railway gauges. I commend them for their efforts, and I am prepared to support them. The Government would be well advised to give serious consideration to the matter. Railway gauges should be standardized, so that rolling-stock could pass without delay from one end of the continent to the other. Roads should be improved. I agree that much has been clone in this direction through the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, but there is more to be done. During the last war buses and lorries were found to be almost as useful for the transportation of troops as were the railways. The moving of a division of 20,000 men with their equipment is a big task, and we should co-opt all forms of transportation, both road and rail, to ensure that it can be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Mr Price - Does the honorable member think that the north-south railway line is necessary?


Sir CHARLES MARR - No; I do not think that it is necessary - for the time being, at any rate. It would be better to construct a line from Bourke across to central Australia, and then up to Darwin.

It is important that we should embark upon the training of technicians for our defence forces. Years ago, this matter was gone into very thoroughly in England, particularly with regard to the training of signallers. Members of the Royal Engineers were employed throughout most of the year in avocations which kept them in training, many of them as telegraphists in the British Post Office. Radio is destined to play an important part in all our future activities, both civil and military. In my opinion, it would be wise to seek the co-operation of the wireless manufacturing companies which are training operators and mechanics so that we could have available men who could be used to advantage if trouble came. Only yesterday, when in Sydney, I rang up the officer in charge of a technical unit and asked him whether he had any vacancies for men. He replied that the unit was only at about half strength. He explained that the establishment had been increased recently.


Mr Street - It has been doubled.


Sir CHARLES MARR - He requested me to send along any men whom I could persuade to join the unit. Our system should be so universal that no eligible man, and very few women, would not be organized to do some kind of work. In the last war I saw men without legs performing useful work in a clerical capacity. That could be done again. Why should they not do such work, and relieve able-bodied men to do the fighting? In those days girls and women performed many jobs which previously were carried out by men. To the credit of the women, it should be remembered that many thousands of them donned dungarees and served in various capacities. They did as much to win that war - if we did win it - as any one else did. Although this bill has been introduced during the dying hours of the session, it deals with issues of such paramount importance as to justify a full discussion, even though the time occupied be many hours. I commend the Minister for Defence on the programme that he has submitted to us, and I hope that in the near future the Government will seriously consider adopting universal training, so that every male in the community can be set to work at the job for which he is best fitted.







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