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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) . - Oan the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) inform us when we are likely to know what is the real military and naval programme for the Commonwealth? Piece-meal .expenditure is being indulged in without any formal plan having been placed before the country. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) will admit that this is a very undesirable method of procedure; and we ought to know the defence policy of Australia for the coming two or three years. We have recently been rejoicing over the end of a war which was to end war - over the fact that a League of Nations is to be brought into existence, and the world will never again be so deluged in blood - yet some of the first requisitions presented to Parliament, and one of the first works referred to the Public Works Committee this year, involves a very considerable expenditure in respect of Defence. The Ministry should inform the Committee when they will be able to promulgate a defence policy for Australia, and to give Australian taxpayers some idea of what burdens they are to bear in respect of defence, in addition to the burdens already imposed upon them by the recent war, and the carrying out of the repatriation, war pension, and many other pledges given to our returned men and the people generally. Delay in this matter is dangerous. The Defence Department in recent years has naturally been one of our biggest spending governmental agencies, and according- to forecasts it is likely to remain a very big spending Department. The taxpayers should know as early as possible where they stand. This is a matter of interest to honorable members on all sides. I have yet to learn that the defence policy of Australia is a party question. The Ministry should lose no time, in announcing their policy. It will then be for the Parliament to say whether it approves or disapproves of a big expenditure in connexion with naval and military matters.

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