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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) . - I am not prepared at the moment to make a statement such as both my honorable friends desire. A Supply Bill covering the first month of the next financial year has already been circulated, and its consideration will be proceeded with as soon as we have disposed of these Estimates. I shall try to obtain the information asked for by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) in time to put it before honorable members when the Supply Bill is being dealt with. The general Defence policy of the Government is giving us a great deal of concern.

Mr Stewart - It is a matter of concern to all of us.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - May I suggest that it is giving the whole world a great deal of concern. The war is over, it is true, so far as our late . enemy is concerned, but the world to-day ia still in a state of war. All the European nations are still armed to the teeth, and I am afraid that, having regard to that fact, and also to what is taking place in the Pacific theatre, the day of disarmament is not just yet.

I do not think as many do - and in this respect I am an optimist - that the idea of a' League of Nations is a chimera that has gone up like 'the smoke of battle. I am one of those who believe that the League of Nations will presently begin to function. It is a great ideal, and I believe it is gradually taking hold of the public opinion of the world. Whether the world likes it or not, I believe it will be driven into the arms of the League of Nations very shortly as a way out of the present impasse. Until that day comes, I am afraid we must mark time a little. As to our own schemes of defence, they are steadily maturing, and I hope it will not be very long before we are able to tell the House exactly what is in our minds as to our own immediate defence requirements, and regarding also the financial setting of - those requirements. I regret very much that I am not able at present to make a considered statement on the subject. It is not from any lack of desire to do so, but rather because of the great difficulties surrounding the whole question.

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