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Thursday, 2 August 1934

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) . - I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). If I understood the right honorable gentleman, his objection to the proposal of the Government is that the present Parliament should not be rushed into the expenditure of £500,000, which is only the first instalment of an ultimate expenditure of £2,280,000, but that the people of Australia should be allowed to consider the question thoroughly and that it should be decided by the Parliament that is shortly to be elected. Those who have read what has been written on the subject must recognize that all over the world experts differ as to which is the best arm of defence. Some writers claim that reliance should be placed on large warships and cruisers, while others advocate pocket cruisers and small ships. Having read what has been written by the leading British writers, one cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that those who are behind the agitation for the building up of armaments are the agents of the scoundrels who are associated with armamentmaking firms. , Sir Philip Gibbs and other writers are daily warning the people that they are being rushed into fanatical preparations for war by agents of armaments firms, who are robbing the people of every country. A consideration of the history of Australia in connexion with naval defence during the last 24 years will show that the political party of which the Government is the mouthpiece was absolutely opposed to the original proposal to build an Australian navy. The Fisher Government fought two elections on the question whether Australia should begin -to stand on its own feet and make preparations for its own defence rather than to make a donation to the cost of the British naval programme. That Government decided that Australia should not be left to the mercy of the outside world, but should build its own warships and other equipment for defence purposes. It encouraged the making of steel by subsidizing persons who came to Australia to open up the iron-ore deposits of this country. It further lent its support to the establishment of a rolling plant in Newcastle, which the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) says that Australia has never had. Ships' plates have been rolled in Newcastle for the last 20 years.

Mr Francis - Not the sort required for this vessel.

Mr HOLLOWAY - More than one war vessel has been built in Australia. During the last war, 90 per cent. of the assistance rendered by Australia to warlike operations overseas was prpvided by men and equipment introduced after the conflict started, without any preparation or special training, yet this nation, mentally and physically, was efficient enough not only to take its place in the ranks of the combatants, but also to supply a large number of mechanics to assist in munition work in England. All the reports received from over-seas stated that the equipment of the Australian soldiers was equal to the best in the field. We made all our small arms and uniforms, and some of our ammunition. The Minister has suggested that we have made no progress since that time, and that we should not try to increase our efficiency.

Mr Francis - I have never said that.

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