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Thursday, 2 August 1934

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Prowse (FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The honorable member for Henty, is. capable of making his own protest.

Mr WARD - If it is right for government supporters to submit their views on such an important matter as the expenditure of a large sum of money for the purchase of a war ship, every honorable member on the Opposition side should have a similar opportunity. I contend that the proposal is unwarranted. The money should be used to provide better treatment than the majority of the people are receiving to-day. It has been admitted to-night by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) that policy speeches are delivered outside this Parliament. Labour members should probably be content to know that only one cruiser is to be purchased from the British Government. The country is probably fortunate that the policy speech at the Millions Club was not delivered at a later hour, when a few more drinks had been taken. Otherwise a whole fleet might have been purchased !

We have been told that the proposed expenditure is essential in order to main tain the efficiency of the naval defence of the Empire. The right honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) recently returned from a mission to the East, and it was said that it succeeded beyond expectations. The Minister declared that so impressed were the people of the East with the fair treatment meted out to them by the British Empire that he could scarcely put his head out of a railway carriage window without hearing " God save the King " being sung. He told us that we need have no fear of aggression by any Eastern nation; that while there was uncertainty as to the attitude of Japan to China, no Eastern nation desired to attack Australia. Therefore, we have every right to ask the Minister to suggest from what direction a warlike attack may be expected. We were informed that we were on the way to a return to world-wide peace. Other countries besides Britain have put forward proposals for disarma- ment, but on many occasions the British Government has not helped towards their acceptance. Rather has it retarded progress towards disarmament. I suggest that we should not adopt a policy of despair, and say that future wars are inevitable. The argument usually advanced by honorable members opposite is that nations must arm in order to preserve peace. It would be just as logical to allow the civil population to carry guns in order to maintain order, because die argument could be used that every member of the community was prepared to defend himself. When nations are armed to the teeth, there is greater danger of their coming into conflict than there would be if their means of offence were not brought to the high pitch of perfection reached to-day. One of the principal arguments in support of the action of the Government is that this vessel can be constructed much more cheaply in Great Britain than in Australia. I should like to be informed whether the Government endeavoured to obtain quotations from any other source. If it be right to use the argument of economy to the detriment of the Australian worker as opposed to the British worker, it is equally right to suggest that the work should be undertaken elsewhere if the Australian people might thereby be saved a large amount of expenditure. The decision to purchase the cruiser in Great Britain was made long before the matter was brought before this Parliament. As the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) has said, the policy of the Government was delivered at a function held at the Millions Club, in Sydney; many months before honorable members were made aware of its intentions. If the Government intends to persist with lavish expenditure on arms of defence, why should it waste enormous sums upon the sending of delegations abroad? The jaunt of the AttorneyGeneral to the East, on what was described as a goodwill mission, cost many thousands of pounds, yet all that the right honorable gentleman could recommend upon his return to Australia was that millions of pounds should be spent on measures for the defence of this country. There are many returned soldiers in Australia to-day who would possibly find it very difficult to believe that they have very much to defend. The Government has not only destroyed their health and strength, but also withdrawn the miserable pensions that previously were paid to them, smashed up their homes, and forced them into every corner of the country to eke out an existence. It would be difficult for the returned soldiers suffering from tuberculosis, who are expectorating their lungs out in our cities, to bring themselves to believe that there is anything worth defending in this country as it is controlled by anti-Labour governments. I suggest that the policy of Labour men should be to develop our defences, not by constructing warships and establishing other arms of offence on the plea that we expect to be attacked by some foreign power, but rather by providing for the wants of our own people. If they were made happy and contented, there would be no need for Government supporters to deliver patriotic speeches every Empire Day, and to use the wireless broadcasting and moving picture facilities that they have at their disposal to stir up patriotism in the hearts of the people. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) say that, if Australia had ten more cruisers, she would be adequately defended so long as we have a desperate community and a dissatisfied personnel in the Royal Australian Navy? I could cite instances of preferential treatment of the "brass hats " who control the Navy, at the expense of men on the lower deck.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must recognize that the treatment of returned soldiers and sailors is not involved in the question before the Chair.

Mr WARD - I am sorry that you were not in the chair, Mr. Prowse, while the Attorney-General was addressing the committee. . You would probably have called him to order. I am protesting against the proposed expenditure. I support the amendment of the Leader of J;he Opposition (Mr. Scullin), probably " from motives slightly different from those which actuate him. I am opposed to either the purchase or the construction of a cruiser at the present time. I object to the building up of a force, which, when all is said and done, may be used not only in defending our shores against aggression by some foreign power, but also, in a time of civil disorder. Nobody who faces the facts, and is prepared to state them, will say that, because of the actions of this Government and its disregard of the requirements of the people, there is not a large and growing section who are desperately in need of the very necessaries of life. Desperate people may be driven to take whatever steps they consider are warranted, to provide themselves with what they require. I shall not, by my vote, help to build up an arm of defence that may be used against not only the people of a foreign nation, but also, in the final analysis, those whom we represent in this Parliament.

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