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Tuesday, 22 March 1927


Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I have a few observations to make before the motion for the first reading of the bill is put. Since last we had a Supply Bill before us the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) 'has attended the Imperial Conference as a representative of Australia. I did object then, and I repeat my objection now, that whilst 1 recognized the necessity for Australia as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations being repre sented by its Prime Minister at that important conference, it was not necessary for Parliament in the meantime to be closed down. There was any amount of work for Parliament to do in the absence of the Prime Minister. The Governor-General's speech at the opening of Parliament shortly after the elections of 1925, indicated that a considerable amount of legislation, some of it important and some unimportant, was contemplated. If the Government had intended to keep its pledges to the people, Parliament could very well have been kept at work to give legislative effect to the Government's pledges. Instead of that being done the shutters were put up with the result that to-day. nearly seventeen months after the elections, very little of the legislation promised by the Government is on the statute-book. Parliament was not closed down on a former occasion, when another Prime Minister attended the Imperial Conference. Both branches of the legislature continued to function, and some attempt was made to put into operation a policy that had been placed befor> the people. Could the Prime Minister 'Mr. Bruce) not trust his partner in the Composite Ministry (Dr. Earle Page) ? That honorable gentleman toured the country as acting Prime Minister, indulging in propaganda work, when he could have utilized his time to better advantage h"7 giving effect in this Parliament to the promises that were made at the last election.

During his absence Mr. Bruce made many speeches, some of which were exceedingly interesting. He is reported to have stated in London tha: it would be a good thing if the United States of America joined with the British Commonwealth of Nations in an attempt to preserve the peace of the world. Ho was acclaimed in the press as a saviour, and given the credit of having made an original suggestion. He was not the first man to utter that wish. WheL he went to the United States of America, however, he made a speech of an entirely different character. He told 'the Americans that they were virtually the salt of the earth. Comparing the speeches that he made in London, New York, and Chicago, with those that he made on the hustings in Australia, one cannot escape the conclusion that with him this country takes second place to the United States of America. On his departure from that country he visited Canada, where he warned the people to beware of the Americans or they would rob them of their trade. He roused the resentment of the leaders of thought in Canada because ho endeavoured to teach them their business. On one occasion the right honorable gentleman spoke also in Glasgow. I worked in close proximity to that city for a number of years, and I am fairly well acquainted with its conditions. A report of that speech appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 29th December, 1926, and it reads -

Commenting in a speech at Glasgow to-day upon a reference to Australia, like Clydeside, having labour troubles, Mr. Bruce vigorously attacked the mistaken impression that Australia had labour troubles continuously - " Like you," he said, " we have our wild men going about demanding all sorts of things, but we, also like you, .have a little gang of reactionary conservatives, and I am hanged if 1 know which is more responsible for our troubles. But I believe the reactionaries are the more blameworthy, because their doctrines and actions build up and breed a spirit of discontent, which causes most of the trou'ble."

During the last elections the same Mr. Bruce, with his colleagues, Senators Pearce, Glasgow, McLachlau, and Crawford, told the electors from every platform from which they spoke that Australia was always in the midst of industrial troubles.


Senator Crawford - I have never made that statement.


Senator NEEDHAM - If the Minister did not make it himself, he supported the Prime Minister, who did. The present Government would not have been returned to power had not the electors been led to believe that red revolution was stalking through the land, :ind that if the Labour party were returned the volcano of revolution would erupt, and Australia would be no more. Tin rs, we have Mr. Bruce adopting one role in Australia and another in the United States of America. Speaking in Bristol the right honorable gentleman said -

We are putting up a plucky fight against the vested interests now dominating our country. "When he appealed to the people in 1925 he did not tell them that vested interests were dominating Australia. What he said here was that the Labour organizations were responsible for that domination, and that it would tend to red revolution. What legislation has been placed upon the statute-book to rid Australia of the dominance of vested interests? None whatever. Since its return to power the only legislation of that nature which, th's Government has placed upon the statutebook is the Crimes Act, that has never been put into operation. The other day I asked how many men had been deported under the provisions of the Crimes Act, and how many organizations had been suppressed. The answer was " none." Yet the Government waa returned to power to carry out the deportation of two men ! It found that it could not deport them. I trust that Australia will not witness an industrial upheaval that will prevent the wheels of industry from revolving; but if there were such an occurrence and an attempt was made to give effect to the provisions of the Crimes Act the Government would discover that that measure is unconstitutional. It is directed solely against those workers of this country who may dare at any time to maintain their rights. No legislation has been passed to deal with the reactionary conservatives and vested interests who, according to Mr. Bruce, dominate Australia.

I come now to the important question of defence. The other day I asked the following questions with respect to the importation of munitions of war: -

(1)   . Is it a fact that we are importing munitions from overseas ;

(2)   . If so, from whom ?

(3)   . What is the nature of such munitions T

(4)   . What was the value of the importation of such munitions for the last five financial years.

The answer that I received was as follows : -

 

It will be noticed that there was a considerable increase in the value of the importations during the five years; yet we have been told that the Government is attempting to make Australia selfcontained in the matter of defence ! I oan imagine in what condition we should be in if, unfortunately, another war broke out, and we were isolated, or in the event of our being attacked by an invading foe. We should have to depend upon the importation of munitions, and risk their loss during transport from overseas countries. It is quite evident that the Government has not paid any attention to the recommendations which were made by the Public Accounts Committee after its investigation into the possibility of Australia manufacturing sufficient munitions to supply its own needs in time of war. Expert evidence was given before that committee which proved that we can manufacture almost every munition that is necessary for the defence of this country. I think it would be wise for the Government to peruse that document carefully to see what may be done to increase the local manufacture of munitions of war for the purpose of Australia's defence.

When the Prime Minister was abroad he visited the shipyard ah which one of our new cruisers was being built, and he said that the day was not far distant when Australia must build her own cruisers. Yet when he was in Australia he told the people that we could not build cruisers.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - The two statements are not in conflict.


Senator NEEDHAM - The reason the right honorable gentleman gave us for not having the cruisers built in Australia was the probable cost of construction. We, on this side of the chamber, contended that if cruisers had to be built - which we did not admit- they should be built in Australia by Australian workmen, and as far as practicable from Australian materials. We knew that we had the material, and that Australian workmen had already built the cruiser Brisbane. It is peculiar now to hear Mr. Bruce saying that Australia must build her own cruisers at a time when the cost of building them would be no cheaper than it is at present. Recognizing the labour conditions in Australia and the rates of wages paid to Australian artisans ss compared with those paid in Great Britain, we cannot possibly build cruisers here as cheaply as they can be built in Britain.

I have mentioned these matters in order to show that the Government is not carrying out its promises. Despite the vast amount of money spent on Australian defence, I venture to say that in the event of an attack our defence forces would not be fit to meet it. Since the armistice and up to the end of the present financial year, as much as £45,000,000 will have been spent ou defence, not including the £4,500,000 set aside for the cruisers. Yet we find Sir John Monash only a few months ago saying that our defences are not as they should be. I trust that the Minister, if he replies to this debate, will explain why the Government is not attempting to make Australia selfcontained in the matter of manufacturing munitons; why Mr. Bruce has changed front and now tells the people of Great Britain that Australia must build its own cruisers, and that there are reactionary conservatives and no labour troubles here, when during the election he said quite the reverse.

I wish now to refer to the wireless station on Willis Island, that lonely Pacific outpost, about 800 miles from Cairns, which is so valuable to us foi' meteorological purposes. One of the duties of the three men engaged on the island, who live there for six months of the year without seeing their fellows, is to notify the approach of cyclones. As a result of their work, li,ves and valuable property have been saved. Their timely warnings of the approach of cyclonic disturbances are broadcast in sufficient time to prepare not only mariners, but also people on land to avoid the havoc caused by such visitations. In 1925, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee on its voyage to Papua, I, in company with Senator Poll and others, had the opportunity of visiting the island. We were the first white people the men on the island had seen for months. Their only means of recreation was a tennis court, whch had collapsed, and their library was very small. When we returned to Melbourne Senator Foll and I saw Senator Pearce with a view to asking that something should be done to make the lives of these isolated men a little more pleasant than is now possible. About £200 would provide the officers oh the island with a small, up-to-date library, a tenuis court, and possibly a gramophone.. The. officers themselves are not asking for anything luxurious. They are ai fine, type, of Australian manhood,, and, as a matter of fact, they did not put forward any request, for these things that I am suggesting should be. provided for them; but, recognizing their loneliness,. Senator Foll and I put the matter before Senator Pearce. I believe that the right honorable gentleman did make some representations in regard to the- matter, and I should like to know if anything definite has been done. Wei wi.0 aire living in the etty of Melbourne,, with all' the pleasures and advantages of civilization, a>nd with the' opportunity to indulge in all kinds o-f recreation, should! have some thought for those men who are out on that lonely island, rendering valuable service to the people of Australia.

Senator GRANT.(New South Wales [3.42].. - Many years ago, as. the result of events at Warwick, in Queensland, a Commonwealth Police Force was incubated.


Senator Graham - Out of the Warwick







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