Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 9 August 1901
Page: 0

Mr POYNTON (South Australia) - I have listened with considerable attention to the objections which have been raised against this measure, and I have come to the conclusion that to make its provisions conform with the wishes of the House it must be amended lock, stock, and barrel. I object very much to the unknown quantity contained in the Bill. The Bill may require the expenditure of a very large sum of money in connexion with our defence, but we have not had the slightest information from those who are responsible for the measure as to what the expenditure is likely to be. This year our defence expenditure has been something like £1,200,000, which is a great advance upon the previous expenditure of the States, which amounted to £700,000 or £800,000 a year. I do not believe that there is any likelihood of our being attacked at the present time; but if we knew what money we had available for the purpose of defence, we might cut our coat in accordance with our cloth. Our revenue, however, is still an unknown quantity, because we do not know what the Tariff which is to be proposed will produce. Until we know that, I think that this Bill might very well be hung up. The South African war should have taught us that there is no violent hurry for preparations for defence. Have we not seen in South Africa a handful of Boers defying the greatest power in the world, and causing that power to spend many millions of money? It is hard to over-estimate the cost of the South African campaign to the British Government. But has any one considered what it would cost any other power to transport troops to Australia for the invasion of the Commonwealth 1-

Mr.W atkins. - The honorable member must not forget that the Boers spent a good bit of money in making their preparations.

Mr Wilks - And they were getting ready for years.

Mr POYNTON - But it has cost Great Britain many millions to defeat them, and no other power in the world has equal means of transport. The South African war should teach us that encouragement should be given to rifle clubs. But, instead of 'the automatic practice of shooting at fixed targets at a known distance, men should be taught to judge distances. The men who were so successful in South Africa were men who had learned to shoot turkeys and kangaroos with the rifle at unknown distances, and who were accustomed to the use of that arm. We do not want too much military training; we want practical acquaintance with arms rather than the glittering show of parade. . Therefore, we cannot do better than to encourage men to learn the art of shooting. But, as I have pointed out, we do not at the present time know what money we shall have to spend on military matters, and, therefore, I think the question of defence might very well be hung up until we have dealt with the Tariff.

Mr McCay - The Customs Bill must have become law before we can deal with the Tariff Bill.

Mr POYNTON - We have been sitting for three or four months now, and we are not very far ahead.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If every one had talked as much as the honorable member, we should not have been nearly so far ahead.

Mr POYNTON - I think a reference to Hansard will show that I have not unduly occupied the time of the House.

Mr O'Malley - The honorable member need not apologize.

Mr POYNTON - I do not intend to. I shall speak whenever I consider it necessary to do so. If there is to be any true defence, and if the States are to receive that protection which they were led to expect under federation, I cannot conceive of any scheme being complete that does not connect Western Australia by railway with the eastern States. That State is in a worse position than any other so far as being exposed to attack is concerned.

Mr Cameron - What about Tasmania ?

Mr POYNTON - Tasmania is so much closer to the more populous States, and whilst she has the honorable member for Tasmania and his brother, who did such good work in South Africa, she need have no fear. So far as naval defence is concerned, I consider that it is beyond us altogether to raise a fleet. One honorable member suggested that we should start by building one man-of-war, which would probably run us into an expenditure of £1,250,000, but if we were to adopt that course our first ship would probably be obsolete before we could construct a second one. If there is a division on this Bill I shall vote against it for the reasons I have advanced. There is no necessity for pushing this matter on at the present stage.

Mr Mauger - Not in view of all the expenses we have heard of in connexion with the Military department ?

Mr POYNTON - I very much question whether we shall be able to do anything with regard to military allowances. They are certainly not touched by the Bill, and I very much question whether we can deal with them unless we get rid of the officers, and that will mean the payment of large sums for compensation, because under the Constitution all rights are protected.

Mr McCay - But they have no rights.

Mr POYNTON - I think it will probably be found that they have rights. However, I do not think there is any necessity to occupy the time of the House at this stage with this Bill. What is required is that we shall get our Tariff through first in order that we may know what we shall have available to spend on defence.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee :

Clause 1 (Short title).

Suggest corrections