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Wednesday, 30 April 1902
Page: 12116

Mr GLYNN (South Australia) - I will not detain the committee very long, because, unlike the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I am not a military expert. He is a colonel, and I am simply a humble man of peace and law. I have always found, as a lawyer, that it is just as well to doubt what one hears from experts.

Nearly every expert is likely to be in the wrong. When the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, was speaking, the honorable and learned member for Corinella interjected something to the effect that the contribution of South Australia was not proportionate to its population.

Mr McCay - I said that the figures quoted by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, seemed to show that South Australia maintained its military force at less expense than did any of the other States, and that if such were the case it was not fair for him to take the position in that State as the basis of- his calculation.

Mr GLYNN - The honorable and learned member said something to the effect that the South Australian proportion was a very small one.

Mr McCay - I never said anything of the sort. I made a comparison between the cost of the South Australian force and that of the other forces.

Mr GLYNN - I am glad that the honorable and learned member did make some qualification, fie is so precise that I have almost to become apologetic when I make any reference to him. I find from the report of Major-General Hutton that South Australia has a total of 3,000-odd troops as against Victoria's 6,452. Therefore, if one considers the relative population, South Australia's contribution does not compare unfavorably with that of Victoria.

Mr McCay - I was referring solely to cost.

Mr GLYNN - The honorable and learned member seems to have " cost " upon the brain. , He does not like volunteers, but prefers the partially-paid troops. Now we all admit that the Boers have made a pretty good stand against perhaps the best army in the world. We also acknowledge that the American troops of 1774 were " raw levies," who for several years were unpaid - a " ragged lot," -as they were called in the days of Washington. The American troops of 1861 were also " raw levies." The cheer of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O'Malley, brings to my mind an essay, which I am sure, from his utterances, he must have studied - a tribute by that rhapsodical writer, Walt Whitman. In one of his Leaves of Grass, he refers to the fact that one of the finest stands in history was made by the "raw levies" in America.

If we trace the history of Switzerland from the beginning of its federal union to the present time, we shall find that it has more or less depended, not upon skilled troops, but upon volunteers. As regards Canada, to which the honorable and learned member has referred, it is certainly something in favour of economy that that country, with a contribution of 1 -G shilling per head of its population, has an army which actually numbers little less than does the Australian, although our contribution is 3-6 shillings per head, or more than twice as much, according to the figures of 1899. These are broad facts which a nonexpert cannot possibly explain, but at all events they tell in favour of the possibility of effecting very large economies, because Canada, with a population of over 5,000,000, is in a better position to indulge in extravagance than is Australia. Yet we have the fact before us that its contribution to defence represents a considerably smaller outlay fora lessnumberof soldiers than isinvolved in the case in Australia. Upon the whole I cannot compliment the Government upon their so-called defence policy. They really have no such policy, because at the beginning of the session, nearly twelve months ago, they appointed a committee of experts, in the persons of the commandants of the various States, to recommend some scheme upon which they might base a Defence Bill. A scheme was recommended, and the Government submitted a Bill, which the commandants, at a second conference, repudiated. The Government have now imported a commandant at a pretty stiff salary, and one which is largely in excess of that paid to the occupant of a similar post in Canada. This officer, Major-General Hutton, has submitted a report which seems to differ from the recommendations which the State commandants made last year upon some matters which were considered by them to be vital. For instance, they discountenanced the affiliation of rifle clubs with the regular soldiery, whilst Major-General Hutton, in his report, thinks that their affiliation is essential, and adds that whereever the system has existed it has proved a marked success. It is somewhat significant to find that the report of MajorGeneral Hutton shows, in one respect, at any rate, a repudiation of the recommendations made by our military experts nine months ago. This fact should impress upon us the necessity of caution in military matters. The name of M. de Bloch has been referred to. That gentleman, who was a military expert, lectured in June, 1901, before the Boya! United Service Institute, upon the lessons learned from the Transvaal war in regard to military tactics and army organizations. Taking a quotation from the Times, here is what that great authority said -

The Transvaal war proved that military science as practised, to-day was absurd, and that the sacrifices made upon the Continent to support conscription, and into which it was proposed to drag England, were unnecessary.

To some extent the system of conscription was embodied in the defence proposals of the Government, but evidently they became so ashamed of the Bill, which was repudiated by the State commandants, that they withdrew it, probably for ever, from legislative light. In one of their reports the State commandants declared that they took no responsibility for that Bill in the form in which it was submitted by the Ministry.

Sir John Forrest - Not upon that point. The honorable and learned member must not misrepresent facts. I say that the commandants were absolutely in accord with the Government upon that point, and that the principle of conscription was not provided for in the Bill.

Mr GLYNN - I did not say that the State commandants differed from the Go- 'vernment upon the point. I was merely pointing out the necessity which exists for the exercise of caution. I refer to the question of conscription merely to show that the principle has been repudiated by no less an authority than M. de Bloch. He adds -

Gorgeous uniforms, with showy lace, were maintained, and at manoeuvres one was stupefied by the prodigies and aberrations performed by the military tailor with cloth, leather, and steel.

Hisreference there was principally to Germany, upon which so many experts rely for information in regard to military matters. According to the recommendations of General Hutton, I find that we must at once increase the military force from 29,000-odd to 44,000-odd. In schedule 3 on page 4 of his report, Major-General Hutton recommends an increase to 44,218 men, which shows .an increase of about 14,000 in the field force. That is an increase of 50 per cent.; and it certainly does indicate the necessity of this committee, being anxious about the military expenditure, and giving a general direction to the Government by striking about £200,000 off the total vote. The Major-General himself in his report points out that we really have, through our geographical position, almost an immunity from attack in Australia. He states that -

Oversea aggression can only be attempted (1) by a raid of two or more crusiers with a small striking force for the purpose of landing; (2) by a large and well-equipped force conveyed in numerous transports and escorted by an enemy's fleet.

He then passes on to point out that -

The latter attempt may, under . existing conditions, be considered difficult in the extreme, more especially in view of the military spirit which animates the inhabitants of Australia.

I do not want to pursue the quotation, but he amplifies that point afterwards, and says in the conclusion of the paragraph that -

The small landing force available even from a strong fleet of cruisers would find such a task impossibie.

In other words, Major-General Hutton himself points out that we have practically nothing to fear from an invading force.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where is any other enemy to come from ?

Mr GLYNN - The other enemy may be a raid by two or more cruisers. But Major- General Hutton goes on to point out why it is that the defence force should be strengthened. Although he points out our immunity from attack and thinks that our security is sufficiently great already, he thinks we should give to the world a greater proof of that immunity. If honorable members read down page 2 of his report they will find that he mentions that -

Complete security for life and capital must therefore be insured not only for the population existing, in Australia against foreign aggression and domestic violence, But that security must be further assured in the eyes of the commercial world beyond its shores.

He says that we have nothing to fear locally, but that really what he wants is that we shall create such a capacity for resisting aggression that though we ace not threatened, or likely to be threatened, the commercial world outside ourselves may be given overt proof and ostensible evidence of our security. Surely we are not going, on considerations of this, sort, to add to our military expenditure, and keep it up at a rate which amounts practically to £1,000,000 a year? I do not want to go minutely into- the Major-General's report, but I do say that his own words plead strongly in favour of economy. Reference has been made to the question of naval defence, and I find that Major-General Hutton's report also deals with the fact that the immunity of our commerce from attack depends upon the strength of the Imperial navy. We have a delegation going to England very shortly. Some of the delegates have very large Imperial notions. Mr. Seddon, the Premier of New Zealand, who was once an out and out democrat, may be supposed by reason of that fact to have had a bias towards peace and against excessive Imperialism. But he has now gone home as the chief - I do not like to use the term jingo, but I will say the' chief supporter of extravagance in connexion with the Imperialistic idea.

Mr Higgins - We have the most extravagant Minister for the most greedy department.

Mr GLYNN - Present company is always excepted from a comparison. When we come to analyse the character of the men who are going home there seems to me to be good reason, for reading them a little lesson, in order that the Prime Minister may not bind Australia - he cannot bind us legally, but he might bind us morally - as regards military and naval expenditure. What is the position in reference to om* naval defence? Many times the suggestion has been made in the House of Commons, in Canada, and. by lecturers who have come out here, that Australia should contribute more largely towards the cost of the Imperial navy. I remember that Mr. Parkin when he was lecturing in this country, urged, that we should largely -increase our contribution to the navy. In 1891, when the Canadian lecturer arrived on our shores he stirred up an agitationin favour of Imperial federation and its concomitant of joining inImperial defence. At that time the naval expenditure of England was £14,000,000. General Hutton bases his statements in regard to the comparative amount paid by the colonies and various dependencies of Great Britain towards the army and navy upon the naval statistics of,. I think, 1898. He gives the amount at £26,594,500. As a matter of fact,, in 1 900, the naval estimates of Great Britain were £29,000,000,. and last year they reached the total of £32,000,000] and we find statisticians like Sir Robert Giffin stating that the complete- security that has been demanded by the Times - and I am quoting from a leading article in the Times - is not possible without an annual outlay of £40,000,000 upon the navy. Let honorable members look at our position, supposing we were asked to make an equitable contribution towards naval defence. I am hot saying that the demand is not equitable from an English point of view - that we should be asked to increase our proportion of payment towards the cost of the navy. I know that the Imperial Government can make out a strong case for a greater levy, not only upon the Australian Commonwealth, but also upon Canada and India ; because a few years ago the amount paid by Australia, Canada,.and India towards the Imperial navy was less than £600,000 a year, or one-sixtieth of the then total naval Estimates. But I say that we cannot afford largely to increase our contribution. We pay now, taking the estimates submitted to us, in contributions towards the auxiliary squadron, and towards the local defence a total of about £178,065 a year. If our contribution were based upon wealth and population combined - which would be a. very fair way of estimating the proportionate amount that ought to be paid - instead of our paying £178,000 a year our contribution would have to be about £3, 000, 000 a year.. That is, England has a case to ask us to consent to an equitable apportionment of an annual expenditure which would land Australia in a contribution of over £3,000,000 a year. We cannot stand even a fourth of that. Those who go to England at this juncture should be particularly careful when we are asked, as members of the Imperial Parliament are asking us, and as the Times on more than one occasion in the last twelve months has asked us to do, to make a more equitable contribution towards the cost of the Navy. I am. not speaking against the morality of the Imperial position, but I am, impressing upon honorable members the reality of the Australian position ; and we ought to give a caution to some of the bellicose gentlemen who are going home to be careful that no arrangement is entered into which will bind the Commonwealth.

Sir John Forrest - The Prime Minister has undertaken not to. bind the. Commonwealth.

Mr GLYNN -I am not suggesting that anything will be done which will bind the Commonwealth legally, but very often things are done which cast a moral obligation upon the country. In the case of the Immigration

Restriction Act something of the kind was done. The principle laid down at the London conference in regard to that matter was put before us as a binding obligation - binding, at any rate upon our consciences. I particularly rose with the object of pointing out the necessity of caution as regards military and naval expenditure, which has already run up to close upon £1,000,000 per annum. We cannot give the Government the details of a retrenchment scheme, but we can do what has been done in South Australia. There, when a Ministry refused to make retrenchments and asked for details, the matter was taken in hand by three members of the House, and they cut down the Estimates by about £130,000, and the Ministry had to fall into line with what was recommended. I say that if this committee strikes off a total of £200,000 from the military Estimates, the Government will be able to find a way out of the difficulty that will bring about a reasonable economy in our military expenditure. It behoves us in this Federal Parliament to make some strong plea for economy in this direction.

Sir JOHN FORREST - From the debate I have no doubt that the views of honorable members who have spoken, are quite in accord with my own, in that they desire this great spending department of theGovernment to be carried on as economically as possible. Honorable members recognize that these Estimates are merely the Estimates of the various States at the time of transfer, so far as the establishments are concerned. Some items are, of course, far in excess of the Estimates of the States, but speaking generally, the proposed votes are those which were in existence on the 1st March, 1901, when the Commonwealth took over the Defence department. I hope I made it clear that these Estimates are no criterion of what may be done in the way of organization and economy. I am full of expectation that next year we shall be able toput the forces of the Commonwealth on a better and more efficient footing, at a reduced cost. The Estimates amount to £937,000, but of that amount, £106,000 is scarcely chargeable to ordinary expenditure. It represents the statutory contribution of all the States to the auxiliary squadron.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is the best money we have spent.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes; but this money, under ordinary conditions, would not appear on the Estimates of the States, and I shall, therefore, deduct it in dealing with the Estimates before us. We may take it, therefore, that the Estimates for the Defence department amount to £831,000.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -But the expenditure on naval defence was always included in the States' Estimates.

Sir JOHN FORREST - It may have been included in the Estimates of New South Wales, but I know that the States' contributions to the auxiliary squadron were under special appropriations.

Mr Watson - That was so in New South Wales.

Sir JOHN FORREST - At any rate the contributions were under an agreement fortified by statute, and, therefore, the expenditure was one which each Government had to meet, and which each State Parliament had no power to refuse. Having made that deduction, I am prepared, on behalf of the Government, to undertake that the next Defence Estimates introduced in this House shall not exceed £700,000, or £131,000 less than the proposed votes now before us. That undertaking will, I trust, be regarded as reasonable.

Mr Poynton - The reduction by £131,000 is not enough.

Sir JOHN FORREST - It does not follow, of course, that that is the limit to which the Government may go in reducing the expenditure, because we shall do our best to be even more economical. I should like to point out, however - and I do not think honorable members have sufficiently considered the question from this point of view - that there has arisen in the States, especially inVictoria, a new system of defence; which is, I believe, very popular. That new system consists in the establishment of rifle clubs, and in connexion with these organizations, the expenditure on ammunition is enormous. On the Estimates this year £110,000 is provided for ammunition, and there will have tobe as much provided nextyear, and in fact, every succeeding year.

Mr Mauger - Is that amount for ammunition for rifle clubs only, or for the whole force?

Sir JOHN FORREST - It is for the whole force, but it must be remembered that there are 20,000 members of rifle clubs in the State ofVictoria.

Mr Bamford - When practising, they pay for their own ammunition.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Each man is supplied with 200 rounds of ammunition free, and can get another 200 rounds at a reduced rate. The fact remains that there is a considerable expenditure under this head.

Mr Mauger - Is this £110,000 additional expenditure ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - It is the expenditure for ammunition, and is £40,000 more than was provided last year. So far as I can see, this outlay will go on increasing year by year, because, instead of having, as now, about 30,000 members of rifle clubs in the Commonwealth, we may have as many in New South Wales as there are inVictoria.

Mr.Watson. - I hope so.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The sum of £32,000 is spent for rifle club ammunition inVictoria alone, so that a new engine of expenditure has been created in connexion with defence.

Mr Bamford - We want a Commonwealth ammunition factory at an early date.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Ammunition would not be supplied more cheaply by a Commonwealth factory. There is a factory in Australia already, and it costs more to buy ammunition locally than to import it.

Mr.Watson. - That is not a Government factory.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Whether we have a Government factory or not, I do not believe that ammunition can be made in Australia as cheaply as it can be imported from England. There is only the freight to pay, and the wages, hours, and general condition of the workmen are better in Australia than in England. The difference in cost is not very much, though I believe it amounts to from 5 to 10 per cent, in favour of the imported article.

Mr Mauger - Surely the Government would not rely on importations in the case of ammunition?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not advocating that we should rely on importations. I should like to see all the ammunition made here ; and we must be prepared, at the beginning, to pay a little more for the local article. I 'was merely answering an interjection to the effect that we ought to have a Government factory, the inference being that the ammunition could be bought more cheaply by that means.

Mr Skene - Is not the arrangement made with the Australian factory the reason of the shortness of ammunition in Victoria now ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - No; the Australian factory is a very good one, and complies with all our demands.

Mr Skene - The rifle clubs cannot get the ammunition they want, owing, I am informed, to the arrangement which the Government have entered into with the local factory.

SirJOHN FORREST.- I do not think that is so, because I have heard no complaint as to contracts not being carried out, and I know that the factory is supplying ammunition to States other than Victoria. Then the Government propose to buy 5,000 rifles, which will cost £25,000. At the present time we want 20,000 rifles, but we shall have to go slowly and obtain them in small quantities year by year. I mention these facts because when I undertake that the Estimates next year shall be less than the present Estimates by £131,000, I do not wish to promise more than I may be able to perform. No doubt we shall not spend so much this year as we should had the Estimates been brought in earlier. There are votes for works which have not been carried out, because the Government had no authority from the House, and the Treasurer would not advance the necessary money. We are now at the end of the tenth month of the year, and honorable members will see that these votes lapse, because we should not be able to get the works completed by the 30th June.

Mr.Watson. - Has the Minister for Defence not a large amount under the Estimates of the Minister for Home Affairs?

Sir JOHN FORREST - But the Defence department has no control over that expenditure. The Minister for Home Affairs is pretty much in the same position as myself, inasmuch as included in his Estimates are works which, owing to want of time, he will not be able to carry out, except in cases of great urgency, when the Treasurer may authorize the necessary expenditure. It always happens, if the Estimates are delayed, that a great many votes must lapse. This, however, will not prevent the works being carried out in another year. I do not think I need say more except to repeat the undertaking I have already given as to the reduction of the Estimates next year. If the Government find they can make even further reductions in the expenditure in the direction desired by honorable members they will be very glad to do so. We may not be able to do better than we promise, but we shall make the attempt. I should like to say, before I resume my seat, that although I rose with trepidation to make my statements in regard to these Estimates, I have none now, and I desire to thank honorable members for the way in which they have dealt with the matter. I do not suppose that I shall speak again on the subject, and I should like to say that honorable members appear to have recognised the difficulties under which we labour.

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