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Tuesday, 5 July 1904

Mr WATSON (BLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - The Minister of Defence and the other members of' the Cabinet have had that phase of our defence preparations under consideration for some time. When making a Ministerial statement some weeks ago, I mentioned that we purposed doing something tangible in that direction, and that the minimum amount for which we intended to ask Parliament to provide warlike- stores and material was £1 25,000. When the Estimates are brought in, I shall ask for a still larger sum, though I do riot anticipate that the actual expenditure during the present financial year will be much more than that mentioned ; but it is- necessary to obtain authority for the expenditure of a larger sum, because many munitions of war and armaments have to be ordered a long time in ad-' vance.

Mr Page - Why not make our own ?

Mr WATSON - That matter has also been under the consideration of the Government; but the sums for which the General Officer Commanding is asking for expenditure upon other objects are so large that I am afraid the House will be prevented from voting the amount necessary to establish an arsenal, since we must pay regard to our financial position. But is seems to the Government, as I think it will seem to honorable members generally, that our first care in regard to defence should be to provide arms and ammunition, and I hope to arrange for an even larger expenditure in that direction than I have already indicated, if. I find it possible to cut down expenses in other directions to a degree which will permit of it being . done. The whole subject is a very important one, and has been under our consideration for some little time, but I hope in a few weeks to make a proposal to the House' which will to some extent get over the serious difficulty in which we are placed.

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