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Thursday, 20 May 1915


Mr HAMPSON (Bendigo) .- In addressing myself to this House for the first time I desire to pay a tribute to the late Honorable J. A. Arthur, my predecessor. I regret very much the fact that there was any necessity for the election of a new member to represent the constituency of Bendigo, and I hope that while I am in the Chamber I shall be able to earn the respect and esteem of my fellowmembers in the way that my predecessor did. I recognise that we are dealing with the Defence Estimates in exceptional circumstances, owing to the peculiar and extraordinary position in which we find our-' selves as a nation. The fact that we are engaged in the greatest war in history, in which half the population of the world is fighting, must arrest attention, but it also means that the Commonwealth is experiencing a period of the greatest expenditure it has ever known, though that is but a minor consideration compared with other great issues that are at stake, and sacrifices that will have to be made. The Estimates before us show that the expenditure for this year upon the ordinary disbursements of the Defence Department, and the extraordinary calls upon our resources through, the war, is £1S,254,379, to which, I take it, the supplementary amount passed a week ago, namely, £3,130,000, must be added, making the total expenditure upon the ordinary services of the Department and the extraordinary outlay on account of the war the huge sum of £21,000,000 for twelve months, equal to the average revenue of the Commonwealth for the past five years. Looking at the matter from the stand-point of finance alone, the war must give us serious thought; but it may not be amiss to review some of the causes for the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves to-day. Even at this stage, after nine and a half months of the war, notwithstanding all the exciting events that have taken place in Flanders, France, Galicia, and Gallipoli, I think we may well look back in order to see how this crisis caine about. This war is not primarily a struggle for the acquisition of territory, nor is its chief aim the securing of greater trade. Behind it lie even greater issues. I have come to the conclusion, after carefully reading the diplomatic correspondence that has been published, that this is a diplomatic war, and that diplomacy, has lamentably failed when put in a very difficult and dangerous position. To my mind, the beginning of the war did not lie in the simple fact that an Austrian archduke and his morganatic wife were killed. I believe that the origin of the war was fear on the part of Austria-Hungary of Servia, which, as the result of the Balkan War, had doubled her population and doubled her territory. The European powers were certainly in agreement that Servia merited some chastisement, and that some reparation should be made to Austria ; but when an ultimatum was issued giving Servia forty-eight hours in which to make that reparation, Russia, with her 157,000,000 people, took a hand in the matter. Despite the fact that the Servians largely are a Slavonic people, had we been in the position, of Germany and Austria, we should probably have questioned Russia's right to interfere in a dispute between Austria and Servia. Germany and Austria did question her right to interfere, and consequently when Russia took the stand that if Austria crossed the border of Servia the Russian Army would be mobilized, Germany, as the ally of Austria, came into the quarrel; and so when Russia mobilized, Germany mobilized, and France followed suit as the ally of Russia. Now we come to the question of how it was that Great Britain became involved in the war. Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, asked Sir Edward Grey whether Great Britain would remain neutral if Germany respected the neutrality of Belgium, but Sir Edward Grey replied that the British Government desired to keep their hands free; and when he was pressed to say whether Britain could formulate conditions on which she would remain neutral, the German Ambassador even suggesting that the integrity of France and her colonies might be guaranteed, he said that he felt obliged to refuse definitely any promise to remain neutral on similar terms, as Great Britain must keep her hands free. That was on the 1st August. My idea is that Great Britain entered into this struggle because of a somewhat loose but honorable understanding with France as to the disposition of the Fleets of the two Powers, the fact of the French Navy being in the Mediterranean allowing Great Britain to concentrate hers in the North Sea. Sir Edward Grey therefore said that if the German Fleet came through the North Sea, or into the Channel, Great Britain would not stand clear. And so within the short space of three weeks we had seven Christian nations of Europe each at the other's throat ; and the war has reflected on us as part of the British people. It has been said that Great Britain was not prepared for the war; but, as a matter of fact, the British Navy was never at a higher state of efficiency. I take it that we want to learn something from the war for future guidance, if we get through, as we all hope to do, successfully. I have listened to the AttorneyGeneral and to other honorable members speaking of the struggle in Flanders, and saying, " If that thin wall there were to break, what would happen to Australia?" To my mind, the whole key of the position lies with Admiral Jellicoe and his Fleet in the North Sea. Calamitous though it might be - if that thin line in Belgium were to break, it would not make much difference to Australia. It is the naval power and strength of the British Empire which keeps us safe. We sometimes talk, perhaps, in a light way, of what can be done, and of our brave Navy, but we do not hold our naval supremacy by singing " Boys of the Bulldog Breed," or " The Navy, the British Navy." The history of recent naval battles teaches us that success lies, not so much in superior British pluck or gunnery or seamanship as it does in having vessels of greater speed, unci guns of greater power than tie enemy possesses. This was exemplified in the naval battle off the coast of Chili, where our vessels met a superior German force, and were simply wiped out. When those same German vessels, at the Falkland Islands a little later, met the British in better ships, with better guns, the position was exactly reversed. The same thing occurred in the Sydney '-Emden encounter. We rejoiced very much that our light cruiser had accounted for the enemy, but the Sydney accounted for the Emden simply because of the fact that she had 6-inch guns as against 4-inch guns on the Emden. The victory 'was gained by the superior gun power. People sometimes ask why the German Navy, about which we have heard so much prior to the war, does not come out and fight. I will quote from the latest official sources facts which will supply the answer to the question, and I think we can safely say that, if we were in a similar position, we would not have a Navy fit to go out and fight. Let me point out Great Britain's gun power in the Navy. Taking vessels of 10,000 tons displacement and upwards, Great Britain has twenty-four 15-inch guns on her battleships, throwing a shell of, 2,000 lbs., while Germany has none. Great Britain has ten 14-inch guns, and Germany has none; Great Britain has 162 13.5 guns, throwing shells from 1,250 to 1,400 lbs., whereas Germany has none. Great Britain has 306 guns of 12-inch calibre, throwing shells of S50 lbs., while Germany has 124 12-inch guns, throwing shells from S60 to 980 lbs. In other words, of large guns, Great Britain has 502 guns of 12-inch calibre and upwards, while Germany has 124 12-inch guns'; throwing shells less than 1,000 lbs. Of these heavy guns which can outrange the German guns, we have a preponderance of four to one. So much in partial answer to the question why it is that the German Navy is not anxious to go into the North Sea. The agreement with Prance allows Great Britain to concentrate this power in the spot where it is wanted at this particular time. Since the loss of the Goliath. Great Britain has US vessels from 10,000 tons displacement up to the size of the Queen Elizabeth, with a tonnage of 27,500. Germany has forty-four vessels of 10,000 tons displacement and over, up to her largest vessel, the Derflinger, with a tonnage of 26,600. So that wo have an advantage of seventy-one ships with 10,000 tons displacement and over. Of torpedo-boat destroyers, Great Britain has seventy, while Germany has an advantage,with 136. Of submarines, not counting the few added by Germany during the last two months, Great Britain has seventy-eight, while Germany had thirty-six. This tremendous superiority in naval power is the safeguard, I take it, of the British Empire. It teaches us that the protection which the sea has been to Great Britain for hundreds of years applies in the same way to Australia. Our first arm of defence is the Navy. Not only is that a superior force as compared with Germany's Navy, but we have to consider the naval power of the Allies with whomwe are associated.France has thirty-six battleships of from 10,000 to 23,550 tons displacement, fifty-three torpedo-boat destroyers, and sixty-two submarines. Russia has eighteen battle-ships with a displacement of from 10,000 to 32.200 tons, 103 torpedo-boat destroyers, and twentyeight submarines. Austria - Hungary, Germany's ally, has ten battle-ships of from 10,000 to 20,000 tons displacement, eighteen torpedo-boat destroyers, and six submarines. Turkey has one battle cruiser, the Goeben; ten torpedo-boat destroyers; and seven submarines. When the Goeben and the Breslau ran into the Dardanelles, the act was regarded in some quarters as showing a lack of courage, but any one who reads the diplomatic correspondence with Turkey will admit, I think, that it was one of the best moves, from the German standpoint, whichcould possibly have been made. It was the presence of the two ships outside Constantinople that gave the Germans the advantage which ultimately dragged Turkey into the war. To summarize the figures, Great Britain and her Allies have 172 battleships of 10,000 tons displacement and upwards, while Germany and her allies have fifty-five, so that in that regard wo have an advantage of three to one. That is excluding Japan, and not reckoning Italy, which may be involved in the war at any time. Great Britain and her Allies have 226 torpedo-boat destroyers, as against 164 belonging to Germany and her allies. We have168 submarines, as against forty-nine belonging to Germany and Austria. Let us take a glance at the losses during the war. It speaks volumes for the British Navy that, with the larger target, aimed at all the time by the German submarines, we have suffered such little loss in comparison with Germany with her fleet safe in the Kiel Canal. Apart from merchantmen, trawlers, and vessels of that description, we have lost nineteen vessels altogether, Prance five, and Russia four. Germany - I admit that our vessels were larger in tonnage - has lost thirty-three vessels of all classes, and had four interned; Austria has lost four; and Turkey three. That is, I think, a wonderful feat, and one which ought to fill us with satisfaction and pride, because, while we can hold the command of the sea in that manner, we need not fear the result of any war in which we may be engaged. I have often heard it said that we have the teeming populations in the East to fear; that they may come south and overrun Australia; but if we learn the lesson which Great Britain has learned by experience over a long number of years, we shall endeavour to build up and support that naval power in such a way that none of the Eastern hordes will ever be able to put a foot on Australia unless, of course, Australians wish it. The expenditure on defence teaches us a lesson, and has been doing so even since the establishment of the Commonwealth. In the first year of Federation, all that we spent on naval expenditure was £178,819; while the military expenditure in that year was £780,260. In other words, for every £1 we spent on the Navy we spent £5 on the military. During the years 1902, 1903, 1904 and 1905 we gradually increased our naval expenditure, until in 1906-7 for every £1 we spent on the Navy we spent £3 on the military, until we got :to the year 1913-14. It will be seen how the position relatively changed. In the Commonwealth the idea with regard to naval power was growing in such a way that for every £2 we spent on the Navy we spent £2 15s. on the other arm of defence in 1913-14. When the war broke out, our naval expenditure was gradually increasing to the point when it was getting well up to the expenditure on the land Forces. The lesson we have learned from the war, I take it, is that Australia's first and most important line of defence is the Navy. There are one or two other lessons which we may learn from the war. The only ammunition we produce in Australia is the .303 ammunition for the rifle. We do not produce a shell fit for field artillery or for the Navy. Surely, in the light of our experience, the time has arrived when Australia ought to be a self-contained country so far as defence is concerned ! With regard to the production of rifles, we are not, perhaps, doing all that could be expected. I have been told that to many of the men who have been at Broadmeadows for ten weeks and over, we have not been able to supply a rifle; that some of them had never handled a gun before they went into camp, and had not fired a shot before they were put on a transport. I think that after nine and a half months of war Australia should have been more alive to the necessities of the position than she has been, and made more determined efforts in the production of rifles. In my opinion, we can learn something from what the Germans have done with their undersea craft. Although it is true that the vessels above water are still supreme, yet the use which has been made of the submarine in the war can teach us in Australia a lesson which I think we might well learn. In the use of air craft, too, we have something to learn. I remember how slow we were about teaching our men how to use and control this new method of warfare. There has been some talk of Australia being consulted in respect to the terms of peace. It seems to me that the war arose through having two diplomatic groups in Europe. The difference between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente has resulted in a most deplorable and shocking war, which I say unhesitatingly is a disgrace to our common humanity, aud no credit to Christianity. The only thing which I think would be likely to make for a lasting peace would be the creation in Europe of one diplomatic group which would control and police it. If we could bring about the formation of one group instead of two, I believe that there would be a reasonable prospect of having peace for a century. A good deal has been said, and we have had some experiences brought closely home to us, in reference to the way in which the war has been conducted. I have had an opportunity to read Mr. Morgan's book, and the instructions given to the German general staff. It seems to me that the false teaching instilled into the German military mind is responsible for many of the atrocities which we have heard of and read about, and which have been confirmed from quarters we could not doubt. When so many of these barbarities are committed by instruction, it seems as if the Germans are prepared to adopt almost any means as long as they achieve success. The only consideration which seems to place any restraint on them in the commission of any act is the fear of retaliation. For that reason, when the enemy adopt now and cruel methods of warfare we are justified in resorting to the same methods. The enemy have set the pace in this direction, and we cannot afford to be placed at a disadvantage which will cause suffering to our troops and a set back to the cause for which we are lighting. Looking at the war from an Australian standpoint, we may learn from it some lessons which will be of benefit to lis, if we are wise in our day and generation, and endeavour to profit by the happenings in Europe to-day. I cannot conclude my speech without expressing the satisfaction and pride I feel in the conduct of the Australian troops since they landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. As an Australian born, I never had the slightest doubt as to how Australian troops would conduct themselves when they were confronted with the dangers and difficulties of the battlefield.







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