Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 17 June 1915

Mr PATTEN (Hume) .- When a Supply Bill is under discussion, one naturally turns to its schedule to see how the money that is asked for is to be apportioned. After looking at the details of the proposed Defence expenditure, T naturally, though with great reluctance, ask, are the Government serious ?

The CHAIRMAN - The Bill has not yet been introduced.

Mr PATTEN - Then I shall deal with the matter as broadly as I can. We are asked to. vote £1,230,395 for Defence.

Mr Fisher - Is the Opposition holding up the Supply Bill, a non-party measure? This is a perfect disgrace.

Mr Joseph Cook - It is not half the disgrace which the Government's referendum proposals are to them. The honorable member is a disgrace to the nation.

The CHAIRMAN - I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that remark.

Mr Joseph Cook - I used the expression quite in a political sense.

Mr PATTEN - It appears to surprise the Prime Minister that I should exercise my rights as an independent and untrammelled member of the Committee. Of the amount that I have mentioned, only £200 is set down for ammunition and equipment.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member is again discussing the Bill. He must confine himself to the motion before the Committee.

Mr PATTEN - I ask if the Government are serious when they provide nothing for expenditure on clothing, saddlery and accoutrements, and only a small amount for small arms.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must confine himself to the motion.

Mr Joseph Cook - I submit that an honorable member is in order at th's stage in criticising any or all of the items that make up the total amount that we are asked to vote. On the second reading of the Bill, we shall be confined to the discussion of its principles without mentioning details; and in Committee on the Bill we shall not be allowed to discuss general questions. Therefore, this is the stage when reasons may be given for or against the introduction of the Bill. As of the amount that we are asked to vote over £1,000,000 is to be spent on Defence, we have a right to interrogate the Government as to their Defence proposals, so that the Committee may be in a position to decide whether it shall or shall not sanction the bringing in of tho Bill.

Mr Fisher - I am inclined to agree with the Leader of the Opposition. We freely admit that the Bill makes provision for Defence expenditure, which may be discussed until further orders ; but that is no reason why the Opposition should block the Bill.

Mr Joseph Cook - I wish that remark withdrawn.

The CHAIRMAN - I ask the Prime Minister to, withdraw it.

Mr Fisher - I do so; but the fact is obvious.

The CHAIRMAN - On the point of order raised by the honorable member for Parramatta, I rule that the Bill cannot now be discussed. The motion before the Committee is one to sanction the granting of a certain sum of money to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year; but no statement as to the services on which it is to be spent is before honorable members. The allotment of the proposed expenditure can only be disclosed by the introduction of a Bill which is not yet before the Committee. I ask the honorable member for Hume to confine himself to the motion.

Mr Joseph Cook - We are discussing Supply, Mr. Chairman, and therefore the 'statement of grievances must take precedence.

The CHAIRMAN - We are discussing a motion on which a Bill will be founded ; but as that Bill has not yet been introduced, we do not know what it contains. When it has been introduced, and is being considered in Committee, honorable members may discuss every item of its schedule; but at the present stage they must confine their remarks to the proposal embodied in the motion before them.

Mr PATTEN - I shall endeavour to follow your ruling, sir, as closely as I can; and I express the pious hope that we may find that the Government are whole-hearted in their provision for Defence, and are not giving effect to the suggestions for economy that have been put forward from time to time by honorable members of their party, and can he found in the pages of Hansard. I propose to draw attention to some of these suggestions, which make it appear that there are honorable members of the party opposite who desire to see economy practised in regard to Defence. I hope that this does not mean that necessary work in connexion with the war will be curtailed. For instance, as reported on page 4705 of Hansard, exSenator Rae stated -

There is no reason for our military expenditure to keep on growing at the rate at which it grow during the term of office of the late Administration.

On page 3540 the honorable member for Melbourne Ports states -

It is generally known that I have not been in favour of thu excessive expenditure on defence that has been incurred, and to which we aru committed.

On page 3742 the honorable member for Denison states -

I should like, too, to hear that there is to he a diminution of our terrible defence expenditure, the burden of which is now almost heavier than wc can bear. I hope the time will come when some restrictions will be placed on our defence expenditure.

On page 3850 the honorable member foi Darwin states -

I congratulate honorable members who yesterday pointed out the iniquity of throwing away millions on the defence system, and going beyond the actual necessities of Australia.

On page 3786 the honorable member for Brisbane says -

This is expenditure which cannot be recommended on the highest grounds. If we were a sane and civilized people? we should see that such expenditure is unproductive and unnecessary in the highest degree - a waste of money - and that what is now spent in defence could be better spent in the development of the country. It is time this House stepped in and said, " This is too much."

To go further, I might point out that on page 2951 the honorable member for Ballarat is reported to have stated -

I think the people of Australia will find it impossible to bear this burden.

The honorable member referred to Defence expenditure. All these utterances lead me to the conclusion that it may be possible, when the Bill is introduced, to find in it evidences of economy in a direction that, I think, at the present moment will be against the public welfare. I have a number of other quotations from speeches by honorable members of this House and of the other House. Senator Stewart is reported, on page 4707 of Hansard, as having said -

Not only do I think that we are spending too much on defence, but I think wc arc spending it in the wrong way.

On page 4712 Senator Long stated -

I wish to ally myself with Senator Stewart, who has laid down the doctrine that the safety nf Australia lies in the development of our land Forces. Without cavilling in any sense at the naval expenditure to which Australia has been committed, I wish to say that, although I voted willingly for this expenditure last year, I am questioning it this year, because I believe that if we made a mistake yesterday wc ought to be prepared to admit the fact to-day.

I have made these quotations simply because I am afraid that there may be some evidences of economy in' regard to munitions and equipment when the Bill comes on for discussion.

Mr Page - It was stated in the public press that the Australian Forces were the best equipped forces at the front.

Mr PATTEN - The fear that I have leads me to ask whether, although we have a Government ' in power which is supposed to be doing all it possibly can, that Government is not in earnest' over this matter? Will their Estimates, when they come forward, disclose the fact that they are spending all that is necessary on such items as ammunition and equipment, and so show that they are really serious in their expressed desire to actively prosecute this war ?

Mr Page - Do you honestly think they are not?

Mr PATTEN - As a member responsible to the electorate that returned me,

I do not think that the present Government are doing all they might in the prosecution of this war.

Mr Page - Then you ought to impeach them.

Mr PATTEN - I am doing what I can.

Mr Page - That's all flapdoodle; all electioneering stuff.

Mr PATTEN - When we have a difficulty to face ; when we have this most unprecedented war to deal with, I think that the intelligence of this National Parliament should be consolidated on its prosecution, and on nothing else till the war is brought to a successful issue. It is little short of a disgrace that a National Parliament should allow party politics to enter into its discussions at a period like this. I say quite frankly that I heartily support the Leader of the Opposition in his offer to the Government, and, speaking as an individual, I will do all that I possibly can to assist the Government in the prosecution of the war in any way that they may require, and I trust they will not violate decent taste by the introduction of party politics just now.

Mr Page - You are like the blackfellow with his gin ; you are giving them a waddying.

Mr PATTEN - No, I am not; but I cannot help speaking on this matter with considerable feeling ; and it does seem to lend colour to my fears when I see honorable members treating a situation like this with such unbecoming levity. I am the father of a boy at the front, where we know men are dying for us, and I cannot help it if I speak on this subject with some emotion. There is not a man in this Blouse, if he possesses the slightest shred of heart, who does not realize that our men and our boya, are going to the front willingly, and that they are dying there. And in their trouble and difficulty they can only ask one another, " When are we going to be assisted?" Yet here in this House we are laughing, and smiling, and joking on the subject, the full seriousness of which is well known to my honorable friend the honorable member for Maranoa, who, when he was at Majuba Hill, knew that the cry was, " Oh. God ! when will they come to help." I know he is not the man who would treat a situation like this with any degree of levity, and I repeat that the whole of our energies should be built up in the one direction of getting more men, mors munitions, and more equipment, so that when the crucial moment does come we may be able to have many men there ready and equipped. Honorable members must excuse me when I tell them that it makes my* blood boil to hear such a subject as this laughed and jeered at, particularly when this laughing and jeering takes place in the National Parliament. What is happening in other portions of the Empire ? The Imperial Parliament has taken good care to sink all party differences. All energies there are being expended on the prosecution of the war. The same thing is taking place in the Dominion of Canada, and in the South African Union. It is left to us in Australia to be the one exception. Here we are asked to allow a war of this magnitude to stand on one side. while our paltry party differences are discussed. Instead of this, we should be bending the whole of our energies to the successful prosecution of this struggle. I earnestly appeal to the Government, as the father of a boy at the front - and I know I am not -singular in that respect - I appeal to them on behalf of all the fathers, and all the mothers, who have boys in the trenches, to sink these party differences. We should concentrate our mental activities on an effort not only to promote recruiting, but to see that the Small Arms Factory shall give the best possible return, that our equipment is well and rapidly turned out, and that nothing shall be left undone to bring to a successful issue this war, which means so much to us. When we hear the AttorneyGeneral asking for leave to introduce Bills to provide for an extension of our constitutional powers, although we have by no means exhausted the powers we already possess, we cannot help thinking that this attitude on the. part of the Government at the present juncture is too trivial for even children to adopt. And yet this is the attitude which is being taken up by the Government in the National Parliament of Australia. At a time when in practically every letter from our noble boys at the Dardanelles there is the invitation. " Come over and help us ! We want every man ! " we are trifling with matters of this kind, instead of bending the whole intellectual forces of the Parliament to a supreme effort to safeguard those whom we have at the front. They are in danger. But as long as we are out of the fight, it seems to me that our interest in those at the front is not as keen as it ought to be. I strongly appeal to the Government to drop the Referenda Bills which they have announced their intention of bringing forward, and to concentrate their energies upon an effort to bring the war to a successful issue, and they can rest assured of the assistance of every member on this side of the House. When the war is over they can revert to the proposal to increase our constitutional powers, and,, if it is necessary that they should be extended, we can then arrange for their extension. But until we have exhausted the powers we at present possess under the Constitution as it stands, it seems to me to be utterly futile to ask that they shall be in any way increased.

Suggest corrections