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Thursday, 20 September 1928

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Boothby) . - It is instructive to notice how these motions for reductions are following one another to-night. So far as I can understand it, the attitude of honorable members opposite is that Australia should have no representative anywhere overseas. . It was suggested first of all that the liaison officer attached to the Foreign Office was quite an unnecessary person. It has been moved that the financial adviser in London, Mr. Collins, who is a very able financier, should be withdrawn from Great Britain, or at least that his salary should not be paid. Part of the allowances for the High Commissioner were to be cut out, and Australia's representative in Paris was not to be paid. Now it is proposed that the Australian representative in the United States of America should also be done away with. I suggest that the total amount which it is proposed to save by these means does not exceed £10,000 a year. The amount on the Estimates for the financial adviser is £2,000, the allowance for the High Commissioner £2,000, and the amount for the representative in Paris £975.

Mr Scullin - We are objecting to additional sums being voted on this occasion.

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - The remuneration for the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America is put down at £3,000 and £2,000. At the present time no such official exists, and unless one is appointed there will be no expenditure under this head. I admit that the High Commissioner's salary is not included in the sum of £10,000 which I have mentioned, nor yet is the cost of the lease of his house. It remains true, however, that for about £10,000 a year we are obtaining information which the Prime Minister - the only person who can know its worth - has tola us is of the highest value. As our representatives in America we have for years had men who have ranked among the leading citizens of Australia. The High Commissioner has been getting allowances which enable him to entertain on a proper scale. It is known to every one in Australia, except those who do not want to know, that it is extraordinarily difficult to get suitable persons to accept these positions. Do honorable members opposite seriously suggest that we should send to other parts of the world representatives who could not afford to carry out their duties in. a manner which would do credit to Australia ? Are they to receive entertainment from the countries to which they are accredited, and not return that hospitality? It is essential that any one sent overseas should be able to do justice to his position, and to the country which he represents. It is particularly important at the present time that we should be represented in other countries. Everybody knows that the nations of the world have, during the last few years, been coming closer together. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), whom I have always regarded as an advocate of peace, suggesting that we should cease to be represented in the United States of America. How often has one heard arguments put forward on the other side regarding the necessity for round-table discussions by the nations of the problems with which they are confronted?

Mr Brennan - Is war brewing with the United States of America?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - I do not suggest that, but I say that the possibility of war with any country will be decreased by having this country adequately represented there. Particularly is this the case with a country like the. United States of America, with which we have much in common. We should have a man there who can appear at various functions, and can keep this Government advised as to the general opinions prevailing in official circles.

Mr Blakeley - Is he to be an ambassador of peace, or a vendor of wool ?

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - There is no need for him to be an ambassador. I ask the honorable member for Darling, how are we to get the information which we require if we do not have representatives, in the countries in which we are interested? Does he suggest that we are to sponge on the embassies of Great Britain ? We are already well served by the British embassies, who do not grudge giving us what assistance they can, but surely the honorable gentleman does not suggest that the whole of the expense incurred in meeting our requirements in this direction should be borne by the British taxpayer. Are we to regard ourselves as a self-contained unit, having no relations with other parts of the world? Do we ever realize that we are a nation of only 6,000,000 people, and that the United States of America has a population of 120,000,000 people? Do we never think about the great number of coloured people to the north of Australia? In spite of these things it is proposed that we should abolish the few links which we now have with other countries, merely for the sake of saving £10,000 or - if honorable members like that better - £20,000 a year. Suppose it was suggested that we should reduce the payment to workmen by 6d. a week, cr 6d. a year for that matter, would there not be a tremendous outcry? Yet it is proposed to cut down the remuneration of Australia's representatives, who are really outstanding men with great responsibilities to bear. As it is, we are getting their services cheaply, and it would be an ill day for every one concerned if the series of motions moved by the other side were agreed to.

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