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Friday, 22 June 1906

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia) . - In my opinion, Senator Givens has introduced! a subject of great importance. I believe that Senator Playford has raised some debatable objections to the proposal, but I do not think that it should be looked at purely from the commercial aspect. The whole exigencies of defence are not regarded from that aspect, but from a broad national stand-point. Upon defence every year we spend ^1,000,000, of which only £250,000 is spent upon our naval defence. I recognise that for our safety we are entirely dependent upon the British Navy, but that does not absolve us from the responsibility of being able to defend our own shores in the event of an invasion. If such a misfortune even occurred as that the great British Navy were crippled or evaded, and a hostile force could land in Australia, we, as descendants of British people, should be able to defend our own shores and hearths. We are spending ,£750,000 a year upon internal defenceThe question which occurs to me is: Are we spending that money to the best advantage, and are we providing for a possible eventuality which may endanger our national existence. Senator Playford has said that we have in store enough cordite to last us for two years - that is2 when we have purely encampments and a little rifle shooting. I venture to say that, if the 100,000 riflemen, or persons who have arms, in Australia were fighting for two or three days, they would expend all the cordite we have.

Senator Playford - Oh, they would fire it away verv foolishly, if thev did.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I intend to ascertain that by asking a series of questions. But at present the point is, if the British Navy were evaded by a hostile force, we would be cut off from all communication with outside, and would have to rely absolutely upon our own resources to repel any invasion.

Senator Playford - Oh !

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not think the Minister will deny that, if such an event dEd occur, we would be in that position.

Senator Playford - Who is going to invade us? Supposing that the British Navy were evaded, how many men could a hostile nation land here?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.For what reason are we spending £750,000 a year, if it is not to enable us to meet such an eventuality?

Senator Givens - And why have we a Minister of Defence if there is no need to prepare ourselves to meet such an eventual itv?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I quite admit that a subject like this requires very careful consideration, and that it has to be looked at from all points of view, including the commercial aspect. When I told the Minister that in Canada they make these things, he said that he did not know what thev do. It is well for us to know what is being done in Canada and other parts of the Empire in the matter of internal defence. I know that in Canada they make small arms, cordite, and shrapnel. Would it not be well for the Minister of Defence to inquire what is the cost of carrying on these manufactures in Canada, and what quantities are manufactured, and whether it would be possible for us to imitate the example of our brothers in that country, instead of depending upon outside sources for our supplies of ammunition. Surely if in Canada, with 5,000,000 persons, they have had these factories for some time-

Senator Playford - No. The Secretary for Defence passed through Canada only six or eight months ago, and in his report to me he stated that the Canadians were only starting their factories, and that he could not state what the results would be.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.As a. matter of fact, the conditions were being altered on the occasion of that officer's visit. But the factories have been in existence for a considerable time. It is at least worth the while of the Commonwealth Government to make inquiries.

Senator Playford - So we have.

Senator STANIFORTH Smith - Then the Minister does not seem to lie very au fait with the conditions.

Senator Playford - I ,gave as much information as I could get.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I hope that, when the Estimates of Expenditure for the year are under consideration the Minister will be able to inform us how much money Canada, expends on these various manufactures, and what expenditure will be necessary in order to establish such manufactures in Australia.

Senator Playford - I shall make inquiries again.

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