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Friday, 22 June 1906

The CHAIRMAN - Senator Pearce must withdraw that remark.

Senator PEARCE - The statement was made' that we would not allow British subjects to come ' here.

Senator Fraser - It is on the statutebook !

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator knows the Standing Orders, I am sure.

Senator PEARCE - I withdraw the statement that the honorable senator's interjection was an " absolute falsehood," but I say that it was absolutely incorrect, and that he must know that it was incorrect.

Senator Fraser - I do not.

Senator PEARCE - He ought to know, or he is not worthy of a place here.

Senator Fraser - Shall I quote our own Statute to the honorable senator? That is quite enough !

Senator PEARCE - This discussion will serve a valuable purpose if it encourages the Government to come forward with a bold, well-defined plan of Australian defence. At present we spend a large amount on our land defences, but whether we are getting the best value for our money I am not in a position to say. There has been a report by Captain Creswell on- the question of harbor defences, placed before us bv the Minister; and we are at present in the position that, while the report is before us, we do not know what the Government propose to do. I venture to say that the great bulk of the people of Australia would support the Government in taking action on the lines indicated by Captain Creswell. What Senator McGregor has said about the British Squadron, towards which we pay a subsidy, is well known to be the fact. One of' the vessels repeatedly broke down on the way out, and when the recent squadron, to which we paid a subsidy of £120,000 per annum, reached England, the vessels were immediately sold as scrap iron. These facts create a feeling of uneasiness and insecurity in the minds of the people. While we cannot build battleships and so forth, the Government should, at any rate, make a commencement on the lines laid down by Captain Creswell ; and we desire the Government to tell us, at the earliest opportunity, when they propose to do so. The report of itself is nothing, but if the Government are going to take any steps they will have the hearty support of both Houses, and the people of Australia will bear the necessary taxation in order to secure harbor defence.

Senator Dobson - I should like to see the honorable senator ask the people to do so !

Senator PEARCE - I am in such a position that I shall have to ask the people to indorse that policy, which I shall advocate on every hustings throughout Western Australia ; and I have no hesitation in saying that that particular part of mv programme will receive support. I desire the Government to make an early declaration of their intention. As to the charge hurled at me by an honorable senator, that the Labour Party, by their legislation, have blocked people of the British race from coming into Australia, I can only say that the honorable senator cannot have read the legislation of last session. I refer the honorable senator to the Contract

Immigrants Act of 1905, which, in section 5, provides: -

The Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only if -

(b)   there is difficulty in the employer's obtaining within the Commonwealth a worker of at least equal skill and ability (but this paragraph does not apply where the contract immigrant is a British subject, either born in the United Kingdom, or descended from a British subject there born) ;

I voted for that provision and for the Bill, and. therefore, the taunt thrown at me by Senator Fraser is altogether out of place and incorrect.

Senator Gray - Senator Fraser was speaking of the general policy.

Senator PEARCE - The general policy can only be judged by its results.

Senator Walker - The honorable senator is under a mistake; Senator Fraser included in " British subjects," British subjects in India.

SenatorPEARCE.- They are not British subjects, but subjects of the British. However, this does not relate to the question of defence. I hope the Minister will commence at the earliest opportunity a vigorous policy of Australian defence, both in the direction indicated by Senator Givens and that indicated in Captain Creswell's report. If the Government regard the question from the same point of view as does the Minister - if they take into consideration whether the scheme is likely to pay - then the Defence Department might as well be abolished. We know that the £750,000 we spend on our land defences does not pay. The guns lying at the forts, the field artillery in the drill-sheds, and the rifles stacked there, are all non-paying, and represent so much money lying idle, just as would the machinery in our rifle factories, and the machinery for making cordite. Does the Minister not see that the very argument he usesagainst the establishment of a cordite factory can be used against the maintenance of the Defence Department? The Minister must not allow such considerations to stop him from taking action. Even if all this does mean money lying idle, it is the most useful reserve we could have, and there would be the knowledge that if we were entirely cut off by sea from our base of supplies, we could make our own rifles and ammunition. I trust the Minister will take heart from the discussion, and will be prepared, even at the expenditure of a consi derable sum, to submit a vigorous defence policy on the lines indicated.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [2.7]. - I have only a few words to say in regard to defence matters. I desire particularly to bear testimony to the admirable work being done at the Commonwealth naval yard at Williamstown. I visited the yard only the other day, and I wish I had done so long ago. I hope every member of this and another place will take an early opportunity to see the work there carried on in the public interest at very small cost. I mention this matter in conjunction with the suggestion thrown out that the permanent members of the Military Forces might be utilized in the preparation of war materiel. I quite sympathize with the suggestion of the Minister that these men are widely scattered, and that it is difficult to bring them together in order to carry out work of any great consequence. Still, I think theymight be trained more usefully than at present in connexion with the preparation of war materiel. They have spare time, because their duties do not wholly occupy them during hours that are reasonable for members of the Military Forces. There certainly must be work connected with the preparation of such materiel, to which members of the permanent Military Forces might be usefully devoted under proper authority. Whether they can do much or little, it boots not, perhaps, to inquire; but the fact that they are trained, and have the tuition necessary to enable them to have their services utilized) in the way I have indicated, is of immense consequence. There is another matter I desire to mention, namely, the absolute illegality and unconstitutional position of the Cadet Forces recently established. That force is clearly outside the law, and I desire the Minister to take into consideration the early introduction of a measure to amend the Defence Act, so as to bring the Cadet Forces within its operation. The Defence Act specifically sets out what constitutes members of the Defence Forces, and cadets are not included. Therefore, those lads who are in training are not members of the Defence Forces. What are they? They are lads undergoing instruction. Now, instruction is not a function of the Commonwealth under the Constitution.

Senator de Largie - Not instruction in defence?

Senator Col NEILD - Instruction or education is no part or function of the

Commonwealth under the Constitution. The only way in which we can train lads or men for military or naval purposes is by making them adjuncts of the Defence Forces. But the Defence Act does not make the cadets adjuncts of the Defence Forces: - the cadets stand clean outside. They are simply in the position of so many school boys getting so much instruction - instruction in defence, I admit - and as they are not members of the Defence Forces they are being illegally instructed. We have no more right under the Constitution to instruct boys for military purposes than we have to instruct them for some other purpose.

Senator de Largie - Does that make the instruction any less valuable?

Senator Col NEILD - I do not know that the question I am submitting is very easy of comprehension, but if honorable senators will do themselves the justice to look at my remarks when they are in print, and refer to the authorities I mention, they will see the point more completely than they can by merely listening,. The Minister of Defence draws my attention to section 62 of the Defence Act, which provides for cadets.

Senator Best - What is the honorable senator's answer to that?

Senator Col NEILD - My answer is that though the cadets are spoken of in that section, they are not thus made members of the Defence Forces.

Senator Best - That is no answer.

Senator Col NEILD - Unless the cadets are made members of the Defence Forces, this reference in section 62 is ultra vires. Try the issue in the Supreme Court or the High Court. Senator Best is a lawyer, and he will appreciate the fact that it is possible for a section that is ultra vires to get into an Act.

Senator Best - No one disputes that, but does the honorable senator mean to say that the instruction of cadets is not incidental to the defence of the Common - wealth ?

Senator Playford - Cadets are distinctly provided for.

Senator Best - That is another point.

Senator de Largie - Will Senator Neild read section 60 of the Defence Act, which provides for compulsory service.

Senator Col NEILD -'That section deals with enlistments in time of emergency, and provides -

Such persons shall, in the manner prescribed, enlist in the Militia Forces for the prescribed period.

Senator Best - Look at sub-section vi. of section 51 of the Constitution, which provides that we may make laws with respect to

The naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth.

That brings cadets without the jurisdiction of the Department.

Senator Playford - The cadets are properly provided for by the Act.

Senator de Largie - Senator Neild ought to " climb down."

Senator Col NEILD - Most decidedly I am not going to "climb down."

Senator Playford - The honorable senator will drop down.

Senator Col NEILD - Not a bit. Naturally if I were in the Minister's position, and he were in mine, I should pooh-pooh the suggestion I am making; but I feel so absolutely satisfied of my position, that I am willing to take before the High Court the case of any boy whom the authorities insist shall come under the section.

Senator Playford - We do not insist on any boy taking part; the system is voluntary, and not compulsory.

Senator de Largie - But there is power to make the training compulsory.

Senator Playford - Yes, in time of war.

Senator Col NEILD - I admit that it is no use discussing a semi-abstract, constitutional, and legal proposition here, and I merely throw out the suggestion. But if I cannot prove a positive, honorable senators opposite cannot prove a negative. A point of the kind can only be settled by appeal to the High Court; but I submit it because I believe it to be a sound point. As to " climbing down," Ihave no more thought of doing that than I have of resigning my seat in this Chamber. I am not in the habit of " climbing down." I never shin up such a rotten sapling that I want to climb down.

Senator de Largie - Is not the honorable senator prepared to climb down even when he is wrong?

Senator Col NEILD - No honorable senator is more willing than I am to acknowledge an error and to make every reparation. I am entitled to my opinions, and I respect those of my opponents. When I disagree with the views of honorable senators, I. do not allege that they are blundering. I have mentioned these matters, and the most important at the present juncture is the very admirable work being done at the Commonwealth Naval Dockyards. T suppose that is the .proper term to apply. I did not go there for half-an-hour, and leave with the remark. " All this is very wonderful " ; I spent fire hours in seeing all that was to be seen, and I earnestly suggest that members of this Parliament should visit the establishment. It is worthy of the Commonwealth, and is unworthy only in the sense that it ought to be a great deal larger. It is certainly entitled to a very handsome vote for its maintenance.

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