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Friday, 22 June 1906

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - The Minister of Defence, whether he be regarded as a protectionist member of a protectionist Government, or as the Minister charged with the conduct of the national defences of Australia, cannot be congratulated upon his reply to my contention with respect to the establishment of a Government arms and ammunition factory within the Commonwealth. His chief argument against the establishment of such a factory was that our needs were so small that it would not pay us to instal the necessary machinery. He seems to think that for all time Australia must be content to have her needs in this regard supplied by people at the other end of the world, or else be ready to expend a large sum to enable us to supply our own small requirements. Apparently, the honorable senator does noi think we should ever do more than that. I disagree with his view. I fail to see why Australia should not supply arms and ammunition to other nations, just as she is now being supplied from other parts of the world. I fail also to see why the inventive genius of Australians should not have an opportunity to devise improved appliances. It is common knowledge that an Australian produced an implement of warfare which was eagerly sought after bv all the great Powers. I allude to the inventor of the Brennan torpedo. If an implement of warfare were devised at the present time, it would be found impossible to perfect it in Australia, and for want of a Commonwealth arms and ammunition factory, the Government would be unable to test it here. There is no reason why we should not encourage Australian genius and give our people a chance to perfect any instrument of warfare they may invent. There is no reason why we should not only manufacture the arms and ammunition required for our own defence, but be prepared to supply the wants of other countries. What is to prevent us from supplying New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada, with a superior ammunition that would be much sought after? The idea that because our own needs are small we must ever look te people on the other ' side of the globe to supply them - that we should be merely wood and water joeys - is: unworthy of .1 protectionist. What is the attitude of the Minister? He views the question of national defence from the pettifogging stand-point of £ s. d. Let me show him that a Government arms and ammunition factory would pay, and pay to' an extraordinary degree. If this country were involved in war it would pay us to sacrifice 95 per cent, of our property in order to maintain our national independence. To what does the defence expenditure of Australia at present amount? Let us consider the question from the Minister's standard of ;£ s. d., and see what it means. As Senator Fraser justly pointed' out just now, de fence is a form of insurance. But, apart altogether from the question of the preservation of our life and liberty - viewing the matter only from the, stand-point of £ s. d. - where does the Minister find himself? According to Coghlan's Statistical Account of Australia and New Zealand, for 1904, the total value of private property in Australia, in 1903, was no less than £1,204,000,000. We may safely say that the value of our public buildings, parks, lands, and railways, is something like £800,000,000, so that the total value of property in Australia is about £2,000,000,000. But let us consider the matter in the light of the information given by Coghlan, that private property in Australia is valued at £1,204,000,000. In round figures, inclusive of the subsidy to the Imperial Navy, we expend on defence less than £1,000,000 a year. In other words, we are spending less than onetwelfth of 1 per cent., in insuring private property in Australia against possible assault.

Senator Walker - About is. 8d. per cent.

Senator GIVENS - About that. If we take the value of public and private property in Australia, we are paying less than one-twentieth of 1 per cent, by way of insurance against assault and invasion. What is the remedy ? The remedy is to see that out insurance is adequate. When a man insures a building against loss by fire, he takes care to cover, not one-fourth or one-half, but the full value. The two cases are scarcely parallel, because, if we were conquered by an enemy, we should lose, perhaps, not only our property, but our liberty and our life. That being so, scarcely any insurance that we might be called upon to pay would be unjustifiable. That which we are now paying is a paltry one. Indeed, it is simply wasted, because it is neither adequate nor effective. My proposal is that we should have an effective insurance. Notwithstanding what the Minister has said with regard to the supply of arms and ammunition in Australia, the fact remains that in the event of war we should be unable to repair our disabled guns. The Minister suggested that we might have a two-penny-half -penny factory, where our rifles could be refitted with new barrels, tout where it would be impossible to manufacture a complete rifle. Such a factory would be unworthy of the Commonwealth. What we need is a factory wherein we could manufacture big guns, as well as small arms and ammunition. At the present time, if a. gun becomes disabled, we haveto dismount it and send it to the other end of the world to be repaired. What chance should we have of doing that in time of war? Is it reasonable to suggest that we should sit down and allow the enemy to make door-mats of us while we are sending our guns away to be repaired? It is a monstrous idea. The Questions we have to consider are whether we are prepared to defend Australia, and to pay for that defence. The people of Australia are not only willing but anxious to place themselves in a position in which they will be able to repel any assault. I am sure we are prepared topay, and the people who ought to bear this cost are those whose property we insure.

Senator de Largie - A property tax for defence.

Senator GIVENS - We might have a property tax or a land tax.

Senator Playford - It would have to be a property tax,because we protect property other than land.

Senator GIVENS - That is a phase of the question which I shall not at present discuss. At the proper time I shall advocate that the men who are insured should be called upon to pay. At present I am simply urging that reasonable provision should be made to insure Australia against foreign attack - to enable us to successfully resist assault. Unless we can manufacture our own guns, and repair them - unless we can manufacture the ammunition we need, and replenish our existing supplies without having to send orders to the other end of the world, our defences are absolutely useless. The Minister says that it would not pay to establish such a factory as I have advocated. I hold that it does not pay us to go in for defence of any kind without such a necessary adjunct, because without that necessary adjunct, defence is useless. If such an argument as Senator Playford has used can be urged against the expenditure I have suggested, then it could be used in favour of wiping out the Defence Department, and wiping out the Minister's office.

Senator Playford - We can get the cordite.

Senator GIVENS - How can we get it?

Senator Playford - The company has the machinery ready to erect at a moment's notice.

Senator GIVENS - Then why not erect it?

Senator Playford - Because we can obtain the cordite cheaper elsewhere.

Senator GIVENS - Is it any cause for surprise that the Minister was so enthusiastically cheered by the free-trade party when he used such arguments? We should view this matter from a national stand-point.

Senator Playford - We can pay too much for our whistle.

Senator GIVENS - I cannot pay too much for anything that will insure my national independence and the enjoyment of my liberty.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator need not trouble about his liberty. It is not at stake at present.

Senator GIVENS - The Minister said a little while ago that there was no cause for alarm, as we were not likely to be invaded. If that be so, why do we need any defence system? Why do weexpend about £1,000,000 per annum on our defence if there is no danger ?

Senator Playford - Because, if we are not prepared to meet an enemy, we might be attacked.

Senator GIVENS - But we are not prepared. All that an enemy would have to do would be to cut off our supplies.

Senator Playford - We could then manufacture them for ourselves.

Senator GIVENS - It is too late to talk of blocking up a leak in a dam when the dam is burst.

Senator Playford - Look at the supplies we have on hand, and look at the machinery we have in the country for making cordite.

Senator GIVENS - Let us make the cordite.

Senator Playford - It will not pay to put up the machinery.

Senator GIVENS - It will not pay to put up the machinery?

Senator Playford - If you want to double the expense of all the ammunition in the community you will put up the machinery.

Senator GIVENS - I am prepared to double that expense in order to get ten times the security that we have.

Senator Playford - We should not have security any more then than now.

Senator GIVENS - Nonsense ! Are we able to manufacture or repair big guns?

SenatorPlayford. - We have repaired them.

Senator GIVENS - Nonsense !

Senator Playford - We cannot do everything at once.

Senator GIVENS - Let us proceed to make a beginning now.

Senator Playford - Did the honorable senator go to the depot the other day and see what we are doing in reference to torpedoes? He does not know half of what we are doing. We are repairing, and we are gradually increasing our tools and appliances, so as to be able to do more work in the future.

Senator GIVENS - Will the Minister assure the Senate that it is contemplated to establish such a factory as I have indicated ?

Senator Playford - Let us have one factory at a time. We purchase cordite at a certain price. If we were to manufacture the article we should double the price. We have the machinery in the country to manufacture the cordite, and it could be erected to-morrow if necessary. If a war were to take place we would commence to manufacture it for ourselves. Are we not protected to an extent which is reasonable, and are we not saving money? We are getting the cordite at half the price at which we could manufacture it. We have the machinery, the raw material, and the men to manufacture the cordite if necessary. A company here has got the plant and everything ready to make the cordite at a moment's notice.

Senator GIVENS - That is all beside the Question.

Senator Playford - Is it? We have made provision to meet an emergency.

Senator GIVENS - The provision to meet an emergency must be ample and adequate, otherwise it is useless. The Minister says that we have incurred the initial expenditure, upon which I suppose we have to pay interest.

Senator Playford - No; a private company has provided the machinery, which it would erect immediately it was wanted.

Senator GIVENS - The machinery belongs to a private company, over which we should have no control. Suppose that everything the Minister says is absolutely correct, what does it mean? It means that if a war were started, and we were to find ourselves running short of ammunition, we could make heroic efforts to get this machinery started. Then, notwithstanding all the disorganization incidental to starting a new factory, notwithstanding the fact that there might be a break-down with the machinery, and that we might not have men absolutely capable to carry out everything to the highest degree of perfection, we should have to quietlysit down without ammunition, while we were waiting for the factory to be organized.

Senator Playford - Nothing of the sort. We should have two years' ammunition in hand before we started.

Senator GIVENS - That is in peace time.

Senator Playford - No; in war time. The provision is for war time.

Senator GIVENS - Will the Minister tell me how much ammunition we should require for a two years' war?

Senator Playford - 20,000,000 rounds.

Senator GIVENS - Every particle of the cordite we had would be blown away before the expiration of two months.

Senator Playford - I do not know how many rounds we have; but I believe we have 500 rounds for every rifle that we have in the country.

Senator GIVENS - It would all be gone in three or four days.

Senator Playford - That is in addition to a year's supply.

Senator GIVENS - What I believe the people of Australia will insist upon is that we shall not rely upon machinery in the hands of private persons, who may or may not supply us with ammunition in time of danger. What the people require, and what I advocate, is that the Commonwealth should set up a factory, and be prepared to enter upon the work of manufacturing at any moment. Ammunition is only one item. What about the arms? The Minister had to admit that the Government has not even contemplated the establishment of a factory ,in which rifles could be manufactured. He said, " We might set up some buildings where we could manufacture or repair the barrels."

Senator Playford - That would be a start.

Senator GIVENS - Why not make a start with the manufacture of stocks and locks as well as barrels? What particular charm is there in starting with the manufacture of only the barrels? What about the manufacture of big guns ? In war time we might not be able to send them to England when disabled and dismounted. Our communications across the ocean in any direction might be cut off.

Senator Playford - If the honorable senator thinks that a small Commonwealth will be capable of putting up an immense factory in which to make big guns he is expecting Australia to do what many of the great Powers of Europe do not do.

Senator GIVENS - As a matter of fact, soma very small Powers manufacture their own arms and ammunition. The Minister also said that it would be ridiculous to set up a factory for the sake of employing a few men for some months in the year. It is not a question of employing a few men or a thousand men. It is a question of national defence. If the defence of our national existence is not worth paying for, why do we have Commonwealth Ministers? I venture to say that the people of Australia will condemn the present haphazard, slipshod way of dealing with the defences. One of the chief arguments in favour of Federation was that it would insure efficient defence. If the defence system is not going to be made efficient, then so far will Federation have failed to achieve its object, and so far will the people have a right to complain that they have been deceived.

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