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Friday, 22 June 1906

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - It is somewhat inconsistent on the part of the Government, which proposed on one occasion to pay away £250,000 for the purpose of establishing an iron industry, to talk about running the Defence Department on purely commercial lines.

Senator Playford - We are not saying that we intend to act on purely commercial lines.

Senator DE LARGIE - No, and to judge from their present policy I do not think that the Government propose to run the Department on ordinary common-sense lines. They are simply pottering with the defences without attempting to do anything worthy of the name. I am quite satisfied that it is the business of the Department to supply the war materiels which will be required for the manhood of the country should an emergency arise. All the raw material is to be found here. There is, perhaps, no finer country in the world for the production of iron than Australia. The only proposal which the Government have ever made for utilizing our rich heritage, and making Australia perhaps one of the greatest wealthproducing countries in the world, has been to pay away £250,000 in the shape of iron bonuses. Why do they not propose to spend that sum in the starting of an iron industry, arsenals, and other iron works which are absolutely necessary for the defence of Australia? If we are going to pay away money for the establishment of industries in Australia, let us begin with the establishment of industries which will benefit its defences. Surely common sense dictates that that is the line upon which we ought to proceed.

Senator Playford - How much iron or steel would we use for making what we wanted ?

Senator DE LARGIE - The consumption in Australia would be quite sufficient to keep an up-to-date ironworks going. If we were to run these other branches of the industry, and so educate Australians to the art of making arms, we should have ample work to carry on an iron industry, and the cost, I am satisfied, would be no greater than the cost which we have to bear at the present time for our very unsatisfactory service.

Senator GRAY - Large ironworks are being erected in New South Wales.

Senator DE LARGIE - I have not much' faith in those ironworks. I am afraid that they are only being built in order to justify the expenditure of £250,000 later on. I have lately returned from a visit to the North West coast of Australia. One can see at a glance the menace which Australia has to face at almost every port on that coast. One can see the Asiatics outnumbering the whites by two to one, and Chinese carpenters erecting the only houses in Broome, Derby, and anywhere else where building is going on. The work is all done by Chinese carpenters.

Senator Gray - And there are 5,000 less Chinese in Australia to-day than there were a short time ago.

Senator DE LARGIE - I cannot account for the number of Chinamen in Australia, but I know that there are more Asiatics in Western Australia, more particularly on the North West coast, to-day than there were prior to Federation. Undoubtedly the Japanese outnumber all the others. For instance, at Broome, 70 per cent, of the Asiatics are Japanese. But alongside the Japanese, Chinese carpenters are erecting the largest building which has yet been undertaken there. Not a white man is employed on the job. White men tendered for the work, but they were cut out. What show has a white man to tender successfully against Chinese? Again, at Derby the largest building is being constructed by Chinese carpenters. If one goes to the hotels he will find that they are being run with coloured labour. Some one laughed this morning when I referred to a remark made by a Japanese barman. When serving drinks in an hotel he said, " In the latewar it was not Russia that the Japanese were after at all. The Japanese 'had whipped the Russians, and were done with them for the time. What they were aiming at was London. That is their object."

Senator Gray - Surely the honorable senator does not take notice of what a man behind a bar says.

Senator DE LARGIE - These indications show the way in which the wind is blowing. Just as the Russians have had to face the Japanese, so we may have to do sooner or later. I hope that that day will never come, but the danger of a Japanese invasion exists. In their hour of success, can we expect the Japanese to be superior to the Europeans? Has not success in arms always had one effect upon a nation? Europeans, whether French, German, or English, have always suffered from swelled head as the result of military achievements. Success in war will have the same effect upon the Asiatic imagination as upon the European imagination. Why should we shut our eyes to these dangers? I hold that if we are to have a defence system worthy of Australia, the present policy will have to be altered. To adhere to the present system is only to court disaster some day. The cadet system has been referred to. I am sorry that the same line of policy is being pursued here as in every other branch of the Defence Department. We see a pottering system introduced which bespeaks failure straight away. Why not put into operation at once the resolution which the Senate passed last session ? It suggests an inexpensive and very good way to arm Australians for the purpose of defence, but nothing practical is done. The same pottering policy is pursued with the cadets. These are matters in which the Government should take a more lively interest. Unless they do so, I am quite satisfied that Australia will be disgusted with the policy they are pursuing.

Schedule agreed to.

Postponed clauses 2, 3, and 4 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported, without request; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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