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Friday, 24 August 1906


Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - After the manner in which Senator Dobson has battered the Minister of Defence, it is only right that a member of the Labour Party should advise the Minister not to be bullied and hustled into a policy - of attempts at which Senator Dobson has before now accused the Labour Party. Senator Dobson has gone out of his way to try to " jump " the policy of the Minister of Defence. For my part, I do not think that any particular party is altogether to blame, but rather that we are all to blame for the absence of a proper defence policy. That has been very apparent from the commencement of our Federal career. No defence policy has been formulated by Parliament, and I suppose we shall muddle along from year to year spending money on defences that are far from satisfactory. I quite agree with Senator Pearce that, during the recess, we had every right to expect some definite declaration from the Minister. But the latter appears to have thrown aside all responsibility for the promise which was made last session. While I very much agree with the sentiments expressed by Captain Creswell in regard to an Australian Navy, I do not think that we are in a financial posi tion to carry out his scheme. Most Australians would be better satisfied with an Australian Navy than with the kind of naval defence we have at present ; but the question is whether 4,000,000 people can afford a navy worthy of the name. In my opinion, we cannot afford to undertake such an enterprise ; and, therefore, it would be a foolish policy to adopt Captain Creswell's scheme, only to afterwards find out thatour finances were unable to bear the strain. I agree with Senator Dobson's idea of having an army composed of the manhood of Australia, because that, in my opinion, is the only policy within our reach. I do not mean that men should be only trained for land defence ; they should be trained also for sea defence, because, although we have no vessels, and no money to buy vessels, these might be obtained when we require them. At all events, men trained on board ship are much more handy for any kind of defence than those who are simply drilled as soldiers. I should like to see Parliament set itself seriously to the task of settling on some national scheme of defence. We have been waiting in vain for some scheme from the Minister, but I am afraid that there is not much hope in this connexion, either now or in prospect. This is a matter which should stand high above all party feeling. Indeed, I do not know that it is regarded in the light of a party question; at any rate, it has never been so regarded in this Chamber. We have, therefore, a splendid opportunity ; and if the Minister is capable of treating anything seriously, I hope he will turn his mind to the matter. In thus speaking of the Minister. I may be making too sweeping an assertion, though I know that he attends other meetings, the business of which he considers of much more importance than that attached to the position he holds in this Chamber. It is just about time that the Senate was treated in the manner in which it deserves to be treated. The Minister of Defence has had a very fair innings, and every kind of consideration extended to him; and what have we got in return? I am far from satisfied, and I appeal to the Minister to devote a little more attention to his office than he has done hitherto'.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.







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