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Thursday, 3 November 1910

Senator STEWART - No; but we ought to begin to prepare now for the event which will inevitably happen, and which Senator Millen is as sure will happen as I am if he cared to speak his mind. There is another point with which I am in agreement with Senator St. Ledger. I repeat to-night what I have often said before, that it does not matter what kind of a navy or an army you have, unless they are backed up by a large and patriotic population, every effort of ours in this direction will be in vain. I have never known members of the Opposition in the Senate do a single thing to make Australia fit to carry a larger population. I have heard them hundreds of times cry out that we want immigrants, but I have always found them standing in the way when any attempt has been made to find work or land for those immigrants. They have exhausted the English language in their denunciation of a measure which I believe will do more to open up land for the people of Australia than any previously submitted in the history of this country, and by doing so will assist materially to bring about the defence policy of which we have heard so much to-night.

Senator Vardon - It will not assist our defence policy one bit, and the honorable senator knows it.

Senator STEWART - I believe that this land taxation policy of ours is equivalent to 100,000 men in arms, so far as the defence of Australia is concerned.

Senator Vardon - To fill up the waste places !

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator talks about filling up the waste places, but I ask him whether he considers Victoria a waste place in the Commonwealth ? The honorable senator talks about the waste places. We are not talking about land settlement now, I suppose.

Senator Chataway - You started the discussion.

Senator STEWART - The country districts of Victoria carry only about six persons to the square mile, whereas they ought to be carrying 600. In any case, although the question is intimately bound up with the defence of Australia, perhaps it wouldnot be quite in order for me to continue the discussion of it. With regard to our present position, nearly every speaker has laid great stress on naval defence. I do not pretend to be a military genius or to have very much knowledge of military or naval affairs ; but it appears to me that if the people of Australia have to choose between two things, one, of which they cannot get, they will be wise enough to choose the thing which they can get. They cannot get a navy which will be able to cope with the navies of the world. By the time Australia has a population of 40,000,000 they may be in a position to have a navy. But now the few vessels which they can build or provide would be brushed aside at the first breath of war. From that position I fall back upon the fact that we are in a state to provide an effective land defence. In our present circumstances, that ought to be our first line of defence. I heard one honorable senator speak in a very derisive fashion of the Boers. He referred to one honorable senator as a pro-Boer and a Little Englander. Whatever our opinions of the Boers may be, I think that every one will admit that they put up a splendid fight for their liberty, for their nationality. I hold that the event which is now being celebrated in South Africa is proof positive of the justice of the cause of the Boers, because public opinion has compelled Great Britain to do now what she ought to have done before. What I wish to point out is that the Boers have shown us a most excellent example of how a small people can defend their country against a great Power. There were only about 150,000 or 200,000 people in the Transvaal. They never had an army or more than 50,000 or 60,000 untrained men. Great Britain's resources were exhausted almost to the last man in defeating that small people, and she only accomplished it by the skin of her teeth, so to speak. Some of the military authorities declared that if the Boers had had the courage, the enterprise, and the skill to pursue their advantages, Great Britain would never have beaten them.

Senator St Ledger - Would you have been glad of that?

Senator STEWART - I am not pre, pared to answer the honorable senator.

Senator St Ledger - I think not.

Senator Chataway - He is a fine Government supporter.

Senator STEWART - I said all I had to say on that subject years ago. I am here in spite of having said it.

Senator Sayers - Say it again.

Senator STEWART - I am prepared to say what I think again anywhere and in any circumstances. The point I wish to impress on honorable senators is that we have in that little people an example which shows us what organization, determination, courage, and patriotism can do. With a population of between four and five million people in Australia, we can, if necessary, put a quarter of a million men into the" field.

Senator Pearce - The only fault with your analogy is that, whereas we have a coast-line of 12,000 miles, the Boers had none.

Senator STEWART - There fs an" answer to that. Our large coast-line is one of the best defences we have. Within a very short period I believe that we shall have a population of 5,000,000 ; and I think I am well within the mark in saying that we can put 250,000 men into the field at any time.

Senator Vardon - Nonsense.

Senator STEWART - We are, therefore, in a position to defend ourselves even against the greatest European or Asiatic Power.

Senator Chataway - We have not rifles enough for that number.

Senator Pearce - How long would it take us to send 20,000 men to the Northern Territory by land?

Senator STEWART - How many points are there on our coast-line on which any foreign army could land? Where could the troops land? In a desert where there would hie no water or food. They might as well land on the moon. An invading army with any chance of success would have to land near the centres of population, where supplies could be found. Napoleon used to say that an army marched on its belly. It was quite true then as it is to-day, and any army landing on the outlying portions of Australia would have to bring everything it wanted, and keep open its line of supplies during the whole time it was here, making its task very much more difficult. The Minister asked how long it would take to send 20,000 men up to the Northern Territory by land. The Territory has been there for hundreds of years, probably millions, and its capabilities are well known to the people of Asia. Thirty or forty million- people have been living within striking distance of it for a hundred years or more, but have never troubled to take it. If honorable senators claim that we must be in a position to defend every portion of Australia, I reply that it cannot be done. Even if we had a population of 40,000,000 instead of only 4,000,000, it would be almost impossible for us to put such a ring of defence round the continent as would make it impregnable against assault from every and any quarter.

Senator Millen - That is a splendid argument for a navy.

Senator STEWART - But we cannot afford a navy. '

Senator Vardon - What is the good of this Bill then?

Senator STEWART - It is all very well for honorable senators to talk about a navy, but we have not the money for the purpose. If every farthing of our revenue were devoted to the upkeep of a navy, it would only be a mosquito navy, as compared with that of Great Britain, or Germany, or Japan, or America. It would not be worth considering so far as our defence was concerned. It need not be considered for a single moment.

Senator Chataway - Is the honorable senator going to vote against the Naval Defence Bill?

Senator STEWART - I shall tell the honorable senator by-and-by what I intend to do. In the ultimate, we have to depend upon ourselves for our defence. But while Australia cannot afford a navy, she can afford a citizen army, sufficient, at any rate, to defend her against any likely assault. I have no intention to vote against this measure. It is all right for us to lay the foundations of a navy - to begin to play at having a navy.

Senator St Ledger - No; .that is humbug.

Senator STEWART - I hope that we shall have a navy, when we are numerous enough and have revenue enough to afford one, or that we shall not need a navy, which would be a very much better state of affairs than the present one. I wish again to say a few words to Senator St. Ledger. Some time ago, he wrote a book dealing with Socialism, in which he denounced that political faith as being something which, if carried into effect, would be ruinous to the human family. Let me point out that the only political party in Europe to-day which is in favour of peace as opposed to war is the Socialist party.

Senator St Ledger - They are the biggest humbugs in the whole world.

Senator STEWART - Just as Socialism grows, so will the expenditure on armies and navies decrease, until ultimately, when Europe has become a Socialistic republic, war will be at an end, so far as it is concerned. That is the ideal towards which' every intelligent man - I do not wish to reflect on honorable senators on my right - is directing his attention, not to building up more and more armaments, to providing for the shedding of more and more human blood, but to bringing in that reign of peace when men will turn their spears into pruning hooks, plough the fields, and cultivate potato patches. I know that we are all trying to bring about a better condition of society.

Senator Long - It is not to shed human blood that we provide for our defence, but to prevent the other fellow coming here and shedding our blood.

Senator STEWART - I am quite aware that my honorable friend on the left is of a belligerent disposition, and would probably rather fight than do anything else. But I must confess that I am past that stage. I would rather run away ; indeed, I am afraid that I could not even run very far. I suggest to Senator St. Ledger that if he is really anxious for the advancement of the human race, he should become a Socialist, and write a book in favour of Socialism. If he does so, I am sure that with his great gift of exposition he would do more to convert tens of thousands of

Australians to that political faith than perhaps members of the Labour party could do in a generation. The more Socialists we have the nearer we approach to the era of peace. Every Socialist believes in peace as opposed to war.

Senator Chataway - I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator discussing the question before the Chair, which is the second reading of the Naval Defence Bill?

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