Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 3 November 1910

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I desire to say a few words on this all-important topic. I feel sure that the authorities in Great Britain will rest very content when they read the message conveying the remarks of Senators St. Ledger and Millen. I feel satisfied that there will be no danger of a German invasion, or anything else, when the Em pire is backed up by the splendid assurances of such great authorities. I have, perhaps, just as much love for the rest of the Empire as has either of those liployalist senators.

Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - Ledger. - Lip-loyalists?

Senator GARDINER - Yes. I claim, however, to have a little more love for my native land, Australia. The way to defend the Empire is to prepare for our own defence, to prepare to keep up our end of the log.

Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - So we said.

Senator GARDINER - Senator Millenhas spoken of the splendid advantages which the other side of the world has conferred upon us. I, as an Australian, wish to say that we, from the very beginning, have been doing our share. Our pioneers have made this a defendable part of the Empire. We have made it, if nothing else, a place which, in time of stress and danger, can supply food and material of war, whilst our brothers across the water are fighting. This is not the place to discuss where our Fleet will go in time of war. Any man who watched the course of the American Fleet round the world in time of peace, when every hand extended a welcome, realized what a difficult task it had to perform. Why talk about sending our Fleet to the North Sea to fight? It will be required here for the defence of this portion of the Empire? What are the advantages which pioneering Australians have conferred on the British people? We have trade routes which have to be protected, and the song from the other side is, " Shall the whole burden of protecting the trade routes fall on Great Britain?" I want to point out that we have built railways, cleared forests, and made two blades of grass grow where one grew before. We have paid dearly for every shilling's worth we have received from the Motherland to make those things possible. If there is any advantage, it is mutual, each side contributing in coin or kind. We have done our sharing fully. I, as an Australian, resent the imputation that we have received a dole of charity from Great Britain. We have given full value for every sovereign which we have received, and will continue to exhibit the same spirit of independence in commerce or war.

Senator St Ledger - Great Britain has never said so, nor does she say so now.

Senator GARDINER - No; but the liployalists do. They are always taunting

Australians with receiving charity, and refusing to be equally generous. 1 recognise, of course, that we speak from different stand-points. I speak from the stand-point that I love not Great Britain less, but Australia more. That is the sentiment I have as regards the question of defence. It is a matter of mutual advantage for Australia to be part of the British Empire.

Senator St Ledger - No; it is not a bargain.

Senator GARDINER - I venture to say that the workers of this country or, for the matter of that, of any other country, are equally well off under any form of government. Will any man say that, so far as the great bulk of British workmen are concerned, their position would be materially changed if any nation conquered Great Britain? Under the government of America, would the present workers and toilers of Great Britain be materially worse off than they are at present, or, to put the case in the reverse way, would the toilers of America be any worse off under the government of Great Britain? The same argument can be applied to all civilized nations. I regard these defence proposals as the natural result of a condition of things over which we really have no control, but of which we have to make the best. I regret that we are not going about the work of preparing for the defence of Australia as an integral part of the Empire in that reasonable calm manner in which we should act if we considered for one moment what a huge task we have to undertake. Not only our naval force, but also our land force, must continue to increase. Before we commence to establish an Australian navy, or to prepare for our land defence, it would be wise for us to know exactly what the undertaking is likely to cost, what outlay will be involved each year, and from what source the revenue is to be obtained with which to meet that outlay. If we are to successfully defend Australia, which is such a splendid prize in the eyes or' ail (he nations of the world, the first thing we should do is to get possession of the national sources of wealth, and to permit the honey gatherers to gather that wealth. The mineral and coal-fields of this continent should be in possession of the Commonwealth which has to provide the revenue for our future defence. I venture to say that the statesmen of Great Britain recognise that when we undertake the establishment of an Australian navy and the creation of an effective land defence force, even if we do absorb a little more of the taxpayers' money, we are giving them a first-rate security for it, in the form of a more efficient defence system than we have previously attempted to provide. In the course of his remarks, the Leader of the Opposition marie a reference to the Boer war, which furnishes another objectlesson that we may well take to heart. I do not know whether it is too late to ask the Minister of Defence to submit an estimate of the probable cost of a successful raid upon Australia by any of the nations of the world. What would such a raid cost Germany or Japan ? - What would it cost any nation which is likely to attempt such a huge task? We ought to have some estimate from expert men in this connexion, so that we may know whether it would be worth the while of any nation to attempt it. Notwithstanding that the British had bases on every side in South Africa, and that the food supplies of the world were open to them, we know that it required 250,000 troops and an expenditure of £300,000,000 to subdue a few Boers. Further, the loss of life involved was considerable. We also know that, although the Boer nation was conquered, one of its generals is to-day the Prime Minister of the Dominion of South Africa.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator would scarcely call that war a raid?

Senator GARDINER - But the war ended in such an unsatisfactory manner that the people who were in possession of the country when it commenced are in possession of it to-day. We may attempt to disguise it as we will, but we are up against the simple fact that the Boers were in possession of the country before war was declared, and that a Boer general occupies the position of Prime Minister to-day.

Senator St Ledger - Who gave them their privileges?

Senator GARDINER - I venture to say that the privileges to which the honorable senator refers were not given generously, but because nothing better could be obtained. Seeing that the greatest Empire in the world, with all the forces at its command, could not crush a handful of Boers, I say that in the matter of our defence we should appeal, not to the assistance of the Home -land, but to the Australian national spirit, which, when the critical time arrives, will not be found wanting. I am satisfied that when the crisis does come, we will show to the world that we can defend our portion of the Empire against any force which may attack us. Let any honorable senator consider the ease with which Australia can be defended, and also the cost of attacking it. I know that Senator Gould understands a good deal about military matters, and I am sure that he recognises how readily Australia lends itself to land defensive operations. This continent is a prize of which any nation may be envious - one which any nation would greedily stretch out its hand to grasp. But it is a prize which, if guarded by the stout hearts and strong arms of independent Australians, is beyond the reach of the most powerful nation or of the most powerful combination of nations. I have no fear - and 1 do not speak from the valour arising from ignorance - that men of such independent character and of such determination as Australians will not be able to successfully defend their hearths and homes. They will not be found wanting when the call comes, despite all the forebodings of the lip-loyalists.

Senator Millen - The forebodings of Senator Stewart.

Senator GARDINER - I think that Senator Stewart and myself approach each other very closely in our views on this question. But I rose chiefly to call attention to the fact that there is one section of the British people which always patronizes Australians, and which endeavours to make it appear that we have received something from the Empire for which we are not prepared to pay. I say that we have never received a pound From the Empire for which we have not paid.

Senator St Ledger - This is not a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence.

Senator GARDINER - We have paid in pounds, shillings, and pence, and we have made this country a portion of the Empire, the advantages of which will yet be appreciated by the British people.

Suggest corrections