The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50
Mr. Lee Steere in moving—
"The protection of the Sound and Princess Royal Harbour is of vital importance to the security of the Australian colonies in time of war. If left undefended the Sound becomes the weak point in the Australian system of defence."
"The members of this conference pledge themselves to use all legitimate endeavours to procure the efficient fortifications and land defence of the several parts of the Australian colonies at the cost of the several colonies interested."
There is very little doubt in my mind that the Imperial Government clutched at that resolution because it enabled them to evade the cost of placing any Australian port in a fair state of defence, the colonies having themselves engaged, by that resolution, to place there own ports in an efficient state of defence at their own cost. It was with great regret we learned that the Imperial Government, when considering this question, had determined that King George's Sound was not one of those ports which they considered that the Imperial Government should be put to the cost of placing in a state of defence.
The President: What was the date of that conference?
"You have recently drawn the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the defenceless condition of King George's Sound.
"This question has already, on more than one occasion, been brought into notice, and it was alluded to at the Intercolonial Conference held at Sydney in January in 1881.
"At that conference a resolution giving expression to the colonial view was adopted in the following terms—"
The resolution I have already read. The despatch continues:—
"Although this resolution would apparently contemplate that each colony should bear the cost of fortifying its own ports, yet there are some ports the cost of defending which it is hardly reasonable to expect that a single colony should bear, and with regard to which the Australian Governments might well, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, consider the expediency of providing her defence in common. King George's Sound is a strong case in point, for as Colonel Scratchley, after a most careful investigation on the spot, reported:—'The protection of the Sound and of Princess Royal Harbour is of vital importance for the general security page 62 of the Australian colonies in time of war. If left undefended, the Sound becomes the weak spot in the Australian system of defence.'
"Her Majesty's Government would be glad if the Government of Western Australia would consider the above proposals in conjunction with the Governments of the other Australian colonies, to which similar despatches have been addressed, and would communicate to me their views on the subject.
"It would give Her Majesty's Government much satisfaction if the Governments concerned should be able to arrive at a common understanding."
"As you may be aware, Albany has become of late a somewhat large coaling station for steamers, and has been found a great convenience to those passing to and from the ports of the Eastern colonies.
"King George's Sound, being absolutely undefended, the coal stored there afloat and on shore would in time of war be likely to fall an easy prey to an enemy, and if once seized it would enable him to strike a very heavy blow at the commerce of all the Eastern colonies."
Some confusion may have arisen in the minds of hon. members who are unacquainted with the locality of the different places named, as to their relative positions so I will briefly state the position they occupy. Albany, King George's Sound, and Princess Royal Harbour all refer in reality to one place. King George's Sound is a large open bay at the entrance of Princess Royal Harbour, which is entirely landlocked, while Albany is an important town situated on the shores of Princess Royal Harbour. The letter of the Colonial Secretary of Western Australia was forwarded by the Governor of New South Wales to Admiral Tryon for his opinion, and Admiral Tryon, in a letter dated, "Sydney, 17th June, 1885," writes:—
"Your Excellency has been good enough to refer to me a letter from the Colonial Secretary, Western Australia, to the hon. the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales, in which co-operation is sought for creating a defence for Albany.
"This opens out the very important question of the protection of the outlying ports, especially when they are coaling ports, and inseparably connected with the question, are Albany on the west and Thursday Island at the north.
"At the early part of this year I was at Albaev, and was much struck with the importance of the harbour. It is not large, yet it is convenient, and capable of extension and improvement. It is situated near the extreme west point of the south coast of Australia.
"The bulk of the external steam trade of the colony pass it. The port cannot fail to become of great importance, both in a military and commercial sense; and these remarks apply with force also to Thursday Island in the extreme northorn territory of this country.
"At the time to which I refer the coal stowed in those ports, for the convenience of vessels that would otherwise pass them, was in a condition that simply invited an enemy to come and help himself, and that at our very threshold in both directions, so that he would arrive at our doors with full bunkers, and therefore with a full capacity for mischief.
"If occupied by an enemy, such places are so defensible that it would cost much to expel him.
"There are no other positions of equal importance, from the above points of view, as well as from a general point of view, in the whole of the Australian littoral." From the expression of opinion of those two experienced officers, Major-General Scratchley and Admiral Tryon—one an officer of engineers, and the other the admiral commanding the Australian station—we may safely take it that they regard King George's Sound as a point of extreme strategical importance to the whole of the colonies, and that is of itself sufficient to justify me in bringing this great question before the notice of the Council. I have no doubt that the hon. members for Queensland will think it their duty also to state that, in their opinion, this is the case. Now, sir, I wish to draw the attention of the Council to the fact that the other colonies of Australia are, I think, in an equal degree, if not more, interested in this question of the defence of King George's Sound as Western Australia, because the commerce of the other Australian colonies are far more extensive than Western Australia. I think the majority of the colonies have recognised this fact by having expressed their willingness to unite with the Imperial Government in the defence of King George's Sound. I wish especially to say how very disinterested Queensland has been in this matter, because, in a despatch from the Colonial Secretary of Queensland, the hon. member who is now sitting here, he states that he has received a letter from the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales with reference to it, and that his Government is quite willing to share in the expense of the page 63 defence of King George's Sound, notwithstanding that they thought that the defence of Thursday Island was of equal importance. But they did not make the defence of Thursday Island depend in any way on any measures that may be taken in regard to King George's Sound. They were quite willing to consider that matter irrespective of the defence of another place, which might be of more importance to them. The station of King George's Sound is so situated that if possessed by an enemy's cruiser it would influence very nearly the whole trade of the Australian colonies. The imports of the colony I represent from the other Australian colonies is over a quarter of a million, and more than one-half of the whole of our imports come from the Australian colonies. Those figures are for 1884, and I have no doubt but that in another year or two they will amount to at least half a million, because the northern portions of our colony are now becoming largely settled with persons, and by means of the capital of persons who reside in the other colonies of Australia, and the are is no doubt whatever in my mind that it will lead to a larger increased import from the other colonies. Therefore, I say that the defence of King George's Sound is a question which very considerably affects the other Australian colonics, and this very nearly all of them admit by having expressed very generously their willingness to contribute towards the joint expense of the fortification of King George's Sound. The only exception made to this has been by Tasmania. The Colonial Secretary of Tasmania in a despatch which he addressed or telegraphed, I forget which, to the Prime Ministers of the other Australian colonies, stated that he considered this was a question that solely concerned the Imperial Government, because Imperial interests seemed to be so largely concerned in the question. I must say that I am not able to look at the matter in that light. It may be true that Tasmania may not have any direct commercial communication with Western Australia, but I believe there is a considerable indirect communication between the two colonies. A great portion, I understand, of the products of Tasmania go to Melbourne and Sydney in the first instance, but from Melbourne and Sydney they go to the other colonies, and it is in this way I think that the commerce and the products of Tasmania are very much concerned, in the fact that that commerce shall not be preyed upon in time of war by cruisers issuing out of a port like King George's Sound. I think that the very fact of our mail steamers with their mails and valuable cargoes passing close to this port shows its importance as a port that ought to be protected. The tonnage of those steamers may belong to persons residing in England, and in so far the Imperial Government may be called upon to contribute towards any expense of the fortification of King George's Sound, but the freight carried by those steamers almost exclusively belongs to persons in the colonies, and that, I think, renders the fortification of this place a matter to be taken in hand by the colonies. It is true that some of the colonies, such as Victoria, have been at great expense to protect themselves, and have undertaken large defensive works for the protection of the principal towns in their colonies. I allude principally to the fortifications at Port Phillip, and I feel sure that the representatives of Victoria here will not say because they have provided for the immediate fortification of their principal city, and the access thereto, that therefore they are not interested in the question of the fortification of important strategical points like King George's Sound, i am sure that they will agree with me that they are very much interested, and anything that can be done to render this place defensible, and prevent hostile cruisers taking possession of it, and use it as a means of egress to prey upon the commerce of Australia, is a matter that the other Australian colonies as much or more interested in than Western Australia herself. King George's Sound is a place which if possessed by a cruiser, although it should not be a very powerful one, can be very easily defended by that vessel from any other vessel getting into the port. The entrance is very narrow indeed, it is not more than one-third of a mile, and the course of the channel, which is available for shipping, is certainly not more than 100yds. wide, so that an hostile vessel getting into Princess Royal harbour, and laying a few torpedoes in the channel, could prevent any other vessel, however powerful she might be, coming in and taking possession of this vessel, or Albany and the harbour. I may say that Albany is very easily defended also on the landward side from any enemy. This was practically demonstrated when two vessels of Her Majesty were protecting this port during last winter, and an endeavour was made to see whether a party landed from those vessels could take the port of Albany in the rear, but it was found to be perfectly impracticable if sufficient care was exercised. I know it has been said that any vessel taking possession of King George's Sound would not hold it long, because the telegraph would very soon communicate the information to the admiral on the station, or to some other man-of-war, and they would be soon able to go to Western Australia and expel this vessel, or take possession of it, but, I wish to point out that this would not be the case, because the telegraph wire between Albany and the other colonies goes close to the coast nearly the whole way, and the very first thing an enemy's vessel would do, it strikes me, before entering the Sound, would be to cut the telegraph wire. In that event a hostile vessel might occupy the port for a considerable time, issuing out, and preying on the commerce passing the Sound. In connection with this question of fortification the Government or Western Australia consider we should take into consideration the question of the erection of a lighthouse and signalling station at Cape Leuwin, connected by telegraph with King George's Sound. There has been a great deal of correspondence between the Government of Western Australia and the Government of the other Australian Colonies, in respect to the erection of a lighthouse at Capo Leuwin, and owners and masters of the various steamers passing this Cape have made representations time after time to the Western Australian Government, with reference to a lighthouse being erected at this place, but the Government of Western Australia have always considered that this was an intercolonial question, like the question of the fortification page 64 of King George's Sound, which interests the other colonies as much as the other Australian colonies, and if it is to be undertaken at all, it should be undertaken by the colonies jointly. It is also considered by the Western Australian Government, that this lighthouse on Cape Leeuwin, and signalling station is inseparably connected with the defence of King George's Sound, and would be specially useful in time of war to vessels coming from the westward, to enable them to communicate with other signalling stations of Cape Leeuwin, and ascertain there whether it would be safe for the vessels to proceed upon their voyages. Therefore the Government of Western Australia are of opinion that when the question of the defence of King George's Sound is considered, this should be also coupled with it. It has been estimated that the cost of this lighthouse would be £12,000, and my Government think that if it were once erected, it might be defrayed in the same way as was done at Ceylon, and as, I believe, is done by certain lighthouses in Bass' Strait, that is, that dues should be levied on all ships passing through these straits, and past the lighthouse, for the maintenance of this particular lighthouse. That seems to me to be a very equitable arrangement to make, and I hope it is one that will commend itself to the judgment of this Council. Considerable doubt has existed for some time past as to where the position of this lighthouse should be, and there have been many representations made to the Government of Western Australia in reference to this matter. Some of the Admiralty surveyors who surveyed this position differ in their opinion, and the Western Australian Government thought it was most advisable that all the opinions expressed by the various captains of ships and officers employed in the survey should be sent to the hydrographer of the Navy, it being thought that, with all these opinions before him, he would be able to advise as to the best position; and shortly before I left Western Australia to come here, a letter was received from the hydrographer of the Navy, in which it stated that, after considering all the circumstances, he had come to the conclusion that the best position was a place about 300yds. from Cape Leuwin.
Mr. Douglas: In what direction.
Mr. Lee Steere: North-east from the Leeuwin about 300yds. The Leeuwin is a very low point, almost level with the sea, and the position where the hydrographer recommended the lighthouse to be set is on the rise of the hill in the vicinity of the low point of land called Cape Leuwin.
The President: What about Cape Hamelin?
Mr. Lee Steere: Cape Hamelin had been reported upon by some persons as the most suitable place, but after all the circumstances and all the reports had been presented to the hydrographer of the Admiralty, he came to the conclusion that the place now indicated would be the best place. Of course I am aware that this question is one which this Council is unable to deal with now because it has not been referred to it, but I am extremely anxious that this resolution should be passed so that when the Federal Council meets next session it may be in a position to deal with the defence of King George's Sound. I hope before this Council meets next session that those colonies which at present have not joined the Federation will have thought better of their position, and will have determined to join. I think that if there is a United Federation of the Australian colonies, as I hope there will be before next session of this Council, that from the consideration in the meantime given by the Imperial Government, and by the various Australasian colonies, this Council will find itself in a position to deal with this question finally, and devise such measures as may be deemed advisable, not only in respect to the general defences of Australasia, which I think is somewhat apart from the defences of these two places mentioned—but more especially as regards Thursday Island and King George's Sound.
Mr. Griffith: How far would the telegraph extend from the Leeuwin to King George's Sound?
Mr. Lee Steere: About 150 miles direct if there was a special telegraph laid between the two, but it could be connected by a much shorter line. We have already telegraph communication to a town called the Vasse. It is about 60 miles from Cape Leeuwin to the Vasse, and all that would be necessary would be to erect a telegraph wire of 60 miles, and there would be this advantage, that the telegraph wire would be inland, and not subject to be interrupted.
Mr. Douglas said: The colony of Tasmania has been referred to, Mr. President, in reference to this subject, and I may say that when the subject was brought before the Government of Tasmania the Government addressed a memorandum to the Governor to the following effect:—
"Your Excellency's advisers have given careful attention to this subject, and whilst fully recognising the great importance attached to the fortification of a coaling station so advantageously situated as Albany, they are unable to recommend that, under the existing circumstances, the colony of Tasmania should be burdened with a heavy disbursement of public funds for this purpose." I may say that at the time that communication was made this colony had undertaken a very considerable expense in its own defence works, and it could not see at that time why it should be called upon to disburse other moneys for the defence of Albany, considering how small an interest it had in that particular colony, and how groat an interest Great Britain had in comparison. The communication to the Governor went on to this effect:—
"The contribution proposed to be made by Her Majesty's Government towards the expense of the projected works and their maintenance appears to Ministers to be quite inadequate in comparison with the large Imperial interests involved.
"The principal value of Albany as a coaling station consists in the facilities it affords to vessels of Her Majesty's navy and to vessels belonging to companies of purely British constitution, and therefore under these circumstances, as the colonial stake at issue in its existence as a coaling station is comparatively so unimportant, this Government consider that the larger proportion of the estimated cost of the proposed defence works should be defrayed by the Mother Country."page 65
"The Premier, however, is of the opinion that a subject of this importance, involving the expenditure of large sums of public money, should be postponed for the consideration of a Federal Council, when the representation of most of the colonies interested will have an opportunity of fully discussing the merits of the scheme."
Submarine mines for the entrance to Princess Royal Harbour.
The hon. member for Western Australia has so described these as to make the position quite clear to us, and as I have fortunately been able to visit the place myself, I could follow him clearly and distinctly.
There are to be three 16-pounder muzzle loading guns on travelling carriages, to be mounted on wooden platforms in a small earthwork, either to the west of King Point or to the west of the Semaphore station for the defence of the mine field.
Three 7-in. rifled muzzle loading guns above Semaphore Point to command the entrance to the harbour.
Two 40-pounders in travelling or siege carriages on the hill above King Point to fire on Middleton Beach and on the offing.
An infantry post would be needed on this hill, which would be the key of the defence.
A garrison of 50 artillery and 100 in-fantry, with 15 engineers to work the mines, would suffice as a minimum.
If the English Government, therefore, called upon the colonies to erect these fortifications, and to put them in a proper state of defence by keeping up a garrison of 50 artillery, 100 infantry, and 15 engineers, with officers and equipment, it was absurd to set it down as likely to cost £6,000. What was that £6,000 intended to cover?
Mr. Griffith: It is exclusive of maintenance.
Mr. Douglas: Oh, no! The despatch says:—
"The scheme of defence here proposed would suffice for this limited purpose, and Her Majesty's Government are prepared to assist the colonies by at once sending out the armament and the submarine mines referred to above, delivering them free of cost"—
Mark that, sir, free of cost; there is a concession.
"If the colonies are willing to defray all other expenses (roughly estimated at £6,000, exclusive of barracks), and to maintain the necessary garrison."
I say, sir, that is not a fair proposition for the Mother Country to make to the colonies. This colony, when the proper time has arrived and the subject has matured, and when we know what is intended as a general system of defence will, as it has always done, join with the other colonies in doing what is desirable for the defence of Australasia; but when we consider that Tasmania is just as open if not more so than King George's Sound to the depredations of an enemy, and that we are called upon to pay all our own expenses, it seems almost absurd, although the amount may not be large, to call upon us to join in the other defences also. Over and over again it has been asserted by General Scratchley, and by a number of Naval Commanders who have been here, that this port is the most vulnerable of any in the colonies. The vessels of an enemy could come in here at anytime, and should the enemy secure a position at Hobart, in the Derwent, it would be far more difficult to get him out of it than it would be to dislodge him from King George's Sound. In Western Australia they would have very little to rely upon in the way of supplies, especially if the residents followed up the Russian system of starving them out, whereas in Hobart they would be able to get anything they wanted, and therefore the position of Hobart was as important to the south of Australasia as King George's Sound and Thursday Island were to the north of it. Tasmania was willing to take its own share of the burden, and if they compared her expenditure on defences with the amount of her population they would find that she was the leading colony in the matter of expenditure on fortifications. The two principal batteries in Hobart will show you that Tasmania has done all in her power with the means at her disposal for the proper defence of the port of Hobart, and of the colony generally. I agree that it is a good thing that the subject has been brought before us, and I hope it will result in a good measure, whether by the committee, which is to be appointed to carry on the busi- page 66 ness of the Council until its next meeting, or in some other way I cannot say. Negotiations should during the recess, be carried on with the British Government, so that we may have placed distinctly before us what really is intended to be done. That King George's Sound should be defended by the British Government is beyond all question, and no doubt it will be desirable to have a lighthouse also. The increase of shipping and everything else connected with the port shows that something should be done in those directions, but the throwing of the burden of expense, or of the greater part of it, on the colonies, I greatly object to, and I hope before the next meeting of the Council—although there has been an unfortunate change of affairs in the old country, which looks as if the colonies will have to return to their old mode of treatment—I hope before the next meeting of the Council that the rulers of the day will show themselves more favourably disposed towards these colonies, and endeavour to foster them instead of trying to coerce them in any other direction. The Tasmanian Government will be willing to join the other Australasian Governments in paying a fair contribution, whatever it may be, but it will be for those who are entrusted with the management of the matter during the recess to see also that the mother country bears its full share of the burden. England is interested in this matter far more than any of the colonies. If a war breaks out we shall find means to get our goods to England in some other way. A war would be detrimental to us, but it would be far more so to England. We send our raw material to England, which employs her population, and we in return got her goods in a manufactured condition. I sympathise entirely with the views of the hon, member, and whatever means may be taken to carry them out, we must agree that it is utterly impossible for Western Australia to bear the burden of a defence of the description alluded to; but no matter what changes of Government take place here, Tasmania will be willing to bear her share of the burden just as willingly as the other colonies. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Griffith said: The subject of the defences of the Australasian colonies, Mr. President, has attracted a good deal of attention of late. We have been in the habit of talking about it for some years, but last year's events combined to bring home to us the necessity of doing something more than talk. We had every reason to believe that Great Britain would be embroiled in war with one of the great European Powers, and this would have affected us very much in Australasia, and have placed many of our seaports in imminent danger of being attacked by sea. During the period of danger the Governments of the various colonies were stirred up and induced to take a more active interest in the subject of defence, but when the immediate prospect of war came to an end a feeling of apathy seemed to a great extent to pervade them. But this sense of security is a great mistake. So far from the danger of war being averted, the present state of political affairs may be fitly described as an unstable equilibrium, and we should never be surprised to hear that affairs had taken such a turn that there is even more imminent danger of war and invasion than there was last year. I regret very much that more has not been done in the way of colonial defence, but there are possibly many reasons which have contributed to this result. We, in this Council, cannot do anything in respect to the cost of defences. It is not the function of this Council to pass war estimates for the Australasian colonies, or to say what number of troops shall be raised and maintained, or what money shall be expended for the defence of the colonies. What we can do is, when the colonies have agreed what forces shall be maintained by them for their joint protection, to pass laws which shall see those agreements properly carried out. This could not, before this Council was constituted, have been carried out without the intervention of the Imperial Legislature. That assistance it would be inconvenient to ask; it would be a cause of great delay; and it would be inconsistent with the claim which we have made for ourselves for so many years of being able to manage our own affairs. Some people seem to think that it is not our function to defend ourselves, and in this respect I do not agree fully with the hon. member from Tasmania (Mr. Douglas). We ought, in my opinion, to take up to a great extent the position that it is our duty to defend ourselves. I do not know a community in any part of the world which is so free from expenditure for self-defence as the Australasian colonies. What do we spend on defences? I cannot give an exact estimate; but it is a mere trifle to what is cheerfully borne by other nations of the world, which, however, still consider themselves to be lightly taxed for war purposes. We ought to recognise as a nation that, just as the first duty of every man is to defend himself and his home, so the nation should be prepared to protect itself from invasion by an enemy. I wish that sentiment more widely and distinctly pervaded the Australasian colonies. (Hear, hear.) I have had experience in connection with the passing into law of a measure providing for the defence of the colony which I represent here. That measure, though much commended since it was passed, was not received with favour, and it was difficult to arouse sufficient enthusiasm to carry it through. That was before we were threatened with war, but it is as much our duty—and we ought to recognise it—to defend ourselves from any possible invasion as to perform the other ordinary functions of government, such as the maintenance of police. Things being as they are, and other nations acting as they do, the duty of defence must be performed for us by somebody, unless we are to lie down and to be trodden under foot by any stronger invader. The duty to be performed ought in my opinion to be performed by ourselves to a very great extent. I do not mean that we ought to maintain the whole naval squadron which must be kept in these seas in defence of British interests. There are, of course, many things which can be done by us afloat in addition to those to be done ashore, but that is very different from the maintenance of the whole British squadron. I maintain that not only with regard to land defences, but also with respect to naval defences, it is our duty to assist. We ought to assist in the maintenance of a squadron which belongs to Australasia, the ships of it belong- page 67 ing to the Australasian colonies, and manned and maintained at their expense, and which are understood to be expressly set apart for the defence of our shores. As many hon. members in this Council are aware, considerable correspondence has taken place during the last 12 months on the subject, but I do not propose to go into it at length. We cannot here give effect to any proposition of that kind, but I think I am at liberty to mention a few suggestions I made. They are as follows:—"1. That a fleet of six fast cruisers be raised and maintained at the joint expense of the Australasian colonies in proportion to their population. If New Zealand declines to join, the number to be reduced to four. 2. The ships to be built at the joint expense of the colonies in the same proportions, type and armament being agreed to by the Admiralty and colonial Governments. 3. The ships to be employed solely for the defence of the Australasian coast and protection of British interests in Australian waters, unless with joint consent of all Australasian Governments. 4. The ships to be commissioned and recommissioned in all respects as other ships in H. M. Navy, of which it would form an integral part, to fly the white ensign (with a distinguishing badge to be devised for the purpose) and to be under the command of the admiral commanding the Australian station. 5. A sufficient number of torpedo vessels to be provided on the same condition. 6. A due regard to be paid to the admission of Australian boys as cadets on the ships of the Australian fleet. This should be a subject of express stipulation with the Imperial Government. 7. An Australian arsenal and dockyard to be established and maintained at the like joint expense. Having regard to the natural advantages of the harbour of Port Jackson and its nearness to the best supplies of coal, I suggest that the arsenal should be established in that harbour. 8. A permanent Appropriation Act, to be passed in each colony, providing the necessary funds to give effect to these proposals; the Act to be in force for 10 years, except by the mutual consent of all the Governments, or of all but two, and in that case until after one year's notice to the dissenting Governments. 9. A commission, consisting of three members, each being a member of a Government of one of the colonies, to be appointed to represent the different colonies, and to supervise the expenditure in connection with the admiral. 10. In times of assured and profound peace one or more of the ships to be put out of commission or employed on other services to be agreed to." These suggestions were made with a view of placing the matter in a concrete form before the several Governments. Similar proposals had been made previously by Admiral Tryon, which, though not exactly the same, were to a similar effect, but it was desired that suggestions should come from the Australasian Governments. I do not claim originality for them, except in some particulars. Sir Alexander Stuart, then Premier of New South Wales, made a suggestion somewhat to the same effect, but instead of proposing that the ships should be under the control of the Australasian Government, in conjunction with the Admiral, and instead of the ships belonging to the Australasian colonies, he proposed that the colonies should make a contribution in cash to the Admiralty, in consideration of maintaining a larger fleet in these waters. I mention these matters for two reasons, because the matter should be recorded in the official proceedings of this session, and because I wished to take the opportunity of saying a word or two on this question as to whether the defences should be maintained by ourselves in the sense I have used the words, or by making a money contribution or paying a money subsidy to the Imperial Government. I do not think that it is in accordance with the spirit of the times in these colonies that we should contribute to there venue of Great Britain by a distinct money payment. That we should share in the responsibility as to defence I firmly believe. I think we are old enough, and strong enough, and capable enough, to ask to have, in fact to claim to have, some voice in the expenditure of the money we contribute, though the contribution could hardly be made as money, for maintaining part of the fleet. Though this may appear to be a digression, I think hon. members will see that it is relevant to the question. Just as I think this should be done in respect to the naval forces, which would be for the general defence of the colonies, so do I think a similar plan should be followed with respect to the defence of those positions which, though geographically in one colony, really belong to the whole of Australasia. I think exactly the same principle should be applied. Of the positions to which the hon. member referred, King George's Sound and Thursday Island are undoubtedly the most important. The defence of Thursday Island, a subject which has been raised a long time, is scarcely less important than the defence of the other position. The hon. member for Western Australia did not inform us what was the annual number of ships passing King George's Sound.
Mr.Lee Steere: I said I could not say.
Mr. Griffith: Perhaps hon. members will be surprised when I tell them the number of vessels that annually pass through Torres Straits. In 1884 251 ships were entered inwards at the Customs on Thursday Island, with a registered tonnage of 221,000. The number of vessels that passed through Torres Straits, some of which were not reported to the Customs, was 256 steamers and 60 sailing ships; and for the first 9 months of 1885, the numbers were steamers 202, and sailing ships 60. Of course this is commerce from the East to the Australasian colonies, and from the Australasian colonies to the East. The consequences of Thursday Island being taken and held by a hostile power would be almost as serious as the seizure and holding by a hostile power of King George's Sound. I do not know what the expense of the fortification of these two places by Australasia would be, for it has never been calculated, but a scheme has been proposed by Admiral Tryon, who recently visited the place. So much I am justified in saying, but I have no authority for giving any information as to the mode proposed for its fortification. Although this Council cannot give effect to any recommendation it makes, we ought, I think, to affirm the principle contained in the resolution the hon, member for Western Australia page 68 has brought before us, that I think it ought to be altered so as to include Thursday Island as well as King George's Sound, as, to me, the two positions seem to be exactly analogous. One is at the extreme south-west of Australia, and the other is at the extreme north-east, and by these routes nearly all the commerce, with the exception of the small quantity that goes to America and round Cape Horn, must go. Perhaps the hon. member would amend his motion, so as to make it apply to the strategical point of Thursday Island as well as King George's Sound. There will probably be no objection to this course being followed.
Mr. Lee Steere: I have not the least objection. I thought the hon. member for Queensland would like to move it himself. However, I will move it if he likes.
Mr. Griffith: All that would be necessary would be to insert "points" for "point" in the second line, and after "King George's Sound and Princess Royal Harbour," to add "and Thursday Island," and after "Sound" "Torres Straits." There is just one matter of minor consequence to which I will refer, and that is the erection of a lighthouse and signalling station at Cape Leuwin. That it is desirable there should be one no one can have any doubt. But I am not quite so sure that it is fair that all the colonies should be asked to contribute towards the expense attending its erection. With regard to the two points I have mentioned, although they are geographically situated in Western Australia and Queensland, they really belong to Australasia, and their defences should, I think, be maintained by Australasia just as much as Gibraltar ought to be maintained at the expense not of its inhabitants, but of Great Britain. They are not centres of trade of the Colonies in which they are situated, but they are strategical points of the greatest value to the Colonies. The same argument does not apply to Hobart. That it is an important position there can be no doubt, but it is only important in the same sense as any of the other capitals.
Mr. Dodds: No.
Mr. Griffith: It is only important in the same sense. It is the seat of the capital and Government. If the colony of Tasmania would not defend its own capital, I do not know whether the inhabitants of any other colony should be any more called upon to defend their own capital. Of course, the extent to which the inhabitants of a colony are interested in the defence of their capital varies, and it is a question of degree in each case. The inhabitants of Queensland are not, as a whole, so much interested in the de-fence of Brisbane, as the inhabitants of New South Wales are in the defence of Sydney. Nor are they so much interested in the important town of Townsville, but I expect no one in the colony would think of asking any of the other colonies to defend Brisbane and Townsville. The defence of such places must remain a charge on the colony in which they are situated, unless indeed we are prepared to take a further step, and one which I hope will be taken before long, when the defence of the Australasian colonies will be recognised as a matter of common Australasian concern. Then we shall let the whole matter of defence be a common burden, and ask Australasia to defend Australasia. I trust that steps will be taken within a moderate period to bring about that result. In reference to the lighthouse and signalling station, I must say that it is comparatively a small matter. It is not on the same footing as the others to which I have referred, although it may be useful in connection with the fortifications, and in connection with other matters. It has been sometimes said that the whole of Australasia should combine to light the whole coast. Queensland must, however, in any case, I think, be excepted from contributing to the cost of the maintenance of this lighthouse, for at present we do twice as much in lighting our coast, as regards our population, as any other colony. We have lighthouses all the way from Brisbane to Cape York, and 30 or 40 miles away to the westward, in the open sea, we have a lightship. Much of this work is not alone for the benefit Of Queensland, but for the benefit of Australasian commerce generally, just as much as a lighthouse on Capo Leuwin would be for the benefit of all the colonies. Whilst we bear the cost we do we could hardly be called upon to contribute to maintain lighthouses in the other colonies, although they are a benefit to the whole of Australasia. Some years ago, when the matter was suggested to the Queensland Government, they did not accede to the request for the reasons I have now given. I see, however, no objection to affirming that the question of the lighthouse may be considered in connection with the fortification of King George's Sound. I hope the resolution as amended will be carried unanimously.
Mr. Berry: I had the view of moving the adjournment of the debate, but as it has gone so far, it is scarcely necessary that I should do so, and I have risen chiefly to express my opinion on a matter brought before the Council. It has been said that a discussion of this sort will be without effect at the present time. There is no doubt of that, for the Council has no power to pass any enactments, or give effect to any opinions which it may hold at the present time. Nevertheless, I believe it was a wise decision on the part of the hon. member for Western Australia which induced him to bring this matter under the consideration of the Council. What may be regarded as a decided advance on the parts of the colonies, is the matter being considerably a representative gathering of Australasia. I think there has been a growing conviction that the colonies, whilst they are asking from the Imperial Government larger measures of self-government, and which, if it continues, will give them greater influence in the peaceful development of matters in the Pacific, not only with regard to individual colonies, but with respect to Australasian interests; but whilst they are doing that on the one hand they must fully realise and recognise the corresponding responsibility of the position with regard to defences. In a community that desires fuller self-government, and which desires to exer- page 69 cise larger and continually larger powers with regard to shaping the course of events in the part of the world in which they are most interested, they must realise the corresponding liability of paying for the powers and privileges they desire to have. I think it would be lamentable in the extreme if it wore even to appear to the Imperial Government or our fellow-countrymen in England that we were only concerned in securing influence and power, whilst we repudiated or failed to acknowledge our liability to pay in the corresponding ratio to the extent that must necessarily arise in connection with public affairs. (Hear, hear.) To that extent I fully concur with my hon. friend from Queensland. The two things must go side by side, hand in hand. We must show our sincerity; we must show the reality of our desire to exercise influence in this part of the world in the creation of an Australasian sentiment, by showing to the Imperial Government that we are willing to take the responsibility to which I have alluded. I think, sir, that if that was cheerfully and candidly acknowledged by some general resolution of this Council, we might to some extent advance that sentiment. I think it is a growing sentiment, and I am not at all sure that it is not an overwhelming sentiment, even at the present time. I do not think many public men, nor do I think any representative gathering of Australians would reproduce their liability to contribute to the defence of this part of the Queen's dominions on fair and equitable grounds. I do not think we have sufficient information before us to be able to sketch out what should be the limit of the liability of those colonies in that direction. The hon. member from Western Australia dealt, and very properly dealt with that portion of Australasia which is within the colony of which he is the representative, and the hon member for Queensland added to it a point which is geographically intended in the colony that he represents. I am disposed to think that both these points are of sufficient Australasian interest to be dealt with from the standard that I have taken up. But I am disposed to go further, and to agree largely with the representative of this colony of Tasmania, that there are other points of interest and of danger, totally beyond local resources, which, if we are to deal with this question in a comprehensive spirit—in a truly federal spirit-we cannot disregard. It has always appeared to me that in Tasmania, either Launceston or Hobart are serious points of danger, if not of menace, to many of the other colonies, and unless they are adequately protected from being taken possession of, even temporarily, by a hostile squadron, would be fraught with the very greatest danger, and might probably have disastrous results to the shipping of the neighbouring ports that could do so easily reached. It may be that the colony of Victoria, lying so close to Tasmania, may realise that danger more completely than the more distant colonies of Western Australia or Queensland; but that it does exist, and that it should be provided against, I feel quite sure. I do not think, Mr. President, that we are called upon to lay down the whole features of a federal plan of defence for the colonies. That is necessarily raised by the motion of the hon. member from Western Australia, and if we were in a position to legislate it would be necessary to have full information, to have exact plans properly prepared and authenticated, before we could decide upon any definite scheme. Many matters stand in the way of that. In the first place, the question of the defence of the Australasian colonies would have to be remitted to this Council before it could deal with it. It has not been so remitted, and I think that no Federal Council will ever have it remitted to it which is incomplete. The first step before the question can be practically dealt with is to get the Federal Council to embrace all the colonies of Australasia. We are, it is true, a community—taken in the group a very powerful community—and I quite agree with what the hon. member from Queensland said, that there is no other people, situated as we are, having such largo interests, so numerous a population, and such varied and immense resources, left altogether to the protection of some outside community a long distance from its shores. The duty of defending such important interests devolves really upon the people who would feel the adverse influence of an aggressive movement. In that light, there is no doubt that a great responsibility devolves upon this community, which I do not think it will be slow to assume. The first step, I think, should be by every possible means to increase confidence in the Federal Union, and to bring together, at the earliest possible moment, those colonies that are not at present in the union, so that we may have a federation of the whole of the three and a-half millions of inhabitants in these seas—a community which, though small comparatively, is still relatively large enough to perform the work with the assistance, which no doubt we shall receive, of the Imperial Government, to make complete the defences of so largo an area. It is not perhaps beyond our means, but certainly requires the co-operation of every one of the communities that are interested in the defence of this part of the Queen's dominions. Therefore, Mr. President, it seems to me that whilst we may very properly pass the resolution submitted by the hon. member for Western Australia, even with the amendment that has been suggested by the hon. member from Queensland, we realise at the same time that that is only part of the problem. If this Council was complete—if we had the full co-operation of every community in this part of the world, I should be disposed to go very much further, and to recognise that just in proportion as we were allowed to exercise Australian sentiment with the interest we take in the settlement of all the questions that will arise, either with the Imperial Government or with foreign powers, we should be allowed to exercise that legitimate influence which, I think, communities so numerous and so prosperous, guided by one common interest, ought to exercise. Side by side with that, I should like it to be understood emphatically—and, I believe I speak the sentiments of a great majority of Australasians, no matter where they may be situated—that we should not disregard or dispute our liability to contribute in the same ratio to the defence of all those interests which we regard as so important. I hope and trust that, although the resolution does not go so far as that, it will really carry with it a proportion of that sentiment.page 70
It cannot be necessary, I think, to go further, and to discuss the question raised by the hon. member from Queensland, as to whether it should be by contributions to Imperial fleets, or whether it should be by the building and maintenance of a separate fleet in these waters, to be strictly under Australasian control. That question will, no doubt, arise wherever matters have progressed further, and will be dealt with by those who may be responsible, in that spirit of patriotism which has hitherto distinguished nearly all the public proceedings of Australasian communities. I may say I sympathise largely with the sentiment which the hon. member from Queensland uttered, that we should do with regard to naval defences hereafter what we have felt compelled to do with regard to our military defences; that is to say, that while spending large sums of public money in organising defences, either military or naval, we should be able to give to the people of these communities the assurance that our armaments, whether military or naval, would not be in some other part of the world at the critical moment. To give some such assurance as that would be absolutely necessary to satisfy the legislatures of the various colonies; they would require that assurance before they would vote the necessary sums of money for the purposes that have been alluded to. However, with that we are not now called upon to deal. What we have to deal with is a resolution based upon a federal system of defence, and with that I thoroughly agree. I do not think it is perfect in itself, and the subject would no doubt have been taken up by the Council had it been remitted to it. With regard to the latter part of the resolution, this is not the first time that the question of erecting a lighthouse at Cape Leuwin has been alluded to by the representatives of the various colonies. I remember, at a Conference that was held in Sydney in 1881, Mr. Justice Wrenfordsley, who was then the representative of Western Australia, brought the question forward, and, after discussion, it was postponed with the view of obtaining further information, which he promised to submit at a future period to the various Governments. I do not know that the hon. member who brought forward this motion has really submitted much additional information, beyond the circumstance that a consensus of opinion has been arrived at as to the best and most eligible spot where the lighthouse should be erected. With regard to connecting the lighthouse with the telegraph wires, I understand that an offer has been made to do that without any cost to the other colonies, so that that would not come into the federation. In a matter of that kind we are bound, I think, to regard the wishes and requirements of the commercial community. It is pretty well understood that there is a consensus of opinion that the lighthouse at Cape Leuwin is essential to the safety of navigation on that part of the coast, and if so, I think this Council would give duo weight to that part of the resolution. That it should be a federal contribution to the cost, I believe. The lighthouse is not required so much for ships entering the Sound as for the ships passing Cape Leuwin and proceeding to the various other colonies, all of which are interested in the safety of vessels passing that promontory. And as we have already recognised a great liability by erecting and maintaining lighthouses where more than one colony is concerned, I see no reason why an exception should be made in regard to the lighthouse at the Leuwin. Therefore, Mr. President, with regard to the general scope of the resolution, either with respect to the defences of the Sound by some Imperial and Federal contribution, the proportion of which would require to be settled on an equitable basis, and also in regard to the lighthouse and its connection with the telegraphic system of these colonies, I very heartily concur, and accordingly I have great pleasure in supporting the resolution.
Mr. Dickson said: The motion introduced by the hon. member for Western Australia, as amended by my hon. colleague, is one which has my full approval in so far as it refers to the defences of the most important strategical points on the coast of Australia. I do not consider that there is any demerit in the resolution simply because it is of a limited character, and not more comprehensive than to embrace two of the principal points of defence in Australia. These points have not been selected simply by the representatives of the colonies in which they happen to be situated. They have been referred to by the highest naval and military authorities of the present day, and specially recommended as the points most vulnerable, and from whence the greatest amount of danger and depredation might ensue to the commerce of Australia, and as points which should specially beyond all other points be early and immediately defended. Doubtless in the early future other points along our extensive seaboard will need equal consideration, but we cannot undertake everything at once, and I think that instead of directing our attention to a large number of points, it is better to deal with those two which have received the special attention and recommendation of military and naval experts. I think the hon. member has done good service in introducing this matter for our consideration, more especially as we are now living in a time which we may consider a time of peace. Although the maintenance and endurance of that peace no one can foretell. We have been warned by very recent events of the uncertainties of peace, and I do not think, sir, that any thinking or intelligent man in the community will venture to say that there is a greater appearance at the present time of the maintenance and stability of peace than there has existed previously. Although the breaking up of that peace may not apparently be so imminent, still no one can say that the stability of peace is more assured now than it was at the time when we were all in daily alarm of war being declared. I think, therefore, it is right that we should at the present time regard this question fully and deliberately, and by the ratification of this Council obtain the consent of our respective Legislatures to proceed with that amount of expenditure without which no practical effect can be given to this resolution. Indeed we are met at the outset by the fact that this resolution is one which has not been relegated by the Legislatures of any two of the colonies, and it is also of a character that until it is so dealt with it is wholly inoperative, as page 71 it deals with finance, and are restricted from imposing a financial burden upon our respective Legislatures without their sanction. I think, under those circumstances, it is wise for us to take time by the forelock, and consider the exigencies of the present position. There is no doubt that the best way to maintain peace is to be prepared for war. War, I trust, may be far distant. Still, from the warnings we have received of late, we might endeavour to do something in the direction indicated, so as to provide for any future emergency. I consider, Mr. President, we are dealing with the matter at the present time, probably in a prudent manner, but at any rate in a manner somewhat half-hearted. I contend that although we do not get a single penny from the Imperial Government we ought to look the question of these fortifications in the face. (Hear, hear.) I consider, sir, it to be part of a not altogether commendable spirit that we, who are gradually growing in wealth and accumulation and prosperity, should look to the Mother Country to subsidise our efforts to protect ourselves. Why, sir, as my hon. colleague showed, the amount paid by the whole of the Colonies of Australia for the purpose of defence is of itself a remarkably insignificant sum, when compared to the revenue of the respective colonies. One of the first principles of political economy is that a man should contribute to the exigencies of the State, in proportion to the revenue and protection which he enjoys in that State. I hold that we have a right to regard the question of defences with that category; that we have a right to regard it entirely as an expenditure falling on our own shoulders, without deriving any assistance or contribution towards it from the Mother Country. We must regard such expenditure in the light of an insurance premium on the wealth those colonies are accumulating, and in that light I consider that the burden would fall very lightly indeed per capita of the population throughout the colonies. It has been said by the member for Tasmania, Mr. Douglas, that he considered the Imperial Government did not furnish a fair share or proportion of the expenditure in connection with this scheme of defence. I understand that the ordnance is to be provided by the Imperial authorities, and that the expenditure of placing same in position and constructing the fortifications is to be provided by the contributing colonies, and that this sum would amount to about £6,000, in addition to which there would be the annual maintenance. The hon. gentleman seems apprehensive that this expenditure would be too heavy a burden upon the federated colonies. Well, sir, I do not think that the burden would be too heavy, and I am afraid that if the hon. gentleman intends to wait until a fairer distribution is suggested by the Imperial authorities, he will have to wait for a long period. I would ask the hon. members was there a fair proportion of expenditure in connection with the recent protectorate of New Guinea, and to consider what would have been the position of matters had action been deferred simply on account of its being an unfair proportion. There is no hon. member present who will contradict the statement that the proportion of expenditure assigned to Australia and that provided by the Imperial authority was altogether unfair, and I say that if the colonies had waited until a fairer proportion was made, no progress would have been made whatever in establishing that protectorate, or shadow of a protectorate, over New Guinea which at present exists. I say, therefore, in regard to this question of the fortification of the important strategical points of our great and extensive seaboard, that we must chiefly rely on our own exertions, and I am convinced from past experience it will come to that in the early future. History repeats itself in those matters. It will be remembered that Commodore Goodenough visited Torres Straits some years ago with a view of making an equitable adjustment of the contributions to be paid by the Imperial Government and the various colonies towards the establishment of government in that region by Queensland. The proportions which were assigned by Commodore Goodenough represented an annual contribution of £3,000, and was based upon the tonnage of shipping which passed through the Straits. Queensland had to contribute £1,000; New South Wales, £1,283; Imperial Government, £600; and South Australia. £117. The Imperial Government ceased to pay in 1880, only one year after the adjustment had been made. From New South Wales only one payment was received, and South Australia ceased to pay in 1881. I say then, my opinion is, that even if the Imperial Government agrees to contribute towards the maintenance of these fortifications, there will be found an opportunity of withdrawing from that position, and it is wiser for us to rely upon our own exertions, solely, if necessary, in proceeding with those most important works. We pride ourselves on the fact that the colonies are most important to the Mother Country. It is continually stated so, and I fully believe it as a colonist. I believe that the greatness and prosperity of the Mother Country depends upon her colonies, and that her great commercial prosperity has been built in her colonial possessions, but it is one thing for us to believe it, and another thing for English statesmen to show that they so believe it by their actions. I must confess, from recent actions of the statesmen of the Mother Country, the colonies at times seem to a large extent to fade out of their recollection or remembrance. They do not seem to have before their eyes the greatness and importance of those colonies to the Mother Country in the manner that any man would expect they should be recognised, and therefore I expect that we need not depend upon their consideration of our importance especially if it be to induce them to incur any large amount of liability in the shape of expenditure. They have evidently shown a great reluctance to assent to such responsibility in connection with New Guinea. I do not agree with the member for Tasmania, that Hobart stands in a similar position. The larger stream of ocean shipping must pass either by Capo Leuwin or by Torres Straits, and there is no necessity for such ships to go round by the south of Tasmania; doubtless, sir, in time several ports on the coast of Tasmania must be considered of great importance, particularly in connection with the navigation of Bass Straits. They do not seem to me, at any rate at the present time, to page 72 demand the same amount of attention as the outlying points that all ships visiting Australia must pass. They do not at present demand the same attention as King George's Sound and Torres Straits, indeed, the latter has been specially referred to not only by Admiral Tryon and the late Sir Peter Scratchley, but also by one of the first engineers of the age. Hon. members will remember that Sir John Coode has lately had occasion to visit Victoria and New South Wales in connection with professional work, and the Government of Queensland deemed it desirable to arrange with him for inspection of some of their most important harbour works. In the course of that visit he took occasion to inspect Thursday Island, where he was greatly impressed with the importance of the position, and stated that either that or some of the other islands in the neighbourhood would in time be in the position of the Gibraltar of the Southern Hemisphere. He was so impressed with that view that since his departure from Australia he sent a telegram to me from Colombo in which he requests me, in the case of the subject coming before the Federal Council, to express his opinion to that extent, that a naval station in Torres Straits must inevitably be established and that while Thursday Island might not possibly be the best available strategic position in the locality, it would be advisable to leave the matter of choice of site open for the consideration of the authorities at home, to whom the matter might ultimately be submitted. He also stated his intention to see the Admiralty on the subject on his arrival at home. I feel, therefore, that this is a matter which must come on for consideration, at no very distant date, before our respective Parliaments, so that they may provide us with the funds to carry our resolutions into practical effect. I must say, however, that I am not at one with the representative of Western Australia in respect to the federal contribution towards the establishment of a lighthouse, however important that lighthouse may be. We have 2,000 miles of coast line in Queensland, lighted for the use and safety of shipping, for which vessels using the lights do not pay a shilling. I do not believe in lighting a coast and then taxing the shipping interest for it I believe in relieving shipping from all charges as far as possible, and we have given effect to this view in Queensland by illuminating over 2,000 miles of Coast line for which the ships visiting the quarter do not pay or contribute one penny. The amount annually spent in maintaining these lights is something over £20,000. In addition to this we are erecting a lighthouse in Torres Straits, on Booby Island, 18 miles west of Thursday Island, which will cost £6,000, and we have also provided a lighthouse at Proudfoot Shoal, 50 miles west of the entrance to Torres Straits, at a cost of £5,500. So that altogether a very considerable sura of money has been expended in the erection of these two most important lights which as a matter of fact are of no greater benefit to Queensland than to any of the other colonies of Australasia, the shipping of which navigates via Torres Straits. We have also lights on Thursday Island and Goode Island, and I may say with a pardonable amount of pride, that Queensland is the best lighted portion of the whole of the Australasian seaboard. Queensland has done this, and she has not asked for any federal subsidy in connection with it, and I cannot help considering it a retrogressive step to ask the colonies to contribute to the erection of lighthouses in any one colony, however necessary they may be to the locality in which they are placed. This, as has been already stated, is somewhat of a secondary consideration, but I, at the same time, wish the hon. gentleman who represents Western Australia to know how far he may expect support in the legislation which must be brought at a future time before our respective Parliaments. He will, I believe, find that he may rely on the colony of Queensland in supporting the fortification of King George's Sound and Torres Straits, but he is not likely to receive the same amount of support in connection with the establishment of a lighthouse. I need not, I think, detain the Council longer. I hope the apprehension of war will be averted, but at the same time I think we would be occupying a fool's paradise at the present time if we did not regard it as an early possibility that our coasts might be visited by some hostile assailant, and we should be showing a most pusillanimous spirit if we did not deal with it on the basis of defending ourselves instead of depending upon succor from the Mother Country. I will not now weary the Council by a reference to a contribution to the support of a colonial detachment of the Royal Navy—a subject on which I feel somewhat strongly, but which is rather ultra vires of the question now under consideration.
Mr. Dodds said: Mr. President? I have no objection to the Council affirming this resolution, because I conceive that it will be admitted on all sides that King George's Sound is a position of great strategical importance, and if anything were wanting to convince us of it the light thrown upon the subject during this discussion would supply it King George's Sound is a good harbour, and would afford most complete accommodation and protection to a large fleet It is also one of the most important coaling stations in the southern hemisphere, although I believe the port of Albany is only used at present for coaling purposes by the vessels of the P. and O. Co., but in the event of a threatened attack upon Australasia the British admiral would no doubt use it as a coaling station also for his vessels. If so, that would add considerably to its importance, and render it very likely to be an object of acquisition to any enemy present in these waters. If it fell into the hands of an enemy, it would furnish him with the means of preying on the mercantile marine of Australasia. The geographical position of the Sound makes it the first point of call for ships from the Canal. India, and the Cape, and also from the China seas, by way of the Straits of Sunda, and an enemy located there would occupy a position close to the track of all British vessels coming from the places mentioned to Australia. It therefore seems desirable in the general interest that some means should be taken to defend it. If we consider the use to which the port might be put by an enemy, we at once see that it is the first point he would make for in any attempted attack upon Australasia. If he seized and took possession of the page 73 coals, and then pressed the merchant steamers into his service, the results would be most disastrous, and he would be facilitated in accomplishing his objects to the very fullest extent By the papers, which have now been made public in reference to the proposed Russian attack of 1878, it is well-known that in the event of a declaration of war it was the intention of the Russians to seize and shell Newcastle, and to possess themselves of such large steamers as they could obtain the services of to facilitate their operations. Newcastle is now well defended, but Albany is not so, and it is therefore most likely that the former would be avoided and the latter visited. Instead of coaling at the Loochoo Islands, on leaving Japanese waters and proceeding by the eastern route to Australian waters, the Russian fleet would now go west about, cither by the Cape or the Suez Canal, and at once make for King George's Sound, so that there is ample reason for fortifying the place The only question on which we shall differ is as to the amount, if any, to be contributed by the colonies towards the defence works, or whether it shall be left to the Mother Country. Another reason for doing something may be found in the fact that the European nations westward of Australia are making advances and securing coaling stations of different kinds. Germany has established a coaling station at Angra Paquena. France has established a protectorate over the island of Madagascar, which, in all probability, means that she will soon be using its fine harbours for a similar purpose, and she is also desirous of establishing a station on the Abyssinian coast. Italy has already a station on that coast, and the Red Sea which we have for so long regarded as being in the possession of England by reason of our possession of Aden, is now less under the influence of Great Britain than it has been heretofore. The question arises whether the fortification of King George's Sound should not be dealt with in the same way as Aden is proposed to be dealt with by the Imperial Government, having regard to the interests of Great Britain in the commerce of Australia. I cannot agree with the hon. members who think that the position of Thursday Island will warrant us in attaching as much importance to it as to King George's Sound.
Mr. Griffith: Oh!
Mr. Dodds: I hear murmurs of dissent from the hon. member for Queensland (Mr. Griffith), but the statistics produced by that gentleman would not warrant us in assuming that it looms so largely as the other position does. The hon. member has expressed a national sentiment, one that must commend itself to the whole of the colonies, and one that would enable us all to combine for defence purposes, if we could only give effect to it. But we are not ripe for that yet. We cannot see our way to it at present: had we done so no doubt the Governments who were represented at the Sydney Conference would have included defence in the subjects which it remitted for the consideration of the Federal Council. But it was left to be dealt with by the local legislatures, and defence matters are excluded from the subjects upon which we may legislate, until they are referred to us by the various colonies. The hon. member has indicated that we are somewhat selfish, or that the remarks of my Premier, Mr. Douglas, are somewhat selfish in calling attention to the fact that Tasmania has done something in the way of defence for herself. I was unable to agree with the view he took, that Hobart was in the same position, or that the expenditure might be regarded in the same sense, as that made in reference to the capital of the other Australasian colonies, for instance Melbourne or Sydnoy. I think it will be seen that Hobart occupies a different position to either Melbourne or Sydney, and I think that if Tasmania were possessed by a hostile power, it would form a base of operations which might seriously hamper or embarrass the colonies of the mainland in their defence against an enemy. The people of Tasmania have realised that fact, and have been willing to take upon themselves an expenditure, which is large considering the circumstances of the colony and the smallness of the population. It will be, perhaps, news to my hon. friend if I tell him the amount we have spent, or authorised to be spent, in this little colony up to the present time. We have spent a sum amounting to about £103,000, and are spending annually from £14,000 to £15,000 on defence, and the interest on the money we have thus spent, and the money we have to spend annually, involves a cost to this colony of £20,000 a year. I think it will be admitted, if you compare the condition of the colony of Tasmania with that of any other colony, that Tasmania has done her part in arming herself and providing the means of defence against the common enemy of Australia. It is because the people of Tasmania have recognised their duty to their neighbours as well as to themselves, that they are willing to take upon themselves the burdens of the necessary expenditure. I expected my friend would have based his argument on the importance of the position of Thursday Island, instead of on the amount of tonnage that annually passed it.
Mr. Dickson: So I did.
Mr. Dodds: If the hon. member did, I misunderstood him. Well then, Mr. President, if you compare the area and population and revenue of the colonies of the mainland to this little colony, you will see how necessary it is for us to be guarded in binding ourselves to any agreement which may involve us in a larger expenditure than we incur at present. In the colony which the hon. gentleman represents a revenue of £633,000 is derived from the sale and rental of Crown lands alone, and that is much larger than the total revenue of Tasmania from all sources. We are not in a position to contribute largely, or to pledge ourselves to a large expenditure, though we are desirous of bearing our fair share. We are willing to defend our own shores, and have shown it by carrying out practical defence works. With regard to entering into a general defence scheme, to that extent the Premier has already stated the colony would be quite prepared to go, but not beyond that. The estimates put forward by Mr. Lee Steere are not such as we should take as a guide to the probable amount of expense in connection with this page 74 matter. I think the amount he mentioned is totally inadequate for the purposes referred to. Supposing that the Mother Country was prepared to give all she promised, indeed to increase it, and give us a great deal more than she promised, we have yet to take into consideration the maintenance of the permanent force necessary to man those batteries, and also the erection and maintenance of the telegraph from Cape Leuwin to the Sound, a distance of about 180 miles, and other works attendant on the establishment of fortifications at King George's Sound. Inasmuch as the fortifications would be situated within the Crown colony of Western Australia, on that colony in all probability, would the burden fall of maintaining a force that would be sufficient for working the guns. But if, as is not at all improbable, a detachment of the Imperial Garrison Artillery were stationed there, Western Australia would be relieved of the expense under this head. But larger matters than those mentioned will be involved if we are to carry out any complete scheme, and in that view the resolution will be useful, as it will place before us some tangible statement of the cost of the works proposed, and the way in which such cost is to be distributed. In the light of that information we shall be able to discuss the matter at greater length, and perhaps to propose to our respective Parliaments the desirability of entering into a responsibility proportionate to the means of the colonies. I see no objection to the Council adopting the resolution, and I have pleasure in supporting it.
Dr. Macgregor: I desire to express general concurrence with the terms or the resolution, that the undefended positions of Thursday Island and King George's Sound would be a general source of weakness, and that energetic action ought to be taken in dealing with the question. It has been pointed out by several members that have spoken on this question what is the true position of this Council with regard to this matter, and that aspect has been dealt with so fully that I have nothing to add to it. It appears to me that we shall be expected to bring these questions before our respective Governments for consideration? and that I assume will raise the whole question of Australasian defence in each of the colonies. Now, situated as we are in a place like Fiji, the first thing we look to is, naturally, the line of defence the first line of defence that is common to the colonies—the Imperial navy. Opinions have been expressed, however, that this resolution does not raise in this Council, that subject for discussion, and therefore I will not detain the Council by dealing with it, but I would express the hope that, it the additional cruisers proposed by the hon. member for Queensland should at any future time be added to the squadron now in these waters, sight will not be lost of the advantages of having them under the direct and solo command of the admiral on the station. (Hear, hear.) The advantages of having an undivided command must be apparent and obvious to everyone, as the principal officer commanding on the station will always have in his possession information that probably would not be communicated to any other officer. The Imperial navy will always be equipped in the most perfect form, and have the best weapons obtainable, and those can be supplied only from the Imperial arsenals. These armaments would be evidently useless unless they were provided with men properly trained to the working of them. Having the undivided command of the ships on the station, the admiral would be able to concentrate the whole of his force at any given point, whenever he found it advisable to meet or attack an enemy in force, a matter with respect to which he would be better able to judge than any one else. Without going into this aspect of the question I must simply express the hope that when the time comes when this matter will be dealt with, that the great importance of having these snips fully and completely at the disposal of the principal naval officer on the station will not be forgotten. Passing now to the question of local defences it appears to me that the colonies of Victoria, Tasmania, and Queensland deserve very great credit indeed for the steps they have taken towards providing for their local defence, and I have no doubt whatever that if ever the time should unfortunately come when it should be necessary for them to raise their arms in their own defence, that these colonies will show courage and pluck that will do credit to them and the whole of Australasia. It appears now, however, that a new system of providing local defence is to be created—that of erecting them at the common expense of the Australasian colonies. I believe that is a new departure, for so far as I know the thing has not been attempted hitherto. That brings me to the question of the contribution to the defence by the several colonies. I am very sure that there is not a single colonist in Fiji who would not heartily sympathise with the object in view, and that the Government of that colony would, if it could, willingly participate in the scheme. At the same time, I regret very much to be under the necessity of stating now, what I think should be said openly and frankly, that I do not think the colony of Fiji would be in a position to contribute any money whatever towards this object, no matter how laudable it may be. The revenue of the colony of Fiji for 1884 was in round numbers about £100,000, and my present belief is that the revenue for 1885 will not exceed £80,000. The Government of Fiji has not deemed it expedient or advisable to impose increased taxation, but in order to make ends meet expenditure has been cut down, and the Government has been under the necessity of dispensing lately with the services of some 15 or 20 officers. When I mention that, it will be clearly seen, I think, by the members of the Council, that nothing whatever in the way of a money contribution may be looked for from the colony of Fiji for the erection of defence works in Australia. As hon. members are no doubt aware, Fiji is at present defenceless. There is a very considerable trade between some of the Australian colonies and Fiji. The trade with New Zealand is about £125,000 a year, and about the same with Victoria, while the trade with New South Wales amounts to in round numbers about half a million. But although that is the case we do not ask the other Australasian colonies to contribute towards the erection of defence works at Fiji: and taking into account the peculiar circumstances and con- page 75 dition of the place, I hope hon. members of the Council will not look to Fiji for what it really cannot afford, to give any pecuniary contribution towards the erection of defences at King George's Sound or at Thursday Island. One or two points in connection with the subject of defence have been put forward very clearly and forcibly by the admiral on the station. He has pointed out the very great importance of offering a shore resistance to any hostile ship or squadron. I may tell you what little force could be opposed to a hostile ship in Fiji. As stated before, there are no defence works, and there are no soldiers in the colony. In Suva and Levuka, the two points that would most probably be aimed at by a hostile cruiser there are in each place perhaps 50 good European marksmen. But such a force could hardly offer anything like competent resistance to a party landing in force, Indeed, any resistance that could be offered in Fiji would be very much in the Parthian form. In addition to some 50 or so good marksmen in each place, there might be added a few hundred Fijians, who are all—soldiers more or less. The only effective resistance that could be offered would be to small parties, who had landed to procure water or provisions. It has been thought by many people that were such a thing as a Russian squadron to come to this part of the world it would, in all probability, come from the North Pacific. If so, in all probability, Fiji would be its first destination, because it has two or three good and well-known harbours, and because it would be an admirable place in which to refit, before setting out for the other Australasian colonies, and because there is no cable there by which an alarm could be given to the other colonies. Another point drawn attention to by the admiral is the importance of destroying the stores of coal, to prevent them from falling into the hands of hostile ships. In the harbour at Suva there is a coal vessel with generally from 500 to 600 tons of coal on board, and about 15 miles up a river some seven or eight miles from Suva, the Colonial Sugar Co. may have sometimes as much as 2,000 or 3,000 tons of coal. It appears to the admiral, and I fully share his view, that it is of the greatest importance that this coal should not be allowed to fall into the hands of an enemy. Should such a stock of coal be seized by five or six cruisers, it is manifest that they would be put into a position that would enable them to inflict infinite injury on the neighbouring colonics. During the late war scare arrangements were made in Fiji to sink the coal vessel at Suva, and burn that which was stowed inland. In order to make sure that this would be done, I think it would be well if the question were considered of giving compensation for the destruction of coal under such circumstances. But in dealing with such a matter it would probably have to be borne in mind, in the case of Fiji, that the loss would be very considerable in an indirect way. The loss of 2,000 or 3,000 tons of coal by such an institution as the Colonial Sugar Co. would be very considerable, because it would probably interfere with the manufacture of their crop, and the loss would be far greater in this indirect way than the mere sacrifice of the coal. If the colonies would agree generally to give compensation in such cases it would render it almost certain that when it was necessary to destroy coal it would be destroyed. But so long as there is no certain hope of compensation it is not absolutely safe to trust to that being done. This, I am afraid, is somewhat beyond the scope of the resolution before the Council, but it is one of those questions that is bound ultimately to be taken into consideration by the several colonies. With the second part of the resolution I am unable to express concurrence: that is the part relating to the erection of a lighthouse and signalling station at Cape Leuwin. It has been found by steamers visiting Fiji that there is great need for a lighthouse on the island of Kandavu, the first land sighted by vessels coming to Fiji from Australia or New Zealand. The colony has been able to provide a certain sum of money for the purpose of erecting a lighthouse there, and the machinery has been purchased. But, unfortunately, its financial position has been so unsatisfactory that the Government has not been able to proceed with the erection of the lighthouse. That being so, I do not think there is the least probability that the Government of Fiji would be willing to contribute towards the erection of a lighthouse outside the colony. In fact, I am not at all sure that the general principle sought to be established by the erection of this lighthouse is desirable, as was pointed out by Mr. Dickson. But the reason! have stated is, so far as the colony I represent is concerned, more than sufficient. I therefore agree with the first portion of the resolution, but I am unable to support the other portion of it.
"That, in the opinion of this conference, considering the large Imperial interests involved, the naval defence of these colonies should continue to be the exclusive charge of the Imperial Government, and that the strength of the Australian squadron should be increased.
"That the members of this conference pledge themselves to use all legitimate endeavours to procure the efficient fortifications and land defence of the several ports of the Australian colonies at the cost of the several colonies interested."
"Although this resolution would apparently contemplate that each colony should page 77 bear the cost of fortifying its own ports, yet there are some ports, the cost of defending which it is hardly reasonable to expect that a single colony should bear, and with regard to which the Australian Governments might well, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, consider the expediency of providing the defence in common. King George's Sound is a strong case in point, for, as Colonel Scratchley, after a careful investigation on the spot, reported:—'The protection of the Sound and Princess Royal Harbour is of vital importance for the general security of the Australian Colonies in time of war. if left undefended, the Sound becomes the weak point in the Australian system of defence'"
"It is, however, obviously unreasonable to expect the colony of Western Australia to provide and maintain the defences of this port at her sole expense, even if her means permitted her undertaking such a charge."
Now, I think there is a concensus of opinion in respect to that sentiment that first it would be of advantage to the more eastern colonies if certain fortifications were placed at the entrance to King George's Sound, and secondly it would not be reasonable, if that was recognised to be the case, that Western Australia should be asked to complete those fortifications. Then the despatch goes on to make certain statements with respect to the cost of those fortifications which are of such an indefinite character, as has been already referred to by various speakers, but it is impossible to deal with it. I took some trouble when this despatch came to hand to endeavour to find out what the total annual cost would be, and that is really, after all, the important subject to consider, because the sum voted for the construction of a fort, once voted is done with, but if a colony takes upon itself an annual expenditure it comes to be a very serious matter. (Hear, hear.) In Lord Derby's despatch it is stated—"The scheme of defence here proposed would suffice for this limited purpose, and Her Majesty's Government are prepared to assist the colonies by at once sending out the armament and the submarine mines referred to, delivering them free of cost, if the colonies are willing to defray all other expenses, roughly estimated at £6,000, exclusive of barracks, and to maintain the necessary garrison." The despatch goes on to say that the garrison of 50 artillery, 100 infantry, and 15 engineers. I sent this to our Minister of Defence, and asked him to estimate the expense of such a force. His reply was that he estimated as follows:—The garrison, as stated in despatch, viz., 50 artillery, 100 infantry, and 15 torpedo men, £16,500; cost of works, £6,000; cost of huts for garrison, £3,500. That £16,500 of expenditure presumed that there was a certain number of military permanently engaged, but it was quite possible by an arrangement, a local arrangement, to take up this work in the sense of volunteering, according to which the garrison would be paid a certain small amount per annum. On the hypothesis of this economical scheme, the estimate was as follows:—Pay for 115 men, £1,380; ammunition, £60; drill instructor, £180;4 officers, £130; total, £1,750.
Then for 12 permanent artillery men the cost will be £1,200, making a total amount of £2,950 per annum. What we really want to get now is a distinct scheme laid before the colonics as to what are the best steps for them to take. Is it necessary for us to spend £16,000, or only £2,950? It is quite clear that though we spend some of us considerable sums on defence works, they are not of such marked magnitude as to have special attention called to them until quite recently. The general idea is to grudge the expenditure of large sums of money for a purpose by which it is utterly thrown into the sea. We see no results from it, and the tendency amongst our legislators is to scrutinise very carefully any expenses for defence purposes, and very properly so to. Not that we actually grudge the expenditure, but the tendency is to think that there is not much necessity for it when there is no enemy on our coast. That is where I fear the great blunder lies in connection with our Australasian system of defences. Instead of putting our house in order so thoroughly, so that we need have no anxiety whatever happens, the tendency is to be scared by any exceptional news telegraphed to us from Europe or Asia, and then when the scare has died away to grumble at money which has been reasonably expended. We must set before ourselves some distinct plan which we must carry out from year to year, so that we can feel perfectly secure whatever happens, and that, I hope? is one of the things which this Council will help to bring about. In connection with this report of General Scratchley's, which has been alluded to, that deceased officer spoke about the total cost of carrying out his scheme being about £70,000. All these things show that a lay body of this sort has really nothing before it to enable it to judge what is the best course to adopt, and so we can only go on general principles, and announce that we are prepared to do what is necessary when the proper course is pointed out by those who are able to do it. We are prepared to do our part in the defence of these colonies. One point to be considered in connection with it is the question of money, and it is one of the greatest importance. Money, you know, makes the mare to go; and I think it is of considerable importance that I should bring under the notice of the Council a suggestion which was made to me some time ago, and which has since been the subject of correspondence between my Government and that of Western Australia. The suggestion was made to me by a gentleman who was formerly a Minister of Lands in Queensland, but who is now a resident of Sydney—Mr. E. W. Lamb.
Mr. Griffith: Oh!
The President: The suggestion of this gentleman has been to a certain extent approved of by the Government of Western Australia. It is that a large area of land should be set apart within the boundaries of Western Australia, and that such area should be held for defence purposes and to defray the cost of necessary works throughout the colonies. I do not know Mr. Lamb personally, but I have indicated his views to the Government of Western Australia. I suppose that fifty millions of acres of land, which it is proposed to set apart, would be a mere drop page 78 in a bucket, so far as the public estate of Western Australia is concerned, and if it could be done it would no doubt open the way to the creation of an effective system without unduly burdening the other colonies. The letter I wrote to Western Australia was as fellows:—