The Secretary of State to the Governor of New South Wales:
His Majesty's government warmly appreciate desire of New South Wales and Victoria to contribute their share of the cost of a Dreadnought, and would gratefully welcome such an addition to the naval strength of the empire.
We were Told by the Minister of Militia the other day that in time of war the fleet which Australia proposes to build is not to go automatically under the control of the British admiralty. Now, the paragraph which I propose to read, from a communication addressed by the Governor General of Australia to the Secretary of Slate, would set that at rest:
In time of war or emergency, or upon a declaration by the senior naval officer representing the British government, that a condition of emergency exists, all vessels of the naval force of the Commonwealth shall be placed by the Commonwealth government under the orders of Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. The method by which the vessels shall come under the orders of the senior naval officer would be by furnishing each commander of an Australian vessel with sealed orders and instructions (to) the effect that upon the declaration to him by the senior naval officer representing British government that a state of war or emergency exists, such sealed orders shall thereupon be opened and, in pursuance of their provisions, he shall thereupon immediately place himself under the orders of the senior naval officer representing British government.
So far as I can see, the fleet will certainly come automatically under The direction of the admiralty in time of war.
Now, a few words in reference to the manner in which Canada received the invitation to come over and consult wi'th the admiralty as to the best means of defence. The following is from the Secretary of State to the Governor General:
His Majesty's government have noted with much satisfaction the resolution passed by the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada on March 29 on subject of national defence, recording its approval of the organization of a Canadian naval service in co-operation with, and in close relation to, the imperial navy, and I understand that the Dominion government proposes that its Defence Ministers should come here at an early date to confer with the imperial navy and military authorities upon technical matters arising upon that resolution.
I desire therefore to commend to you the following important suggestion, namely, that a conference of representatives of the selfgoverning Dominions, convened under the terms of resolution (1) of the conference of 1907, which provides for such subsidiary conference, should be held in London early in July next. The object of the conference would be to discuss the question of naval and
military defence of the empire with special reference to the Canadian resolution.
That was on April 30, 1909. What was the answer of Canada to that plain and respectful invitation? The Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) answered on February 8:
The ministers wish to point out that the views of the Canadian House of Commons on the question of naval defence have a iready been expressed, and, in pursuance of the resolution of that body two ministers, as already announced, will shortly go to London to discuss with the admiralty the best methods of carrying out that resolution. My ministers have not sufficient information to warrant them advising the necessity of such a formal conference as that suggested, but there will be no objection to postpone visit till July so as to suit convenience of imperial government.
One sees there in a moment the difference in the manner in which this invitation was received and accepted by New Zealand and Australia, and the manner in which it was received by Canada. The New Zealand government declared that, in the opinion of the ministers, a representation of all parts of the empire at the conference was essential, and that the course which the home government was taking was the right one and in the best interests of the empire. The Transvaal gave a similar answer, but every one in this House knows the position in which the Transvaal was at that time. Every one knows that the Transvaal was not in a position to give the same answer as New Zealand or Australia.
According to the admiralty memorandum this is their opinion:
In the opinion of the admiralty the Dominion government desirous of creating a navy should aim at forming a distinct fleet unit; and the smallest unit is one which, while manageable in time of peace, is capable of being used in its component parts in time of war. The operation of destroyers and torpedo boats are necessarily limited to waters near the coast or to a radius of action not far distant from the base, while there are great difficulties in manning such a force and keeping it always thoroughly efficient.
Will any hon. gentleman pretend that the navy contemplated will, in time of war, be of any material benefit? I do not think they would be able to line up to the war line. In any esse, they would be of no benefit in protecting our trade routes. Outside of our sentiment in favour of protecting our empire, and looking at the matter only from the commercial side, I think that what we want is something that will assist in protecting our great trade routes.
I believe that the time has come when we should say v hat we think in these matters. While I have not the slightest desire to give any offence, I must say that I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that this Bill is framed, in the manner in which it is, in order to please our friends from the province of Quebec. For that province and its people I have the greatest respect. It is one of the oldest provinces in this Dominion, and one of which we have a great many reasons to be proud, but I must say that ever since I have been in this House, it seems to me that in all questions of importance everything has had t-o be subsidiary to the interests of Quebec. That is hardly fair. I do not care whether you take the Autonomy Bill or any Bill that has ever come before this House, you will find the facts to bear out what I say. But I am delighted to see a glimmer of light in that province in that one respect. There is lots of light there in many other respects, but I find there to-day what I never saw before, and what I do not think any citizen of Canada ever saw before, I find one of the leading papers in that province. asking, in connection with this question, is it fair or right that one province out of nine should stand up against the other eight. These are the v.urds of one of the leading French papers m the province of Quebec. I say that this is as it should he. We ought not to legislate in this country for any province, but for the Dominion in the very broadest possible way.