- Ogle, Brian
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
George Reid, the NSW Premier, was the exception. The Auxiliary Squadron was swinging around the buoys in Farm Cove for most of its time. Newcastle coaled its bunkers and the burghers of Sydney entertained the sailors who were the tourists of the 1890s. The Admiralty erected that Royal Naval House in Grosvenor Street which was still active during World War II. Many were the beers downed in “the pit” at Johnnies, which name it enjoyed (does anyone know why?).
To the credit of the Old Country and the debit of NSW was the ownership of interstate and intrastate collieries and the Hunter coal mines. For example the AUSN Company was formed in 1887 in London with a capital of £600,000 sterling. Huddart Parker, Howard Smith and McIlraiths were similarly capitalised. These companies also operated many of the coal mines.
Every ton of coal delivered to the fleet added to the coffers of London financiers. The report of the Royal Commission into the Navigation Bill of 1906 illuminates this Empirical monopoly.
Mention of George Reid brings to mind my dear old, autocratic grandmother. A governess to the gentry, tutor of Tom Blarney, journalist and feminist she had met and dined with both George Reid and Admiral Tryon. The former she termed “a loud-mouthed old pot” and the latter “a fatheaded old pot”.
Federation – A Problem for the Colonial Naval Agreement
With Federation the Naval Agreements between Admiralty and the colonies became defunct. In 1902 Empire Leaders congregated in London for the Coronation of Edward VII and remained for a conference on naval strategy. When Edmund Barton, Australia’s first Prime Minister floated the idea of an independent Australian Navy Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary and arch British Imperialist quickly replied, “Not yet, old chap”. Despite their reluctance Chamberlain and Admiralty had to produce a modified formula as a hedge against Australian and New Zealand dissatisfaction. The distinction between the Australian and Auxiliary squadrons was abolished leaving one unit the cost of which was to be shared: – Britain, one half, Australia, five-twelfths; New Zealand, one-twelfth. The cost to Australia was not to exceed £200,000 per annum. Branches of the Royal Navy Reserve were to be established in each State but control and manning remained with Admiralty.
Inasmuch as money was involved the Commonwealth Parliament had to sanction these arrangements.
The Commonwealth Naval Agreement Act No. 8 1903
“An Act to approve of an Agreement relating to the Naval Force on the Australian Station entered into by the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom and the Governments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand and to appropriate moneys for the purpose of that Agreement“.
Assented to 28 August 1903.
The Act had been read for a second time on July 16, 1903. The Schedules pertaining to the content of the squadron and the proposal of payment by way of subsidy were vigorously attacked as being contrary to expectations raised in pre-Federation policies.
Study of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) on both the Defence Act of 1901 and the Naval Agreement of 1903 sheds bright light on the conflicting views of our earliest politician in respect of the acquisition, composition and control of an Australian Navy.
1901 Debate; Financing Defence
The total defence expenditure by all States prior to Federation was £800,000 which included the cost of Australian troops in South Africa. Sir John Forrest warned that despite Federation revenue had not increased. Of the actual figures we are aware, but it is interesting to note the human reasons as to why the thought of direct income or land tax was an anathema to the men who helped to draw up the Australian Constitution.
Sir Henry Parkes was perennially bankrupt, Barton and Deakin, barristers, were battling for survival after unwise forays into the dubious scams of the 1890s. The squattocracy, rich importers and exporters and, of course, the City of London, were anti direct taxation.
Manning Clark’s cynical appraisal of Melbourne society in 1898 has relevance:
“Conservatives had to draft quickly a constitution which would protect their interests. The Bill, as it stood, would introduce a time when the Parson’s “Gentleman God”, the one who looked with benevolence on the gentlemen of the Melbourne Clubs would be replaced with the teaching of ‘The Carpenter’s Son”.‘