The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 1909. THE NAVAL CRISIS.
1 For the cause that lacks assistance. For the wrong that needs resistance. For the future in the distance. And the goad that we can do.
Though we are thoroughly impressed ■with itihe reality of England's dangers and the necessity for taking adequate precautions against them, we regret that any attempt should have been made to utilise the naval crisis for ihe purposes of political warfare at Home. Mr. Balfour has niado out the beet possible case for Jiimself by arguing that as, by the rules of the House, it is nob permissible to move an increase in the Naval . Estimates, he has taken the only practicable course by supporting a direct vote of censure on the Government. But while we are strongly inclined to the view that Mr. Asquith's programme is , inadequate, and that a great deal more must be done in the way of shipbuilding i to secure England's naval predominance, we cannot believe that it is to the interest of England or the Empire that political capital should be made out of . such a vitally important quest.?". Mr. t Lee's motion was expressed in moderate terms, and he certainly went a long way toward justifying the demand of the Opposition for increasing the expenditure on the -navy. Assuming that, as most naval experts hold, the Dreadnought marks an entirely new era in naval construction, Mr Lee hardly exaggerates when he claims that if Germany sue- • ceeds in outbuilding England, we will have to rebuild practically the whole of: - our fleet. And not even Mr Asquith; t could deny that the Government's decision to confine itself to a. relatively small building programme for the time, is justifiable only on the assumption that Germany honestly means to limit > her shipbuilding to the programme she has already officially adopted. In view I of all these momentous facts, we fancy that the heavy majority by which the - vote of censure was rejected, must be c taken rather as a protest against the a tactics of the Opposition than as evidr ence that Government's naval policy & , entirely commends itself to the House. o So far as the great issues involved in g the debate are concerned they stand 6 precisely where they stood before the vote of censure was moved. In fact, the "Times" is well within the mark in as--7 serting that the advocates of increased naval expenditure need no better excuse than was provided by Sir Edward Grey in his speech upou the naval crisis yesterday. Our Foreign Minister is in the unusual position of enjoying the confidence of all political parties at Home, and as he was officially on his defence, he naturally did not play into the hands of the Opposition. There is, therefore, all the more reason for taking! seriously the ominous admissions which Sir Edward Grey frankly made to his Unionist critics. He has evidently accepted the Dreadnought type as the f necessary standard, of naval strength, - he admits that Germany's extended programme may compel us to reconstruct ! the whole of our navy, and he warns our rivals as plainly as Mr H. W. Wilson | ■ or Lieutenant Carlj'On Bellaivs could dc-1 ' sire, that "the only possible basis for an | agreement for the limitation of arma-1 ments is an acknowledgment of Britain's ; naval supremacy." Politicians of, every ( shade of opinion will sympathise with' Sir Edward Grey's protest against thej heavy sacrifices and the enormous pecuniary outlay on warlike purposes to which *' the civilised nations are no^'comjelled
to submit. But no sentimental consider- , ations of this sort have deterred him •, from insisting that must at all costa be prepared to defend her naS tional existence. The only contin- } " gencies under which such a necessity may arise are, in our Foreign Minister's • opinion, improbable. But in view of d recent rapid changes in diplomatic relations on the Continent it is impossible to i( assert with safety that neither Germany nor England is within measurable disb tance of that "isolation" which Sir Edr ward Grey holds would lead almost inj evitably to a great war. Granting all E this, it is somewhat disconcerting to find S that the only solid reason Sir Edward Grey advances for refusing to extend our . naval programme is Germany's promise , that she will not extend her own. For ourselves, we must confess that we "like not the security," and till the Imperial * Government can furnish the nation and the Empire with a better excuse than this, for its refusal to build more war--5 ships, the agitation for Dreadnoughts will continue, and this naval crisis will become a permanent feature of our poliU tical life. 5— " —
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