The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
MONDAY, APRIL 19, 1909. THE NAVY AND THE COLONIES
For the cause that lacks assistance. For the wrong that needs resistance. For the future in the distance. And the good that vie can do.
The share to be taken by colonies in the work of Imperial defence is stiJl a fruitful theme for discussion at Home: and one of the most interesting and important suggestions yet made m this context was put forward by JMr Asquith in the speech which, he delivered at Glasgow last week. The Premier expressed his appreciation of the colonial offers of assistance in no half-hearted or grudging way; and he went on to indicate the possibility of a conference between representatives of the colonies and the Mother Country to consider the best practicable solution of the great problems of Imperial and national defence. The "Times" rightly points out that Canada has already offered to -discuss naval defejvce questions with the Admiralty, and that the Australian Federal Government 3ias submitted its defence scheme to the Admiralty with a request for criticism and advice. Remembering that the Cape Colony has already presented a battleship to the British navy, and that Now Zealand has offered one, if not two more, we can fairly say that all the great selfgoverning colonies have given convincing proof of their readiness to bsar their share of Imporial responsibilities and to confer with the Imperial authorities as to the best means for maintaining the integrity of the Empire. The time is, therefore, obviously ripe for the Motherland formally to recognise the intimate relations that exist between her and her dependencies in relation to naval defence, and no more effective way of ensuring co-operation between England and the colonies in thie re3pect could be devised than the conference suggested by jMr. Asquith.
However, wo can hardly expect that an innovation of this fur-reaching type will at once commend itself to our friends at Home. Conservatism and. insularity are still strongly marked characteristics of the British, politician, whether he labels himself Liberal or Unionist, and we do not anticipate that the Imperial Conference on Naval Defence will materialise at once. Meantime, the controversy over the Dreadnoughts has waxed fast and furious, since the great debate on the Xaval Estimates turned public attention upon them. Our readers will notice that Air. Asquith refuses to commit the Government unconditionally to the construction. of more than the four Dreadnoughts proposed by the Admiralty for this year, and his reasons are, at least, worthy of careful consideration. We need not lay excessive emphasis on the. hint dropped in an apparently casual fashion by the Premier to the effect that naval programmes may at anj' moment be revolutionised by now structural or scientific advances. When Mr. Asquith says thai the latest Dreadnougnts are far more powerful as fighting units than the first Warship of that type, he tells us nothing that was not common knowledge before. To be displaced by more effective fighting machines 13 the inevitable destiny of every conceivable kind of battleship, and already we have heard from many sources that the Dreadnought is a less useful and dangerous weapon of orTenee and defence than fast and heavily-armed, cruis&rs of the Inflexible type. If this is so, no one in New Zealand or Australia is likely to object if Inflexibles, rather than Dreadnoughts, are, as the "Times" sug-i gests, detailed to watch our shores and to guard our commerce. But even assuming that the Dreadnought is, as Sir John C-olomb holds, over-rated, and that the Inflexible is, in turn, certain, to be superseded by faster or more deadly engines of 'w%t t this alone would ns>t
justify England in calling a halt in navaii construction so long -as 'her enemies and rivals persevere. The building and renewal of great navies is an imperious necessity forced upon us by the responsibilities of Empire. If Germany can stand the strain of naval expansion, so, too, must England; and we do not believe that England or the colonies will ever accept as an excuse for lagging behind other countries in our naval preparations the argument that some new and wonderful invention may at any moment render all existing warships equally useless and obsolete.