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The Evening Star FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1889., Issue 8047, 25 October 1889
The Evening Star FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1889.
The report of Major-general Edwards on the Victorian forces is Colonial chiefly interesting on acDcfent'c count of the proposal for a federal system of defence which is appended to it. He found the Victorian forces in a fairly satisfactory condition, but he practically holds that each of the Australian colonies is not capable of defending its shores against a serious attack ; and we may say, by the way, that, unless he was humbugging the representative of the 'Lyttelton Times' the other day, he believes that such an attack could be more easily made than is commonly supposed. Our contemporary's reporter must surely have suspected that the Majorgeneral was not quite serious when he gravely informed him that two steamers of the Messageries Maritimes would carry 5,000 men—of course with their great guns, ammunition, and baggage —round the world on a roving picnic for as long as they chose. Still, an attack is always a possibility, and every reasonable precaution should be taken to guard against surprise. Our own opinion is that the danger in question is greatly exaggerated, and it is quite possible that the best and safest course for the colonies would have been to leave their harbors without batteries. Russia herself, the most dangerous of the Powers with whom the°Mother Country is likely to be at war, would hesitate before shelling an undefended colonial town. As long as there was an efficient colonial force to deal with any attempt to violate our hearths and homes, the ports might have been left to the protection of the public opinion of the world. But if, instead of pursuing their own peaceful and industrial career, the colonies develop a spirit of Jingoism, and meddle in Imperial quarrels, they will certainly act in a manner calculated to provoke hostilities. Moved by more or less irrational war scares, they have all deliberately gone in for defence: and it is only a truism to say that they will be encouraged in such a course by the Imperial authorities. Seeing, however, that large sums of money have been expended on the colonial defences, it is only proper that they should be made as ei§cienfc as possible. From the report on our forces laid before Parliament last session, it is evident that we are very ilhprepared for a visit from a hostile cruiser ; and this is no doubt more or less the case with most of the colonies. In other words, the money they have expended in fortifying their ports and harbors has not,' so far, purchased them anything like safety in pase of attack. Viewed from this point of view, the v}s£t of inspection which is being made hy Major-general Edwards is of much importance. His memorandum- on the subject of a uniform military system for tlie Australian colonies appears to have been .carefully thought out, and will probably be accepted, with certain modifications, by the several Australian Governments. Australia is unquestionably one country. It has a great range of climate, but no natural boundaries suggesting its division into separate and independent nations. Its present condition, politically, is in some respects anomalous and absurd. Could anything be more so than the war of tariff's that exists amongst the several colonies? That this is already felt to be the case is evident from the existence of the federal movement. Sir Henry Parkes's statement the other day that they must have a Dominion and a Dominion Government was very significant. The Australian colonies are thus destined to be one nation; and, this being the case, it is perfectly natural —it is in a manner inevitable—that they should organise a common system of defence. By no possibility could they, humanly speaking, engage with one another in any other kind of war than a war of tariffs; and the sooner they cease from that, too, the better both for their reputation and their material .welfare. Major-general Edwards proposes that the Australian forces ahouldbe organised into one federal army, consisting of eight brigades of all arms, and numbering about 30,000 or 40,000 men, but capable of indefinite, and, .nndej- certain arrangements, of instant expansion. 57j$r) the aid of the railway system, which must' have «(Uniform gauge if it is to be of use for military service, this united force could be assembled at any par-
ticular point in a comparatively short time; the whole army of the islandcontinent being thus available for the defence of any of its parts. The scheme is at once simple and reasonable, and, as we have said, is pretty sure to be adopted. Not only would it tend greatly to strengthen the defence of the several colonies —it would also have a distinct political effect in stimulating the agitation in favor of federation, or (as Sir Henry Parkes puts it) of the establishment of an Australian Dominion and Dominion Government. The minor details of the Majorgeneral's scheme it is not necessary to particularise further than to say that the Australian army is to have an officer of the rank of lieutenantgeneral, to advise and inspect in peace and command in war; and that there is to be a federal military college for the education of officers. The federal army is to be "partially paid," like the existing forces of Victoria and New South Wales— Lieutenant-colonel Hume would like to see this practice introduced in New Zealand—but the Major-general would not abolish volunteers pure and simple. He would have a separate force of these in each colony, which could on occasion act in conjunction with the " partially paid." New Zealand, though forming part of Australasia, has no special interest in Australian federation. We are a small world by ourselves, but destined, as some maintain, to become one of the dominant Powers of the Southern Hemisphere. Jn the meantime we are content to grow, but our growth must not be impeded in any way by that of our neighbors. We have our own separate interests, and presumably our own separate destiny. Like the other colonies, we have expended a large sum of money in defences, and we have joined with them in helping the Mother Country to maintain an Australian fleet. But further than this the Colony is not disposed to go in the direction of joint political action. New Zealand may be said to be marked off for independence by its very position on the globe. It is too large a country to become the appanage of Australia, and too distant to become part of a federated Australasia, as this very proposal of Majorgeneral Edwards for a federal army of Australia abundantly shows. But we have our own defences and our own forces to look after. Both, we believe, are in much need of reform. So, at least, the Inspector of Volunteers asserts without the least hesitation ; and if the Major-general shows' us how our citizen-soldiers can be turned at a reasonable cost into a really effective army, capable of defending our shores from any and every enemy, he will confer a great benefit on New Zealand.
The Evening Star FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1889., Issue 8047, 25 October 1889
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