§ LORD ALFRED CHURCHILL
said, he rose to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the inadequate protection which is at present afforded to the Australian and New Zealand Colonies, through the small naval force which is at present stationed there, and to ask whether it is contemplated to erect a separate Naval Station for their better defence. Those colonies were justly entitled to greater consideration in this respect than they received, considering their immense wealth, which made them such conspicuous marks for attack in case of war. Many gentlemen connected with them, therefore, had been much disappointed that the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty on the Navy Estimates had contained no promise of the force stationed for their protection. There were never above three or four small vessels off the coast at any one time, detached from the Indian squadron, while the admiral, during the late war, had been engaged up the Chinese rivers. If despatches were sent to him from Australia, they must go round by India and Ceylon to reach him. He held in his hand letters from various officers who had served on the Australian Coast, and among others from Admiral Sir Harry Keppel, and Captain FitzGerald, of the Sheerness Dockyard, deprecating the slight force that was kept up on the coast of Australia. He might refer to the case of an officer who was ordered in arrest on the coast of Australia, and who was brought home to England a prisoner because there was no superior officer at hand who might have settled the case. He believed that our present naval force in the Australian waters consisted of only one frigate of 26 guns, the Iris, and of three small vessels of 10 or 12 guns each. That was manifestly an inadequate force for the defence of our very important and wealthy possessions in that quarter. The 1293 French had established a naval station in New Caledonia, and were endeavouring in every way to increase their influence on the Pacific Ocean. They had now three islands there, one of which—namely, New Caledonia—was only 900 miles from Sidney. It was a beautiful island, surrounded by coral reef, and had an excellent harbour. It was 400 miles in extent, and was protected by five French vessels of war; but its trade by no means required so large a force. For what object, then, were those vessels stationed there? New Caledonia was certainly inhabited by a very savage race; and the necessity of adopting vigorous measures for keeping them in subjection was the only reason assigned for the presence of that large naval force But it was impossible that that could be the real reason. The object of the French must be to insure themselves the means of making a descent on the Australian colonies in the event of the outbreak of a war between them and this country. A very few years ago three American frigates had worked their way up to Sydney in the middle of the night, and the inhabitants had known nothing whatever of the movements of those vessels until they had seen them in the morning lying close to the town. If that force had come on an unfriendly errand there was nothing to prevent them from reducing Sydney to ashes, or levying on the inhabitants any contributions they may think fit. It was an important question to decide how far it was the duty of the mother country to protect her colonies, or how far the colonists should provide for their own safety. He held it to be the duty of the mother country to afford facilities to the colonies to form a separate naval force if they chose, and to give them sufficient protection till they had done so. He believed that the people of Australia would readily respond to any call made upon diem by this country to establish a naval militia for their defence; and one proposal he had heard thrown out upon that subject by gentlemen who spoke in the name of the colonists was that some of those old two-deckers, which the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty had told the House the other evening it would not be worth while to convert into screw steamers, should be sent out to Australia. They could go out jury-rigged, carrying emigrants to defray the expense. They could take out heavy ordnance in their holds. Whey they arrived, one might be stationed at Sydney, one at Melbourne, one at Ade- 1294 laide, and one at Hobart Town. They would be manned by a colonial naval militia, the mother country merely furnishing a body of some twenty or thirty men for the purposes of instruction and command. In the event of any hostilities they might be towed out by a colonial steamer and placed broadside on to the enemy. Such a naval force would give confidence to the colonies; and the fact of their being there might prevent any attack. But the colonists generally were of opinion that there ought to be a naval station in Australia. This had been recommended by Lord Auckland, nut had never been carried out. If it should be impossible to carry out such an arrangement without making an addition to the pay of the sailors, in consequence of the many temptations to desertion which existed in that quarter of the world, he believed that the colonists would have no objection to meet from their own resources that increased expenditure. He did not see why the Admiral in the Pacific should not embrace within the limits of his command the Australian colonies, and why he should not remove his head-quarters from Valparaiso to Sydney. The whole subject was one which excited considerable interest throughout the Australian colonies, and any statement which the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty might make with respect to it would be sure to attract a large amount of notice among the colonists. In conclusion, he begged leave to ask whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to erect a separate naval station for the Australian colonies; and, if not, whether they would take into their consideration the necessity of giving those colonies a greater amount of protection from foreign attack than they at present possessed.