HL Deb 12 May 1882 vol 269 cc547-8

, in rising to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies, If he has received any communication from the Marquess of Normanby respecting a statement which appeared in the Melbourne "Age" newspaper of 23rd March, concerning a statement made by a Mr. Bryant to the Colonial Government with regard to alleged designs of Russia upon the Australian Colonies; and, if so, whether he attaches any importance to that statement? said, he was rather inclined to believe Bryant was not this person's real name, but that he was a Frenchman who had been in prison, or, at any rate, in confinement in New Caledonia. He wished to make only a few remarks. The person referred to informed, as alleged, the Colonial Government that the Admiral who commanded the Russian ships which were at Melbourne and in the Australian waters had been instructed to inform himself of the positions of the capitals in Australia, so that in case of a war arising such knowledge would be useful; and he stated that he had been employed by the Admiral to make certain sketches. He anticipated that his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Kimberley) would say that he had received a communication on the subject from Lord Normanby, and that his reply had been that he did not attach much importance to the question; but whether the noble Earl attached much importance to it or not, knowing the localities, he (the Earl of Belmore) was sure of this, that in the event of a war with a great Power the surprise of Australia by the enemy would not be at all improbable. Twelve years ago the Imperial troops were removed from the Australian Colonies. The Colonies themselves were altogether to blame for this, because Her Majesty's Government had offered to retain the troops if the Colonies would pay for them. They had not given an answer in a reasonable time, and the result had been that the soldiers were taken away. Perhaps, as to the number of troops, this did not matter; but what did matter was that the General who was in command of the troops was removed, and in the event of a war breaking out there was no one to take his place. The only forces in the Island were Volunteers, with a few men at Melbourne and Sydney that the War Office called Militia, and there were no officers of experience attached to them who could be at all classed with British Generals. Moreover, there being no bond of union in the Colonies, they would not be of much assistance to each other; but each Colony would be left to itself in certain events, and then the want of a general officer would be felt. He would now ask the Question of which he had given Notice.


said, he should confine himself to answering the Question asked him by the noble Earl. On the 23rd of March Sir Bryan O'Loghlen, the Premier of Victoria, in the absence of Lord Normanby from the seat of Government, telegraphed to the Colonial Office the purport of the statement made by Mr. Bryant to the Colonial Government as reported in The Age. He informed him, in reply, that the relations of this country with Russia were of an altogether friendly character, and rendered such a report incredible. On the 24th of March Sir Bryan O'Loghlen telegraphed that a counter-statement had been made to the effect that Bryant was a disappointed torpedo inventor, whose invention had been declined by the Russian Government, and that the copies of Russian despatches were pure fiction. Lord Normanby had not made any communication on the subject.