8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can any one obtain a title to land at Canberra which will enable him to build a dwelling house or business premises there?
– Not at present; but a scheme is under the consideration of the Cabinet which will enable building to take place at Canberra.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay on the table of the Library all the papers and petitions received by his Department for and against increasing the duty on imported bananas?
– I wish to know from the Minister for Works and Railways if he is devising any method of ending the deadlock which has arisen in connexion with the carrying out of the River Murray waters conservation scheme, so that the works may be proceeded with by the Commission?
– Communications on the subject are now passing between the Prime Minister and the authorities of the State of New South Wales.
– It has been repeatedly rumoured that H.M.A.S. Tingira, the training ship at Rose Bay, Sydney Harbor, is about to be scrapped, and the boys on board transferred to one of the reserve vessels of the Royal Australian Navy. Can the Minister for the Navy say whether that is to be done?
– During the recess I inspected the Tingira, and found that the training institution there was excellent from an educational point of view. * No consideration has yet been given to any proposal to transfer the boys elsewhere, and I am of opinion that when the Estimates are next under consideration, we shall still be able to provide for the continuance of the educational work on that ship ; I certainly hope so.
– Has the Prime Minister any statement to make concerning the re-employment of workmen who were dismissed from the Cockatoo Island Dockyards, and the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the management of the Cockatoo and Garden Island establishments?
– When the matter was recently before the House, I said that the Government had appointed a departmental inquiry; and, later, I informed honorable members that the report of this Committee had been presented, but that I had not had time to read it, though I would try to do so during the day. I have since read that report, and so have my colleagues. It must be regarded as an interim report; and I shall not be justified, therefore, in commenting upon it further than to say that it seems to establish a primâ facie case for the very disquieting rumours that have been in circulation concerning the management of the dockyards, and reflects upon officials and workmen alike. The inquiry cannot be said to have taken a judicial form, because the parties whose conduct may be called in question have not had an opportunity to be Heard; and honorable members will agree with me that this being so, nothing definite should be said at present concerning its findings. The Government, however, hold that an imperative and urgent case has been made out for an investigation which will probe matters to the bottom. The abuses, if any, are of long standing, most of the subjects upon which the Committee has reported relating, not to things of yesterday, but to transactions extending over years. The Government believe that the most convenient and the proper way to make an effective and expeditious investigation is to appoint a Royal Commission composed of the members of the present Board, together with a judicial officer, and some one from outside. Such a Commission will have the judicial status necessary to make recommendations seriously reflecting upon individuals, whether now or formerly employed on the island, if these be called for. It is felt that without an inquiry which was judicial in its nature, recommendations . affecting the honour, as well as the efficiency; of individuals would not carry the weight which the public demands. Therefore the Government will, without delay, add to the present Board a Judge - if one can be found - and, if not, the most efficient magistrate obtainable, and a representative citizen, and clothe the Commission thus constituted with all the powers that can be given to it under the Royal Commissions Act, instructing it to proceed to whatever lengths may be necessary, not so much in order that the guilty, if there are any, may be punished, but to put an end once and for all to a state of affairs which, if it continued, would be a serious reflection upon the Government and Parliament. It is obvious that if we are to go on with shipbuilding, or even ship repairing, for every 20s. we spend we must get 20s. worth of value in return. It is that which concerns the Government more particularly. I hope honorable members will not consider that I am unduly lenient when I say that we are not so much concerned with that which has passed except in its relation to the future. We are concerned with the past, of course; and I do not say that there will be no punishment. That is for the Commission and for this House to decide; but, at any rate, there must be an end to a state of affairs which is not only unbusiness-like, but which we cannot permit to continue for one moment.
– Will the Prime Minister afford the House an opportunity of discussing the proposed constitution of the Royal Commission before it is finally determined?
– With all due deference to the honorable member, I can conceive of no more effective way of enabling all those who are concerned - and I warn honorable members that their name is legion - of so arranging their affairs as to prevent any Commission being successful in doing what we desire it to do than the delay which would result from postponement. In my opinion, the Commission should be at work to-morrow. I am sorry that two or three days have elapsed since we received the report, but the House had to be taken into the confidence of the Government before anything could be done.. I earnestly urge honorable members to allow the Commission to proceed immediately. If the House should be of opinion, later, while the Commission is sitting, that it requires strengthening by the appointment of honorable members of this House, I shall have no objection to the House indicating that opinion, and will make the necessary appointments accordingly; but I do say that the delay is most undesirable, and I ask the House to support the Government by authorizing us to make these appointments without a moment’s delay.
– It is most undesirable that the Commission should consist almost wholly of civil servants.
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister lastweek, that the present session would be devoted only to the consideration of the Tariff unless the House expressed a desire to deal with other legislation, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will be prepared to give the House an opportunity of deciding as to whether or not it is in favour of dealing with an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act, in order to increase the exemption from £156 to £300, and to increase the allowance for each child. It is almost impossible to get the report of the Taxation Commission in time for an amendment of the Act before the taxation for the next year is determined.
– It is almost impossible for me to say that I will not afford the House the opportunity to which the honorable member refers; the House can deal with that, and anything else which it chooses during what I prefer to term this Tariff session, or it can, as I think it ought, leave these other matters to be considered in the main session later on in the year. There is nothing to prevent the House, by legislation, making such amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act as would have the effect the honorable member indicates, whether the amendments be made now or later in the year. But theHouse cannot have it both ways; this session was called for the purpose of dealing with the Tariff, and the Tariff only. However, we are the servants of the people, and if there are matters which call for our constant and regular attention, I shall place no obstacle in the way of honorable members dealing with them.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is correct that about a fortnight ago the Basic Wage Commission furnished a further report to the GovernorGeneral, which was presented to the Prime Minister over a week ago? If so, when may we expect the report to be laid upon the table?
– The Commission did present a further report, about a week ago, I think. I have not read it, but I shall have great pleasure in laying it on the table either to-morrow or at the first opportunity.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay upon the table, at his earliest convenience, a return showing the number of cases of fruit exported to Great Britain during the present season from each of the exporting States ?
– I shall have no objection to preparing a return of the fruit exports to date.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether a person can obtain a title to enable him to start to build a house at Canberra ? Have the Government any intention of granting titles to enable private persons to build houses? If so, why has there been such delay in regard to the granting of these titles?
– The Act forbids the granting of freehold titles, and up to the present I have not had one application for a leasehold title.
– Because people have been told that they cannot get a title.
– I have not told them that. As a matter of fact, the whole subject is now under consideration by the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories - (1) If the wages paid to native labourers, including miners, in Papua are determined by the Administrator; and (2) what are the wages paid on the plantations and on the mines for native labour?
– (1) No. The Native Labour Ordinance, however, provides that the engagement of a native shall only be sanctioned by a magistrate when he is satisfied that fair remuneration is offered ; (2) the wages paid to native labourers engaged on plantation work are 10s. a month and keep, whilst those paid to natives engagedas miners are 15s. a month and keep.
– Is it a fact that an agreement exists between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales in reference to the resumption of land for the purposes of soldier settlement and that the State is unable to proceed with its settlement schemes because the Commonwealth has not made the necessary advances for the purpose ?
– I would have preferred notice of the question, so that I might have given the honorable member a considered reply. The Commonwealth Government have nothing whatever to-do with the actual resumption of land for soldier settlement, other than to pay for it. All the Commonwealth Treasurer has to do is to pay up and look pleasant, while the State spends the money upon resumptions. However, last year an estimate was presented to the Commonwealth Government by the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, and, so far this year, I have already given him £20,000 more than that estimate. Whatever the State Minister may say in the notes he is sending round in reply to people who write asking for their money, there is no dereliction of payment, or of duty, on the part of the Commonwealth Government in respect of the estimates agreed upon. I strongly object to the nature of these notes’ the Minister is sending round. Instead of helping us over this difficult problem it seems to me he is endeavouring to make political capital out of it, which I cannot help feeling is a very mean thing to do in the circumstances. In the meantime, I repeat that the New South Wales Government have had already this year more than they estimated to get during the whole of the year, and still they want more. There is a limit to the National purse, even in matters of repatriation, and I cannot and will not go beyond the means of the Commonwealth, as well as the estimate agreed upon.
– Is it true, as stated, that the people of New Zealand are getting flour from Australian wheat at 16 per cent. less than the price the Australian people have to pay for it, and that people of Eastern countries receive their flour from our wheat at a still greater reduction? If this is so, will the Commonwealth take some action to see that Australians are treated as well as are people outside?
– I do not know that the people of New Zealand are getting flour at 16 per cent. less than the price paid by Australian people, but I know what I have said before, namely that during the currency of the 1920-21 Wheat Pool the people of Australia have received their wheat, and flour, of course, at a price which is. well inside the world’s parity. If they had had to pay from day to day exactly what the world outside had to pay, on an f.o.b. basis, tosay nothing of a c.i.f. basis, they would have had to pay more than they are paying now. I do not think it is fair to choose one particular parcel of wheat and say, “ On such and such a date the New Zealanders were getting wheat at a less price than Australians have to pay,” especially seeing that on 99 days out of 100 days Australians have been getting their wheat cheaper than New Zealanders. The question must be looked at fairly. It is the farmers’ wages which are at stake, and they ought to be looked upon in the same light as the wages of the ordinary man.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House whether the oil boring experts of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company have commenced boring in Papua, andwhether he has any report upon the work carried out by the expedition?
– Last week I tabled a full report of the whole of the operations of the Anglo-Persian people in Papua up to date, but since then two other reports have come to hand. I have not perused them yet, but I hope to be able to lay them on the table this week.
Building of Houses - Fruit Display
– Seeing that after fifteen years of occupancy of the Federal Territory it is still impossible to obtain a title to build one house, will the Prime Minister ask the Government Statistician to ascertain how many centuries it will take to build a city of 20,000 inhabitants?
– I will gladly do so. I am sure the question would never have been asked if the honorable member had any familiarity with the higher mathematics which apply to the curve of the third degree, because it would have given the answer which the honorable member apparently desires.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the samples of fruit grown at Canberra and exhibited in Queen’s Hall, and will he ask the Age and Argus to give reports of the exhibition so that the people of Victoria may not be deprived of the benefit of the display?
– I have seen the samples in Queen’s Hall. They are very excellent, and as they come from what we are informed by these newspapers is a desert, I shall be very glad to do what the honorable member desires. The display only shows that under the blessings of Divine Providence even a desert can be made to blossom as a rose, and that even Canberra can produce fruit not unworthy of the attention of the Age or the Argus.
– Does not the Minister for Home and Territories think it desirable that a referendum should be taken to determine whether, in the opinion of the people, any more money should be expended on Canberra?
– The policy of the Government, which has already been declared, does not provide for such a referendum as the honorable member suggests.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, which also involves a question of privilege. At the outset, I should like to point out that it is laid down, at page 95 of the 10th edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, that the House of Commons, as far back as 1621, affirmed -
That every member hath freedom from all impeachment, imprisonment, or molestation, other than by censure of the House itself, for or concerning any Bill, speaking, reasoning or declaring of any matter or matters touching the Parliament or Parliament business.
Our Standing Orders provide that the usages of the House of Commons are to be observed unless other provision is made. Standing order No. 1 declares that-
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by sessional or other orders, resort shall be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Irelandin force at the time of the adoption of these orders, which shall be followed as far as they can be applied tothe proceedings of the House of Representatives.
I have been threatened with the dire penalties of the law for my failure, perhaps, in the course of a statement made on Thursday last, to use precisely grammatical language. On that occasion I read a letter which had been addressed by Mr. Joseph Woolf, solicitor, to the Attorney-General, in which the serious accusation of perjury was made against Lieut.-Colonel Walker. In a letter addressed to me by Lieut.-Colonel Walker’s solicitors that accusation is lightly turnedaside, and an attempt is made to take advantage of a little technicality. No one can say that I have failed to make good if I have ever done a man an injury; and if it is proved that Lieut.Colonel Walker is free of the crime of perjury attributed to him, in the letter from which I quoted, no one will be more ready than I shall be to make a complete withdrawal. I placed before Mr. Joseph Woolf, who has one of the keenest legal minds in Australia, the letter received by me from Lieut.-Colonel Walker’s solicitors, and under to-day’s date he writes to me as follows: -
Dear Dr. Maloney. - The letter that you showed me from Colonel Walker’s solicitors was interesting on account of what it omits; but the result is that,having readin Hansard your speech containing my letter, Colonel Walker is discreetly silent as to the serious charges against -him. Everything I have said can be vouched for by at least a dozen persons.
It is therefore certain that Colonel Walker committed perjury, either deliberately or recklessly, and the object was, as stated formally by me, to injure Mr. Caldwell.
It is quite clear that you had no knowledge of the facts, and therefore your statement, to which exception is taken, was clearly a conclusion from what you read; and everybody in the House who heard the letter read would agree with you that your inference was justified.
It is merely a rhetorical trick to violently drag the sentence from the context of your speech-
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in further imputing dishonorable motives, under cover of reading a solicitor’s letter? I think it is disgraceful.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has risen to make a personal explanation relating to what he considers is an attempt to interfere with him in the exercise of his rights and privileges as a member of this House, and I do not think he has gone further than he is entitled to do to justify his action previously.
– A letter has been addressed to the Attorney-General, asking that proceedings be instituted against Lieut.-Colonel Walker.
– Be fair. Do not condemn a man before he is tried.
– I do not take my morals from the honorable member.
– The honorable member would be a better man if he did. Why should he try to defame a man in this way?
– The letter addressed to me by Mr. Woolf continues -
Technically, you would havebeen grammatically correct bad you said “therefore” before your statement.
It is, therefore, the supremacy of impudence for Colonel Walker, in effect,having, by silence, admitted that hehad committed perjury, to seek to intimidate you -
– This is awful!
– Order! The honorable member is entitled to make an explanation in regard to remarks made by him in the course of a previous speech in the House, and which have been challenged, or in consequence of which he has been threatened with legal proceedings, but he will not be in order in proceeding further with the reading of a letter such as he has this moment quoted.
– Then I have only to say that no man could have done more than Mr. Caldwell, through his solicitor, Mr. Woolf, has done. Mr. Woolf has sent a letter to the Attorney-General accusing Lieut.-Colonel Walker of wilful perjury. That issue should be tried. I do not know Lieut.-Colonel Walker, but if half what is said of him is true, then he was not fit for the position which he recently occupied. I ask the Government to act upon the letter sent to the AttorneyGeneral, or else to prosecute the writer of that letter for accusing Lieut.-Colonel Walker of perjury. Perjury is too rampant in this country, and Mr. Caldwell, who, at all events, is an Australian, should receive fair play. I will ask the AttorneyGeneral now, in regard to the letter received by him, whether-
– Order ! The honorable member is now proceeding to make a speech in continuationof that delivered by him on a previous occasion. He is going far beyond the limits of a personal explanation.
– Very well. If Lieut.Colonel Walker is content to pocket the statement made in the letter which I read in the House, that he was guilty of wilful perjury, I have nothing more to say.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether it is a fact that the Anglo- Persian oil expedition has found that the strata through which its bores have passed is not suitable for oil accumulation, and also that, apparently, a complete revision of the geological maps of the district has had to be carried out by the new expedition. If this be so, will the Minister cause inquiries to be made as to who is responsible, first of all, for the geological maps, and, secondly, for the geological policy, which, apparently, is totally contrary to oil-producing purposes ?
– I shall look into the matter. I do not think that any blunder has been made. Oil has been discovered in places, but not in a quantity of com mercial value; and, while the new men have indicated new places in which to bore, as being in their opinion more favorable, they have not in any way reflected on the work of Mr. Wade, who was the geologist representing the Commonwealth Government.
The following papers were presented : -
War Indebtedness - Memorandum of Agreement made between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia with reference to the repayment of the war debt, &c., due by the Commonwealth to the Imperial Government - dated 2nd February, 1921.
Postmaster -General’s Department - Tenth Annual Report, 1919-20.
Ordered to be printed.
Shipping Casualties - Merchant Shipping 1st July, 1914, to 31st December, 1918- Return of Shipping Casualties and Loss of Life for period ended 31st December, 1918. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Navy Losses - Return showing losses of Ships and of Auxiliary Ships of Royal Navy for period 4th August, 1914, to 11th November, 1918. (Paper presented to British Parliament. )
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under at Newcastle, New South Wales - For Repatriation purposes.
Public Service Act - Appointments, Promotions, &c. -
E.Kidston, Home and Territories Department.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the statements made in Stead’s Magazine, 2nd April, relative to the competency of the chief officers of the professional and architectural staff of the Commonwealth, the Minister will inform the House -
What are the qualifications of the DirectorGeneral of Works, Mr. Owen?
Has he passed any examination to qualify as an architect or civil engineer; if so, when and where?
Where did he serve his articles, and for what period of time?
Was he ever in private practice?
How and when was he appointed Director of Works?
Did he at any time compete in any public competition for architectural or engineering work; and, if so, was he at any time successful?
Can he show any example of town planning, the product of his own ingenuity ?
Is it true that since the Blackett inquiry he has had his salary increased from £1,000 to £1,200?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the annual revenue of the following Post and Telegraph Offices: - Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, and Newcastle?
– Inquiriesare being made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the annual revenue from Customs and Excise of the following Customs Offices: - Adelaide, Fremantle, Hobart, and Newcastle?
– The amount varies. The collections for year 1919-1920 were -
Adelaide, £765,235; Fremantle, £412,896; Hobart, £134,280; Newcastle, £244,359.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will ask the Cabinet to extend the same privileges to the South African veterans as the returned soldiers of the A.I.F. are now receiving?
– I do not know what particular privileges the honorable member has in mind. It would, I fear, be out of the question to extend, at this stage, all the privileges to the South African veterans. The whole of the contingents sent to South Africa under the auspices of the Commonwealth were sent at the expense of the Imperial Government. State contingents were paid partly by the States and partly by the Imperial Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in veiw of the fact that Australia has recently entered upon a new status, and is now recognisedas a nation, he will endeavour to have the High Court of Australia accepted as the last Court of Appeal as far as Australia and Australians are concerned ?
– The question is one of the amendment of the Constitution, and will come within the scope of the proposed Convention.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether he will have a return prepared showing approximately -
Will the Department as a matter of grace make a payment to the municipal authorities to compensate them for the loss of revenue sustained through such lands being vested in the Department?
– The War Service Homes Commission is not liable for local government rates in respect of land held by it for building purposes, but as soon as a dwelling has been erected thereon and allotted to an applicant, such person would be liable for rates from date of sale. It is hot proposed to make a payment to local government bodies for any loss of revenue in this respect, as such payment would have to be added to the completed cost of the house and debited to the soldier. A statement covering the operations of the War Service Homes Commission is in course of preparation, which will show the lands held. This will be presented to Parliament at an early date.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of money has so far been subscribed by the Commonwealth of Australia for the purposes of the League of Nations, of which the Commonwealth is a member?
– The payments made by the Commonwealth to the Secretariat of the League of Nations total £42,860, being £16,234 for the period ended 30th June, 1920, and £26,626 for the half-year ended 31st December, 1920. In addition, a further amount of approximately £26,000 will be paid this financial year in respect of the half-year ending 30th June, 1921.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– (1) The area under crop was -
Queensland, 7,694 acres; New South Wales, 4,370 acres.
The production was -
Queensland, 478,022 bushels; New South Wales, 352,300 bushels;
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he can inform the House when it is proposed to bring in the Public Service Superannuation Bill?
– I am unable at this stage to say when the Public Service Superannuation Bill is likely to be introduced in this House. As I have previously announced, it is not the intention of the Government to submit any measures of legislation for the consideration of the House this session, but if the House wishes to deal with more than the Tariff, it may, of course, do so. I wish to make it clear that I am referring to this House. We hope to be able to introduce this measure in the Senate:
Debate resumed from 7th April (vide page 7270), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the paper - League of Nations - Mandate for German Possessions in the Pacific
Ocean situated south of the Equator, other than German Samoa and Nauru - be printed.
.- I realize the possibility of saying something in a debate of this sort which may inflame prejudice elsewhere, and thus have an effect the opposite of what one would desire, namely, the keeping of peace. I can state my views on the subject of the mission of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) very shortly. At least 99 per cent. of the people of Australia now favour the White Australia policy, and desire to retain it. When we entered Federation, the percentage in favour of that policy was not so large. I, of course, am a believer in a White Australia. At the same time, I feel that we should do nothing to offend the great republic whose territory lies on the other side of the Pacific. I wish to keep friendly with the Americans. Nothing can be gained by the people of the white races getting at loggerheads, and misunderstanding each other. But as, during the long period in which the AngloJapanese Treaty has had force, we have preserved the White Australia policy inviolate, I see no difficulty in keeping it inviolate in the future if the Treaty be renewed, and I have no objection to the renewal of any treaty that makes for the peace of the world. The Prime Minister, however, has said that the Treaty is anathema to the Americans. I hope that he is hardly correct in that statement. We may disagree with the people of the United States of America concerning their attitude towards the League of Nations, and may find fault with thingsthat happened at the Peace Conference, but I hope that the thinking people of the United States of America will not consider that our support of the Treaty is influenced by any desire to prejudice their interests. I have no such desire.
– They are suspicious that there may be something behind the Treaty.
– Suspicion is inherent in human nature, and probably the seventy-five members of this Parliament are quite as suspicious as the members of the American Congress. Of course, they may think that the Treaty is prejudicial to them. I am not sure that the Prime Minister said in so many words that the renewal of the Treaty was to be dealt with at the Imperial Conference.
– Yes. I said that it was the principal matter of foreign policy with which the Conference would deal.
– By the irony of circumstance, the next great war will be fought on the Pacific, the ocean whose name implies peace. The last war was spoken of as one to end war; but, unfortunately, we do not seem to have arrived at the hopedfor millennium. Those of us who remember the early days of thi3 Parliament are aware that there was then a sharp division of opinion regarding the White Australia policy, but to-day we are ‘more united on that than upon any other political question. Those who have studied the history of the United States of America and of South Africa know that in making provision to keep Australia white the early legislators of this Parliament built probably better than they knew.
As the British Government has invited the Prime Minister to attend the Imperial Conference, we can hardly say to it, “ You must alter the invitation so that other sections besides that at the head of which is the Prime Minister may be represented.” Those who know me best know that, in saying this, I am not speaking for myself. Unfortunately, my
The Prime Minister told us that constitutional changes are not to be discussed at the Conference. The difference between the British Parliament and this Parliament lies in the fact that, whereas our powers of legislation are bounded, by a written Constitution, theirs are unlimited. The relations between Great Britain’ and the Dominions are not defined in black and white, and my advice to those in authority, were I permitted to give any, would be that it is wise to let things remain as they are, without attempting to define them, and without retting up an Imperial Council or an Imperial Parliament, or some other body to make them more definite. A large part o’f the people are content to let things remain as they are in this matter, and would raise’ objections to any hard and fast connexion. Many would feel that our right to govern ourselves was being taken away if such a connexion were attempted. We do not want that. The people of Australia will jealously guard their rights of self-government, and no restrictions should be placed on them. Constitutional relations should be left to some subsequent Conference, and it will be found easier to let things remain as they are. Otherwise something may be done which we may discover to be inimical to our best interests.
– Can the Conference deal with two of the chief matters on its programme without discussing constitutional changes ?
– I think that it can do so without laying down hard and fast rules to bind Imperial relations. I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that Australia will not be committed to any determination until it has been brought before this Parliament.
– The only thing I ask this Parliament for authority to do, without further reference to Parliament, is to renew the Anglo-Japanese Treaty in some form acceptable to Great Britain, to Japan, to Australia, and, if possible, to America; provided that no renewal shall impair the principle of a White Australia. I shall not subscribe to anything that might do that, and should bring the Treaty here were it attempted.
– Then we shall not be committed to anything determined by the Conference respecting foreign policy or the Navy until this Parliament has dealt with it. As to the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, I shall support any Treaty that makes for peace. I shall not do anything to bring about war in this or any other country.
About foreign policy, our people are not so indifferent as they were before the recent war. They have learnt something from that war, which affected nearly every home in the country. There is hardly a home in Australia which has not some relative killed or wounded in the war. One of the most prolific causes of war in the past was the secrecy observed by the various nations in regard to treaties made by Governments behind the backs of the people. Many treaties were made and kept in existence in spite of the people,and when these arguments became public wars often resulted. As a matter of fact, it was only after the recent war had been in progress for some years that many of the secret treaties and alliances between nations were revealed to the people. I agree with the Prime Minister that perhaps the League of Nations is little more than a shadow at the present time, but I hope that in the near future the League, or something in its place, will take a more substantial form, so that the various peoples may appeal to reason instead of force for the settlement of their differences, and will not continue the piling up of armaments at such huge expense. When people feel that they are prepared for war they are less chary to fight than they would be if they were not so prepared. I hope that the League of Nations, or something else of the kind, will soon become a real living force, so that it may be truly said that the last war was one which ended war.
– The League of Nations is the only hope of the world.
– I hold that view. The world hasfallen into such an awful economic condition as a result of the last war that I hope thinking people will see that nothing of the kind is repeated, and that international differences will be referred to the arbitrament of common sense instead of being settled by recourse to wars, which mean the loss of millions of lives as well as thousands of millions of pounds worth of property. Therefore, anything which can be done at the Conference to help to give real effect to the League of Nations should be done. At thesame time, anything proposed at that meeting which would alter our relations with the Mother Country or any foreign nation should be placed before Parliament before we are finally committed to it. No binding agreements should be entered into by the Government, simply because they represent a majority in this House, until Parliament is in a position to understand the proposals exactly.
Turning now to the question of naval defence, I notice that the Prime Minister stated that last year we spent £3,352,000 upon our Navy, although, in his opinion, it is a very insignificant force compared with that which is necessary to maintain peace even in the Pacific. I agree with that. He stated also that Australia spent more on naval defence than all the other Dominions combined. Naval defence in the Pacific should mean as much to the people of western Canada as it does to us, but they have not prepared for it in the same way as we have done. What would be our contribution to the expenditure on the British Meet on a population basis ?
– £12,000,000 to £15,000,000 per annum.
– I say, without reservation, that all these things must be brought before the House in detail and discussed and approved by this Parliament before they can take effect.
– I unreservedly accept the Prime Minister’s assurance that we shall not be committed, without the sanction of Parliament, to any huge expenditure, such as was indicated by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), who, I believe, could give as accurate an estimate on that subject as could any other man in thisParliament. We were informed to-day that Australia’s contribution to the expenditure of the League of Nations was £56,000 per annum. I would far rather spend £56,000, or even £560,000, per annum trying to perfect a League of Nations in order to avoid war than I would spend thirty times that amount on naval defence in the Pacific. I would sooner spend the ‘larger amount to avoid war than spend it on war. Let us do what we can to perfect the League of Nations, so that nations may,, as most people hope they will, appeal to reason, and not to force. .Wie know that the last war did not end war; as the Prime Minister remarked -
The League of Nations was created to banish war by creating a tribunal to which the nations could appeal, substituting reason for force. Yet within two days’ journey of Geneva, where its Assembly recently sat, war was raging, in which two members of the League were involved.
– I referred to Greece and Poland.
– But for the League of Nations a dozen countries would have been at war.
– If the League has already had the effect of reducing warring nations from twelve to two,, the little money we have spent upon it has been a ) good investment. I hope that America will yet reconsider her position in regard to the League, although I realize that, on account of the recent Presidential election having been fought practically upon that issue, it will be very difficult for the United States of America to become a partner in> even a modified League. If, however, any proposal can be put forward by the Imperial Conference, or by the League of Nations, to ‘provide a means of guaranteeing peace, it would appeal to the thinking people of the United States of America; and if, thereby, that nation could be induced to join the League, it would be good business. With America a member of the League, we shall have a greater guarantee of peace. We read that the ‘Chinese people are looking to the United States of America to upset the Shantung agreement. A letter sent to me, I think by - Dr. R. W. Hornabrook, stated that the province of Shantung has a population of 26,000,000, and an area nearly as great as that of New South Wales. The fact that some nations are looking to the United States of America for assistance in regaining territories they have lost must lead to the creation of dissension; and, unfortunately, (the state of the world to-day is such that a very small spark may start a world-wide conflagration. Therefore, I repeat my expression of hope that America will reconsider her attitude in regard to the League of Nations. I have said that 99 per cent, of the Australian people indorse the White Australia policy, and I believe that at least the same percentage are desirous of preserving peace. We are not a warlike nation, and we would do much in order to have peace; and if the delegates at the forthcoming Conference can do anything to further our desire,, I pray God speed them in their work. ‘ But they must be careful, and realize the responsibility placed upon them, to do nothing that may provoke war, for wars in the past have been provoked by men who considered themselves the wisest in the community. As Japan and America fought side by side during the great war, I do not see any reason why they should not be able to settle peacefully their little differences. The Argus on Saturday published the following telegram from Sydney:-
The Acting Consul-General for Japan (Mr. K. Tamaki) said in an interview to-day : - “I am very glad to realize from a speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the Commonwealth is desirous of maintaining th» most friendly relations with Japan, and that the attacks sometimes made upon Japan in certain quarters are not favoured by all the thinking people, of Australia. This will be gratifying news to the Japanese in Japan, some of whom may be disposed to believe that the radical and sensational statements sometimes promulgated in Australia express the unanimous belief of the Commonwealth. I am sure that the people of my country are, generally speaking, anxious to do all in their power to display the reciprocal spirit towards any friendly advances. I believe that Mr Hughes’ speech will be welcomed not only in Japan, but also by all lovers of peace throughout the civilized world.”
It must not be forgotten that the Prime Minister, in his speech, made it clear that he stands where I stand in regard to the White Australia policy, and I understand that our views are held by nearly all the members of this House. The White Australia policy is an irrevocable plank in the platform of every party. The Anglo-Japanese Treaty has been practically concurrent with the White Australia policy., and as the Japanese people have endured that policy for nineteen years, I see no reason why they should have ‘any objection, to the continuation of it. In an article in the Herald of the 9th April, Mr. Keith Murdoch wrote from London, under date of 18th February-
The idea of Britain allying with Japan against the United States is dead. - . . The great bulk of the people answer the question, “Would Britain fight for a White Australia?” with a firm “ Yes. I have no doubt that a poll of the British people on White Australia would show an overwhelming majority in favour of the policy.
I hope that statement truly represents British public opinion, although I noted that during the course of the article the writer took to task Messrs. Henderson, Thomas, Clynes, Asquith, and a few others for not having pronounced in favour of a White Australia. If ever the time comes when the. British people have to express an opinion on that policy, I hop£ they will realize that it is the well considered determination of all political parties in Australia, and that we unitedly stand for its maintenance. In conclusion, I summarize my views in these words : that the White Australia policy should be maintained, and that nothing should be done to create division between us and the United States of America. If we can achieve these two things,, in addition to an extension of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, we shall be doing something which, I believe, is the desire of the majority of the people.
.- I desire to pay a tribute to the able, eloquent, and restrained manner in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) laid before thi3 House the matter of his mission to London; but, though the restraint which he displayed might be desirable in respect to the delicate matters he touched upon in the latter part of his speech, it was, I think, excessive when it came to be applied to the reasons he offered for keeping the public in the dark so long, and for maintaining silence concerning the subjects that would come up for discussion at the forthcoming Conference.. The opinions of the Prime Minister concerning foreign relations and the subjects for discussion at the Conference are very well known, by reason of the fight the right honorable gentleman put up in 1918-19 for Australia’s representation and Aus1tralia’s rights at the Peace Conference, and, no matter how one. might, disagree with him, undeniably it was a gallant fight he put up. As I say, these matters are well known, but opportunity hae never been afforded for public discussion or parliamentary criticism of the attitude that the Prime Minister adopted at that time. In fact, it is notorious that there was a sharp disagreement between the members of his Cabinet and himself in regard to his attitude in London and Paris, and I venture to think, that if he had been more frank and more candid, and had taken the public into his confidence a little earlier, Parliament would have strengthened his hands by its expression of opinion, and if. the views of the public had been hostile to his own, he might possibly have been able to convert them before his departure. Then, possibly, the decisions he arrived at might not be controverted upon his return bythe great majority of the people here.
The Prime Minister tells us that the Conference he is about to attend will not deal with constitutional matters ; but while he is loudly proclaiming this, Mr. Massey, another Dominion Prime Minister, is before the public with a definite scheme for an alteration of the Imperial Constitution, in order to create an Imperial Council. However, when one comes to consider that in 1911 the New Zealand representative, who had a certain motion on the noticepaper, got up and spoke to quite a different motion regarding constitutional matters; when we find that the London Times in November, 1920, said, “ The meeting of Dominions Prime Ministers means the beginning of a different ^system of Empire government in peace time’’; when] we find that . General Smuts, throughout the whole of his electoral campaign a few months back, said that there must be an end of the anomalous position that exists to-day, and that the Dominions should conduct their business, not through a Colonial Office, or through British Governmental channels, but independently; and when we know that the British Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George. and Mr. Winston Churchill, the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, are capable of the most brilliant improvisations in the quickest possible time, we are dubious lest, at this forthcoming Conference, we may be committed by plans’ made for the defence of the Empire, or by conclusions arrived at upon which the people of Australia will not be able to go back.
– I am afraid I do not follow that. It is the British Government that determines what are the matters to be discussed, and it has deliberately assured us that any suggested changes in what is called the Constitution - which I deprecate - which some one else may possibly desire will not come up at the present Conference, but at a Conference in the future.
-We welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, and it cannot be repeated too often that that is his attitude, as well as the attitude of Australia. No matter what may be in the womb of the future, the present considered opinion of Australia is that it does not wish to be committed to any form of Imperial Federation.
– That is correct. I have always opposed it, and I affirmed my opposition the other night. I do not believe in it.
– The Prime Minister has just said again what he said in his speechthe other day, that this is not to be a Constitutional Conference, but is to be an Imperial Defence Conference, and that the matters to be dealt with are bound up inextricably with the Pacific Naval Establishment, the White Australia policy, our relations with America, and the British attitude towards the League of Nations and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.
– I did not say that we wereto discuss the White Australia policy or the League of Nations, but, of course, the White. Australia policy is one which I, as the representative of Australia, must speak on if any suggested treaty alliance might impair it.
– That is so; but the question of the future form of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance might very well lead to a discussion as to whether Japan and Great Britain should remain part and parcel of the League of Nations. These matters which would come up for discussion necessarily by their very nature would involve the dragging in of constitutional problems willy-nilly, whether we wish it or not. Is it not a fact that the temporary urgency of the problem of defence has really been that which has crystallized mostconstitutional changes in the Dominions as well as relations between different parts of the Empire itself? Undoubtedly the foreign relations of Canada with the United States were the determining factor in the Canadian Union. In South Africa the necessity for the white population showing a united front to the native races was the determining factor in bringing about the Union. In Australia the first practical approach to Federation was due to the fact that, owing to the action of the Imperial Government in relation to New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, it was felt that there should be a continental defence policy for Australia. This ultimately brought about Federation.
SirJoseph Cook. - Constitutional changes arise out of national necessity.
– At this Defence Conference constitutional problems will loom very largely, and it is only right that we should be fully informed as to the Prime Ministers opinion and as to the attitude he proposes to adopt in regard to these questions.
– The constitutional question, so far as this Parliament’ is concerned, can only be affected in two ways - either we must whittle away our autonomy, that is, our right to make what laws we please, subject to the Governor- General, representing theKing, or we must “ cut the painter,”or do something in that direction. These things cannot come up at the Conference. I am not in favour of any change in the present system.
– As I proceed I think I shallbe able to show clearly that, whether we wish it or not, we must alter the present position of affairs, even if it is onlyto be a working agreement that will enable an Imperial foreign policy to be something beyond that policy of shreds and patches which the Prime Minister has condemned.
– Exactly; but that must be done, if at all, by this Parliament when I come back.
– Yes ; but the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister would. I venture to say, be much more solid if before he goes he knew that he had behind him the considered opinion of the whole of the Australian public as he would have had if six or eight months ago this matter had been fully discussed in Australia as it was discussed in South Africa and New Zealand.
– I do not necessarily agree with General Smuts. He may want a change; I do not. Why should I talk when I want nothing?
– It is not so much a question of the Prime Minister wishing to talk. It is a question of Australia being anxious and willing to back up the Prime Minister in an undisputable fashion when the question arises in the Empire Conference. The defence of the Empire brought about the calling together of the War Cabinet, and not only gave a new constitutional status to each of the Dominions, but also gave each Dominion representation at the League of Nations. It is the question of defence, and measures forced on us for defence, which has actually brought about the necessity for the forthcoming Conference.
Our Prime Minister is going to England to assist in solving the .problem of Imperial defence. My contention is that it is not possible to do this satisfactorily without some constitutional change, and that we ought tol discuss the matter to a greater extent than we have’ already done before the right honorable gentleman goes, so that he may have behind him the opinion of Australia. Although the Dominions which form part of the Empire are liable to be involved in war without their consent, they are not under any obligation, other than their own will imposes on them, to send assistance to the United Kingdom. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, at the Imperial Conference in 1911, definitely refused to take any share in the fixing of treaties with outside nations, because it would involve a moral obligation on Canada to back its advice with force of arms, which it was not prepared to do. If the Commonwealth desires to have the power to give advice on matters affecting the Empire, it is necessary for it to enter into such a relation with the United Kingdom that the amount of aid which would be forthcoming could be definitely decided and rendered available without question or doubt.
– That involves some sort of Central Council.
– Are we prepared to allow our Prime Minister to go to that extent ?
– Speaking for myself, I am not.
– That is the position. These matters should have been discussed more fully than they have been hitherto. The British Empire is a family with children of different ages.
– While I say I am against the Council, I am not against frequent Conferences. I welcome them. I think they are absolutely essential.
– It is for the other Dominions to speak for themselves. If Canada thinks it has attained, the age of twenty-one years, or if South Africa thinks the same, all we have to say, from the point of view of Australia, is that we have not attained that stage at which we desire to leave the parental roof, and that we still wish to remain an integral part of the Empire. In the future, as in the past, we may come along like the boy, who, out of his first wages, throws 10s. into his mother’s lap for his keep, and thinks he is generous- - ‘ that is what we are doing in connexion with our contributions to naval defence. We may do this, but the last five or six years have proved that if the father does get into a scrap we are ready to take off our coats and be in the scrap also in order to defend the parental roof. But whether we are prepared to definitely commit ourselves to obligations is a matter that should have been discussed to the full. The Prime Minister has rightly said that until it is possible for the different parts of the Empire to be in daily or hourly touch with each other, with the Prime Ministers or the foreign Ministers of different parts of the Empire consulting one another, and ascertaining each other’s views, Imperial policy, properly so called, will be a thing of shreds and patches unsuited to the changing circumstances of the world. It seems to me there is no excuse for this condition of affairs, and responsibility for its continuance is on the Government. If the Imperial foreign policy is a matter of shreds and patches to the extent described, there is no reason why the patches should not be stronger and lees shreddy. As far back as 1912, Mr. Harcourt brought forward a proposition that we should have in London a resident
Cabinet Minister who would be in continuous touch with the Imperial Government.
– He would be in continual touch with the Imperial Government, but would he be in continual touch with us?
– He would be more in touch with us than is our representative under the present arrangement.
– I am not condemning the suggestion.
– The fact that the High Commissioner’s office is at present vacant offers us an opportunity to remedy immediately the present position by replacing the High Commissioner by a. resident Minister in London. In that way, we should improve to a large extent our channel of communication, and make it open, freer, and better trusted by the Commonwealth and the Imperial Governments than it is at the present time. There are no vested interests to be considered, since the High Commissioner’s office is now vacant; and my suggestion is that the portfolio of Minister for External Affairs might be revived and that that Minister should be resident in London. In that way we should bring about a more satisfactory position of affairs. Let us consider for a moment what happens under the present arrangement with regard to the High Commissioner’s office. We appoint a High Commissioner for a term of five years, and subject to his good conduct during that time we have practically no control over him. Our experience is that no sooner is a man appointed as High Commissioner than he loses all value as a satisfactory medium of intercourse between the Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government. With a change of Government, the High Commissioner becomes opposed in politics to the party in power. The office is generally filled by the appointment of a man in party politics; and when a change of Government takes place, the High Commissioner is not trusted with the secrets of the new Cabinet to the extent that he ought to be. We have had evidence of that during the last five years. Although Mr.Fisher was appointed High Commissioner by a Government of which the present Prime
Minister was a member, it has been necessary for the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Hughes) to spend two out of the last five years in London. It has also been found necessary for four different Cabinet Ministers to proceed to London to act as official mouthpieces of this Government.
– That is not fair to Mr. Fisher.
– I do not say that the remark applies to Mr. Fisher any more than it would have done to his predecessor. The procedure has been the same all through.
– I can say this: that both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and I were members of a Ministry thatcame into office while Sir George Reid was (High Commissioner, and that we did not distrust him. We treated him exactly in the same way that we treated Mr. Fisher.
– Hear, hear! And the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) went to London not because he distrusted Mr. Fisher.
– The Prime Minister has practically echoed the statement made by me that successive High Commissioners are treated in the same way.
– Would the honorable member have a new High Commissioner appointed with every change of Government?
-The High Commissioner or the Minister who takes his place would be a member of the Government and change with the Government. My suggestion is that the office of High Commissioner should be filled by a Cabinet Minister, responsible to this House, who should reside in London, and should receive the emoluments attaching to the office at present, inasmuch as it would be necessary for him to maintain more style than a Cabinet Minister is permitted to maintain in Australia. A change should be made every year. The appointment should be a rotary one. We would thus not only obtain a free and open channel of communication between the Dominion and the Imperial Government, but would’ have coming back to the Parliament men who had held Cabinet rank at Home, and who had been in touch with the Imperial Government and foreign affairs generally. Thus within ten or fifteen years there would be in the Parliament & body of men, drawn from all parties, who had been in the heart of the Empire. They would be able to constitute a Committee on Foreign Affairs in this House, and we should thus bc able to frame a moderately continuous foreign policy, which could be supported by every Government no matter from what party it was drawn.
– I think the idea of a resident Minister may be good, but he
Gould not do .the work of the High Commissioner as well.
– Quite so. We gould appoint a business man to handle the business work of the office. The Minister for External Affairs would be the diplomatic head, while the business man would act as Trade Commissioner.
This is not a new suggestion. It was made thirty years ago by Sir Charles Tupper, who was considered to be one of the best High Commissioners Canada ever had for the reason that he was ever ready to leave his post to fight an election in his own country.
– He could get over to Canada in a week.
– We should not ask that of our Minister for External Affairs if for no other reason than that none of us would care for ,an election every week.
– Strathcona- was the best Commissioner Canada ever had.
– At all events, under such an arrangement the Imperial Conference would be far more satisfactory than it is likely to be under the present system. Such Ministers would be under the continuous control of Parliament, and the Ministry would be held responsible for their errors. I am rather inclined to indorse the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that when an Imperial Conference is held there should be in attendance representatives of all parties, so that questions of foreign policy might be discussed in a way that would enable them to be put sanely and properly before the several political parties on the return of their representative to Australia. Such an arrangement would also prevent, to a great extent, the interposition of Australian Ministers in the domestic politics of England, while they are at Home. We have had instances of the kind, and I hope there will be no repetition of them.
As to the foreign policy which has been outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I think no one can take exception to his statement that naval defence must be the girder and .guarantee of the British Empire, and without it we must perish. It is essential, however, that we should have a more definite statement regarding the contribution and the kind of naval defence to which we are likely to be committed. I am glad that the Prime Minister has given us an assurance this afternoon that whatever may be the system of naval defence proposed he will not indorse it on behalf of Australia at the Conference, but will bring it back to the Parliament and ask as to express our approval or otherwise of the policy determined upon. The right honorable gentleman has said that ‘the war has so impoverished Britain that she is no longer able to build and maintain an ‘adequate Fleet, and that all parts of the Empire must make much larger contributions to enable it to be maintained .at its previous standard. It is necessary that we should have a clear perspective of the position in order that we may see what should be our proportionate contribution, and what kind and amount of defence we should be committed to. I agree with the Prime Minister that Australia is vitally interested in this question - that she is interested in it to a greater degree than any of the other Dominions. By reason of her remoteness Australia may be looked upon as the Achilles heel of the Empire, although, at the same time, her position makes her the coign of vantage, and the strategical key to the Pacific and the East.
– We get a fair idea of that from Jellicoe’s report.
– Quite so. I do not think the picture drawn by the Prime Minister correctly represents the position which Britain occupies to-day. The war has practically annihilated the German and Russian Fleets. England is still mistress of the seas, and the dominant power in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean. Her position in the Atlantic is not threatened, and will not be for many years. In regard to the Pacific, however, her position is on a different scale. There we have the unfortunate position that the two nations whose race for armaments and for naval constructions is a very fierce one have vast interests. It is in the Pacific, which is furthest away from the English naval base, that the greatest competition is going to take place. Having regard to her huge mercantile marine, Britain, whether she has any Dominions or not, will be compelled to maintain a Fleet of very big dimensions. To protect her carrying trade, which i3 her very life’s blood, she must have a Fleet which is not that of a second or a third class power. I agree with the Prime Minister, however, that she cannot carry on such a programme of naval construction as she has previously maintained. The greater the industrial unrest, and the more the triple alliance obstructs industry there, the less will be her chance of carrying on the mercantile marine trade that she has at present. The greatest strain on England must be in respect of the maintenance of her Pacific Fleet. It will have to be a big Fleet, and if some Understanding cannot be arrived at between the United States of America, Japan, England, and Francethe nations that have the greatest responsibilities in the Pacific, then we, in the Empire, must carry on in the race of armaments just as other nations are doing.
I do not think there is any reason, howev.er, why this race should continue. America, , first of alii, has the most friendly feeling towards Australia, at all events, and, in the .main, towards the Empire. It is inconceivable that she should suddenly become aggressive, and should set put, for instance, to attack Australia, or any of the outposts of the British Empire. The United States of America, in fact, wished that Australia should obtain a mandate to control practically all the islands in the Pacific. It is only a few days ago that the President of the United States of America, Mr. Harding, said that his idea was that the Englishspeaking peoples should draw more closely together for the carrying out of common duties in the world, not so much for the exclusion from the brotherhood of others, but for the better brotherhood of all others. The aims of America and England, so far as the Pacific is concerned, are almost identical. Britain wishes the existing balance preserved in the Pacific. She aims at the retention of the status quo .as regards territory, and a stronger allegiance by Japan to the policy of the open door in China, with stable government there. America wishes for the retention of the status quo in the Pacific, with the internationalization of Yap, and looks with favour towards an understanding with Australia and Canada. She also desires stable government in China, and a full open door, although she admits that she dislikes Japanese methods there. The Japanese, under the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1911, practically agreed by article 4, dealing with any nation which forms an arbitration treaty with Britain, that if war broke out between themselves and America, England would not be drawn into it. In these circumstances, having regard to the direct declaration of Japan as set out in the AngloJapanese Treaty,, that she desires the stable government of China, and is prepared to .agree to the policy of the open door, there must be some way in which, by the free and frank discussion of all the details of this question, we -can arrive at an arrangement, such as the Prime Minister has indicated, which will satisfy Japan, America, England, Australia, and also the other Dominions of the Empire.
– Will not the Treaty prevent our being on the side of America iri the event of war between Japan and America ?
– We cannot have it both ways. Article 4 of the AngloJapanese agreement says -
Should either high contracting party conclude a treaty of general arbitration with a third Power, it is agreed that nothing in this agreement shall entail upon such contracting party an obligation to go to war with the Power with whom such treaty or arbitration is in force.
In 1914 Great Britain notified Japan that the Peace Commission treaty between America and’ England was such an arbitration treaty.
– But, in the event of war between America and Japan, could we be on the side of America 1
– That is not quite relevant to the position at the present time. I trust that the Prime Minister will be able to bring back, as a result of the Conference and of subsequent negotiations, a renewal of the Anglo-Japanese alliance in such a form as to put beyond all question our adherence to the White Australia policy, and to show that there is no wish to threaten Chinese or American interests in any way. I am satisfied that such a result would be absolutely satisfactory to this House and to Australia. If we can do this, the necessity for the Pacific Fleet is largely gone; if we cannot, then all the talk behind the League of Nations has been so much vapouring, and has no meaning for America or any other nation. I think that, from the public utterances of a responsible Japanese statesman, Japan is prepared to go to the length I suggest. Count Okuma, in July, 1920, said he would welcome American participation, and, though the Japanese Budget is prodigious, he. admits his readiness to reduce it if an agreement can be reached. He also states that Japan does not want to disintegrate China, but to develop Chinese resources. The world’s peace, as the Prime Minister has said, really depends on America, Britain, France, and Japan being in a real League, so that, whatever happens to the League of Nations, Chey will be able to control armaments, and insure the world’s restoration, without any desire for territorial aggrandisement. With loyal allegiance to the principles of the Anglo- Japanese Treaty, there is no reason why the peace of the world should be menaced inside the next decade. A difficulty will be in coming to some conclusion as to how Japanese aspirations may be satisfied in Asia, and not at our expense. If this cannot be done, the principal difficulty, however, in the way of a satisfactory arrangement may not be found in Asia or in the Pacific Islands; it may be found in the vast empty spaces of Australia, which are at once an invitation and an irritation to a crowded country like Japan if she is prevented from securing her natural outlet. Nobody can deny that if at the present time we had a population of 20,000,000 or 30,000,000, the whole position in regard to the general defence of the Empire would be vastly different. Ultimately, the only valid title to possession must be’ the effective occupation of Australia. If we simply mean to build five or six cities round the seashore, and allow the rest of Australia to be steadily depopulated by our methods of government, then our doom is as certain as that of Sodom and Gomorrah. The day will come when the Anglo-Japanese Alliance may not be renewed, when America may coldly regard us, or have other troubles on her hands, or when Great Britain may have her hands full. Our only security, therefore, lies in the swift and rapid increase of population. I trust that in the discussion of Imperial defence the matter of immigration will not be neglected, but that a definite scheme will be arranged as a defence measure. I trust to see some definite, practical scheme agreed on whereby any emigration of capital or men from the Old Country shall be entirely inside the Empire; this seems to be a matter just as important as any that could come before the Conference. I myself have prepared a definite immigration proposition to settle a few hundred thousand people here, and I trust to lay it privately before the Prime Minister before he. goes away, in the hope that he may be able to carry it into effect. I trust that we may be able to add to our resources in such a way that Australia will not be left the Achilles heel, but be the real Achilles of the Empire, and its greatest bulwark.
I regard it as imperative that the Prime Minister of Australia should accept the invitation to be present at this Conference. Australia has suffered through not being represented in 1917. The important resolutions of that latter Conference have never been presented to this Parliament, nor is there any record of them in the Parliamentary Papers, so that for information regarding them we are dependent on outside newspapers. At the time of that Conference the British press, no matter what their political faith, asked us to set aside our political’ quarrels and local petty disputes, and take a broad Imperial view. The Times of 11th January, 1917, published a leading article which might very well be quoted on the present occasion in order to show us where we ought to stand. The article points out that the Prime Ministers of the Dominions had been at that time asked to come almost immediately to England to attend a special War Conference, and said that that invitation had given the
Dominions a new Imperial status. The article goes on to say -
It recognises their right to a voice in the councils of the Empire at war. But it has also a corollary. It appeals to them so to arrange their internal affairs that they shall not hinder the sending to the Empire War Conference of their best representative.
What applied to the Empire War Conference applies equally to the Peace Conference -
Australia has made great sacrifices for the common cause since 1914; they are enshrined in the .hearts of the British people. She is asked now to make another sacrifice - of one of those lesser things which are so often even harder to give up than the great things, because it is so difficult to realize that their im- molation on the altar of duty can do any good. She is asked to forego her private quarrels for a few months so that her representative at the War Council may be able to speak with the authority of the whole country.
Speaking for myself and for the party which I have the honour to lead, I have to say that, while not prepared to give the Government absolute immunity, there is no desire on our part to take any undue advantage during the absence of the Prime Minister. While the honorable gentleman is away the Government ought to use the time as one of penance for their sins of the past, and definitely resolve to do better in the future, if they expect any immunity at all when the Prime Minister returns. The Prime Minister has given us the assurance that later in the year the House will be able to discuss the results of his mission. The right honorable gentleman has also given us an assurance that a Bill to authorize the calling of a Federal Constitution Convention will be passed through all its stages, and the Convention called next year. I should like to impress on the right honorable gentleman that it is the .general wish -of the people of Australia that he should hot be so long absent as on previous occasions.
– It is only fair to say that I did not so arrange affairs. I stayed away because of the fact that peace was declared.
– I have no desire to blame the Prime Minister for what is past and done with, but only to point to the future. If constitutional changes are. intended or found to.be necessary as the result of the Imperial Conference-
– All such proposals will be submitted here before anything is done.
– It is necessary that any such proposals should be submitted at the earliest possible moment and thoroughly discussed, so that the Australian representatives at the Imperial Conference next year may go Home fully : informed, and with the solid weight of the public opinion of the Commonwealth behind them.
.- I think the House appreciates the compliment paid to it by the three leaders of parties, in the admirably non-party spirit with which these important issues have been introduced and discussed. Succeeding speakers might take their key from those who have preceded them, and, -as far as possible, keep party out of issues which .are, in every sense of -the word, truly national. Even then it will be difficult to avoid the clashing of opinions. I, myself, expect to register . some with honorable members on this side, and, possibly, on the other side. But it depends on the way in which that is done, whether heat eventually arises as the result.
I followed with the closest attention the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in his references to the Imperial Conference which is to meet in London in June. I was interested in his description of the subjects to be discussed, and his reference to those that have been omitted. I was, perhaps, more interested .at one stage in the omissions., than in the inclusions, because we were not told the reasons for those omissions. The Prime Minister said that it had been assumed by the press that Empire relations had been listed for consideration. He added that he had been criticised in consequence of this; and he retaliated in characteristic fashion with a weird attack on some person or persons unnamed, They are not unknown to those of us who read the daily papers. I wish to say quite plainly - I regret that this is in the unavoidable temporary absence of the Prime Minister - that I consider that attack a disfigurement of an otherwise admirable speech. In matters of this kind we should deprecate resort to medieval methods of. controversy. The Prime Minister accused his critics of entire ignorance, to use his own words, of the “ historical, geographical, and ethnological circumstances of the Empire.” Then he proceeded to utter some elementary principles about the growth and governance of our Empire that we learned shortly after leaving school. I wish to briefly refer to the men whom the Prime Minister attacked, and to the; arguments they have been using. Those critics are Professor Harrison Moore, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Melbourne University, and Mr. F. Eggleston, M.L.A. for St. Hilda in the State Parliament. When one remembers, as those of us do who know these men, that each has devoted the best part of a useful life, and very rare ability, together with quite a remarkable power of application, to the study of these subjects, the absurdity of such abuse becomes apparent. I am not one of the group to which the Prime Minister obviously referred, and I do not share the views entertained by what are known as the “ Round-table “ men of Australia, as to the way in which the government of the Empire should be developed. I can, therefore, speak with greater freedom, and with less prejudice. But I ask the Prime Minister and the House what were the crimes that these well-informed citizens committed to excite the displeasure of the Prime Minister. Professor Harrison Moore asked for the publication in this Parliament of certain important papers in connexion with the Peace Conference, which, he said - and I have reason to believe with accuracy - have already been laid before the Legislatures of most, if not all, the other Dominions. I suggest that instead of lashing Professor Harrison Moore as a busybody and an ignoramus, the Prime Minister would be well advised to give heed to bis suggestion, and make available to honorable members all the essential papers that he considers can be published without impropriety, so that we may be able to deal with all the issues he dealt with in Paris, or issues we may have to consider prior to his departure, and immediately after his return. As to Mr. Eggleston, what he said was that the world had been favoured with clear statements on the constitutional issues of the Empire by at least two of the Dominion Prime Ministers, and he asked for such a statement from the
Prime Minister of Australia before he left for London. Whether honorable members do or do not agree with Mr. Eggleston ‘s general views, they will, I think, share my conviction that it is to be regretted that our Prime Minister has not yet favoured Australia with an expression of his ‘opinion on these important matters. The right honorable gentleman has been Prime Minister of this country for five years; he has borne responsibilities greater than those of any of his great predecessors ; but he has never yet taken this House or the country into his confidence upon these matters. I say to him, not in any querulous spirit, that it would be an excellent thing, and not yet too late, if, before he leaves, he would state plainly his opinions on these important issues, which must ere long confront us, even though we may not have to settle them this year. The right honorable gentleman said that the Imperial Conference in June would not deal with the inter-Empire relations problem.
– With constitutional questions.
– We mean the same thing; but I do not regard this as a constitutional question, because I am not an advocate of what is generally known as a Constitution for; the Empire. There are relations between the autonomous units of this Empire which it is important for us to understand and develop on right lines. The Prime Minister said that a Conference to deal with these issues would probably be held next year. I was sorry to hear that. I was sorry that before his departure some more definite statement could not be made to us in this part of the Empire.
– How am I responsible for that?
– I think it is partly the fault of the Australian Government. If this Government had desired the consideration of these matters, it could have listed them for the discussion of the statesmen of the other Dominions and of Great Britain.
– That is not so. These matters were deliberately excluded by the British Government, by whom it was definitely stated that they could not now be discussed.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct.
– The practice in regard to Conferences is for the Imperial Government to invite Dominion Governments to list important matters for consideration. I have read what Mr. Bonar Law said in the House of Commons, which led every one to believe that these questions were to be considered. It may have been decided later not to consider thom this year; but I am sure that the temper of the British Government is such that if an important Dominion expressed the desire to have them ventilated, even though they might not be decided, it would not have declined to list them.
– I do not wish for any change. Why, then, should I ask to have these matters listed?
– That is not the question. The Leader of the Country party (:Dr. Earle Page) said just now something with which I do not agree as fully as some of those who cheered him appeared to do. He said that these issues must inevitably come into the June Conference; that the discussion of the AngloJapanese Treaty, Imperial foreign policy, and defence questions will compel their consideration. I do not take that view, But I say that these issues ought to come in, if only to be dealt with, in a preliminary way, for the education of Dominion delegates and the subsequent consideration of Dominion Parliaments. If the Prime Minister’s departure from this country were not to be so early, I should hav had the temerity to submit a motion asking the Imperial Conference to deal with these matters, stating clearly Australia’s views regarding them. I do not think that it would be fair to the Prime Minister to do that at this stage. But I hope that he may, before the debate closes, give us his views as to the procedure he proposes to follow. We cannot long postpone the consideration of these questions, and’ I wish to review as briefly as may be what they are.
The Prime Minister said in his speech that during the last few generations there have been substantial changes in form, but not in substance, in the government of this Empire. I hold that to be a mistaken statement, if the words “form” and “ substance “ mean the same in his mind as in mine. The Dominions have had enormous accretions of power during our own lifetime, and particularly during the tragic quinquennium of the war. Power I take to be substance. No man in his senses cares very much for form; substance - matter - is the real thing. During the war four important steps were taken in the direction of, increasing the importance and the responsibilities of the Dominions. All of them were probably inevitable in the temper of the times. Some of them, I think, were wise, and others dangerous; yet, notwithstanding the danger, inevitable. If the Dominions used at least two of these concessions to their full legal or constitutional strength, the disintegration of the Empire would be easy, and, perhaps, unavoidable. I do not hesitate to say, although it is a grave statement for a member of the House to make, that merely an invisible line now stands between the oversea Dominions and complete independence. That I take to be a serious thing. Care and moderation, which happily are still distinguishing features of British statesmanship, may avert so tragic a step; but the point is that the machinery has been created, and is operative, which may be used by the intemperate or the clumsy to speedily dis-‘ member the Empire. Let us look at the four matters to which 3 have referred. The first Was the admission of the heads of Dominion Governments to membership of the Imperial Cabinet; the second, the representation of the Dominions and their signing of the Treaties concluded at the Peace Conference; the third, the direct representation ‘ of the Dominions on the Assembly of the League of Nations; and the fourth, their direct contact with the secretariat of the League. As to the first of these, the admission of the Dominion Prime Ministers to co-equal rank with members of the Imperial Cabinet in London, I suppose the unanimous feeling is that nothing but good can come of it, and I think that we all devoutly hope that it may continue. As to the second, the direct representation of the Dominions at the Peace Conference, I have always doubted its wisdom. I know that the Prime Minister entertains a different view. In support of his view, he may point with some degree of reason to his achievements in Paris; to my mind that is no answer. The ideal position at Paris - had ideals been obtainable, and as to that I cannot speak - was for the British Empire delegation at the Peace Conference to be one and indivisible. I think that the Empire lost in force and in political prestige by having its delegation splitup. I am sorry that the Dominions were there represented separately. Their representatives should have been present, but should have been merged in the general British delegation. Had that been done, the Dominion statesmen, after consultation with their British colleagues, could have been intrusted with theadvocacyof Dominion interests, and the British delegation would have stood one and indivisible. It was scarcely that at the Peace Conference. I admit that there is ground for sharp difference of opinion on this question. The Prime Minister entertains one view, and I entertain another upon it. I understand and respect his view, but I keep my own. All that, however, is past and gone, and, as an old sage said, “ Wise men have enough to do with things present and to come.” It is, therefore, to the third and fourth concessions to which I now direct particular attention, namely, our separate identity on the Assembly of the League of Nations, and our direct contact with the League’s secretariat. In both of these lie the seed of Empire disruption. Unless something is done wisely and early to provide for the disuse of those powers or for Empire concert in a new way, trouble surely lies ahead of us. By “us” I mean the British family, to which the preceding speaker referred with such propriety and eloquence. It is not necessary to stress the point at length, the possibilities are so obvious.The expression of divergent views by British and Dominion statesmen in the Assembly of the League would inevitably weaken the prestige and influence of the Empire. Preconsultation, if it were secured and assured, would lessen the risk of that, but would not eliminate it. I know the Prime Minister’s strong desireto establish and maintain a direct channel of communication between the Dominions and the League’s secretariat, and, in my judgment, that is where most peril re sides. The way to avoid it is for the Dominions that have been given the privilege not to use the direct wire, but to talk through the central British exchange.The way tomakeassurance doubly sure, in their own interest especially, is to devise an Empire clearing house, where British problems can be considered and co-ordinated, before being published to the outside world. In other words, this British family, this British partnership, should talk things over amongst themselves before revealing them to the rest of the world as out of harmony in their objectives and aims. I say solemnly to those Dominions that have racial problems or racial barriers - and Australia is one of them - that that procedure is in the highest degree important, and, indeed, essential. If the unity of the Empire is to be restored or preserved, steps to that end must be taken at an early date. In the present condition of independence in connexion with the League secretariat all sorts of danger to us may spring up from the imprudence of other Dominions. For example, is Australia to be threatened by, or committed to, war because of some action by the Government of Canada or South Africa, about which we have not been consulted, or of which we are entirely ignorant? And, conversely, are the Mother Land and the other Dominions to accept responsibility for our independent acts and utterances? If not, are they to stand idly by while Australia does all its own fighting, if it comes to fighting? No; whether you be an apostle of growth or of organic union, a moment’s consideration will show you that you cannot run an autonomous Empire on that basis, and the sooner the people generally, as well as its leading minds, understand the delicacy of the mechanism, and the stupendous dangers with which we are playing, the better it will be for all of us. Unfortunately, there are still some people in Australia who yearn for the glittering abstractions of independence, and at the same time hug to their hearts the security and advantage of interdependence. Those people must be told quite plainly that they must make up their minds; in the Prime Minister’s own words, they cannot have it both ways. If you want your omelette, you have to break your eggs, and I confess that, in the menacing condition of the world to-day, and the instability which is the inevitable result of the war, we ought to be fonder of the omelette, and consent to the breaking of our eggs in order to get it. International recognition of the Dominions may be gratifying to our pride; but the best salve to our pride, and the finest insurance policy we can effect, is an intimate partnership in a united British Empire. That is not a new sentiment; it was uttered in another way by the Prime Minister, but it needs reemphasis. I was glad to hear the right honorable gentleman’s views about the League of Nations, because I say that, if we are to surrender the advantages of this family partnership for any allurement that rainbows the League of Nations, we shall be likeÆsop’s famous dog, who lost the substance in grasping at the shadow.
– Hear, hear! But why should one be set against the other?
– Because the Prime Minister placed them in juxtaposition. There are people who say that, while we have a League of Nations, there is no need to keep close partnership with Britain, or our alliances with other people, or to embark upon a defence policy. That is the call that comes from a suicide’s or fool’s paradise.
– Is there any necessity to make the two things alternatives?
– Naturally and inherently they are alternatives. I am not, in any sense of the word, an Imperial Federationist, and would pause just as long as would the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition before I consented to surrender by organic coupling the freedom which British statesmanship has given to us. There areother roads to family union, but I do believe in living in friendship with the British family of nations. In that direction, League or no League, prudent statesmanship will surely lead us.
– Hear, hear! And that depends on one thing, namely, the seapower of the British Navy.
– I believe that. The British Empire has been built up and maintained upon it, and as the Prime Minister said, would wither to ashes the moment the Naval paramountey of Britain were destroyed. The League should not loosen our ties of Empire. The war, which demonstrated the wondrous unity of the Empire, should strengthen, and not weaken, that unity.
– Does the honorable member understand the Prime Minister to be in f avour of the League of Nations ?
– I do not. He stands exactly where I stand. Our attitude was expressed by Sir Thomas More, when he wrote, in Utopia, that book upon which the honorable member was weaned, “ There are many things in the Commonwealth of Nowhere that I rather wish than hope to see adopted in our own.” The League of Nations is one of those things concerning which we have now wishes rather than hopes. I believe an important step would be taken if Australia’s views were registered in preliminary form before the assembly of the Empire statesmen in June, and I know no one better able, or more entitled to state them, than the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) ; but I would rather see Australia unrepresented than that her aspirations in these fundamental matters should be misinterpreted. That, I gather, is not the intention of the Prime Minister; he proposes to agree with the British dictum that those matters can well wait for a while. They can, upon one condition, and one only, viz., that these new powers, particularly the two to which I have made special reference, shall not be used, or used with the greatest possible care, pending consideration of the matter by Empire statesmen. . If that is not to be done’ I urge that these matters be dealt with at the approaching Conference. Probably the Prime Minister will tell the House how far he is prepared to . go in respect of that matter. It is no good for him to merely say that he does not believe in growth or organic change.
– I did not say that I did not believe in growth. I have said all along that, as we have grown so have additional powers been granted to us. That which was fit for us when we were little is no longer suitable when we are grown.
– I agree with that, and I say that our growth has given us possession of two powers as dangerous as loaded revolvers.
– While greater liberty has been given it involves more responsibility and discretion in the use of it.
– And more frequent consultation with those who are interdependent in respect of the use of it. I decline to believe that the voice of India, which, presumably, also has a direct wire, on the colour question, is the voice of Australia ; or that the voice of South Africa on this matter is the voice of Australia, and in just the same way our voice in regard to White Australia is, I am afraid, not quite as well appreciated in Canada and the other Dominions as it should be.
– In the last analysis whose view, say, in regard to a White Australia is to prevail - ours, or the view of some other part of the Empire?
– In answer to that I say that Australia will never surrender the White Australia policy.
– That is what I say, and all I say.
– And I am sure that if at any Conference of Empire statesmen Australia made that pronouncement that would be the end of the matter so far as British statesmen were concerned; they would support us, but only if they heard that pronouncement direct from our own lips.
– While I am prepared to discuss the matter, and remember that these other people are our own flesh and blood, in the last resort I shall have my own way.
– I leave that matter Where it is. I fear that I have imported into the promulgation of my views more heat than I had intended; but, at any rate, I have madethose viewsplain, whether or not honorable members agree with them.
As to the other subjects in the Conference list, I concur at once with the Prime Minister that the Dominions are interested in foreign policy, and I do not agree with the press critics who say “Keep your hands out of it, you know nothing about it; let British statesmen decide.” All these big matters should be dealt with in family conference. We are specially interested in the Pacific problem, and we are generally interested in all big questions of foreign policy, because out of them come wars, and, whether we like it or not, the world has not sunk to rest, notwithstanding the great slaughter during the recent upheaval. We have to regard war not only as a contingency, but as a probability. If ever there is another war in which the Empire is engaged, it will again be a case of one in all in. Therefore, we should know why we are going in, and should have sufficient sagacity and resolution to enforce our views in connexion with the determination of the main problems of foreign policy. My faith in the League of Nations has almost faded out.
– My faith remains constant; as it was in the beginning so it is to-day.
– I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman has not learnt anything with the passage of time; I have. My faith is altered because Americahas persisted in standing out of the League, and I can conceive of no potent organization for the preservation of world peace which does not include America. We must look that fact plainly in the face. Unless American public opinion changes, the League of Nations cannot develop in a healthy manner.
– Does not the honorable member think that a change is probable?
– American opinion: changes as quickly as does Australian opinion attimes. No one anticipated the downfall that the Democratic party and President Wilson sustained a few months ago. The Democratic leaders expected defeat, but, as far as I could gather during my trip through America, even the Republican leaders expected to win only by a head and not by a body.
– According to this evening’s paper President Hardinghas stated that although America repudiates the League ofNations it is willing to enter a world association of nations.
– He has said that three times already, and, backed by Mr. Elihu Root, laid down the conditions upon which he is prepared to extend the tribunal of the Hague to comply with
American desires. Such a tribunal may be useful as a talking parlour for the nations, but it is notthe League that is covenanted for in the Treaty of Versailles. I do not believe; and I say it with some trepidation, in the indefinite preservation of our present alliances on the Continent of Europe. It would be going against the accumulated evidence of history if we were to assume that because to-day we are locked in amity and concord with the Republic of Prance and the Kingdom of Italy we should tread the same path through all the years. My opinion is that the Angles and the Latins will never agree forany lengthy period, and, therefore, I am with the Prime Minister that the hope of the world lies in a better understanding between the great Republic of the west and the other Britishspeaking peoples. We cannot have that Anglo-Celtic union with Ireland as it is to-day, because the great Irish population of America is torn with dissension and anger on account of the condition of Ireland; but when that condition is ameliorated and a settlement reached which the Irish people can accept - I speak of both races that are in Ireland - every endeavour should be made to secure a rapprochement between the Englishspeaking peoples of the world. Even if many millions were involved in getting it, in view of the instability of alliances and of the League, it would be money well spent and a better guarantee forthe peace of the world than any organic union such as the League contemplates.
With regard to the Japanese Treaty, I compliment the Prime Minister, if I may, upon that portion of his speech. It was frank and helpful to everybody in Australia, and to students of this issue in other parts of the Empire. I welcome the saner note and the more temperate tone in the consideration of this problem than was possible here a few years ago. I agree also with the Prime Minister inhis warning about being boastful; and I note that, like St. Paul, he acknowledged himself chiefest among the sinners, praying, in contrition, with Kipling -
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord.
We have been, as all young people are, a little too much inclined to boast. The
Japanese, as a sensitive, proud, and capable people, have been unduly stirred by the utterances of statesmen and orators in Australia in the past. We have made a mistake in putting this matter on a purely racial basis. As the Japanese conception of humanity and their own laws show, we are entitled, on purely economic grounds, to pursue our policy of exclusion. It is not a question of the superiority or inferiority of two rival or two allied races. It is a question of fundamental and ineradicable differences in the ideals, social purposes, and conceptions of religion and humanity that pervade the two races. All history shows that we cannot mingle people so widely different without social and racial damage. I have heard the Scriptures quoted to dictate our action on the question. We are told that “ God hath made of one blood all nations of men.” Perfectly true! It means equality before God;but the Scriptures continue, “ And hath determined the bounds of their habitation.” There is a clear recognition that, although we may assess with some Divine sanction, a general equality, the intermingling of races so widely different as these, not in colour, but in mind and habits, is a thing forbidden of the ages. The preservation of our White Australia policy is not at all inconsistent with the re-assertion of those primary principles and a perfect friendship with Japan; that is, so far as perfect friendship can exist between people who erect barriers of trade, or of entrance, or of marriage. Some of the Japanese people have had in the past, apparently, a desire to penetrate other countries. But for that, none of these laws would have been passed in California,or Australia, or Canada.
– I do not agree with that. That is wrong. And I think that it puts Japan in a very awkward position, and us, too. We should have enacted these laws if there had been no Japan.
-Probably the right honorable gentleman is right in correcting me there. I do not say that these laws were directed against the Japanese. They were directed against that economic pressure which could come from Asia and elsewhere, from aliens who could not be intermingled with our own people; but it is because the Japanese are seeking rights in certain countries that friction has arisen. And I agree that the comparatively few Japanese who reside on the western slopes of the Pacific-
– Only a few?
– Comparatively ; about 90,000, as a matter of fact.
– Quite enough, too, grouped in small areas.
– I admit that; but they have entered a nation numbering 104,000,000, and they have come from among 70,000,000 people, so that their numbers in America are relativelysm all. I emphasize that the comparatively few who have gone from Japan should not cause an irreconcilable difficulty or hostility between America and Japan, or between Britain and America, if the alliance is renewed.
The Prime Minister accepted no mandate to alter the condition of a White Australia. He will fight to get a fourPower alliance, if he can, or a four-Power consent; that is, Britain, Japan, America, Australia. Whoever signs it, the ideal will be to have these four sanctions. If it is impossible to obtain the consent of the United States of America, the Prime Minister must be left at liberty to make the best arrangements that, in the circumstances, may be possible - subject only to the limitation which he himself has imposed, namely, that there shall be no surrender of the White Australia policy.
– Hear, hear !
– I wondered, until this document came to us last week, why the renewal of the Anglo- Japanese Treaty had been spoken of. I now see that it has been due to the fact that the Japanese Ambassador and the British Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Earl Curzon) have addressed a memorandum to the League of Nations saying that the present Treaty of 1911 is not consistent in form or in spirit with the requirements of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The Treaty was for a definite period of time, and was then to be continued indefinitely unless denounced within twelve months by either party. But for this conflict with the League Covenant, it could have run on for ever and a day if both parties were satisfied that it should remain in force. It does not appear as if either party to the Treaty has denounced it. Therefore, it would seem to be comparatively easy to renew it; and, if the
United States of America do not object, Australia certainly should not. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has seen with a clairvoyant eye this fact; for the whole course of our national existence this treaty has been practically in existence. Our White Australia policy has not been attacked. Representations have been made, but our position has been rendered even more impregnable to-daythan when Lord Lansdowne signed the Treaty in 1902. Our policy can subsist alongside a sound alliance with Japan.
The Prime Minister’s words have been welcomed by prominent Japanese thinkers. That is a grateful sign. We are seeking to re-ally ourselves with a Power which honorably observed the compact through all the years of our peril, from 1914 to 1919. If the alliance had not been in existence, and Japan had been free, and hostile, how different would have been the lot of the people of Australia after the outbreak of war! And it would be a stupid and a small thing for this people to withhold their public acknowledgement of that fact. Japan did honorably observe the treaty. Its observance was of the greatest moment to Australia; and we can live on terms of. concord with the Japanese people, providing that the principle upon which we have insisted as essential is again accepted.
I do not wish to deal at length with the question of naval power. It is very wise to have the Conference consider the navalpolicy of the Empire - even if there were nothing else which demanded the attendance of the Empire’s representatives in London. Some people believe that now we need not have a Navy at all, but it is perfectly clear that the choice, if the view of the people were considered, would be for the Navy, with a full-throated British choice, all over the world. We take out a fire insurance policy, but, at the same time, we maintain an efficient fire brigade. Treaties cannot insure peace, but can only help towards its maintenance. We must keep that strong right arm on which the scattered Empire leans. The Prime Minister will be well advised in following his own line of thought and working for a co-ordinated system of Empire defence. British statesmen have never said tous, “ We are going to leave you unprotected, and the Dominions must fend for themselves.” But they have said that, with this weight of £8,000,000,000 of war indebtedness, the naval burden of the Empire ought to be more equitably shared. They will not forsake us, but we must do our duty.
– Who has said that? Is the honorable member attributing that statement to the British Government?
– They have never left us without protection, nor have theymade the threat to leave us with no protection.
– They will do their best if danger threatens, but they add, “ Our best is no longer what it was.”
– Our policy is one of cooperation with Britain, particularly in southern waters. We can never, with our population, and with our national debt, sustain a Navy which would be adequate, to our huge coastline and our maritime interests. The Leader of the Government (Mr. Hughes) said there was no plan of campaign in existence. There is, as a matter of fact, a very fine plan, which was issued to the Empire by Viscount Jellicoe. It is the nucleus, in concept and spirit, of a partnership in the south-eastern corner of the earth which, whatever its magnitude, or whatever be its limitations, is the best form of cooperationin respect of naval defence that we could have.
– And it starts us off with £5,000,000 a year expenditure.
– It averages that. But, whatever the figure, we can surely understand that it would be far better to put it into a family fleet than to run, alone, our own independent navy.
– If we had not had the Australia, where would we have been?
– There is no surrender of our rights at all. There is a plan, and we take our part in that plan, and pay our share.
– If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) cares to read the first volume of Viscount Jellicoe’s report, he will perceive that surrenderof our rights in administration is not contemplated. There would be all the local power we desire; but, in an emergency, the fleets of the Empire would be at once assembled under one commander, and would act as an Empire support of these south-eastern portions of the British Dominions.
I am troubled about only one matter arising out of the Prime Minister’s absence from Australia. If the right honorable gentleman leaves at the end of the month he will probably be away for six months. He has not asked any assurance of the House - in so many words - of immunity from attack or security for his Government in his absence. He has implied it, however; and, I think, properly. If I were the Prime Minister of any Government I should not leave, with parties apparently evenly balanced - or nearly so - upon a mission, feeling that my mandate might be withdrawn while I was abroad on duty for the benefit of Australia. The House should be prepared to say to the Prime Minister, subject to the limitations which he himself has imposed, “ Go to England, and reasonable security will be given to you.” That is my attitude. But I have one thing in mind, and that is the problem of finance. We are going to close our financial year in the absence of the Prime Minister, and we shall have a Budget produced before he returns which will condition us until the 30th June, 1922. If I were quite sure that the Government were unanimous in their desire for economy I would feel very much comforted. But I find wide differences among Ministers. I hear the pious exhortations of the right honorable gentleman who presides over the Treasury, urging the people to practise providence and thrift, and then I hear my old friend, the PostmasterGeneral, say, “ Economy is dead.”
– I did not say that it was dead.
– Statements of that kind are a truculent defiance of the gathering convictions of the people. However, I think it would be a mistake if this Parliament had its hands fettered in dealing with matters of finance during the Prime Minister’s absence. It would be a mistake if, in dealing with finance as honorable members might generally care to do, the action taken provoked a Ministerial crisis which would jeopardize the position of the Government. Therefore, I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should give to the Committee of Supply the right to decide upon matters of finance without involving the fate of the Government. It is often said, “ Where would you economize?” and the ordinary private member might point to one or two or three items.
– On the other fellow.
– Perhaps on the other fellow, perhaps on himself. At any rate, honorable members should have the opportunity of trying their hand, and I am. prepared to do my share by showing the way in which savings could be effected, providing there is a spirit of receptivity on the part of Ministers and power is given to the Committee of Supply.
– The only difficulty is that one form of economy persistently advocated outside is an economy which involves changes of policy and not of administration.
– However, when the items of policy are located and defended by the Government, it will be for the Committee to decide whether the policy should be altered or not. In. this critical time we ought to be able to intrust the Committee of Supply with an opportunity of cutting down the expenditure. As an exTreasurer, both State and Federal, I recognise that there is room as well as need for it. There is a strong feeling in the community that something must be done, and before this House goes to the country it should be given the opportunity of doing that something. It would be tying our hands too much if for six months honorable members were not able to deal with the finances because to touch them might affect the fate of the Government. I make this suggestion in the best of spirit to the Leader of the Government and the Treasurer, hoping that this opportunity will be given to us while the Prime Minister is absent.
.- It was unnecessary for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) to make the suggestion he offered, because I am confident the Prime Minister, whether there is any arrangement or not, can go away assured that the gentlemen he leaves behind him will be so anxious to economize that they will not want to involve the country in the expense of an election during his absence.
I agree with most of the speeches I have heard on this matter. I certainly agree with most of what the honorable member for Balaclava has said, although right through his remarks I was trying to chase the idea running through a garden of beautiful words. The honorable member agrees with the Government in regard to defence matters and in regard to the Japanese Treaty. In fact, he is not in disagreement with them on any particular issue.
The other day the Prime Minister said that he would enter into no treaty which was not satisfactory to Great Britain, America, or ourselves; but to-day, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), he says that he would not agree to any treaty which was not satisfactory to Great Britain, Japan, and, if possible, America. How can he reconcile these two statements?
I am not troubled with academic forms and circumstances that may confront this country, but I shall deal fairly and definitely with the Prime Minister’s statement. He told us that a change had come about in regard to the foreign affairs of the Empire, and that there was an immense transformation from the clearly defined attitude previously taken up by the Imperial Government. He said that because of the outcome of the war the Old Country had been involved in a debt of £8,000,000,000, was torn to pieces by internal dissensions, and, finally, was racked by the fiercest competition from those who had previously been its enemies. Therefore, he said the British Government had come to a definite attitude in respect to naval defence, and had announced that it was no longer capable of supplying adequate defence for the the people of this country or for the defence of the whole Empire. The Prime Minister went further, and likened the situation to the days of ancient Borne, when it had to desert Britain by withdrawing its legions, leaving the people of that country to their fate. Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I am not at all well, I ask leave to continue my remarks on some future occasion.
– Is it the wish of the House that the honorable member for Bourke have leave to continue his remarks on some future occasion ?
– Every one regrets the fact that illness has prevented the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) from continuing. We all hope that on this important question we shall have the benefit of his counsels at a very early date when he is properly restored to health.
I have listened with interest to the eloquent speech delivered by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. “Watt). I appreciate it the more, because, from a very close association with him for a number of years, I know that his views and mine on many of these matters are .to a large extent identical. But the questions he dealt with are of such great value that I propose to emphasize some of them.
I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on the very clear and able address he delivered. He did only justice to honorable members in endeavouring to take them into’ his confidence with regard- to all those vital and important matters of such serious moment to Australia, particularly in respect to our relationship with the Empire and outside nations. We must all agree with the view he puts forth that the Empire is dependent for its existence on the British Navy. We have gone through the ordeal and test of war, and realize that it is owing to the fact alone that we were under the protection of the Mother Country that we have not been subjected at any time to an aggressive enemy’s shot. This fact, thus demonstrated by the war, has again been brought under our attention by the Prime Minister. I strongly urge that any alteration in our relationship with the Mother Country must have for. its objective a more real union and a greater consolidation of the British Empire. We realize that our existence as a free country is absolutely dependent upon that condition of affairs. In the past the government of the Empire has been of the most flexible character. It has been one whereby we have been able to reconcile complete local autonomy for Australia with Imperial unity. It has enabled the Empire to immediately adapt itself from year to year, even from day to day, as the circumstances of the moment demanded. Therefore we must put aside, or decline to entertain, all idea of having a written Constitution for the Empire. We occupy but a comparatively insignificant position as compared with the Empire as a whole, but I do not think that Australians, recognising the spirit of Australia, would be prepared at any time to accept dictation as to the payment of taxes or the assessment of any amount in connexion with Imperial matters which would be demanded and attempted to be enforced by some super-Parliament,
– We have never been asked to do that.
– No; but Australia would not willingly submit itself to any rigid form of Constitution. The cordiality of the relationship which has hitherto existed has been the best fitted to our conditions, and by reason - of its success has proved a valuable structure which, as I have already said, has passed the test of war.
I am somewhat amazed at one point which was emphasized by the Prime Minister in relation to some individuals who he suggested had for their objective the creation of a super-Parliament and a Constitution which would in some way control Australia. I know of one such gentleman. I am not an Imperial Federationist if that Imperial Federation means a written Constitution for the Empire. I am not aware that there is any body of public opinion which would favour that condition of affairs. I am aware that Imperial Federal ideas have been promoted and discussed from time to time. I was associated with, a local branch of the Imperial Federation, but I did not bind myself at any time to the idea of the creation of a super-Parliament to regulate by a rigid Constitution the affairs of the Empire. The scattered nature of the Empire, widely divergent in its races, ideas, characteristics, and habits, is such that I do not think any rigid machinery of that description would immediately adapt itself to our real conditions.
The Prime Minister stated that the Imperial Conference was not to meet this year to deal with constitutional alterations. I know that the British Government has considered that an Imperial Conference for that purpose should not meet this year, but from what has already taken place it is almost inevitable that the question of our constitutional relationships should be immediately dealt with.
– There is no escaping it.
– When the Imperial Conference takes place I do not think it will be possible to avoid, at all events, a discussion of the Imperial relationships both -within and without the Empire.
– I confess that I do not quite follow this point, which has been referred to by more than one honorable member. One of the very purposes of the Conference to be held in June next is the determination of some readjustment of relations as regards defence.
– I am dealing, not with defence, but with the constitutional alterations. The Leader of the House of Commons, Mr. Bonar Law, said some little time ago when speaking in the House -
I should like to explain that the meeting of Prime Ministers summoned for June, 1921, will be a meeting on the lines of the Imperial War Cabinet meetings which took place in 1917 and 1918 to deal with the many urgent problems of common interest which call for the coordination of POlicy and action by the different Governments of the Empire. It will not be the special Constitutional Conference contemplated by resolution 0 of the Imperial War Conference 1917. The agenda will, of course, bc a matter for subsequent settlement with the Dominion Ministers. There is general agreement that Imperial defence matters will require joint examination in the near future, but I am npt yet in a position to say precisely what arrangements will be made for their discussion.
Subsequently the Hon. H- O’Neill asked -
Are we to understand from the right honorable gentleman that the very important question of the re-adjustment of the constitutional relationships between different parts of the Empire will be debarred from being discussed at the forthcoming Conference?
Mr. Bonar Law replied
No, sir. We have been in negotiation with the Dominions on this matter. There has been a good deal of unrest in regard to it, and there is a general feeling that it would not be right to suppress it.
Subsequently I believe an official statement was issued explaining the nature of the forthcoming Conference. The point I wish to emphasize is that here we have a deliberate statement by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, that if an effort is made to introduce the question of the alteration of the constitutional relationships of the Empire nothing will, be done to suppress its discussion. I admit that it is not to be the first objective of the Conference, but there have been such radical and almost revolutionary changes in the relations within the Empire - in so far as resolutions can be held to indicate those changes - that it is almost inevitable, whether we like it or not, that the question of these Constitution alterations must be, to some extent, dealt with at the approaching Conference.
– Is it not decided that there shall be a Conference next year to deal with those constitutional questions?
– That is so; but I am emphasizing the point that these constitutional alterations are so momentous to Australia and every part of the Empire that their discussion, to some extent, at the approaching Conference is almost inevitable^ and hence it is desirable that we should have at least some exposition of the Prime Minister’s views on the subject.
– He has said that he does not believe that any change is necessary.
– I am coming to that point. An official statement was issued explaining the nature of the forthcoming Conference and setting out that it was to be a business meeting called for the purpose of securing co-ordination of policy and action, and that it would deal also with matters of naval defence. Then came the further statement -
I?is not proposed to hold in 1921 the special constitutional conference contemplated by the Imperial War Conference resolutions of 1917.
These constitutional questions, however, must come up to some extent at the approaching Conference, and it is well that we should know what are the views of the Prime Minister on this subject. It is desirable, also, that he should know the views of the Parliament, so that no encouragement may be given at any future Conference to the development of a policy which is antagonistic to our views.
I was gratified to hear from the Prime Minister this afternoon, that it was not his intention to agree at the forthcoming Conference to any alteration of the Empire Constitution without first consulting us. It is true that he said that he did not’ consider any alterations of the Empire Constitution were necessary; but I want to know what that means. In making that statement did the right honorable gentleman have in mind that form of alteration of the Constitution of the Empire which, as I shall demonstrate later on, has been forced’ by Sir Robert Borden and General Smuts, or did he have in mind the government and administration of the Empire as, 1 obtained prior to the war? Honorable members will be ‘aware that -the old method of Empire government was that all diplomatic negotiations and all diplomatic efforts must go through the Mother Country alone; that it was not competent for the Dominions to make any separate representations to other nations on matters involving foreign policy apart from the Mother Country. Under the old form all peace treaties were entered into on behalf of the Empire by the Mother Country, and all foreign policy was practically dictated by her. When that foreign policy was of a. vital character and effect, we know consultations between the Mother Country and the Dominions took place. We acted, however, through the one common source, and that common source was the Mother Country herself. The unity of the Empire was thus regulated by Imperial Conferences and reconciled with local autonomy. I have always stood strongly for the local autonomy of Australia so far as all her domestic affairs are concerned. We are in the glorious position of being able to develop to ite fullest our local autonomy. Australia and all its resources are under the regis and protection of the Mother Country itself. That has been our special privilege, and in that respect we have enjoyed an enormous advantageAnd so I say this form of government of the Empire by Imperial Conferences is the only form to which we are prepared to ‘agree. Is it that to which the Prime Minister referred, and which obtained prior to 1917, or, say, prior to the war? May I ask the House to mark the contrast between such form and that now proposed? Sir Robert Borden, on behalf of Canada, issued a memorandum in the Imperial War Cabinet in 1917, in which he said -
The Crown is the supreme executive in the United Kingdom and in all the Dominions, hut it acts on the advice of different Ministries within their constitutional limits.
We, of course, realize that the Crown is the symbol of unity. We all realize that the monarchy ‘is the outward sign of the unity of the British Empire. But what Sir Robert Borden says is that, notwithstanding this, the Crown acts through its different Ministries in the different
Dominions. That is to say, in theMother Country it acts through the British Ministry, in Australia through the Australian Ministry, in Canada through the Canadian Ministry, and in South Africa through the South African Ministry. Having regard to the claims which were made, and, to some extent, admitted during the recent Imperial Conference, I want to point out that here we have the very means of disintegration immediately imported into the working of the Empire. Instead of the Empire, working in unison and harmony before, we have now, by reason of what has taken place, this means of conflict imported.
– Who, does the honorable member suggest, brought in this means of distintegration ?
– I may elaborate my point by a simple illustration. If in Canada the Canadian Ministers advised that it was necessary to have direct diplomatic representation in the United States of America, and if the British Government, on the other hand; advised that it was not desirable, in the interests of the Empire, to have direct representation in America, whose advice is the Crown to take? Which advice is to prevail? Sir Robert Borden says that the Crown is to act on the advice of the different Ministers within the different constitutional limits. Now, if the British Government say that it is desirable to have a Japanese Treaty, the South, African Government may - though I do not suggest for one moment that it would,, but cite it as an illustration - advise the Crown that it is undesirable that that Treaty should be renewed. .In such a case we should have direct conflict, on the basis of the doctrine laid down by Sir Robert Borden on behalf of Canada.
– The last words of Sir Robert Borden, referring to the constitutional limits, are important - they cover the whole question.
– I do not think so. My point is that there is the seed of conflict, by reason of the variety of advice from several different Ministers in different parts of the Empire. Constitutional limits are not rigidly defined, and, indeed, have unexpected ramifications. The Prime Minis- ter has stated that a common monarchy for the Empire is quite good enough. I admit at once that the Crown is the visible bond and symbol of the united Empire, and that, by reason of race and blood, and other ties, there prevails a strong feeling throughout the Empire that that unity must obtain. But the point I am driving home is that there has been a radical and revolutionary departure by reason of what took place at the Imperial War Conference of 1917, a departure which has subsequently developed. Before that, the Empire spoke as one voice ; and now the claim of Sir Robert Borden, on behalf of Canada, and of General Smuts, on behalf of South Africa, is that the Empire may speak by several voices. May I trace the development that has actually taken place? The first important step was the Imperial War Conference in 1917. I do not think that the Prime Minister of Australia was at that Conference; but a memorandum was circulated by the Prime Ministers there, wherein they claimed equality of nationhood! - they claimed equality of status. That claim was pressed, and ultimately conceded by the Mother Country. Next came the Peace Conference, where, in pursuance of1 the previous arrangement, separate and independent representation was given to the various Dominions. At that Conference Australia and the other Dominions were directly represented, and spoke for themselves respectively, in the same way as foreign nations spoke on their behalf. The next step was the separate appointment of plenipotentiaries to sign ‘ and ratify the Treaty. That was a very important step, which showed the design of Sir Robert Borden in this regard. He was not satisfied with the mere declaration of equal status that was :given, but insisted that an Order in Council should be passed by the Canadian Government praying the King to issue letters patent for the separate representation of Canada, and the appointment of separate plenipotentiaries with authority to attend the Conference and sign the Peace Agreement.
– Canada asked for the right to separately advise the King.
– That is so.
- Sir Robert Borden did separately advise the King, and the result of the advice was the issue of letters patent authorizing the separate representation of Canada at the Peace Conference to sign the Treaty. The same was done in regard to the ratification. I have explained that this was done on the advice of Canadian Ministers, though I should imagine that in all probability it filtered through British Ministers. I am pointing out how rigid Sir Robert Borden was in the attitude he assumed; and it is most significant in this connexion, having regard to the separate representation of Canada on the advice of Canadian Ministers.
– It was Mr. Bonar Law who, on behalf of Ministers in Canada, made an announcement in regard to Canadian special representation at Washington; and the same thing occurred in connexion, with the Peace Conference.
– The honorable member is quite right. The next significant event was what took place in this and all the other Dominion Parliaments, which ratified the Peace Treaty before it operated S It was not ratified by the British Empire, or by the King on the advice of the British Government, but was actually ratified by the separate Dominion Parliaments, including . Australia. This was an important departure.
– It was ratified by Australia as part of the Empire.
– But it was a departure from the previous practice.
– And, incidentally, it gave us the advantage of eight or ten representatives, instead of five.
– I do not at all agree that that was an incidental advantage. What I contend is, that if we are to remain the British Empire, as we have known it, we must speak with one voice, and not by many and divergent voices. It . would have meant greater power and influence if the Mother Country and the representatives of the Dominions had agreed on matters as between themselves, and then spoken as one voice on behalf of the Empire.
– That is all that did happen.
– That is not all that happened.
– Although, formerly, the British Government spoke for and on behalf of the Empire, I, like other past Cabinet Ministers, know that, in matters of vitalimportance, there was a consultation with the Dominions, so that their views might be ascertained before a final determination was come to. The difficulty that might be created by what I have characterized as a revolutionary departure from previous procedure, in seeking to obtain the ratification of the Peace Treaty by the Parliaments of the Dominions, is made evident by the supposition of what would have happened had any of these Parliaments seen fit to reject the Treaty. An element of conflict has been, I think, unnecessarily introduced. I regard the League of Nations as a great and noble conception, which we should pray to God might be duly consummated. ‘ The object of the League is to do away with war, and could the people of the nations of the world be consulted, that is what I believe they would earnestly desire. Unfortunately, the possibilities of the League have been gravely and seriously maimed by the refusal of America to join it, and we wish to know if it is possible for its Constitution to be recast in such a manner that we may secure the alliance of America. It is important that that country should be consulted, because the League cannot be effective without its co-operation. It is gratifying to know that our Prime Minister is fully aware of this necessity, and of the importance of Australia living in complete amity with America, and of securing her aid in the solution of the mighty problems associated with the affairs of the Pacific. With the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), I feel that the separate and independent status which has been assumed by the Dominions, and not denied by the British Government, with whose policy it would be inconsistent to deny us anything reasonable, is calculated rather to weaken than to strengthen the Empire. Objection has been taken to it by America, and it was one of the reasons seriously urged against the ratification of the Treaty by that country. But whilst I am apprehensive as to the result of what has been’ done in this regard, I have full and complete confidence in the desire of the Dominions for harmonious government, and in the binding ties to which I have referred. I earnestly hope that we shall continue to speak, not as the declarations and resolutions would indicate, with several voices, but. with the one voice of the Empire which has hitherto been so effective. I have promised to give a few quotations from speeches of General Smuts and Sir Robert Borden in regard to the departure from precedent in the internal and external relationship of the Dominions. Whilst these gentlemen have made the declarations that I shall read, and are responsible for the resolutions which caused the departure to which I referred, I have for them the highest admiration, and the utmost belief in their loyalty to the Empire. These resolutions will not, I hope, involve the inharmonious working of the different parts of the Empire machinery; yet in the hands of other, or shall I say, unfriendly Ministers, effect might be given to them which would inevitably cause conflict and disintegration. The remarks which I shall quote are collected in an ably, written book, by BE. Duncan Hall, entitled The British Commonwealth of Nations. General Smuts, speaking in the debate at theImperial War Conference of 1917, to which I have referred, said -
Whatever we may say, and whatever we may think, we are subject provinces of Great Britain. The status of the Dominions, as equal nations of the Empire will have to be recognised to a very large extent….. I look forward to a development in the future along the line of an increasingly equal status between the Dominions and the Mother Country. . . The Union Parliament stood on exactly the same basis as the British House of Commons, which had no legislative power over the Union….. Where, in the past, British Ministers would have acted for the Dominions (in respect of foreign affairs) in future Ministers of the Union would act for the Union. The change was a far-reaching one, which would alter the whole basis of the British Empire.
He goes on to say -
We have received a position of absolute equality and freedom, not only among the other States of the Empire, but among the other nations of the world.
Later, he says -
As the result of the Conference in Paris the Dominions in future would, in regard to foreign affairs, deal through their own representatives. The Dominions of the Empire would, in future, therefore, stand on a basis of absolute equality.
The attitude here assumed is, that we are equal nations in all respects. The Dominions claim the right to deal with every other nation according to their own desires and according to their own views, irrespective of the other Dominions and irrespective of the Mother Country itself.
– Then this is a federation of nations, and not an Empire.
– This represents a radical alteration of the previous conditions and the structure of Empire relationships.
– It is a total misconception.
– And the sooner it is realized the better it will be for the Empire.
– You want to read the statement of General Smuts in the light of the conditions in South Africa.
– My friend, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Poster) points out that we have to read this statement in the light of events in South Africa. I admit the difficulties which General Smuts has so nobly and courageously faced there. I admit that he is surrounded by endless complications and troubles, but I am reminding honorable members that the attitude which he has taken up so far as South Africa is concerned is also the attitude taken up by Sir Robert Borden. I say this without in any way intending to reflect upon these gentlemen, but I undertook to prove that a grave and serious departure has really taken place, and I am quoting the statements made by these gentlemen so that honorable members may judge for themselves. In another place, General Smuts says - the occasion b eing a farewell upon his leaving England in July, 1919, and the reference to the position secured by the Dominions in the League -
The Dominions have been well launched on their great career; their status of complete nationhood has now received international recognition, and as members of the Britannic League they will henceforth go forward on terms of equal brotherhood with the other nations on the great paths of the world.
A question had been put whether South Africa had exactly the same advice and the same representation on the League of Nations as Britain. The answer was in the affirmative, “ absolutely and independently of England.”
– Is not that the policy on which he won the last election ?
– All that he has said is governed by the words ‘ ‘ as members of the Britannic League.”
– These words speak for themselves. There is no question or doubt about the position I set out to prove, namely, that these gentlemen are responsible for a grave departure in the method of governing the British Empire. I have already emphasized that hitherto all diplomatic relations, all questions of peace treaties, and, indeed, the whole foreign policy of the Empire, were the responsibility of the Mother Country, and that the Dominions spoke through the British Government. But now the claim has been made, and the position is taken up by both General Smuts and Sir Robert Borden, that the Dominions have the right to deal directly with the other nations of the world with regard to foreign and other affairs. While this declaration indicates a revolutionary departure, it may not, in the hands of loyal and friendly Dominion Ministers, be particularly harmful, and I have the most abiding confidence in both gentlemen. I believe that, notwithstanding these declarations, they will endeavour to work in thesame harmonious relations with the British Government as they have done in the past. Mr. Hall’s view is that the development in the government of the Empire since 1917 has brought about the gravest of problems arising from the new conception of the status of the Dominions. In this connexion, Lord Milner made a very important statement on behalf of the British Government. He said -
The Peace Treaty recently made in Paris was signed on behalf of the British Empire by Ministers of the self-governing Dominions, as well as by British Ministers. They were all equally plenipotentiaries of His Majesty the King, who was the “ High Contracting Party “ for the whole Empire. This procedure illustrates the new constitution of the Empire, which hasbeen gradually growing up for many years past. The United Kingdom and the Dominions are partner nations; not yet, indeed, of equal power, but for good and all of equal status.
This position has, practically been accepted by the British Empire, and by Lord Milner, Secretary of State for the Colonies, on behalf of the British Government, and it remains for us now to find the proper mode of harmonious relationships, and developing it, having regard to this expression- of view.
I admit that the status of the Dominions has been greatly improved since they first enjoyed .self-governing privileges. There has been a gradual growth and development necessarily associated with aril progressive communities, but whilst we make departures of this kind, this Parliament and our representatives must be imbued with the necessity for not disturbing the harmonious relationships which have previously existed, and of speaking with one voice, not with several voices, for and on behalf of the Empire. Mr. Hall, referring to this matter, says that the problem of Dominion status is how to reconcile the absolute equality of nationhood, and the constitutional independence demanded by the Dominions with the maintenance of the formal unity of the Empire. Another great problem he mentions is the nature and form of the machinery of government required by the group of equal States to deal with their common problems.
The honorable ember for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) mentioned another matter which I am sure the Government will readily concede. In a letter which he wrote to the press recently, Professor Harrison Moore named about eleven documents, all of a very important nature, which have relation to this subject, ,and deal with the genesis and history of the departure to which I have referred.. These documents have already been made public, and placed before Parliament in Canada, so there can really be no serious objection on the part of the Government to letting members of this Parliament have an opportunity of perusing them. The letter to which I have referred was published in the *Argus of 30th March, and I am certain that the eleven documents therein mentioned are of great importance, and’ necessary to enable us to effectively deal with this new condition of affairs.
I have indicated clearly that I would object to the creation of a rigid super-Parliament for the government of the Empire. But I urge that the circumstances of the war, and the desire for an altered status, demand closer attention to the development of some other structure of Empire government. It must be something gradually evolved and adaptable to the immediate conditions. The Empire has grown up and been governed by a process of verbal understandings and conventions, and all the difficulties that have arisen in the course of its growth have been reconciled by the process of Imperial Conferences. It is necessary that we should now establish practically a continuous process of Imperial Conferences to deal with these matters from time to time, and that the Conference should be a recognised institution at which all the Dominions might join in consultation with £he Motherland. We have had demonstrated how essential it is that there should be also, if not a Council of Defence, at any rate Conferences or a council of experts for dealing with the defence of the Empire. I am hopeful also that preferential trade, which Australia has already initiated, will play a big part in binding the various parts of the Empire together. The Prime Minister has spoken of the three all-important matters to be dealt with at the Conference - firstly, the question of foreign policy; secondly, the profound and difficult question of naval defence; and, thirdly, the equally delicate and difficult question involved in the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. I was very pleased indeed to hear the cordial references made by the Prime Minister to that Treaty. He is fully alive to the grave difficulties associated with it. I have the greatest admiration for Japan, and I dare not forget, nor dare any honorable member, the splendid services rendered by her to Australia throughout the war. She stood loyally by her alliance with the Mother Country at the most critical juncture in the history of the British Empire. Had she failed or faltered in any way the result of her defection would have been grave indeed. I am hopeful that the Prime Minister will endeavour to remove from Japan the prejudice which there exists against Australia. The Japanese people are obsessed with the idea, I am sorry to say, that Australia is ill-disposed towards them. That is entirely wrong. The most cordial good-feeling towards, and admiration of, Japan exists amongst the Australian people. We simply seek to develop our own ideals as we think best ‘in our own interests. We have a great responsibility - in developing this continent, and we must be permitted to give expression to our own views, and enforce our own ideals in furtherance of that grave and important task. “We do not seek for a moment to interfere with the development of Japan according to her ideals, and we have a right to claim that she will extend towards us the same generous consideration. If the Conference should succeed in removing any friction or the idea that there is animus on the part of the Australian people against the Japanese, a great work will have been achieved, and if the Anglo-Japanese Treaty can be renewed with the cordial approval not only of the Mother Country and the Dominions, but also of the great American nation, the peace of this nation will be permanently secured.
– The forthcoming Imperial Conference is to be held for the purpose of considering the safety of the Empire. I differ considerably from some of the preceding speakers, because, in my opinion, it depends not so much upon her foreign relations as upon the settlement of its internal troubles whether the Empire will come safely out of the existing conditions. If those who have control of the foreign policy of Great Britain will only read as they pass ‘they will observe that not only is it undesirable and impossible for an Empire Parliament to be brought into existence - that would not be tolerated in any circumstances - but that the Dominions must be held by lighter threads in future than in the past. If the Imperial statesmen cannot observe that, they are wilfully blind, and any attempt on the part of statesmen or politicians ‘of the overseas Dominions to mislead the people into taking any other view will be criminal. The sooner that fact is recognised, the better for the Empire. After all, the glory of the Empire consists in the well-being of its people, and not merely in any high-sounding name. One of the most statesmanlike acts ever performed in the history of the British Empire was when, after the South African war, the Imperial Parliament conferred self-government upon the Boers. If the British Power had attempted to hold the Boer country by a strong arm or military force they would have failed. That fact ought to “be recognised, and future British policy ought to follow the lines adopted in. South Africa rather than the policy which is operating in Ireland to-day. I know that anything I may say on the question of Ireland will be regarded askance by many honorable members of the’ House and people outside, but I reiterate my earlier remarks that the strength of the Empire consists in its internal well-being rather than in its external relationships. I have said on other occasions, and I say now, that if the British Governments of the past had had any common-sense and dealt with the Irish question as they should have done, the recent world war would not have happened. The German military leaders would not have entered the war if they had thought that Britain, with all the forces at her command, would also have been a combatant. They felt that, because there was a possibility of trouble in South Africa and India, the probability of a revolution in Ireland, as well as the political power of the Irish element and the pro-German sentiment in the United States of America, there was little likelihood of Britain entering the war. Considering all these circumstances, and realizing that at this great gathering questions of momentous importance to the Empire are to be considered, I think it would be well if the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) followed the lines adopted by General Smuts in dealing with the Boers and their association with Great Britain. The delegates should be allowed to give expression to their opinions concerning the position in Ireland, because, whether we like it or not, the troubles of Ireland have been forced upon Australia, and are reflected in Australian public life to a remarkable degree. In other words, the sooner the trouble in Ireland, which is causing so much turmoil and dissatisfaction, is settled the better it will be, not only for the Commonwealth, but for the whole of the British Dominions.
– The honorable member can also include America. ‘
– Exactly. I have already said that the German military party believed that the strong political power of the Irish element in the United States of America, combined with the pro-German sentiment, would be sufficient to keep the United States of America out of the war. As in South Africa with the Boers, who were regarded as an alien people, so is. it necessary to deal with the Irish,. because the Irishman looks upon himself as of a different race from that of the Englishman. He is proud of it, and has the right if he thinks fit, though many think it is a pity, to regard himself as such. At this gathering of British statesmen and Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominions it is to be hoped that the Irish question will be fully and favorably considered with a view of strengthening the Empire, and making it better than it is to-day. During the war it was emphatically asserted that when the conflict was over the great Irish question would be settled in an amicable manner, and that the people of Ireland would be allowed to govern themselves, and if the British Ministers had possessed ordinary common sense that right would have been granted them. Since Gladstone attempted to give Home Rule to Ireland, they have followed the_ English Parliament - I am separating “ England from Britain because the question is controlled by an English Parliament - always thinking that it would give them Home Rule. Naturally, there is a strong body of Irishmen who will not now be satisfied with what would have met their wishes a few years ago, and they are now asking for complete severance and the formation of an Irish Republic. I think it would be better for the British people to give’ Ireland a Republic rather than have to let them make it one. With Ireland populated by such a small number of people, and so close to Great Britain, the question is an important one. In my father’s time there were 9,000,000 people in Ireland, and to-day there are, I suppose, only about 4,000,000 when there should be 20,000,000. Why? Because the Irish people do not wish to be governed by an English Parliament. If British statesmen had possessed an ordinary amount of common sense they would have given Ireland Home Rule many years ago, and thus removed the menace confronting Britain to-day. In discussing such problems as this the religious question is generally introduced, but I am not dealing with the question from that stand-point. We are told that’ if we give Ireland Home Rule it would be Rome Rule. It is farcical to make such a statement, because if Great Britain were to give Ireland Home Rule the Roman Catholic workers in Ireland would be fighting the capitalists there as they are in other countries. Have we any evidence of the Roman Catholic capitalists being more considerate to the working man than the Protestant capitalists? If the British Government were to grant Home Rule they would find that instead of Ireland being controlled from Rome it would be one of the most, democratic portions of the Empire. I have always said that the section of Irish people who would not accept partial Home Rule made a great mistake, because if the Ulster counties were, excluded it would not be long before the people of Ulster would be endeavouring to be controlled by the Government in the south of Ireland. In the interests of the Empire and to prevent difficulties in the future we should look around for allies within the Empire who would be of real service. Money is being spent like water in an endeavour to secure the assistance of the stronger countries, and the British Parliament, and the statesman of Britain would do well to recognise the fact that instead of endeavouring to tighten, up the Dominions and form another Empire they should release the bonds on certain sections of their people. That would be a source of strength and not of weakness. At the Imperial ‘Conference I trust, therefore, that some consideration will be given to the Irish question, .although I am fearful that it will not be dealt with, because at such gatherings the delegates meet in caucus and consider deeply the best ally to be secured. The representatives will consider, for example, if Japan, from certain stand-points, will be a better ally, commercially, than the United ‘States of America. Attention will also be given to the question of what assistance could be rendered by the United States of America with her Navy and Army in the event of war. The diplomats of the world consider principally the possibility of trade relations with a possible ally, and that is the main point that will be discussed at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. A contented British Empire, embracing all the Dominions and all sections of that Empire, would be much better than an alliance With any Power outside, however strong that Power may be. The economic question must also be dealt with. We are jealous of our Tight to govern ourselves, and while the wisdom of such a policy is now admitted, although somewhat late, I was once condemned for saying that our legislation should not be interfered with. In the future, we shall demand the right to govern ourselves, irrespective of any veto from another part of the Empire; but, nevertheless, our statesmen might very safely consider, without going into detail, the recent industrial disturbances in the Empire. I do not believe in direct action unless we’ have the greatest numbers, or are the best armed. At the present time, direct action is impossible. For the moment, I am in favour of political action; but all civilized communities are to some degree or other interdependent, and by force of circumstances we are more dependent upon the Empire than are other parts of the Dominions. A disturbance at the heart of the Empire has more effect upon Australia than upon any other part of the Dominions. If the seamen and railway workers had joined in the coal strike in Great Britain the other day, the politics of the Home Country would have been so altered that it might not be necessary to hold this forthcoming Conference. If Britain had been thrown into an uproar by such an industrial combination, it would- have caused disruption, and there would have been no Government as we know it to-day. Therefore, it is not ,too much to ask the statesmen who meet in London to consider how light is the foundation upon which they are standing, and what the demands of the wageearning section of the community are likely to be within, the next few years. Of course, it would be futile to attempt to have Empire legislation upon the matter ; but our statesmen should fully consider whether the workers have not” some right on their side when they are endeavouring to bring about industrial upheaval. It makes one laugh to think that the only matter for consideration should be foreign relations, when, if properly handled, the Empire could beat any combination of nations which were not united, from a people’s stand-point. I know that many people will regard my utterance as that of a Labour man who has never occupied Cabinet rank, and who, in fact, has never been recognised as a leader in the great movement; but, nevertheless, the view I put forward is well worth considering, namely, that not only the foreign relations, but also the internal conditions of the Empire, should be considered at the forthcoming Conference. With all the modesty imaginable, I prophesy that if our statesmen consider both these subjects, and bring about a successful issue, they will do more to solidify the Empire thin by considering foreign relations solely, or by entering into alliances that may create future enemies and thus bring about trouble.
.- The renewal or otherwise of the AngloJapanese Alliance’ seems to be the most interesting feature of the speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the other day. He mentioned that the object of the forthcoming Conference might be classified under three headings: Foreign Relations,, Defence, and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The three subjects are interwoven. The AngloJapanese Alliance is inseparable from the consideration of foreign relations, and these, in their turn, are interwoven with the question of the defence of this, or any other Empire. Unfortunately, I have not heard the whole of the debate, but the speakers to whom I have listened seem to have got away from the question of the renewal or otherwise of the AngloJapanese Alliance, from foreign relations of the Empire, and from the subject of Defence. They have concentrated upon the status of this and other Dominions in relation to the Empire. I do not propose to follow their line of thought. My contribution to the discussion will centre upon the relationship of the Empire to the United States and Japan. Foreign Affairs, a journal ‘ of international standing, in its issue of February, 1921, contains an articles headed “ American Distrust of Our Secret Diplomacy,” written by Major Cyprian Bridge, an Imperial officer, who says -
The timeliness of Mr. Morel’s exposure in the January issue of Foreign Affairs of the extent to which this reputedly democratically governed country is at the mercy of a few designing statesmen, at any rate in respect of its international, relations, has been strikingly attested by the discussion in the Times regarding the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The simple facts of the case notoriously are that the United States, having an eye to the possibility of the development of a serious dispute between herself and Japan, and being suspicious as’ to the extent of the support which the AngloJapanese Treaty binds this country to give to her Asiatic ally under such circumstances (as she might well be after the experience of the secret treaties concluded by the British Government during the war and withheld from American knowledge until the war was over), considers it necessary to make herself supreme on sea.
Then he proceeds to comment on Lord Northcliffe’s attempt to allay America’s suspicion, as follows: -
As those who uttered them know, such protestations usually suffice to allay the fears and suspicions of the plain man, the bitter experiences of the past notwithstanding. But as a matter of fact, what are they really worth when it is remembered that owing to the power which the two Governments possess of contracting obligations towards each other without any reference whatever to their respective Parliaments or peoples, there is no possibility whatever of testing their veracity. For instance, when Lord Northcliffe confidently declares that the whole treaty has been made public and that a certain clause of it absolves Great Britain from actively supporting Japan as against America, how does he know that that is a fact? Admittedly, as a newspaper king, he wields great influence, but, nevertheless, he is not a member of the Cabinet, and so cannot personally have knowledge of the actual text of the Treaty, and may very well have been lied to by those who professed to have taken him into their confidence. Why, are we not now aware that during the years immediately preceding the late war even the Cabinet itself did not know what certain of its members were doing, and when some whisper of their “ conversations “ with France were at last heard and they were questioned on the subject, they unhesitatingly lied to Parliament, In common with the rest of the world, America knows this, and she likewise knows that she has no guarantee whatever that the successors of Sir Edward Grey, brought up in the same traditions as he was, have not contracted some similar pact or “ honorable obligation” in respect of the Japanese Alliance which, despite all denials to the contrary, may form an additional clause to the Treaty, and which, binding the people of this country to stand by Japan under all contingencies, will only be revealed when the crisis actually arises, and when it will be too late to repudiate it - even if a people which cheerfully leaves it to its Government to shape its foreign policy has the moral right to repudiate that- Government’s action.
The point of that quotation is that there is a considerable body of opinion in Britain which queries whether in the
Anglo- Japanese Treaty there may not be some secret clause which binds the Empire to side with Japan in any and every emergency. As the writer of that article has said, whether that is so we cannot, know until the proper time arrives. But we have the experiences of the past to guide us as to what is likely. “We know that, despite the Prime Minister’s statement in opening this debate, it was not the invasion of Belgium by the Germans which started the European war. If we have read the speech delivered by Earl Grey in the House of Commons prior to the entry of German troops into Belgium, we know that Britain was pledged to enter the war irrespective of whether or not a solitary German put his foot upon Belgian soil. That understanding had been arrived at with France, even though some of the members of the British Cabinet itself were absolutely ignorant of it. But Earl Grey was not ignorant of it, neither was the British Prime Minister. The European people were thus plunged into war without having been consulted in reference to the arrangement. Even the Imperial Parliament had no opportunity to discuss the matter which involved the nations of ihe world in fratricidal strife. The following article dealing with- the relations of the British Empire, the Japanese Empire, and the American Republic, appeared on page 154 of the World’s Work of “truly, 1920, under the title of “ Japan. The Peace and Destiny of Asia” -
Great Britain is- in the Far East as an outside force. Logically, her sphere of influence there comes up from the south, from India, Australia, the southern water-ways, just as the logical effective range of Japan’s influence is through the north of Asia. These two influences, one foreign to the continent of Asia, the other native, meet in the Yang- tse Valley, which divides China in the middle. The interests of these two are so logically divided geographically, their need of supporting each other, in fair policies in the East with their great combined sea power is so patent, that, though a Treaty has existed between them, the real Treaty between them would exist if it had never been written.
Even if no treaty had been written between Great Britain and Japan, a real treaty would have existed between them, because of the* common interests of these two great maritime Powers in Asia. In that country, American and Japanese interests are diametrically opposed to each other. They have been so for many years, just as in Europe, British and American commercial and. other interests are putting those nations in opposition to one another. In every line in which Germany and Britain prior to 1914 were competitors,, the position of Germany is now occupied by the United States. America has, practically stepped into the shoes of Germany as a menace to the commercial and naval supremacy of the British Empire.
As an interesting side light on the position in Asia from the stand-point of American and Japanese interests, I quote the following from the New York Nation, of 12th June, 1920: -
In Juno, 1017, according to. a report “to the Provisional Government, the Japanese were sending gendarmes secretly into Khabarovsk. In July, Viscount Motono, the Japanese Foreign Minister, complained to the Russian Ambassador in Tokio about a rumour that American capitalists had been granted concessions in the Siberian coastal region and in the island of Saghalien.
As honorable members are aware, the Japanese availed themselves of the opportunity presented by the disorder in Russia, following upon the revolution in 1917, to seize the maritime province of Siberia, including the island of Saghalien. America protested, but Japan had protested against American commercial magnates receiving concessions from the Russian Government even before the Bolshevik rising took place. In the Age newspaper of 17th August, 1920, the following statement was published : -
New York, 16th August.
It is understood at Washington that the Japanese Government’s reply to the American protest against the Japanese occupation of Saghalien Island is not considered satisfactory. It is believed that Japan has not receded from any position she assumed and to which the United States has taken exception. Japan claims that Saghalien is virtually part of Nikolaevsk, and that it is therefore subject to Japanese occupation, due to the Nikolaevsk massacre. It is also understood that the reply further points out that the creation of a Siberian buffer State is essential, in order to prevent the spread of Bolshevism, and intimates that the occupation of Saghalien depends upon the military contingency.
Then on the 2i2nd September, 1920, the cause of this contention between America and Japan was disclosed- in the Herald, which published the following : -
The Times correspondent at Tokio states that the Japanese are busy developing the oil-fields of Saghalien.
So that when Japan sought to obtain a mandate from her Allied friends in order that she might enter Siberia, and occupy the oil-bearing portion of it, whilst France and England were agreeable to the granting of it, America, through President Wilson, objected, and eventually, sue- “ceeded in getting rid of the J apanese from that portion of Asia. An article in the Nev: York Nation, bearing upon this point, concludes: -
The Japanese occupation of Vladivostock may not cause friction with America. But serious difficulties are almost certain to develop in the future, when American business men discover that they have been completely shut out of the rich Siberian market by the Japanese possession of the port. Then a situation may be created which will baffle the powers of conciliation, even of that august body the League of Nations.
These brief quotations east an illuminating light on the position of Japan and America in the East. The quotation I have given from The World’s Work, showing, as it does, that the interests of Great Britain and Japan are so identical that, in their own interests, their combined Naval Forces must be used whether there is a treaty in existence or not, is deserving of grave consideration on the part of the working men and women of not only Australia, but Great Britain, the United States of America, and Japanese Empire. Just a3 in Great Britain and Germany prior to 1914 there was a , press campaign on both sides whipping up the people of the nations concerned, to the requisite pitch at which they would be prepared to fight, so in the British-speaking world to-day, now that the United States of America has taken the place that Germany occupied as a commercial competitor with Great Britain, there is a well conducted propaganda, even in our own local press, as well as in the press of the Empire generally, and that of the United States of America, which is surely working up the war fever in both nations, so that when the patriotic profiteers of both nations think the time is fit, the two English-speaking nations will be hurled at one another’s throats to determine what particular gang of parasites shall rule the world. In the Fortnightly Review, for March, 1921, there appeared an article entitled “ Oil as an Anglo-American Irritant,” by Sydney Brooks, which has some bearing on this view. The writer says -
The war, however, has brought about a tremendous upheaval in the outlook and ambitions, and, to a scarcely smaller extent, in the financial and industrial conditions and possibili-ties of the American people. From being a debtor Nation to the tune of £800,000,000, they have become a creditor nation to the tune of £2,400,000,000; and this revolutionary change has filled them with the desire to cut a great figure in international finance. They are now sending abroad proportionately smaller quantities of raw materials and of foodstuffs, and proportionately larger quantities of partly and wholly manufactured goods than ever before; and the many new points of contact they established during the war with foreign markets have fired them with the ambition to maintain and develop an external trade comparable with that of Great Britain. Again, the necessities of the war brought them a new interest in the merchant marine. Whereas only about 8 per cent, of America’s imports and exports were carried in 1913 in American bottoms, to-day the percentage is at least 30 .per cent., and is probably higher; and every one knows that both the .people and the Congress of the United States are determined, if they possibly can, to increase it. They seem to have quite made up their minds that all American exports and a large part of American imports are to bc borne in American ships.
Thus the three spheres of business activity which have long had a peculiar interest for us in Great Britain - the carrying trade, international finance, and foreign commerce - are precisely the spheres which the Americans are now invading in force. The statesmen and the advocates of Anglo-American good-will who ignore these facts, or attempt to belittle their acrimonious significance, will be making, in my belief, a very bad mistake. Americans feel themselves capable of capturing, and have set themselves to carry by storm, the position which Groat Britain has held for over sixty years as the chief financial and carrying power of the universe and the nerve-centre of a world-wide trade.
The writer goes on to say -
But it is clear that this new-born financial and commercial rivalry contains some not remote possibilities of friction. Nor do they stand alone. British supremacy at sea, for instance, depends on battleships as well as on the mercantile marine; and the Americans seem as determined to build a bigger Navy than ours as to dispute our predominance in the trade routes, and to cut into our foreign coal business. It is the last word . in the ironies of the war that it should either have committed us to a wasteful, and, in the long run, a hopeless naval competition with the United States, or else have forced us to revise one of the first maxims of British policy, and admit that a supreme Navy is no longer essential to the safety of the Realm and the Empire.
This quotation goes to show that the view I have expressed, on. this subject is not merely something that has been conjured up by an over-heated imagination. There is quite a literature on the subject of the competition that has sprung up since the war, between the United States of America and the British Empire. For instance, an article published over the name of J. Elliott Barker, entitled, “ Coal and Shipping - The American Development,” gives an insight into the way in which the United States of America has cut into the British coal trade. It is stated in the Herald of the 16th August, 1920, that- t ,
Last year the United States exported nearly 21,000,000 tons of coal to markets in Europe and South America, to which, in the year’ before the war, she sent only about 1,500,000 tons. This American competition in markets which were once virtually the monopoly of Great Britain, taken in conjunction with the decrease in British production and .the control of British exports, is viewed seriously by business men in Great Britain.
So much for coal. In the Manchester Gurdian, of 4th February last, there appeared an article by the financial editor, “ in which it was stated that a new organization, the Foreign Trade Financing Corporation - has recently been established in the United States with a capital of 100,000,000 dollars, and it may be surmised that Mr. Booth’s visit to Europe is not unconnected with the development of the organization. .
This is an organization for the purpose of financing American trade with Europe, and the methods adopted are similar to those followed in other countries to popularize war loans, &c. The writer, in referring to this Foreign Trade Corporation says -
Its stock-holders will be made up of the large banks and industrial interests of the United States of America, and it will be under the general supervision of the Federal Reserve Board. It is organized under special law, and will be allowed to issue debentures to the extent of ten times its capital, or one billion dollars. These debentures will have as their basis the collateral engendered by loans abroad for extended periods, and will be sold in small denominations to individual investors throughout tlie United States.
That, I suppose, is with the object of giving them a stake in the next war. It is somewhat similar to the plan adopted during the war period of getting the people to subscribe in small amounts to the war loans in order that they might themselves have an interest in the war.
We find that in other commercial lines, such as cotton . manufacture, there is the same competition being engaged in that has occurred in connexion with coal and shipping. It is stated that -
The Southern bunkers who are attending the convention of the American Bankers Association at Washington have authorized the formation of a 12,000,000-dollar (£2,400,000) corporation to aid the exportation of cotton. The stock for half the capital will be issued at once to bankers and exporters.
This movement is expected to solve the problem of export to Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, and other European nations. Other commodities raised in the southern States will be handled. Although cotton has “ slumped “ to 20 cents, sales arc not being made, and the Corporation plans immediate action at the American end.
And in connexion with steel manufactures, I find Sir Robert Hadfield, a British expert, stating - “ Tlie country as a whole.” he declares, “ has not the steel mind. Yet steel is the supreme key industry of Great Britain; practically all forms of industry need steel in some way. “ I clare say it will come as a surprise to the majority who read this article to know that the United States has an output of all sorts of steel of about four times as much as this country. It is a matter of tens of millions of tons per annum. Even allowing for the greater population and the fact that America is a new country, this is startling. “ Great Britain to-day is manufacturing between 10,000,000 and 11,000,000 tons of steel a year. America is manufacturing between 37,000,000 and 40,000,000 tons. Germany, too, in the past, has been a long way ahead of us. “ We have dropped tens of millions of tons behind in the steel-making race. Let that disturbing fact be pondered and allowed to soak in. It is a very serious matter. “The question of coal also looms, upon the disturbing scene. From 2 to 24 tons of coal are required to produce a ton of steel. One may, therefore, be forgiven for saying the outlook is not altogether as it should be. “ Steel and progress must go hand in hand. The stone age, the wood age, the ordinary iron age, are past; this is the steel age, and this country must buckle to and make more steel if it is to keep up with the times.”
From the Argus of the 27th September, I make the following quotation on this subject -
The American Steel Corporation is seeking to monopolize the supply of products’ on the Continent. First came the establishment in Germany of the “ Amstea “ Company, a subsidiary of the United States Steel ‘ Products
Corporation. The Steel Trust’s- selling end, the “Amstea” company had already sold 75,000 tons of Ship’s plates to German yards.
More important still, it is announced from Paris that Stinnes, Tyssen’s (the leading German iron masters), Schneider (the Austrian munitions company), Creusot (the well known French munition firm), the United States Steel Corporation, and the National City Bank, both of which are linked up with the Standard Oil Company, have reached an agreement aiming at the exclusion of British industry in the reconstruction of Europe.
The Americans are also negotiating for the purchase or lease of the shipbuilding yard at Reval, with the idea of distributing steel products in the Baltic countries, and are offering to supply Esthonia with coal for a period of years.
Without going exhaustively into various branches of trade, it is clear that in steel, coa], cotton, mercantile shipping, and in the competition for the naval supremacy of the world, as I said at the commence-‘ ment of my speech, for all practical purposes, America has taken the place of Germany as the country menacing the commercial and naval supremacy of Great Britain. It is interesting in this connexion to hear what Earl Haig had’ to say in a speech that he made at St. Andrew’s University on 15th May, 1919, when he warned the students of the danger of Chinese and Indians flooding the world’s markets to the exclusion of European made goods as a result of the lower standard of living of the yellow men. To avert the danger, he urged the raising of the eastern civilization to the level of that prevailing in Europe. He went on to say -
Only thus could the terrible pressure of economic competition be prevented from driving whole continents into war.
Earl Haig evidently belongs to the increasing school of thought which believes that it is the economic rivalry amongst nations who have become huge workshops, though the competitors have, been greatly reduced by the process of elimination, that results in the nations of the world being thrown at one another’s throats from time to time. No doubt, he has had before him the history of the British Empire. He has marked its rise from the old conflicts with the Dutch, with the Spanish, with the French, and with the Germans, and he recognises that it is now face to face with -what some are pleased to term “ our kinsmen across the sea.” Some, no doubt, and I hope their views will prove to be correct, will say that a conflict between the United States of America and Great Britain is impossible because of the ties of blood and kindred between the nations. But we should not forget that the greatest war of the last century took place between men of the same blood, and fathers,sons, and brothers were found fighting against each other. I refer to the great American Civil War. That wasa conflict which was confined to the boundaries of the United States of America. As various writers have pointed out, where the issue is one of commercial or economic supremacy, it is the strongest battalions and the most powerful warships and heaviest armament, and not the silken bonds of kinship, that decide.
Apart from the question of commercial rivalry, there are other considerations which cannot be lost sight of, such, for instance, as the control of the island of Yap, which has been handed over by the League of Nations to the Japanese, whose control of the island is disputed by the United States of America. There is a cable station at Yap, and we can understand the attitude taken up by the United States of America when we find the following evidence given by Mr. Newcome Carlton, President of the Western Union Telegraph and Cable Company, before the United States Senate Sub-Committee on the cable question -
Ten days after messages have been transmitted copies of them are turned over to the British Secret Service, which keeps them for twenty-four hours, and then returns them. No exception is made, and the American official despatches, like the despatches of all other countries, are included. But I have reason to believe that no examination is made of them.
I have been assured that official messages have not even been inspected, but they are in the physical possession of the authorities while other messages are being inspected.
That is a statement which may serve to show what is behind the claim of the United States of America Government to control the cable stations through which her cables run. Certain American messages, and even diplomatic communications, which, by international law, are supposed to be inviolate, are, according to the evidence of this gentleman in the hands of the British Secret Service for at least twenty-four hours.
Apart from the various grounds for disagreement, to put it mildly, between the United States of America and the British Empire, the question that dominates all others at the present time is, I think, that of the possession of the sources of the oil supply of the world. Although America ‘at present controls 80 per cent. of the supplies, we are told by her experts that she has only eighteen years’ supply in sight. On the other hand, Great Britain, in the words of one of the directors of the principal oil companies under British influence, is “sitting tight” on the undeveloped sources of the supplies of the world. We have to consider that 80 per cent. of the great mercantile fleet built by the American Shipping Board is oil burning, whereas only 5 per cent. of the British mercantile marine is equipped with oilburning devices. The American railways, large numbers of American industries, and a great fleet of American motor cars, estimated to number something like 7,000,000, are, in addition to the mercantile marine, consuming oil, and, despite the enormous supplies under American control, that country has to import, I believe, some 80,000,000 gallons from Mexico in order to meet her present demand. As her experts have stated, America finds her whole commercial structure and her mercantile marine menaced by the fact that she has only eighteen years’ supply of oil in sight. There is the other no less patent fact that just as Germany, prior to the outbreak of the war in 1914, wherever she turned for commercial or colonial expansion, found the desirable places of the earth occupied by the British. Empire, so America to-day, when she sends out her explorers or diplomatic “ commercial travellers ‘’ to seek for fresh undeveloped sources of oil supply, invariably finds that Great Britain has been there ahead and monopolized them. It is very interesting in this connexion to read in the Oil News of the 1st January of this year the following : -
The year 1921 opens with petroleum a definite factor in national and international policy and diplomacy. Where one can imagine the nations of the old régime disputing for territory as such, one now actually finds them disputing for this or that oil-field. This new phase of petroleum history is the chief feature that distinguishes 1921 from all the years that went before it. To what it will lead we cannot, any of us, be quite sure; but we maypredict with perfect confidence that the oil policy of any of the principal nations will be a chief department in its diplomacy.
President Harding, when running for election as a Republican candidate for the Presidency, is thus quoted in the Argus of 12th October of last year -
Senator Harding, the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States, speaking at Oklahama, mentioned that while the Wilson Administration sought to impose its altruism upon the world, Great Britain had acquired the control of 90 per cent. of the world’s oil supply. He added: - “There is a real danger that Americans may presently find themselves cut off from equal opportunities.”
It is always one’s own party or nation that isaltruistic; it is the other fellow who is engaged in monopolizing the oil supply or in carrying out some equally sinister design. Some little while ago we were discussing in this Parliament the agreement made by the Australian Government with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. It is interesting to trace the history of that company. We find that it was brought into existence as a result of the activities of Mr. Darcy, at one time manager of one of the mines on the Mount Morgan field, and who went exploring for oil in Persia. He was taken up by Lord Fisher, the head of the British Admiralty, and by Mr. G. E. Prettyman, and in 1905 they urged theBurmah Oil Company and the late Lord Strathcona to provide funds to enable Mr. Darcy to carry on his exploration of the deposits. In 1909 the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was constituted, and the British Government took shares in it at the instigation of Lord Fisher and Mr. Winston Churchill. In 1914, just prior to the outbreak of the war, the British Government obtained a predominant interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and Mr. Walter Long, First Lord of the Admiralty, said -
If we can secure the supplies of oil now available in the world, we can do what we like.
We find that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has now become a huge combination, embracing the Royal Dutch, the Shell Transport, and the Mexican Eagle group of companies controlled by the Pearson Brothers, one of whom is known as Lord Cowdray. The Royal Dutch Company was incorporated in 1890, and the Shell Transport Company was formed in London in 1897. Sir Marcus Samuel had combined with the Royal Dutch and the Rothschilds’ groups in 1903, and they were amalgamated in 1907. In 1919 this combination was joined by the Mexican Eagle group; and the Burmah Oil Company, in which the British Government holds shares, as in the Anglo-Persian Company, is now allied or combined with the Royal Dutch, the Shell Transport, and the Rothschilds’ group, which prior to the war controlled the Roumanian oil wells, and also had interests in the Baku wells. This vast combination of powerful companies, which is in reality controlled by the British Government, has again amalgamated with another group. In the Manchester Guardian of 5 th November, under the headings “ Petrol War in France,” “ The New Forces of Shell and Standard.” we find the following: -
The announcement of the Anglo-French oil combination of Zaharoff and the AngloPersian Company is now the focus of interest of the financial world in Paris. The new company, in which, according to French company law, the majority of shares will be held on this side, notably by the Banque de la Seine and the Zaharoff interests, follows on the heels of the American-French combine, in which the partners are the Standard Oil and the Banque de Paris et Pays-Bas.
Behind the thin screen of their legal constitution every one sees two colossal adversaries face to face - Standard Oil and the Shell. Even such remarkable figures as A. C. Bedford, Bordonou of the Banque de Paris, exAmbassador Cambon, Sir Basil Zaharoff himself, and Admiral Ronarch, all of whom are engaged by one side or the other, sink into insignificance beside these two petrol monopolies at peaceful war. Nominally the stakes are the petrol trade with France, but every one politically wise thinks he understands where the eyes of both are turned, now the board is set and the pieces are in their places.
The Standard, by getting in the first blow, has gained a temporary advantage. But this is much more than compensated for by the weapons - notably the San Remo convention - in the hands of the British concern. The Shell, too, seems to have weightier allies in France. The commercial influence of the Greek magnate is enormous against that of the Banque de Paris in high finance and the Bourse. The issue of this petrol war is of widest interest, and is not confined to the actual battle-field of France.
This combination, controlled by the British Government, is, therefore, face to face with that other huge oil combine, the Standard Oil Company, which, in its. turn, is being backed up by the financial and offensive power of the United States Republic. We are further told in “ The
Anglo-American Fight for Oil,” an article in Stead’s Review -
The Shell Transport, the Mexican Eagle, and, above all, the Royal Dutch companies, were recently very prominent on the Paris Exchange. It is said that the shares which have been dealt in were brought to France in diplomatic portmanteaux! The shares of the Royal Dutch Company, whose nominal value is 1,000 florins, went up to 72,000 francs, and the movement of capital was so great that it influenced the Anglo-French Exchange. Soon after the shares foll to 25,000 francs; “but,” says M. Delaisi, “the manoeuvre had been successful, and the French pocket-book is now stuffed with a considerable quantity of share certificates in English oil companies, and France is now directly interested in the continued .prosperity of the English trust, and is, therefore, naturally inclined to accept whatever proposals the British Government make in the matter.” According to M. Delaisi, these proposals are that the door shall be closed against American oil companies in all the possessions and spheres of influence of France.
The Royal Dutch Company has been most prominent in the matter. It has offered to collaborate with the French Government in the search for, and exploitation of, oil fields, promising to reserve a definite part of the production for France. The company is prepared to put at the disposition of France all its organization, technical, industrial, commercial, and financial-
That sounds like the offer of the AngloPersian Oil Company to the Commonwealth Government - in all the countries and districts where France may have need of its help. “ It was a serious mutter,” says M. Delaisi, “ for France to practically hand over the exploitation of the French oil resources to an English trust, especially as the United States was showing itself very dissatisfied with the whole business. At this moment, however, Lloyd George and Lord Curzon took a hand, the latter saying, “ Sign the agreement with the Royal Dutch, and you will have Syria.”
In other words, the British Government, in order to secure supremacy for this Trust, which it dominates, in its conflict with the Standard Oil Company and the American Government, made a trade agreement with France, and, so as to persuade France to consent, Lloyd George handed over Syria to the tender mercies of France, in order that the world’ might be made safe for Democracy and AngloPersian oil. Sir Auckland Geddes, the British Ambassador in New York, is referred to by the New York Nation, on 5th June, of last year, as follows: -
Sir Auckland Geddes is a cheerful person to have around in a world full of cares. He began his ambassadorship by showing us we need not worry about Ireland, as that annoying place was a strictly British concern. He now removes oil from the troubled waters of international controversy. Under Ais deft manipulation we learn that the United States has most of the oil of the world, and that Britain controls so tiny a portion of the producing oil fields as not to be worth mention among gentlemen. This is much as if a banker pleaded penury for his bank because the gold in his vaults was not such a lot. By omitting Britain’s potential supplies and by scoring up America’s rapidly exhausting supplies, Sir Auckland makes his after-dinner case. British policy at this .time does not concern itself primarily with producing oil. British policy, as Sir E. Mackay Edgar says, is to sit tightly on several potential oil fields of the world. It uses the method of the Marathon runner, and lets the United States sprint itself to death on the first mile.
The question that we have to consider is whether we are going to be like the Syrians, handed over without any say in the matter, to either one or the other of these gigantic Trusts, the American or the British, whether we are going to be simply utilized as helpless pawns in the game, and whether history is going again to repeat itself, with the people robbed and fooled into another world catastrophe, in order, to decide which of these two competing groups shall monopolize the oil supply of the world, and consequently dominate the economic situation. We were told that the Empire went to war for “ a scrap of .paper,” and because Great Britain had guaranteed the integrity of Belgium, yet we know that in 1907 Russia under the Czar, and Great Britain’ under Edward the Peacemaker, although they had guaranteed the integrity and political independence of Persia, divided that country between them without consulting its people, and now when the Persians are attempting to get rid of the British Army of occupation, the British controlled Force, by a coup d’état, has obtained power there, so that the country may be “ made safe for Democracy “ and Anglo-Persian oil. Mr. Lloyd George is reported on page’ 662, volume 127, of the House of Commons Debates of 1920, to have said regarding the British occupation of Mesopotamia -
You might abandon the country altogether; that I could understand; but I cannot understand withdrawing partly and withdrawing from the more important and promising part of Mesopotamia. Mosul is a country with great possibilities. It has rich oil deposits.
Therefore, the Arabs must be taught western civilization, and Mesopotamia must be made “ safe for Democracy “ and Anglo-Persian oil. In the New Statesman of 16th May, 1920, published in London, there is this statement -
Neither of the Mandatory powers has yet, apparently, forgotten the Sykes-Picot agreement which parcelled out territories as “ French zones “ and “ British zones,” and “ spheres of influence.” Both M. Millerand and Mr. Lloyd George have made remarkably frank speeches about the oil of Mosul, and we hear talk now of the French being guaranteed the right of 25 per cent. of this same Mosul oil, with hints of the designs of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the Shell Group, the Petroleum Department of the British Government, and certain covetous activities of the oil men of the United States. All this may, of course, redound to the great profit of the natives of Mesopotamia. But we confess that it would be rather more reassuring to hear something of the responsibilities of our mandate, and a good deal less of the advantages we or our rivals are to get from this oil.
The United States of America have strongly objected, and, according to the Manchester Guardian, have sent a firm note regarding the making of Mesopotamia “ safe for Democracy,” and asserting their own oil claims. They object to the British’ mandate excluding American oil men from developing Mesopotamia’s oil resources. The SanRemo oil agreement, besides handing over the French sources of oil supply, provides for the monopolization of the oil resources of Mesopotamia by Prance and Great Britain to the exclusion of all others. And this self-same British Imperial group of oil companies has entered into an agreement with the late owners of the oil wells of Baku, in Russia, topur chase their control on condition that the Soviet regime is overturned within ten years. Judging by present indications, I do not think that the prospective owners will fare better than the late owners; I hope not. Although the oil wells in Eastern Galicia belong to Ukrania, they were handed over to Polish control, because of the influence of the Rothschild group, which owns them. The AngloPersian, Royal Dutch, and Shell Transport group is allied with the Rothschild group, and the Mexican Eagle group, controlled by Lord Cowdray, so that we can see how oil has lubricated the machinery of international diplomacy. Wherever you turn, you find the same phenomena, and relations are becoming more and more strained between the two countries most concerned. According to Sir Robert Best, we should be thankful to the Japanese for their help in the late war, and in the convoying of troops, and so on, yet this is how the Melbourne Herald of 7th October last talks of our Allies who have done us this inestimable service -
Another fact of great significance is that Japan is the only autocracy left in the world. Her parliamentary system is not at all democratic, and the persons who control her destinies are the “ Elder statesmen,” a very close corporation of nobles. Recent Japanese labour troubles have shown that industrial conditions are as bad as they were more than a century ago in western countries. Labour has not yet gained the real right of organization. Every effort is made to check the growth of trade unionism. Japan’s existing rights in Korea and Manchuria give abundant room for the expansion of her population. Her claims in China, a country already over-populated, and with its own sovereign rights and high civilization, are open to question. American opinion has naturally been made suspicious by Japanese claims in so many spheres. Sources of friction between Japan and the AngloSaxon nations are likely to remain until she becomes a Democracy, capable of co-operating with other democratic nations in the peaceful settlement of international problems.
In 1924 the American Navy will be superior to the British Navy in tonnage, armament, and speed. American statesmen declare that they are out for the greatest navy in the world. They wish to control the world’s commerce in regard to coal, steel, and the mercantile marine, and the natural corollary is the biggest navy in the world. Yet Australian statesmen say that they are going to bring about an alteration of the AngloJapanese Alliance which will make oil and water mix.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Higgs) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Laird Smith) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to make a personal reference to a paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne
Argus on Saturday last concerning myself. As the matter has been given a good deal of publicity, it is only fair to myself that I should take this, my first, opportunity of explaining the circumstances which led up to my occupying such an unenviable position. Like a good many other people, there have been times when I have done things which would have been better left undone, and said things better left unsaid. In a moment of weakness a little over two years ago I came to the rescue of a personal friend by indorsing certain notes for a considerable sum of money, which notes I subsequently had to meet.
– We have all been in the same position.
– I hope I shall not be caught again. At the time I was doing my friend a service. As a matter of fact, my action saved him from financial wreckage. It was no fault of his that he failed to meet his obligations when they became due. Not having the necessary money at the time, I had to make certain arrangements. I borrowed portion of the money to meet the obligations which I had shouldered, expecting that my friend would be able subsequently to get out of the difficulty in which he was placed. Unfortunately, misfortune dogged his footsteps; so I was called upon, during my recent absence from Victoria, to meet my obligations, certain letters sent to me being placed in my letterbox in Parliament House to await my return from New South Wales and Queensland. Immediately upon my arrival I complied with the demand for payment contained in one of the letters from the solicitors, but, unfortunately, not in time to prevent publicity, as, owing to my silence, due, as I have explained, to my absence from Melbourne, “the solicitors took certain action to obtain the money. The transaction was given publicity in the press; but immediately I heard of it through the medium of the Geelong press - I had not noticed the paragraph in the Melbourne Argus on Saturday - I came to Melbourne and settled the matter satisfactorily, receiving from the solicitors an assurance that the circumstances were most regrettable, and that they did not blame me in any way. They even went so far as to refund me my expenses in connexion with the matter. Their action, I think, entirely exonerated me from any blame attachable to the unfortunate position, and I feel I am justified in my own interests, and the interests of the people I represent in this House, in making this statement to-night.
.- I shall be glad if the Prime Minister is in a position to make any statement concerning the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the position at the Cockatoo Island dockyard, to which reference was made this afternoon. I should like to know if he has ascertained the feelings of honorable members as to the constitution of the proposed Commission.
.- When this question was put to me by the honorable gentleman at an earlier hour in the day, I said that the interim report of the Departmental Committee disclosed a state of affairs which, in my opinion, called for immediate action, and that, in order to insure immediate action, the Government proposed to utilize the Departmental Committee and add to ‘. a judicial officer. When it was suggested that the Committee should be composed of members of Parliament, I said that if the House expressed a desire in that direction I would be prepared to consider it. Since then I have taken the opportunity of consulting a considerable number of members, and I find there is a general feeling that the personnel should consist of members of this House. I have no objection to constituting a Commission on these lines, but I have to emphasize the urgency of this inquiry, the difficulties that it will involve, and to remind the House that in 1915, when a Committee was appointed to inquire into matters arising- out of the construction of the Brisbane, that Committee sat for very many weeks, collected voluminous evidence and, I Think I may say without offence to honorable members, it found out nothing. Now, when I consent to follow the wishes of honorable members in regard to this inquiry, i’t must be distinctly understood that the Commission is to be appointed, not to proceed in that somewhat leisurely manner, in which, on occasions, . Commissions conduct their affairs. There are many reasons why that ought not to be so in this case. One is that until this Commission has investigated and reported nothing can be done to give employment to those men who were recently discharged. That, in itself, is an excellent reason for expedition. The other is that, in the very nature of things, the Government cannot consent to find work of any kind, either naval or mercantile shipbuilding, unless and until this matter is probed to the very bottom. Therefore,the Government will agree to appoint a Royal Commission of seven members. We shall invite the Opposition to nominate two, and the Country party one, and we shall nominate four from this side of the House. I shall require the names of the nominees to-morrow afternoon. The Commission will he made out, and I hope that without any delay honorable members who are appointed to the Commission will so arrange their affairs as to enable them to proceed forthwith to Sydney to conduct the inquiry.
.- The Prime Minister referred to a Committee which had inquired into the construction of the Brisbane, and “ found nothing.” If he will peruse the report of that Committee he will realize that they found something, and made’ recommendations, some of which the Government put in operation, and which materially altered the state of affairs then existing at the island in connexion with theaccountancy, the stores department, and various other matters. In regard to the present trouble at Cockatoo Island, I know no more than do other honorable members; hut it is evident that something has come to light recently to necessitate this very searching inquiry. How did this information come out? It came out because of the action of the Government in dismissing the whole of the men employed on the island practically without notice. Those men, who knew something, and who, because their bread and butter was at stake previously, dare not open their mouths, began to talk, and some honorable members received certain information which forced the hands of the Government and this House. The position to-day is different from what it was at the time to which the Prime Minister ref erred, and it is unfair for the right honorable gentleman to cast aspersions on a Committee that did valuable work in regard to Cockatoo Island and other matters. If the Government would take notice of, and give effect to, the findings of that Committee, it would save a lot of money, and confer an advantage on the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 April 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210413_reps_8_94/>.