10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether any decisions were arrived at by the conference recently held in Sydney to discuss the claims of the Performing Eights Association, and if he can make any statement concerning it?
– The various parties interested were invited by the Government to come together, and the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department went to Sydney to preside at a conference between them. He was there merely as an observer, to learn facts, and pass them on to the Commonwealth Government. I am glad to say that considerably more than mere discussion took place at the conference, and that agreement on a number of questions was arrived at. The conference, which was representative of all the interests concerned, met at the Commonwealth Bank on Friday and Saturday last. Many outstanding causes of friction were fully discussed and explained, and a basis of agreement arrived at with respect to future charges for copyright. As a result of the negotiations the Australian Performing Bights Association agreed to a proposal for a’ reduction in the copyright charges to 10 per cent, on the first £100,000, and 5 per cent, thereafter, and also agreed to increase the number of performances from the original 8,400 performances to 15,000 performances per annum. The association is prepared to try this arrangement for two years commencing on the 1st August, 1926. The number of licences at present in use in Australia is 125,047.. The reduction in the rate as agreed upon, therefore represents an immediate concession by the copyright owners of more than £1,250. At 125,000 licences the position would be: -
The concession represents a cash equivalent of £1,250.
At 150,000 licences the position would be: -
The concession would represent a cash equivalent of £2,500.
At 200,000 licences the position would be.-
The concession would represent a cash equivalent of £5,000.
In addition to the above financial concession the number of performances has been increased from the original 8,400 to 15,000 performances. As an additional percentage was charged for any increase over the number stipulated this new basis represents a most substantial concession. The full concession gained, therefore, including the increased items represents a reduction of from approximately 15 per cent, to 10 per cent, on the first 100,000, and from 15 per cent, to 5 per cent, on the second 100,000. The PerformingRights Association has given a definite undertaking that items will not be withheld or withdrawn from programmes without ample notice being given to the broadcasting companies. With regard to “ B “ class station, which receive no revenue, the Performing Eights Association expressed their willingness to meet them in any reasonable way. A definite proposal was submitted, and it is intended to convene a conference representative of such stations at an early date, when it is expected that agreement will be reached. The question of general copyright charges - apart from wireless - as applied to picture theatres, shire halls, cafes, and restaurants was also discussed. A meeting of the parties interested will be held at an early date to formulate a basis of agreement. It is satisfactory to note that the conference was unanimous in its appreciation of the results achieved.
I have had an opportunity of perusing the shorthand writer’s report of the discussion which took place, and from this it is clear that the “ A “ stations are quite satisfied with the arrangements that have been made. I hope it will be found that the conference has put an end to the difficulty’ of arriving at a basis of agreement mutually acceptable to the interests concerned.
– Does not the Government intend, by regulation or otherwise, to control the charges for copyright? How is the public being considered in this matter?
– The copyright laws have been framed in accordance with an international convention, and, therefore, cannot be lightly altered. . The Commonwealth has no power to fix copyright fees.
” Morning Post “ Committee.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement appearing in to-day’s Age to the effect that the London Morning Post has formed a migration committee, which is working in co-operation with an Australian government . committee, and will assist the migration of 200 British miners, who are to be absorbed in the Commonwealth as agriculturists. It is suggested that this -will demonstrate what can be done with Great Britain’s surplus labour. The Age paragraph goes on to set out the names of the members of the Morning Post committee. Is there any truthin the statement that the Government is co-operating with this committee? If so, has the Government secured land for these intending settlers, and does the Prime Minister consider that British miners are likely to make successful agriculturists? . Further, is there any possibility that after their arrival here they may drift into the already overcrowded labour market, especially in the coal-fields, where there’.are already many migrants who are unemployed?
– I have no knowledge of the matter; the Commonwealth Government has received no communication regarding it. Whatever is being done would be a matter for the States, as no migrants are brought here except at the request of the States, or upon nominations approved by a State Government. Furthermore, migrants settled on the land come under some State scheme. The Commonwealth does not own land except in the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory. Land settlement schemes are solely the responsibility of the States.
– Has the Government yet received the report of the royal commissioner who visited Norfolk Island, and, if so, when will it be made available to honorable members?
– The report was received a few days ago, and is now being considered by the Government. I cannot, at this moment, say when it will be presented to the House.
– May honorable members take it for granted that the Government, in making the important appointments to the Development and Migration Commission, and the Northern Territory Commission, that are pending, will follow the usual practice of giving preference to returned soldiers.
– The policy of preference to returned soldiers is invariably followed in all appointments made by the Government.
– Does the Prime Minister agree with the opinion expressed by the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson), during the week-end, that the League of Nations is a possible menace to the White Australia policy? In view of the wide publicity given by newspapers overseas to statements of that character, will the Prime Minister, if he’ does not endorse the views of the Minister, advise the delegates to the League of Nations accordingly?
– It is not customary to express opinions in reply to questions, but the honorable member knows quite well that only by withdrawing a passage from its context could any statement made by the Minister seem to cast a reflection upon the League of Nations.
– In view of the decision of the Government to train youths for the Navy at Flinders, will the Minister for Defence say what the Government intends to do with the valuable property known as Osborne House, Geelong, which, with adjoining lands, was given to the nation conditional on its being used as a training base for the Australian Navy.
– The Government has not decided what it will do with the property referred to.
Rail Conveyance of Staff Officers and Men
– Some time ago I asked, for the Minister for Defence, a question relating to the cost of conveyance by the railways of military staff officers and men. When will the information be furnished ?
– I regret that there has been some delay in answering the honorable member’s question, but I hope to make the information available to him to-morrow.
– I recently asked some questions of the Minister for Markets and Migration about the dairying industry, the savings effected by the Dairy Export Control Board, and the importations of butter from New Zealand. I was informed that the information was being obtained.
– I am still awaiting the information sought by the honorable* member, but as soon as it arrives I shall make it available to him.
– When will the personnel of the Northern Territory Commission be announced?
– At an early date, I hope.
” For the Term of His Natural Life.”
– As some opposition has been expressed in another place to the filming of “For the Term of his Natural Life,” upon which £40,000 is being spent, and in which a large number of Australian artists has been engaged, will the Minister for Trade and Customs take particular care that this Australian film has every chance of success?
– The Minister has no power to deal with the production of pictures within Australia, but power is given to the Customs Department to prevent the exportation of undesirable pictures. The film referred to, unless the subject is very carefully treated, will be an undesirable picture for screening abroad, and I shall take particular care to examine any film that it is proposed to send abroad ostensibly to portray Australian conditions.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Sir Nicholas Lockyer’s Report
– On the 23rd July, I promised thehonorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), that I would consult with Sir Nicholas Lockyer in regard to the question of printing the documents which were submitted to him in connexion -with his inquiries into the financial conditions of Tasmania. I now desire to inform the honorable member that I have received a communication from Sir Nicholas Lockyer pointing out that the “Case for Tasmania,” a rather lengthy document in pamphlet form, was printed by the Tasmanian Government and widely distributed. This document was prepared under authority of the State Government by the Honorable A. G. Ogilvie, Attorney-General, and the Honorable Tasman Shields, M.L.C. Both State Houses and both political parties were represented by these gentlemen, who had at their command, for the purpose of their statement, the expert State officers as well as the various local authorities interested- in the subjects. Sir Nicholas states that, in the preparation of his report, careful attention was given to all the additional statements submitted, but that these to a very large extent consisted of repetition and were in support of the arguments already included in the “ Case for Tasmania.” In all the circumstances it does not appear that any useful purpose would be served by printing the documents referred to by the honorable member.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1927 (giving further detailed information with regard to receipts and expenditure 1925-26, to that contained in Parliamentary Papers Nos. 43 and 44, . presented to the House on the 8th instant).
Munitions Supply Board - Annual Report from 1st July, 1924, to 30th June, 1925; together with the Annual Report of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory for the year ended 30th June, 1925.
The Budget, 1926-27 - Papers presented by the Honorable Earle Page, M.P., for the information of honorable members (containing final information to that set out in Parliamentary Paper No. 42, presented to the House on the 8th instant).
Ordered to be printed.
League of Nations - Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition and in Implements of War - Convention, &c., signed at Geneva, 17th June, 1925.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of -
Health - F. J. Dempster.
Works and Railways - F. G. Connor.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 94.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances of 1926 -
No. 7. - Provisional Government.
No. 8. - Real Property.
No. 9. - City Area Leases (No. 2).
No. 10.- Meat.
Tender Vessels - North-West Coast
– On the 21st July, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions,upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 20th July, the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) asked whether arrangements had been made for the reception of Mr. Alan Cobham, in connexion with his flight to Australia. I desire to state that all landing grounds to be used by Mr. Cobham between Darwin and Melbourne will be inspected by qualified personnel prior to Mr. Cobham’s departure from Darwin. All necessary maps have been prepared by the Civil Aviation Branch of the Defence Department, and are nowat Darwin. The officer . commanding H.M.A.S. Geranium has been instructed to lend all possible assistance during. Mr. Cobham’s period in Darwin, particularly in connexion with the change-over from floats to land chassis. It will not be possible to finalize any arrangements for the reception of Mr. Cobham at the Goverment aerodrome at Essendon until the approximate date of his arrival can be ascertained. I understand that the Aero Clubs in Sydney and Melbourne intend to co-operate in ensuring a fitting welcome to the gallant pilot and his engineer on their . arrival in Sydney and Melbourne. In this connexion, I might mention that Mr. Cobham has intimated a desire to obtain some rest before his almost immediate return journey, and has suggested that the hospitality for which Australians are noted might be reduced to a minimum. I can assure honorable members that every assistance will be given to facilitate Mr. Cobham’s flight as soon as he reaches Australia.
Message from the Deputy of the GovernorGeneral, recommending appropriation, reported.
In committee (Consideration of the message of the Deputy of the GovernorGeneral) :
Motion (by Mr. Hill) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the execution by the Commonwealth of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States, in relation to the construction and re-construction of Federal aid roads, and to make provision for the carrying out thereof.
Motion (by Mr. Hill) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
. -Surely the Minister will give some information as to the reason for this motion. I realize that he will find himself in a difficulty unless the motion is agreed to; but he should be able to say whether it is proposed to finalize this matter to-day.
– The Minister has given me his assurance that he proposes only to move . the second reading of the bill to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That Mr. Hill and Mr. Latham do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hill, and read -a first time.
Mr. HILL (Echuca - Minister for.
Works and Railways) [3.30]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will agree that it is necessary that we should have good roads. Provision is made in the bill for a comprehensive scheme of road construction throughout Australia from funds to > be made available by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, on the basis of £1 being paid by theCommonwealth for every 15s. contributed by the States. The agreements which are embodied in the bill were arrived at by negotiation between the Commonwealth and State Governments, in conference and by correspondence, and the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to make available, under the conditions set out in the agreement, £20,000,000 for allocation to the States on the basis of three-fifths population and two-fifths area, was exhaustively discussed for three days. Before -proceeding to explain the various clauses of the agreement and the intentions of the Government generally, I wish to refer to the grants that have already been made to the States for road construction, the expenditure incurred, the results up to date, and the negotiations with the States respecting the present proposals. When submitting to the House, in September, 1925, the Main Roads Development Bill, I traversed fairly fully the intentions of the Government respecting the provision of additional roads throughout the Commonwealth, over and above the programmes of construction financed from purely State funds. While the Government realized then, as it does now, that road construction generally comes within the jurisdiction of the State Governments, it has recognized that, in view of the rapid development of motor transport, the provision of suitable roads has now become a problem of national importance, and of too great magnitude for- the various State Governments to handle without the aid of the National Government. The following statement sets * out the amounts allocated on a £1 for £1 basis to each of the States, in pursuance of the main road grants from 1923 to 1926, the commitments entered into, and the actual expenditure up to the end of last financial year : -
It will be noted that the total actual expenditure amounts to £1,316,580. This amount includes only that expenditure which has been finally examined and passed by the Auditor-General. A considerable sum has been expended, the audit of which has not yet been completed. In addition to the sums allotted from the grants amounting to £1,500,000 the Government, during last year, made a further grant of £250,000 to the States, free of any contribution by the States, for expenditure on the reconditioning of existing roads. The allocation of the whole of this additional money has been approved, which indicates that the States have taken full advantage of the grants and that the expenditure is proceeding at a satisfactory rate. As to the considerable benefit that has accrued to the Commonwealth as a result of the assistance rendered to the States under- the Main Roads Development Acts there can be no two opinions. The expenditure of these moneys, together with the corresponding State contributions, has resulted in the following works being completed : -
Those works could not otherwise have been completed for some years to come. The bulk of the expenditure has been incurred on entirely new roads, requiring in many cases complete surveys, relocation of proposed roads, and in localities varying from wet, hilly, heavilytimbered country to dry, sandy, and open plains. The Commonwealth and State authorities have co-operated in ©very possible way, with a view to securing the very best results from the moneys made available. The experience which has been gained in connexion with these grants, so far as the co-operation between the Commonwealth and State authorities is concerned, will be of the greatest value in regard to the submission of proposals, and the supervision over the progress of works contemplated under the agreements with the States now before the House. Coming to. the proposal to make available to the States the sum of £20, 000, 000 for expenditure on roads over a period of ten years, as set out in the bill and the agreement attached thereto, the intentions of the Government in this connexion were referred to in the policy speech delivered by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in October, 1925. After very careful consideration, the Government came to the conclusion that one of the most vital questions facing Australia today was the need for the provision of roads suitable for present-day traffic. It was realized that, without aid from the National Government, the States could not be expected to cope with the everincreasing demand, and that a comprehensive scheme of national road construction must be taken in hand at the earliest possible date, with a view to providing those arteries of communication so essential in a- country like Australia, which is absolutely dependent on the development and prosperity of her country districts. I need not enlarge on the necessity for good roads, nor refer to the handicaps which are being experienced in this connexion in every part of the Commonwealth. In the United States of America, the Central Government has fully realized the necessity for encouraging the expansion of the roads system throughout the Union. It endorses the view that the progress of a nation, depends largely on the reduction of its transport costs and the facilities provided for the economical and expeditious marketing of its products. Up to the end of June, 1925, the total length of Federal aid roads completed in the United States of America, since the Federal Aid Road Act came into operation in 1916, was 46,485 miles. The mileage of the roads under construction and nearing completion was over 12,000. The appropriation of Federal funds for this purpose amounted to some £100,000,000. It is proposed under the Federal aid highways system of the United States of America to construct some 200,000 miles of highways, the Federal Government’s contribution towards the cost of which will be on the basis of £1 for every £1 of State expenditure. The following extracts from discussions in Congress in regard to Federal aid roads in the United States of America will give an indication of the attitude adopted in that country on the question of good roads, and also on the granting of aid to the States by the Central Government for the purpose of road construction. The first of the extracts reads -
The appropriations authorized for Federal aid through the fiscal -year 1927 amount in all to 690,000,000 dollars. Actual expenditures for Federal aid up to the 31st March, 1926, were 548,000,000 dollars, while the cost to the States of the mileage, improved and under construction, both with and without Federal aid, was about 2,000,000,000 dollars, or nearly four times the share contributed by the Federal Government in improving what it recognizes as the Federal aid system.
Another extract reads -
The obligations of the Federal Government (United States of America) to’ continue . its aid in connexion with road construction can be proved only by showing -
First. - The national need of improved State highways.
Second. -Reasonable and legal steps may be taken by the Federal Government to meet national needs.
Third. - Failure by the States to make improvements to serve adequately the national needs.
The national needs for improved roads are not many, but they are highly important to the public at large. First, let us consider the postal service; second, commerce among the States; third, national defence; fourth, the extension of farm markets; and fifth, the general welfare of the nation. If these five needs are established, they should be sufficient.
No expenditures of public money contribute so much to the national welfare as for building good roads. The practice of penny-wise economy on roads by any political agency is to be deplored, particularly when the cure is much less costly than the ailment. We might well add to the statement just quoted another made by an eminent authority on highway transportation, Mr. Thos. H. MacDonald, Chief of the Bureau of Public Roads, who stated: - “ We pay for improved roads whether we have them or not, and we pay less if we have them than if we have not.” It costs money, real money, to drive any motor vehicle over the highways. Few of us accurately compute the actual costs. If we do, we consider, not only the cost of gasoline and tires, but other operating costs, together with depreciation,in surance, storage, interest on investment, and similar expenses.
The highway department of Kentucky recently made an investigation of the differences in operating costs alone of vehicles operating on improved and unimproved roads. These costs included only gasoline, oil, grease, tires, and repairs. On goods roads they were found to bc 4.22 cents per mile, and on bad roads 0.72 cents per mile, or a difference of 2½ cents. Assuming that the average car runs only 5,000 miles per year, its owner, if able to run on good roads, would save 125 dollars during that time in operating expenses alone.
Multiply this, if you will, by the 20,000,000 vehicles in use to-day and you will find that the surcharge on the motoring public of America, due to improved roads, would amount in a single year to the huge sum of 2,500,000,000 dollars, or two and a half times the present highway bill of the nation.
In support of the’ contention that best results are to be had through Federal and State co-operation, the following extract from the Congress reports is interesting : -
The national needs are such that road improvements must be made if we are to continue to progress, and these needed improvements can be obtained only by Federal co-operation, which canbe given in a lawful manner.What the Government can do to meet these demands is best illustrated by what it has been doing for the past ten years - co-operating with the States in the improvement of roads on the Federal-aid system. Small as has been the Federal Government’s participation in the expenses, slightly more than one-fourth of the cost of the improvements on the Federal-aid system itself, and annually not more than 8 per cent, of the total highway bill of the nation, it nevertheless has been large enough to accomplish the results we have looked for. Federal aid without question has afforded the greatest possible stimulus to State road construction. The annual appropriations for Federal aid by Congress have accomplished two results, iwhich are highly important from the national stand-point. First of all, they have stimulated construction in the States” to a point where the Federal contributions at present are negligible in ‘many States; and, secondly, the appropriations have been, and still are, enough to make the States willing to match the Federal funds in improving the interstate roads on the Federal aid system. With the impetus Federal aid hbs given to road building throughout the States, there are a few that have gotten to the point where they could well afford to forego the privilege of receiving further funds. While /these States could forego this privilege, the Federal Government could not, for, if it expects at any time in the reasonably near future to have a complete system of national highways, it must offer to all the States sufficient inducement in the . form of financial aid to get them to improve interstate highways in preference to unimportant local highways.
Still another extract from the Congress reports is as follows : -
The Government, if it is seeking to have continued appropriations, should mark out a plan’ of through highways, so that when it builds one section of road this year it will have in mind that another section of the same road will be built next year, and the third year another section, so that ultimately, when the plan is carried to its culmination, there will be well worked-out useful ‘highways, and highways which have been built in accordance with the constitutional right of the Congress to appropriate money for that purpose.
I wish now to quote . from the report by Mr. W. Calder, chairman of the Victoria Country Roads Board submitted to his Government following upon his visit to Europe and America in 1924. The first paragraph is as follows : -
Referring to the HighwaysGreenbook, UnitedStates of America,for 1922, the Honorable C.E. Townsend, of the United States Senate, makes the following statements: -
There is nothing of greater importance to engage the thought and effort of the governments - Federal Stale, county, and municipal - than to put the highways of our country in condition to meet the requirements of the spirit of the age in which we live. The result is that the efficiency of a transportation facility, almost 100 per cent, efficient in itself, is cut down by use of non-adapted roads to less than half its value, and there are doubtless . -considerable areas in the United States of America where a loss in efficiency amounts to as much as 75 per cent. Yetthe cost of building and properly maintaining the roads of the United States of America so as to . put us on an equality with England and France will run into many billions of dollars.
Mr. Calder then went on to say ;
The main springs of the movement, and the impulse for the expenditure at the rate, of approximately ?230,000,000 annually on highway improvements in the United States of America, are to provide the facility of rapid and economical transportation by means of motor transport, in order to place the United States of America on an “ equality “ with its commercial competitors in England and France, in which] countries the general excellence of the road surfaces enables them to transport their goods at one-third of the cost of transport over the roads of the United States.
As illustrating the monetary value of improved roads, the following figures, deduced from recent tests by the Bureau of Public Roads, are interesting : -
On the basis of these cost figures a 5-ton truck operating an average of 50 miles a day for 300 days - 75,000-ton miles per year - would save 1? cents per ton-mile - 1,125 dollars per year - if travelling over a good paved road instead of an ordinary earth road. Between the same earth road and an ordinary gravel road the saving on the operation of the truck would be 375 dollars per year. The late President Harding, in an address, stated that “ One of the greatest economic problems, if not the greatest, problem of modern civilization is distribution.” In a speech before his election, he said -
There can be no doubt of the position, of the good road movement in the solution of the problem.
– American conditions apply largely to Australia.
– A population of 116,000,000 people can bear a heavier burden than it is possible for 6,000,000 people to carry.
– Mr. Calder goes on to state -
The manner in which the people of the United States have set about to solve this problem is one of the outstanding wonders of modern transportation. In this great country there are estimated to be 2,866,060 miles of public roads, and of this huge mileage 170,000 miles have been approved as a major system of highways “ to be constructed and improved with ‘ Federal aid ‘ funds.”
Of the total road mileage of the United States, the Federal aid road system constitutes 7 per cent., and of the 171,687 miles of this system about 26,000 males have been paved with the higher class of pavements (1922 figures).
There is now no question of educating the people of Victoria to the necessity of good highways; the problem of to-day is tofind the funds to meet the insistent demands for betterment of the road conditions throughout the length and breadth of the State. A former State Treasurer, in replying to a request for funds for road-making, remarked that - “ Before funds could be furnished from the Treasury, the funds from some source of taxation had to be supplied to the Treasury.” Up to the present, our efforts have been spasmodic. A system of main and developmental roads has been selected in the hope that funds would be provided for a continuous and progressive improvement of the system, but, periodically, owing to lack of necessary funds, a curtailment, or almost total cessation of works, has. - occurred, with the result that, after a period of ten years, comparatively few roads have been completed, and the value of the work already done is discounted by the incomplete portions. A good section of road ending in mud is not earning interest on the cost of its construction. Without the assurance of funds in sight for a period of years ahead, no systematic programme of work can he planned. The country people become disheartened with the deferred hope of improved conditions, and the exodus of the young men from country to city will continue. One of our greatest needs is population, and particularly the peopling of our empty spaces. If we cannot keep our own settlers and their families contented - and the main cause of discontent in settlers is the condition of the country roads - it is useless to expect the most desirable immigrants - farmers of British stock - to settle in a country where the roads are so short of the standard to which they have been accustomed. The want of a continuous policy of construction is also uneconomical as regards cost, inasmuch that with no definite assurance of the amount of work in sight, contractors arc not encouraged to procure the plant and equipment, withoutwhich works on a large scale cannot be carried on expeditiously and cheaply. If, on completion of a contract, there be delay in letting of. new contracts through shortage of funds, the contractor has one of two alternatives - to realize on his teams and plant, and probably at some sacrifice; or leave for another district or State. When work is again renewed, competition is lessened, and equipment may have to be transported from a distance, and the cost of this transportation is added to the cost of the work. . . .
What has been termed the “ urban drift - the movement of the rural population to the cities - is a world-wide- phenomena; but it is doubtful if anywhere else is its baneful influence so marked as in Australia, if this country is to become a great nation, it can only become soby the development of its wonderful resources, and its rural centres of population, and it is difficult to understand how this aim canbe achieved while our outback country, with its latent wealth in agricultural products and minerals, remains unpeopled and inaccessible.
Mr. T. H. MacDonald, chief of the United States Bureau of Public Roads, describes highway transport as the “new great force in our national life.” At the International Road Congress, held at Seville in 1923, Mr. H. E.Riggs stated that “the problem in transportation in the United States was the most vital thing in the nation to-day.” If this be true with regard to America, within a week of the European markets, how much more must it be to Australia with its great distances from the seaboard, practically devoid of natural waterways, and five weeks’ sail from the world’s greatest markets?
While the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States cannot hope at present to undertake a scheme approaching the magnitude of that adopted in the United States, it is claimed that the proposals now submitted will provide a system of federal aid roads which will be of inestimable value to the Commonwealth generally. The proposals were fully discussed at a conference of Ministers representing the Commonwealth and the six States which sat in Melbourne in February last, the agreement embodied in the bill being the outcome of those discussions. The scheme proposed will, in effect, be the first instalment and form the basis of a national roads system. When completed, it will be capable of extension in such a manner that the whole of our future roads construction will dovetail into the works now proposed. The scheme is an amplification of that which has been in existence for the last three years. It will be found that the general plan will include most of those sections of roads which have already been completed and will, to that extent, shorten the length of many roads which will be included in the general scheme that will be worked to under these proposals. No scheme of this magnitude has ever been undertaken, or even contemplated, in Australia up to the present time. It involves an expenditure of £35,000,000 over a period of years. It has been contended that motorists are to be taxed for the making of roads, not in the cities, but in the country, and it has been suggested that a portion of the money raised by the tax should be made available to’ municipal authorities for road construction within city areas. It is important to bear in mind that the present proposals represent agreements between the Commonwealth and the States, in furtherance of a national scheme for opening up and developing the country. The necessity for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States is largely due to the financial assistance required to overcome the problem of road construction in sparsely-populated areas. Under the scheme this problem is solved ; but there still remains the question of financing necessary connexions of roads that pass through densely-populated areas, the local authorities of which are not in a position to meet the required expenditure. This question is occupying the attention of the various State Governments, and the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to consider co-operation with the States in any proposal they may submit for its solution.
– Under this agreement ?
– No. That must be a matter for future negotiation.
– And what is to become of the agreement embodied in this bill ?
– It is not proposed to alter this agreement into which the Commonwealth has entered. It is. obvious that it cannot be altered without the consent of the States that are signatories to it. This agreement was arrived at after very lengthy conferences and consultations with representatives of the States. It is wrong to suggest that only country districts will benefit from the construction of good roads under the agreement. Roads in country districts that are good enough to carry motor traffic are largely used by motorists from the cities. The cities, also, will benefit in the highest degree, since good roads mean cheaper transport, and cheaper transport means cheaper food and raw materials for the residents of the cities. Cities and city motorists will thus derive direct benefit from the construction of good roads in the country districts. Further, it is only just that the cities should contribute through the tariff to the welfare of sparsely-settled areas, since the cities obtain so much benefit from the tariff in the shape of thriving industries and increased population. The road policy is a true national policy which provides that the more highly developed and wealthy parts of the country should contribute something to the welfare of the less developed districts. It is impracticable and absurd to expect that, in a country like Australia, each area or each section of the community shall look after its own needs, and its own needs only. I propose to deal with some of the more important clauses of the agreement, which appears as a schedule to the bill, in order that, before the secondreading debate is continued, honorable members may obtain some idea of what is in the mind of the Government in submitting the measure. Clause 1 of the agreement reads -
This agreement shall have no force or effect and shall not be binding on either party unless and until it is approved, adopted, authorized or ratified by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States.
The State Governments will submit the agreement to their respective Parliaments, and it will have to be ratified by them before it will come into force.
– Does that mean that the agreement must be ratified by the Parliaments of all of the States ?
– It must be ratified by the Parliament of each State that is a party to it. Five of the States are now parties to the agreement, and it is expected that the sixth, New South Wales, will shortly be a party to it. Sub-clause 1 of clause 2 of the agreement provides -
The Commonwealth will, subject to and for the purposes of this agreement, provide the sum of (a) during the period of ten years, commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six;
Honorable members will see that the amounts proposed to be paid by the Commonwealth under this sub-clause are as follow : -
Sub-clause 2 of clause 2 provides -
The said sum of (a) will be paid by the Commonwealth into a trust account established for the purpose under section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1924 of the Commonwealth, by payments into such account of the sum of (b) in each year during the said period of ten years.
It will be seen that the payments into the trust account each year will be in respect of each of the States one-tenth of the sum to be provided for each by the Commonwealth under sub-clause 1 of clause 2. Sub-clause 1 of clause 3 of the agreement provides that -
Subject to clause 7 of this agreement, the State will provide an additional sum of - (c) for the purposes of this agreement.
I shall explain clause 7 when we come to deal with it. Most of the clauses of the agreement are self-explanatory and do not require much comment from me. Subclause 3 of clause 3 provides -
Of the amount to be provided by the State under this clause the sum of (d) shall be provided from revenue. The balance of the amount to be provided by the State may, at the option of the State, be provided out of current roads expenditure or from revenue or loon moneys.
It is “intended in regard to the total amount which the Commonwealth is providing for this purpose, that £500,000 shall be paid from present revenue, and £1,500,000 shall be raised from new sources of revenue. The States will also be expected to raise a certain proportion of the amounts they spend from revenue each year. To show how the scheme will work, I give as an example what will happen in the case of Victoria. The amount which the Commonwealth Government will pay to Victoria will be, for the purpose of the construction of new roads, £90,000 per year out of present revenue, and from new sources of revenue, £270,000 a year, which may be utilized for the construction of new roads or the reconstruction of old roads. The State Government will be expected to find from revenue £33,750, and from revenue, . loan, or present roads expenditure, another £33,750, making a total of £67,500, for expenditure on new construction.
– Is the money to be paid by the State as the work is done?
– Yes. Victoria will be expected to provide from revenue, loan, or existing roads expenditure an additional £202,500, for expenditure on construction or re-construction, making a total of £270,000 per annum, against the Commonwealth’s contribution of £360,000 per annum. Clause 4 provides -
If any instalment provided by the State as aforesaid is, or includes, loan moneys of the State, the State shall, at the time when the instalment is provided, so inform the Commonwealth, and specify the amount of loan moneys in the instalment.
The purpose of this provision is that a proper check may be kept on loan moneys, on which the Commonwealth has agreed to pay 3 per cent, out of moneys payable to the States . towards a sinking fund for the first ten years. Clause 4 further provides -
– Will the Commonwealth Treasurer handle the State’s contributions to the sinking fund, or will they remain in the hands of the State?
– They will remain in the hands of the State.
– There will be no security unless they are paid into the Commonwealth trust fund.
– The provision for a sinking fund is made in order to ensure that the whole of the loan liability shall be repaid in a period of twenty years.
– But the money should be paid into the Commonwealth trust fund.
– Sub-clause 4 of clause 4 requires no explanation. Clause 5 reads -
For the purposes of this agreement the following classes of roads shall be deemed to be Federal Aid roads -
Main roads which open up and develop new country;
Trunk roads between important towns; and
Arterial roads to carry the concentrated traffic from developmental, main, trunk, and other roads.
– What is meant by “other roads”?
– There will be roads that junction with arterial and main roads carrying concentrated traffic. The agreement provides only for making the roads referred to in clause 5. Clause 6 provides -
It may be laid down as a principle that not less than one-fourth of the total amount provided is to be expended on new roads. But the Minister for the time being is given discretionary power to say just how much of the balance of 75 per cent, shall be spent on either the construction or reconstruction of main roads in any State. If we take Tasmania for example it will be found that there is no great necessity for new roads there. But it is very necessary that many of the lengths of really good roads that were laid down in the State some years age should be reconditioned, and the State is, by itself, unable to recondition them. The Minister for the time being would, in all probability, permit Tasmania to spend up to 75 per cent, of the amount provided on the reconditioning of existing roads. But of the total amount provided there must not be less than 25 per cent, spent on the construction of new roads.
– Is the Commonwealth Government to have any say as to the class of road construction to be carried out?
– Yes. When the hill becomes law the board will be called together.
– Another board to be brought into existence?
– This is a board -which will not cost anything; but I shall deal with that matter under its proper heading. What we stipulate in regard to roads is the grade, the “width of the road, and the depth of metal. In the first place a scheme for five years will be drawn up by the States themselves. Each State will submit its own proposal to the road board. When the five-years scheme is finally approved, each State will signify which part of the scheme it desires shall first be undertaken.
– How many State Parliaments have ratified this agreement?
– It has not yet been before any of the State Parliaments. Five of the State Governments have notified their intention of signing it. Clause 6, sub-clause 3, reads -
The Minister shall have the power to decide from time to time how the balance of the moneys paid to the State under this agreement and the balance of the moneys -to be provided, by the State under this agreement shall he expended, but so that such moneys shall bc expended solely in the construction of federal aid roads and/or the reconstruction of Federal aid roads.
In some of the States long lengths of existing roads need re-conditioning, and in other States a greater proportion of new construction is required. Clause 7, subclause 1, reads -
Where a road being constructed or being reconstructed under this agreement passes through a town whose population (according to the latest statistics available at the time the work is being done) does not exceed Five thousand (5,000) persons such road may he constructed through the town or reconstructed (as the case may be) as if the town did not exist: Provided that the width of any road constructed or reconstructed through a town pursuant to this clause shall not except with the approval in writing of the Minister exceed 20 feet.
It is not intended to allocate any sums for expenditure within the boundaries of towns with a population exceeding 5,000; and expenditure will be incurred in towns with a population under 5,000 only in cases where the road being constructed, or re-constructed, passes through such towns. In some small country municipalities it would be impossible to raise sufficient revenue to construct and main tain long lengths of road entirely for the use of traffic originating outside the municipal boundaries. Clause 7, sub-clause 2, reads -
If any portion of the cost of constructing or reconstructing a road pursuant to this agreement is contributed by the municipal or other local governing authority of a town referred to in the last preceding sub-clause, the amount to be provided by the State under clause 3 of this agreement shall bc reduced by the amount so contributed: Provided, however, that tha State shall not require any such municipal or other local governing authority to contribute more than one-half of the amount to be provided by the State as its proportion of the cost of constructing or reconstructing such road.
Assuming that a mile of new road is required within a town at a cost of £3,500, the Commonwealth contribution towards that amount would be £2,000, and the State’s contribution £1,500. The State would be able to recoup itself from the municipality to the extent’ of 50 per cent, of the £1,500. The Government does not intend that the States shall make a levy on the municipalities for roads outside the boundaries of towns. Honorable members can readily visualize long stretches of road which pass through poor country, where the municipalities, if they were called upon to contribute £500 or £750 a mile for 15 or 20 miles of road, would not be able to take advantage of the offer of Commonwealth money. In that case, there would be a break in tha continuity of the road, and the object of the scheme would be frustrated. Clause 8, sub-clause 1, reads -
The .State shall to the satisfaction of the Minister make proper provision for the adequate and continuous maintenance in good repair and condition of all roads constructed or reconstructed in pursuance of this agreement. Such maintenance shall be taken in hand immediately following upon the completion of the construction or reconstruction of any road or portion thereof and shall be met from moneys provided by the State.
The Government considers that it would be folly to incur large expenditure on a national roads system without providing for . adequate maintenance. Clause 8., sub-clause 2, reads -
If any such road is not adequately and continuously maintained in good repair and condition to the satisfaction of the Minister the State shall not (if the Minister so directs) be entitled to payment of any further moneys out of the said trust account until the road has been put in good repair and condition to the satisfaction of the Minister, and until proper provision to the satisfaction of the Minister has been made by the State for the road being adequately and continuously maintained in_ good repair and condition.
That sub-clause is self-explanatory. Clause 9, sub-clause 1, reads -
Prior to the submission by the State of any proposals for expenditure of any moneys provided by the Commonwealth and the State in pursuance of this agreement, the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed to be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six, and prior to the expiration of the said period of five years the State shall submit to the Minister for his approval full particulars of the roads proposed to be constructed or reconstructed during the period of five years commencing on the expiration of the firstmentioned period of five years.
The works will be carried out on a comprehensive plan. Each State will put forward a scheme covering a five-year period. It was suggested, in the first place, that a plan, be presented covering a ten-year period, but later it was thought advisable to reduce the period to five years. It is not proposed to expend these amounts on small and scattered sections of road. A definite objective will be aimed at, and every endeavour will be made to complete the scheme adopted during the five-year period, after which a further programme will be decided upon. The municipalities that desire these’ roads to pass through their territories will apply to the roads boards in their respective States, and the roads boards will report to the State Ministers. When a scheme is submitted to the Commonwealth Minister it will embrace works for a fiveyear period. Sub-clause 2 of the same clause reads -
All proposals in connexion with works to bc carried out in any financial year in pursuance of this agreement shall be submitted by the State to the Minister for his approval and the State shall not commence any proposed work without first obtaining the approval in writing of the Minister.
First the five-year scheme will be approved, and then . proposals for the first year are presented to the Commonwealth Minister, and each year afterwards further proposals are submitted. All proposals require the approval of the Commonwealth Minister. Sub-clause 3 reads -
When submitting any such proposals the State shall specify by what method it is proposed the work shall be executed.
Sub-clause 4 reads -
The method of execution shall be by contract except where the Minister for the State considers that tenders received for the execution of the work, are unsatisfactory or that execution by day labour would be more economical and/or expeditious and so informs the Minister the Minister may, if he is satisfied that action has been taken by the State to ensure that the work will be carried out according to approved methods of construction in which modern plant is utilized to the fullest extent, approve of the execution of the work in whole or in part by day labour.
Sub-clause 5 states that, in the event of any moneys provided not being used in any one year, they shall not lapse. Clause 10, sub-clause . 1, provides that all necessary surveys and supervision shall “be undertaken by the State; and sub-clause 2 reads -
An amount equal to 2 per centum of the cost of the work carried out will be paid to the State out of the said trust account towards the cost of the survey and supervision of that work and of the preparation of plans and other preliminaries in connexion with that work.
Under the old arrangement, the States were liable for the cost of surveys, supervision, and general administration. In Western Australia the cost of that on some of the outback roads was very high, and amounted, in some localities, to as much as 8 per cent. After discussing the matter at great length, it -was decided that the Commonwealth should provide an amount equal to 2 per cent. Clause 11, sub-clause 1, reads -
The final portion of the Commonwealth’s proportion of the cost of carrying out any work under this agreement will be paid to the State after the work has been completed to the satisfaction of the Minister.
Sub-clause 2 provides -
The Minister may satisfy himself by such means as he thinks fit as to whether any work has been carried out in accordance with this agreement.
Clause 12 provides -
The Commonwealth will establish a board to be known as the Federal Aid Roads Board consisting of the Minister and a Minister representing each of the different State to which any money is made available in pursuance of the hereinbefore recited proposal of the Commonwealth. The said board shall meet in the month of April in each year and at such other times as the Minister considers necessary for the purpose of discussing any matters in connexion with the carrying out of the works.
It is not intended to create a paid board. The ministerial board referred to will have the advice and assistance of the officers of the Commonwealth and State departments, and should not involve additional expense to the States or the Commonwealth.
– What machinery is provided for supervision!
– The Commonwealth Chief Engineer will travel through the” various States and will keep in touch with the work. I do not anticipate any difficulty in that direction. In Victoria, contracts’ have been let to Messrs. Carr and Company, and Messrs. Armstrong, Whitworth and Company, providing for five years’ continuous maintenance by them of the roads which they will construct. In such circumstances, it is not likely that there will be any inferior work done. The board will probably embody similar provisions in its contracts. It is not intended to spend any of this money on short sections of roads or in mending pot holes; every road dealt with under the scheme must conform to the general plan. The roads to be constructed first will probably be those from the metropolitan district extending into the country. They will be macadamized roads, 20 feet wide, covered with a bitumen blanket. In Victoria, for instance, such roads will run, say, to Warragul, Seymour, Bendigo, Ballarat, and Colac. They will then be continued for probably 100 or 150 miles more as second class roads, made of macadam impregnated with bitumen. In Victoria, that would mean that good roads would be constructed almost to the borders of the State.
– Does the Government intend to depart from the old policy in relation to developmental roads? The Minister said that only continuous roads would be dealt with. In country d istricts it is frequently the practice to construct a mile or two of road in places where a better surface than already exists is specially needed.
– It is not intended to lay down any road only a mile or two in length, unless it forms part of a scheme brought forward by a State. In such cases, the State would probably suggest the construction or reconstruction of the worst sections first, and to that we should probably agree. There will be ample opportunity later for honorable members to discuss the details of the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9th July (vide page 4019), on motion bv Mr.Bruce -
That the paper be printed.
.-^ When the Covenant of the League of Nations was entered into, millions of people throughout the world hailed it with delight, believing that at last an instrument had been forged which would make for the settlement of international disputes without recourse to arms.- Honorable members generally acquiesced in that view. Personally, I have always been a strong advocate of the League of Nations ; but I must confess that I am not now so optimistic regarding it as I was soon after the termination of the great war. In the seven years that have passed since the signing of the Armistice: no great strides have been made towards disarmament; yet that was the object which the League of Nations set out to achieve. It is true that attempts have been made in that’ direction, but they have been futile. The result is that to-day there are probably millions of people in the world who despair of the League ever accomplishing its mission. In 1923, the Treaty of Mutual Assistance was proposed by the League, only to be rejected by various nations, Great Britain disapproving of it on the ground that it would result in pacts and treaties between nations which would create a condition of things similar to that which existed prior to the war. In 1924, the Protocol was devised, but almost before the ink on it was dry, and before the people of the signatory nations realized what it meant, it was condemned. Now a further attempt is to be made. Recently, a preparatory committee was appointed by the Council of the League to devise a basis for a world conference. I have nothing to say against that. On the contrary, I welcome it, as it, at least, provides a ray of hope. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has stated that he differs from my view regarding a world conference. There is plenty of room for differing opinions in this matter. While I contend that it would be better for the League of Nations to endeavour to convene a world conference without laying down any conditions whatever, in . order that those nations which are at present outside the League might be induced to take part in its deliberations, I realize that, so long as powerful nations like Germany, Russia, the United States of America, and even Turkey, are outside the League, we cannot expect it to accomplish much. While such nations are outside the League, they are a menace to the peace of adjoining nations, which, consequently, are not prepared to do anything in the direction of further disarmament.
– They act in accordance with the law of self-preservation.
– It was with the objectof inducing those nations to attend a world ‘conference that I advocated that no conditions should be laid down. I am not against a conference with conditions prepared by the League so long as those conditions are acceptable to the nations which at present are not members of the League. I do not care by what means a conference of world powers is obtained so long as it becomes an accomplished fact. The only hope for world peace is that the nations shall work in unison and direct their energies to promote peace. I do not object to the attempt which is being made to provide for a world conference, but I do complain of the delay that is taking place, because it tends to destroy that confidence in the League of Nations which is indispensable if it is to accomplish anything in the direction of general disarmament and world peace. Although for seven years there has been talk of disarmament, experts agree that to-day the nations are more strongly armed than they were in 1914; there has been an increase, and not a decrease, of armaments. The sinking of a number of capital ships is referred to as evidence of the desire of certain nations for peace; but the number of cruisers now being built by Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the United States of America, and Australia is greater than that of the capital ships which they sank. That is not a welcome sign to the people of the world respecting the ability of the League of Nations to bring about a reduction of armaments. It is to be regretted that so much time has elapsed since the last attempt to reduce armaments. I understand that the Attorney-
General (Mr. Latham) will shortly be leaving to represent us at Geneva, and I feel sure that he will be an able representative of Australia. But_when the League does consider this matter, I hope that a conference will be convened as early as possible. It seems to me that such a conference cannot be convened before 1927, although we have been endeavouring to arrange- one ever since 1923. It is quite possible that a conference will not be convened in 1927.
– It is a short time, considering that the whole world has to move.
– I realize that there is great difficulty in getting the various countries of the world to move in unison. That is one of the reasons that actuated me in not wishing to have conditions laid down for the convening of the conference, because I believe that at it, as at the Pacific Conference, each nation should be able to discuss the position from every point of view, and to devise a scheme for submission to the governments and parliaments of the world for their approval. I know that it is difficult for a number of nations to agree on any particular point, and that is why I doubt that we can succeed in preparing data for a conference, especially when some of the nations affected are not to be consulted respecting the arrangements, and might, therefore, be prejudiced to some extent when attending the conference. The Prime Minister referred to the admission of Germany to the League of Nations. I am of opinion that that nation will be admitted to the League at its next meeting. Germany has been desirous of entering the League for the last two years. At the 1924 session, Professor Nansen was sent from the conference to meet representative men in Germany. He returned with a glowing report, to the effect that he believed that Germany would make application to join the League within a week or two. It was thought at that time that before the Assembly rose application would be made by Germany to join the League. However, application was not made; but in connexion with the signing of the Locarno Treaty there was an understanding that Germany would make application to be admitted to the
League, and would be given a permanent seat on the Council. Germany had made overtures to Belgium and France to enter into ai treaty, so that those countries might arrange mutually for their security. Subsequently, Great Britain and Italy were approached. One of the understandings was that Germany would apply for admission to_the League. That country did so; but with results that were not anticipated. It is claimed in some quarters, whether correctly I do not know, that the diplomacy of those concerned in the matter, particularly that of Great Britain and France, had very much to do with the attitude adopted by Brazil, and the consequent disappointment of Germany. In an article in the Socialist Review of May, 1926, Mr. Philip Noel Gibbs, a recognized diplomat and authority on foreign affairs, stated - >
T17e claims of Spain, Poland, and Brazil would never have ‘been raised unless they had some prospect of success. They were supported, if not fostered, in the first instance by France. If they had then been opposed by Great Britain, it would have been certain that they could not have secured the moral backing of the smaller States. In December, 192S, Sir Austen Chamberlain gave the Spanish representative an assurance of support for the Spanish claim to a permanent seat. In January, 1926, when M. Briand proposed a seat for Poland, too, he made no protest, but there are the strongest grounds for thinking he expressed (his .personal agreement with the proposal. At Geneva, in March, he made no attempt to get the claimant, powers to postpone their claims, but continued to make speeches, urging that “ Germany should declare her agreement in principle to the creation of three new permanent seats in the Council, in addition to that destined for Germany.” Sir Austen did nothing effective to discourage the claims of Spain, Poland, and Brazil, but, on the contrary, took action to encourage them. He must bear responsbility, not only for making no effort to avert the crisis, hut for having done much, first, to create it, then to embitter it. and finally to make it incomparably harder to resolve. On 24th March, 1026, the *Times stated that “If the position of the British Government had been more clearly and more fully indicated at the proper time, some of the worst troubles in Geneva might have been avoided.”
That is very strong criticism.
– Has it ever been confirmed ?
– I could not say, but several writers have complained that the secret diplomacy in. connexion with the Treaty of Locarno had much to do with bringing about the rejection of Germany’s application for entry to the League of Nations, because certain smaller nations had been led to believe that they could obtain a seat on the Council, ‘ and it was difficult afterwards to persuade them to withdraw their claims. Brazil, of course, refused to withdraw her claim, with the result that Germany’s application was rejected. It is claimed that some arrangement has now been made to obviate a similar result next time. The Council has to be unanimous on any proposal before it can be given effect. One dissentient vote is sufficient to secure the rejection of a proposal. When discussing this matter previously, I said that I thought that the requirement of unanimity on important national questions before the Council seemed to be unreasonable, and I suggested, that there should be some amendment of the rules. At one time I thought that a 75 per cent, majority should be sufficient to carry a proposal, but, in view of what has happened since, and of what I have read recently respecting the proposals for the Economic Conference, I question very much whether it would be wise not to require unanimity. I am very much afraid ‘that the League is now treading dangerous ground, and that the result may not be in the best interests of Australia. I notice that the Com-, monwealth Government has decided to uphold the unanimity provision respecting the decisions of the Council. It has agreed to an additional permanent seat on the Council, which will, of course, be given to Germany; but when we draw up a scheme for the approval of ill the nations, we shall not be able to limit the Council to one additional permanent member. America, for instance, would never enter the League unless given a permanent seat on .the Council.
– There would be no question about that.
– The standing of America would entitle her, if she desired to enter the League, to a permanent seat on the Council. The same remark applies to Russia. We should make the constitution of the Council sufficiently elastic to enable those nations, if they so desired, to obtain- a permanent seat upon it.
– That is understood in regard to any of the great powers.
– There is, at present, no provision for such nations having a seat on the Council. If they made application the same position might arise as arose before, because it would still be within the power of some of the smaller nations represented on the Council, either as permanent or temporary members, to oppose the application.
– Surely there is no suggestion that if America or Russia applied for a seat on the Council, the other nations would demur.
– I should not expect them to do so, but, in view of what has happened respecting Germany, there is certainly a doubt about it. The members of the Council, whether permanent or elected, may veto any proposal before them. We cannot tell what the smaller nations will do. The AttorneyGeneral, when he attends the League, will find that there is a great deal of intrigue taking place between the nations, especially the smaller ones, and it is out of that intrigue that most of the troubles arise. I speak with the knowledge that I gained at Geneva. It is proposed to increase the number of nations represented on the Council to fourteen, by adding one permanent and three nonpermanent members. This Government proposes to recommend that three of the non-permanent members shall retire annually, to which I have no objection. The proposal for an Economic Conference is the most important on the agenda paper, and it should receive the serious attention of all honorable members. I believe that our interests are vitally concerned in it. In looking through the agenda, I find that it is proposed that the conference shall inquire into matters which at present, under international law, are held to be of domestic concern. If that proposal is given effect, the conference may decide that immigration is not a domestic matter. So far as I could see, when at Geneva, the majority of the nations claim that a tariff is a matter of domestic concern. The Economic Conference will certainly deal with matters of material importance to the welfare of the world. Many international disputes arise out of economic questions, and we should remove the causes of trouble so far as possible; but we shall never succeed in this, nor bring about satisfaction ‘between nations, if we take away from them the right to deal with matters which are purely of domestic concern to themselves. If that were agreed to, our White Australia policy might be threatened. I dealt with that subject when the Protocol was under discussion. At the last Assembly of the League of Nations the proposal to hold an international economic conference was agreed to unanimously.
– The proposal to hold the conference is all that has been agreed to.
– That is so, but it is important that honorable members of the preparatory committee should realize how far the matter has gone. A glance at the headings in the report is sufficient to show that it will cover an exceedingly wide- range of subjects, which include problems affecting agriculture, finance, population, industry, commerce and marketing. I am not, at the moment, finding fault with anybody in regard to the matter, but merely showing how careful we must be, owing to the feeling that exists in Europe, especially among the Latin races, on some of these subjects. The French delegates moved for the appointment !of a preparatory committee, which would meet and arrange an agenda for the Economic Conference. It is remarkable how often the French delegates are the primary instigators in matters of this kind. Very few important moves are taken by the League which do not emanate from them. It is important in this connexion to bear in mind that France has treaties with nearly all the small nations of Europe which, with very few exceptions, look to her, and not to Great Britain, for a lead. They regard France as their protector. It would be interesting to learn how many treaties France has made with the small nations. The number is undoubtedly large. I have nothing to say against these treaties, provided that they are in harmony with the covenant of the League.
– I suppose they are all registered with the League.
– I do not know, I suppose they are; at any rate they ought to be. France, being in sympathetic touch with so many small nations, has a big pull on their support in matters affecting the League of Nations. That is evident to any one who participates in the League’s proceedings. The reference to this preparatory committee is given on page 38 of the report of the proceedings of the last Assembly of the League, as follows: -
The report of the first session of the preparatory committee, which was held at Geneva from the 26th April to the 1st May, 1926, was issued on the 1st May. The committee was divided into subcommittees to deal with the three phases of its reference. The sub-committee which dealt with population questions made the following report: -
The committee is unable, however, on its present information, to decide whether it will be possible to recommend that population questions or certain aspects of those questions should be submitted for discussion at the future Economic Conference. The committee decides, however, that information should be collected upon the following points in order that it may be able to take a decision at a later stage: -
Natural movements of populations - births, deaths, marriages, during the periods 1900-13, 1924-26.
Artificial movements of population - emigration in its various forms, permanent and temporary.
Inquiry by uniform method, and, with the aid of one or more experts, into fluctuations of population arising out of the world-war, and fluctuations in potential labour forces during the next two decades.
Population density in relation to cultivable areas, natural resources on the surface and underground.
Data concerning economic development and the standard of life.
Legislation on the movement of labour.
Legislation affecting international migration in general.
Australia is vitally interested in the subject of immigration. On page 16 of the report, the sub-committee, instructed to consider the most appropriate means of obtaining the necessary information on questions connected with industrial production, came to . the conclusion that the investigation of the matter should be arranged in accordance with the following plan: -
Honorable members will see that that raises the question of the tariff. So that, without any additional information, we may be sure, that the Economic Conference will deal with immigration and the tariff. Are we prepared to allow an outside body to deal with those questions? I venture to say that we are not, for we regard them as domestic matters.
– Does not the honorable member think that the preparatory committee was appointed merely to investigate the nature of the problems, and not to suggest remedies?
– I do; but it has gone a long way.
– It has really only prepared a programme.
– I think it has gone further. The sub-committee which dealt with commerce and marketing problems recommended an investigation by the conference under the following headings: -
Import prohibitions designed to safeguard the exchanges, to protect the balance of trade or to encourage saving by restricting unnecessary consumption.
Prohibitions as a means of protecting national industry, as a means of defence against importation from a particular country, or as a means of retaliation against certain forms of foreign competition.
Prohibitions intended to reserve for a country resources necessary for its industry, or its food supply.
Prohibitions intended to maintain a favorable level of prices,
Prohibitions intended to withhold certain products from foreigners or to allow their exportation only in return for corresponding advantages.
– It will govern us, directly.
– That is so. These proposals seriously affect the internal affairs of the countries concerned. The following matters were also suggested as suitable for discussion- by the Economic Conference : -
Level of tariffs -
Incidence of the level protection on the cost of living and on the power of purchasing from abroad.
Incidence of the level of protection accorded to raw materials and foodstuffs on national labour and its remuneration,
Incidence of the level of protection accorded to manufactured products on the maintenance and development of national production.
Customs protection as a factor in the revival of domestic saving.
Customs protection as a factor in the balance of external payments.
Interdependence of the protection accorded to different branches of production in accordance with the national economic structure, including the relation between agricultural protection and industrial protection. [g) Exaggerated protection which ensures, by means of higher home prices, the possibility of sellingat lower prices abroad.
Exaggerated protection to safeguard national industries whose establishment or whose conditions of production appear abnormal.
Exaggerated protection to compensate for the more favorable conditions of production enjoyed by competitors or for the more advantageous level of foreign prices. *
In regard to export duties it is suggested that the following subjects should be discussed : - .
It will be admitted, in the face of these facts, that the Economic Conference will deal with matters of vital concern to us. It will be within its power to suggest any amendment of international laws it may deem desirable, affecting the various matters that will come before it; and it appears to me that, as it will deal with subjects of such vital domestic concern as those that I have mentioned, it may totally alter the whole of our international relations. “We do not know. whether matters are to be dealt with in accordance with the wish of the majority of the members of the conference or not; but, clearly, the question is opened up whether we are prepared to allow these matters to be submitted to the conference. The commerce and marketing subcommittee also recommended that the following matters should be considered: -
Advantages granted to production or ex portation -
Dumping and anti-dumping laws.
The Commonwealth Parliament has agreed to pay large bounties to various commercial undertakings, but the Economic Conference, apparently, will have the right to indicate whether such a policy may be continued. I have no objection to the proposals that have been made in connexion with the distribution of goods; if anything can be done along that line, that will benefit the human race, well and good. But there are some things that, in my opinion, it would be quite unwise to submit to the conference, as they are of purely domestic concern.
– This seems to me to be an effort to bring about international freetrade, which is an impossible thing.
– So it is. I have drawn the attention of honorable members to these items in the report, for I realize that, in the rush of business towards the end of the session, it is impossible for them to read every paper that is tabled. I am afraid that League of Nations affairs are taken largely as a matter of course. Frequently the reports of the League are not submitted to us until a few days before the delegation is due to leave, or even after it has left. These papers have not been before us for very long, and honorable members have had very little opportunity to peruse them. It is not sufficient for us merely to pay our contribution to the League expenses, and to send our delegation to its assemblies; we must take a keen interest in its proceedings. In a speech delivered at the conclusion of the sittings of the Preparatory Committee, M. Theunis, the vicechairman, said -
It is essential to create a favorable international atmosphere; for some time past, a certain improvement in this respect has occurred ; nevertheless, each of the members of the Preparatory Committee must do all in his power to create the atmosphere which is essential to. the success of the conference, lt will be necessary to dispel the numerous misunderstandings which cannot fail to arise, to define the objects we wish to attain, and to show that this conference is directed against no one, but is solely concerned with the -public good; it is essential to have the full and complete co-operation of every country and every class. It must also be shown that at the present time no country can live in prosperity if other countries are in a state of poverty and uneasiness. This moral propaganda is not one of the least important parts of the work which remains to be done.
A great deal can be said in support of such a sentiment. At the same time, it also furnishes proof that we must proceed cautiously, because, although there are references to population, area, and so forth, upon which I have not touched, the main work of the committee is to prepare for the Economic Conference. That proposal has been accepted unanimously by the Assembly itself. Admittedly, Great Britain expressed the view that it would be better not to appoint a Preparatory Committee, because such action might prejudice the work of the Council. Although I believe that an Economic Conference could assist in paving the way to the establishment of peace, nevertheless, the League of Nations should first direct its energies towards action that will assist to bring about disarmament. That is the idea which led to its establishment, yet nothing has been accomplished in the seven years since it was set up.
– It has merely made a pretence of bringing about world peace.
– That is all.
– So far, the cost to Australia has been £50.000.
– That would not be a consideration if good work had been achieved. It cannot be denied that we are not making progress towards the establishment of world peace. Every move in that direction has been a failure. I am beginning to believe that very little else can be expected, in view of the intriguing that takes place between the nations to obtain benefits for themselves. That intriguing has rendered of no avail: the efforts of those who are anxious to bring about world peace. I foresee dangerous consequences from the interference, of the League in the domestic concerns of the nations. The Prime Minister himself, has admitted that danger is to be apprehended from that quarter. Neither this Government nor this Parliament should delay in making knownthe attitude that we intend to adopt. We should say, unequivocally, that we are not prepared to allow the report of the Preparatory Committee to be adopted by the Assembly if it recommends that the League shall decide matters of.” domestic concern.
– Do we yet know the natureof the committee’s report?
– It is not yet completed, but it may be bv the time that our representatives attend the Assembly.
– It has been completed.
– It has yet to go before the Council, and we do not know what stand may be taken by that body. I am acquainted with the manner in. which the business of the Asembly is transacted. It is most unsatisfactory. A question is not debated as it is in this chamber. You may have a very strong opinion on a certain proposal, but if you cannot induce the other delegates to arrive at an agreement, its consideration is deferred, and, in the meantime, the representatives of the various nations put their heads together and arrive at a compromise. As only the leading nations have votes in the Assembly, they regulate the whole matter. Half of the delegates may not be in sympathy with the proposal submitted, but, having no vote, they cannot register their objection to it.
– Agreement can be arrived at sometimes only by compromise.
– I am not contending that there should be no compromising; what I say is that it is carried altogether too far. One vote on the floor of the Assembly must secure the rejection of a proposal, but it must not be possible to secure that vote. Even the British representatives were opposed to the establishment of the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation in Paris, and expressed their opposition to it, but they did not vote against it. My knowledge of the procedure makes me afraid that this report will be sent on to the Assembly, and by it be adopted. Then the necessary machinery will be put into operation for convening the Economic Conference for the discussion of matters of domestic concern. In such an event, where will Australia stand? It is a matter of vital importance to us, and we should do everything possible to prevent our policy of a White Australia from being placed in jeopardy. It will be in jeopardy once the League deals with the question of migration. We shall not be able to shelter ourselves behind international law in a big conference, which will have the power to change the whole aspect of our policy. We shall be entirely at its mercy. If we do not now lodge an objection against that proposal, we shall have only ourselves to blame. I have every confidence that the Australian delegation will look closely into this matter. It is only fair to ask that we should display an intelligent interest in what is happening. We have these reports to guide us, and they show clearly what is being aimed at. It must not be forgotten that many nations on the continent of Europe are behind this proposal.
– The probability of our having to make a struggle to maintain our White Australia policy is coming closer every day.
– Unless the British Empire says definitely, “ We do not agree to this matter being discussed,” Australia will be in danger. We should have pointed out at the commencement of the proceedings that we agreed to the proposal to have an economic conference, but not for the purpose of discussing matters of domestic concern. It was not sufficient for the representatives of the British Government to say that they preferred that the matter should not go to a preparatory committee, for fear that it might prejudice the decision of the Council. That was only a half-hearted way of expressing opposition. Would it not have been far better for them to i’ave said, “We shall have nothing whatever to do with this proposal; it deals with matters that, according to international law, are of domestic concern.” If Great Britain had adopted that attitude, this committee would not consider these questions. Supposing that two conferences were convened simultaneously next year, one on armaments and the other the Economic Conference. The decision of the League in regard to armaments might prove satisfactory, and, on that account, the League might feel disposed to consider favorably the recommendations of the Economic Conference. Although Great Britain and the dominions were opposed to any proposal that was put forward, it would be possible for them to be outvoted by the other nations. Such a contingency can be prevented now by the vote of Great Britain or Australia on the floor of the Assembly, when the rapporteur makes his report. If it is opposed by one . delegate on the floor of the Assembly, the matter cannot be referred to a world’s conference. But if action in that direction is not. taken, we may be led on to dangerous ground. If the Economic Conference decides that the questions of the tariff and migration have to be dealt with in the interests of all the nations, those countries that are heavily populated, realizing that Australia is thinly populated, and possesses a great deal of territory that is capable of production, may exert pressure to have compulsion applied to us to admit their people free from any restriction. What, then, will become of our White Australia policy? This is a matter of the greatest importance, and it should be scrutinized carefully by every honorable member.
– Would not this Parliament be consulted ?
– Not if we failed to oppose the proposal that these matters should be considered by the Economic Conference. If three-fourths of the nations agreed to the abrogation or amendment of international law to prevent these matters from being considered as of domestic concern, we should be powerless to alter the decision, and we should have to take immediate steps to defend ourselves. In such an event, the League of Nations would be the agency of war instead of disarmament. To enable the matter to be discussed, I move -
That the motion ‘be amended by the addition of the following words after the worn “printed”: - “and that, in the opinion of this House, the Australian delegates should strenuously oppose any attempt to include in the agenda of the Economic Conference questions of domestic, concern.”
.- I have listened with particular interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and while I sympathize with him in his expressed disappointment that the League, during the first seven years of its existence, has not managed to do anything definite towards the reduction of armaments, I should like, during my remarks on the subject, to point out the disabilities under which it has laboured, and also to remind honorable members that the influence of the League has been very great during the last seven years, particularly in Europe. I think it can claim that it has prevented at least one war, if not more, which it was quite possible might have extended into another world’s conflagration. We are, in my opinion, too rarely given the opportunity to express our views on the League and its activities. Probably in no country which is a member of the League of Nations is there less general interest taken in its deliberations than there is in the Commonwealth. I have found, in the course of my conversation with many people, that they look upon the League as some great organization on the other side of the world with which we have a more or less indefinite and expensive connexion. People who regard the League in this way overlook the fact that we share with the oldest and greatest of the nations equal rights and responsibilities as members of the League. They overlook the fact, also, that the League is” not a super-state, after all, but simply a union of nations weary of war and determined to do all they can to settle future disagreements by peace-* ful means. That is the first objective of the League, and it is also out to do all it can to better the conditions of mankind generally. Whether we believe in this great world organization or not, and whether we are in the habit of supporting or laughing at it, we cannot Wind ourselves to the fact that, slowly but surely, matters of vital importance to us as a nation, are being drawn within the ambit of its discussions. Questions we have been in the habit of looking upon as entirely domestic, may soon be discussed in the halls and committeerooms at Geneva. A distinguished supporter of the League of Nations has said, very truly -
There is a general truth of the utmost importance, for the comprehension of the possi bilities of international action, in the present state of the world. The results the League can attain are necessarily limited by the sovereign will of its members.
This distinguished supporter of the League, I imagine, would like to see that disability removed. If so, I cannot agree with him. The people must take a greater interest in the League, and, personally, I feel that it rests upon us to encourage them to do so. The late President Wilson, in addressing the United States Senate on the 22nd January, 1917, said : -
Mere agreements may not make peace secure. It will be absolutely necessary that a force be created so much greater than the force, of any nation now engaged, or any alliance hitherto formed or projected, that no nation, no probable combination of nations, could face or withstand it. If the peace presently to be made is to endure, it must be a peace made secure by the organized major force of mankind.
I have said before that world public opinion will make or mar the League of Nations, and we should do all we can. to take an interest in its work and promote its advancement. When I went to> Geneva in 1923, I was very doubtful whether that great organization could dovery much towards maintaining the peace of the world. Perhaps a wide and varied experience of human nature in many countries had had its influece upon me, and it certainly gave me some knowledge of the difficulties the League of Nations had to meet. Before taking part in the meetings of the various committees appointed by the Assembly of the League, I had to take the place of a delegate appointed by Australia upon a conference which was called under the auspices of the League of Nations to deal with obscene publications. The deliberations of the conference were very protracted, and appeared to me to be just a little futile. After weeks of discussion it was decided that each nation which became n party to the particular convention drawn up should decide for itself exactly what was the meaning of the word “ obscene.” I was later privileged to take a part in the Australian representation on the Third Commission dealing with disarmament, and I left Geneva very hopeful that the League, if it had the backing of the world’s public opinion, and did not move too fast and too far, had a great and useful future before it, and might make it possible to settle international disputes by peaceful means, and further, might do very much to better the conditions of people throughout the world. I was struck by the obvious determination of the representatives of all the nations to do every thing possible to prevent further wars, and to arrive at some understanding whereby international disputes might be submitted to arbitration before the disputing countries resorted to war, whether they particularly hoped in the end to secure with peace, security, or justice, or all of these, the representatives of all the nations were united in a desire to attain the great objective. Those who have been to Geneva as members of delegations will probably remember Professor “William Rappard, Professor of Economic History in the University there. He is a member of the permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, and he lectured last year throughout the United States of America on “International Relations as viewed from Geneva.” His book on the subject is a most interesting one, and I advise all honorable members who are interested in the League of Nations, if they have not already done so, to read it. In an introduction to the book, Professor Rappard writes -
I am the first to admit that this League is, as yet, very far from having fulfilled the purposes for which it was created, and that, in spite of many admirable and useful efforts, its present status and achievements still fall far short of the hopes and ambitions of its founders, or at least, of the hopes and ambitions raised by its founders. This is - due, in part, to the fact , that the mills of history grind very slowly,’ whereas human imagination flashes as lightning when once it has been stirred by intolerable suffering or fired by great visions..
He further says -
But it is due also to many unfavorable circumstances surrounding the birth of the League, the most decisively unfavorable of which, in my estimation, has been the absence of Germany, Russia, and, above all, of the United States of America.
I agree with Professor Rappard, and have always contended that the League’s greatest disability has been the fact that its membership is not universal. I do not think that, in the course of his remarks, the Leader of the Opposition referred to that disability which is recognized ‘as the great outstanding one of the League to-day. Professor Rappard points out that the League has three great duties - 1. To outlaw war; 2. To execute peace treaties (mandates and minorities) ; 3. To promote international co-operation. After all, international co-operation is probably next in importance to the first objective of the League of Nations. President Coolidge, speaking at Chicago, on the 4th December, 1924, said -
We ‘can no more assure permanent and stable peace without co-operation among the nations than we could, assure victory in war without allies among them.
I should like now to refer briefly to the agenda paper for the Seventh Assembly of the League, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) tabled a few days ago. He referred to three of the most important matters which will come up for consideration - 1. The reduction and limitation of armaments - Security; 2. The proposed International Economic Conference ; and 3. Consideration of the application of the German Government for admission to the League of Nations - and the resulting question of the composition of the council. Referring first to the reduction of armaments, for the purpose of outlawing war, I may say that during the great war it was certainly held by most statesmen throughout the world, and by public opinion, that the frightful slaughter should not end with- out some definite step being taken for the effective prevention, if possible, of future wars. I think that, after every great war in history, similar attempts have been made; without, I am afraid, any real success. The obligations of the members of the League to-day, are to abstain » from conquest and not to resort to war without having given reason and justice a chance of maintaining peace. All civilized states must desire to meet such obligations. It is only when the League will have become universal in its membership that war will really be outlawed, and, while not necessarily rendered for ever impossible, will be generally condemned by public opinion. Then, and then only, can we set about the enforcement of peace and the general disarmament of the world. In the meantime, we have made considerable advances. Professor Rappard says -
Suppress the League and you liberate in stincts of domination which are, at present at least, restrained. Fortify the League, on the other hand, and you bridle and repress these dangerous instincts which threaten not only the welfare of millions of Europeans, but, thereby, also the peace of the world.
The authors of the Covenant of the League of Nations decided on a number of different means for suppressing war, the most important being, first international publicity, to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred ; second, arbitration in the widest sense; and, third, disarmament. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to secret diplomacy, which we all agree has, in the past, been a menace to the peace of the world. Article 18 of the Covenant provides that -
Every treaty off international engagement entered into hereafter by any member of the League shall be forthwith registered with the secretariat and shall, as soon as possible, be published by it. No such treaty or international engagement shall be binding until so registered.
Over 1,000 treaties have been registered and published by the Secretariat at Geneva in the course of the last few years. That, in itself, must havedone much towards maintaining peace and a better understanding amongst the nations of the world in general, and particularly of the Old World. With respect to arbitration in its widest sense, that is to say, the substitution of justice for armed conflict and sanctions to preclude war, there are great divergencies of opinion amongst the members of the League. Those countries which suffered so greatly during the war, and which in many instances have not known peace for centuries - because there are countries in Europe that for generations have not known what it is to be at peace - desire, above all else, security. Some of the smaller States, and chiefly those not involved in the Great War, pin their faith to the International Court of Justice as a compulsory means of deciding all disputes. There is a third group of countries in Europe, comprising those which are more or less safe from aggressive war, and these desire that peace shall be assured by the quickest possible means. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has referred to efforts made for the possible reduction of armaments. The question has been under continuous consideration since the League came into being. The outstanding recognized principle has been that it is not possible to secure reduction of armaments without providing satisfactory guarantees of security, and that it is equally impossible to give these guarantees without securing at the same time a general reduction of armaments.
– Where does that leaveus?
– It will givehonorable members some idea of the great’ difficulties of the problem. That principle is recognized by all the nations that are members of the League, and it bears out my contention that we cannot take any definite steps towards the reduction of armaments until the membership of the League is universal. The first concrete proposal was the draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance, drawn up by the Third Commission, which I was privileged to attend in 1923, wherein States agreed that aggressive war was illegal; that States in the same continent would come to the aid of another State wrongly attacked; and that, in return for this guarantee, all States would agree to proportional disarmament, otherwise they could not claim the protection of the treaty. This proposal did not secure adoption, and in 1924 the Geneva Protocol was recommended by the Assembly for acceptance. The Protocol recognized compulsory arbitration. It also failed to secure adoption. To-day it would appear that the proposal most acceptable to the members of the League for the maintenance of peace is the supplementing of the Covenant by making special arrangements, as in the Locarno treaties, to meet special needs. I should like to refer briefly to the International Economic Conference, which will takeplace shortly, and to remind the Leader of the Opposition that the motion moved by the French delegate on the 25th September last concluded with the words, “ The convening of this conference under the auspices of the League of Nations shall be a matter for discussion by the Council.”
– And the preparatory committee appointed by the Council is now ready to report, and it will be for the Council to refer the matter to the Assembly.
– That is so; virtually it is for the Council to decide whether the conference shall be held. The forthcoming International Economic Conference will investigate matters of great importance to Australia. A perusal of the report of the preparatory committee, appointed to draw up a statement of matters suitable for discussion at the conference, must give us considerable concern. The League’s greatest friends and supporters - and I claim to be a friend and supporter of the League - will be the first to deprecate any interference in the domestic policies of its members, for nothing could more rapidly disintegrate the organization, nullify the good it has done, and destroy allhope of attaining the great objective of the Covenant - peace on earth, and improved and better conditions for mankind. Dnder international law the admission of migrants into any country is recognized as a matter of domestic policy. That is as it should be, but once let us agree to that question being transferred from the domestic to the international arena, and we may be denied the right to say who shall and shall not come into this country. It is proposed to collect information regarding emigration in its various forms, permanent and temporary. We can understand the anxiety of some countries to make migration an international question. Part LT of Article 11 of the Covenant is as follows: -
It is also declared to be the friendly right of each member of the League to bring to the attention of the Assembly or of the Council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threaten to disturb international peace, or the good understanding between nations, upon which peace depends. ‘
Article 23 of the Covenant reads -
Subject to and in accordance with the provisions of international conventions existing or hereafter to be agreed upon, the members of the League -
will endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women, and children, both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend, and for that purpose will establish and maintain the necessary international organizations;
undertake to secure just treatment of the native inhabitants of territories under their control;
will intrust the League with the general supervision over the execution of agreements with regard to the traffic in women and children, and the traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs;
will intrust the League with the general supervision of the trade in arms and ammunition with the countries in which the control of this traffic is necessary in the common interest;
will make provision to secure and maintain freedom of communications and of transit and equitable treatment for the commerce of all members of the League. In this connexion, the special necessities of the regions devastated’ during the war of 1914-18 shall be borne in mind.
– Some nations contend that migration comes under that provision. That, however, is very doubtful.
– I am afraid I cannot say whether that is so or not, but it is obviously under the provisions of these articles that the representatives of some nations would have migration discussed as an international problem. Australia will be competently represented at the Seventh Assembly of the League, when this question may arise. Apart from the Asiatic countries, the countries of Southern Europe ask, “ Why should Australia, a country with great empty spaces, capable of absorbing many millions of people, refuse to accept us ? “ We cannot ignore that question, and we must face the problem in the only way open to us - by . making a more definite and rapid move to people our continent with those of our own kith and kin who are prepared to come here and assist in the development of our great heritage. T support the Government’s view that Germany should be admitted to the League of Nations, and given a permanent seat on the Council. As I have often maintained, the League’s great handicap has been the absence from its membership of Germany and other countries, containing one-fourth of the earth’s population. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition referred to the United States of America joining the League and expressed concern as to whether she would be given a permanent seat on the Council. Article 4 of the Covenant states -
The Council shall consist of representatives of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, together with representatives of four other members of the League. These four members of the League shall be selected by the Assembly from time to time in its discretion. Until the appointment of the representatives of the four members of the League first selected by the Assembly, representatives of Belgium, Brazil, Spain, and Greece shall be members of the Council. With the approval of the majority of the Assembly, the Council may name additional members of the League, whose representatives shall always be members of the Council; the Council with like approval may increase the number of members of the League to be selected by the Assembly for representation on the Council.
That would permit the United States of America to become a permanent member of the Council immediately upon joining the League.
– America would settle that question for herself; she would not come into the League unless she was given a seat on the Council.
– I do not think there is any doubt that she would obtain a seat on the Council as soon as she entered the League. Germany’s admission and acceptance of the obligations of the Covenant must go far towards maintaining the peace of Europe, and, consequently, of the world. Mandates, and the protection of minorities, are probably the League’s most important tasks in . the execution of peace treaties. The Mandates Commission is rendering valuable service, and, after examination of the various reports, is able, through the council, to bring to the attention of the mandatory powers suggestions it considers advisable regarding the administration of the mandate. The statesmen in Paris in 1919 had in mind those racial, religious, and linguistic minorities left under a sovereignty not of their own preference, who might reasonably fear to be molested by their rulers in their accustomed mode of life, speech, and worship. Of the 80,000,000 people who changed their nationality as a result of the peace treaties, it has been estimated that 20,000,000 constitute minorities. The Peace Conference drew up a series of treaties for their protection. They . are guaranteed protection of life and liberty, free exercise of religion, free use of their mother tongue, and the opportunity of education in that tongue whenever the minority constitutes a considerable portion of the population. Violation of this provision may be brought to the attention of the Council. The League’s activities in the promotion of international co-operation are varied - economic, social, political, hygienic, intellectual, and moral. Its greatest work in this sphere has been, perhaps, the financial reconstruction of Australia. It is fitting that the honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) should go to Geneva as head of Australia’s delegation. He played a notable part at the historic Conference at Versailles, when the League came into being. No one has taken a greater interest in this, world organization, or has a wider knowledge of its achievements and short comings, than the honorable gentleman. The appointment of Miss Freda Bage as a member of the delegation is particularly gratifying to the people of Queensland, where she has made her home for several years, and also to the people of Victoria, her native State. Apart from Miss Bage’s distinguished scholastic attainments, the experience she has already had of world conferences will be of inestimable value to the delegation and the Commonwealth. In 1924 she attended a meeting of the International Council of Women at Copenhagen. She also represented the; Australian Federation of University women at Oslo, and represented, later, the University of Queensland at the Education Conference of the League of Empire in London. This will not be Miss Bage’s first visit to Geneva, as she attended an International Conference of Lyceum Clubs held in that picturesque and beautiful city in 1924. The forthcoming assembly will perhaps be the most important yet held, and questions of tremendous moment will certainly be discussed, and possibly decided. Australia is fortunate in the personnel of her delegation. My best wishes will accompany the honorable the Attorney-General and his colleagues.
.- I regret very much the limited amount of interest taken in Australia, not only in the League of Nations, but also in the many international problems that are gradually coming closer to this country. Even in this Parliament we find a tendency to attach greater importance to. the discussion of a peanut pool than of our commitments under the Locarno Treaty and the League of Nations. When one considers that this Parliament was formed to enable Australia to express a coherent policy on world affairs, and to speak unitedly with one voice, one cannot but deplore the fact that so little interest is taken in matters associated with the League of Nations and external affairs, and so small an amount, of attention is given by the newspapers of Australia to international affairs. It may suit us to live in a state of Arcadian tranquility, but we cannot escape the consequences of our growing international importance; and, whether there is a League of Nations or not, the questions we are discussing must ultimately be brought under our notice, possibly forcefully. I disagree with the statement that the League of Nations has failed, and with the view of the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson), that it may become a menace to our White Australia policy. I cannot see how these perils, which exist in the imagination of some persons, would disappear if there were no League of Nations; in my opinion, they would be accentuated With all its imperfections and shortcomings, the League of Nations is indeed a bulwark to Australia, a recognition of our growing national importance. That we have an equal voice with other nations in the councils of the nations, contributes to our national pride and consciousness, and enables us to work in co-operation with them in solving the difficult problems which confront humanity. I regret that the Prime Minister’s speech contained so little information concerning what happened Sn connexion with the ‘Locarno Treaty. The right honorable gentleman suggested that we should hot discuss that treaty, in so far as it affects Australia at all. I appreciate the necessity for full and careful consideration before indulging in .any criticism of tile conduct of British foreign policy, and for any criticism which is indulged in being tactful; but when we, a young nation, see political and diplomatic ^mistakes occurring in the conduct of the affairs of the British nation we should be outspoken in our criticism in the hope that that diplomacy will be improved in the future. It is my intention to direct some criticism to the manner in which the application for the admission of Germany to the Council of the League of Nations was dealt with. I propose to show that it was not so much the League of Nations which failed, as the secret diplomacy of a Conservative Foreign Secretary in Great Britain in entering into secret understandings behind the back of the League of Nations. The ratification by Australia of the Locarno Treaty is admittedly a matter of supreme concern to us, but, unfortunately, the Prime Minister has robbed the subject of a good deal of ‘its interest by requesting us not to discuss it until the Imperial Conference agenda is before us. Nevertheless, the failure of Germany to secure admission to the Coon-; cil of the League of Nations which, a few months apo, in the House of Commons, was described by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, the ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, as “ the most lamentable failure that British diplomacy has had to face for a great many years “ is undoubtedly a matter of great importance to Australia, whether we agree to sign the treaty or not. Even if we discuss it in the abstract, we must recognize that the. Locarno Treaty cannot operate until Germany has been unconditionally admitted as a permanent member of the League of Nations Council. Until that time there can be no effective security in Europe, and disarmament or reduction of armaments cannot be effectively discussed. We should, therefore, consider this question, both in its abstract sense and as it ap? plies to ourselves. To me, the study of international law, the League of Nations, and foreign problems generally, has always been of great interest, because I realize that we may some day have to face these questions seriously. It would be well if this Parliament were to direct more attention to these subjects than has been given to them in the past. In certain of the ‘Conclusions that I have arrived at in connexion with the Locarno Treaty, I have been assisted by semi-private, unbiased and impartial communications, which I have received from certain officials . connected with the secretariat at the League of Nations. The lamentable Jack of information on this subject in the Australian press, and the manner of presentation cf any information which is published, tend to befog the intelligence, and to make it impossible to see the position clearly. For that reason, I have been compelled to seek information from other sources than our newspapers. Before discussing Locarno and British diplomacy, I feel that I should say that Australia should not allow herself to become entangled in the meshes of European quarrels and prejudices. But she cannot escape the consequences of her growing international importance by .simply ignoring international questions. In any case, we of the Labour movement in Australia owe a duty to our suffering working-class comrades in other countries who are weighed down by the burden of armaments and militarism; and we should use our influence to bring about the universal adoption of arbitration in place of war, and economic development in place of armaments. In saying this, I do not consider that we in Australia should permit ourselves to be bound by European treaties and alliances, which might involve us in bloody quarrels in which we have no interest or sympathy.- While I respect the Prime Minister’s desire that we should not now discuss the question of Australia’s ratification of the Locarno Treaty, let me say, in passing, that I hope Australia will not become a signatory to that arrangement. Beyond saying that it is obvious that South Africa and Canada will not accept the obligations which it imposes, I shall say no more at present, but shall reserve my further remarks until the agenda for the Imperial Conference is before us. We have, however, been requested by the Prime Minister to express our opinions on the developments which have taken place; and this I propose to do. The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech, made the following significant observation : -
The signing of the Locarno Treaty is in no sense an undermining of the League, but rather the reverse; it strengthens the League.
With that statement I differ strongly. From developments which took place at the March conference of the League of Nations, which was specially convened to discuss the admission of Germany to the League Council, it is evident that there were secret understandings, and that the evil influence of the Old World diplomacy was at work. Secret diplomacy has done more harm to the theory of international co-operation than anything that has taken place since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. I rose to speak in defence of the League of Nations. I propose to show that the League has succeeded ; it is only the method adopted at Locarno that has failed. The Locarno Treaty was arranged outside the League of Nations. In my opinion -I submit it with all humility - it is both illogical and unworkable. Replying to criticism regarding the manner in which the foreign policy of England has been conducted, Sir Austen Chamberlain, in the House of Commons, said that, in the conduct of political affairs, logie should not be taken intoconsideration.
Mr.Scullin. - Logic is often inconvenient.” ‘ _
– Yes, when dealing with international pride and prejudices.
– Does the honorable member say that the Locarno Treaty is unworkable ?
– I. propose to show that it is. The Locarno Treaty, provides that England and Italy Jointly shall guarantee France against Germany, and vice versa; but it gives England no guarantee against aggression. Although Italy is joined as a signatory in acknowledgement of her international position, and as a tribute to her national pride, we must all recognize that her guarantee is not worth much. The effect of the treaty is to throw the whole burden of responsibility upon England.’ France, Germany, and the signatories to the subsidiary treaties between . the various far eastern States of Europe, as, for instance, the treaty between France aird Czechoslovakia, agree to accept conciliation and arbitration in the settlement of their disputes, but England refuses to pledge herself in that connexion. In effect, England says , that arbitration is good enough for other nations; that she will, as it were, stand by- with a stick to keep them inorder, but ‘that- she will not accept- arbitration herself. That . is. an illogical attitude to adopt.’ To-day, Germany is disarmed and defenceless; yet, under -this treaty, England ‘could be f orced to fight on behalf ‘ of disarmed Germany against France which every one recognizes is the greatest military power in Europe to-day.
– It is not admitted- that Germany is disarmed.
– I have studied, this’ matter very carefully, and . the -report of ‘. the League of Nations Council, is , to the., effect that Germany is disarmed to., , “the satisfaction of the Council, and also of the allied powers, to . the extent that they have beenprepared to,. negotiate with’ her: ‘ . “
– A British member ‘of- the Disarmament Commission of the League, of Nations has recently’ published . other views.
– My conclusions are based “upon ‘ a- close examination of the position.” Those who oppose Germany’s admission -to -the League Council’ are evidently willing to throw a wrench’ into; the machinery of international cooperation. I am satisfied that the allied powers would not have sat round the conference table with Germany, and entered into a treaty of amity, peace and arbitration, unless they were satisfied that she had conformed to the Treaty of Versailles. Mr. Lloyd George, in criticizing the Locarno Treaty in the House of Commons, said, “It is a one-sided guarantee, at best - there is no guarantee for’ our shores; there is no guarantee for our debts.” Mr. Ramsay MacDonald said, “ The method of Locarno was fundamentally wrong.” It is probably no concern of ours whether England’s diplomacy was right or wrong, except in so far as we are affected. In spite of the specious statement that the rights of the dominions have been conserved, in that they are being asked to say whether they will sign the treaty, the fact remains that, whether we wish it or not, should England accept the obligation which the treaty imposes upon her, Australia is at war. Australia, therefore, is bound by the treaty.
– That is inevitable, if Australia is to be a member of the Empire.
-That being so, it shows the hypocrisy of consulting the dominions on the matter at all. To do so is merely to waste time. But, seeing that we are directly interested, we are entitled to criticize the workings of British foreign policy failing, the realignment of our Imperial relationship. In any case, the growing national aspirations of Canada and South Africa will force the consideration of many such problems which, at the moment, are not of great importance to Australia. I understand that considerable correspondence has passed between the Australian and British Governments on this subject, and I should like to know why it has not been published. The Australian people are entitled to know what is taking place in the negotiations and discussions between the two Governments. Never was there a more deplorable example of the working of secret diplomacy than the March session of the League of Nations. No doubt what was done then was in keeping with Conservative traditions - the negotiations were carried out by the representative of the Conservative government in
Great Britain - but it was not in keeping with the ideals of democracy held by Australians. The Prime Minister said that the conduct of Britain’s foreign policy is not a party matter. We have had the experience of a Labour government in England making a gesture in favour of peace and disarmament by agreeing to the Geneva Protocol being replaced by a Conservative Government with an entirely different political and diplomatic policy. We cannot have a continuous policy while we consider these matters on party lines. Unfortunately, the Government, in the appointing of the Australian delegations to Geneva, has certainly not displayed a desire to treat the League of Nations as a ‘ non-party matter, or to secure a continuous policy in respect of it. I do not blame the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) for this, because I know that his efforts have been directed towards the policy that, at his suggestion, was previously adopted. I wish to briefly examine the facts concerning which the Prime Minister has maintained a significant silence. In his _ speech he made no reference to the reasons why Germany’s application for admission to the League of Nations failed. He confined his remarks to the Economic Conference, which is more a matter of academic consideration than of real importance to Australia. A special meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations was convened at Geneva in March last, and the nations of the world - 44 in all - were there represented. It was proposed to give effect to the Locarno Treaty by granting Germany a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations, the understanding being that no other matter was to be discusssed. After being dragged from all over the-, world the representatives of these nations were not consulted on the matter at all. No opportunity was given to the Assembly to discuss it. The Council of the League met in secret conclave, and discussions took place between the Locarno signatories as well to see if the acute differences between the members- could be adjusted. No public meetings were held to discuss a subject affecting the peace and welfare of the world. What were the differences? Sir Austen Chamberlain had agreed to support the claim of
Spain to a permanent seat on the League Council, while France wanted Poland to be appointed to the Council as a counterpoise to the addition of Germany. Sweden, which was represented on the Council by Mr. Unden, a socialist delegate, took the honest course of vetoing the proposal to appoint Spain as a permanent member of the Council on the ground that the Conference had been convened to admit Germany, and to do otherwise beforehand would be a breach of faith and of the Locarno Treaty. It is well known that both Sir Austen Chamberlain and M. Briand abused and bullied the Swedish delegate until, for the sake of a settlement, the Swedish and Czecho-Slovakian non-permanent members of the Council agreed to resign to enable Spain and Poland to be appointed in their stead. After these differences had been settled because of that unselfish action, Brazil renewed her demand that Latin- America should have a permanent seat on the Council - a demand which she has been pressing for years. Brazil is easily the most important southern American state, and any one who has given, attention to the attempt, prior to the world war, to . establish a permanent Court of International Justice, knows that Brazil then threw a wrench in the machinery by demanding greater consideration for herself. Brazil’s action was undoubtedly provoked by the arrogance of the Great Powers, and Mello Franco, the Brazilian delegate, said that “ Locarno must be brought within the framework of the League, and not the League within the framework of Locarno.” Brazil’s pride and obstinacy was offended, and she refused to allow bargaining and haggling to take place behind her back. Unanimity was essential under the rules of the Council, and Brazil’s objection brought about an impasse, for which Sir Austen Chamberlain was largely responsible. Had he insisted, on behalf of the British Government, that the pledge to Germany should be fulfilled, had he refused to enter into any understanding with France and Spain, respecting the alteration of the constitution of the Council, it is quite likely that the matter would have ended happily. Had he, in effect, shown the simple frankness and honesty of purpose of his predecessor, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, no trouble would have developed. But, as Mr. Ramsay MacDonald said in the House of Commons, Sir Austen Chamberlain became entangled in the machinery of Geneva, and most completely forgot the League procedure . . . beginning again to practice the old methods of diplomacy, haggling, bargaining, huckstering, and brow-beat” ing.” Lloyd George said, “ There is no doubt that what has happened here has put off America, and antagonized her in a. way nothing else’ has for some time.” Sir John Simon, criticizing the British Foreign Secretary, said his action was “an illustration of the mess resulting from summoning nations from all over the world to attend a meeting of the League, and never allowing the League machinery to work.” The London Times, which supports the British Conservative Government, said -
It is not agreeable to reflect that if our own Government had taken, three weeks ago, a - firm stand in accordance with what was revealed later as the definite view of the country, thi3 humiliating spectacle of national discord might have been avoided. Spain and Brazil had previously given a formal promise to place no obstacle in the way of the admission of Germany to the League. . . . The intrigues carried on for many days in conditions of unexampled publicity are of a nature to disgust and revolt both the supporters and opponents of the League of Nations. Geneva, the home of an institution designed to prevent war, was suddenly transformed into a scene of the crudest manifestations of those very intrigues that drove desperate nations into the blind arbitrament of war. The depths of national rivalries, suspicions, and jealousies were revealed in full measure. The spectacle was revolting.
I mention these things because I believe that Australia should be outspoken in condemnation of the methods of secret diplomacy that Sir Austen Chamberlain adopted, and which he subsequently excused when debating the subject in the House of Commons. In justification of his diplomatic methods,’ he quoted on the 23rd of March, Colonel House as having said -
It would be better if we could get what we are after without having to take such a positive stand in public. It is the publicity of these things that always does harm, and to which they object.
We have a vote and a voice in the Assembly of the League of Nations, and there is no reason why we should be tied to the apron strings of British diplomacy, especially when it commits mistakes that are calculated to lower British prestige in the eyes of the League of Nations and of the world generally.
– Australia is a nation.
– We have a vote and, therefore, the right to express our opinions about the British delegates in the strongest possible terms if we consider that they are acting wrongly and not correctly interpreting our sentiments. Furthermore, it is clear that what failed, was not the League of Nations, but the methods of secret diplomacy that were adopted by the Council. The League of Nations was never consulted. I am advised by a high official of the League of Nations at Geneva that had the League been consulted the difficulty would never have arisen. In the. first place there would have been private representations to Brazil to modify her attitude. Representations were made to her by the British Government and the other Locarno powers, though late in the day and half-heartedly, but the League had no official cognisance of that fact. In the second place, the only reasonable basis for Brazil’s claim to a permanent seat was that she represented the Latin American States, and, as their representative; had their sympathy and support. The obvious step was to discover what were the views of the South American States. As a matter of fact, these States, on their own initiative, met together and passed a unanimous resolution calling on Brazil to withdraw, and plainly expressing preference for a system of rotation in the representation of South American States on the Council, as opposed to a permanent seat for any particular State, but before response could be received to this diplomatic pressure, the members of the Council deliberately decided to postpone the whole question until next September. Tho second method of procedure was, therefore, not only unavailed pf, but when it had spontaneously been set in motion outside the circle of the Council, that body deliberately rejected it. If this method had been tried and had failed, the normal course would have been to convoke a public meeting of the Council, at which the nations would have been required to express their attitude openly. It would then have been gathered that Brazil alone was standing in the way of Germany’s entry to the League of Nations, if such were the case, and a second meeting could have been summoned to see the results. That was not done. If that expedient had been tried, and had failed the next step would have been to place the matter before the Assembly, at which all the nations of the League would be represented. But throughout the period, from the opening of the Assembly and Council to the last day, this problem was discussed entirely outside the regular procedure of the League. There was no regular meeting, private, or secret gathering of the Council. No minutes and no records were kept, and no reference was made to the Assembly until the last day, when it was summoned to be told that the Council had decided to postpone the matter. Supposing that these methods had been tried and had failed there was this last but drastic step, which would have been justified, and which would certainly have been worthy of careful examination. The nonpermanent members of the Council are elected by the Assembly “ from time to time.” The Assembly in its “ discretion “ could have decided that it was time for the re-election of tho Council, and taken the opportunity to refuse, to re-elect Brazil on the ground of gross abuse of power. A mere threat in that direction would probably have been successful, without the need to take definite action.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I do not desire my references to the failure of the Locarno powers to secure Germany’s admission to the Cpuncil pf the League ef Nations to be interpreted as an attack upon the necessity for a semblance of unity between Great Britain and the dominions of the Empire in the conduct of British foreign policy; but I think that criticism often has an undoubtedly healthy effect. It would be an entirely wrong and disloyal conception of our Imperial relationships to concede the British Government such a supernatural wisdom, so to speak, that we must not in any circumstances dare to criticize the manner in which her diplomatic affairs with foreign countries are conducted. In my opinion, it would be advantageous to the British commonwealth of nations generally if more discussion occurred, not only in this Parliament, but also elsewhere. It would create not only a public interest, but a healthy understanding of one another’s view-point. In my opinion, the diplomatic methods adopted by Sir Austen Chamberlain to secure Germany’s election to a permanent seat on the League of Nations Council were wrong, although some people may argue that, on occasions, preliminary and secret negotiations are advisable before definite agreements on international affairs are formulated. The House must agree that Germany’s admission, to the Council was the foundation upon which the elaborate structure was erected at Locarno. To contend that there was any room for the Assembly or the Council of the League to haggle or argue about it last March is to beg the question. Germany should have been admitted then, and the failure of the British Foreign Secretary to secure her admission evoked considerable criticism in the British Parliament, and throughout Great Britain generally. The dissatisfaction was not confined to any one party. It was almost as strong in the Conservative ranks as to those of the other parties. Prior to, and during, the League meeting last March, neither the Assembly nor the Council had had an opportunity to publicly consider whether or not Germany should be given a permanent seat on the Council. The allied powers responsible for the Locarno pact met, sometimes as signatories at Locarno in secret conclave and sometimes informally as members of the League of Nations Council, over a cup of tea. They never had a formal meeting. No minutes or records of their proceedings were preserved. I am authoritatively informed that these secret proceedings enabled some powers to take positions, in secret that, at any rate, would have been more difficult had they been required to declare publicly their actual position in regard to Germany. It was possible to take extreme views in secret which it would have been, to say the least of it, embarrassing to defend in public discussions. Negotiations were carried on with all the disadvantages of secrecy and publicity, and without any of the advantages of either.’ The result was a failure, not of the League of Nations, but of the methods’ adopted by the powers which agreed to the Locarno Treaty, and the manner in which the problem was approached. The Prime Minister said that a committee had been appointed to go into the whole question of whether the Council should be reconstituted. We may well ask how the matter now stands. The committee so appointed comprises representatives of a number of powers, including Germany and the Argentine; but the postponement of the consideration of the question whether Germany should be admitted to a permanent seat -on the League Council has undoubtedly created a grave risk of the entire breakdown of the League as it is at present constituted. The claims of Spain, Poland, and other powers, which appeared to have been settled in March last, have now been re-opened. If, in September, Brazil maintains her veto, Germany at best cannot take a seat on the Council until March, 1927, assuming that, at the coming Assembly, Brazil loses her seat; for the States hold their seats to the end of the year, and the first meeting of the Council each year is in March. The Prime Minister has told us that the committee has met, and that it has been successful in reaching some semblance of an agreement. With due respect to the right honorable gentleman, I disagree with him, although he may have some information that is not available to me. My information was obtained from authenticated documents, and it is that the committee arrived at a preliminary agreement only on a portion of its reference. It was to have met on the 28th June. It is now confronted with the claims made by Brazil, China; Spain, Persia and Poland for permanent seats on the Council of the League. Brazil, as a matter of fact, now claims . two permanent seats for Latin America. The whole result of the delay in admitting Germany has been to expose the weakness of the League and the possibility that unless some agreement is arrived at in September, it will bring about its complete disruption if these powers persist in their ‘ claims. It is quite evident that the coming Assembly will be faced with the same difficulties which confronted the March Assembly; but they will, no doubt, be accentuated by that time. The whole blame for this undoubted breakdown must rest with the British and French delegates to the March meeting. The repercussion of those proceedings has been the completion of a treaty of arbitration and commerce between . Russia and Germany. I am not offering any objection to the completion of such a treaty. My fondest hope is that the British people will shortly recognize that they cannot, for all time, ignore that fact that Russia is a nation - albeit, a nation which has selected its own form of government.
– They are not likely to ignore it for all time.
– As a matter of fact, quite recently a parliamentary commission of Conservative members of the House of Commons visited Russia, and they have submitted a report to the British Government, the effect of’ which is that Russia is not as black as she is painted; that her workmen are well fed and well treated, and that her government is being carried on satisfactorily. If Britain does not wake up, and renew, in the fullest sense of the term, her trade relations with Russia, her trade will be seriously affected in the near future. What a marked contrast is the report of that commission to the tactics adopted by the Conservatives during the last British election to disrupt’ and bring into disrepute the Ramsay MacDonald Government, by the publication of the Zenovieff letter, and the raising of all kinds of “ red “ scares. Nevertheless, the methods of British diplomacy largely justify Russia in refusing to join the League of Nations, which, by being under the tutelage of the big Powers, as was demonstrated at Locarno, is becoming something like the Holy Alliance of a century ago. Unless the Powers are prepared to abandon the worn-out and discredited methods of secret diplomacy, the destruction of the League seems certain. I do not blame the League for the difficulties that have arisen. I believe that it is highly desirable that it should continue its operations. I hold the opinion that the triumph of democracy in Europe, and the destruction of the vested interests which have been in command of international politics for so long, are the only guarantee of future peace. If we can preserve the structure of the League, we shall undoubtedly be able to utilize it when the governments of Europe show the right spirit. Its annual discussions, even if nothing comes from them, are helpful to the respective nations, and contribute towards a better understanding, on which future conferences must build. The Prime Minister touched upon the difficulties in the way of disarmament. I am of the opinion that those difficulties have been accentuated by the methods that British representatives at Geneva have adopted. The manner in which the question is being approached whilst no doubt scientific, shows a very general desire to refrain from tackling it boldly. I have given close attention to the questionnaire which has been sent to the various powers. No doubt some such method of examination is necessary; but the very form of some of those questions indicates a general disinclination to tackle the problem in an honest, openhearted fashion. One thing that must be said in favour of the Geneva Protocol for the pacific settlement of International Disputes is that it was contingent upon disarmament. That was the rock upon which it was built. But the Locarno Pact was’ contingent only upon the admission of Germany to the League of Nations Council. Not one other condition was attached to it. Obviously, before actual naval and military disarmament is possible, there must be moral disarmament. Without it there can be no hope of actual disarmament. The nations of the world must disarm suspicion and abandon secret diplomacy before they can put into practice a real measure of disarmament. As long as secret diplomacy is persisted in there will be suspicion. One thing that has alarmed me more than anything else recently in regard to international relationships has been the reports in the press of the arrest of British spies in French territory and the imposition on them of long terms of imprisonment. If the published reports are correct, there is no doubt that the old forces that led to the world war are at work in Europe to-day and that there is no spirit of moral disarmament. An attitude of international trust is necessary before disarmament can be achieved. I wish to touch’ briefly on the question of Britain’s burden of armaments. I believe that we owe a duty to humanity to do what we oan to help the movement towards disarmament; but unless we can induce the other nations to disarm we must arm ourselves. We are as much concerned with this problem as . other countries are. We find that in the period 1922-26 Great Britain’s total expenditure on armaments exceeded £452,000,000, which was nearly three times as great as her expenditure in the same period on education. In 1925-26 Great Britain spent £546,000,000 in meeting debts incurred during the last war and in preparing for the next.
– No wonder she has a large army of unemployed.
– That is what I say; but I also think that if we can do anything to help to relieve’ the British and other peoples of their terrible burden it is our duty to do it. My outlook on this question is international. I believe that we ought to have an interest in each other’s welfare. Australia spent last year £33,000,000, which is ‘ equal to £61s. 9d. per head of population. That was almost twice as much as the expenditure incurred by Canada, over three times as much as that of South Africa, and less than half that of Great Britain. Even if complete disarmament cannot be achieved, there is no reason why tho nations of Europe should not agree to a reduction similar to that agreed upon at the Washington Conference. So far as Australia is concerned, that conference undoubtedly did good work. A similar conference of the nations of the Pacific is now required to endeavour to bring about some further reduction. By outlawing the use of poison gas, preventing the employment of submarines in certa”in circumstances, and limiting the size of battleships, the Washington Conference undoubtedly alleviated the feverish competition in armaments which had contributed to the fear of Japanese aggression. I shall not at this stage . express an opinion as to whether that is a real fear or only something in the nature of a mare’s nest. If we can induce another conference of the Pacific nations to go into the question of disarmament, we shall achieve results that from an Australian stand-point will be far more satisfactory than could be achieved by the prolonged discussion of such a question by a world conference.
– All that we got out of the Washington Conference was the sinking of the Australia.
– I entirely agree with the point made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), but, unfortunately, my time will not permit me to go into that phase of the question just now.
I am in absolute agreement with the amendment -that my respected leader (Mr. Charlton) has moved to the motion. Any interference with the autonomous, economic rights of Australia should be strenuously resisted. However, I hold the view that the summoning of an Economic Conference has been approached from a European stand-point by the European countries in the League of Nations. Any attempt to apply this inquiry to Australia - or, for that matter, to the United States of America or Russia, who are not in the League of Nations - can lead only to disaster. In fact, the inquiry cannot properly be proceeded with unless it is a world investigation of economic resources; and the fact that three countries, which constitute by far the largest economic reservoir in the world, will not be parties to the investigation is calculated to limit its scope and its possibilities.
– The honorable member can add also Canada and South Africa.
– Quite so. I understand that this is to-be a preliminary investigation, that has to be approved of by the Council of the Assembly.
– Do not forget that the Assembly was unanimous in sending the matter on for investigation.
– For preliminary investigation. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that originally the socialist organizations in Europe urged that the League of Nations, should be charged with the investigation of economic questions, because they held the opinion that the root cause of international war was trade and commercial rivalry. So far as Europe is concerned, I do not know that an investigation of this character would do any harm. I commend to honorable members an article that appears in theRound Table entitled “ Europe at the Gross Roads,” which points to the fact that throughout Europe to-day there is a desire to form a zolverein, a customs union, a federated economic union of Europe if you like, to combat the enormous mass production and . wealth of the United States of America, which is gradually destroying European trade predominance and adding to the huge army of unemployed. The article contains many interesting figures, and from the stand-point of a European economic investigation it has the imprimatur of approval of the different Socialist and Labour groups in Europe. The figures show how European production has declined, to a level below that of America. They show that, although the population of America is only about twofifths of that of Europe, including Russia and Great Britain, the United States of America produce more maize, oats, and cattle than all the countries of Europe put together, to say nothing of cotton, oil, and copper. It might be to the advantage of Australia if the trade of Europe could be completely restored. This article mentions the fact that internal freetrade in the United States of America has been largely responsible for American development. It is urged that there should be some semblance of internal freetrade in Europe.
I feel sure that the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) and other honorable members will share my hope that America, in spite of her reservations and conditions, will be admitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice. Certain of her reservations are seemingly unreasonable. Many persons imagine that the attitude of America generally is unreasonable; but the American Ambassador only recently sent to President Coolidge a report, in which he said that the failure of Locarno clearly indicated that with a continuance of secret diplomacy and Old World hatreds and suspicions there was very little hone for Europe; and until she rehabilitated herself in the estimation of countries that were far removed from these age-old feuds her condition would not improve.
– Does not the honorable member think that America should come in on general terms; not on . terms that have been made specially for . her ?
– If we could break down America’s distrust and suspicion of being entangled in European quarrels we should go a long way in that direction.
On many occasions I have referred in this House to the failure of the Government to give to the Conventions of the League of Nations the consideration they deserve. I do not intend to labour that matter now; but I urge that if the Government intends to take the work of the League seriously, greater urgency and more serious consideration should be given to those questions. I claim, I hope without egotism, that had I not raised these questions, and received the assistance of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and other honorable members, action might not have been taken.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) made reference to the Trade in Arms and Ammunition Convention, which was tabled in this House to-day. I hope that the Government, as a gesture to the rest of the world, will at . the earliest opportunity take steps to ratify that Convenvention. A publication which was issued recently by the League of Nations showed that the private trade in arms and ammunition by 30 countries during the years 1920 to 1924 had a total value of over £71,000,000. That is an alarming indication of the extent of this traffic. The exports for 1924 amounted to over £9,500,000. No doubt inthat year arms and ammunition were being sent to Morocco and various-: other, places with the object of fostering war and adding to the sum total of human misery. Some interest was created ‘in ‘ European countries and unnecessary* propaganda was indulged in as a result of the discovery that Great Britain was the largest exporter in 1924. Her percentage of the total was 31.6. The United States of America was second with 23.6, and France was third with 20.6. The British figure, however, took on a different complexion when it was explained that 60 per cent, of the exports of Great Britain went to other parts of the British Empire.
The only hope of the League of Nations lies in the return to power of Labour and Socialist governments, who will not allow themselves to be influenced by trade and commercial rivalries. The common people of the world, who made all the sacrifices during the war and are now carrying the greater portion of the -crushing burdens of debt and taxation, poverty and unemployment, are keenly desirous of maintaining peace. The mutilated victims of the war also want peace; the widows and orphans want peace. One cannot help sensing the growing revulsion against the old conception of patriotism. Patriotism has, in the past, been rightly described as a “ perennial desire to kill your neighbour.” It is time that that doctrine was abandoned. The .Covenant of the League of Nations was the hope of humanity. It is a matter for regret that the dove of peace,, upon emerging, so to speak, from the Ark of that Covenant of the League, finds the world still covered with the waters of hate and jealousy.
May I say, in conclusion, that any one who realizes the devastating effects of war - or should the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie), who sometimes says, “ Give it to. them in the neck “ ; any one who has seen the heaps of unburied dead, the shell-blasted country, and the smoke-blackened trees, that point their broken and maimed limbs heavenwards as though in protest to God against man’s inhumanity; any one who has crossed the battlefield. and witnessed the scenes ‘ of devastation and destruction surely has no desire to perpetuate the haggling and huxtering spirit of secret’ diplomacy.
A final word. I remember lying in the Tenth Canadian Hospital in Trance. One evening a sensitive lad, about eighteen years of age, entered that hospital. He had paraded sick with pneumonia. The doctor who examined him at first told him that he was malingering. The boy persisted that he was ill, and he was told to walk, through the snow, the 5 miles that separated him from the hospitaL He reached the hospital broken-hearted, and was put to bed. When the attendants took him food, he waved it away, saying, “I do not want it; let me die.” All through the night he cried out for his mother ; - arid in the ‘ morning he died. Just as that boy, who was sacrificed by the brutal and callous spirit of militarism, constantly cried out, in his dying moments for his mother, so the voice of anguished humanity to-day cries out to the governments of the world, the captains and the kings who . control the destinies of the peoples of the’ world, to advance the movement for disarmament which was initiated by the Founder of Christianity nearly 2,000 years ago.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) upon his thoughtful, interesting, and eloquent address. Al’ though I shall have occasion to qualify, if not to challenge, one or two of his arguments, I believe that, on big national, impersonal questions such as that which we are considering to-night, addresses of the character that he delivered are of the utmost value. In submitting the motion which honorable members are now considering, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) invited us to express an opinion upon the items of the agenda of the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations, and upon the views which he, on behalf of the Government, expressed in relation to some of the chief topics that fall within the agenda. He named three as being especially worthy of our consideraton. I propose to offer a few brief observations upon those three, and also upon two others which seem to me to be relevant to the situation that exists to-day. May I be permitted to say that I do not think any former speech by the right honorable gentleman gave me so much pleasure as I derived from reading in Hansard that which lie delivered in submitting this matter to the House. There was about it a studied .moderation and a quiet reserve, befitting the responsibility and dignity of the position that he holds. I am thankful to say that the same temperate tone, elevating as it is in matters of this kind, has been adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), and the honorable member for Reid.
The most important question to which the Prime Minister directed his attention was that of the admission of Germany to the League of Nations. Much of what one might have said on this question has already been said by the four honorable members who preceded me. I think there was iri this House and the country a unanimous feeling of deep regret that any .-cause should- have prevented the fruition of the plan to admit Germany to the League as soon as possible. That the miscarriage of the scheme was the result of intrigue amongst large and small nations associated with the League goes without saying; but as to who was primarily or mainly responsible we are left in the dark. The honorable . member for Reid suggested in his trenchant attack upon the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen “Chamberlain, that it was because of his clumsy and callous methods that this scheme failed. The honorable member does not blame the League. He blames the methods of secret diplomacy alleged to have been employed by the British Foreign Secretary. I have heard the argument in relation to secret diplomacy ever since the phrase was coined by a late President of the United States of America, and have always treated it as a fiction. I fail to see how in any stage of the world’s history agreements between nations can be conducted to fruition except in secret. There is nothing injurious, stealthy or improper about discussions either for peace or war between ambassadors, Ministers of State carrying high responsibilities, or special emissaries or Cabinets. The vital thing is not how they originated, but what they amount to when completed. The League of Nations, if it has done one thing that is good, and I venture to say it has done more, at least insists upon the registration of all treaties effected by member nations. Thus the world knows, for the first time in its history, if this portion of the Covenant of the League be observed, exactly what has been done by formal treaties of member nations of the League. If the honorable member for Reid, who denounced what he regards as the anachronism of secret diplomacy, will, think again he will recognize how widely such a method is adopted in individual, corporate and national life throughout the world. Business deals do not originate in the glare of publicity. Political matters are primarily discussed in secret, either between members of governments or parties.
– That is the worst thing about them.
– The honorable member who interjects will surely admit that the party to which he belongs, in order to frame its policy and propaganda to secure support for its ideals, must in the first stages carry on discussions without publicity.
– Nonsense! Not at all.
– Then I should like to enter the Labour party’s room at its next meeting and listen to the way in which it conducts its business.
– The right honorable member is welcome to enter the Labour party’s room at any time that he likes to sign the Labour party’s pledge.
– Am I to assume that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), as the coming Leader of the Labour party, issues his invitation promiscuously? It is idle affectation to say that at every stage of our political and national life all our ambitions, aspirations and ideals should be exposed to our rivals and our enemies, as well as our friends. Whatever effect the League has on the education of nations in methods of diplomacy, I venture to think that there will never come a time when the secrets of nations will be exposed before they are ready for exposure.
– It is about time they were.
– There the honorable member, like the honorable member for Reid, expresses- a pious aspiration; but we cannot deal with public affairs as we individually should like them to be; we must deal with them as we find them. The human element is spread all over the problem, and we must respect the views and methods, historic and ancient, which have imposed themselves upon every political system, ancient and modern. In this respect, ancient and modern statesmen are alike in that they incubate their schemes and treaties quietly and in secret ; but it is a great advantage that the League of Nations should at some stage or other require the public registration inthe Secretariat and records of the League of any treaty arrived at.
– Secret diplomacy has been the cause of more war and bloodshed than anything else.
– The honorable member’s interjection may be entirely truthful, but it is utterly irrelevant. The honorable member for Reid places himself in a somewhat anomalous position, I venture to suggest, when he laments the association of Australia with the Empire of which it is a constituent part.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member did not say it in so many words. But he said that the price of our remaining in the Empire - putting what the honorable member said, in my own language - was that whether we assented publicly to the Locarno Treaty or not, we were bound by it so long as Britain accepted it.
– That is true.
– Of course, that is true. We cannot be in the Empire, with the head of the Empire going to wax in the fulfilment of guarantee obligations of that kind without being a junior belligerent. The question is not whether that is true, because we all realize its truth, but whether it is good that it is true. We cannot, have any of the good things of life without paying a price for them. I believe I am not using the language of exaggeration when I say that no nation ever was admitted to participation in a great union of force and benevolence, such as the British Empire is, at so small a price of admission as we are called upon to pay. We cannot have it both ways. The honorable member for Reid wishes Australia to remain within the Empire, as every other patriotic man in Australia does, but we cannot remain in the Empire without incurring responsibilities as well as enjoying the advantages of the family partnership.
– We should have a voice, all the same.
– I admit that we should have a voice, but the difficulty is how to decide how we can exercise that right so that the lips of Empire shall speak the word of Empire, and so that it shall not be spoken in perhaps half a dozen jangling and discordant phrases. Whether or not we can invent any machinery to implement our partnership in a better way, the fact remains that we are in it. We must accept the responsibility of being in it. We are lucky to be in it. That is the view I take.
– That is to say, the right honorable member is lucky that he is alive.
– Well, we all are.
– God knows whether that is true or not !
– The honorable member evidently believes it; if not, he has the remedy in his own hands. I am anxious, however, to prevent the debate degenerating into a dialogue, and I have no desire to cross swords with the honorable member for Dalley, who is now in such a genial frame of mind.
I was greatly struck with the remarks of the Prime Minister on the question of disarmament, to which he devoted more than passing attention in his comparatively brief speech. I agree with him more than I ever agreed before with any statement he has made when he expresses his recognition of the great difficulties confronting the League of Nations and member nations of the League in considering and determining questions of disarmament. I take the questionnaire to which the right honorable gentleman directed attention, and which was emphasized by the honorable member for Reid. One has only to study three or four phrases in it to see how complicated is the question of either naval or military disarmament, and particularly that of military disarmament.
– Yet how ‘ boldly they tackled the problem at Washington.
– And how unsatisfactory they dealt with it, and in part only.,
– I admit that it was dealt with in part only.
– The honorable member complained of the phraseology and scope of the questionnaire, and contended that it shows a lack of desire on the part of the committee to solve the problem satisfactorily. To me, it presents itself in quite a different way. Before we talked of disarmament in general terms. No one, I venture to think, except perhaps military and naval students, engrossed in the affairs of the larger nations of the world, ever, up to the present, appreciated fully what disarmament was as a scheme. We have known what it was as an ideal or an aspiration, but not as a scheme. For the first time, the Preparatory Committee elaborates, for the information of the world, or that portion of it which is concerned, the considerations which have to be determined before partial or total disarmament, either by land or sea, can be contemplated. Whatever happens to a subsequent committee on disarmament, the Preparatory Committee has done valuable work in showing the nations the difficulties surrounding certain questions.
– It was the Council of the League that framed the questions for the committee.
– Then let me say that they give evidence of ability amounting almost to genius in the Council entrusted with the task of framing them. I venture to say that it will take years to obtain answers to the vital portions of the questionnaire. Some of us think, or have thought, of disarmament as simple, because, whilst Australia has a coast-line of 12,000 miles, it is separated from other parts of the world. Our outlook upon disarmament, whether we are inside or outside the Empire, is simple when compared to that of some of the ancient frontier nations of Europe. We have no frontiers. It may be said that none of the British-dominions or dependencies have frontiers. It is true that Canada has a frontier, but against an entirely friendly nation, and South Africa has a frontier with black people, but with no competing predatory white forces. But Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Czecho-Slovakia, Austria, Poland, and, indeed, every country in Europe, have problems to think of which are as old as their history, and when they are studying military disarmament or the limitation- of armament, they must have regard for that imaginary line - for in most cases it is such, as it is not defined by even a mountain or a stream - which stretches between them and their too often ancestral enemies. And so we cannot settle problems for the world by settling our own. Every country, it seems to me, presents special difficulties which must be analysed. When we come to the problem of devising a scheme, as distinguished f lorn expressing a desire, for disarmament, we must get down to details. I take leave to say that on this, as on another matter to which I shall have occasion to refer in a few minutes, it is perfectly clear that the League of Nations, as a university for the expression of ideas and ideals, has been triumphantly successful. But when it is called upon to put ideas or ideals into practical and effective shape, the real difficulty or impossibility will present itself. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) tied himself in one of the most poetic rhetorical knots I have listened to on this very question of disarmament. Alluding to those two schools of thought referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), one of which wants security before disarmament and the other of which claims that we will get security by disarmament, the honorable member for Brisbane said, “We cannot have security before disarmament, and we cannot have disarmament before we obtain security.” This is one of the riddles of the ages. If it were possible to have all these things done simultaneously by mutual goodwill, or good faith, the solution of the problem would be easy. If we had a homogeneous country to deal with, comprising people educated to the same degree of uniformity, speaking the same language, and living under the same laws as the British and American communities are, the problem would be hard enough to solve. But to ask people of every variety of thought, from those of the lowest negroid or yellow type to the most educated and most economically efficient race to accept in simple faith and trust the proposal of their former rivals or competitors, is to expect too much of any race in the world to-day. That is why I, who started, as I think the right honorable the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition started, with great hope in the League of Nations, am suffering now an attrition of hope, and a shrinkage of belief and of faith that in our time- we shall see anything really effective come out of the League in the direction of disarmament and tho prevention of war.
– We have not learned our lesson.
– I am thinking of the world as it is, not as the honorable member hopes, or as I hope it will be. I am thinking of it as the war left it, and as it has been for countless centuries, in its slow and dragging evolutionary progress upwards. We have to deal with the nations as they are. Is it imagined that the Russian peasant, the moujik, who before the war was alleged by the best judges of the world to be 80 per cent, illiterate, can understand the problems of life - psychical, mental, physical, and economic - as the best-educated people of Europe can ? I do not think it is possible. . And until humanity approaches uniformity in education and ideals, we shall continue to have these constant disappointments, these failures to achieve the results expected of the League of Nations.
– The moujik has not made such a mess of it as have some of the best-educated people of other nations.
– He has accepted the yoke of bolshevism as no other people would. Perhaps it is well for him that he did, because, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has said, he is lucky to be alive. I do not even question the suggestion of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the moujik’s lot may be better because of Leninism and Trotskyism. As far as can be ascertained, the lot of many sections of the Russian community has’ been bettered; but such a man as that cannot be compared with the highest-educated member of a white race.
I have come to the conclusion that while it is still the duty of this Government, and, I trust, is accepted as the duty of every government within the Empire, not to cripple the League, we should condemn its faults, and try to repair them and prevent their repetition. In that way we can help the League upwards. We should send to its meetings the best men we can find to express our views and endeavour to implement the Covenant of the League. We ought not, however, to be misled by a hope of getting too much from the League in our time. The best we can do is to keep it alive, and let it gradually grow in strength from infancy to manhood. We ought not to destroy our defences because it exists, for it is perfectly plain that nothing is contemplated by the League that will enable it to become a world power substituting itself and its forces for the forces of the nations that compose it. The Prime Minister quoted Article 8 of the Covenant. This is portion of it -
The members of the League recognize that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety
And these pregnant words follow: - and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.
What does that mean? It means that, under the Covenant, disarmament is a possibility if international obligations are enforced by common arrangement or action. That can only be done by some such method as has been adopted in a small way in the Locarno Treaty, or by the member nations of the League agreeing to establish a force at the League’s command to enforce the limitation of armaments or complete disarmament. But what nation will assent to the employment by the League oi large forces by land or sea? It may come in the future, but we are not ready for’ it now.
– Every nation would want to be “boss.”
– That is just the danger of it. That part of the problem is as full of curls as a nigger’s wool; but it was only by providing for enforcement by common action that those who drafted the Covenant of the League thought that disarmament was possible. I leave the matter there, hoping- that Australia will keep its face and good-will toward the League, but not depend upon it, at this stage of our history, for salvation and security.
– This country should mind its own business.
– That is one of the hardest things to do. The honorable member himself is not doing it.
We are in some danger of misunderstanding the position that has arisen in connexion with the Economic Preparatory Commission. I listened carefully to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, who suggested, rather than said, that the questions submitted for the consideration of the Council, which have to be passed on to the Assembly, are in the form of declarations or recommendations. As I read the situation, this Preparatory Commission has framed, as the Council framed in connexion with disarmament, a series of questions which it thought would cover the ground. There is a possibility if this be passed, and the commission is empowered to investigate and recommend, that the League, in its Council or Assembly, at some stage when the report is presented, may give us dangerous recommendations. If they touched our fiscalism, our migration laws, or the handling, sale, or export of our products, this country would not tolerate them for five minutes. We might not be able to resist the condemnatory opinion of the sister nations of the League, but we would quickly make up our national mind that it was not a payable proposition to be a member of the League. And we are not the only nation likely to take that stand. I cannot imagine Germany, if she is admitted to the League, or any other nation that has anything to gain by expansion, submitting to any such harness being placed, on her back. That being so,I do not realize the danger voiced by some honorable members. It is well, however, that it should have been referred to. “When our delegate is at Geneva in a few months’ time, if he lets this matter slip, he will be letting slip the most favorable opportunity of putting the light of that proposition out. He should seize that opportunity.
– If he has a vote on the Council.
– I assume that, in any case, our delegation will have the customary weight with the British authorities.
– Does the honorable member not think that these questions of domestic concern should be excluded from the League?
– Of course they should. If it were possible for an individual to speak of the impertinence of so august a world body as the League, I should employ that word. It is a case of mistaken zeal. I do not believe that any sister dominion of this Empire, or any other country, would assent to it; but surely the British nation, with at least three great territories partially peopled, will see the danger, when it is pointed out by the representatives of Canada, South Africa, and Australia, of any limitation being put upon their economic expansion. I think that we can well leave the matter in the hands of our delegate, feeling sure that he and others from the different Dominions, will stress, when in contact with the British family of nations, the necessity of arresting any further progress in matters of that kind.
– But that is not an ob- . jection to raising the matter in this House.
– Not the slightest. If it had reached the state the honorable member implied, it would be the tiger’s cub, and it might be too late to kill it. It is unnecessary, and may become dangerous. That applies to any’ interference with our fiscal rights, our power to manipulate and market our own goods, and our power to keep within our own control, as the world has done by tacit consent, the question of migration as a domestic concern.
I wish to deal with one other question, and one only. When the Prime Minister was reading the reference to the enlargement and reorganization of the Council of the League, I noticed something that appeared to escape the attention of honorable members, who were devoting themselves, perhaps, to more obvious matters. The Prime Minister announced that the Secretariat of the League communicated with the member Nations inviting them to express their views regarding the numerical strength and composition of the Council of the League, and he stated that a cablegram was sent by the Government to the Secretariat for submission to the committee. He then read a document which has won the approval of honorable members on both sides of the House. It is a clear statement of the Commonwealth Government’s views as to the constitution of the Council ; but I am interested in ascertaining whether that cablegram was sent direct from the Commonwealth Government to the Secretariat of the League, without consultation with the British Government, or the Government of any of the other Dominions. If the Prime Minister would state whether that is so, it would help me in my argument. If it was sent after consultation, the cablegram would ‘ express the views of all British authorities on this question; and if it were not, it would be interesting to know how many cablegrams the Secretariat of the League received expressing different British views on this matter. I have always feared that the right of direct communication, which was given to the dominions when they were admitted to membership of the Assembly of the League, if operated freely, as we are theoretically entitled to operate it, would lead eventually to family collision, and, possibly, to friction and disruption. lt is not impossible, in answer to an important question of the Secretariat of the League, for six or seven different British views to be sent forward, unless the sending of the answers is preceded by family consultation either in person or by cable. I mentioned this matter when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was leading the Government. He said there was no danger. Prudently operated, there is not; but, operated without circumspection and proper care, as it might be by different governments throughout the Empire, it might be dangerous. Although we have been given a status in the Assembly of the League that flatters our vanity and self-esteem, the world recognizes only one power with which we are identified - the British power - and the British view of all these world matters should and, if we are wise, must be expressed in the one form and in the same terms. I can imagine that the Government of South Africa, which, according to cabled reports, does not see eye to eye with the Austraiian Government on Empire matters, might express totally different views from those expressed by the Commonwealth.
– And Canada, too.
– The same may be true of Canada, and also other dominions of the Empire. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) - not because he has not thought of it, since I am sure he must have done so - that if machinery to deal with problems of this kind has not yet been devised, the coming Imperial Conference presents an excellent opportunity for making clear the course that should be followed by the various Dominion Governments which are entitled to speak to the League direct when asked questions of procedure and policy which they feel they must answer.
I agree with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that it is idle to talk of military or naval disarmament unless there is a change of heart - unless, indeed, there is a moral disarmanentThat is to say, anything else is political, probably transient, insincere, and merely to suit the expediency of the moment. My difficulty is in believing that the world has steadily changed, or is now changing, in heart or ambition. Those of us who read history - and we all read it - mustcome to the conclusion that the passions which excited men in ancient days to war with one another, the ambitions which created hopes and rivalries, eventually leading to great wars, are still in some, if not in full, measure, in the world to-day.
– The armed forces of the world to-day are greater than they were in 1914.
– I am not speaking only of armed forces - that may be merely an evanescent period from which we are gradually emerging after the war - but I believe that the instincts and’ ambitions of people to-day are the same as they were in ancient days, or even as they were in mediaeval times when great wars arose. And unless, as the result of education, there is a change in the heart of man, nations that have anything to lose must always be prepared for war. I do not think that preparedness in the defensive sense begets a desire to kill or to invade. But unless we are willing to throw down our fences, cancel our insurance policies, and risk all our work, and that of generations before us, we must be prepared to continue to defend ourselves until we see an actual change in the heart of man as the result of education and spiritualization. That is true of all the nations. It is true of this young nation, which is undoubtedly the greatest land in the world for the propagation of human life under the most favorable conditions, and we should be recreant to our trust if we did not take proper precautionary means, without offence to any other nation, to keep the privileges which have been handed to us and which we ourselves have developed.
.- The debate has already covered so much ground that I may be excused if I deal with only one or two matters. At the outset, let me say that I am sure the whole House appreciates ‘the opportunity to discuss these big questions. Perhaps there is reason for regret that in the past we have not had the same opportunity to do so, particularly at an early stage in the development of the matters dealt with. The House should be grateful to the Prime Minister- (Mr. Bruce) for the opportunity to discuss this subject, before the departure from Australia of the delegation to the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations, and for bringing before us the various matters to bc dealt with in the early stages of their development. For me to congratulate the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) on his speech would be impertinent, but I desire to compliment the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) on his excellent speech, which showed that he had devoted a great deal of study to this question. I do not agree with all his views; but any member who takes so much pains to learn all that he can. about the various phases of the work of the League of Nations, and gives the House .the benefit of his views, is to be commended, because by so doing he will stimulate others to reciprocal study. If the effect is only to promote debate a benefit is conferred upon us.
I take a different view of the result of the meeting of the League- of Nations held in March last, from that which has been expressed during this debate. The British Foreign Secretary himself described the proceedings at Geneva as a tragedy, and that has been the keynote of this discussion. In my opinion, the last meeting of the League at Geneva was not a tragedy. From the point of view of certain private intrigues, it was, perhaps, a tragedy, but not from the stand-point of the League. The result of that meeting was a vindication of the League of Nations. The League was called into existence to do certain things; but attempts were made to settle matters before they were dealt with by the League. While these discussions were proceeding, the League itself did nothing. The intrigues broke down, but the League remained. In my opinion, it emerged stronger than before. Private intrigues among the nations failed. This failure of private intrigues was a rebuke to the nations for re-invoking the old methods of settling international disputes. The League was prepared to do the work, but owing to the intrigues which took place, it remained .passive. It is by no means shaken or weakened; on the contrary, the experience of March last is further evidence that attempts to settle international disputes by’ the old methods are destined to fail. In that sense, the failure of the negotiations may be regarded as a blessing. The parties to the Locarno Treaty tried to usurp the functions of the League. They failed; but the League remains intact. Their failure is a rebuke to any nation or set of nations which attempts to usurp the functions of the League, or to override it by pacts made outside the League.
– Those nations were attempting to dominate Europe.
– That is so. The League, in resisting the most powerful nations in Europe, has justified its existence. I do not wish to refer to the diplomacy which resulted in the Geneva failure, as that has been eloquently and ably dealt with by the right honorable member for Balaclava, except to say that I agree with him that secret diplomacy is inevitable. It is innate in human nature, and I do not think it is either practicable or desirable to dispense with it entirely. I am not concerned with criticizing the action of the British Foreign Secretary, because I feel that we are not in a position to judge. He had to act in accordance with the views of the Government of which he was a member. The only aspect of this question which we are called upon to consider is to what extent the Commonwealth Government furthered the efforts of the Foreign Secretary, or cooperated with him. I realize the Prime Minister’s difficulties in dealing with a matter of the kind. As the right honorable member for Balaclava said, he must, to a great extent, conform to the views of the Imperial Government and work in co-operation with it. I desire, however, to draw attention to the fact that, when the admission of Germany to the Council of the League of Nations was being discussed, the press and the people of Great Britain expressed definitely their desire that Germany’s admission to the League of Nations Council should be subject to no qualifications whatever. The Foreign Secretary was asked repeatedly whether he was going to Geneva entirely unembarrassed, free to agree to the unqualified admission of Germany. Rightly or wrongly - it is not for us to judge - the Foreign Secretary on each occasion gave an evasive .answer. The nature of hisanswers gave rise to the impression that he was committed to a definite course of action, and subsequent events have shown that his hands were tied. Simultaneously the same questions were being asked inAustralia, both in this House and outside. I believe that I myself addressed a question to the Prime Minister in this connexion. People were asking whether the Government was committed to any definite attitude or had come to a definite arrangement with the Imperial Government regarding Germany’s admission to the League. Both here and in London it was stated that the Dominion Governments were co-operating fully with the British Government. There was certainly an impression that the Common- wealth Government had been consulted in the matter. I should like to know whether, at that time, the Prime Minister was aware that Spain was opposed to Germany being admitted to a Council of the League of Nations, unless Spain also obtained consideration and whether her admission to the League was to be qualified in any way. It is true that, should a treaty signed by Great Britain result in Great Britain engaging in war, Australia, whether a party to the treaty or not “would automatically become engaged in the war also. Therefore, it matters little whether we sign the treaty; but it does matter very much whether our opinion is fully expressed in the negotiations leading up. to the completion of the treaty. At that stage we ought to express ourselves most freely and frankly. “We claim that, as a young nation, free from the entanglements of the Old World, we can view some international disputes with less prejudice of mind, perhaps introduce a breath of fresh air into the atmosphere, hold up a higher ideal, and come in with cleaner hands, than older nations, and clarify considerably the channels of European diplomacy. That view, although it may be complacent, has been stated to be ours, and it should be expressed in the earlier stages of negotiations. It should have been expressed when we were in consultation with Great Britain. There seems to me to be little doubt at all, after what has been said and written since the Geneva meeting, that all that was required last March to stop the intrigues and to keep Brazil, Spain, and Poland quiet, was a statement from the British Government that Germany should be admitted to the League without any qualification, and if’ it was not inclined to make that statement on its own account, I suggest that the dominions should have urged it to do so. Australia should have informed Great Britain that it believed that Germany should be admitted to the League, but that it was not prepared, at that juncture, to consider the claims of other nations. I cannot help thinking that such an action would have been of considerable benefit in clarifying the position, and in preventing unfortunate intrigues that took place at Geneva. In the earlier stages of these negotiations, it would have been of some use if the Prime Minister, by giving some information to this House, had given us an opportunity to ascertain the position and then to strongly express the opinion of our people on this question.
I wish now to deal with one other point, which is the most important df all. I am entirely at variance with the views which have been expressed in this House regarding the Economic Conference. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has stressed greatly the need for disarmament, and I agree with him. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) has pointed out the difficulties of disarmament, and the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has truly said that the report of the Preparatory Committee on disarmament had done great service in advancing the ideal to which we all subscribe in general, and bringing it down from the clouds to the earth, showing in clear, concise, and definite terms what disarmament would really mean, and what must be done to bring it about. We must leave the realm of generalities and get right down to fundamental and practical details, to realize the difficulties surrounding disarmament. The honorable member for Brisbane said, with a good deal of truth, that it looked as if disarmament was almost impossible. Disarmament is difficult, because of the conditions of European life, and the innate hostility between peoples. We must remember that, whilst we criticize the people of Europe for entertaining feelings of hostility, and talk of those feelings as being a heritage of olden days, we, ourselves, on occasion, entertain some feeling of hostility to other nations. We are, therefore, not in a position to criticize other nations in that respect. Instead of thinking so laboriously about overcoming this great difficulty of disarmament, it would be wiser for us to make a careful analysis of the cause of armament. Remove that cause and we shall bring about disarmament automatically. Much of the past work of the League of Nations has been ineffective, because it has dealt with superficial indications instead of with fundamental causes. It is inevitable that, as the League continues its work, it must face more and more the economic conditions that are responsible for wars. It must bring them up for study, and force them more and more upon the human consciousness. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has pointed out that martial disarmament must be preceded by moral disarmament. What is meant by moral disarmament? It is the hostile attitude between man and man, and nation and nation, which is promoted, in nine times out of ten, by economic conditions and considerations. The most fruitful sources of war in the world have been religion and_ trade. If we are to analyse our difficulties, and to overcome them, we must consider the fundamental causes. The following article, headed “ Economic Disarmament,” appeared in the Times pi the 20th April last: -
Active work is now going on in preparation for the proposed Economic Conference which is to be summoned by the League of Nations with the object of facilitating the commerce of the world in general, and of Europe in particular, by securing a more enlightened trade policy. On Saturday last, Mr. Walter Leaf, the president of the International Cha.mber of Commerce, made a speech at Essen, in which he promised that the Chamber would co-operate whole-heartedly in the work of the coming Conference. It was only last June that the existence of a forward movement in fiscal opinion in Europe first began to reveal itself. Down to that time it was not even suspected by the mass of traders, but that admirable institution, the International Chamber of Commerce, at its Brussels meeting, gave it an opportunity of expression, the general character of which agreeably startled many of those who were present. Some speakers pointed out that the passion for raising tariff walls and’ putting new obstacles in the way of international trade could in the long run only injure those who indulged in it. Another made a palpable hit by saying that it was absurd for the world to be afraid of its own production, and that the way to prosperity lay through the smoother paths of freer and unimpeded trade. The signing of the pacts at Locarno gave a fillip to these ideas, and it was suggested that an Economic Conference of Europe on the Locarno model - a sort of trade Locarno - might at the right time be productive of great benefits for Europe. The usefulness of the discussions at Brussels was proved later, when, on the initiative of the French, it was possible to carry at Geneva a proposal for the appointment of an Economic Conference to study the problem. In an article published in our Annual Financial and Commercial Review, Professor Cassel, the well-known Swedish economist, emphasized the importance of this decision. The restoration of trade, he pointed out, was no less important than the restoration of credit, in which such marked .progress had been made in 1925. “ The several nations,” he said, “ must seek the basis of a new trade policy in an open acknowledgment of the fact that in international’ trade they have a great common interest. Since the war, the tendency has Iven very much in the opposite direction. Countries have suffered from depression and unemployment, and have done everything in their power to protect themselves against foreign competition, with the result that the depression bias become still worse, whereupon new protective measures have been resorted to. . . . People now begin to see the necessity of military disarmament, but equally urgent is disarmament in international trade policy. . . . But it is obvious that if it (the conference) is to produce real and lasting benefits, it must be regarded from the first as a conference of economic disarmament.” It would be hard to dispute the truth of Professor Cassel’s indictment of European trade policy. The war carved Europe up into a larger number of political entities than previously existed. A few years of experience, however, have gone a long way to destroy the illusion that it is possible to cut up one economic unit and convert it with advantage into half a dozen units, each pursuing a policy hostile to the others. A change, indeed, is taking place in European views about trade. In the latest issue of the Foreign Trade Bulletin of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and Association of Austrian Banks and Bankers, reference is made to the new bill for amending the Customs tariff. It is oxplained that the object of this bill is to serve as a basis for negotiations, and that public opinion largely inclines towards, freetrade. Departure from Austria’s previous policy is said to be a consequence of the protectionist policy of Austria’s neighbours, which), one after the other, have further increased rates already prohibitive. Another factor that has helped to change European opinion has been consideration of the wonderful prosperity of the United States of America. It is argued that the amazingly rapid growth of prosperity in that country is due to the fact that it is one big freetrade unit, and that it could never have taken place had the States been split up into -18 political units, each with a tariff wall to keep out the products of the others. Mr. Leaf has declared that the International Chamber will work in harmony with the League’s conference, which is a most important extension of thu work they themselves have set out to do. They will, however, persevere in their own inquiry set up as a result of the resolutions passed at Brussels. To this end they have established a Committee on Trade Barriers, under the presidency of an eminent Frenchman, assisted by an American and a German, with a very strong body of experts from other nations. … It would be rash to anticipate rapid progress in the movement to remove or diminish .the obstacles to trade in Europe: but thu objective of the many earnest minds now working towards its attainment clearly deserves the support of all i,l:lose who seek to promote peace and prosperity in Europe.
That article shows that European statesmen .have gradually realized, especially since the war, that they are using their energies in the wrong direction, and this has arisen in this way: Out of the war and peace treaties, based on the continual demand for what is termed “selfdetermination,” there have grown up in
Europe a number of new countries imbued with a most intense nationalism. This excessive nationalism is opposed to the spirit of internationalism, and is a very fruitful source of international war. Call it what one likes, self-determination, patriotism, or nationalism, if unchecked and carried out to the fullest possible extreme it invariably leads to clashes with other nations. That is what is occurring in Europe. These new and young nations, with a passionate desire for selfdetermination, are proceeding along lines which are directly hostile to the nations on their borders. Some of the European nations, such as Austria, which the League has been trying to reconstruct, and to assist to recover from the terrible turmoil and destruction of war, have been hampered by economic obstacles placed by surrounding nation’s in the way of” giving effect to the ideals of the League. As I pointed out in the House some time ago, there is growing in Austria and Germany a strong desire to re-unite, not, perhaps, on a military basis, but certainly on an economic basis, by entering into trade treaties, under which they combine against surrounding nations. The same thing has occurred among the Eastern nations of Europe, known as the Little Entente. So we have growing up a series of hostile groups. Because of that hostility, and because these nations feel that it is incumbent upon them to maintain an intense nationalism, they consider it necessary to retain their armaments. The small nations in the east of Europe, while they remain armed, are a fruitful source of war, but they will not disarm until a better understanding of the economic relations between nation and nation is instilled in them, and until they begin to recognize the interdependence, commercially, industrially, and productively, of the different nations of the world. That is the idea of the conference.
– Is it possible to give effect to the honorable member’s ideals?
– If it is not, then it is of no use for us to talk about disarmament. It is folly for us to express high ideals in regard to this or any other subject, if we are not prepared also to consider the steps by which they may be attained. If the qualities of heart that we possess lead us to speak in glowing terms of the desirableness of disarma ment, that is one thing; but if we will not consider the means by which they may be achieved it speaks very little for our qualities of head. The conviction has grown upon me, especially since the Economic Conference Preparatory Committee was appointed to survey the ground that the Economic Conference must cover, that unless we are prepared to consider international, commercial, and industrial relationships, it will be of little use for us to think about disarmament. The Preparatory Committee has been doing for the Economic Conference what the Preparatory Committee did for the Disarmament Conference. It has attempted to reduce to practical terms the problems which the Economic Conference must face. It is only in that way that a problem can be envisaged sensibly and sanely. Just as in dealing with disarmament you must descend to practical details, so in considering economic relationships you must get down to bed-rock details. If, when dealing with international co-operation, you refuse to tackle the problems which should be faced, you are simply voicing empty hypocritical phrases that must die on your lips. We certainly shall never be able to bring into being any degree of international co-operation as long as we say to the other nations, “ Stand off ; you must not touch this subject. We alone may express our views in regard to it, for it is matter of domestic concern.” I suggest that therein lies the weakness of the well-intentioned amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. What are matters of domestic concern?
– They are set out in international law.
– I suggest that the decision as to what are matters of domestic concern does not rest only with us.
– They are already settled by the nations of the world.
– The honorable member says, in effect, that we must not run the risk of any alteration in international law, but must stand for it as it is to-day. I suggest that that is an impossible position. The only alternative to international war is international law. The honorable member suggests that international law must not be enlarged, but I submit that it must be evolutionary, and must be developed to meet the needs of the times. It cannot surely be held that as it is now it must always remain.
– Would the honorable member say that we can depart from our White Australia policy?
– I would not, but I would say that we should not be afraid to discuss it. In my opinion, the more it is discussed the better it will be for us. I have no fear of discussing the matter with any intelligent nation. A nation like Japan, for instance, with its keen, scientific outlook, and its claim for a liberty as wide as our own, would undoubtedly agree with us as to the undesirableness of racial admixture. But that is a totally different thing from mere commercial relationships. It is unfortunate that this discussion should have centred as it has around one subject. It is unthinkable that any matter should be altogether above international discussion on the ground that it is domestic. If, for example, one nation in Europe should say to a neighbouring nation, “We refuse to discuss certain matters with you, for they are domestic,” it would be surely open for the other nation to reply, “ We cannot admit that matters which . you regard as domestic, but which re-act on us, are beyond discussion, and that we must bear their re-action without any resentment.” The time will come when a nation in that ‘position would resort to arms.
– Is not immigration a domestic matter?
– I do not think so.
– Then I take it that the honorable member, believes in allowing Asiatics to come to Australia?
– It is unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition should adopt that attitude. One aspect of migration is wrapped up with our White Australia policy; but migration generally cannot be considered a domestic matter so long as large tracts of the earth’s surface are crying out for population, while other tracts are so overcrowded that they cannot support the people who occupy them. If, in these circumstances, certain nations insist that migration is a domestic matter, it is quite likely that war will be caused. The nations cannot act like children who, in playing a game, cross their fingers and say to their companions “You cannot touch me; I have crossed my fingers.”
– International law regulates world policy in these matters.
– That is just what I am trying to point out. International law is not like ordinary law.’ It is not based upon parliamentary statutes, but is really a summary of international treaties. Our laws are enforcible by the police.
– But international law is enforcible only with the sword.
– That is the distinction. Unless international law gives expression to the will of the majority of the nations, or, at least, to the will of those who are able to enforce their desires, war is certain to occur. Although our White Australia policy is part of the present international law, it cannot be said that it will always be so. Sanction of it will depend in the future, as it has in the past, upon having a majority of the nations of the world favorable to it.
– Shipping is controlled by international law.
– But it comes within quite a different category. I am speaking now of questions which affect national pride, prestige and prosperity, in the maintenance of which a nation is likely to resort to arms. In my opinion, the Economic Conference is one of the most important developments of the League of Nations, and I regret that it has been criticized adversely during this debate. It will be of little use for us to participate in a disarmament conference if we are not prepared to join in an economic conference. Our saying to the nations of the world, “You must disarm,” will have little effect in any case; but if, at the same time, we should say in regard to certain matters that will come before the Economic Conference, “ You must not dictate to us about these things,” we shall destroy whatever influence we might have. We must set our own house in order if we desire to carry any weight in international affairs, otherwise we shall nullify and spoil whatever efforts we may make.
This debate has been most interesting, and I feel that it will do a large amount of good. I am sorry that more discussions of a similar nature do
Dot occur in this national Parliament. We should be doing a great deal better service to our country if we devoted more attention to subjects of this character, and less to the setting up of peanut pools and the like. I have very great confidence in the representation of Australia at the Assembly of the League.- 1 feel that the whole of Australia is proud, that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is to be our representative this year. He has been listening carefully to this debate, and while we cannot formulate and pass a motion of instruction to him, but can only express our opinions for what they are worth, I feel sure that, although some views that are expressed may be the reverse of his own, he is sufficiently broadminded, if the same views should be voiced at the Assembly of the League, to give full weight to them, for he realizes the truth of the adage, “ In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
.- I was annoyed at the speech which was delivered by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). He argued that there was no possibility of bringing about disarmament until steps were taken to remove the tariff barriers that have been erected by the nations of Europe. Considering that 26 different tariffs are in operation on that continent, it is remarkable that any progress has been made with the movement, and that a greater number of disagreements have not been fostered. Comparison cannot be made with the United States of America, because that country has only one tariff operating in respect of the whole of its area.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) referred to the Locarno pact. I have read everything that I have been able to obtain on that subject, and the conclusion at which I have arrived is that secret diplomacy has been the cause of its non-success. If Great Britain maintained friendly relations with France, and adopted a policy of neutrality towards Belgium, it would ensure the safety of the whole of its coastline on the English Channel, and the protection of its interests at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. The Locarno pact makes certain stipulations with a view to guarding the frontiers of Germany and France. If either of those countries should overstep the boundaries of the other, a dispute may occur, and Great Britain would automatically become involved in it. The pact does not confer any advantage upon Great Britain. I am not opposed to Germany obtaining a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations, but if she does so, the same privilege should be extended to the United States of America and Russia. The League of Nations would then be able to fulfil the destiny which was marked out for it by the late President Wilson.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), in a very instructive speech, plainly demonstrated that Australia is vitally concerned in the proposal that matters of domestic concern may be dealt with by the Economic Conference. No other nation has so much to fear from the interference of the League in matters of that nature. Australia has reached a social standard far in advance of the nations of Europe, and any action taken by the League must be in the direction of raising those nations to our standard.
During the last few weeks I have asked certain questions in relation to Australia’s delegation to the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations. I take exception to the fact that every large body of opinion in Australia is not represented on that delegation. When the Leader of the Opposition attended the Assembly of the League he emphasized the views of a large number of people in Australia, and it was due to his efforts that action was taken to investigate the possibility of bringing about disarmament. The committee which inquired into that question evaded the issue. It referred to the difficulty of promulgating proposals that could be applied to every nation. That difficulty could be overcome by every nation making a percentage reduction in its expenditure on armaments and the manufacture of material suitable for war purposes. This is not the first occasion upon, which there has been a general demand for disarmament. In 1866 Great Britain was swept by an insistent cry that expenditure on defence should be reduced, and the Gladstone Government was returned with an overwhelming majority because it proposed to reduce taxation and bring about disarmament. The employees of the dockyards were reduced at the rate of 8,000 men a month because the influence of the House of Lords, backed up by the naval and military authorities, prevented reductions from being brought about in other directions. A great deal of unemployment was thus caused, and disturbances occurred.
I again protest against the action of the Government in depriving members of the Opposition of the opportunity of being represented on the delegation to the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations. The Leader of the Opposition proved himself a worthy representative when he was appointed, and that practice ought to have been continued. Though the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) tried to drag the tariff into this matter, it has nothing whatever to do with it. The United States of America has a tariff and yet talks about- disarmament, and there are 26 different tariffs in Europe. I should like to see Australia take a bold stand and go in for disarmament. I should like us to show the world that Australia has so much confidence in other nations that it does not fear attack from any one, so long as it is not itself preparing instruments with which to destroy the lives of the people of other nations. Let us show that we are a civilized nation, and let us set an example. I feel confident that it would have a magnificent effect upon other nations. What are the forces dominating the League of Nations at the present time? They are the military men of Europe; those concerned in the production of munitions of war; and those connected with the great iron and steel industries, who look forward to profits running into millions so long as the nations continue to make preparations for war. Until those forces are met, we cannot look for much in the direction of disarmament from the activities of the League of Nations. The personnel of the League of Nations is an important matter. Any one who is acquainted with the conditions of Europe must know, that the League is dominated by vested interests, and until such time as the representatives of the democratic forces in the world are in a position to give effect to their views, we cannot look for good results from the League of Nations. When we have been discussing the Estimates of the Defence Department in this House I have recalled the fact that, before going to bed at night, I used to say my prayers at my mother’s knee, and she used to read the commandments to me. She said, “ John, there are two commandments that I hope you will never break ; one is ‘ Thou shalt not steal ‘ and another is ‘ Thou shalt not kill.’” I still think my mother’s words were words of wisdom. Every member of ‘ this House must have heard those commandments at his mother’s knee, and yet we are accustomed in this Chamber to pass millions of money to enable us to kill as many as we can when we get the opportunity. When war takes place, the one thing to be done, apparently, is to destroy human life. Whilst we follow this policy, we cannot claim to be a civilized people, and will not deserve to make progress. Australia should set an example in the matter of disarmament. We have grand opportunities to do so. We have no frontier. We are not like the nations of Europe, who have frontiers to look after. Australia is an island continent, and no one can touch it. It is free and protected as an island continent. The United States of America is protected in the same way 5 although it has an interior frontier with Canada. The people of Canada, however, speak the same language and have the same aspirations and ambitions as the people of the United States of America. In Australia, churches that call themselves Christian, tell us that it is necessary that we should have engines of destruction, with which to take the lives of other people. I never could ‘reconcile that doctrine with Christianity. I am sorry that it is not proposed to send the best men from Australia to Geneva. We should send men who know something about the question. Our experience of sending to Geneva the Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament was a good one. Every one in Australia commended the Government for its action in that regard. Now it is proposed to send four representatives of the one party, and yet the Prime Minister tells us that this is not a party question. I never listened to a more nonsensical utterance from a public man. Apart from the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), three of those whom it is proposed to send, belong to the National party, and one contributed a great deal to assist that party at the last elections. Though the Prime Minister said that this is not a party question, he has done the very thing to make it one, although more than 1,313,949 electors voted for honorable members on this side of the House. I enter my protest against his action in ignoring the political opinions of a vast number of the people of Australia, and depriving the Australian delegation to Geneva of men who would have rendered some service. Only the other day, Dr.
Evatt, in the Legislative Assembly of’ New South Wales, and Mr. Beasley were sent from Australia to the Economic Labour Conference, and honorable members are aware that they spoke at the conference in accordance with the aspirations of the Australian democracy. They truly represented the opinions of the Australian people. The day will come when a change of government in the Commonwealth will take place, and it will be possible to Bend to the League of Nations a delegation that will make its impression upon the conference, and will not permit itself to be side-stepped. They will make the same assertions as they did at the Economic Labour Conference. Australia should make the nations on the other side of the world realize that we are a progressive, democratic nation, and show results beneficial to the people, and that we are proud of our country and its system of government, which might advantageously be copied by them. I hope that we shall never again, in this Parliament, have such an exhibition of incompetence and misjudgment as has been given by the Prime Minister.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Marks) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I asked a question of the right honorable the Prime Minister last week regarding migrants who were unemployed on the coal-fields, and the right honorable gentleman promised to make inquiries into the matter. I have since received the following letter, which I wish to bring under his notice: -
Dear Mr. Charlton, -
I confirm my telegram of to-day in reply to yours, as follows : -
Greater percentage applicants inquiring Cessnock and Kurri Kurri bureaux are migrants. Councilhas been endeavouring find casual work, but dismissed over 100 men last week, lack of funds. Writing.
Whilst I did not make the statement referred to in the Newcastle Herald, I am quite in agreement with the same. The shire engineer informs me that the many applicants for work consist principally of migrants, and the opinions expressed are to the effect that they have been, misled as to the condition of affairs existing in Australia, and that had they known beforehand, they would not have left oversea. It is freely stated by men applying Cor work, that they have failed to set employment, and that this failure extends over long periods.
This council has provided considerable relief works during the past eighteen months, with the assistance of the State Government, but the council’s funds are now depleted, and it is finding difficulty to maintain its permanent staff. One hundred and twelve men were put off relief work only last week, and there is a large number of unemployed still registered at the several labour agencies on the coal-field.
If it is possible for you to assist in the direction of relieving the unemployed, your efforts in that direction would be greatly appreciated. Many public works are awaiting attention, which could absorb the men.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) J. Brown,
The letter is signed by Mr. Brown, the administrator of the shire of Cessnock; there is no council there, and he is in charge. I particularly direct the Prime Minister’s attention to the latter part of the letter, in which assistance is asked for these migrants. There are partially constructed roads in the locality; and if there is . any money available from the Commonwealth grant for road construction, it might be employed to complete these works, and relieve the distress to which the letter refers.
– I shall look into the matter mentioned by . the honorable the Leader of the Opposition and have inquiries made into the statements contained in the letter read by him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260727_reps_10_114/>.