14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister to state the nature of the sanctions which the Government authorized the High Commissioner for Australia,, as a member of the committee appointedby the League of Nations to determine the matter, to suggest should he imposed, and whether it placed any limitation whatever upon the discretion of that gentleman in the making of recommendations of the kind contemplated?
– The Government has not given an outline of any sanctions to the High Commissioner, nor has it directed him in any particular way. It has received no official communication as to what sanctions are proposed. Until it has that knowledge it will make no final decision in regard to the matter.
– Is there any justification for the report which states that Mr. Eden gave assurances that all of the dominions would do whatever was required in connexion with theCoordinatiug Committee by which sanctions are to bo applied? Had Mr. Eden any justification for making that statement? Is the report in harmony with the views of the Government? Has any authority been given for such a determination ?
– The position has been made so clear to honorable members in the debate that has taken place on the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, that I do not think I can add to what has already been said. Mr. Eden has known from the outset exactly where Australia stands in regard to Great Britain and the League of Nations. We have the “utmost confidence in the British representatives, and cannot conceive of Australia being other than alongside Great Britain when final decisions are made ; nor can we conceive that Great Britain will make a decision that we cannot support.
-Is it a fact that the Government has given no intimation of what it believes to be the right course for the League of Nations and Great Britain to follow, in respect of the imposition of sanctions? If no such intimation has been given, is Australia in the position that, whatever is decided upon, it willynilly will be a party to it?
– All that I need say is that this Government has never made a decision in advance of a knowledge of the circumstances. As circumstances arise from time to time, the Government takes the responsibility of making whatever decision is necessary. That course will bo followed to the conclusion . of the negotiations and discussions.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - ‘Regulations amended - Statutory lillies 1935, No. 97.
Post and Telegraph Ant- Regulations amendedStatutoryRules 1935, Nos. 93, OS.
Debate resumed from the 10th October (vide page679), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the paper be printed.
Upon which Mr. Beasley had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted -with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this Parliament records grave concern, and its profound horror at the prospect ofa second world war developing out ofthe conflict of Imperial trading interests, and expresses its unflinching determination not to allow Australia to become involved, under any circumstances, notwithstanding any decision recorded at tha League of Nations Council.
Tt views with alarm the action of the British Admirality in despatching H.M.A.S. Australia, with an Australian crew, to the war zone, and requests the immediate recall of that vessel to Australian waters under the direct control of the Federal Defence Department. lt formally declares the neutrality of Australia, and instructs the Government to take all necessary steps to preserve such neutrality.
It declares that it will not support the application of sanctions under article 16 or contribute a quota of military, naval and air force strength to an armed force for such purposes, as such action would involve Australia in war
.Speaking in support of the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) I shall disregard the technical aspect, which already has been fully dealt with by honorable members on this side of the House. I do not think that any doubt exists in the minds of honorable members as to the right of the dominions to decide for themselves what action they shall take in this matter. As late as the 9th October, the Sydney Sun reported that Mr. Anthony Eden had emphasized the right of the dominions to speak for themselves.
The Attorney General (Mr. Menzies) has pointed out that Australia has the choice of the old-fashioned military alliance or of collective security. Under the League of Nations, it haslittle more than a military alliance. Several honorable members have pointed out that the League of Nations to-day consists of only those major powers which formed the Triple Alliance prior to the Great, War of 1914-191S. Many of the major powers are dissociated from it and are taking no part in its deliberations.
The matter of collective security was aptly dealt with by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who referred to the practically isolated position in which Great Britain finds itself to-day. The honorable member pointed out that only three major powers are suggesting the imposition of sanctions, and said that, as the smaller nations connected with the League have not between them one capital warship or bombing plane, the enforcement of any sanctions decided upon would be left to Great . Britain, France and Russia. Trance has changed its attitude from time to time within the last few weeks, and even now there is no certainty as to what course it will be likely to take. Russia, probably with a view to the promotion of its political ideas throughout the world, has allied itself, for the time being, to Great Britain, but an estimate cannot be made of the value of its support. Therefore, Great Britain will probably find itself isolated, and Australia will be in a deplorable position if it commits itself to the imposition of sanctions. I do not think that the League of Nations has prevented war on any occasion. According to many authorities, it has been a complete failure in that regard.
The Sydney Morning Herald of the 19th August last published in its leading columns the following views : -
The League is helpless….. To suggest that France would go to war with Italy - and to apply tlie economic sanctions means going to war - in assertion of the Covenant in this issue is paw rire.
In the Burge Memorial Lecture for the year 1935, delivered by the Marquis of Lothian, the following statements were made concerning the” League of Nations: -
In fundamentals, it lias so far failed. It has’ not been able to secure the adherence of all nations. It has not been able to abate economic nationalism and lower the tariffs and restrictions which have caused unemployment everywhere and destroyed democracy in many lands. It has not been able to bring about all-round disarmament. It has not been able to revise the treaties of peace, except in ephemeral and minor particulars. It has not been able to mobilize the kind of strength which would enable it to compel one of the great powers to conform to that public opinion. To-day, international politics are less and less being discussed on their merits, in terms of right or wrong, justice or the reverse, but more and more in terms of power, prestige, and security in the event of war.
That expresses the opinion of one of the original representatives of Great Britain on the League of Nations, a man who is as well qualified as any other to arrive at a correct judgment.
Reference has been made to differences of opinion in the working class section of the community. I have heard divergent views expressed outside this House even by honorable members opposite. Country party members, and others who represent rural constituencies, are rather sceptical about the advisability of supporting sanctions that might mean the loss of Australia’s trade with Italy, which amounts to £3,000,000 or more per annum.
I ask honorable members to consider whether Great Britain’s hands are clean in this connexion. Before the Government implicates Australia in this dispute, it should tell the people exactly what is involved. We should not commit the people to war and at the same time keep them in ignorance of the situation. As usual, we have, so far, obtained from the newspapers our first information about the various points that concern this Parliament. We were told through the press that the Australian High Commissioner would not support sanctions. Later, the Prime Minister said that the Government would support Britain up to the hilt as long as its efforts were directed for peace. . At the inception of- the. debate we were informed that Australia would support the enforcement of sanctions. Then the Attorney-General told us, on Wednesday, that if one part of the’ Empire participated in the war the other parts would need to do so. He said, in effect, that it was a case of “ one in, all in”. We cannot close our eyes to the view of many leading world authorities on international affairs that the enforcement of sanctions inevitably means war. If this be so, the Government should tell us clearly whether we are committed to participate in such a war.
Everybody who has made any study of the subject knows that considerable intrigue has occurred concerning proposed subdivisions of Abyssinian territory. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to the following article which appeared in a section of the press: -
European and American authorities agree that the British Government- is working harder than all other Governments put together to prevent Italy from resorting ,to force, hut while the London tory press maintains that Ministers are moved by moral reasons, the American, European and a section of the English papers indicate that Britain’s aims are by no means unselfish. One point stands out clearly. Mr. Joseph B. Phillips, Rome correspondent of the New York Herald-Tribune, said that Mr. Eden, on his “ bargain visit “ to Rome at the end of June, was willing to cede the Abyssinian province of Ogaden (Northern Somaliland) to Italy, and to divide the remainder of the victim-nation into three “ civilizing spheres” - one each (or Italy, France and Britain. But Mr. Eden’s offer was subject to Italian support for the BritishGerman naval agreement, while France would agree only if Italy opposed that pact.
It, is clear from what I have just read that a great deal of angling has been engaged in by certain nations with the object of dividing among them the territories of Abyssinia, in which valuable mineral and oil deposits have been discovered. But all the efforts in recent times to obtain such an agreement have failed. When Signor Mussolini found his two land-grabbing neighbours at loggerheads with each other, he laid claim to complete sovereignty over all Abyssinia. It appears to me, therefore, that the issues involved in the present conflict affect principally the mineral and oil resources of the country that has been invaded, and that Great Britain’s hands are probably not clean. We should not be involved in a sordid- trade war, which must involve great sacrifices of human life simply to secure profitable concessions for certain nations. The working class has nothing whatever to gain from any war, as our experience in the last war clearrly showed us. I was old enough during the years of that war to understand something of the suffering of the soldiers who went away; and I have seen all too frequently the suffering of the men who have come back, many of them maimed for life. I remember, too, the anguish of the women and children of the men who went overseas to fight. But we have since discovered that the days of the conflict, awful as they’ were, were not the most harrowing, for the aftermath of the war has taken immense toll in human sorrow and misery. Moreover, the standard of living of the people of this country has been reduced deplorably. To-day, men and women are living in absolute poverty, and a distressingly large number of children suffer from malnutrition. Exsoldiers and their families have been thrown out of their homes, and in many other directions intense suffering has been the lot of the people. Even in a country like Australia, where there is an abundant production to meet all needs, many of the people are practically starving. If . honorable members have any doubt whatever as to the ravages of the war of twenty years ago, I invite them to visit the Australian Institute of Anatomy in Canberra, where they will see exhibited brains, lungs and limbs of soldiers who lost their lives on active service or afterwards through the effect of their active service. The terribleeffect of gas, high explosive shells and machine guns is shown clearly in these exhibits. I cannot understand how any one who has ever visited that Institute could, for a moment, contemplate involving the nation in another war.
Returning again for a few moments to the League of Nations, I direct attention to the following comment in a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 9t.h August, which referred to the 1906 treaty between Italy, France and Germany - “ We agreed then,” Italy says, in effect, “ to divide Abyssinia between us. Let us. therefore, do it, and present our decision to Geneva “.
As honorable members well know, the Sydney Morning Herald is capitalistic in its outlook. I believe that that journal would be glad now to retract from some of the statements it made even as recently as the beginning of August. The comment of the Sydney Morning Herald, on the Italian view that I have just read was that -
It would mean the end of Ethiopian independency ; it would involve the use of force and would make the League a laughing-stock.
The Herald also stated that -
Even the radical New Statesman admits that without Germany and Italy the League could not pretend to authority in Europe.
But even with Germany, Italy and Japan, the League’s authority is all “ pretense “. Secret treaties are made daily despite its Covenant. France is flouting it just as Italy is doing at the present time.
We have had a long debate in this chamber regarding the possible effect of the application of sanctions. In this connexion the Sydney Morning Herald stated -
Unquestionably, Germany is wholeheartedly with Italy, for Italy is voicing Germany’s raine, too. From this point of view, that Britain should apply economic sanctions to check Italy, would be doubly unfortunate and dangerous.
Why, then, should not Australia refuse to associate itself with this policy? Why should the Government encourage its High Commissioner to mix us up in the immoral, imperialistic and unscrupulous politics of three European nations? Dealing further with the treaty of 1906. under which it was agreed that Abyssinia should be divided among Great Britain. France and Italy, the gentlemen overseas responsible for the despatch of cablegrams to Australia tell us that Italy is to have a mandate over all Abyssinia. We should not believe it. When the clouds have rolled by it will be found that Britain and France will have their part of it. The robber-treaty of 1906, by which the three nations agreed to carve up the Black Empire, will be adhered to. but the non-conformist conscience in England will be satisfied that nobody was to be blamed for the robbery but Mussolini. Forty years hence, when the national archives are opened and their contents examined, the world will learn the truth - unless, before that time, some of the diplomats get in with early revelations as they are now doing in regard to the Great War. In the meantime most of us will be dead, and the world will have other problems to worry it.
The Government should give careful consideration to whether or not the hands of Great Britain are clean in regard to this dispute. We shall probably find, after the conflict is over, that Abyssinia will be subdivided, as it would have been a little earlier had it been possible to secure a complete agreement between Britain and Germany concerning the proposed re-armament of Germany.
A postcard issued by the Women’s Disarmament Committee at Geneva, Switzerland, contains a picture of a big gun with a number of shells beneath it. An emaciated woman with five ill-fed and ill-clad children is shown looking at the gun, -and one of the children, appreciating in a way the appearance of the polished shells, says: “ Mother, look how well fed they are “. We saw during the last war a degree of suffering and misery on the part of women and children that staggered us; but, unfortunately, that is only a part of the story. Even to-day many children are suffering from malnutrition which, in my opinion, is one of the direct results of the wai1. Yet, in spite of this, the Government, contemplates plunging the country into war once more, and so affecting the standard of living, already seriously lowered by the last war to a deplorable plane. But, of course, it is part of the capitalistic policy to keep the working-class in subjection. If this Parliament approves of the enforcement of sanctions, an international war must inevitably follow, and the people will come out of it in a far worse condition than they are in at present. Civilization cannot afford to take this risk.
Certain honorable members opposite have asked how Labour would deal with the situation that faces the Government. The Labour party has a clearly defined policy in matters of this kind. I need only point out that if the members of the working-class would engage in a general strike they could prevent not only the shipment of armaments and munitions but also the manufacture of them. This would make the war impossible. Even if the members of the working-class who are opposed to sanctions went on strike, it would make the enforcement of the policy impossible. I shall be told that we have a Crimes Act in Australia which would be brought into operation. No doubt that is true, and if war is actually declared no doubt we shall have another experience of legislation similar to the War Precautions Act. If that time arrives the members of the Labour party will discover that they will not be permitted to express their opinions- on these and other similar subjects. It is therefore of vital importance that we should express our opinions without delay. Further, if war occurs, the members of the workingclass should not allow a War Precautions Act or any similar legislation to prevent them from freely expressing their opinions.
Reverting for a moment to the position of the League of Nations, I direct attention to another citation from the volume containing the Burge memorial lecture for 1935 by the Marquis of Lothian. It reads as follows : -
Let me first try to justify this view on grounds of theory. There are four main reasons why the League or any system based upon the contractual co-operation of sovereign states is bound sooner or later to fail and to lead back to anarchy and war, as every such system has done from the Confederacy of Delos, through the American Confederation from 1781 to 1789, to the League of Nations to-day and perhaps the British Commonwealth of Nations to-morrow.
The first is because every unit in the League or Confederacy inevitably tends to look “at every issue from its own point of view and not from that of the whole. There is nobody whose business it is to consider the interests of the whole. Each representative in thu Council or Assembly is, in the last resort, the delegate of his own State, controlled b> it and responsible to it. Every important problem, therefore, tends to be considered as a conflict of national points of view. The Council and the Assembly are, in essence, diplomatic conferences. Thus, the League has done little to create a European or world patriotism. State patriotism is, if anything, stronger today than it was in ]920.
The second reason for failure is that the Council or Assembly cannot wield any real power. By the very nature of its constitution it can possess no revenues of its own, nor command the obedience of a single citizen. For its revenues and armies it must depend upon the subventions and contingents of the sovereign states. If these are withheld, it is powerless. If there is a conflict of opinion between the League and any member or State, the allegiance of the individual citizen is owed to the State and not to the League . . .
The writer points out that the League is not an international organization, as it is now based practically upon the nations which constituted the Triple Alliance prior to the last war, that is, Britain, France and Russia. The position was clearly set out last evening by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who showed that Britain was in an isolated position, and that if it attempted to enforce sanctions against Italy, it would find the world against it. The quotation concludes as follows: -
The third reason is that neither the Council nor the Assembly Can revise any treaty, modify any tariff or commercial discrimination, or remodel in any way the political structure of Europe or the world, except with the voluntary consent of the State or States immediately concerned. This, in important matters, it’ is never able to Obtain. And it is unable to obtain it, not only because sovereign States find it difficult not to behave selfishly, but because in a world of national sovereignties their policy is invariably subordinated to the necessity of security. Moral considerations are thrust aside by strategic considerations. That is why disarmament is impossible under ii League system . . .
The fourth and final reaon why the League system cannot end war is that the only weapon it can use either to bring about change or to prevent other nations from attempting it by aggression, is war or the threat of war.
If we are to prevent Australia from being involved in another world conflict, we must take a more serious- view of the situation than that which appears to have been taken by the Government during this debate. This crisis is of greater significance to Australia than was the conscription issue. We have now to decide whether our people are to be subjected to the cruelties of war. In view of the experiences of the last war, the people, if consulted, would, by a huge majority, record their votes against Australia entering another international conflict. We on this side of the chamber desire to know to what extent the Government is prepared to embroil Australia in this dispute. If it is to be involved to the extent of participation in a war, the House should bo told immediately. The public should not be deceived. Until the Opposition is satisfied On this point it will continue to protest against Australia being dragged into another war.
.- The issue confronting this Parliament to-dar is of the utmost importance to Australia and to the world at large. The Government is to be congratulated on its handling of the situation up to the present time. The Opposition, of course, is trying to induce Ministers to make statements that will help it to obtain political kudos and to disparage the Government. In reply to various questions that have been asked in the House recently, the Ministry has said that it will support Britain up to the hilt; but it has made no pronouncement to the effect that Australia will be involved in war. Ministers are convinced, as a result of recent personal contact with the British Cabinet, that Britain will not embroil the Empire in another war unless such action is forced upon- it by a nation that may have a madman at its head. Britain will live up to its reputation as the leader of the nations in the maintenance of world peace. Even when it was the victor in the South African war, it offered such concessions to the conquered that to-day they stand allies with us. “Who dares say that Britain’s attitude in the Great War did not create confidence throughout the world? Britain has no intention to engage in a single-handed combat with Italy. It has declared repeatedly that its’ sole object is the maintenance of world peace, and that it will only impose sanctions in collaboration with other members of the League of Nations. Yet members of the Opposition have deliberately said that Britain is precipitating a war. Members of a certain group in this chamber have shown an anti-British spirit. They are not even good Australians. [Quorum formed.] This debate has demonstrated the true spirit of certain members of the Opposition, who have proved themselves anti-British in every respect.
– Who are they?
– The honorable member for one.
– I ask that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) be called upon to withdraw his insulting remark.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member must withdraw the expression to which exception has been taken: The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) has not spoken in this debate.
– I withdraw- it, but the honorable, member has been known to me for many years, and I am aware of the policy of his party. Even if my statements are regarded as objectionable, they are nearly always true.
– I think the honorable member should withdraw that insinuation.
– The honorable members opposite, to whom I have referred, have attacked Britain at every opportunity; but, throughout the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, Britain has at no time said that it will go to war. On the contrary, it has pointed out clearly that it is not prepared to take up arms in the enforcement of sanctions against Italy unless with the co-operation of other members of the League. Yet members of the Lang group have deliberately and consistently made statements which are contrary to the facts, for the purpose of obtaining political propaganda which they publish in their press. When the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) demanded that the Australia should be withdrawn from the Mediterranean, to prevent this country from being embroiled in the dispute, I recalled that certain members of this House have indulged in that sort of talk on the Sydney Domain. They know full well that, if they could succeed in having the Australia brought back to these shores it would help to create distrust in Britain as the head of our great Empire, and prejudice its position before the League of Nations in the present crisis. The suggestion made by honorable members opposite that the Australia should be brought back into Australian waters at the present juncture is the suggestion of cowards and quitters, who, in a time of crisis, and at any time it seems to me, are not prepared to stand up like men to difficulties which may confront them. The anti-British, antiAustralian spirit of–
– I ask the honorable member not to make personal reflections on other honorable members; they are disorderly.
– The suggestion of honorable members opposite that Australia should quit in the present crisis when negotiations have reached their present stage is intended to undermine the honour, integrity and strength of the great British Empire. If such a statement reflects on honorable members opposite, I point out that they, and not I, have made such statements. Not only in this House, but also in the Domain in Sydney, have they demonstrated that such is their attitude on matters of this kind. In the Domain they persist in declaring that this Government is imperialistic in its outlook, and that it does nothing else but foster the great capitalistic system to the detriment of the workers of Australia. I have always claimed that the present Opposition is not, and never has been, the friend of the workers of this country. We have inherited our system of government from Britain, and it ha3 proved ideal.
Honorable members opposite constantly claim that this Government has the support of Communists. Any honorable gentleman who makes such a statement can be regarded as being in the kindergarten stage of politics. When I entered this House, honorable members opposite claimed that Soviet Russia was the only country which had a scheme, for the rehabilitation of the workers. Now they attempt to make political capital out of the fact that to-day the British Government and the Commonwealth Government are receiving support from that country in the present crisis. Last night the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) gave a good description of Russia as it is to-day, warning this Government against accepting its support. I wonder whether, the honorable member is aware of the fact that when Soviet agents were sent to Britain to try to sovietize the workers of Britain they were peremptorily ordered out of the country. That action on the part of Russia was repudiated also by representatives of the Labour party in Britain, who, I claim, would to-day repudiate the Lang party in this House as being unBritish and un-Australian in its attitude in this crisis. Statements made by honorable members opposite that the Commonwealth Government is in league with the Communists can be refuted by a glance at the Crimes Act, through which this Government tells Communists, and members of any organization which seeks by armed force to change the present system of government, in this country, that they will be deported. In this crisis, the Communist? see a danger that dictatorships in certain countries may be further strengthened. They saw a similar danger when Mr. J. T. Lang nailed the doors of the taxation office in Sydney and when mine riots occurred in New South Wales some years ago. I have not the slightest doubt that the Communists see a parallel between the position which then existed in New South Wales, and the present crisis. Quorivm formed.) Any support which the Communists in Australia may be willing to give to the Commonwealth Government in the present’ situation arises from their experience of the Lang group in Australian politics. That section of the Labour movement has betrayed every British instinct of justice, truth and peace. Its sole object is to lead the people of Australia to believe that in the present, crisis this Government will, at all costs, involve Australia in war. Treachery of that kind-
– The ‘ honorable member must not apply the word “ treachery “ to other honorable members.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) claimed that Mr. S. M. Bruce, as Australia’s representative in the League of Nations, has an open mandate, and that if Mi. Bruce put Australia into a war in the present crisis, this Parliament would have to get it out of that war. The idea that this Government would repose in the hands of any one man the right to say whether this country should or should not go to war is ridiculous, and honorable members who make such statements are beggared for arguments. It is to the advantage of Australia and in the interests of the peace of the world that Great Britain and Australia should stand side by side in facing this issue. It is clear that whatever Mussolini, or Italy, may do, Great Britain can be trusted to do the honorable and just thing by the nations of the world as a whole. In the past, it has acted as the protector of weaker nations, and in future it will see that the rights of these nations are safeguarded. I venture to say, therefore, that. Australia will not depart from the lead which the Mother Country has given to the world in the present crisis. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) endeavoured to discredit, not only this Government and the Government of Great Britain, but also the League of Nations. He and his colleagues quoted many extracts in an attempt to prove that the League of Nations is not capable of handling this problem. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in his speech last night read a list of twenty nations, members of the League, claiming that all of these were insignificant and would not even be able to supply a single gun for any war that might eventuate. Much has’ been said by honorable members opposite with regard to the attitude of the League towards the Sino-Japanese dispute. Honorable members must be aware of the fact that Japan acted on that occasion to frustrate the efforts of Russia to sovietize China. Probably, Japan’s influence will be to the benefit of China. The whole of that trouble arose because efforts were made to foist upon China the policies of bloodthirsty sovietism, policies which are supported by members of the Lang party in this House.
– Mr. Speaker, that is a terrible thing for any honorable member to say. I move -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Last night the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) complained that the motive behind Britain’s intervention in the dispute was the old one of trade rivalry. He said that both Britain and Italy were seeking commercial and territorial aggrandizement, and had thus come into conflict. Well, even supposing that to be true, the duty still devolves upon us to support an organization which seeks to curb the avarice of individual nations.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. McCall) put -
That the honorable member have leave to continue his speech.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 9
Question, so resolved in the affirmative.
Leave to continue given.
.- I should not have taken part in this debate but for repeated statements by Ministers that the Australian Labour party occupies an isolated position in connexion with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. The Melbourne Herald, which made this Government, reports as follows: -
The British Independent Labour party bus adopted a resolution against sanctions, stating that such measures will mean war, not on behalf of the League, but between Italian and British imperialism. Such a war is not worth the life of a single worker.
That resolution of the Independent Labour party of Britain gives thelie direct to the statements made by at least two or three Ministers regarding the attitude of the Australian Labour party.
Italy claims . that it is making war against an uncivilized savage tribe of people, which is not fit to be a member of the League of Nations. The Sun, Sydney, yesterday published the following illuminating paragraph, attributed to the commander-in-chief of the southern section of the Abyssinian army: - “ They call us savages, yet this is Italy’s first contribution to thenew civilization in Abyssinia,” exclaimed Dedjazmatch Nazibu, the southerncommander-in-chief, trembling withrage, after the . receipt of a despatch from Halite Michail, one of his subordinates, describing the sufferings of Abyssinians at Gorahai (Ogaden) under a rain ofa chemical substance resembling powdered sulphur from Italian plages.
Thevictims’ skins are scarred, their eyes blinded and theirlungs wrecked, reports the Jijiga correspondent of theNews-Chronicle. Nazibu added, he states, that the Italians are dropping 400 100-lb. bombs a dayon the Ogaden front from planes which are operating in squadrons.
In view of what is happening the Labour party is justified in its attitude, and the Opposition is justified in taking this opportunity to express its disapproval of the situation. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) charged the Australian Labour party with having attacked the League of Nations. This party has not attacked the League. It has merely pointed out its weaknesses, and its inability as now constituted, to function. If the League were constituted as it should be, and as every right-thinking man hopes it eventually will be, there would be no war in Abyssinia. The workers of the world should be sufficiently organized to force upon nations a policy of peace by -the adoption of a general strike against war. Surely everybody hopes that it will never be necessary for the League of Nations to apply sanctions against any aggressor. The time will come when there will be no aggressors. It has been suggested that the imposition . of sanctions on Italy in the present dispute is not likely to lead other nations into the conflict. Just let me indicate from a report published yesterday in the Melbourne Herald, what the application of sanctions . does mean -
The Geneva correspondent of the Daily Telegraph learns that the first Anglo-French plan for sanctions against Italy will he drafted on the following basis: -
1 ) No foreign loans to Italy.
Restriction of certain Italian imports into foreign countries.
Restriction of export to Italy of material required for the manufacture of armaments.
Raising the arms embargo in respect of Abyssinia.
. suggest that the use of sanctions is a deliberate incitement to war. The last item in -that report indicates thatsteps are to be taken to supply arms to Abyssinia. Apparently Italy has. already been supplied. This is necessary to ensure a first-class scrap. Austria and Hungary have dissented from the imposition of sanctions upon Italy. Other nations may follow their load, and refuse to attempt to apply sanctions.
The honorable member for Barton referring to remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), either deliberately, or unwittingly, made it appear that the honorable member was hostile to the League of Nations. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports had merely repeated what the French delegates, are reported to have said at Geneva, namely, that France was not prepared to apply military sanctions - indeed, it is still doubtful whether that country will apply those military sanctions - and I endorse everythinghe said. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Soviet Russia will take part in the application of sanctions. The attitude of the Australian Labour party, as expressed by members of the Opposition in this House, has precedent in the views of the Independent Labour party of Great Britain and in declarations previously made on behalf of Labour in other Australian Parliaments. Ithas been declared over and over again by responsible men that the row in Abyssinia, is not worth the sacrifice of a single Australian life.
The only construction that can be placed on an answer given this morning by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to a question asked by the Leader of the Op- position (Mr.Cur tin) is that Australia is committed willy-nilly to follow the lead of Britain. I believe that it would be inadvisable forAustralia to support Britain in the application of sanctions at this or any other time. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the naval agreement reached between Great Britain and Germany, an agreement entered into without the approval of the League of Nations. I. wish to direct attention to the fact that portion of this agreement dealing with submarines enables Germany’s submarine strength to be equivalent to the total submarine tonnage of the navy of the “ British Commonwealth of Nations. At present it has tentatively been agreed that the percentage of Germany’s submarines to British shall be 45, but Germany has insisted on the right to increase that to 100 per cent. On page 511 of the Journal of the Parliaments -of the Empire appears the following passage: -
On : 18th of June a White Paper was issued containing the text of Notes exchanged between the British Government and the German Government regarding the limitation of naval armaments. Publication of the document followed conversations in London between representatives of the two -governments.
It was stated in the Whites Paper that the primary purpose of the conversations had been to prepare the way for the holding of a general conference on the limitation of naval armaments.
In a Note addressed to Herr von Kibbentrop the Foreign Secretary (Right Honorable Sir Samuel Hoare) announced the acceptance by the British Government of the German Government’s proposal that the future strength of the German navy in relation to the aggregate naval strength of the members of the British Commonwealth of. Nations should be in the proportion of 35: 100. “ The British Government,” the Note said, “ regard this proposal as a contribution of the greatest importance to the cause of future naval limitation. They further believe that the agreement which they have now reached with the German Government, and which they regard as a permanent and definite agreement as from to-day between the two governments, will facilitate the conclusion of a general agreement on the subject of naval limitation between all the naval Powers of the world.’
A PERMANENT RELATIONSHIP.
It was explained that the ration of 35: 100 is to be a permanent relationship! Germany will adhere to it in all circumstances, e.g. the ration will not be affected by the construction of other Powers. If the general equilibrium of naval armaments, as normally maintained in the past, should be violently upset by any abnormal and exceptional construction by other Powers, the German Government reserve the right to invite the British Government to examine the new situation thus created.
The German Government favour, in the matter of limitation of naval armaments, that system which divides naval vessels into categories,fixing the maximum tonnage and/or armament for vessels in each category, and allocates the tonnage to be allowed to each Power by categories of vessels. If no general treaty on naval limitation should be concluded, or if the future general treaty should not contain provision creating limitation by categories, the manner and degree in which the German Government will have the right to vary the 35 per cent, ratio in one or more categories will be a matter for settlement by agreement between the German Government and the British Government in the light of the naval situation then existing.
In the matter of submarines Germany, while not exceeding the ratio of 35: 100 in respect of total tonnage, is to have- the right to possess a submarine tonnage equal to the total submarine tonnage possessed by the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The German Government, however, undertake that, except in the circumstances indicated in the immediately following sentence, Germany’s submarine tonnage shall not exceed 45 per cent, of the total of that possessed by the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The German Government reserve the right, in the event of a situation arising which in their opinion makes it necessary for Germany to avail herself of her right to a percentage of submarine tonnage exceeding the 45 per cent, above mentioned, to give notice to this effect to the British Government, and agree that the matter shall be the subject of friendly discussion before the German Government exorcise that right.
I suggest that Germany is competent to increase its submarine tonnage to a strength equal to that of the British Navy.
Let us consider what was thought of the actions of governments, and what views were held in regard to submarine warfare, by those who had charge of naval units in the last war. I believe that every honorable member, and every right-thinking person, recognizes the hideous nature of such an attack as that made by submarines - one of the vilest creations of science. In Memories, Lord Fisher publishes the following communication which he, as the Admiral of the British Fleet, sent to Von Tirpitz, Admiral of the German Fleet, on the 29th March, 1916:-
Dear old Tirps.
We are both in the same boat! What a time we’ve been colleagues, old boy! However, we did you in the eye over the battle cruisers, and I know you’ve said you’ll never forgive me for it when bang went the Blucher and Von Spee and all his host!
Cheer up, old chap! Say “ Resurgam “.’ You’re the one German sailor who understands war ! Kill your enemy without being killed yourself. I don’t blame you for the submarine business. I’d have done the same myself, only our idiots in England wouldn’t believe it when 1 told ‘em ! So long !
Yours till hell freezes,
Apparently these gentlemen regard naval warfare as a sort of holiday, in which they expect to have rather a good time while it lasts. Yet we are told that it is not the desire of certain governments to become involved in the present conflict! I suggest that if an agreement could have been reached which would have allowed of the dissection of the carcase to the satisfaction of the trinity interested in it, there would have been no trouble in Abyssinia. The vested interests of the capitalists of Great Britain and France prevented the making of such an agreement. Those individuals were not prepared to concede to Italy the share of the carcase which it desired. Action was not taken to prevent war in Manchuria because, from their view-point, there was no need to worry about it. But when it was a case of a waterway being made available to* Italy and withheld from those then using it, they were not prepared to accept the word of the Dictator of Italy that he would conserve the rights and interests of Great Britain and France, but were willing to supply munitions of war and other essentials to Abyssinia. At the outbreak of the last war I held the view that it was being waged in order to make secure the interests of capitalism in different countries. Similarly, I believe that the present conflict will be continued until those interests are secured in Abyssinia. It is not intended that either Mussolini, or any one else shall obtain a part of their pound of flesh. They are not worrying about the settlement of Italy’s surplus population. The journal from which I have already quoted says at page 514 -
After reading to the House Part IV. of the Treaty the first Lord added: “This means that Germany has agreed never again to resort to what was known during the war as unrestricted submarine warfare “.
If the statements made in 1914 and during the years of the war by the supporters of honorable members opposite and the press were true, there is no more justification for believing Germany now than there was then. Germany proved by its actions in the war that it3 word could not be accepted. I suggest that where vested interests are sufficiently great, there is every possibility that the same thing will occur again. Although not a member of the League of Nations, Germany is, to some extent, allied with it. Its dictator, Hitler, has undertaken that it will take no part in this dispute, but will remain strictly neutral. I venture the opinion that before long some question will arise that will cause honorable members opposite to say “ How can one take the word of Hitler “ ? Very hard things have ‘been said of that gentleman by honorable members opposite as well as by writers for the press which voices their views. I am not apologizing for Hitler. I consider that he is one of the most brutal men who has ever had charge of the affairs of a nation. I am not prepared to accept either his word or that of others who represent the vested interests of different countries, as this Government represents the vested interests of Australia. On the admission made by the Prime Minister this morning, this Government has become deeply involved in the present disturbance.
I have read an extract from yesterday’s Melbourne Herald to the effect that the Independent Labour party of Great Britain has stated that the scrap in Abyssinia is not worth the loss of one British life. To that I would add that it is not worth the loss of one Australian life. It is not. a war that concerns the workers of either this or any other country. It concerns the investment of capital by certain individuals. I believe that the attempt by certain oil interests a little while ago to conclude an arrangement with the Emperor of Abyssinia was international in character. Capital is of such an international character that one who belongs to the inner group can “ work the oracle “ without appearing on the scene. I believe that the intention was to secure the control of certain oil wells in Abyssinia so as to take away the one thing which above all others Mussolini was seeking - supplies of oil for the Italian nation. Quorum formed!)
.- My attitude in this matter is one not of neutrality but of entire support of the Government and of opposition to the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley).
It is indeed regrettable that all the nations of the world are not members of the League of Nations. The great purpose, and aim of that body would be simplified if such were the case. The League is more the safeguard of the small than of the other nations. It seeks to bring about peaceful understanding between nations in international disputes and also has the wider aim of the attainment of world peace. It operates in the industrial field, in the economic field, and in the field of international health. Were this Parliament to weaken its association with the League it would weaken the purpose for which that institution stands. Although honorable members generally have declared themselves in favour of the objects of the League, in some cases they are not prepared to take the steps that are necessary for the maintenance of its affairs ; in other words, they are “ratting” on iiic union to which they have pledged their adherence. I cannot understand their attitude. The State of Western Australia supports the League unequivocally and is prepared to stand by Great Britain to the hilt in any steps to maintain it. A declaration of neutrality is not possible to any unit of the British Empire. It might regard itself as neutral, but would an enemy so regard it? Not at all. Do those who favour neutrality believe that they would be unmolested, because they had made that declaration? Did not we molest German nationals during the last war? [Quorum formed.] Those who disagree with the policy of the Government on this subject should try to consider Australia, as a member of the British Empire, in the position of Abyssinia. If a powerful nation attacked Australia and the other members of the British Empire said : “ We are not concerned in Australia’s fight; we intend to remain neutral. We shall fight only if the war reaches our own shores”, what a hue and cry there would be from the very people here who are to-day saying that we should remain neutral! We should be deafened by speeches about the supposed solidarity of the Empire. Mocking remarks would be made about how Australia was being punished by a foreign enemy without any protest from the other members of the Empire. To me, it is impossible to contemplate that Australia could remain neutral. Great Britain has done more than any other nation of the world to preserve peace. We must all admit that the League of Nations has been weak in certain respects and we may regret that it has not been, stronger; but shall we help its weakness by remaining aloof ‘5 Shall we not rather be increasing its difficulties if we do anything whatever to restrain our people from giving their full assistance to it in this crisis? Certain honorable members have spoken about fiscal barriers as a contributing cause of war. We know that the economic conference at Geneva declared that the greatest cause of war was economic nationalism and the building of tariff barriers between one nation and another to prevent freedom of trade. Who are the parties in this House most guilty of the erection of high tariff harriers? Something has been said during the debate about Australia having an export trade with Italy to the value of about £3,000,000 per annum; but this trade is at the lowest ebb it has known for many years, solely because our insular attitude prevents reasonable reciprocity in trade with Italy. To maintain that insular nationalism we need the support of the other members of the British Empire. With a population of still considerably less than 7,000,000 we should be utterly unable to defend this vast continent if it were attacked. We should not, therefore, contemplate “ scabbing “ upon the League of -Nations or the other members of the British Empire. That would he an entirely unreasonable attitude to adopt. We all approve of the ideals of the League of Nations and desire peace. The achievement of world peace is undoubtedly a great ideal. But can honorable members reasonably refuse to pay the price of -peace? Many of the speeches made during this debate have been quite inconsistent with the ideal of peace. It seems to me that there has been a regrettable degree of insincerity in the utterances of some honorable members. If we desire the League of .Nations to be effective, we must support it. We must not give its opponents any idea that we are weakening in our adherence to it. Although for reasons of its own the United States of America has declined hitherto to associate itself with the League of Nations, it has, in the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, independently declared in favour of sanctions, at least to the extent that it will prevent its people from exporting warlike materials for the use of either Italy or Abyssinia. I am of the opinion that the only honorable course open to us is to support the League to the utmost of our strength. The whole world has recognized that Great Britain has been the biggest factor in the consolidation of the League of Nations. In that connexion Britain has shown a sincerity that has never been questioned. There is infinitely more reason why we should follow the example of Great Britain in this connexion than that of any other nation. Personally, I am prepared to support the Empire in all the efforts that it makes within the Covenant of the League of Nations to preserve peace in this or any other dispute.
– I declare clearly that I am against war in any shape or form. That is’ a logical conclusion that was forced upon me many years ago. It is true, and I confess it with humility and shame, that in the first week of the last war, I offered my services to Sir Charles Ryan, but he said to me, “,No, Maloney, it is not good enough. ‘ We know that you are over 60 years of age. Even the Bulletin publishes your age every year.” I thought I was still able to bandage a wound or put a limb in splints; though I was well aware that many much more able surgeons were available to perform the many major operations that would obviously be necessary in consequence of the war. However, my services were not accepted. I tried to fool my conscience by telling myself that I had offered my services with the object of alleviating human suffering; but I now realize that that was a subterfuge, and I am ashamed of it. I hate war, as I loathe the idea of hell. We know that during the last war, the leaders of various religious bodies in the Allied countries prayed that God would bless their bloodstained banners and bring them to victory, and that the leaders of the same religious bodies in the enemy countries were offering similar prayers for victory. Such hypocrisy speaks for itself. I do not believe that the leaders of the religious bodies of the world will misbehave themselves in that way if this dispute should become widespread.
I have seen wrecked humanity return from many wars. I remember, for instance, the days of the Boer War. Sir
John Madden, acting Governor of Victoria, to his eternal honour, publicly stated that he regretted the lies that the government of the day obliged him to utter as its mouthpiece to the effect that the men who went to the Boer War would be adequately cared for on their return. Before he died, Sir John Madden wrote me a letter in which he expressed this regret. The government of that day did not keep its promise to the men whom it sent to the war. We know that, in the last war, the government of the day also made many promises to the men who went on active service. To an extent, those promises have been honoured, but not to anything like the full extent. Members of the medical profession, who have been required to examine returned soldiers, have refused to consider the condition of such men before their enlistment. How different has been the treatment accorded to its returned soldiers by the Government of the United States of America! In that country it is assumed that the men accepted for active service were inperfect health, and no question now arises as to whether disabilities which may have overtaken them since their return from the war are due to war service or not. In Australia many men were casually examined, and passed for active service under conditions which made it quite impossible for medical practitioners to ascertain whether they were in good health or not. The noise and bustle associated with the examination of some of the men who enlisted placed it beyond medical skill to tell whether the health of the men concerned was sound or not. It may be said, to the honour of some of the medical practitioners of Collinsstreet, Melbourne, that they offered their rooms to the government of the day for the purpose of making proper medical examinations of men who offered for active service; but their offer was not accepted.
I have memories also of soldiers who returned from the wars of long ago. When I was a medical student at St. Mary’s Hospital, I came into contact with a man who had been subjected to seventeen surgical operations. When we found that his bones would not mend and his wounds would not heal, we asked the
British Government to provide him with am invalid chair; but, although he was one of the men present at the famous Balaclava charge, and was receiving a pension of only 6d. a day, our request was refused. Had this man been a general, he might have been awarded a gift of £50,000, or even £100,000, but, because he was an under-dog, he got practically nothing. I am speaking for the under-dog.
I must admit, however, that this Government is now taking steps to allow the re-examination of applicants for war pensions who,, because of the hitherto strict observance of the law, have not been able to obtain a re-consideration of their circumstances.
We are members of the League of Nations, and have contributed about £60,000 a year to the maintenance of that great organization. I have wondered sometimes whether we have received value for the money so spent. No statesman has ever conceived greater ideals than those of the League of Nations.
I have always regretted the timidity - I am almost inclined to say cowardice - displayed by the League when Japan stole portion of the territory of China. The Japanese are a lovable race, and I admire them for their many good qualities; but, unfortunately, they are dominated by their Mikado, whom they regard almost as a god. They are innately brave. In some parts of the pearl fisheries off the north coast of Australia, deer)-sea divers are unable to work more than a couple of hours a day. On one occasion a Japanese diver was brought to the surface dead, but within ten minutes another Japanese took his place. Like the Australian “ diggers,” who wont “ over the top “ with a laugh, they have no fear of death. They make excellent soldiers, rivalling the Spartans of old. But the people of Japan, like those of Australia, have little voice in the conduct of public affairs. In Australia, no referendum is held to decide whether the country shall go to war in the event of Britain being involved. I regret that the League of Nations took seventeen months to tell Japan that it was at fault in seizing the Chinese provinces. Men, women, and children by the thousand were blown to pieces, but seventeen months elapsed before the League protested, the excuse being that war had not been declared! “Was the action of Japan any less murder because the engines of war were used against the Chinese?
A valuable compendium issued by the Commonwealth Statistician’s Department shows that three or four years ago Japan was Australia’s second best customer, being second only to Great Britain, whilst China was seventh on the list. The last edition of that publication, however, indicates that China is now the third largest importer of Australian goods, and ranks next to Japan. China imports more of some commodities from Australia than does Japan. China is a peace-loving country, with a population of 450,000,000 compared .with Japan’s 70,000,000. Dr. Sun Yat Sen was perhaps one of the greatest organizers the world had ever seen. In his book, Three Forms of Government, he described a system of democracy which is far more advanced than that of Australia. I have to confess that the platform of the KuoMinTang is far ahead of that of the Labour -party. I suppose that I am one of the few Australians who have had the privilege of meeting Dr. Sun Yat Sen. A man of striking appearance, he deeply impressed all whom he met. Fortunately for me, he spoke English fluently, and had studied medicine. It is interesting to know how he escaped death when in England. He was taken prisoner so that he might be sent back to China to have his head cut off. He became seriously ill, and a London specialist, who was called in, declared that he was in danger of his life. As he was being kept in prison against the laws of England, the London specialist induced the British Government to intervene, and the prisoner was released. If his dead body had been taken back to China, those in charge of it would have been afraid of being beheaded. Dr. Sun Yat Sen returned to China, and was fortunately able to organize a successful revolution. When I spoke of the nineteen demands which Japan was cowardly enough to enforce upon China when the world was at war in 1914-18, he said-
If two of the demands were not withdrawn, no doubt Japan could control China, and then how easy would be the path to India! Japan would appeal to India, with its 350,000,000 inhabitants, and say, “You are Asiatics. Adopt as your slogan, ‘Asia for the Asiatics.’ China, with its 450,000,000. led by 70,000,000 Japanese and assisted by 350,000,000 Indians could conquer the world. They could afford to lose 10,000,000 a year, and, if necessary, carry on the war indefinitely.”
That, I believe, is the objective of Japanese war lords, and it is the reason why I regret that the League of Nations did not protest earlier than it did against Japan’s intervention in China. In the case of Paraguay and Bolivia, terrible murder, referred to as war, was carried on for two years. Something was said about withholding supplies of ammunition from those nations, but the accursed ammunition makers, in their greed for money, were equal only to the oil trusts. When Germany threatened Austria, we must give Mussolini credit foi’ the fact that it was his outspoken statement that checked Germany. He did what the League of Nations should have done.
I have visited every country in Europe, except Russia, and after studying the views of the people, have come to the conclusion that Britain has very few friends on the Continent. Perhaps its only friend now is France. Italy was once its friend, but Italy will not be friendly with it again. I think it was more for the sake of Britain than any other country that Italy entered the last war, but it was not treated fairly in the division of the spoils. When the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) said that Britain might be forced to revert to the twopower standard, he was talking with hi3 tongue in his cheek. At one time the flag of England dominated the world, but that will not occur again. Never again will Britain be able to adopt a two-power standard. The oil combine in the United States of America is led by Rockefeller, who is styled the king of oil. Sir Henri Deterding, who leads the British combine, is called the Napoleon of oil. These trusts are unscrupulous in their methods, and will not stop even at murder. Sitting suspended from. 12.J/5 to 2.15 p.m-
– Reading to-day’s Sydney newspapers during the luncheon adjournment, I find a report published in the Labor Daily to the effect that France concurs with the plan to enforce sanctions against Italy, and that complete. agreement is believed to have been reached between M. Laval and Mr. Eden regarding the first stage of sanctions against Italy. These, it says, will be economic and financial in character. The report adds that the question of a naval blockade is to be left in abeyance, thus supporting the contention of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that France will not go to war. To a certain extent France may believe in economic sanctions as a means of maintaining peace, hut I am sure that country will not be foolish enough to go to war.
Australia is looked upon by every landhungry nation in the world as having too much territory. In fact, Britain is considered to have a greater share of the face of the globe than it is fairly entitled to on the basis of European populations. The time might come, perhaps, not while men of my age are alive, but at a later date, when, through the League of Nations, land-hungry countries will ask the British confederation to disgorge some of its territory. ‘ The League of Nations acted foolishly, I think, when it offered and Australia accepted a mandate to control Antarctica, an area onethird the size of this continent. That such a mandate was accepted by Australia provides an argument to land-hungry nations, that Britain controls an unfair share of territory. If I remember rightly, I was the only honorable member who opposed Australia’s acceptance of that mandate, and I did so on the ground that it would excite further envy on the part of land-hungry nations. I submitted that it would have been better for us to have thanked the League for the honour it did Australia by making such a request, and to have asked the League to hold that mandate itself for the benefit of the whole world. That would have been a splendid gesture on our part, but, unfortunately, we followed another course, for which, in the opinion of landhungry nations, we shall be looked upon as a greedy country.
I believe that big oil interests are responsible for present day high politics in England. The operations of the world’s two great oil combines are dealt with in War for Oil. One of these is controlled by Rockefeller, who is called the “ King of Oil ‘, and the other, a British combine, is controlled by Sir Henri Deterding, who is known as the “ Napoleon of Oil.” The author of this book ascribes the fall of three Presidents of Mexico to the fight for oil in Mexico between these combines. The first of these presidents was Madero, who succeeded President Diaz, as vile as any monarch who ever susstained a throne, and under whose rule the people of Mexico had been reduced to the level of serfs. Madero was known as the Christ-fool, because he returned the land to the people, and thus became to the oil interests an obstacle to be removed. Atany rate one oil combine started a rebellion which ended in his assassination. Madero was succeeded by President Huerta, a full-blooded Indian, who participated in the revolution which brought about the downfall of his predecessor. In his turn Huerta was removed from office by a counter revolution started by the opposing oil interest. Then President Carranza assumed office. A great lover of his country he threatened that if the American oil combine did not stop interfering in Mexican affairs, he would ally with Germany and declare war against the United States of America. Neither of the oil combines wanted such a thing to occur, so each kept quiet for the time being, but so soon as peace was established the two of them renewed their intrigues, and Carranza was removed from office. That, briefly, is the history of the activities of the oil interests in Mexico.
One of the highest official posts which can be held by a man outside his own country is that of ambassador or Minister Plenipotentiary. I propose to show that not even men holding such high positions are free from the intrigues of oil interests. The right honorable Sir Arthur Hardinge, in his book A. Diplomatist in the East, page 278, makes a full confession of his experiences in this matter. He says -
The first important duty which confronted me a few months after my arrival at Teheran was that of securing for a British company an important concession of Persian oil-fields. Although oil was believed to exist in abundance on the shores of the Persian Gulf, its deposits had never . been seriously developed: but my predecessor, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, believed - and his opinion was supported by a Persian-Armenian financier named
Kitabji Khan - that it might not improbably he found in abundance in the Turco-Persian frontier region, which is traversed by the great pilgrim road from Teheran through Hamadan to Bagdad. Sir Henry Wolff accordingly wrote a letter of introduction, brought by a Mr. Marriott, whom he recommended in it to my good offices, and who would, he went on to say, explain to me fully the character and objects of his mission.
Its main end, which appeared to me well deserving of support, was to win the goodwill of the Persian Government by assigning shares in the proposed development of the rich oil fields believed to exist in Western Persia to some of its most influential Ministers, including the Grand Vizier himself. I accordingly at once interviewed that statesman, and strongly urged that the concession, which had been already laid before him, and which, if I remember correctly, gave exclusive rights to dig for oil throughout Persia, except in the provinces bordering on Russia-Azerbaijan, Ghilan, Mazenderan and Khorassan - to an Australian mining magnate, a Mr. D’Arcy, who was ready to finance the undertaking. The Grand Vizier declared himself prepared to fall in withthe project, but he suggested that a letter - to be writtenby me, in the Persian language, embodying its main features- - should be immediately drawn up for submission to the Russian Legation. Ho was awarethat M. Argyropulo could not read Persian, more especially in the written or “shikaste” character, which is illegible, owing to its peculiar abbreviations, even to scholars familiar with the printed language. He also knew from his own spies that the Russian Oriental secretary, M. Stritter, who alone could read it, was about to leave Zergendeh, the summer residence of the Russian Legation, for a short sporting excursion inthe neighbouring hills. He therefore sent the letter to Zergendeh, where it lay several days untranslated, awaiting M. Stritter’s return, and as no objection to the proposal contained in it was made by the Russian Minister, who could not read it, and never suspected the importance of its contents, all the Persian members of the Government supported the Grand Vizier’s decision to sign the concession to Mr. D’Arcy. M. Argyropulo was far from pleased when he learnt what had actually happened; but the Grand A’izier could not be blamed for the accidental and temporary absence of his Legation’s Persian translator, and the Russian Minister accordingly adopted the sensible course of accepting the accomplished fact. Ho required, however, some compensation at the hands of the Persian Government, though he had to wait a little time for it.
Thus the oil interests of Great Britain did not hesitate, in order to achieve their ends, to make use of one of the highest British officials outside Britain. This shows to what extent the oil interests will go.
I am against war; I hate its very name, for I have seen its horrors. I have traversed areas years after battles have been waged on them, and I’ have studied them closely. The more I ponder on this subject I believe that war can only emanate from the devil - if there be such a thing. My sympathy goes out to Abyssinia in the present crisis as it would go out to a lower form of life in similar circumstances. I hope that war will not be declared.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– Honorable members opposite have been unable to express more fervently than honorable members supporting the Government the desire that there should not be war or that Australia should not participate in hostilities should such result from the present crisis. So far this Government has taken no action whatever to involve the Commonwealth or to indicate that it is desirous of sending men or munitions overseas to participate in war. The rambling debate we have had on the Abyssinian situation has been made possible primarily by the submission of a motion for the printing of a paper containing a statement of the position as it appeared to the Government at the moment. Most of the statements which have been made from the other side have had no bearing on the situation, and it would probably have been better if the greater part of them had not been made. The amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) contains these words -
This Parliament records grave concern and its profound horror at the prospect of a second world Avar developing out of the conflict of imperial trading interests . . .
Every honorable member of this House will support the expression of horror at the prospect of another world war, but the honorable member cannot expect us all to be as condemnatory of imperial trade interests as he is. Imperial trade is a matter of vital concern to Australia and its primary industries. Only the other day, there was in London a great assembly of Empire representatives whose purpose was to foster and develop imperial trade. Britain must necessarily -be concerned with the protection of its own trade, and that of the component parts of the Empire. The amendment of the honorable member proceeds - . . and expresses its unflinching determination not to allow Australia to become involved, under any circumstances, notwithstanding any decision recorded at the League of Nations Council.
I cannot understand bow honorable members with a sense of responsibility could give their support to a proposal that Australia “ would not, under any circumstances,” participate in war. Every political party in Australia has consistently supported Australia’s adherence to the League of Nations, and no objection has ever been raised to the voting of an annual sum as our share towards defraying the expenses of the League. Honorable members opposite claim to be anxious at all times for the preservation of peace. If that be so, they should support the League, for that is the very object of its existence. In spite of their previous support of the League, honorable members opposite now would have us desert that body when it seeks to perform the duty for which it was called into existence. Just because the unfortunate country that is screaming to the League for protection against an aggressor does . not happen to be Australia, honorable members opposite would have us repudiate our obligations, and withdraw.
Attempts have been made to discredit the motives of Great Britain, but I have no hesitation in saying that no country could be more sincere and earnest in its efforts to preserve peace than is Great Britain. Members of the Labour party have consistently condemned the action of dictators who would deny freedom to the people of their countries. Signor Mussolini is a dictator who seeks to set himself up as another Caesar. He has sent to Africa an army greater than any yet mobilized, with the exception of those engaged in the Great War. Because Britain has found it necessary, in tho interests of the dominions, and for the safety of its own possessions, to step between Italy and its victim, Britain has been accused of trying to foment another world war.
Nothing has yet been done to commit this country to war. We have an honorable seat at the League Council, and we must accept our responsibilities as members of the League. Any act of war against the League is automatically an act of war against the nations comprising the League. Therefore, if there is war, the responsibility lies with Italy. Though our own interests are not directly involved in this dispute, our duty is to support the League if for no other reason than that at some future time we might have to call upon it to protect us.
It has been said that even if Britain became involved in war Australia should remain neutral, but I remind honorable members that we have no choice in the matter. If the Crown of Britain be at war, then every part of the Empire becomes automatically involved, with the possible exception of South Africa. Even if Australia took no part in the war, its territory would be subject to invasion by the enemies of Britain, its commerce would be liable to seizure on the high seas, and its nationals to internment in enemy countries. If Great Britain goes to war, Australia, cannot legally remain neutral. However, although Australia must be legally at war when Great Britain is at war, it is not necessary that even one Australian soldier be sent overseas to aid Britain or any other country. There is no authority outside this Parliament that can force Australia to participate in any war, and we have this consolation, that nothing has occurred yet to compel Australia to make a decision whether or not it will participate in an armed conflict.
Honorable members opposite have complained because H.M.A.S. Australia is at present in the Mediterranean Sea where it may become involved in hostilities. I remind honorable members that it is proper that Australia’s navy should be where it is necessary to protect Australia’s interests, and we are very much interested in keeping open the trade route through the Mediterranean. The primary producers of this country, at any rate, are quite content that we should give what support, we can to Great Britain in the protection of our sea-borne commerce.
The issue is not the possible shedding of Australian blood to protect a barbarous, black country. The real issue is the preservation of our free institutions, of that democracy which we have inherited from Britain, the principle of free speech which we value so highly, and the many other advantages we enjoy, but which are denied to the people of Italy. We realize that any threat to the Empire is a threat to those free institutions. Australia’s destiny will never be decided within Austral a’s shores; it will be decided in some other land, or on seas far distant from here. I sincerely hope that honorable members, whether in this chamber or on kerosene boxes in the Domain, will remember that they owe a responsibility to the people of Australia, to this Parliament, and to the Empire. Honorable members carry the trust of the national Parliament and national government of the youngest nation in the world. I sincerely hope that they will not endeavour to inflame the minds of the people as to the possibilities of conscription. Conscription’ will never be introduced in this country until circumstances make it inevitable. Such circumstances have never yet arisen. Sanctions, admittedly only economic, have today been imposed against Italy in the hope that they will be sufficient to restrict that country’s desire to menace Abyssinia. I do not want to see the world plunged once more into terrible strife, but Britain’s case - whatever it may be - ‘inevitably involves the Commonwealth. The menace of Italy in the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea, affects Australia as much as it affects Great Britain. The theatre of war is almost half-way on the journey between the Commonwealth and Britain, and just how great the Italian menace is in the present circumstances is shown by the fact that Italian submarines are patrolling the waters on the Australian side of Suez. Some honorable members have gone so far as to assert that Australia is not a member of the British Empire. They make these statements during war, but in times of peace they are prepared to partake of all the good things which membership of the Empire makes possible. They support the Labour Councils of the League of Nations, are represented at meetings of those councils, and are prepared to authorize payments of money to ensure the continued existence of them. Yet when, danger threatens, they are prepared to tell the world that Australia is not willing to stand within the Empire and uphold the League of Nations to which it is tied, even more than it is to Britain, by signatures and honour. These agreements to which Australia, along with other nations, has affixed its signature provide the means for a hoped for curtailment of the Italian offensive against Abyssinia. Australia should play its part in Britain’s efforts to preserve the peace of the world. Britain’s preparedness to depend on the League of Nations to bring about peace is illustrated by its determination to honour obligations, and the reductions of its military and naval forces. Success, I trust, will come from Britain’s great effort to lead the world into harmonious relations.
– The debate has covered a wide field from the League of Nations procedure to many other subjects, including imperial constitutional relations. I have no wish to repeat the many arguments and points of view that have found expression in the last few days. The dispute has been dealt with in accordance with the League Covenant. Articles 11, 15 and 16 have been successively invoked. The main objective behind the procedure of the League is the creation of delay in order that among other things world opinion might be given time and opportunity to mobilize itself against the side that is pronounced the aggressor. If any vindication of the League is necessary it is to be found in the unanimous vote of th.e Council and the practically unanimous vote of the Assembly in the last two or three days. I believe that most honorable members of this House believe that the future of the world depends largely on the success of the League. The unanimous vote of the Council and the practically unanimous vote of the Assembly mean the practically unanimous vote of the. civilized countries of the world, numbering 50 or 60 countries. We are not called upon in this House to adjudicate between Italy and Abyssinia. That has been done already by the Council of the League of Nations, which was unanimous in its declaration of where the. guilt lies. The four main points, as I understand it, on which the question of guilt was decided, were whether the four principal obligations into which Italy had entered had or had not been broken. These were the 1906 Treaty, by which Italy, the United Kingdom and France guaranteed the integrity of Abyssinia. The second was the entry by Abyssinia, sponsored by Italy, into the League in 1928, an act by which all States members of the League, and, one can assume, particularly the State which sponsored Abyssinia, guaranteed its territorial integrity. Then again by the Abyssinian Treaty of 1928, Italy guaranteed the territorial and other integrity of Abyssinia. The fourth point was article 12 of the Covenant under which all States members agreed not to go to war within three months of the report of the Council on the dispute. These, I believe, were the four points on which Italy was declared the aggressor, apart from whether it had been technically the aggressor against Abyssinia within -the last, few weeks. Fortunately this House is not called upon to judge where the guilt lies. The evidence is not before the House. All ‘of it was before the Council of the League which has pronounced its unanimous judgment.
It lias been asked in this House: As the League failed in the Manchurian dispute in which Japan was involved, and the procedure of the League was invoked only to a very limited extent in that dispute, why should the League so meticulously in this case invoke every possible measure of pressure on the alleged aggressor ? The Manchurian dispute was of a very different class. In the first place, Japan had been deeply involved in Manchurian affairs for many years before the recent dispute occurred. It was in virtual possession of Manchuria, or Manchukuo as it is now named. Japan supplied what was in effect the only real administrative machinery. Furthermore the question of sovereignty in respect of Manchuria was much less distinct than it is in the case of Abyssinia. He would have been a brave international lawyer who would have set out in clear terms the position regarding the sovereignty of Manchuria. Japan’s occupation and establishment of the Manchukuo republic were on a very different footing to the present ItaloAbyssinian dispute, and I think there is every justification for invoking all the League’s procedure in this case. I do not propose to deal with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that the countries that signed that pact renounced war as a means of national expression, because I think that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), in a speech that all sides of the House must have recognized as one of great restraint, reserve, clarity and strong argument, convinced members that the- Kellogg Pact is not inconsistent with adherence to the Covenants of the League, and the procedure of the League when an outbreak of hostilities occurs or is threatened.
The Covenant of the League is, I believe, the greatest expression that the world has ever seen of international law. It is the most all-embracing expression of international law that tlie world has ever witnessed. It, is the embodiment of the Rule of Law, and like any other law, it is dependant, in the end, on force. Many things have been said about the failures of the League in various disputes. It is almost a truism to remind some honorable members of the proposition that the League’s strength is no more than the strength of the States which form its membership. The weaknesses of the League are merely the weaknesses . of the States, and its failures or alleged failures are those of the member States. The League of Nations is the embodiment of collective responsibility. It embraces a few big, powerful States and a large number of small, non-powerful States. I have always had a certain amount of doubt whether the League in an extremity could provide solution of disputes between big States, particularly if hot blood is involved. That doubt is shared by many others. The League of Nations procedure, however, provides means for stopping aggression by a powerful State against a small and undeveloped State. And we all hope that the League Covenant will secure that for the world. The majority of the League’s members are small States. Australia is a small State, small in numbers but occupying a great area of land, and it should be very jealous of the principles of the League Covenant and of the privileges which League membership gives. Instead of trying to decry the League, Australia should be amongst the foremost of those countries whose endeavours are aimed at maintaining the prestige of the League. I believe that those countries that have riot the nerve to live up to the obligations imposed by membership of the League, do not deserve the security that the collective arrangements of the League would bring to them. Whatever the outcome of this unfortunate dispute may be, one thing seems to be clear - the countries which compose the British Empire must by all the means at their disposal put their strength into the Empire. I believe personally, and it is also almost a truism that the British Empire is the biggest single agency for peace in the world. We should do everything possible to cement the bonds of Empire, and make sure that they will not break at the slightest tension. There are not wanting people in this’ community who are willing and ready to mount a public platform at any time of the day or night, and state in a round-sounding voice that they are Australians first, last and all the time, and do not wish to be dependent upon any other country, not even upon Great Britain. That is a cry which, among an unthinking audience, would always raise an unthinking cheer. Do these people actually believe that Australia could, of itself, maintain itself for any length of time? Do they realize what might happen to the enormous surplus “of our primary production? Do they take into account the matter of defence? Do they believe that the 6,000,000 to 7,000,000 persons in Australia could defend this country unaided? What may be of even more importance, do they regard our diplomatic prestige as sufficient for the maintenance of our most cherished institution - the White Australia policy? I submit that on none of those three material counts could Australia maintain itself outside the British Empire. Neither the policy of a White Australia nor the physical defence of this country could be maintained in opposition to any one of a dozen hostile nations. The view of the Opposition generally is very definitely the short view. On the long view., Australia’s future is cast within the British Empire for as many years ahead as we can see. The statement has been made from the opposite benches that Australia should never send one of its citizens to fight outside of this country. I assume that
I am not doing an injustice to that plank of the party’s platform when I claim that it means what it says. The inference to be drawn from it is that Australia would not go to the assistance of any other part of the British Empire - not even New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa, let alone Singapore or the British colonies - if it were attacked or were in danger of being attacked. That is an entirely untenable view-point. Leaving out of consideration the British sentiment, and the fact that in the past we have been dependent for our very existence upon Great Britain and the rest of the Empire, and judging the matter on material grounds alone, it is impossible to hold the view that Australia should never send its citizens abroad to fight, and that whatever fighting had to be done should be done inside its shores.
We know that the emblem of fascist Italy is a bundle of sticks, which, singly, could be broken, but which, when bound together, are unbreakable. It has always appealed to me that that emblem of fascist Italy might well have been adopted by the League of Nations, because it is inherently the emblem of collective security. It is a cruel irony that it should have become the emblem of the first great country to flout the League, and diminish its prestige.
.- The war which is confronting Australia at the present time raises the most important issue with which this Parliament has been concerned since 1914, and may involve the death of ‘hundreds of thousands of persons. It is our duty to decide whether Ave shall allow the Australian people to be faced with the possibility of sharing in the danger’s associated with it.
To-day’s press contains Italy’s reply to the suggestion that sanctions shall be imposed. There seems to be every possibility that the world as a whole is about to face what would be the vorst wai” in history. We must, therefore, consider the matter calmly and dispassionately, and not be misled by sentiment or emotionalism into the making of decisions, at which we would not otherwise arrive.
The opinion, held on this side of the House is that any person or nation agreeing to the application of economic sanctions must necessarily he prepared to follow that decision- to its logical conclusion by agreeing, if necessary, to the imposition of military sanctions. That is the reason for the attitude which the Australian Labour party is adopting. It has been claimed that disunity exists in the Australian Labour movement in regard to this matter. In that section of the Labour movement which is called upon, to decide <ihe question - the 27 public representatives of the two sections of Labour in this Parliament - there is complete unanimity as to what action should be taken by Australia. On the other hand, if we are to believe that section of the press which is not favorably disposed towards the political opinions which we hold, until recently there was considerable lack of unity in the ranks of members of the Cabinet. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Hughes), who has never previously been backward in declaring himself when there has been the suggestion of a war in which ‘ Australia might participate, rushed into publicity at the end of August last with a definitely considered, deliberate statement that one of the most unwise moves would be participation by Great Britain in this war. As a matter- of fact that statement brought him into conflict with Professor Charteris. But the point with which we are concerned1, and that which has caused the Cabinet considerable anxiety, is that the man who has had the widest administrative experience of warfare, who was a war-time Prime Minister, and who left the party that had secured his introduction into politics because of the attitude he had adopted,, is the very member of the Cabinet who to-day definitely warns the Government party against -being led into this war. It is particularly noticeable, and certainly not a coincidence, that the right honorable gentleman is practically the sole member of the Cabinet who has not spoken in this debate; he has carefully refrained from dealing with the matter, notwithstanding the fact that but a few short months ago he was stumping from one end of Australia to the other stressing the need for con siderably greater preparations than were being made for national defence. At that time he adapted the role of an authority, and was perfectly entitled to do so because of his experience in matters of defence.
The League of Nations was formed shortly after the last war for the purpose of endeavouring to bring about perpetual peace; but it was formed on the understanding that the great nations of the world would necessarily be components of it. Obviously it could not be a success if the great powers refrained from joining it. It is most unfortunate that the particular nation whose president was more responsible than any other individual for the formation of the League, was the first to break away from it. Incidentally, the main reason given for its abstention from participation in the activities of the League was that its voting strength in the Assembly was not any greater than that of Australia or any other British dominion. At the present time only four of the seven Great Powers are members of the League. They are : Great Britain, Prance, Russia and Italy. Germany, the United States of America and Japan are not now members of it. One of those four powers is the power against which action in regard to sanctions is being taken; consequently, only three are left to enforce the decisions of the League. Great Britain alone is particularly anxious to give effect to the Covenant of the League. Prance has very tardily been brought to agree with certain proposals in regard to sanctions. Russia, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has pointed out, has private motives for its agreement with participation in a conflict, should one take place. Without any attempt at warmongering, it must be realized that there is every probability that a conflict will take place, and that it is for us to consider what attitude will best tend towards its prevention. When sanctions are applied, the nation which will be responsible for their application in the greatest degree is Great Britain. The Sydney Morn-: ing Herald, which usually is regarded as one of the most sober of journals in such matters, points out to-day that already the French newspapers are predicting that a blockade’ of the Red Sea. by Great Britain will be in operation within a few weeks. Great Britain is voluntarily allowing itself to be made to act as the policeman of the world. Italy has made it very clear in a statement in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald that she will adopt a definite attitude in respect of any nation which acts against its interests in consequence of any attempt to enforce sanctions. However pacific our intentions may bc, the enforcement of sanctions by the League of Nations against one nation amounts to an act of war; and in this case it would be an act. of war against a nation which is itself a member of the League. I direct particular attention to the following paragraph which appears in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald: -
The Rome correspondent of The Times says that Italy bitterly complains of the treatment she has received from the League, and adds: “ The Powers now assembled at Geneva are solemnly warned; not only that economic measures are a two-edged weapon calculated to injure the wielder of it at least as much as. if not more than, their object, but may quite easily signify the most tragic and the most, terrible of wars, and consequently the irremediable end of the League of Nations.”
That is exactly the position in which we find ourselves. Consequently, I contend that this Parliament should not allow the people of the Commonwealth to be involved in a war that might easily become the most tragic and terrible of all wars. It may be quite true that Italy is being forced to comply with the whims and wishes of one man who is, in fact, a megalomaniac with homicidal tendencies. This man has become intoxicated with power. This, surely, should be a warning to certain honorable gentlemen who are inclined to favour government by dictatorship. The natural corollary of such a system is that, sooner or later, the person holding the absolute power will make the people the victims of his own insensate desires.
The League of Nations has had previous opportunities to enforce its authority but has not accepted them. It took two years to intrude itself into the conflict between Paraguay and Bolivia, although both countries were members of it. A considerable period elapsed, also, before the League took an active part in the dispute between China and Japan, although at that time both those nations were connected with it. Japan seized four provinces from China, and recognized a form of government in the area involved that the- League itself has so far declined to recognize; but no action was then taken to enforce either economic or military sanctions against Japan. When Germany suddenly decided to rearm in contravention of the provisions of the Peace Treaty, the League took no action to prevent it from doing so. We should, therefore, ask ourselves why there is this sudden enthusiasm to assert, the League’s authority? It seems to me that the action of Great Britain in setting itself up as the world’s policeman, has net been taken solely with humanitarian objects. Some other consideration is motivating Great Britain than the simple desire to assist the League to preserve world peace; otherwise it would have taken similar action when earlier opportunities presented themselves for it to do so. It must be obvious to all thinking persons that for a considerable time a big scheme has been on foot to divide Africa among certain great powers. Italy, France, and England had, as a matter of fact, agreed to this policy : but Italy has to-day raced ahead of the other powers in this regard. I wish it to be understood that I am not arguing in favour of Mussolini, for I do not think that anything can be said in his favour. Nevertheless, the procedure which Italy is now adopting to add Abyssinia to its territory is exactly similar to that which Great Britain itself adopted in years gone by to establish the Empire which now is so broad that, as some people are proud to say, the sun never sets on it. I know that certain parts of the Empire were secured to the British Crown by means of discovery; but perhaps even the accession of Australia to the Empire was ensured by means not altogether above suspicion. Italy is now seeking to add Abyssinia to its possessions by a procedure that was regarded as quite proper a few generations ago. Perhaps the brutality of war was not so great in those times as it is to-day, but that is due solely to the fact that poison gas, military aeroplanes and mechanized engines of war had not then been invented.
We must also realize that Mussolini is using conscript troops for the furtherance of his objectives. The soldiers being sent to Abyssinia from Italy, must either kill or be killed. These unfortunate men, numbering between 250,000 and 500,000, Iia ve been given no say whatever as to whether they will or will not go to Africa to slaughter the Abyssinians. An attempt is once more being made to promote Christianity by means of the gun mid the bayonet, and to force upon uncivilized people a civilization which they may not be prepared to accept. Our high ethical and moral standards, as displayed by Italy’s actions, may not appeal to these people. One is reminded of the story of a number of shipwrecked sailors who upon reaching an island saw a scaffold upon it and promptly said, “Thank God, we have at last arrived at a civilized country “.
It is deplorable that in such a crisis as we now face, the Commonwealth Government has no policy; or, if it can be said to have a policy, it is the policy of Great Britain, in the formation of which the Commonwealth Government has had no voice whatever. Not long ago, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was asked to enunciate the policy of the Commonwen 1th in regard to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, he was guilty of evasion and equivocation; and it may be said that it was not until the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) made his speech on Wednesday night, that the people of Australia knew what was in the mind of the Government. The Attorney-General made it very clear to us that if Great Britain found itself at war, Australia would also be at war. That view is not acceptable to the Labour party. We believe that Australia has reached the status of a nation, and that our 6,750,000 people should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they will or will not become parties to a war. The decision should not depend upon the action of the Imperial Government. Our constitutional evolution during the last half century has been such that we have obtained greater and greater powers of self-government, until to-day, we regard ourselves as a self-governing nation; but in reality how can it be said that we are self-governing if we are denied the right to determine the one matter which affects every home and touches every heart ? W e should not be dealt with as dumb driven cattle and forced to follow Great Britain wherever it may lead us. Even in Great Britain itself, many leading newspapers are opposed to the policy of the Government; and in this country we know that many of our leading newspapers are opposed to the policy of this Government. More than that, the one Minister in this Government who might be regarded as the leading Minister for war, seems to show less enthusiasm than any of his colleagues for the view that Australia must participate in this conflict. Many leading constitutional authorities have set out the constitutional position of Australia and the other dominions in a way that makes it clear beyond dispute that we have the right to determine our own course in a matter of this character. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following passage which appears in Leonard Le Marchant Minty’s Constitutional Law of the British Empire : -
What active assistance a particular selfgoverning dominion will be prepared to render tn thu Mother Country will depend entirely upon what provision is made by its legislature for voting supplies, etc. The Irish Free State Constitution Act i 922, Article 49, provides: “Save in the case of actual invasion the Irish Free State (Saorstat Eiran.ii) shall not be committed to active participation in any war without the assent of the Oireachtas “.
There .can be no doubt whatever about the meaning of those words. That citation is undoubtedly in accordance with the views that have been generally expressed following upon the evolutionary processes of constitutional procedure in recent years. It has been well recognized that each part of the Empire has the right to determine its own course in matters of this kind. Professor Berriedale Keith, in his book The Constitutional Law of the British Dominions, says -
The dominions possess full control over their forces and even in war time, as is recognized by the Constitution of the Irish Free State, Article 49. it rests with their Parliaments to authorize their employment for purposes be- 3’ond self-defence.
I may remind honorable members that Professor Berriedale Keith is one of the most notable authorities in the world on constitutional subjects-, and was, as a matter of fact, referred to with- respect by the Attorney-General.
– We had such power before the Irish Free State was thought of.
– That is so, but the power has now been stated in statute form. It has been contendedin this. Parliament that Australia does not enjoy this power. Apparently, the honorable member for Barker (Mr.. Archie Cameron) is the only member on the Government side who is aware of the actual position, but he has kept his knowledge on the matter well concealed. On page 427 of Professor Berriedale Keith’s book is the following footnote : -
The doctrine was adopted in Canada in the Chanak incident on 18th September.. . 1922, and. reiterated on the 1st March, 1923.
It was in connexion with the Chanak incident that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who was then Prime Minister, offered to send troops from Australia, without even consulting the Cabinet. The people of this country knew nothing about the proposal until it was announced that Australian troops would be despatched if a war should occur. Except that a discussion has taken place in this Parliament on the ItaloAbyssinian dispute, Australia is in a verysimilar position to that in which it found itself in connexion with the Chanak incident.
The Prime Minister of Canada and the Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian Parliament have declared that, whilst they are prepared to support the application of sanctions,, they will no’ go so far as to agree to the sending of Canadian troops to the Mediterranean area. The Prime Minister of South Africa has also announced that that dominion approves of economic, but not military, sanctions. Honorable members on this side of the House contend that it is dangerous to talk of economic sanctions if we are not prepared to proceed further and apply military sanctions. But that does not affect my argument that, in addition to the attitude of the Irish Free State, the Prime Minister of South Africa and the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in Canada obviously have- no doubt as to their constitutional position in this matter. They consider that their countries are entitled to participate in the application of economic, but not military, sanctions. They have no doubt that their attitude will not split the British Empire. At least they have the courage of their own convictions, and have not decided to wait, like the Commonwealth Government, until they hear the decision reached by the British Government. It is suggested that a general election will be held in Britain a month hence. It would be interesting to know if the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to follow the lead of Great Britain should a Labour government be returned to power, and attempt to induce Britain to embark upon a war to assist Russia or some other nation.
– It would not be so foolish.
– A Labour government would not be so foolish as to rush Britain into any war.. It may be contended that Australia would merely be required to send a quota of military, naval or air forces; but let us recall what happen, in the last war. The then Prime Minister of Australia wired Great Britain, and promised 20,000 volunteers. That offer was accepted with great gratitude, yet eventually Australia sent 350,000 troops. On two occasions, the then Prime Minister endeavoured to foist conscription on Australia, and, if that had been adopted, it would have involved the despatch of a much larger number of men.
We should be prepared to face the situation that must arise if we go any further in this matter. From economic sanctions it is but a short step to military sanctions, and as soon as they are imposed, the next step is to send a small quota of troops. Then there is littlefurther to go before the whole nation is involved, and every fit man is called upon to shoulder a rifle and take part in war. If necessary, this would be done by conscription. At the outbreak of war in 1914, if anybody suggested that one of the outcomes of the conflict would be that Australia would almost have conscription foisted upon it, he would have been laughed to scorn. The most pessimistic forecasts were that the war might last a year or two, but most people considered that it would be over within a few months. We should not lightheartedly participate in another war, whichmight easily prove to be the most tragic in history. There is another aspect of the matter to be considered.We must face realities and not discuss political theories. A considerable body of opinion in Australia - whether right or wrong - is opposed to participation in this conflict; and even if all members of this Parliament were in favour of war, no amount of propaganda would create the war fever that prevailed in 1914. In view of the fact that a large section of the people of Australia are in favour of non-participation in any war, this country might he faced with a. civil war, if it, were decided to plunge this country into another conflict overseas. I ask the Government, even at this late hour, to determine its own policy, and not blindly follow Britain. Ministers should adopt the principle of collective responsibility and collective action, not only within the League of Nations, but also in the Commonwealth Cabinet. Let them carry out their policy irrespective of what Britain does, and let it be nonparticipation in the conflict that is apparently about to commence.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Beasley’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question - That the paper be printed - put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bemade for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of Western Australia.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. ArchdaleParkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of Tasmania.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted’.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archdale Parkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) .
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes Of financial assistance to the State of South Australia.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archdale Parkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– Seeing that all these bills relate to cognate matters, have I permission, in moving the second reading of this bill, to include in my speech references to Western Australia and Tasmania ?
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
These measures are intended to provide special grants for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for the current financial year. Last year Parliament approved of special grants for that year only, following the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The amounts now submitted for the approval of the House are in accord with the further recommendations of the Grants Commission. The grants now proposed are as follows : -
The history of special grants to these States is best illustrated by the following table: -
The Government has now had the benefit of two years’ examination of the position of these States by the Grants Commission. The first report of the Grants Commission may be briefly summarized thus -
The second report of the Grants Commission relating to grants for the year 1935-36 was received immediately prior to the .budget, and has since been circulated to honorable members. In this report the commission has considerably developed its examination into the position of claimant States. It is a lengthy document, and shows that the commission has spared no pains in an endeavour to arrive at an equitable measurement of the assistance that should be rendered to claimant States. The report devotes separate chapters to such matters as “ The Principles “ ; “ The Underlying Causes “ ; “ The Determination of Standards of Problems of Comparison “ ; “ Measurement of Relative Financial Position “ ; “ Recommendations “ ; and “ Observations.” There is also a section, chapter 9, in which is contained a summary of the report. I recommend all honorable members to read the report, and particularly the summary in chapter 9.
Some of the main features of the report may be briefly summarized thus -
As honorable members are well aware the Government has been anxious for these special grants to be placed on a more permanent basis, and thus avoid the necessity for annual revision. In its second report the commission gave further consideration to this matter and expressed the following views :
It is certain that no fixed grant could be determined equitably for a long term of years. We have not found any satisfactory method of doing so even for a short term, but will give the matter full consideration in our next report when the possibility of devising an automatic sliding scale will also . be discussed. [Quorum formed.]
The grants recommended for 1935-36 were based on figures for 1933-34. The commission pointed out that the figures for the immediately preceding financial year 1934-35 could not be available in time to permit of a proper investigation and calculation of the grants for 1935-36. I may add that copies of the second report of the commission have already been made available to State Premiers, and arrangements are being made to supply a copy to each member of all the State Parliaments, i.e., the six State Parliaments, and not only to members of the parliaments of the three claimant States. With this description I commend the three bills to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In order to alford members representing the more distant States a better opportunity to get to their homes at weekends, the Government has decided that, after next week, the House shall meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
.- A report appears in a section of to-day’s press dealing with certain matters considered in Parliament. It stated that the Opposition had- indicated that it had no objection to the proposed opening of the Military College at Duntroon. I merely desire to say that the matters considered yesterday had no relationship at all to the question of whether or not the Royal Military College should be reestablished at Duntroon. What was considered were, in the opinion of the Opposition, matters necessary for the development of Canberra in order to permit the Government to carry out its plan for the transfer of departments to this city. On behalf of the Opposition I desire to make it plain that yesterday it did not in any way state its attitude towards the question of the return of the college at Duntroon.
Last night I offered some comment in respect of my understanding of an observation made by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies). I have refreshed my recollection of that honorable gentleman’s reply, and I am satisfied that my statement last evening that he said earlier in the day that the vacancy of Chief Justice had not been filled, but that it was intended to fill it at an early date was correct. I am confident that if the Attorney-General will refer to Hansard he will find he used the words “ at an early date “ and not “very shortly.” I feel that I was justly entitled last evening to construe the words “ at an early date “ as meaning at a time other than the same day when the words were used. I merely wish, to say that my statement last evening, seeing that I did not hear any obser vation by the Attorney-General which, meant “ very shortly “, was a perfectly natural one and quite reasonable in the circumstances.
.-I am surprised at the statement made by the Minister for Defence in respect to the alteration of sitting days. Its belatedness does not give Tasmanians any advantage this week.
– TheHouse will meet next Wednesday as usual and the change will not come into effect until the following week.
– Had the intimation been made to honorable members last night they could have arranged to return to their homes. We should be given as much consideration as honorable members from Victoria and New South Wales. They may leave Canberra, while we have to roam round “ like Brown’s cows “ until they return in the following week. I protest against the manner in which this matter has been handled.
– The Government has endeavoured to meet the wishes of honorable members so far as it was able to ascertain them.I learned only to-day of the proposal, and informed those honorable members who I thought were interested. I regret any inconvenience that may have been caused to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney).
The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) doubtless will comment upon the observations of the Leader of the Opposition, if he feels so disposed when he is in the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Public Service Examinations.
National News Service.
s asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351011_reps_14_147/>.