14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. H. Prowse) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and rend prayers.
GEORGE BRENT FILMS.
Mr. E. J. HARRISON.- Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received any representations in connexion with the banning of films made by George Brent? Ifso, what action does he propose to take?
Mr.WHITE.-The answer to the first part of the question being “ No “, the second question does not arise.
DEFENCE PROGRA M ME .
Mr. McCALL. - In view of the pro posed expansion of the naval programme, will the Minister for Defence state whether the Government intends to undertake the construction of a naval vessel at Cockatoo Dock in the near future?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL. - Full details of the Government’s proposals under the new programme will be furnished when the “Works ‘ Estimates are before Parliament.
Mr. PRICE. - Will the Minister for Defence state whether the Government has given consideration to the desirability of spreading secondary industries throughout the Commonwealth, and of establishing munition factories for the manufacture of defence materials, on approved sites, in the smaller States of the Commonwealth ?If not, will the Government take steps in this direction?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.- The Prime Minister indicated in the statement that he made yesterday that consideration would be given to this matter.
Mr. SCULLY. - T. ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government will give effect to the recommendation of the Federal Tobacco Advisory Committee at a meeting held recently in
Melbourne, namely, that the import duty on tobacco leaf be increased from 3s.6d. per lb. to 4s. per lb. ; that the excise on Australian leaf be reduced from 3s. l0d. per lb. to 3s. per lb.; and that there should be an increase of the use of Australian tobacco leaf from 13 per cent. to 20 per cent. and of cigarette leaf from 2½ per cent. to 5 per cent.?
Mr. WHITE. - The Government cannot take action on a recommendation of that kind. While it is useful as furnishing information, I think that any member of the tobacco industry will recognize and admit that the industry is well protected at present, and that the Australian growers are able to sell good quality leaf.
– Will the Treasurer state whether any arrangements have been made to ensure that the disposal of the current production of gold in Australia is carried out in such a way as not to cause embarrassment to the exchange equalization accounts of either the United Kingdom or the United States of America, in view of the extent to which the maintenance of a payable price for gold depends upon the continuance of goodwill in the operation of those accounts?
– There are no arrangements at present which would disturb the ordinary commercial disposal of gold raised in Australia.
– Will the Prime Minis ter state whether any request has been received from the Government of Victoria for Commonwealth assistance towards the after-care of children affected by the present infantile paralysis epidemic in that State? If so, has any decision been made as to whether a sum might be made available from, the Lord Nuffield fund?
– A request has been received from the Premier of Victoria, but no decision has yet been come to by the Government. The matter is still under consideration.
– I ask you, Mr.
Deputy Speaker, the following questions : -
– I shall cause inquiries to be made and shall inform the honorable member later.
– Is the Minister for Commerce aware that complaints are general in the States as to the shortage of funds for farmers’ debt adjustment? Can the right honorable gentleman indicate why this state of affairs should exist, in view of the undertaking of the Commonwealth to provide from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 per annum for this purpose?
– In Victoria uptodate the sum of £748,000 has been made available and £600,000 was spent to the 30th June last. In the present year the sum of £2,500,000 is being provided for on the Commonwealth loan estimates. The full amount has not been provided entirely because the States in their Loan Council discussions indicated that they preferred to expend the available money . on public works rather than on farmers’ debt adjustment.
-Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether the officers of that department have examined a mechanical gadget designed to record for subscribers the number of calls made on their telephones ? In view of the fact that nearly every telephone subscriber in the Commonwealth has made complaints about the amount charged for telephone calls, will the Minister ask that arrangements be made to test this gadget if it has not already been tested?
– I am unable to admit the premise on which the honorable member has based his question? I do not think there is such dissatisfaction as the honorable member suggests. I can assure him that machines installed in connexion with the telephone exchanges record with scrupulous accuracy the calls made through them. If the honorable member, and any other honorable member of the House interested in the subject would visit a telephone exchange and watch these machines in operation, they would be largely reassured.
– I made no reference to the instruments already installed in telephone exchanges. I want to know whether the Postal Department has considered the installation of, or in any way examined, amechanical device that can be attached to an individual subscriber’s telephone which would record the calls made so that subscribers may have some check on the departmental record. . If that is not being done will the Minister direct the department to make such an. investigation, and, if the device is efficient, give the necessary instructions that they may be installed on subscribers’ telephones in order to prevent the constant complaints made by subscribers that the telephone accounts are much higher than they should be?
– If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain from the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) a full statement in reply.
– by leave - Before setting out in broad general terms the attitude of the Government on alien white migration, it is necessary, in view of misleading statements recently made and also of the misunderstanding in the minds of the public on the question, to moke the position clear. A few figures will help to this end. For the four calendar years . 1925 to 1928 inclusive, the net gain to this country by white alien migrants - that is to say, the excess of arrivals over de partures - was more than 35,000. The annual average net gain was nearly 9,000.
For the last two financial years, 1935-36 and 1936-37, the net influx of white aliens has been 2,599 and 3,234 respectively, or about one-third of the pre-depression numbers. These figures show quite clearly that what has been described as a “ heavy influx “ of foreigners is nothing of the kind. What happened was not only did British migration cease, but also that, the tide turned the other way - more British people left Australia than came into it.. For the seven years, 1930 to 1936 inclusive, we lost nearly 30,000 people of British stock, due to the excess of departures over arrivals. Of these about two-thirds left in 1930 and 1931. In the financial year just closed, the net loss was 1,248. Taken in conjunction with the heavy fall in the birth-rate and the disturbed state of the world, this discloses a position which must give every Australian food for very serious thought.
Turning now to a review of white alien immigration, the first point that needs special emphasis is that every alien immigrant must pay his own passage. No assistance of any kind is given by either Commonwealth, or State Governments to such immigrants. Further, every white alien not guaranteed employment is required to have £200 capital. Those who have such a guarantee must have £50 capital. The only alien migrants admitted without capital are the wife and children of the migrant or of a person already in Australia, provided that their future maintenance is assured.
Before issuing a permit, without which no alien can land, the Minister for the Interior must be satisfied in every case that the newcomers will engage in trades and occupations in which there is opportunity for their absorption without detriment to Australian workers. In this connexion reports are obtained from the police in the various States on each individual case, and when a report is adverse a permit is refused.
An analysis of the figures shows that of the 227 aliens on the Otranto, about whom disparaging comments have been made, 107 were women and children coming out to join their breadwinners, who hitherto had been obliged to remit overseas a large part of their earnings in order to maintain them. Such family reunions are surely desirable from the humanitarian as well as the economic aspect. A further 32 were former residents of Australia returning from a holiday abroad. Fifteen were en route to New Zealand or elsewhere, leaving only 73 new non-dependants - less than one- third of the total alien migrants on the vessel.
Before a while alien can obtain a permit to come to Australia he must have a medical certificate showing him. to be in sound health. The doctor on board ship must immediately report any cases of sickness or physical defects generally which come under his notice during the voyage. Finally, the new arrivals must pass our boarding medical officers before leaving the ship.
I repeat that the number of white aliens arriving here is only about onethird of the pre-depression figures. It is said that an unduly large proportion of Italians are among the new arrivals, but the actual figures show that while in 1 935-36 the net migration of Italians was 1,447, in 1936-37 it was only 730, or about one-half of the previous year’s figures.
The policy of the Commonwealth. Government, briefly stated, has been and is -
In the five-year period 1925 to 1929, the net gain to the population through British migration was over 132,000, an average addition of more than 26,000 a year. In the next seven years, 1930 to 1936 inclusive, the net loss of persons of British- stock was nearly 30,000. This loss of British migrants from Australia still continues, despite the provision of assisted passages from the British Isles. In the financial year just closed the- net loss was 1,248. In the face of these figures, the fall in the birthrate and the present international situation, we can hardly slam the door on the rest of the world. We can, and do, ensure that the influx of white aliens shall not prejudice us nationally or lower our standards of living.
– Has the Minister been informed that the governments of some of the alien migrants entering this country, and also the Australian friends and relatives of alien migrants, have advanced the necessary qualification money in order that they can enter Australia, on the understanding that the money would be repaid to the ‘governments, or to the friends and relatives in Australia as the
Case may be, after the aliens had entered this country? Will the Minister make investigations to ascertain if this is correct, and, if so, take steps to see that the practice is discontinued ?
– I have no information that governments overseas are subsidizing their migrants to this country in that way. I shall be glad to make inquiries into the matter.
– Is the Minister aware of the parlous position of a number of those engaged in the pastoral industry, due to prolonged droughts and other causes causing depletion, and in many cases the total extinction, of flocks? As Western Queensland pastoralists who have been so affected have made representations for financial assistance to enable them to re-stock their holdings, has the Minister yet decided to make a grant available? If not will he expedite his decision in regard to the matter?
– I suggest that ‘the matter is one for the State Governments and not for the Commonwealth Government.
– As a grant cannot be made by the Commonwealth to those engaged in the pastoral industry in need of financial assistance to enable them to re-stock their holdings, and as State finances have been sadly depleted, will the Treasurer give consideration to amending the provisions of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act to enable financial assistance to be made available for the purpose of re-stocking the holdings of pastoralists in need of assistance ?
– The rural debt legislation passed through this Parliament has been subsequently implemented by similar legislation passed by all the State parliaments. I do not think that it is practicable to secure an amendment of all those acts on the same lines.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs was good enough to allow one tobacco-grower in the Northern Territory to manufacture tobacco under the supervision of a police officer resident adjacent to his farm who acted as excise officer, and he said that if that tobacco was exported to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea for the. use of natives excise would be refunded. Will the Minister also allow that rebate in respect of tobacco sold to the Aboriginals Department for the use of our own natives in the Northern Territory?
– The two matters are entirely different. Excise is not charged on tobacco exported; it is exported from bond and therefore does not pay excise. Eighteen months ago the Government did encourage the use of dark tobacco by our own aboriginals by making a reduction of the excise by1s. per lb. so that it would be cheaper as a ration on the stations and for the aboriginals also.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.When the Treasurer is examining avenues ofgiving further effect to the Government’s policy of taxation remission, will he give sympathetic consideration to the possibility of remitting the whole or the major part of the imposition represented by the radio licence-fee, first, because of the satisfactory position of the finances of the Postal Department and, secondly, because this tax cuts across the principle of taxing according to ability to pay?
– The Government will bear in mind the honorable member’s representations.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce - H. I. Dunbar.
Interior - M. R. Jacobs.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. At question time yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister state whether it is proposed to print the report of the Royal Commission on Petrol? Will the motion which was moved regarding this matter before the last Parliament was prorogued be moved again during the term of this Parliament so that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss it?
To my question the Prime Minister replied : -
The report of the Royal Commission on Petrol was printed some time ago.
Notice-paper No. 146, which was the last issued before Parliament was prorogued on the 11th December, 1936, shows Order of the Day No. 13 as follows: -
Mineral oils and petrol and other products of mineral oils - reports (majority and minority) of the Royal Commission - motion for printing paper - resumption of the debate on the motion of Dr. Earle Page”, “ That the paper be printed”, and on the amendment moved thereto by Mr. Beasley.
Votes and Proceedings No. 147 does not show that this order of the day was called and that the motion or the amendment respectively was carried. No issue of Votes and Proceedings since the second session of the Parliament commenced shows that this order of the day wasrestored ‘to the notice-paper or that the motion “ That the paper be printed “ was put to the House. I therefore say that the Prime Minister was wrong in stating that the report had been printed.
– I desire to make a personal explanation regarding the printing of the report, which has already been in the hands of honorable members for a -considerable time. The practice of this Parliament is-
– This is not a personal explanation.
– Order ! In the opinion of the Chair, the remarks of the right honorable gentleman are in the nature of a personal explanation, as much as were those of the honorable member for Gwydir, who complained against certain action on the part of the Government. The Chair is now permitting the right honorable gentleman to make an explanation in reply.
– The practice of this Parliament has always been that, in the event of motions for the printing of reports such as that to which reference has been made lapsing, the Clerk is instructed by Mr. Speaker to ensure that they be printed. That practice has been followed in the case under notice. When the first session of this Parliament ended the motion automatically lapsed, and to ensure that the report would be printed the Clerk has taken the requisite action.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:-
Kingsford Smith Aerodrome, Mascot. New South Wales - Erection of a terminal building.
It is proposed to erect at the Kingsford Smith Aerodrome, Mascot, New South Wales, a terminal building to provide accommodation for an organization to control the aerodrome as an airport. At the present time, the air passenger services, which are operated by six companies in Sydney, are making considerable demands on the use of the aerodrome, apart from the Aero Club and other flying and training organizations. The daily attendances of the public amount to 150 on week days, 500 on Saturdays, and about 2,000 on Sundays. The passengers using the air services number about 500 a week, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this number will increase to 5,000 a week. The handling of passengers and their friends is dealt with by the private companies, which have booking offices in the city, and independent areas in the vicinity of their hangars, to deal with their business at the aerodrome.
The proposed building will be the terminal station, which will function as a central point for the control of public visitors and passengers and for the control of aircraft.With the increasing number of aircraft arriving and departing, it is necessary, in order to avoid accidents, to place all operations under strict discipline. It is proposed to place the station in charge of an aerodrome control officer, who will control aircraft movements by keeping aircraft in their hangars or in the air until the way is clear for them to take up passengers or to land. This officer will control aircraft within a radius of six miles by means of the signalling and aerodrome lighting facilities to be operated from the station. The station will also provide for a route control officer who, in close touch with the meteorological officer and the wireless operator, will control aircraft outside a radius of six miles.
The terminal station has been designed as part of a general scheme to provide for the development of the airport, and will occupy a central position in the vicinity of the existing Aero Club building. The building will be of brick construction, consisting of a small basement, two floors, roof buildings, and totalling 24,000 square feet. The ground floor of 15,116 square feet will provide a central point for the embarkation and disembarkation of passengers, and the general layout is designed on the principle that the ingoing and outgoing passengers shall be dealt with in separate sections of the building. Accommodation is to be provided for dealing with customs, postal and medical services, weighing and handling of baggage, operating companies’ offices, cafe, waiting rooms, &c. On the upper floor, covering 6,263 square feet, the control officers, meteorological officer, wireless operator and control equipment will be accommodated. The estimated cost of the building, including electric light, heating, and hot water services, is £51,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill now read a second time.
This measure provides for the adoption of sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Statute of Westminster 1931. It is desirable that I should refer, as briefly as possible, first, to the history ofthe new Dominion status which is completed by this legislation ; secondly, to the details of the legislation itself - those details being important, and, sometimes, extremely difficult - and, finally, to the reasons which have operated in the mind of the Government in arriving at its decision to submit adopting legislation to this Parliament.
So far 33 the history of the new Dominion status is concerned, I probably need not say very much. The history of the development of selfgovernment in British countries is, of course, an extremely interesting, as well as a very exhilarating one, and it is not less exhilarating when it is considered before the development of the new Dominion status, because, during the century or two before the war of 1914-1918, the growth of crown colonies into self -govern ing colonies, and, finally, into self-governing dominions, was one of the most striking things, constitutionally, that had happened in the history of the world. After the war it was found, in most British dominions, that there had been a. substantial development in the theory which underlies dominion selfgovernment. I am not prepared to say that there had been a very great change in constitutional practice, because, for years before the war, actual interference with the government of any self-governing dominion was substantially unknown ; but there still remained, theoretically, the possibility of such interference.
After the war that theory changed, and a state of mind developed in which it was thought that, not only in practice., but also in theory, complete independence of the self-governing dominions should be assured. There were various reasons for that, I believe. First of all, the wartime consciousness that the dominions had become adult nations, and ought not to be thought of as subordinate bodies, but ought to be regarded as independent and grown-i.n) nations, was tremendously hastened by the circumstances of the war. In the second place, considering these matters chronologically, the independent participation of the dominions in the Peace Treaty negotiations, in the execution of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and in the determination of international obligations since then, all assisted to strengthen the same frame of mind. In the third place - but this is not true of Australia - there existed in certain parts of the British world, what I am tempted to describe as an exaggerated self-consciousness on the subject of independence, a self-consciousness which made men more inclined to chafe over trifling matters of theory than we were in Australia. For example, in South Africa there were local problems, racial and social, arising out of the recent history of the country itself, which led the people there to feel what I believe was, in fact, an exaggerated irritation at the maintenance nf any vestige of theoretical subordination. The effect of ail these things was that, by the time the Imperial Conference was he’d in 1926, the problem of defining, if possible, the constitutional relationship of the various parts of the British world was seen to be one of great practical moment, particularly as it affected some of the component parts. At that conference the subject of dominion status became the most, important topic for consideration. The outcome of the discussions was what is now referred to as the Balfour Declaration in which, for the first time in an official way, the governments of the various British countries endeavoured to set down in a formula what they understood to be their mutual relationship. The classic passage of the Balfour Declaration is that which, referring to the status of the dominions, states -
They ure autonomous communities within the British Umpire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by n common allegiance to the Crown mid Freely associated as members of the British Com mon wealth of Nations.
I pause here to call the attention of honorable members to something which has been frequently misunderstood. That passage refers both to the British Empire and to the British Commonwealth of Nations. They both continue to exist. We sometimes use the expression “ British Commonwealth of Nations “ as if it had been substituted for the older term “ The British Empire,”, but that is not so. Parts of the Empire are not included in the British Commonwealth of Nations. India, and all the nonselfgoverning areas, such as the crown colonies of one kind and another, still remain as part of the British Empire, but they -are not members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– Does the right honorable gentleman hold the view that Australia is part of the Empire?
– I take the view that Australia is part of the British Empire, but that it has a particular status within the Empire as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The conference of 1926, having passed the Balfour Resolution, with’ all its significance and all its ambiguities, set up a committee for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting upon three matters -
The committee reported exhaustively on all’ those matters to the Imperial Conference of 1930, which accepted the report and., in particular, accepted a recommendation that a declaratory enactment on the whole subject should be passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was further recommended that, as that enactment was designed to affect the position of all the dominions, it should not be introduced into the Parliament at Westminster until it had been requested and consented to by the various Dominion Parliaments. Pursuant to that, motions were submitted to this Parliament by the government of the day setting out a request and consent to the introduction of legislation. Those resolutions were passed by the House of Representatives on the 28th June, 1931, and the 27th October, 1931, and by the Senate on the 29th June, 1931, and the 28th. October. 1931. The result was that the Statute of Westminster received the Royal assent on the 11th December, 1931.
I wish to emphasize this point: Insofar as the actual passing of the Statute of Westminster constitutes a milestone in our constitutional progress, this point has already been reached and passed, because the Commonwealth Parliament has already approved of the passing of the necessary legislation by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As I propose to indicate later, for the benefit of those honorable members who are still inclined to make some reservations in regard to this matter, we are not now considering the wisdom of passing the Statute of Westminster itself; we are considering the wisdom or otherwise of adopting certain sections in it, and making them applicable to Australia.
The purpose of the bill now before the House is to adopt for all Australian purposes, sections 2 to 6 inclusive of the Statute of Westminster. This legislation is being introduced here because it was expressly provided in the statute that these sections were not to apply to Australia, New Zealand, or Newfoundland unless they were adopted by the relevant parliaments, although, in fact, the statute automatically applies, without any further adoption, to the Dominion of Canada; the Union of South Africa, and the Irish Free State. I refer to this matter now. because one submission which I shall make later is that uniformity on matters of such fundamental importance should be achieved, and one method of achieving it is for the dominions, which have not yet adopted these sections, to adopt them now, and thus come into complete alignment with the other dominions.
At this stage I turn to the Statute of Westminster itself, which is exhibited, as a schedule to the bill before honorable members. I draw particular attention to the recitals which are contained in its preamble. The point I wish to emphasize is that those recitals are in effect to-day. whether we adopt the statute or not; they are offered as a deliberate recital by the Parliament of the United Kingdom of what it understands to be the position of the dominions. Therefore whatever constitutional significance attaches to the preamble’ to the statute attaches to it irrespective of what the Commonwealth Parliament may do. The recitals in this preamble, in the case of one or two of them at least, are very significant. The first is the recital of the resolutions and declarations made by the conferences of 1926 and 1930. In other words, these resolutions, with all their importance, are taken up, so to speak, by this statute and referred to in its preamble. Secondly, there is the recital, which honorable members had some occasion to consider at the end of last year, which recites -
Any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the parliaments of all the dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
We had occasion, as honorable members will remember, to apply the principle of that recital so recently as the end of last year, when we were dealing with the circumstances of the recentRoyal abdication, and it was because of the doctrine enunciated by that recital that this House and another place passed resolutions which related to the legislation then being submitted to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, dealing with the abdication of, and the succession to, the Throne.
– Was that constitutionally necessary?
– The provision we made here in theCommonwealth Parliament became necessary because of the development of our constitutional position which is recorded in this particular portion of the preamble as well as in the resolutions to which I have already referred.
The next recital is in substance that no law hereafter made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall extend to any of the Dominions otherwise than at the request and with the consent of that dominion. That is also an important recital, which has its force as being a recital of a constitutional position irrespective of whether some special sections are or are not adopted. Its importance honorable members will appreciate when I remind them that in the face of that statement it could no longer be seriously contended, as it could be contended 25 years ago, that the Commonwealth Constitution could be amended by the parliament sitting at Westminster. Until the development of these new ideas, it was a perfectly sound theory among constitutional lawyers that the Constitution of the Commonwealth could be amended, either by using the machinery provided in that constitution or by going to the Parliament of the United Kingdom and saying “ Will you pass legislation amending your own legislation under which you set up the Australian Commonwealth?”
– Only technically possible, I think.
– At any rate, it is tobe put beyond any controversy by the sections which this bill proposes to adopt. I do not want the honorable member to misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that, there is legislative force in the preamble, but there is the completely binding constitutional force in it.
I turn now to the operative provisionsof the Statute of Westminster and, in. particular, to those sections which I am now inviting the House to adopt. I propose to look at each of these. I am not desirous of wearying honorable members, ‘ but it is requisite that we should have a. clear view of the provisions that we are being invited to adopt.
The first one I need look at closely, I think, is Section 2. That section provides in the first place -
The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, shall not apply to any law made after the commencement of this Act by the Parliament of a dominion.
The Colonial Laws Validity Act which might just as well be called The Colonial Laws “Invalidity” Act had great importance for many years in interpreting the constitutional statutes of the various dominions and colonies. Its most important provision is in Section 2. That section provides this -
Any colonial law which is orshall be in any respect repugnant to the provisions of any act of Parliament, extending to the colony to which such law may relate, or repugnant to any order or regulation made under authority of such act of Parliament, or having in the colony the force and effect of such act, shall be read subject to such act. order or regulation, and shall, to the extent of such repugnancy, but not otherwise be and remain absolutely void and inoperative.
In other words, a colonial statute inconsistent with the terms of the imperial statute applying to that colony or dominion or possession was, to the extent of the inconsistency, invalid. That puts the matter substantially and shortly. The Statute of Westminster, by Section 2, first of all says that the Colonial Laws
Validity Act is not to apply to a dominion law after the passing of this Act by the Parliament of a dominion, and then in order to take up the position which was left, namely, that there might have been some earlier imperial law which, under the provision which I have just outlined, would continue to apply to a colony and might continue to have the effect of invalidating some dominion law, sub-section 2 of section 2 goes on to say-
The dominion therefore obtains, within the limits of its own constitutional powers, as I shall point out in the case of Australia, full capacity to amend imperial statutes which hitherto have become applicable to Australia.
If I may pause at that point, that provision has given rise to some extremely interesting speculations. It has been suggested by some people that the power given to the Parliament of a dominion to repeal or amend English acts and regulations which happen to have applied to that dominion, would enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in the event of the adoption of this section, to repeal the right of the Privy Council to grant special leave to appeal from the High Court of Australia or from any other Australian court. That is a question, of course, of some interest and of very great importance. On the face of it the adoption of Section 2 will confer that power because, while the right of the Privy Council to grant special leave to appeal from the dominion and colonial courts originally rested on the exercise of the royal prerogative, the royal prerogative was made statutory by the Judicial Committee Act 1844. Because it rests upon a statute, which in that sense applies to Australia, that statute can be repealed in its application to Australia by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. But that is still subject to a provision which honorable members will find later in section 8 of the Statute of Westminster - one of the sections which it is not necessary to adopt. It provides -
Nothing in this act shall be deemed to confer any power to repeal or alter the Constitution or the Constitution Act of the Commonwealth of Australia otherwise than in accordance with the law existing before the commencement of this act.
That refers me at once to the Commonwealth Constitution on this question of appeal to the Privy Council. Honorable members will find in section 74 of the Constitution an express provision in the matter of such appeals; it is this -
Except as provided in this section, this Constitution shall not impair any right which the Queen may be pleased to exercise by virtue of Her Royal prerogative to grant special leave of appeal from the high Court to Her Majesty in Council. The Parliament- that is, the Parliament of the Commonwealth - may make laws limiting the matters in which such leave may be asked, but proposed laws containing airy such limitation shall be reserved by the Governor-General for Her Majesty’s pleasure.
As I understand this problem, that provision still stands; it is not repealed by the adoption of section 2 of the Statute of Westminster, because section 8 of that statute expressly provides that the Constitution is not to be altered except in accordance with the law existing before the Statute of Westminster was passed.
– It can be altered only by a referendum of the people?
– The Constitution may be altered only by a referendum of the people. But if this Parliament at any time, whether or not the Statute of Westminster is adopted, decides that it wishes to limit the matters in which a petition for leave to appeal may be presented to the Privy Council, it may do so, subject to the provision that the proposed law containing the limitation shall be reserved by the Governor-General for His Majesty’s pleasure. The real effect of the new Dominion status is that the Ministers who would advise His Majesty as to whether he should or should not assent to such a reserved measure are the Ministers of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– And he must accept the advice tendered to him.
– He would he in a position in which he would need to accept the advice of his Australian Ministers, and consequently by a combination of section 74 of the Constitution and the new Dominion status, the limitation on appeal to the Privy Council would in fact be a matter entirely within the determination of this Parliament and the Government that it controls. I am not professing to discuss the merits of any suggestion that might be made in the future with reference to the matter of appeal to the Privy Council; that is entirely controversial. M.y sole concern to-day is to point out, as fairly as I may, what I understand the existing constitutional position to be.
Section D, if T may say so, is also not without interest; though I am afraid I must confess that many of these matters are interesting to lawyers but not to those who have to suffer under them. It makes the following provision -
It is hereby declared and enacted that the parliament of a dominion has full power to make laws having extra-territorial operation.
If honorable members will bear with me, I should like to say a few words about this subject of extra-territorial legislation, because it is not without practical importance. It was thought for a long time that some special limitation was placed on the authority of colonial parliaments; for example, that although the Parliament of Great Britain could and did legislate for British subjects wherever they might be, and did not regard itself as being territorially restricted to, say, the three mile limit, a colonial parliament occupied a subordinate position - it did not carry with it all the ordinary powers of the British Parliament, but was restricted in some special way. That theory was overcome by certain decisions of the Privy Council many years ago, the effect of which was that a colonial parliament was not a delegate parliament but had plenary powers within its own jurisdiction. Subsequently a proposition was applied by the Privy Council in a case which went from New South Wales, to the effect that the territorial limit on the power of a colonial parliament was an extremely rigid one. The case was that of Macleod versus the AttorneyGeneral for New South Wales. In that case a very curious result followed theapplication of this territorial doctrine. The Parliament of New South Wales had passed a law dealing with theoffence of bigamy. It provided in the case of bigamy that the offence was to be regarded as having been committed wherever the second marriage might have taken place. I am quoting the provision in substance; I do* not ‘ profess that those are the identical words. Under this law, a man was prosecuted whose second marriage had taken place outside of Australia. His defence was “You cannot make a law which might make my marriage in, say, America, an offence against the law of New South Wales, because your jurisdiction is strictly limited to your own territory. Unless some act which you desire to regard as criminal occurs within your territory, it is not a. matter which falls within your jurisdiction.” The Privy Council agreed, in effect, with that view. This was as far back as 189.1. In giving its decision, the Privy Council read the New South Wales statute as if it said “ Wheresoever in New South Wales the second marriage takes place.” The result was that the conviction was quashed, and the gentleman in question went free of the charge of bigamy. 1
– I presume that he returned to New South Wales ‘
– I do not know what he did. I have not followed his matrimonial story since; all I know is what I have gathered from the law reports. That very rigid conception of the territorial limits placed upon jurisdiction has, in fact, been very substantially modified, if not altogether destroyed, by later decisions. The most important of the later decisions in this matter is that given in the case of Croft versus Dunphy, which was decided by the Privy Council and is reported in 1933 Appeal Oases. I think that I ought to tell honorable members about that case, because it serves to introduce a slight element of humanity into an otherwise dry story. There was nothing “ dry “ about the case. As Lord
MacMillan said in delivering the judgment of the Privy Council, the facts were -
On Juno 10. 1920, the schooner Dorothy M. Smart sailed for “ the high seas “ from the French island of St. Pierre with a cargo on hoard of rum and other liquors, which are dutiable under Canadian law. The vessel was registered in Nova Scotia, and, with her cargo, was the property of the respondent, who is resident in Nova Scotia. On June 13, li)2t), the schooner, when at a distance of Hi miles from the coast of Nova Scotia, was boarded by the appellant, an officer in the customs service of the Canadian Government. The cargo having been found to consist of dutiable goods, the vessel and cargo were seized and taken into port.
As honorable members will have appreciated, the question at once arose ““Can the Dominion Parliament of Canada make a law enabling it to deal with a man eleven and a half miles off its coast, or is its power confined to territorial limits?” - which for this purpose would be regarded as three miles from its shore. The judgment of the Privy Council dealt with that matter. I wish to quote a couple of short passages from it, merely to illustrate how very great a distance had been travelled from the old rigid rule adopted in Macleod’s case. At page 162, their Lordships said -
It may be accepted as a general principle that States can legislate effectively only for their own territories. To what distance seaward the territory of a State is to be taken as extending is a question of international law upon which their Lordships do not deem it necessary or proper to pronounce. But whatever he the limits of territorial waters in the international sense, it has long been recognized that, for certain purposes, notably those of police, revenue, public health and fisheries, a State may enact laws affecting the seas surrounding its coasts to a distance seaward which exceeds the ordinary limits of its territory.
– To what distance?
– The answer to that depends on the word “ effectively.” The limit of your jurisdiction in relation to these matters, as I shall indicate shortly, is really the limit of your power to enforce your law, whatever that may be. It may be measured in terms of thousands of miles in some cases, and in terms of very much shorter distances in other cases.
– Am I to understand that, in the case of the gathering of shell off the north coast of Australia, this Parliament can legislate for the protection of Australian interests to any distance seaward, if it can exercise effective control?
– I shall content myself by reminding the honorable member that long before the decision in the Croft case, and long before this express approval, of the idea that you might have considerable extra-territorial jurisdiction, in matters like fisheries, the point had been anticipated in our own Constitution, which, by paragraph x of section 51, provides that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to “ fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits”. To resume my very brief examination of Croft vors us Dunphy, may I read just one more passage. It is this -
Once it is found that a particular topic of legislation is among those upon which the Dominion Parliament ma.y competently legislate as being for the peace, order and good government of Canada, or as being one of the specific subjects enumerated in section 91 of the British-North America Act. their Lordships see no reason to restrict the permitted scope of such legislation by any other consideration than is applicable to the legislation of a fully sovereign State.
I refer to that passage in order to demonstrate that some of the older ideas in regard to territorial limits, some of the ideas that were current when I first entered the practice of the law, have largely been dissipated by modern decisions. For the interest of those who care to conduct any research on this matter, I shall make further reference to a case which was decided in 1933 by the High Court of Australia : - The Trustees Executors and Agency Company versus the Federal Commissioner of Taxation, who, I, as a lawyer, am glad to say, is a valiant litigant. The report which appears in 49 Commonwealth Law Reports, page 220, contains some interesting examinations of questions relating to extra-territoriality which, in substance, lead to the conclusion that all the older ideas as to the territorial limits of the jurisdiction of dominion parliaments have now disappeared and that they may pass laws within the scope of their constitutional authority - in our case within, the scope of section 51 - and may give to those laws extraterritorial effect if they so desire. That does not mean that we, for example, may pass laws in Australia dealing with the conduct of Chinese in China or of Frenchmen in France; but we can pass laws within the headings allotted to us which will affect the conduct of Australian citizens whereever they may be and. to which they will become amenable as soon as they re-enter Australian jurisdiction. I hope I have succeeded in making a clear distinction between the two things.
– For instance, we cannot legislate to regulate the actions of Japanese on pearling banks outside the three-mile limit?
– That may be so, but on certain pearling banks which we regard, internationally, as within our jurisdiction, we are competent to pass general rules to be observed. Our capacity to enforce those rules is, of course, an entirely different matter. The value of extra-territorial legislative power is not that it is intended to be used to tell foreigners what they should do, but that it places within our capacity the competence to make laws which, being laws for the peace, order and good government of our own country, may affect our citizens in relation to their conduct, although some of that conduct may take place outside Australia altogether. This is of’ particular significance in relation to revenue matters, for example. Where, at one time in my recollection, it was almost automatic when arguing a taxation case in the High Court, to take the point that taxation was extra-territorial, that is not now clone. It was an interesting argument that Inever knew to succeed.
– What relation would this have if applied to conscription for military service?
– I think that the power to pass extra-territorial Jaws might affect the problem of conscription. It is open to us to make laws which have a. coercive effect on Australian citizens, who may be out of our jurisdiction for a time but to which they would in hard fact be subject on returning to this jurisdiction.
The point I emphasize is that, irrespective of the provisions of the Statute of
Westminster, our power to pass extraterritorial laws has been developed and conceded in the courts in cases not one of which was decided by anything in the Statute of Westminster, for, at the time they were dealt with the statute did not exist or apply.
– What about Kingston versus Gadd?
– I have not referred to all the cases, for I am conscious of the fact that a great deal of what I have said is dull enough, and I did not want to add unnecessarily to it. The point I wish particularly to stress is that the section in the Statute of Westminster which declares that the parliament of a dominion has full power to make laws having extra-territorial operation does not make any real change in the present legal position, because exactly the same position had been developed by the decisions in the caseCr oft versus Dunphy and in the High Court Trustees case which were decided entirely irrespective of the statute. Honorable members have, therefore, had the melancholy satisfaction of having listened to me for the last ten minutes while I pointed out that section 3 does not really matter very much after all.
Section 4 reads : -
No act of parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this act shall extend or be deemed to extend to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion unless it is expressly declared in that act that that Dominion has requested or consented to the enactment thereof.
That gives direct operation to one of the recitals to which I made earlier reference. In effect, it means that we cannot, without our consent, be affected by such legislation as the British Merchant Shipping Act 1894. In order to make assurance doubly sure, which, even the Parliamentary Draftsman occasionally does, that act is referred to in section 5 which reads : -
Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions of this act, sections seven hundred and thirty-five and seven hundred and thirty-six of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. shall be construed as though reference therein to the legislation of a British possession did not include reference to the Parliament of a Dominion.
Sections 735 and 736 of that act confer power on the legislature of any British possession to pass laws repealing in whole or in part any provisions of the act relating to ships registered in a possession and relating to the coasting trade of a possession, but it was provided that such Jaws must be reserved for His Majesty’s pleasure. The legislation that has hitherto been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to navigation, and shipping has, as honorable members will recall, been reserved always for the Royal Assent. The effect of the section to which I have just referred is that that course will no longer be necessary.
Section 6 simply abolishes the necessity under the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act for reserving certain laws for the Royal assent.
So much for the sections of the statute for the adoption of which the bill provides. I shall refer to the remaining sections of it very briefly. Section 7 has no significance for us. It relates to Canada. Section S confirms the view that the Commonwealth Constitution cannot be altered in any new way. Section 9 provides that the Commonwealth Parliament cannot go beyond its legislative powers because of anything contained in the statute itself and also provides that the concurrence of the Commonwealth will not be necessary to any law of the United Kingdom touching a matter which is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the States. The position of the States is to that extent protected.
– Reverting for a moment to the subject of navigation. Under the Attorney-General’s newly discovered lack of power in regard to the three-mile limit because that is now within the province of the States, does he suggest that the Navigation Act would not apply within the three-mile limit?
– I am sorry that the honorable member should have referred to what he describes as some “ newly discovered lack of power “. I have not discovered anything of that kind. The framers of the Constitution discovered it, for they provided that in relation to fisheries Commonwealth power should be exercisable only beyond territorial limits. I cannot accept any responsibility for that. Plainly that provision leaves fisheries within the territorial limits under the control of the States. Nothing that I can say or do will affect that position. We have never purported to exercise, under our Navigation Act, any navigation powers except as part and parcel of our interstate trade and commerce powers. Consequently, we have never, as a Commonwealth,’ been in a position t i exercise power to deal with intra-state shipping. Nothing that I have said is newly discovered. I have dealt with matters which have been quite well understood for a number of years.
That is all that I desire to say on the details of the Statute of Westminster.
– Why is the AttorneyGeneral omitting any reference to sections 8, 9 and 10 of the statute?
– Because it is not proposed in the bill to adopt those sections. I am obliged to the honorable member, however, for having drawn my attention to section 10 of the statute, which reads - 10. (1) None of the following sections of this act, that is to say, sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and (i, shall extend to a dominion to which this section applies as part of the law of that dominion unless that section is adopted by the Parliament of the dominion . . .
It is only necessary for us to adopt sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The remainder of the statute operates of its own force. The dominions to which section 10 applies are Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland. I think I am right in saying that none of these have adopted this section.
– Are not New Zealand and Newfoundland about to adopt it?
– I have seen a statement to the effect that New Zealand proposes to do so ; but so far as my information goes, it has not( in fact, done so. The Dominion of Newfoundland, as honorable members are aware, was under the control of a commission for some time, but what has happened lately in that connexion I am not in a position to say.
With sincere apologies for having taken so long over the matters of detail to which I have given attention, I propose now to pass on to some brief general considerations. I put these forward because I know that quite a number of responsible people are troubled about the proposal to adopt the Statute of Westminster for the reason that they feel that it may give some support to the idea of separatism from Great Britain. I want to relieve their minds on that subject. I think such relief can be obtained by a little clear and detached thinking, which will indicate to these people that what they fear will not be effected in any way by the legislation I am now introducing.
– What is it that they fear ?
– They fear, and it is a. very natural fear, that the adoption of the Statute of Westminster may suggest some sort of aggressive independence of Australia from Great Britain. They regard it as a sort of hostile act, or as a gesture of defiance of Great Britain - a gesture to the effect that “we want to assert ourselves and insist upon underlining our independence “. They think it might suggest, to use a picturesque phrase, some desire to “ cut the painter “. 1 do not underestimate the sincerity of these people, but I invite honorable members to consider quite closely a. distinction that I shall submit to them. It is the distinction between the disadvantages, if there are any in the adoption of these particular sections of the statute, and the disadvantages of the doctrine which underlies the statute itself. They are two entirely different matters.
I think that the business of devising the Balfour Declaration in 1926, and the business of devising and drafting the. preamble of the Statute of Westminster in 1931 were both open to very grave criticism, and I shall state in a. few moments what, in my opinion, that criticism is. But whatever criticism I may feel those things are exposed to, they have been done ; nobody to-day can recall the Balfour Declaration of 1926, and nobody to-day can blot the Statute of Westminster from the statute-book of the United Kingdom. These things have been done ; they are purely a cold matter of fact, and for me to complain that they should not have been done, or to offer criticism of them, is simply to beat the air. What I have to consider in regard to this legislation is the effect of adopting these particular sections in the case of Australia, and that is a much narrower question. It is not a question which should provoke general arguments, of a kind that might have been engaged, in in 1926.
– You said it was a disservice to the nation.
– I believe that the- 1926 declaration, followed up as it was. by subsequent action, was, in substance, a grave disservice. But that does not prevent me from saying that these thingshave been done.
– Why do you say that they are a great disservice?
– I shall indicate my reasons very briefly, and, I hope, quite dispassionately - I know that honest people can disagree on this matter. In the first place the whole of this process of devising a written formula was open to the criticism that it reduced to cold legal form, and therefore to -a relatively rigid form, a relationship, some of the supreme value of which has always been its vagueness and elasticity. That is the first criticism. I was very much struck by a passage in an article written by a celebrated Australian scholar: -
Our nation lias always excelled in political artistry rather than in political science, and the artist’s skill can never be reduced toformulae.
I think that is a pretty profound truth on all matters of constitutional relationships.
The next criticism I would offer is that the process - I am talking about the 1926-30 process - emphasized the legal aspects of independence, and, therefore, tended to give far too little weight and significance to the family relationship, which is a relationship well above the law.
– I suggest that the legal aspects were developed only after the declaration of 1926.
– I suggest not. My criticism is criticism of the whole of the 19,26-31 process, and that begins and has its roots in what I would have thought was a misguided attempt in 1926 to reduce to written terms something which was a matter of the spirit and not of the letter.
My next criticism is that, to some extent, the whole process of self-assertion ignored the physical facts. It is a very fine thing to state loudly that I am politically independent - I believe in being politically independent; my difference from those acting in 1926 and 1930 simply is: I do not feel it necessary to talk about my political independence; I know it is there; but for me to go talking about political independence, talking almost provocatively at a time when my physical, my military independence, is by no means so clear, is to provoke obvious criticism and invite obvious difficulty.
My final criticism of the p recess I have been referring to - and I offer these criticisms in an historical sense, because 1 am in favour of adopting the statute - is that it tended too much to produce problems without solving them. That may seem a little cryptic, but let me explain what is in my mind. These are some of the grave questions that I submit very earnestly to the consideration of honorable members on both sides of the House. In the first place it produces the problem of reconciling the most favored nation clause in foreign treaties with the whole principle of Imperial preference. I wonder if honorable members clearly realize that Imperial preference is able to exist as one of our tariff doctrines simply because other countries have agreed that we are not all to be regarded as independent nations. If they regarded all British countries as completely independent nations they would be in a position to say, “You have a treaty with us under which you are bound to give us most favoured nation treatment. Ergo, give us the preference Yon accord to New Zealand and Canada “. Our answer is “Oh, no; it is true we are independent and separate nations, but there is a little qualification on that due to our common allegiance to a commoncrown which justifies us in saying that, for tariff purposes, the other dominions are not foreign and independent, but stand on a special footing in relation -to ourselves. “
– A. very good answer!
– It ‘is a plausible answer, and we are fortunate that the world has agreed to receive our plausible answer with a degree of complaisance. I mention it, however, because, if we talk about complete independence as if we were foreign nations, there are a few problems of the kind I have just referred to, and some important ones to which we shall have to devote a lot of attention. [Leave to continue given.]
The second problem which, I suggest, has been produced without being solved is that of how far a dominion owing allegiance with other dominions to a common crown can be neutral in a war to which that common crown is a party. 1 am not going to enter into a controversy about this, but I remind honorable members of it because, as they know very well, it is one of the live problems that might become very much more alive in less happy circumstances than those in which we live at the moment.
Finally, I confess to a feeling of great doubt as to the virtue of a bold declaration, such as is found in the Balfour Declaration, that we are equal in all things, equal in all ways with, for example, Great Britain, in all matters of foreign policy,, when, we know perfectly well that the completely independent conduct of foreign policy by each individual member of the British Commonwealth of Nations would lead to nothing but chaos and disaster.
My leader and colleague, the Prime Minister, has just come back from the Imperial Conference at which one of thegreat achievements, not yet perhaps recognized, but, nevertheless, one of great moment, has been the production of a united declaration by all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations on the Question of foreign policy. I can well imagine how difficult it is to take all the various views existing in the variouscountries and reconcile them on a matter of foreign policy, and to my mind the moment we said in the, Balfour Declaration that we were all equal with each other, all with the same authority, power and responsibility on matters of foreign policy, we created a problem, and a’ very real one, to which a great deal of attention will have to be given within the next ten years; the problem of translatingwhat is at the moment very little more than a rhetorical statement into a working statement, into something which will enable us to go on as a united British Commonwealth of Nations, while at, the same time giving as much force as possible to the individuality and independence of ear-h member of that commonwealth.
All of these criticisms I have been referring to, 1 want to suggest to those who are troubled about this legislation, are now too late. That is why 1 said I was referring to them as a matter purely of historical interest, because for better or for worse we have the Balfour Declaration and the history . of 1926 and 1930, and the only question that remains is whether we are to proceed upon the footing that those are the facts, and get whatever relatively minor advantages are to be obtained by adopting the particular provisions of the Statute of Westminster to which I have referred.
– In what substantial respect do the sections we have been asked to adopt now alter the practice that existed for a great many years even prior to the war?
– I think they do so to a very trifling extent. In the case of two or three sections, possibly doubt is removed by a clear declaration, but in point of practice, I think the differences are negligible. That is why I said at the beginning of my speech that this postwar development has been a development of theory rather than of practice. In point of practice the real and administrative legislative independence of Australia has never been challenged, since the Commonwealth was created. It did not need any new theory to tell us that.
I think, and I suggest to the House, that, having regard to these circumstances, we ought at this stage to recognize the facts, and to come into line uniformly with the other dominions. I think that on all these matters of constitutional doctrine and practice as rauch uniformity as possible throughout the British world, should be aimed at.
Above all things, it seems very desirable indeed that when Australia adopts the Statute of Westminster, as it unquestionably will sooner or later, it should adopt it in circumstances of friendliness, without passion and without heat. This is the time to adopt it when we have no particular reason to think we may need it. That may seem rather .a strange statement, but it is, nevertheless, true. I should be sorry to think that the day would come when, in the heat of some argument, some intra-imperial controversy, this Parliament might be invited to adopt the
Statute of Westminster as a sort of weapon to be used in the course of such discussion. Let us adopt it to-day in terms of deliberation, in terms of complete amity, and in circumstances in which nobody will imagine that its adoption will have anything to do with feelings of separatism or undue assertion of our interests at the expense of those of any other part of the British Empire.
– And not on the motion of a Labour government.
– I was not thinking of a Labour government in general.
Finally, we are sometimes inclined to confuse the end of a road with its beginning. Some of us have talked about these matters as if we had concluded a great period of our constitutional history. I want to remind honorable members that this adoption, and the whole of the constitutional process to which I have been referring, merely begin a series of responsibilities. We do not conclude this matter simply by saying, “ That is the end of that chapter “. It is not the end of the book, and the book is one in which we have to write. We have now to deal with a very much more difficult problem than that of determining and asserting our own rights. We have to approach the problem of reconciling our own independence - all our own independent, national aspirations - with all the duties that attach to our membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That is the big problem of practical statesmanship for the future’. That is the real constitutional problem for the future.
We are not merely the Australian Commonwealth; we have also an association with other members of the British Commonwealth ; and it is because we have that association, and because the independence of every one of us is, to an extent, dependent upon the independence of the other that we are a Commonwealth of Nations, and. not a mere alliance. That, I believe, is the thing we must constantly keep in mind, because, if we degenerate in the British world to being merely friendly allies, who may cast off the alliance to-morrow, our very security in the world, to say nothing of all those other intangible elements which mean so much to us, will be threatened. That, I think, is the task we approach when, by adopting this statute, we conclude this particular post-war constitutional chapter.
We British people, wherever we may be - -in Australia, Canada, South Africa or . New Zealand, or in the United Kingdom itself - are extremely fortunate to-day, because we live in a state of relative happiness in a most unhappy world. The best thing Ave can say for ourselves, and for the future that we approach when we deal with legislation of this kind, is what is frequently repeated at an Oxford club founded in commemoration of Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the first of the builders of this British Commonweal th. and not the least distinguished of its founders. I refer to the observation made by him 300 years ago now used - by the Raleigh Club at Oxford as an opening invocation : -
Thou that of thy free grace didst build up this Britannick Empire to a glorious enviable heighth, with all her daughter islands about her, stay us in this felicitie
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are too well acquainted with the history of this measure to warrant a lengthy discourse on my part concerning past events. Nevertheless, this Parliament should never be unmindful of the negotiations which led to the establishment of this great federation, and the magnificent spirit of compromise permeating those negotiations cannot too often be’ stressed. Whilst the very existence of this Federal Parliament bears testimony to the community of the interests in general of the people scattered throughout the length and breadth of our territory, I should be stressing the obvious were I to emphasize the indisputable fact that in many aspects the interests of the six States are divergent. It would, indeed, be strange if this were not so, in a country of such wide extent, embracing so many differing climatic, physical and economic features.
Prior to federation, the government of each colony, and therefore the powerto deal with its own peculiar interests,, was wholly in the hands of the colony. In order to enter into the federal bond,, it was inevitable that each, and every colony had to forfeit many of its governmental powers, including some relating: to its own peculiar interests. Even those powers which it retained were, in the event of conflict with validly enacted Commonwealth law, to give way to theextent of the inconsistency. That every colony did, in the interest of the great, project, curtail its own powers in certain matters over which it would rather have retained control, is a tribute to the spirit of those who framed our Constitution and to the six colonies which they represented.
Nevertheless, in entering into thefederal bond, in surrendering many vital functions to the Commonwealth, and in agreeing that the laws of each State should be subservient to those of theCommonwealth whenever they overlapped, it was. but natural that thosecolonies should seek some safeguards, some guarantee that, amidst the turmoil of Commonwealth politics, the peculiarinterests of each particular State should not be overlooked. Particularly in thesphere of trade and commerce may wesympathize with this desire for safeguards. Hitherto, each colony had reigned supreme within its own territory in matters of trade and commerce; any outside interference or unfair competition could be adequately dealt with by virtueof a tremendous power, a power which this Parliament so effectively uses, to exclude or regulate all outside trade and commerce crossing its boundaries. After federation, the power of each State to regulate its internal trade and commerce was to continue, subject to its not overlapping the Commonwealth power to legislate for trade and commerce among the States and with, other countries. Of” even greater importance is the fact that thereafter the powerful weapon of preventing or regulating unfair competition from outside was wholly to disappear. International’ trade was to pass to thecontrol of the Commonwealth, whilst interstate trade, the trade from which certain States had most to fear, Avas to be absolutely free.
The rights of each and every State, its protection from anomalies and from unfair competition, could thereafter be safeguarded by this Federal Parliament; but anomalies aud unfair competition are not always apparent in our modern economic structure. Conversely, what often appears to be anomalous or unfair is frequently found upon examination and inquiry to be quite equitable. ITo parliament, however, is a suitable body to conduct exhaustive and detailed economic inquiries of this nature. Witnesses must be examined, documents produced, and numerous facts ascertained by a variety of methods. Thus, olle of the methods by which the framers of the Constitution sought, to safeguard the trade and commerce interests of the States was by the establishment of a permanent commission to be known as the Inter-State Commission. “ There shall be an Inter-State Commission,” says section 101 of the Constitution, “ with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.”
Although, until the pronouncement of the High Court on the matter, there was considerable doubt as to whether the Constitution did or did not intend the commission to be a judicial tribunal, there can be no doubt as to the primary sphere in which the Constitution intends the commission to operate. The commission may be regarded as the policeman of federation. Still better may it be described in the words of that illustrious statesman who was the Leader of the Opposition when the Inter-State Commission Bill 191.2 passed this House - Mr. Alfred Deakin. Mr. Deakin described the Inter-State Commission as “ the eyes and the ears of the Parliament.”
A bill to constitute the commission was submitted to this House -during the fir91 year of its existence by the Barton Ministry. A further bill was introduced in 1909 by the Deakin Ministry. Finally, in 1912, my colleague, the Right Honorable the Minister for Health (Mr.
Hughes) .brought up the bill which became the Inter-State Commission Act 1912, and which is still on the statutebook.
Whether it was intended under the Constitution that the Inter-State Commission should exercise judicial functions, or was prevented from exercising them, was a constitutional, problem of much nicety. In connexion with the earlier bills, the former view was taken, and there can be no doubt that in certain respects the Inter-State Commission Act 1912 did constitute the commission as a judicial tribunal. In introducing the measure, the then Attorney-General emphasized the fact that the commission was to be a court of record, with the power to make and enforce orders in exactly the same way as any other court. He stated that the powers to be exercised by the commission were to be judicial as well as administrative and investigating, and that there was no appeal from any decision of the commission on a question of fact.
The Inter-State Commission was duly constituted bv the appointment, ou the Iiib August, J 913, of Mr. A. B. Piddington, Iv.C, the Honorable George Swinburne, C.E., and Mr. IT. C. LockyerI.S.O. The act of 1912 is still on the statute-book, but it became a dead letter many years ago in the following circumstances : In 1914, the Parliament of Kew South Wales passed the Wheat Acquisition Act, which provided that the Governor of that State, by notification in the Gazette, could declare that any wheat referred to in the notification was acquired by His Majesty the King, and thereupon the wheat became the absolute property of His Majesty the King, and the rights in the wheat at the date of the publication of the notice should be converted into a. claim for compensation. The question of the validity of the act was brought before the Inter-State Commission, which found, by a majority of two to one, the Chief Commissioner, Mr. A. B. Piddington, dissenting, that the State act was invalid as being an infringement of section 92 of the Constitution, and proceeded to issue an injunction against the State restraining the contravention. An, appeal against the decision was made to the High Court by way of a case stated by the commission. The High Court held that the State legislation did not contravene the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution, but it is the other branch of the High Court’s decision with which we are now concerned. This declared that section 101 of the Constitution did. not authorize Parliament to constitute the Inter-State Commission a court, and, further, that the provisions of Part V. of the Inter-State Commission Act which purported to confer judicial powers on the commission were ultra vires. Chief Justice Griffith, Mr. Justice Isaacs, Mr. Justice Powers and Mr. Justice Rich held the provisions to be bad, -whilst Mr. Justice Barton and Mr. Justice GavanDuffy considered them to be valid. After this decision the Inter-State Commission ceased to exercise any judicial powers, but, during the remainder of the term for which the members had been appointed, it continued to make inquiries into matters concerning which the Commonwealth desired information. After the expiration of their appointments, no further appointments were made.
In 1921, Parliament passed the Tariff Board Act, and vested in the Tariff Board certain powers of inquiry previously exercised by the Inter-State Commission. In 1933, Parliament passed the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act, constituting the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting to the Governor-General upon questions arising out of grants of financial assistance to States. Both the Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Grants Commission are still functioning. As honorable members will perceive, the bill now before the House proposes to’ abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and vest the functions of that commission in the Inter-State Commission. So far as the Tariff Board is concerned, however, its duties already keep four members fully occupied, and the Government does not propose to interfere with it.
The desirability of an active InterState Commission as a component part of the federal structure cannot be denied. As the result of the decision of the High Court in the Wheat case, it is not competent for Parliament to vest judicial powers in the commission; it is not possible to empower the commission to enforce its own findings. But does this mean that the Inter-State Commission cannot serve the Commonwealth as was intended by the Constitution? The Government thinks not. The peoples of the six States which combine to form this Commonwealth of Australia have a very real community of interest in most matters; but, as I have already remarked, it would be useless to deny that there are some matters which affect different States in different ways. What may be to the advantage of one State may be to the disadvantage of another. But this disadvantage may not always be apparent ; only an exhaustive examination by skilled and able men can ascertain the true effects on certain States of several phases of federation. It is in this sphere that the Inter-State Commission could be of inestimable value to the whole of our Commonwealth. Not only may it thoroughly investigate disadvantages alleged to exist by any State, but it may also inquire in advance as to the probable effect of any proposed law. Mr. Deakin’s description of the previous commission as “ the eyes and ears of the Parliament “ may even more appropriately be applied to the proposed commission. It will indeed be the eyes and ears, leaving to this Parliament and to the High Court the duty of rectifying or preventing the anomalies which those eyas and ears see and hear.
It is essential to the proper exercise of the legislative and administrative functions of any. parliament that investigations must be made into many features within the sphere of that parliament’s activities. To an infinitely greater degree does this apply to a federal parliament such as this. This Parliament is concerned, not only with the welfare of the whole of the Commonwealth, but also with the interests, sometimes divergent, of the six States constituting that Commonwealth. To assist Parliament in this respect there are already such permanent bodies in existence as the Tariff Board, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In addition, the appointment of royal commissions is frequently found to be necessary. But the commission which this bill proposes to establish will be something more than a tribunal which, will operate only when the government which constitutes it chooses to set its machinery in motion. Its most important function, the function for which the Constitution requires that there shall he an Inter-State Commission, may be invoked by any State. No longer will a State be required to rely on agitation, or on its ability to convince this Parliament that it suffers a disability. It may make its complaint to, and prove its case before, the Inter-State Commission, which is being constituted particularly for the purpose of hearing such complaints. Armed with the findings of the InterState Commission, the Commonwealth will then know just what the state of affairs is that requires to be remedied, and how best to remedy it. Whether by legislative or by administrative action, or even by judicial proceedings, the Commonwealth will be enabled to proceed with that remedy.
In many other directions, also, will the services of this permanent commission be used. Except in rare and highlyspecialized matters it will no longer be necessary to appoint ad hoc commissions. This Inter-State Commission, with almost every phase of the problems arising under federation at its finger-tips, will be available for the investigation of any matter which the Government cares to refer to it.
The principal functions of the InterState Commission are those set out in clause 18 of the bill. As honorable members will see, they are functions of inquiry into the matters therein specified, and reporting thereon to the GovernorGeneral. The first provisions are those in paragraphs a and h, namely, any anomalies, preferences or discriminations alleged to exist in relation to interstate commerce, and any alleged contravention of the provisions of the Constitution relating to interstate commerce. The commission may commence an investigation on any of these matters, either on reference by the Governor-General or on the complaint of any State.
The matters set out in paragraphs c, d and e of clause 18 exactly follow the provisions of section 9 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act. By requiring the Inter-State Commission to inquire into these matters the necessity for the Commonwealth Grants Commis- sion will disappear. Consequently the bill provides for the repeal of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933, and the sections of the Port Augusta to Port Pirie Railway Act which amended it. In addition to these matters relating to the making of grants of financial assistance to the States, paragraph / adds a much wider field of investigation, namely, “ any matters concerning the financial relations between the Commonwealth and a State which are referred tothe commission by the Governor-General.” Many matters, as, for example, matters arising under the Financial Agreement, might be referred to the Inter-State Commission under this paragraph.
– Will the commission have power to consider an application for drought relief by a .State?
– The Commonwealth Grants Commission now takes into consideration the needs of a State in assessing the amount of a grant. Those needs, no doubt, would be added to by drought. Finally, paragraph g requires the commission to inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon any other matters which the Governor-General refers to the commission. This provision will enable the Commonwealth to utilize the services of the commission, where necessary, to inquire into matters which might otherwise have necessitated the appointment of a royal commission.
I turn now to Part IV. of the bill, concerning which there appears to be a certain amount of misunderstanding. It has been suggested in certain quarters that section 21, declaring certain preferences or discriminations by State railways to be unlawful, should apply also to Commonwealth and other railways. Honorable members will, however, readily appreciate the scope and purpose of this part if they read it in conjunction with section 102 of the Constitution. The Constitution provides for some things which the Commonwealth may not do, for some things a State may not do, and for some things which, neither the Commonwealth nor a State may do. We are, however, at present concerned with the question of preferences and discriminations against any State. The prohibition contained in the Constitution in this con- nexion is a great deal wider and a great deal more positive in its application to the Commonwealth than to a State. Section 99 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce or revenue give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof. This prohibition is not restricted to laws fixing railway rates ; it extends to any law of trade, commerce or revenue, but undoubtedly includes laws fixing railway rates. It is not made subject to any condition; it is absolute. As regards preferences or discrimination against a State by another State, however, the Constitution is not quite so positive. Section 102 provides that the Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority, constituted under a State, only if that preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, due regard being had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connexion with the construction and maintenance of its railways. .But - and I ask honorable members to ta.ke particular note of this provision - no such preference or discrimination is to be deemed to be undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged by the Inter-State Commission.
The purpose of Part TV. of this bill is twofold. First, by section 21 it exercises the power conferred by section 102 of the Constitution to declare unlawful the matters specified in that section of the Constitution. In doing so it preserves the provision in that section and in section 104 requiring the financial responsibilities incurred by the State in connexion with its railways, and the necessity for the development of territory of the State, to be taken into consideration in determining whether the preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable or unjust to any State. Honorable members will note how restricted is the operation of this provision in its application to States when compared with the prohibition directed against the Commonwealth by section 99 of the Constitution. The Commonwealth, whether by railway rates or otherwise, may not give any preference to any one State over another, whereas in the case of a State it is merely provided that the preference or discrimination shall not be undue and unreason-‘ able or unjust to any State; and whether it. is undue and unreasonable or unjust is made dependent upon a prior adjudication by the Inter-State Commission.
The second purpose of Part IV. is to provide for machinery whereby complaints of any contravention of that part may be made so as to set in motion the machinery of the commission and obtain that adjudication without which the Commonwealth has not the power to declare the matters therein specified to be unlawful. Provision is made by clause 23 for any one of the many authorities or associations specified therein to make the complaint which will cause the commission to commence an investigation. Clause 24 requires the commission to submit to the Governor-General a report of all such investigations, and if that report discloses what, in the opinion of the commission, is a contravention of the part, clause 25 empowers the Attorney-General to institute proceedings in the High Court to restrain that contravention.
It is therefore apparent that Part IV. has nothing to do with Commonwealth railways. There is no need for this Parliament to declare a preference by the Commonwealth unlawful; the Constitution has done that. Nor is there any need to make the liability of the Common-‘ wealth dependent upon the prior adjudication of the Inter-State Commission. On the contrary, any attempt so to lessen the liability of the Commonwealth would be invalid as an attempt to cut down the force of section 99 of .the Constitution. If the Commonwealth gives any preference, then, any State or any individual may take action against the Commonwealth in the High Court without having to depend on any law of this Parliament, or on any opinion of the Inter-State Commission.
On the other hand, if any State desires an inquiry by the Inter-State Commission on interstate rail freights on Commonwealth railways it “will have full power to set the machinery of the commission in motion under paragraph b of clause 18. Such an inquiry would not, however, be a preliminary proceeding to judicial proceedings as is the case with an inquiry under Part IV., for the very simple reason that, where the Commonwealth is concerned, no preliminary inquiry is necessary. Where the State is concerned it is essential.
I need not speak at length on the machinery provisions of the bill. Honorable members are familiar with most of them in other bills constituting nonjudicial tribunals. Briefly stated, the bill provides for the establishment of a commission consisting of three members of whom one must have been a justice of the High Court or a judge of a Supreme Court or a practising barrister or solicitor. The mode of appointment and tenure of office are as specified in section 103 of the Constitution. The salary of one of the commissioners to be appointed as chairman will be £2,500 per annum, and the salaries of the other commissioners will bc £2,000 per annum. Although two commissioners may constitute a quorum, their decision on any matter must, be uniform - otherwise the matter must be postponed until all commissioners are present. To obviate lengthy trips by the whole commission for purposes of minor and ancillary inquiries the commission may appoint one commissioner to conduct any inquiry or other business, but that commissioner must report back to the commission.
Part V. requires the commission to make an annual report which must he tabled before both Houses of the Parliament. The several provisions in that part relating to the taking of evidence, summoning, examination and protection of witnesses and production of documents, all follow closely similar provisions in several other acts now on the statutebook. Mention may be made of the requirement that the commission shall take evidence in public unless it considers it desirable in the public interest to take it in private; but where such matters as trade secrets are involved, the commission must take the evidence in private when so requested.
The question of re-constituting the Inter-State Commission is not one that has recently arisen; it has been with us for years. That it should be reestablished has been recommended by several bodies, including royal commissions. The Royal Commission on the Constitution dealt in detail with the functions which might be conferred on the InterState Commission, and, on pages 249-50 of its report, recommended its reconstitution. That royal commission considered the Inter-State Commission to be a body on which might be conferred many powers additional to those which the Constitution, contemplated at the outset. These additional powers, as’ honorable members will see, the bill confers on the Inter-State Commission. Recommendations for the reconstitution of the InterState Commission were also made by the Royal Commission on the Finances of Western Australia as Affected by Federation, and the royal commission appointed to inquire into the finances of South Australia. On page 59 of the report of the former commission appear the words, “ The creation of an Inter-State Commission is one of the terms of the federal partnership agreement. It is in the bond “.
I think we are all somewhat disappointed that powers cannot be conferred on the Inter-State Commission that would enable that body to sit as a court at least on questions of fact and to enforce its own findings. However, unless the Constitution is amended, Parliament is helpless in this respect. Meanwhile, this bill gives to the commission full. power of inquiry over a wide field of matters. It must then be left for this Parliament, the Government or the Judiciary to take the necessary action to give effect to those findings. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blackburn) adjourned.
Summary ov Proceedings.
Debate resumed from the 24th August (vide page 37), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
T1i».t the paper be printed.
.- The Parliament has been anxiously awaiting the report which the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) tendered in this chamber yesterday, and I can say that the Opposition agrees wholeheartedly that the Imperial Conference is of very great importance, and that it is an obligation on Australia to be always properly represented at such conferences. We also say that, while the Prime Minister and his colleagues are attending such responsible conferences, there should be, on the part of the Opposition, a readiness to assist reasonably the conduct of public business; that it should not in any way unfairly take advantage of the fact that the head of the Government and his senior Ministers are absent from Australia. I think I can also say that, since the Prime Minister left Australia, and while Parliament has been meeting in his absence, the Opposition has in every way behaved reasonably and in accordance with what I describe as a high standard of public conduct. It has not in any way sought to embarrass either the Government or Ministers. Honorable members of the Opposition have felt that it was of the first importance that Ministers should be free as far as possible to devote themselves to the very grave responsibilities attendant on them as the result of the Imperial Conference. We were moved to that attitude by our conviction that the Prime Minister attended the conference as the head of the. Australian Government and not as leader of a political party. He was there with his colleagues as the representative of all the people of Australia and it was because he was Prime Minister and not because he was leader of the United Australia party that he spoke for this Commonwealth. But I say that yesterday the Prime Minister should not in any way have regarded his position as leader of a political party as being involved in the report which he submitted. There were phases of the statement he made yesterday which trenched more than reasonably upon political controversies which were not dealt with by the Imperial Conference and which are not referred to in the summary of proceedings of the conference that has been circulated. A great deal of the right honorable gentleman’s statement was in fact more an exposition of his party’s policy in certain matters than it was a presentation to this House of what actually took place at the Imperial Conference.’
Having said that, I preface what I intend saying this afternoon by asserting the unswerving allegiance of the Opposition to the British Commonwealth of Nations, and also to His Majesty the King as the symbol of this most remarkable association of nations in what has been described by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to-day as an unhappy world. The Labour party will stand definitely to ensure the safety of the Australian people and the security of the territory of. the Commonwealth. It will take no second place to the Government in this important matter. It has in fact been acknowledged by newspaper opponents of our own policy that the Australian Labour party, has made’ the most notable contributions to the defensive competence of the country, and I insist that the Government acknowledge the truth of that statement which has been borne out by our platform and by the repeated declarations which I have made as leader of the party.
– What about the policy of co-operation ?
– In order that we might discuss the matters mentioned in the report yesterday in a proper atmosphere, the country would do well to remember that the platform which is the platform of labour in respect to the subject which the Minister for Trade and Customs has just mentioned is identical to-day with what it was when the head of the present Government subscribed to that platform. In every respect we make it quite plain that we do not know of any occasion on which the present head of the Commonwealth Government found it necessary to sever his association with ourselves because of that, phase of our general platform. It was not because of our defence policy that he left the Labour party. It would be an extremely ironical thing, therefore, that in order to prop up the political policy of the United Australia party the right honorable gentleman should now begin to question the bona fides of a platform with which for more than a quarter of a century he was identified. I say that to the country and to this chamber.
It can, I think, be agreed that the general proposals on foreign policy which the Imperial Conference adopted are in themselves reasonable and clear. They represent in a terse way the objectives of all the peoples of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and Australia subscribes to them no less than does any other sister dominion or the people of the United Kingdom itself. We aim at the settlement of differences between nations by conciliation and a spirit of peace, and not by recourse to the use of force, and we say to every country of the world that it is doubtful if this civilization could withstand the strain of another” major war. For that reason, the Labour party declares against participation in partial pacts and treaties which would commit the country to support, or oppose, as the case may be, groups of powers with which we have no conflict as things now stand. The urge to rearmament mentioned yesterday is almost universal. It proceeds from the failure of the League of Nations - which really means the failure of the nationsthemselves - to make the Covenant of the League a workable instrument. It is useless to blame the League; we have to blame the constitutent elements. The abstention of the United States ; the difficulties that have developed in Germany, and- theposition of Japan and of Italy may all be construed as contributing to the inability to establish a world league of nations which would be effective. Anything less than a world league involves the massing of powerful opposing groups - those who are in’ and those who are out of it. The pacts and understandings that have developed out of this situation are more for the purpose of increasing striking power than for the development of the foundations of peace. Australia - and I welcome the statement of the right honorable gentleman yesterday in regard to our adherence to democratic principles - is firmly attached to democracy and to the parliamentary form of government, but we can recognize the absolute right of all other peoples to evolve the form of government which they prefer; and it is the struggle for a place in the sun rather than divergencies in the political principles of nations which is the chief cause of the disquietude of the time. We cannot get away from the fact that trade and economic conflicts are still the chief causes leading to war. The struggle for markets, the struggle for expansion, and the struggle for access to raw materials are among the chief causes leading to the present unsettled state of the world.
We on this side of the House insist that in. the final analysis this nation shall not be committed to warlike activities outside Australia without the absolute and established consent of the Australian people. We make that perfectly plain. We say that; because any government elected by the Australian people would be expected as a primary obligation to resist aggression and to exert its maximum power to repel invasion. Neither the Opposition nor the Government can claim a superior quality of loyalty to the Australian people in this most important connexion. No less than the Government will we make proper preparation to ensure the effective competence of Australia to defend itself against aggression or to repel invasion. When we make that thorough preparation and ensure the means to defend Australia, how can it be argued that that is not a notable contribution to the defence of the Empire ? When we ensure the safety of Australia we ensure the safety of nearly 7,000,000 British subjects. When we defend Australia we defend not only 7,000,000 British subjects, but also 3,000,000 square miles of British Territory and £1,000,000,000 of British investments, £500,000,000 of which is invested in government securities and the remainder in various industries and enterprises. When all is said and done, that represents a definite contribution to the security of the Empire; because Australia is an important part of the Empire. Having regard to the realities of the situation, the imperative obligation has been placed on the people of Australia not to rely upon assistance from Great Britain, which might or might not be available, but, to take the most effective steps to contribute to their own capacity to be self-reliant in this matter.
Ministerial members interjecting,
– Yesterday afternoon, honorable members of the Opposition listened quite reasonably and properly to the statement which the Prime Minis- ter made. It is, therefore, but fair that those honorable gentlemen opposite who are concerned, not so much about the proceedings at the Imperial Conference as about the proceedings at the ballot-box in a few weeks’ time, should restrain themselves at this juncture.
I cannot but feel that the Prime Minister’s statement in regard to the Pacific Pact proposal - that Australian governments had endeavoured for years past to develop direct contacts with countries bordering on the Pacific Ocean, to live at peace with them, and to expand trade with them - hardly fits in with the fiscal policy adopted npt so long ago by the then Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), which resulted in an impairment of trading relations between Australia and an important Pacific power. This trade diversion policy was a curious sort of prelude to the submission of proposals 4 for a Pacific Pact. It is very clear that, while the conference noted with interest - I gather this from the summary of the proceedings - the suggestion in respect of a Pacific Pact, all that it could do was to say that if such an arrangement could be made, it would be a desirable thing. It would appear rather strange that the Prime Minister should have envisaged this pact, seeing that he assured this House yesterday that Great Britain’s decision to rearm, had been caused by disregard of covenants and the inability of the collective system to afford security against aggression. It is somewhat paradoxical that another pact should have been put forward as a method for ensuring better conditions in the Pacific Ocean, in view of the fact that Great Britain was impelled to take the course it took to ensure its own competence because collective security could not be relied upon and pacts and treaties were regarded as unstable guarantees for the preservation of peace.
– Does the honorable gentleman object to its being put forward?
– I do not. “The proposition for a pact with Pacific powers was mentioned in this chamber nearly two years ago, and immediately this Government brought down trade proposals which, to a very large extent, impaired Australia’s goodwill with two important countries bordering on the Pacific Ocean - the United States of America and Japan.
– We fixed that up.
– Because of our toleration of the position into which the Government had got itself. The Labour party says now, as it said when the sanctions legislation was being passed through this Parliament, that whatever might have been the hopes which the world entertained regarding the system of collective security, the realities of the situation oblige us to admit that faith can no longer be reposed in it, while history teaches the disquieting lesson that covenants and treaties are adhered to generally only so long as their maintenance is in the interest of the contracting parties. In this capitalistic world, the constant struggle for markets and the efforts of vested interests to secure opportunities for further exploitation will continue to lead either one country or another into denouncing the pact to which it has subscribed, or into acting as though it did not exist.
One thing emerges decisively and clearly from the proceedings of the Imperial Conference: that is, that it is the sole responsibility of the several parliaments of the Empire to decide the nature and scope of their own defence policy. This resolution was adopted first at the Imperial Conference of 1923, and it was reaffirmed at the conference held this year. I submit that that reaffirmation is doubly important, and that it has for this Parliament tremendous significance. The Opposition contends that, regardless of the Imperial Conference, this Parliament has to make its own decision regarding the defence policy of Australia. A considerable part of the defence policy which the Prime Minister outlined yesterday was put forward as though it had been agreed upon at the Imperial Conference, whereas very little was agreed upon at that conference. The right honorable gentleman said that, in addition to questions of defence affecting the whole of the Empire, Australian defence was the subject of the fullest consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom and its advisers. Anything in relation to defence that is the result of a discussion between this Government and the Government of the United Kingdom should have been brought forward in this Parliament during the discussion of the Defence Estimates, and not as a matter arising out of the deliberations of the Imperial Conference. I put that as a perfectly fair and, I think, just statement of the situation. If, at the Imperial Conference, we have been told what Australia ought to do, then, logically, we should have been told yesterday what that conference had agreed upon as the obligations in the scheme of Empire defence of Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.
It appears to me that in this matter the Prime Minister departed from the proceedings of the Conference in order to incorporate in his statement a purely party exposition of policy in the hope that, by identifying it . with the deliberations of the Conference, he could make Australia believe that the Conference was, in fact, a collaborator in the defence policy of this Government. The right honorable gentleman said that Australian defence was the subject of the fullest consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom and its advisers, and added ‘ that a most exhaustive examination was made abroad of the vital question of the liability of Australia to invasion. The question that arises is : Who was consulted abroad ? He may have been quite a competent adviser, but who was he ? The Opposition is often accused of lack of knowledge on these subjects, and is told that it speaks without expert authority. Yet here is a statement which declares that the defence programme outlined in it is derived more or less from consultations with persons in other countries. The unjustifiable propagandist nature of the statement is revealed by the following: -
Endorsement was obtained abroad on the genera] lines . . .
That is entirely irrelevant to the proceedings of the Imperial Conference, and ought not to have been incorporated in a statement to this House dealing with those proceedings. I could understand the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), dealing with the Defence Estimates, saying, “ While abroad, I saw this, that and the other man, and they said so and so “. That would be perfectly legitimate, because the honorable gentleman would not be placing some of the people of Australia in the position, of assuming that what he was doing was being done as the result of the deliberations of the Imperial Conference. I submit that the Government of the United Kingdom and its advisers are not the Imperial Conference. In so far as the defence of the Empire is involved, we have the right to know what specific contribution the Imperial Conference considered we should make. Neither in the statement made yesterday, nor in the summary of the proceedings of the Conference, is any indication ‘given of what the Imperial Conference considered was a proper contribution which Australia and the other dominions should make towards the defence and security of the Empire as a whole.
As a matter of fact, Australia is making much more elaborate provision for defence than is being made by any other dominion. I have not the figures for 1937, but I find that in May of last year, the defence expenditure of the dominions per capita was as follows: -
Therefore, at that time, which Ls not so long back - and I shall be able to confirm later the statement that the situation has not materially altered in the meantime - Australia was spending per capita on its own defence more than six times as much as was South Africa, and four times as much as Canada, and then we were spending approximately £6,500,000. I take no exception to that expenditure. I point out, however, that it is very apparent that those who would use critical terms, in regard to Australia’s contribution to defence in its Imperial aspect have absolutely no valid grounds for their contention. For years, the Commonwealth has accepted a financial burden, .which, compared with that of the other dominions of the British Empire, should impress even the most ultra imperialist as being, not only large, but also relatively greater than that of our sister dominions. If that does not definitely represent a major contribution by th people of Australia towards Empire defence, what is a major contribution? We must bear in mind, also, that this large contribution which Australia is making compared with that made by the other dominions is only portion of the burden which we are carrying. To it must be added the repatriation expenditure, and the interest on our war debt. In this financial year, Australia has to find the best part of £25,000,000 to meet the costs, either of past wars or of preparation for defence in the future. This tremendous expenditure should be justified in all its details. We should obtain full value for every fi appropriated for defence purposes. We cannot afford to waste a penny in this way. Every £1 expended for defence must be subtracted from the pool of funds available to meet the cost of the social services of the nation, which are far from being what they should be if the fullest humanitarian considerations were borne in mind by this National Parliament. That so much money is being devoted to defence is not proof that it is being expended wisely. The Government should be able to assure the country that its defence vote is being used in the soundest possible way. On this point, in particular, Parliament should be able to deliberate without honorable members opposite hurling across the chamber charges of lack of Empire spirit. It is in connexion with this aspect of the subject that we should consider what was done at the Imperial Conference.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that the protection of our sea-borne trade depended upon naval forces. If this be true of Australia, it is also true of New Zealand, of Canada, to a very large extent, and also of South Africa. I wish to know what the Imperial Conference had to say specifically in this connexion, and I do not want mere nebulous generalities to be thrust at me when I ask for such information. I put it emphatically to honorable members that the naval expenditure of New Zealand, Canada and South Africa in the last three years will not bear comparison with the naval expenditure of Australia. Australia is not only spending more per capita On defence in general, but is also spending a. great deal more in the effort to ensure the safety of sea routes and trade in transit as between one dominion and the Motherland. The following figures show the amounts spent in thi* way by Canada and New Zealand: -
– What is Great Britain spending?
– I am at the moment talking not about Great Britain’s expenditure, but about the expenditure of each dominion in connexion with sea routes and the protection of trade between the dominions and the Motherland, bearing in mind the Prime Minister’s declaration that the protection of our sea-borne trade depends upon naval forces and also my contention that, if this be true of Australia, it is also true of Canada, New Zealand and South Africa in regard to their trade with the Motherland.
I have already given the figures in relation to Canada and New Zealand. South Africa appears to have done very little in regard to naval defence, its activities having been confined chiefly to the maintenance of a local division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, consisting of such citizens as desired to enlist for the service. War vessels in African waters are directly controlled by the British Navy, and are attached to what is known as the African Station, which is a naval command of the Royal Navy. It appears, therefore, that in the last four years Canada has spent on the average something less than £500,000 a year on naval defence, and New Zealand on the average something less than £600,000 a year, while Australia in 1936-37 expended £3,14.6,871 in this way, or more than six times the total expenditure of Canada. In 1935-36, Australia’s expenditure under, this heading was £3,096,877, while in 1934-35 its expenditure was £2,563,979. In the light of these figures, I want to know what the Imperial Conference, as a conference, lad to say about the protection of Empire trade routes and the associated responsibility of all the members of the British
Commonwealth of Nations. This is a fair question to ask, and to have answered before the Government can expect to be allowed to make political capital out of the assumption that the Australian Labour party is not disposed to treat the subject properly.
As a matter of actual fact, the Labour party established the Australian Navy. That is the unanswerable reply to the criticism of honorable members opposite. We were the authors of that policy; honorable gentlemen opposite are only the inheritors of it. Furthermore, if the predecessors of honorable gentlemen opposite had had their way in the days gone by, the position of Australia in a naval sense would to-day be the same as that of South Africa.
– But the Labour party of those days was different from the Labour party of to-day.
– And the anti-Labour party of that day cannot be recognized by its present title. The number of its aliases has been so great as to bewilder anybody. I am putting before the country the facts that I have stated as a fair contribution to a reasonable discussion, as to what we should do and what sum of money we can afford in this connexion. I am not urging that we should scrap our navy, or that we should not maintain it at its present strength. I am saying, though, that in the budgetary provision we make in the future for defence we should have regard to the changing character of modern warfare.
Speaking in Sydney quite recently on the important subject of the safety of Australia, one of the members of the present Government said, “ The British Navy is no longer able to ensure the safety of Australia “. If it be true that the British Navy can no longer protect us, what are we to say about a mere section of that navy? Obviously, if the whole navy cannot protect us, a part of it cannot do so. The same right honorable gentleman who was speaking after the Imperial Conference had dispersed, also said - “ This situation had arisen because man, by conquering the air, has introduced a terrible and incalculable factor into future warfare “.
The Government, however, instead of regarding air forces as the probable chief feature in future warfare, declares that the safety of Empire interests in the eastern hemisphere depends upon the presence at Singapore of a fleet adequate to give security to our sea communications. I say to the country and to Great Britain that Singapore, having regard to its position in the Pacific, is more useful as a protection to India against attack by a Pacific power than as a means of security to Australia against attack by a Pacific power. An honorable member opposite says “nonsense”. Let me remind him that, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st June last, Mr. Winston Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty in the war years, declared that Singapore was as far away from Japan as Portsmouth is from New York, and could not be regarded in any way as a menace to Japan.
– Why does the honorable member drag in Japan?
– Let us look at this subject properly. The real purpose and value of Singapore is as protection to India. [Leave to continue given.] I thank honorable members for their consideration. I now ask how Singapore can be so far away from the Yellow Sea as not to be able to hurt it, and be a thousand miles further away from Sydney and yet be able to protect it? I putthat question to the naval experts on the treasury bench.
The speech of the Prime Minister prepares us for a section of the budget which I understand is to be submitted to us later in the week. We are apparently to be asked to provide for a much greater defence expenditure than has been approved in recent years. If we vote for this additional expenditure, it will mean, of course, that we shall not have so much money available for invalid and old-age pensions. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) interjects, but he should not suspect my point of view in this regard.
I say to the country that; it will not do for us to permit this subject to become the mere shuttlecock of political controversies for, in the last analysis, it is the workers who support this party upon whom the major tragedy will fall should war come to pass; and because we know that the lives of the workers as well as the money of the capitalists will be involved in the next struggle, we are determined equally with everybody else to make this country safe. I have to point out that every £1 that we spend upon fortresses is £1 that we cannot spend on education, or on health services, or on providing opportunities for the youth of this country to obtain vocational training. It is, in fact, a subtraction from the amount which the country can afford for the general services of government. I therefore ask, as I have done repeatedly, that we shall discuss this subject with the object of getting full value for all the money that we expend.
Unfortunately honorable members opposite seem to think that they know all that is to be known about defence. They expect us to accept, without question, every proposal that the Government puts forward. If it is not so accepted, the questioner is apparently to be suspected of a lack of loyalty to the country. That is not the attitude of mind that a deliberative Parliament should adopt and I do not think that the country at large will stand for it. I say deliberately and emphatically that, if increased expenditure is to be provided in the Budget for defence purposes, we should spend more on aerial services than the Government contemplates allocating for this purpose. In the very nature of things everything portends that the air will become a vital ‘ theatre of international conflict. We have only to think of what has happened in Shanghai and also in Spain to form that opinion.
– But nothing has been settled.
– Wars between great armies take years to settle. The world war between the major powers took years. The war in South Africa, which was a relatively small affair, took years. The fact that wars take longer to settle does not alter the fact that the character of modern warfare has changed to a very great degree in recent years. People are now hit from on top rather than from in front. The developmentin aerial ser vices since 1918 has effected a complete revolution, not only in having brought communities closer together in point of time, but also in having made it plain that the evolution will proceed to gather momentum in the next five or ten years. It would appear almost certain that the dream, rather should I say the nightmare, of Tennyson ‘ will become a reality. The number of aerial ‘ bombers and fighters that can be used for invasion by sea is restricted to the carrying capacity of specially constructed vessels with decks from, which, aeroplanes can not only fly but to which they can also return. The cost of one battleship would providea squadron of aeroplanes, and one battle ship, I submit, cannot effectively defend this Commonwealth. Great though the expenditure on our navy has been it does not represent any guarantee of our fitness to repel a thrust against us.
– How many aeroplanes does the honorable member say can be supplied for the cost of one battleship?
– A squadron.
– Much more than a squadron.
– One squadron at least ; and at the end of five years’ service the battleship becomes obsolete and is towed to sea. to be destroyed. The Sydney Sun of the 13th August, 1937, stated -
Japan’s air force was built up and made efficient by the guiding hand of Britain.
I understand that in 1921 Lord Sempill, with 30 men of the Royal Air Force of Britain, went to Japan, where he remained for three years and organized, equipped, and trained the Japanese air service, and superintended the construction of Japan’s first plane carrier, whilst, under British Government instructors, the Japanese acquired the art of flying planes from its decks. Then British artisans were sent to Japan to show the Mitsubishi Company how to make planes as good as the British. And while such things as this have happened the workers of Australia are to be taxed in order to defend this country against possible invasion by a country which has its equipment built for it with the aid of those who arc part and parcel of the British Commonwealth of Nations. On the 31st June,’ 1937, Japan’s shore-based bombing and fighting machines totalled 1,500. In addition, its invasive air power from the decks of sea carriers was 300, but, like Britain, it has also an expansion policy and is constructing, or plans to construct, new carrier, ships with a total carrying capacity of 600 planes. To have any hope of effectively resisting an enemy’s attempt to land here Australia must have approximately that number of defensive planes. Australia has not got those planes.
In his book Australia and War the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) said -
The number of airplanes necessary for defence is the strength of sea-borne planes maintained by the possible enemy.
In a speech which he made on the 20th October, 1936 the right honorable gentleman said -
Aerial defence is the only defence within our capabilities.
That statement was made by a member of the Lyons Government. When a Minister, who has all the knowledge needed on the subject, because as a member of the Cabinet he has discussed the matter of Australia’s security, and, furthermore, has most conspicuously identified himself with the defence resources of Australia, makes a statement of that nature, can honorable members on this side of the House be criticized when they agree with it? And, if that is the case can we be blamed when we criticize the huge expenditure, at the cost of our social services, on forms of defence which one member of the Government declares are forms which do not give us the kind of defensive capacity this country requires? On the day following that on which the right honorable gentleman made the statement which I have just quoted, the Sydney . Morning Herald, in a leading article, supported and expanded that statement by saying -
Air power has altered everything . . . our V.st defence must be sought in the aerial arm.
To this “ best defence “ the Lyons Government has, so far, provided eight squadrons, or 96 planes, to meet a seaborne invasion of not less than 300 planes, which is Japan’s existing carrier power. Last February the Defence Department, in reply to a request by myself, supplied a report showing that a squadron of 12 twin-engined bomber planes “ with all necessary technical equipment” cost £300,000. The peace time cost for the maintenance of such a squadron was said to be £100,000 a year, oi’, £8,330 a year for each plane. A single-engined bomber squadron costs £130,000, the annual upkeep being £70,000. I do not question such costly upkeep - that is not my point - but it is evident that few individuals could afford to pay £S,330 per annum for the upkeep of one aeroplane. The Defence Department, in its report, explains that £100,000 per annum for the maintenance of a twelve-plane two-engined squadron covers “ replacement “ so that a squadron is always in being with the latest improvements.
The point I make is that, taking the purchase and maintenance costs of the existing squadrons as stated, we can have fifty squadrons, or 600 planes, for a capital outlay of £15,000,000. Warships of more than that value have been towed out of our harbours and sunk as obsolete. On existing costs we can maintain and “replace” 50 squadrons for £5,000,000 per annum. Such planes will be much more valuable than the warships we could procure for the same amount. Fifty squadrons is double the existing seaborne planes of Japan and equals the number which that country proposes to procure after it lias constructed the necessary carriers. If we cannot afford a floating navy equal to that of Japan it is within our means to sustain an aerial navy equal to any which can be brought against us. That being so, I make the view of my party plain, not as representing a clear-cut difference from that of the Government in the readiness of each party to defend Australia, but in respect of the way in which we shall use the money available to give us the utmost va.lue for whatever expenditure we incur. No man will say that powerful fleets of aerial bombers and fighters are sufficient to prevent an enemy landing on. our shores, but it can be said, and every man knows it to be true, that in a country like ours, a country of vast distances between possible points of assailment, it is our air-borne fleets that will most quickly arrive at the point of danger to combat enemy planes, to bomb his plane carriers and troopships, and put up first resistance until land-borne men and guns arrive.
I do not propose to ask for a further extension of time, and therefore I am not able now to refer to the relevant phases of supplies, munitions, land defences, transportation, and industrial preparedness, all of which are involved in Labour’s defence plan. Furthermore, I am unable to cover the remaining phases of the speech delivered by the Prime Minister yesterday; but I say that, in so far as he endeavours to make it appear that there was the authority of the Imperial Conference for all the details he gave in connexion with the Government’s defence policy, his statement represents a gross overstatement of the case. Furthermore, with regard to Empire defence, the people of Australia are already doing more than any other dominion. That is our definite declaration. Having regard to the fact that we are asked to spend more than we have already spent, although we have spent more . than any other sister dominion on defence, I maintain that we must exercise the greatest care in order to ensure that we do not depress our social standards unduly in order to enable us to find the money necessary for defence. I add that, when it comes to a question as to where we. shall get the greatest value for expenditure in connexion with the defence of Australia, the Labour party firmly says to the people that it believes in expanding our aerial services as constituting the first line of the effective defence of this country. To make that statement is not unpatriotic; it cannot be challenged as a disservice to the Australian people because I believe, as is being recognized throughout the world, that the increasing triumph of science in the atmosphere is making it certain that the country that cannot defend itself in the air will not be able to defend itself at all. That is my answer to the Prime Minister’s speech.
– I have listened very carefully to the remarks just made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and I do not think I do him any injustice when I say that his speech was, indeed, a laboured effort, and was, in many respects, contradictory. When he appeared to be talking interestingly about defence he seemed suddenly to remember that he was saying too much and would then double back and refer to the cost of social services. Whenever he appeared to be going to say something really valuable concerning defence he pulled himself up lest he went further than his party would like. The reason given for the honorable gentleman’s speech is said to be because of the nature of the submissions made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) yesterday concerning the proceedings at the Imperial Conference. The Leader of the Opposition prefaced his remarks by commenting upon the good conduct of himself and his followers while the Australian delegation was abroad. As I was not here at that time I cannot comment on that portion of his statement and I am quite prepared to accept it in so far as the honorable gentleman himself was concerned, but 1 have heard that difficulty was experienced in restraining some of his supporters on quite a number of occasions.
Opposition members interjecting,
– If I am not stating the truth in this connexion I am quite willing to withdraw my remarks, but otherwise J am entitled to point out that fact. The honorable gentleman said that the Prime Minister went away, not in the capacity of an individual, but as the Prime Minister and representative of the Commonwealth, and he implied that the Prime Minister went abroad in an entirely non-party capacity, which he recognized should be the case. Let me refer to the atmosphere that was created by the honorable member himself, and by his supporters, on that occasion. When the Prime Minister left Australia it was said, and the Leader of the Opposition was a party to such statements, that he was going to London in order to commit this country to the re-introduction of compulsory military training.
– That is . utterly untrue.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Statements to that effect were made by members of the Labour party, and the
Leader of the Opposition himself said that the Prime Minister was coming back to create a war scare on which to conduct an election.
– And that is quite true.
– At the moment I am not saying whether it is true or not; that is not the question. The question is, whether the honorable member said it. It is admitted that he did. Consequently all his talk concerning a non-party atmosphere on the occasion of the Prime Minister’s departure is so much nonsense, because the Prime Minister, before he left, was attacked by members of the Labour party, who levelled against him the charges which I have just mentioned. I submit that the Prime Minister was perfectly entitled in his speech yesterday to state everything that occurred in Great Britain at the Imperial Conference, including what transpired at the meetings of the sub-commit tees and the meetings of Dominion representatives with the heads of the services which were all part and parcel of the Imperial Conference, and reports regarding which were made from time to time to the plenary conference. He was, I say, entitled to submit to the House, in a full and lucid statement of all the events that took place, the information which he gave, and he was equally entitled to apply what had been done at the conference to the existing state of affairs in Australia. In his statement yesterday the right honorable gentleman did no more than describe, with scrupulous accuracy, everything that took place with regard to defence at the Imperial Conference, and show how the decisions arrived at applied to the Commonwealth. No reasonable exception could be taken to what he did in that respect.
We have listened to-day to a reiteration of the Labour party’s defence policy. T remind the Leader of the Opposition that, dealing with the defence policy of the Labour party announced at the Adelaide conference, I said in this House in September of last year -
T have carefully studied the additions to the Labour party’s defence policy, which were made by the recent conference at Adelaide, and find that they are in general agreement with the essential basis of the policy just put before honorable members, except that the Government’s technical advisers fortunately do not consider the present risks of. gas attacks necessitate the very extensive provision suggested for the protection of the civil population. 1 have no quarrel with the Leader of the
Opposition iu respect of the broad outlines of his policy for the defence of Australia, but that policy was published nearly two years after the statement of the Government’s own policy, and, as honorable members know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I invite the House, however, and as the Leader of the Opposition has done, I invite the country, to observe the limitations in Labour’s policy. Particularly do I invite this House, and I invite the country, to observe that there is no mention in it of anything beyond defence within Australia. There is no mention in the policy, nor was there in the long speech of the Leader .of the Opposition, of any coopera lion *with other parts of the Empire. And that is a salient feature of defence upon which every honorable member in this House was waiting for a statement, from the Leader of the Labour party. Throughout his contributions in debate and to the press, and throughout his speech here to-day, not a single reference was nia.de that, if the Labour party were returned to power, it would co-operate with the other D0mi.ni.0n3 and Great Britain. Consequently, the vital difference between the. policy of the Government and that of the Opposition is that the policy of Labour refers only to the defence of Australia within its own borders. Surely we are not, entitled to take any special credit for that! If we are not prepared to set up in Australia a defence organization to defend Australia, who will do it for us? There is no reference in the policy of honorable gentlemen opposite to the other part of the contract, no reference to the payment or the reciprocation that the people of this country are, I believe, prepared to make for the benefits we enjoy as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations or of the British Empire, whichever way the Leader of the Opposition likes to put it. The honorable member spoke of the defence that Australia has already set up, but I remind him that the defence that has been set up in Australia of a veal and substantial character has been the work of this Government. The honorable gentleman quoted certain figures, but I ask him to look back over the figures of past years to see during which regime the greatest expenditure on defence has taken place. He will find that while the Labour party was in office in this country the expenditure on defence reached its minimum.
– That was also true of Great Britain’s defence expenditure in those years.
– But for different reasons. Reduction was brought about by the Labour party in this country at the behest of the pacifists and others behind it opposed to defence of any kind; it was brought about in Great Britain as an earnest of ‘the country’s desire to create a feeling in the world in favour of disarmament and a desire to bring about international peace. Two widely differing objectives! The honorable member says that he will give the assurance and he will tell the country that Australia will be defended. But the mere statement that Australia will be defended will carry no weight.
– It will keep nobody out.
– That is so. Let the Leader of the Opposition say how he is prepared to do it. That is the practical and essential part. What we on this side have said, is that Australia has three safeguards. The first is its rights as a. member of the League of Nations. It has its part in whatever collective security there is in this world. I do not think that that can be relied upon to any extent. Therefore, Australia is dependant on two other safeguards. The second safeguard is its membership of the British Empire. The British Government has said that all of its resources are at the disposal of and for the benefit of any part” of the British Empire that is attacked, and Australia, as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, so long as it plays its part, is entitled fairly and squarely to ‘expect that support if it is attacked. Australia has a third safeguard, the defences which we ourselves have set up. I am glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition say what is too seldom said by members of his party, that we should provide our own defences, and not lean on Great Britain any more than we need. I have made the latter statement often, and it has been said repeatedly by honorable members on this side of the House, but to-day we have heard it for the first time from the Leader of the Opposition.
On the question of naval defence, the honorable gentleman is strangely out of date in respect of what he describes .as the action of the various dominions with regard to their navies or naval bases. He said that New Zealand was not especially interested in naval defence, and was not doing anything from a naval point of view, obviously forgetting that the dominion has two new Leander class cruisers of 7,500 tons each, which are maintained by it under arrangement with the British Government. Yet New Zealand has a population about equal to the population of the City of Sydney.
– And it has a Labour Government.
– That arrangement was made by the previous Government, but it is being carried on and supported by the present Labour Government in New Zealand. The Leader of the Opposition also implied that South Africa is doing nothing to protect the trade routes. He said that it was not interested, and was relying entirely upon Great Britain. Is the work on the Simonstown Base in South Africa not proceeding, and is not the South African Government assisting’ in its construction and defence? Furthermore, is not that base of great advantage for the protection of Empire trade routes if ships have to be diverted from the Suez Canal, and are compelled to go round by the Cape? Canada is making similar naval provision in its coastal defences.
The naval expenditure being incurred by the dominions to which I have referred entirely disposes of the claim of the Leader of the Opposition that no provision is being made by those dominions for naval defence, and that they are not interested in it. They are interested in it, just as Australia is.
The Leader of the Opposition in the concluding part of his speech laid great stress on the value of aeroplanes and aircraft generally. The greatest contribution made to the aerial defence of Australia was the establishment of the aircraft industry in this country, whereby machines of constantly improving design will be manufactured in whatever numbers Australia requires.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the obsolescence of warships, but let me inform him that aeroplanes become obsolescent even more quickly that do warships. They are constantly being superseded by improved types of machines, so that our pilots shall not be handicapped by having to use machines inferior to those of a possible enemy. I ask the honorable gentleman how long he has been an authority on the ability of Australia to defend itself by aeroplanes alone. I shall quote two statements by him in order to show how he oscillates between reliance on the army and reliance on the air force for the defence of this country. Speaking in this House on the 5th November last, he said -
I acknowledge that the defence of Australia by aircraft alone would require the provision of an air force such as would be beyond the capacity of this country to maintain.
He went on to say -
Our problem therefore resolves itself into the provision of land forces of such strength as to have a reasonable chance, in conjunction with our air forces, of defeating an enemy before reinforcements could arrive. That is my central position in a survey of the defence needs of Australia, lt so happens that a land force of these proportions is within our financial capacity to maintain.
– The honorable gentleman did not express his own opinions last November..
– At that time he stated that he would depend entirely on land defence, -but on the 29th July of this year he said -
The question of Australian defence boils down to how many aerial fighters, bombers and carriers are adequate to Australia’s needs and within her means to sustain . . .
The strength of Australian defence must lie in aviation.
– He has kept to that statement.
– The honorable gentleman has maintained his reputation for making contradictory statements. What is the policy of the Labour party in regard to defence? Is it defence by a land army as advocated by the Leader of the Opposition ia November last, or defence by aircraft exclusively which he has advocated to-day?
I draw public attention to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has made no reference to naval expansion or co-operation with the British fleet. I ask the Opposition to say whether it i3, or is not, in favour of co-operating with Great Britain and other parts of the Empire, and, if so, to what extent it is prepared to co-operate. The honorable gentleman said that the Labour party was responsible for the first units of the Australian Navy. I admit that, and give to that party the credit for what it did then. But what is its attitude to-day? The Labour party of to-day is entirely different from the Labour party which established the Australian Navy and advocated compulsory military training. Why is the Labour party not now in favour of building up an Australian Navy?
– A war has taught us many lessons.
– The Government believes in the development of the three services, and its policy has the endorsement of experts in Australia and Great Britain. The Leader of the Opposition and I are not experts in these matters; in such things every government, irrespective of its political beliefs, must depend largely upon the advice of its experts. The best advice both here and in Great Britain is that the best method for the defence of Australia is the development of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. The policy which the Government is pursuing is endorsed by those most competent to judge.
The Leader of the Opposition said that Australia’s contribution to its defence is greater than that provided by any other dominion. Knowing the information, placed before the Imperial Conference, I freely admit that that is so, and I have already stated this fact, -which was freely recognized as admitted at the Imperial Conference. But I point out that the present Government, not the party in opposition to it, is responsible for what Australia is doing.
If we take from the Defence Estimates the vote for the Navy, which represents the largest service quota of Australia’s total expenditure on defence, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests should be done-
– I did not suggest that; I said that a Labour government would not scrap the Navy.
– The honorable gentleman said that the Navy would be maintained only at its present strength; it would not be increased. If defence expenditure were reduced by the amount set apart for the Navy, Australia’s defence vote would then be comparable to that of the other dominions.
– I do not propose to take that expenditure out, and have never suggested it.
– The honorable gentleman has never advocated any increased expenditure on. the Navy, and is he prepared to admit that the Navy is Australia’s first line of defence whilst he denies its value and usefulness?
– I am not prepared to admit that, and the mere statement of the Minister does not prove that it is.
– Every one will admit that neither Australia nor New Zealand -could of its own strength defend itself against invasion by any of the great powers. The only hope that either dominion has of repelling attack is the protection afforded by the navy of Great Britain. We live and move and have our being under the protection of the fleets of the Empire.
– Is that not true of South Africa also?
– Yes. I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether the mere statement that we in this country believe in a White Australia is sufficient to ensure that Australia remains white. That policy is given effect, not because of Australia’s inherent capacity to enforce it, but because of the might of the British Empire to which we belong, and because British fleets sail the seven seas. Our membership of the Empire is the reason why better conditions prevail in Australia than in many older countries. The Labour party would cut Australia off from these things ; it would not have anything to do with Great Britain; it would not have any part in Empire defence outside Austral ia. That is the vital difference between the policy of the parties forming the Government and that of the party in opposition. Australians will not be content to depend on a defence policy which relies solely on their own efforts. The people of this country are not prepared to cut themselves off from the protection of the rest of the Empire - a protection to which we are entitled as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Mr.Curtin. - Nothing that we do need lessen Britain’s efforts.
– If we in Australia say that we will not cooperate with other parts of the Empire, then we have no right to expect them to come to our assistance. And we should get no assistance in those circumstances.
– Australia is spending more on defence than is any other dominion.
– I know that the honorable gentleman does not wish to have this point clearly elucidated, which is the reason for his continued interjections. He has consistently attempted to sidetrack it. But it is a point that he must face, both in this House and before the electors.
The assurance given by the Leader of the Opposition to-day that he and his party have a sincere attachment to the British Crown is refreshing. There is no need for the parties constituting the Government to make such a statement, but, apparently, the Leader of the Opposition thought it well to dispel the doubt existing in the minds of the people in this connexion. The country will be glad to know that, at long last, the Labour party has publicly announced its allegiance to the crown. I regret, however, that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was not present when the statement was made, and I, for one, will be glad tohear that the honorable gentleman subscribes to the declaration of his leader. I have a clear recollection of the vile slanders which he uttered against the Empire in a speech in this House a short time ago.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– I rise to a point of order. I am not quite clear whether the matter I wish to submit to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, should be taken as a point of order or as a personal explanation. The last words of the Ministerfor Defence, before you left the Chair at the dinner adjournment, were that I had uttered a vile slander upon, I think he said, the Empire. At that time I rose in my place, as you, Sir, will remember, and you thought fit to leave the Chair. It may be that you did not hear what the Minister said, or that you did not realize the urgency of the matter which I am raising. Therefore I mention it at the earliest possible moment, and ask that the Minister be called upon to withdraw unconditionally the gross reflection cast upon myself, and, further, that, as a gentleman, if he is one-
– Order !
– I am not saying that he is not, but I hope that he will offer a full and ample apology.
– If the Minister for Defence made such a statement, I ask him to withdraw it unconditionally.
– As there appears to be some doubt as to what I said, I submit that I am entitled to mention what it was.
– The Chair is net aware of what thehonorable member said.
– Nor apparently is the honorable member for Batman.
– Did the honorable gentleman use the words to which exception has been taken ?
– I stated that in a speech a short time ago the honorable member for Batman vilely slandered the British Empire, and I maintain that he did.
– The Minister is not entitled to make such a statement, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I submit that the words used are perfectly parliamentary, but, in deference to your ruling, I withdraw them. As a general rule I am opposed to extensions of time being granted to members, and I do not propose to avail myself of the courtesy of the House beyond a few minutes.
In reference to the animadversions of the Leader of the Opposition upon the statements of the Prime Minister regarding the results of the Imperial Conference, I point out that the right honorable gentleman referred to the fact that the Conference had recorded the following opinion : -
Observing that in respect of certain regions in which a number of States have special interests, regional agreements of friendship and collaboration between individual members of the British Commonwealth and the other States so interested have been entered upon or may be contemplated, they welcomed all such agreements insofar as they can be made to contribute to the cause of peace, and do not conflict with the covenant of the League of Nations.
That is a principle to which all parties in this House will subscribe. A certain booklet has been published by the Leader of the Opposition.
-. - This will be the most useful part of the Minister’s speech.
– That booklet is the most useful thing which the Opposition could have provided for the benefit of the Government’s election campaign. I would say, with the prophet J ob, “ Oh ! . … that mine adversary had written a book”. That is my reply to this publication. Under the heading “ Attitude to Foreign Nations “ the booklet states: -
As a first essential, Labourdeclares that Australia should aim at the establishment and maintenance of friendly relations with other’ countries, and should not be provocative in its international policies and contacts.
I ask what could be more in consonance with the policy of the Labour party, as expressed in the statement which I have extracted from the Labour booklet, than seeking a friendly pact with the nations of the Pacific, as was done by the Prime Minister? What could be less provocative than entering into friendly conference for the purpose of maintaining peace among the nations bordering the Pacific Ocean?
– I did not take exception to that. What I objected to was the Government’s trade diversion policy, which destroyed the possibility of bringing about a complete understanding between those nations.
– I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition showed no sympathy with the Prime Minister’s proposal, but rather ridiculed it. He said that it was a useless proposition, which was nullified by the trade diversion policy put into effect some months previously. The proposal was that an effort should be made ‘ by the countries bordering the Pacific to ‘ bring about an understanding by which they might live in peace and amity. That is a policy which, I am sure, everybody should applaud and which created widespread interest at the Imperial Conference and throughout the world. The Prime Minister had many interesting and sympathetic discussions with the representatives of the countries which are our neighbours in the Pacific. It was at least a gesture on the part of Australia as to its general attitude to those countries. The proposal should have been appreciated and dealt with in more graceful terms than were used by the Leader of the Opposition, particularly having regard to the views held by his party.
The honorable member might have been more explicit on the subject of our trade relations. Why did he not say whether he stood on the side of the Japanese or on the side of the Government, seeing that the sole object of the trade diversion policy was to preserve some place in the markets of this country for certain British goods? The honorable member must be either in favour of that policy or against it. He cannot sit on the fence. If he does not support the Government in its object in this regard, he takes the side of Japan.
– Of course, the Minister has had to withdraw these stupid assertions, time after time.
– I never have withdrawn and shall not withdraw what I have said, because I have made a perfectly fair deduction from the honorable member’s remarks. The honorable gentleman can not be on two sides at the same time. The proposal for a Pacific Pact was a noble gesture on the part* of the Prime Minister, and it was received with considerable satisfaction in Great Britain, and by many of the interested countries.
I have endeavoured in a moderate way to point out the absence from the Labour party’s defence policy of any expressed desire to co-operate with Great Britain or the other dominions. The policy which the Leader of the Opposition offers to the Australian people is one of isolation and entire self-reliance. Alternatively, the Australian Trade Union Congress favours support of collective security through the League of Nations, but it does not endorse the present Empire and Australian defence policies. I feel sure that the people of Australia will speak with no uncertain voice on any policy the implications of which are that they should forsake the bulwark of the strength of the Empire in such disturbed times as these.
.- I had no intention, when the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) was speaking this afternoon, to address myself to this motion to-night; I thought that I might offer a few suggestions at a later stage; but, having listened to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and later to the Minister for Defence, I am more than ever convinced that there is no justification whatever for my trespassing al any considerable length upon the time of the Parliament. There is a well-known Latin maxim, with which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), being a lawyer, will be quite familiar.
– In English.
– I shall give both versions, The maxim runs - “ Ex nihile nihil fit “.
– I expect nothing from the honorable member.
– The English version is, “ Out of nothing, nothing comes “ ; therefore, there is little justification for a speech at length upon the frothy utterances of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence regarding the Imperial Conference. All this mixture of highfalutin and fine frenzy - the latter being supplied by the Minister for Defence - arises from the fact that a most expensive and elaborate equipage was sent to the other side of the world to attend the conference, and nothing came out of it to justify the time devoted to it.
In a state of fine frenzy the Minister for Defence condemned the Opposition for its lack of loyalty to the British Empire, its failure to visualize the necessity to co-operate with the Mother country for the defence of Australia, its inherent selfishness in confining its defence policy to this country in which we were born and where we are responsible for the maintenance -of peace and the well-being of the lives of the people, and particularly the working class we represent, who, unfortunately, are used by the capitalists as gun-fodder in time of war. The complaint of the Minister for Defence, is that we devote too much time to this country, and too little to interests abroad. Is this not an Australian Parliament? Does not the Minister for Defence represent Australian constituents? Will all this fine talk assist him when he is struggling for his political existence in Warringah against the tide of opposition now rising against him? What are his prospects when he tells the people of Warringah that, although he has not done anything for Australia, he has, at least, worthily upheld Warringah in the councils of the great on the other side of the world ? When I heard the Prime Minister, the first Government expert to speak on this motion, I thought that I must have been listening to a major general, only the uniform was lacking. When the Minister for Defence spoke, I realized at once that the only adornment he needed to complete the picture of a naval expert was an admiral’s hat.
I am led to believe that the main issue in this debate is that of defence. The Government has now made it so. It was prophesied by my distinguished leader (Mr. Curt in) some time ago, that the main issues at the forthcoming election would be imperialism and jingoism. Since Parliament re-assembled, it is perfectly obvious, that the Prime Minister and the
Minister for Defence are both living up to the respective parts assigned to them. In speaking on this motion for . the printing of a paper, which is mainly a paper about nothing, I accept the challenge to discuss with my expert friends the important subject of defence. I inform the Minister, although he may wish to evade or avoid the issue, that when I speak in an Australian parliament on defence, I speak primarily and mainly for the Australian people about the defence of Australia. Does the Minister quarrel with that statement?
– No, because every one believes in it.
– -Why does not the Minister make a similar declaration?
– I have.
– If I understand the position aright, the British Commonwealth of Nations consists of Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland - subject to some qualifications - and Newfoundland, also subject to some qualifications. Australia is not the least important member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. May I suggest to the Minister for Defence, who has attacked us with such would-be severity aboutour disloyalty to the Empire, that our first duty as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations is to maintain to the utmost of our ability the peace and defence of Australia. From the viewpoint of the corporate existence of the Commonwealth of Nations as a united body of nations, which I not only admit, but also affirm them to be, a substantial contribution to the safety of the whole will be to succeed in a salutary way in maintaining the safety and defence of each part of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– I am glad that by a process of gradual graduality, I am converting the Minister to my viewpoint. It is many years since a great citizen in the State of Victoria, George Higinbotham, first a member of the Legislative Assembly, and later Chief Justice in that State, moved some very interesting and cogent resolutions in the Victorian House of Assembly concerning the right, duty and obligation of the colony in respect of its self-government. On another occasion and in a different connexion altogether, I intend to refer to these resolutions in perhaps greater detail, but I take this opportunity to cite them in respect of defence. One of the resolutions read -
That the people of Victoria, possessing by law the right of self-government, desire that this colony should remain an integral portion of the British Empire, and this House acknowledges on behalf of its constituents, the obligation to provide for the defence of the shores of Victoria against foreign invasion, by means furnished at the sole cost, and retained within the exclusive control, of the people of Victoria.
In the course of his speech he cited, some observations made by Mr. Gladstone in these terms -
No community which is not primarily charged with the ordinary business of its own defence is really, or can be in the full sense of the word, a free community. The privileges of freedom and the burthens of freedom are absolutely associated together. To bear the burden is as necessary as to enjoy the privilege, in order to form that character which is the great ornament of all freedom itself.
He added this significant expression -
I should like to see the state of feeling restored to the colonies which induced the first American colonists, when they revolted., to make it one of their grievances that British troops were kept in their borders without their consent.
I have made those quotations because it was my privilege to hear to-day a speech in which a proposal was made to put a crown upon Australian nationhood. A nation which claims to be an independent nation amongst nations, which has duties and obligations similar to those of the greatest of nations, as Australia has, and is not prepared to accept the responsibility for the defence of its physical integrity and its institutions, is not worthy to be called a nation ; it is recreant to the first principles which should animate any people claiming to be members of an independent nation, I stand for that absolutely. If Australia is not prepared to defendi tself, to take the risks incidental . thereto, it has no right to regard itself as a nation amongst the nations of the world. Therefore, Australia does accept full responsibility for its defence. The Minister for Defence says that Australia is a free and independent nation, and yet this Grecian hero says that Australia moves, walks and has it being by the grace of the British Navy.
– He is a spineless coward.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred to some one - I think to me - as a spineless coward. I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– In case there is any doubt, I repeatit.
– I ask that the remark be withdrawn, and that the honorable member apologize.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie must withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– In deference to the Chair. I withdraw it.
– The Minister for Defence speaks with many voices, all of which are incoherent. This afternoon I heard him declare that the defence policy of the Labour party provides for the defence of Australia only. He declared that the Leader of the Opposition made no reference to co-operation. There was, he said, no talk of doing anything for other parts of the Empire. The next current of incoherent gabble was to the effect that we cannot defend ourselves, but we are living by the grace of the British Empire and the British Navy.
– So we are.
-I deny that absolutely. and in the company of much greater men than the Minister or myself. There is not one atom of proof that our national integrity has ever, for a single moment, been endangered except in so far as it has been endangered by our warlike operations beyond the confines of Australia. To that extent, and to that extent only, has it ever been endangered. But we are prepared to defend Australia. I have said, and it is quite consistent with the lines laid down by my leader, that our first line of defence is that we should not embroil ourselves in national quarrels beyond Australia. That, is our first line of defence. You may call it pacifist defence. I have been called a pacifist.Whether I am or not depends upon the meaning given to the word.. If, as I understand the word, and as it is understood between nations, it means a man who, in his small and humble way, contributes to the maintenance and promotion of goodwill among nations, I am. a pacifist; but, if it means that I have failed my brothers in this country, and that includes my sisters, by refusing in the case of an aggressive attack upon us, to defend this country, then it is as grave a slander upon me as any thathas been uttered on many occasions by honorable members opposite. I stand for the defence of this country, and 1 say that we should not be involved unnecessarily, or if it can possibly be avoided, in any international quarrel abroad. The Minister for Defence has come fresh from what I might call the councils of the great in Britain.
– Where he must have been out of place.
– I have no quarrel with him for having attended the councils of the great in Britain. I was privileged to attend them myself.
– Equally out of place!
– I was privileged to- attend there myself, and I was so far out of place that I had the honour of receiving the grateful thanks of the Lord Chancellor of England for the work I had done at the Imperial Conference for the British people. And that is my answer to those who suggest that my policy is a policy of undermining the integrity of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Minister for Defence, having come from the councils of the great, I ask him to discontinue these idle attacks upon the personal honour and integrity of members of the Opposition, and to tell us in a few well-chosen words what are our commitments in regard to Imperial defence as he sees it.
– What does it mean ?
– Yes, what does it mean? What are the commitments of Great Britain in regard to continental affairs which we are expected to support without question or inquiry if trouble starts on the other side of the world? Does the honorable gentleman know a single thing about it? Does he suggest that if a stray shot is fired in Servia, by virtue of which some decadent member of a Royal house is bowled over. Australia is to be involved in war on that account and is to send troops overseas? Does he suggest in the melange of minor nationalities in Europe that if one trespasses upon the territory of another it involves violation of national integrity and requires British intervention, and therefore requires Australia to send troops to the other side of the world to be massacred on foreign, battle-fields? Can the honorable Minister assure us that the British Government is stronger than the financial ring of millionaires which is making vast fortunes out of munitions in England and elsewhere? Can he assure us of that? Can he give us any indication that if our armies are being employed on a foreign battle-field we will not find that arms manufactured by British firms are being used against British troops?
– The same as at Gallipoli.
– Yes, just as at Gallipoli and elsewhere. Can the Minister assure us of any of these things, and can he give us any idea of the extent of our commitments when he says that his policy is a policy of co-operation? Will the honorable gentleman tell us less about co-operation, and more about decision? Who is to decide when a war begins and when a war is to end? Who is to make war and make peace? The Minister for Defence? I think not! The business of the Minister for Defence will be in a safe position behind the lines urging on his gallant cohorts to slaughter. I have heard too much that is contradictory from these military and naval experts, such as the right honorable the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Defence. I have heard them unsaying so very much of what they have so repeatedly said that I am not impressed by their elaborate schemes for the defence of Australia.
– They are not worrying. We have heard all this before.
– Neither is the Minister for Trade and Customs. This minor militarist is prepared to be batman to a general, at any moment.
– Order ! The honorable member for Batman will address the Chair.
– Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was asking what our commitments were and went on to say something about this matter of defence. I do not pose, as the Minister for Defence does, as an expert. One moment he poses as an expert, and in the next he modestly disclaims it. But any one can . see by his bearing and manner that really at heart he is an expert.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– I am speaking now of these other experts who tell us how we are to hold the enemy in Australia until the British fleet gets here. Had honorable members opposite been listening to what the right honorable the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) has had to say, they would have known that he has said properly and repeatedly that in the remote event of attack being made upon Australia we cannot depend on the British Navy for the defence of Australia; that the British Navy is no longer supreme amongst the navies of the world, or at any rate among combinations of the navies. “We cannot rely upon the British Navy upon which, as the Minister for Trade and Customs is quite right in saying, I have previously pointed out will in such an event be engaged elsewhere. The British Navy will be . urgently engaged much nearer home than Australia. Not knowing much about technical matters I still know that a fleet of bomb-equipped aircraft can operate from say 30 miles outside one of the capitals. I have been given reason to believe that. The Minister for Defence tells us nothing about poison gas masks, nothing about the wholesale murder of women and children which will result from modern war. He does not tell us that a fleet of vessels conveying bombing aeroplanes could anchor outside Sydney Harbour or Port Phillip Heads and destroy, as they could, half the people of Sydney or Melbourne as they could destroy half the people of London, Paris or Berlin. They could destroy half the civil population bef ore the people knew that war was upon them. He does not tell us about these things because he does not like to advertise too widely the fact that part of his policy is harnessing the people of this country with gas masks to protect them from these assaults.
I may have said before, and I say it now in conclusion, that the truth is that capitalism in its wars of loot, rapine and aggression - and I speak of all countries, irrespective of nationality, pursuing that policy - has over-reached itself in its lust for gold and conquest and its greed for new territories and aggrandizement. It has over-reached itself and come to this final condition, that the means of destroying people in this world have outdistanced methods of defence. The whole dreadful truth to-day is that no country is safe. Nor can it make itself safe against aggression by another country. Any capital city is liable to attack and destruction, and this foolish policy of this foolish Minister is perfectly impotent to safeguard the people, at least of our major cities, against the vileness ofthose classes of attack by methods of poisonous destruction such as I have indicated. Because of that, presupposing an unprovoked attack by one nation upon another by means of war in the air, I have very little faith in the efficacy of any theoretic policy of armed defence in any country to save the civil population from practical anihilation and partial destruction. That brings me back to the fact that my main arm in defence is to stifle and muzzle the war makers wherever they are ; to root out the profiteers wherever they can be found; to put this . country and every other country under the government of dispassionate honest men bent, not on waging war, but on maintaining peace. How long did Great Britain itself persevere with a policy of disarmament as compared with its centuries-old policy of ambitious warfare and annexation ? Great Britain was scarcely engaged in the business of disarmament for five minutes, comparatively speaking, when it threw up that policy and abandoned disarmament. However, when it comes to a matter of attack by force of arms, by throwing the working classes into the fight, by destroying the blood and brawn and brain, yea, the very soul of the country, then we are all boys of the bulldog breed and the agelong policy of competition in arms is resumed. We never give up the fight so long as there are left any members of the working classes to throw into the cauldron, so that the profits of the profiteers may live, though civilization and humanity die.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We have listened to- a rather impassioned address by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) who, once or twice a year, seems to become enthusiastic on this subject, but I do not think that we have heard much that can be regarded as a contribution to the discussion now engaging the attention of the House, namely, the report of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) dealing with tho results of the recent Imperial Conference. Since the Prime Minister spoke, we have had the benefit of a fine address by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr: Curtin). He addressed himself to the subject, as he usually does, with fer>vour and a considerable amount of ability, but I was not able to follow bini through the rather awkward windings of policy in which his party is engaged at present. It is, I think, very necessary that the electorate should know where the Labour party is heading to-day, and from whence it has come, in regard to this subject of defence, imperial relations and foreign relations. The honorable gentleman had something to say about an unfortunate act of the present Government last year. “Well, we can let that pass. It stands to reason that our defence policy must necessarily be based on world conditions, a.nd. we must take stock of our relations with foreign powers, and with that aggregation of countries described variously as the British Empire, or the British Commonwealth of Nations, according to the political opinions of the person concerned.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister were in .complete agreement on one point, namely, the failure of the League of Nations to deliver that elusive quantity known as collective security. I have no apologies to make in this regard. I have never been a supporter of the League of Nations. I have always thought of it as a tremendous fraud foisted upon trusting humanity at a time when humanity was particularly susceptible to frauds of this kind. In view of the statement of the Prime Minister, supported by the Leader of the Opposition, we must now ask ourselves whether we are prepared to continue to support an institution which costs us £65,000 a year in cash, besides committing us to certain indefinable and unlimited responsibilities,, the extent of which can-not be known until a crisis develops. A country like Australia is not capable, in view of its population, its wealth, or its armaments, of being classed as an aggressor, though I admit it is difficult to define an aggressor.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the necessity for pursuing a policy of peace. I confess that I do not know what a policy of peace is. My idea is that peace is a state of affairs which is the result of pursuing a certain policy. Peace in itself is not a policy; it is simply a result, and it is towards the achievement of that result that members of this Parliament must direct their attention.
We have listened to a great deal regarding what the Government is spending on defence compared with what is being spent, by other parts of the Empire. The Leader of the Opposition addressed himself particularly to the subject of expenditure on naval defence, and he referred to Canada’s expenditure on this arm. We must recognize,, however, that Canada occupies a particularly favorable position. It is protected by the Monroe Doctrine, which has been a cardinal principle of the policy, of the United States of America for more than 100 years, and is enforced by the second largest navy in the world. As to its land frontiers, it. must be admitted that no other country in the Empire is bettor able to do without an army than is Canada, and the -same thing applies to its air force. Moreover, Canada’s line of sea communication with Great Britain is shorter than that of any of the other dominions, with the possible exception of Newfoundland, which, for military purposes, may be regarded as part of Canada. The Leader of the Opposition said that the policy of Australia should be to look after itself. He was not prepared to commit Australia to assist any other part of the Empire until a referendum of the people had been held, and they had agreed to such action.
It stands to reason that if Canada also adopted that policy - and I presume the Leader of the Opposition agrees that it would be entitled to do so - it would, by reason of the protection it enjoys under the Monroe Doctrine, be in a relatively better position than any of the other dominions, and its defence bill would be correspondingly lighter.
I turn now to the Irish Free State, which may be described as sheltering behind the petticoats of Great Britain. We must recognize that the Irish Free State could not be attacked by a foreign power unless the British Air Force and Navy were prepared to stand by and allow it to happen, and, for well-known reasons, that would not be done. If by any chance it were done, the honorable member for Batman would have the first real grievance against Great Britain that he has ever had, and his eloquence in denunciation of Great Britain would surpass anything we have heard from him up to the present.
– I have no grievance against Great Britain, which has set this Government an example it well might follow.
– We have now to consider the position of South Africa. By sea, South Africa is much closer to Great Britain than Australia is, and, like Canada, it has only one sea route to keep ‘ open. Australia and New Zealand, however, are not so fortunately situated. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out Australia has a population of only a little more than 6,000,000 people in a continent of 3,000,000 square miles, and if he had his way we should be charged with the sole responsibility of defending this country against raids or invasion. The honorable gentleman made much of the fact that Australia has spent more on naval defence than any of the other dominions, but it would be well to compare our means of communication with Great Britain with those of the other dominions. ‘ First, there is the Suez Canal route, which is now threatened by the fortifications established in close proximity to the fortress of Perim in the Red Sea. Trade in the Red Sea itself, which stretches for 1,400 miles between the coasts of Arabia and Africa, could be attacked from either side. In the Mediterranean there are two bottlenecks, One at Malta, and the other at Gibraltar. An alternative route is through the Panama Canal, but to reach it our ships have to traverse the open sea from here to Panama, a sea controlled by the navy of a power which, significantly, does not declare war when it commences military operations. What would have been regarded as a state of war in the much maligned days before the advent of the League of Nations, is now, apparently, a state of. peace and amity between two great powers.
– Unless a highly organized navy were in our immediate vicinity we could not possibly receive assistance from it in time in the event of attack. We should still have to defend ourselves.
– Nations do not employ cruisers to raid commerce.; they use armed merchantmen. The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a document regarding the operations of the Wolfe and the Emden against our commerce during the last war. The Wolfe was a converted merchantman, and was quite effective as a raider. A third route between Australia and Great Britain is around Cape Horn, and there, also, there is a bottleneck to pass through. The fourth route is via Capetown. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Union of South Africa was not maintaining a great naval force, but, as the Minisfor Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) pointed out, it is doing something towards the development of a naval base at Simonstown, and this base will be of groat value to Australia. Everything I have said with regard to Australia applies also to New Zealand, except that the seaborne trade of that country is not so great as ours. We have a greater coastline, a greater population, and greater national wealth. In this regard we find ourselves confronted with an interesting feature of the doctrine enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition. According to his statement to-day, if anything untoward were to happen in New Zealand, less than 1,400 miles away, he would not be prepared to render military aid. He would insist upon consulting the people by referendum before sending’ a ship or an aeroplane or a man to the assistance of the sister dominion. I put it to the honorable gentleman that such a statement, with the conclusions to be drawn from it, will be condemned and damned from one end of Australia to the other, as it well deserves to be. The honorable member cannot justify that statement. He dare not go on the public platform in the coming election campaign and tell the people of this country that, in time of trouble, Australia will not render any assistance to the sister dominion of New Zealand; that it will never allow its ships to he used for the transport of troops to* defend our possessions in the north. If the honorable member and his friends dared to enunciate such a policy they would be swept aside, and their party deservedly eliminated from the political map.
– The honorable member employs that argument to justify the sending of Australian soldiers to defend France or Serbia.
– On that point I cannot do better than quote from the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition last year - a speech, by the way, which, although made by him, was not his own; nor did he understand it, as I am sure he does not now understand the implications of what he said this evening. On that occasion he said that the fate of the British colonies in time of war would be decided, not in the colonies themselves, but in the main theatre of war. The Leader of the Opposition cannot evade the implications of that speech, and I am sure that something more will be said about it before the close of the present session.
– Australia is not a colony, anyway.
-I am well aware of that, but in the eyes of the people of other countries the dominions are dependent colonies of the United Kingdom. There is nothing new in this thought. I refer the honorable gentleman to the history of Carthage, of the Greek settlements in the Mediterranean, the Spanish settlements in America, and the Dutch settlements in the East Indies. If he requires further proof, let’ him study the press of France, Germany, Italy, or Japan, and see whether, in their opinion,
Australia is regarded as a self-governing dominion solely responsible for its relations with other countries. In their eyes the dominions are colonies of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and will continue to be so regarded if Great Britain and Ireland happen to get into awkward difficulties as the result of a major defeat of the British Navy.
– The honorable member would not be too sweet in Ireland if he went there.
– I am not so sure about that. Some of my forebears visited Ireland, and probably I shall visit that country some day. But I am digressing. My intention is to examine the policy of the Leader of- the Opposition, and that of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, with regard to war. The honorable gentleman is the (latest addition to the authors’ society in this House. Quite recently he wrote a book, and, I may say in passing, that I have been at my wits’ end to secure a copy of it, because I wish to read it.
– I have one, and will lend it to the honorable member.
-I thank the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) for his kind offer. I was under the impression that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) had exercised his powers of censorship, and that, as a consequence, the book was not available. I find that I was mistaken, and that after all I shall have the pleasure of reading this interesting publication. I recall reading somewhere of a distinguished literary personage, of whom it was said, that he enjoyed an advantage in that some one else had written on the same subject before him. I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition is in the contrary position; he is at a disadvantage in that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has made a later pronouncement on these vital issues, which the honorable gentleman has discussed in his book. That is his present difficulty. Recently, as honorable members will recall, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions debated at great length, and with some acidity, the subject of Australia’s attitude towards war and defence. It carried four resolutions. Summarized, they were -
I may interpolate here that if we, as a sovereign people, accepted this resolution, we should be poking our noses into the affairs of another completely sovereign and independentpower.
I confess that occasionally in my leisure moments, I have given some attention, to the solution of puzzles and conundrums, but try as I will, I cannot piece together the different pieces of the puzzle represented by the four resolutions of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions on this important subject, and the pronouncements of other acknowledged Labour leaders.
– Give it up; it is quite beyond the honorable member.
– On a date subsequent to that on which the Australasian Council of Trade Unions adopted these resolutions there was an interesting development in South Australia where a gentleman of some influence inside the Labour movement had the courage to prefer charges against a selected Labour candidate for the Senate. The burden of his comment, summed up, appeared to be, “ The working class is ahead of its leaders “. That may explain one or two things which followed.
– Is not the honorable member ahead of his leader?
– I should be if I happened to be one of the followers of the honorable member for Batman. On the 26 th July of this year, a Mr. King, in Sydney, declared that the workers of Australia must be prepared to assist in overseas wars against fascism. That statement was entirely contrary to the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition. But on the following day, Mr. Graves, another well-known Labour leader in Sydney, declared on behalf of
Labour that ‘ there must be no foreign entanglements, that Communists were attempting to embroil Australia in war, and that the choice was between collective security through the League of Nations, which was supported by the Communists, and isolation and neutrality, the policy supported by the Labour party. In the Adelaide Advertiser of the 30th July, the Leader of the Opposition was reported to have declared that no Labour candidate would be endorsed unless he unreservedly supported the resolutions of the Adelaide Conference held in 1936. I admit that the newspapers do sometimes make mistakes. For example, in recent months they published so many extraordinary stories about the number of Italian and other foreign troops in Spain that I was inclined to . believe that if Pontius Pilate were alive to-day, and were persuaded that there was such a thing as truth, he would not expect to find it in the newspapers. On. the same date, it should be noted, the resolutions of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions on war, the 40-hour week, and nonintervention in Spain, were adopted by the Adelaide Trades and Labour Council. Thus, an interesting position arises as the result of two distinct declarations of policy. Indeed, I am not sure that there have not been more than two. We have all read of the hydra monster with many heads. I am inclined to think that the political, organizations supported by our friends opposite have as many heads as that mythical monster and that they speak with as many voices.
I am sorry that the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) is, for the moment, absent from the chamber, because I wished to inform him of an interesting episode in this chamber during his absence abroad. Many honorable members on this side will remember that when we were assembled here a few months ago some of our friends opposite good-naturedly offered varying sums for options on. the seats occupied by Government supporters. They are not quite so confident to-day. Indeed, I doubt if any member of the Opposition would’ be prepared to offer even a couple of shillings for his chance to occupy any of the seats on this side of the chamber. Were the Minister for Defence present I could also tell him how, on one occasion, our friends of the Opposition, in the absence of their Leader, who so obligingly left them alone in their glory, during an allnight sitting, employed those obstructive methods, with which they are so familiar, to such purpose that they reminded one of a political foreign legion and became, for the time being, as the Arabs would say, “the forgotten of God”. On the 7th of August, according to the Adelaide Advertiser, Messrs. Crofts and Monks, in Melbourne, declared that the policy of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was similar to that of the Council foi- Action against “War and Fascism !
The defence of Australia should be above party politics. That is my firm conviction; but, listening to the speeches of our friends in Opposition to-day, I was led to the conclusion that, in their view at all events, it was something upon which votes could be won. My attitude to defence is not likely to win votes for me. I have always declared it to be the duty of every able-bodied man to be prepared to defend, his country whenever it was attacked. Our friends in Opposition apparently take the contrary view; but they do support the system of compulsory enrolment of electors, of compulsory voting, compulsory payment of taxes, and compulsory membership of trade unions.
– The honorable member is supplying us with good stuff for the elections!
– I am not concerned about the honorable member’s opinion, and, unlike the honorable member for Batman, I shall not attempt to embarrass him by quoting Latin maxims. However, I do remember an old Latin proverb which declares that one should say nothing but good of the dead; so I merely say of the honorable member for East Sydney that in due time his biographer will have an exceedingly easy task.
The defence of Australia is a problem that must be handled with courage. It is quite evident, from their speeches on this subject last year and again to-day, that- it will not be faced in this spirit by honorable members opposite. The position will not be met unless we areprepared to face facts.
I pass now to another statement madeby the honorable member for Batman.. It the honorable gentleman ever browsesover his utterances of past years, I referhim in particular to his speech made in November last on the subject of defence. The honorable gentleman stated that there was no necessity to have anything; in the way of a defence policy. He was absolutely opposed to it.
– Can the honorablegentleman quote my words?
– Yes ; I can give yards of them. For example,, the honorable member stated -
I cannot even discover any military expert, who is prepared to say that- the invasion of Australia would be a practicable proposition even if it wore desired. Nor can 1 lind anybody to say that, even if. Australia wereinvaded by an army, which so far has been not seen but imagined, such an army could continue in occupation of this country. If, however, such an invasion did take place, if we could imagine a foreign army located in Australia., we should be dependent for our defence, not upon the Navy . . .
I understand that he is now supporting the naval policy propounded by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. He continued - but upon our land forces - such an army . . .
– The honorable gentleman stated that the Leader of the Opposition has no naval defence policy.
– No; the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) will have to deal with my countryman McPhee very differently from that. He will find that the McPhees are a. very tough lot. The honorable member for Batman continued - such an army as that constructed in broad outline in the very excellent speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin)
That speech, which, by the way, I can quote to the honorable member word for word, came from another document about which many of us know the facts. It is clear that the Opposition has no policy in respect of defence; on this subject it is a divided force. I cannot imagine anything in the way of unity in politics on the Opposition side of the House if this country should be so unfortunate as to
The Leader of the Opposition was good enough to tell the House this afternoon of the manner in which we could save expense by placing our reliance upon an air force. This fetish of the air force is one of the most cruel things ever put across humanity. The idea that aircraft are going to fight the next war is absolutely wrong. Aircraft will undoubtedly play a big part; but their principal duty will be to obtain information. The defensive capacity of aircraft, on account of the heights at which the machines can fly, is very uncertain; it is so easy for them to evade one another. Their limited capacity for hitting targets by bombing has been proven in Shanghai quite recently, where the poor old Chinaman, in trying to hit a Japanese warship, bombed the International Settlement. That is not the only occasion on which that has occurred; if we required any lesson on the futility of aircraft as the means of arriving at a quick decision in wai-, we can obtain it in Spain to-day, where at Least four European powers are fighting each other by proxy with some of the best aircraft and the best armoured vehicles that science can produce; yet, during the last few months, there has been a stalemate in the war in that rather unfortunate country. When it comes to placing reliance for the defence of our country entirely on. aircraft, I doubt whether the Opposition has given consideration to the fact that aircraft become obsolete even more quickly than units of the fleet. To-day flying machines are obsolete almost before they have taken to the air. The factor of personnel has also to be considered. The Labour party, whilst some of its members may be enthusiastic about defence measures, is most averse to having men trained to the use of arms; but have honorable members ever asked the Government for any statement setting out the number of men required on the ground to keep even one fighting aircraft aloft? Have they ever considered the fact that the number of casualties in the air, in regard to both personnel and machines, is greater than those in any other branch of the fighting forces? Have they ever considered the subject of repairs and replacements,
Conference, 1937. 125
– What did the poor old aborigines have to do with it?
– Theaborigines did nothing. Their country was taken from them by the people of whom we are the descendants. I make noexcuses for them. Humans, it has been said, are a predatory race, and peoplewill accept the principle that what was good enough for our forefathers, when it came to the occupation of Australia,. [25 August, 1937.] should be equally good for the descendants of other people who were not so advanced, and had not the fleets, enterprise, and knowledge of the world that our British forebears then possessed. If they find themselves cramped for space and desire economic outlets, they will not be satisfied with a little homily from us on. the. subject of territorial integrity. Nor can honorable gentlemen get away with the other point raised by the honor.orable member for Batman . that Great Britain only pursued a policy of disarmament for relatively about five minutes in its history over a period of several hundred years. The greatest tragedy of the post-war period was that not one country in Europe or Asia was prepared to follow the example of disarmament, which Great Britain gave to the rest of the world.
– The Soviet offered total disarmament.
– It did not make that offer in any sincerity, and to-day the Soviet is the most highly armed country in the world. I shall not say that no good can come out of Samaria, but devilish little good has yet come out of Moscow. The Soviet armies to-day are ranged along Europe’ and Asia from the borders of Poland to the borders of Manchuria; the greatest collection of man power ever brought together in the history of the world, is assembled under the banner of the Hammer and the Sickle.
– To watch Japan!
-I am not excusing Japan. The honorable gentleman probably is friendly towards Russia. “We have to face the facts. At the termination of the last war Great Britain, with its dominions, was one of the greatest military powers on the face of the earth. What is its position now? What forces can Great Britain muster in the United Kingdom to-day? Its establishment of about 130,000 troops is some 30,000 below strength. What is the position of the army in India ? For the last twelve years it has been below strength. What is our own position? The Prime Minister stated last night that our home defence policy was based on a nucleus of seven divisions. But if we were to assemble all of the men in the citizen forces to-day, we could not muster one composite division. Our system of military training might look nice on paper, but it is not giving us results.
– Is the honorable member in favour of conscription?
– I am in favour of compulsory military training. I have always been in favour of that policy, and when my electorate expresses opposition to it, I shall be perfectly willing to retire. The honorable member for Denison is at liberty to nominate against me the Secretary of the Council for action Against War and Fascism, as was suggested in last Saturday’s issue of the Adelaide Advertiser, and we shall fight it out.
– That gentleman is a friend of the Prime Minister.
– And he said, “ Yours for unity “.
– The facts that I have mentioned should not be overlooked by honorable members. It is not fair or true for honorable members to say that Great Britain has not done something definite towards securing peace in Europe, and in the world generally, during the last twenty years. If there had been a powerful and effective British navy two years ago, the world’s history in the interim would have been different ; for instance, there would have been no Abyssinian incident. It was simply because British diplomacy lacked the backing of naval power that Great Britain was not able to impose peace in north-eastern Africa; probably the same is equally true in regard to the Spanish affair.
I leave it at that. The defence policy is one of the most important matters which this House has to decide, and honorable gentlemen can rest assured that so long as I remain a member of this chamber and am spared to contest a seat in South Australia, certain statements which they make here on defence, on Imperial relations, and on internal affairs as related to defence, will not go unchallenged by me.
.- Any discussion of a defence policy must cause intense pain to all who. participate in it, because the promulgation and discussion of a defence policy for any country are an admission of the bankruptcy of all the attempts that have been made to achieve world peace. The discussion that has taken place at the Imperial Conference is, therefore, an admission that whatever has been done up to date by Britain and the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations for world peace has failed. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to Great Britain’s attempts at disarmament. In this connexion I quote the words of the Right Honorable Neville Chamberlain -
No one doubts the sincerity of any of us when we declare, as we do in the report of our proceedings, that never will our forces be used for aggression or for any purpose which is inconsistent with the Covenant of the League.
To my mind, all this talk about Britain’s attempt at disarmament and Britain’s disclaimers of aggressive motives or objects are based upon a fundamental fallacy; it is impossible to get world peace to-day while there are in the world imperialist nations, divided into two classes - those which have enough of the world’s surface, and those which feel that they, have not enough of it - and when in particular the greatest of those imperialist nations is pursuing the policy of a closed empire, being not content with controlling an enormous part of the world’s surface, but attempting also to monopolize that in the interests of its own people and the British Commonwealth of Nations generally. It seems to me that, until the people of the British Commonwealth of Nations make a real effort to break down that policy of monopoly, it cannot be said that they are making any sincere gesture of peace. So long as we have the world organized as it is to-day, with some nations pacifist-minded because they already have as much as they could hope to secure under any scheme of distribution, and others militarist-minded because they think they have much less than they ought to have, there cannot be any hope for peace. The policy that is being pursued by the people of Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations is one for the control of the destinies of races six times as numerous as themselves, and the territories of those races, primarily in the interests of the people of Great Britain and its Dominions. It seems to me that until Australia as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, is prepared to take a part in changing; that policy and in trying to influence the other members of the commonwealth also to take a part, we shall not be doing anything for peace. It is impossible for other nations to decide whether the rearmament of” Great Britain and the proposed rearmament of the Dominions is purely for defence purposes or is designed merely to maintain this monopoly which Great Britain and the members of the British Commonwealth, of -Nations now have of so much of the world. I have always believed, and I believe to-day, in the creation of a supra-national authority which would hold the undeveloped territories of the world under two trusts. The first thing to be considered should be the interests of the non-adult peoples who live in them, and the second, that all nations shall have access on equal terms to the raw material of which those territories are the storehouses. Until such a policy is adopted, I do not believe that in this capitalist world any approach to universal peace is possible. The duty of Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations is to take the initiative in such a movement, and, until they are prepared to do so they will not be able to persuade other nations that they are arming merely to defend their own territories. The purpose of British armament is not merely to defend British territories against invasion, but to maintain the hold which Great Britain has on so much of the world.
Mr.White. - And to help the weaker countries.
– I have not seen much evidence of Great Britain’s willingness to help weaker countries. It is a fallacy to assume that the people of Great Britain would be prepared to go outside their own. country to defend weaker countries. I believe they can be induced to defend their own country and possibly - I am somewhat doubtful of this - Australia. I cannot expect dispeople of Great Britain or any other country to engage in a war for the purpose of defending other countries. I believe that the policy of rearmament, so eloquently advocated, is really dictated by the feeling that unless Great Britain rearms it cannot maintain its monopoly or closed Empire control of that portion of the world which it now controls. Great Britain should abandon the policy of monopoly, and Australia should abandon its participation in that policy. The alternative to that is a struggle between the nations of the world.
– Bring the matter down to a practical basis. What would the honorable member do with Australia ?
– I consider that very little of Australia could be given away, but Australia is a self-governing nation. 1 would not be in favour of giving a part of Australia away, any more than I would ask the British people to give away a part of Great Britain or the Irish people to give away a part of Ireland.
– What would the’ honorable member give away?
– I would not give away anything. But I would no longer treat as the monopoly of any one nation those territories of the world which are inhabited by non-adult peoples who cannot govern themselves. I would make those territories accessible to all nations on equal terms. I would make the protection and development of their inhabitants the first care of an international authority. Until the nations of the world, and pre-eminently Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations, are prepared to adopt that policy, there can be no prospect of peace in the world. I can see no prospect of security for any nation by the adoption of a policy of defence. No matter what preparation a nation may make- for its own defence it cannot ensure that defence. As Clausewitz has said, war is preeminently the province of chance. No policy tha.t we may adopt can ensure our defence and our existence, whether it he an isolationist policy or one of imperialist co-operation. The advantage which a policy of isolationist preparation has over one of imperialist co-operation is simply this, that if you are prepared not to fight outside your own shores you cannot be a participant in a war of aggression. If all nations were to adopt that as a rule of conduct, there would be no war. That i3 the big argument in favour of the policy propounded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). It is a guarantee to the rest of the world that Australia has no hostile intentions towards them; that it will not take part in wars of aggression upon them but will confine itself to the defence of its own territory, and that it invites the rest of the world also to adopt such a policy. What I have said has probably been distasteful to some honorable members; I do not wonder at that. But we have to remember that we in Australasia are in a peculiar position in this gathering of nations that we call the British Empire. We are the only people of whom practically all are. descended from the people of the British Isles. We have had no differences with Great Britain. In a period of 60 years the people of South Africa have twice been at war with Great Britain. The people of Canada are largely non-British, and even the British people of that dominion had to struggle for that self-government which Australia obtained so easily as a gift from Great Britain. The people of Canada had to rebel to obtain it. Very few persons .remember that the grandfather of the present Prime Minister of Canada took up arms in the cause of Canadian liberty, and was condemned and punished for his participation in that struggle. We iri Australia see .the best aspects of the British Commonwealth >f Nations and the British Empire. We have to remember that that face of benevolence which is turned to us is not turned to everybody. I believe that the best intersts of the world, and of the British people particularly, would be protected, developed and conserved by divesting the British Commonwealth of Nations of its monopoly control of so much of the world.
– That applies to Australia, surely?
– No. . I regard Australians as a self-governing people. I refer to the non-adult communities of the world which have not been admitted to self-government, and apparently cannot be admitted. About six-sevenths of the British Empire consists of peoples who have not yet been thought fit to have selfgovernment. Those people should not be controlled by one nation. What I say about the British Empire is true also of the French, Dutch, Portuguese and American Empires. The greatest of the imperialist nations should take the lead in this matter. I believe in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and consider that great injury would be done to Australia if it were dissolved. We live a freer and happier life as a member of it, in association with other members, than we would if we were separated from it. I am not in favour of Australian independence. I believe in free co-operation with the other British races. But I should not expect them to come to the aid of Australia if it were attacked. I do not think that it is likely that Great Britain would do so, because such an attack would be made only when the Mother Country was fighting for its own existence, and at such a time all its forces would be massed where they were most needed, for the protection of the heart of the Empire. From the viewpoint of defence, the best policy for Australia is that enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition. Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, should leave no stone unturned, and no effort, however tiring, unexpended, to bring about collective security, by the constitution of some supra-national authority which would take over the control of the undeveloped territories of the world. We need not wait for the constitution of such an authority, because, if Great Britain were to take the initiative in placing its territories under international control, it would be supported by other empires: - probably the colonial empires of France, Portugal, and Holland would also be put into the pool. The world has reached such a position that we believe that Great Britain and its dominions are about to bc assailed by other, nations. In my opinion, no nation i3 anxious for war. Other nations may, however, conceive that necessity is driving them to war. I do not believe that even fascist countries desire war. In my view, neither Hitler nor
Mussolini desires a great war, although both probably feel that war is a necessity to which their countries may be driven by their material needs. It seems to me that those dictatorships have everything to gain from peace and everything to lose by war. Let us suppose that either Italy or Germany were to engage in war, and it resulted .in their severe defeat. That would mean the speedy end of the dictators. But suppose that they emerged victorious. That would not mean that the peace-time dictators would last. The war would throw up new men to take their place. The history of the American Civil War shows how McLellan, gross failure as he was, very nearly went to becoming the President and taking the place of Lincoln, simply because he was a soldier and Lincoln had only civilian achievements to his record.
I feel that the needs of some nations for raw materials may impel them to war. War is a tremendous danger in the world to-day. A defence policy is the only policy for people who have despaired of world peace and collective security. I believe that a country should be prepared to defend itself against aggression. I think that the pacifist attitude can be adopted only by individuals. It cannot be adopted by nations which in a capitalistic and imperialistic world are always open to attack. An individual may say “ I will not bear arms; I will not take any part in a war, and I will accept whatever penalty may come to me as the result of that action.” But nations cannot adopt that attitude. They must be prepared to defend themselves against possible aggression. Because of that, the first interest of every nation to-day should be to do its utmost to bring about peace by international action.
– Has the honorable member reversed the attitude he adopted at the peace rally?
– No. It appears that I must reply to the misleading remarks of the Minister; be seems to be the loblolly boy of the Government and is always called upon to make disparaging remarks about other persons which his colleagues will not make. What I said at the peace rally I have said to-night. I was replying to a letter of the Archbishop of Melbourne in which it was stated that the re-armament of Great Britain was the best guarantee of world peace. 1 said that the British Empire was no guarantee of world peace, nor was re-armament. I also said, and I repeat now, that no national cause is worth the slaying of fellow men. I have said, and I have always believed, that if another nation invaded Australia, the Australian people should defend themselves ; but I have also held the view for many years that in no circumstances should Australians engage in overseas operations against other nations, because once people are prepared to leave their own country to light, the distinction between a war of aggression and a war of defence disappears or becomes so blurred that it cannot be said very clearly whether a war is defensive or aggressive. These are not the ideas of yesterday. I have held these views for many years. Quite early in the Great War, when I was a member of the Parliament of Victoria, I opposed the participation of members of Parliament in recruiting campaigns. I would do the same again. I would oppose the raising of a force in this country to fight overseas.
– I do not know whether the personal remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) were directed against the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) or myself, but I shall direct attention to some observations which the honorable member made in a debate quite recently in this House. He was asked what he meant by a statement that he made in the Melbourne Town Hall when he said “ No country is worth losing your life for.” His reply was -
I said that no country was a factor for international peace; that the British Empire was not a factor for international peace.
I then said that the honorable member was reported to have said more than that, and he replied -
I said that no country was .worth taking another man’s life for.
Those statements are to be found in Hansard.
– That is, in effect, what I have just said.
– I should like to know how the honorable member can reconcile those views with other statements that he has made to-night. He cannot logically do so. Apparently lie believes that Australia is not worth giving a life in its defence; or does he think that we shall be able to defend this country with rubber bayonets, rubber bombs, or pious resolutions adopted at meetings on the Yarra Bank? The honorable member has shown by his gentle reasoning to-night that he is out of touch with actualities. If a state of war exists the people of a nation must fight to repel the invader.
– That is so.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so, for he has never before made such a clear admission. If we fight, we must risk the loss of life. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to make bricks without straw. In other words, he tried to present a defence policy without having the full support of his party.
– He has the support of his party absolutely.
– It is a strange kind of solidarity! Like other honorable members, I hope that this subject will be considered as being above party Bitterness, and that all parties will unite to give effect to a defence policy appropriate to the needs of Australia in these perilous times. We are living in most dangerous days. At no period since 1914 has the world situation been worse, generally, than it is to-day. Honorable members opposite have talked about distant wars, but at this moment sanguinary fighting is taking place only, a couple of days’ flight from our shores and battles are being waged without war having been declared. In spite of these ominous facts honorable gentlemen opposite talk about passing resolutions and taking a referendum to see what should be done. Of what use would such measures be if the nation were actually being attacked? These vital matters cannot be dealt with .by reasoning of that kind, whether it be honest reasoning or sophistry.
It is well known that the honorable member for Bourke has flirted a good deal with another party, though he has denied that he is a Communist. He may not be a Communist; but he has been very close to that party. I have never heard the honorable member say a favorable word for the British Empire. He has, however, frequently lauded certain alien countries from which he seems to draw his inspiration. I think that we have much to be thankful for in that we are living within the British Empire. The honorable member holds the view that the British Empire is not a factor for international peace, but I contend that it is only because we are within the British Empire that we are able to hold this enormous continent with its present sparse population. Only the great prestige and name of Great Britain enables us to do so. The mealy-mouthed utterances of some honorable members concerning ‘the Empire and suggestions that it should give away its colonies and raw materials are to be deprecated. It will be generally admitted, I believe, that Great Britain is one of the greatest factors in the world at present for the maintenance of peace. Over a period of years the British Parliament set an example to the nations in disarmament, but unfortunately there was no response and Britain has had to rearm. In doing so it has gained the respect of the world. If it neglected to do so, its name would have sunk in the esteem of the nations, and we should ultimately have found that Australia had become the prey of others.
Honorable members opposite seem to forget that the fate of a. nation is not always decided on its own doorstep.
– It seldom is.
Mr.WHITE. - During the Great War the fate of Australia was decided on. the fields of France, Flanders and Mesopotamia.
– What about Constantinople?
-The honorable member for East Sydney was careful never to go beyond Australia. I should be sorry for any honorable members to experience the tragic effects of an invasion on the civil population of a country. In such circumstances, women and children die from starvation as the result of blockades and the bombing of cities.
– Forty-three per cent, of the children of Australia, are suffering from malnutrition to-day.
-There is no malnutrition in the honorable member’s case, nor in Australia generally comparable with the malnutrition that occurs in war areas. Not only soldiers but also civilians suffer at such times. When the honorable member for Batman was at Geneva he said, “ Australia has disarmed “, and metaphorically threw his hat into the air. This was a gesture to the League of Nations. On this subject I differ from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). He does not believe that the League of Nations was a great factor for good. I think it was. The skeleton of the League is to be found in the Treaty of Versailles. Its object was to endeavour to bring about the settlement of. international disputes by arbitration and conciliation instead of by the arbitrament of war. But, unfortunately, the United States of America, which sponsored it, did not join it; Germany withdrew from it, and Japan and Italy defied it. Honorable members opposite have said that they believe in the League of Nations.
– I did not.
– The honorable member does not believe in anything but himself. When this Government endeavoured’ to uphold the prestige of the League and apply sanctions against Italy for having invaded, an inoffensive country in defiance of the League, the honorable member . for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), alone among honorable members opposite, supported it He, at least, showed his sincerity on that occasion and I give him credit for it. But I also know that if Australia contained 7,000,000 people like himself it would not be within the British Empire to-day, for we should not have been able to send troops overseas to defend the country, as he and others did their best to prevent us from doing. If the British Empire had not taken the part that it did in the war Australia, or at any rate a. part of it, might now be a German province.
– But who applied sanctions ?
– The British Empire did. ‘
– We were the only fools who did. I was overseas and I know what went on.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman was so much at sea that he did not read the newspapers.
– What about the oil sanctions ?
– I frankly admit that sanctions were not enforced as effectively fis they should have been, but at least we showed our sincere desire to. uphold the authority of the League and to preserve its prestige. Now we have turned to a League of Nations - the British Empire. We are poor things if we cannot appreciate what membership of the British Empire means. Apparently in spite of the present state of world affairs, honorable members opposite are prepared to tell the people of this country that, if any other part of the Empire is attacked, even though it may be New Zealand, they will not raise a finger to help. All they will do is to call a meeting, possibly on the steps of Parliament’ House, or perhaps on the Yarra bank, for the purpose of passing a motion to decide whether or not a referendum shall be taken on the subject. That is a positively ridiculous proposal, as anyone will admit who has any knowledge of history.
It has been interesting to-night to hear the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Bourke testify ; but for their contributions Labour might have been favorably misunderstood. These two lawyers are the moderates of the right wing - the intelligenzia of the Labour party.
– Who said we are the moderates?
– It is not flattering to be merely the intelligenzia of the Opposition, I admit. The honorable member for Batman has never been defence-minded ; but suddenly he seems to have developed some policy. He has also infected the honorable member for Bourke, and they have both told us that they now believe in defence. Their assertion is that the Labour party believes in some sort of defence, but with all sorts of qualifications. The honor able member for Batman, in telling us that he now believes in defence, referred to the value of aircraft and their usefulness in time of war. He uttered one truism, to the effect that our own cities may be bombed. But the honorable member is labouring under the misconception that Australia can remain isolated. For some reason which has never been explained, the honorable member has a definite prejudice against Great Britain. In support of this statement I shall cite a passage from a speech which he delivered quite recently in this House. I could, of course, make references to speeches which the honorable member has delivered over a period of years, but I shall content myself on this occasion with directing attention to the following remarks of the honorable gentleman : - -
Our association with the British navy is entirely an evil one. We have gone into Chinese waters; we have sent our battlecraft there as messengers of ill-will . . . They have been emissaries of ill-will wherever they have gone.
At the present moment, these very cruisers are evacuating from the International Settlement in Shanghai, not only British nationals, but all nationals, because Britain is always looked to for help in cases of such extremity. The same navy has also just evacuated thousands of children from Bilbao and Santander and other parts of Spain. Obviously the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is biased, and when lie suddenly becomes defence-minded one has to sum him up in the company of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the other honorable members of the left wing who have no policy at all in respect of defence. One can thus realize that the Leader of the Labour party is in a very difficult position. The honorable member for Batman spoke of a. new defence policy to be inaugurated by his party, it is to be something purely Australian and probably will, appeal to the little Australian whose horizon is limited rather than to those who see in broad perspective the world in which they live. The honorable member spoke of expanding the air force. I agree that our air force should be expanded to the greatest possible extent we can afford, because aircraft can combat transports and war- ships at sea and undoubtedly form the most mobile and economic means of defence for any country.
– But the honorable member for Barker does not believe that.
– He did not say he did not believe in such a policy. As I interpret his remarks he said - and having had some experience of that arm I agree with him - that aircraft are, unfortunately, the most dreadful means of waging war. They can do frightful damage in bombing cities and centres of population, and, however effective a country’s home squadrons may be, attacking aircraft can evade them. Consequently, some cities must inevitably be bombed. With that qualification, however, I submit that a war cannot be won by aircraft alone. Every section of the military organization is necessary; the land arm is essential in Australia, as also is a fleet which can co-operate with the’ British fleet in dealing with any threat to our shores. It is - in this respect that the Singapore base is most valuable. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that the Singapore base wa.3 of no use to Australia because it did not threaten Japan. I point out to him the advantage of having a powerful force on the flank of any fleet that might attack our shores, because, without first attacking or masking Singapore,, no hostile fleet, but only raiders, would risk a descent upon Australia’s shores. Thus not only efficient aircraft, but also the maximum naval strength we ‘ can afford are essential to our defence.
Unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition intruded matters of trade in his discussion. He said that we had provoked certain nations in this respect.
– And did not the Government do so?
– In .all its trade negotiations this Government has placed Australia’s interests first and I am surprised to hear that the Leader of the Opposition does not agree with that policy. It has looked after Australia’s industries first, British interests second, and foreign interests third. It is that policy which invariably actual es the Government in respect of tariff proposals. The honorable member said that trade difficulties cause war, whilst the honorable member for Bourke contended that war is caused- by the need for raw materials and colonies. I point out that Norway and Sweden and Denmark do not possess colonies, . yet they are among the most prosperous countries of the world. It is a fallacy to say that raw materials and colonies are essential to the prosperity of any country. Every country has to pay for the raw materials it requires, and most of them can obtain their needs at world parity prices and, very .often, at prices lower than those ruling in the countries of origin. Consequently, these suggestions are largely fallacious and misleading. These matters certainly require some consideration, but such difficulties do not offer a reason why a country should ignore or abandon the most effective methods for its defence.
Honorable members should approach the problem of the defence of Australia from the experience of history. They should realize that at the present time the world is filled with wars, and rumours of wars. Instead of being sectional in dealing with this problem, the Labour party has a great opportunity to cooperate fully with the Government in evolving the best measures, not only to ensure our own defence, but also to help to maintain in security that section of the peoples of the world to which we are so proud to belong by kinship and tradition. It is a pity that the Labour party has not made a more determined and generous attempt to collaborate with the Government in this matter. I hope that it is not too late even in this, the last session of the present Parliament, for honorable members opposite to say that they believe in such collaboration in order to obtain the best results possible.
.- I have deliberately delayed my entry into this debate in the hope that at least some members of the Government would be able to state exactly which country is the enemy against which Australia should prepare to defend itself. We find this Government, which has always talked about preserving international peace, suddenly discovering Australia is in imminent danger of attack. In such circumstances, one naturally asks to be told specifically the enemy against whom Australia will be required to fight.
One very effective way of preventing wars, and one which has been used in certain countries, is for the workers themselves to co-operate in a system of collective security. The Great War was not the last conflict into which Great Britain desired to enter. In 1922, when he was Prime Minister of England, Mr. Lloyd George desired that action should be taken against the Turks, because, it was alleged, they had violated the terms of a certain agreement and, with that object in view, he made an appeal to the British dominions because he was uncertain as to whether those dominions, so soon after the sacrifices they had made in the Great War, would be prepared again to render aid. When this message was. sent to the various dominions, it received a very cold reception in certain quarters. Canada was not prepared to render any aid at all, and, at that time, even Australia, which generally in the past had always been ready to respond to such a call, was prepared to give aid only if it were absolutely necessary. On another occasion, the British imperialists desired to engage in warfare with the object of suppressing a workers’ revolution in Russia. Great Britain intervened in that outbreak. It was not the interests of the workers of Great Britain, but the interests of the British imperialists, which were involved. We found that actual warfare upon a large scale in this instance was only prevented by the refusal of the British dockers to place the necessary equipment aboard transports bound for Russia. Thereupon, the British imperialists were afraid to persist because of the danger of internal trouble arising in Great Britain, and, for that reason, and very largely because of dissatisfaction among the British troops themselves, the venture was abandoned. One method adopted by the workers of Russia in waging war is by propaganda to place before their fellow workers arrayed against them the facts of the position. In this instance, much dissatisfaction was caused by such propaganda among the British troops and for that reason the war against the Soviet workers was called off. By similar means, the workers of any land can prevent war. What will be the battle cry in the next war? I have been watching the press closely to ascertain what the Government proposes to do and what the British imperialists are likely to use as a rallying cry for the next war. On the” last occasion, it was that Belgium’s neutrality had been violated. It is an amazing fact that only the neutrality of a white man’s country can be violated. But when German, “French or British imperialists are reaching out for native races to exploit - when it is a matter of seizing the countries of black men or brown men - we hear no mention of the violation of neutrality; we are then “ taking up the white man’s burden. “ Let us examine the development of the British Empire of which we have heard so much in this debate. The British Empire, like all other- great empires, has been built up. by the use of force; iti vast wealth has been amassed by the exploitation of the workers in every part of that Empire, or “the British Commonwealth of Nations “, whichever term you like to employ. So we have to ask ourselves what cry will be coined to delude the workers into participating in the next war. Everybody recognizes that the nations of the world are preparing for war. Statements appear frequently in the press by anti-Labour politicians that on the next occasion, the war will be fought in defence of democracy. The press today is constantly drawing attention to the rapid growth of fascism, and the enormous strength of the countries adopting that form of government. We are, constantly being told that the British workers must be prepared to defend democracy. Anybody would imagine that the British . Empire is based upon democracy, and that we enjoy some rights which the capitalists regard as sacred and which they, along with the workers, are ready to defend. Whatever rights the Australian or the British worker might have will not be what the British imperialists will be wanting to defend; their concern will be the defence of the profits earned by British investments in all parts of the world. On every occasion when success has been achieved by the Fascists and
Nazis at the expense of workers’ organizations, there has been jubilation among the imperialists at the Melbourne Club and the Millions Club in Sydney, because of the victories achieved in the suppression of democracy. Suddenly these imperialists become aware of the necessity for defending democracy! When they talked about protecting the neutrality of little Belgium, what they wanted to protect was the profits of British imperialists against the serious competition of German’ imperialists. When they talk of defending democracy it will only be for the purpose of deluding the workers into defence of British imperialism against some foreign rival.
This discussion- arises out of what was termed a report of the happenings atthe Imperial Conference. While our jaunting politicians were overseas, I was watching the press closely, in .an endeavour to find out what was happening. I found this paragraph in the official organ of the United Australia party, the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 20th May last -
Diplomatic correspondent of the London Daily Telegraph.
Australia is prepared to enter into closer commitments ‘ in return for more precise assurances that plans will be drawn up for rapid movement to her aid . . . Australia, through Mr. Lyons, has come out for a unified Empire policy. It is doubtful whether any other dominion could go so far because of internal public opinion.
Yet the Prime Minister told us here, when presenting his report, that every other section of the British Commonwealth of Nations was as enthusiastic as the representative of Australia about the necessity for a unified Empire policy. As a matter of fact, I believe that in the interests of Australia and its citizens .there could be nothing more damaging than what they term a unified empire policy. When the various European nations agreed to what was called the Locarno Pact the British dominions were deliberately left out of the arrangement, because at that time the fact was known that public opinion in the dominions was not ready to share responsibility for ‘ any commitments which -Britain might enter .into in regard to the maintenance . of various European frontiers. British interests are to be found in every corner of the world. In some parts of the British Empire even the modified form of democracy which exists, in the Commonwealth does not obtain, and I would not be prepared to send an Australian to suppress a workers’ rebellion in India which ha3 no form of democratic government, or to fight against the Egyptians who, themselves, are struggling for some form of democratic government. British imperialists, in their own interests, have always suppressed and exploited those races. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) who said that the defence of the interests of British capitalists in any of those countries was not worth the loss of one Australian life. We want to know what this unified policy agreed to at the Imperial Conference actually is and whether it means that Australians can be conscripted without an appeal to. the people. Everybody knows that if there were an anti-labour majority in both Houses of this Parliament, willing to accede to the requests of British imperialists, conscription could be brought in without an appeal to the people. Although honorable members opposite talk about home defence, they have the power to conscript the manhood of Australia for military service overseas, without a referendum. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th May, 1937, in an article dealing with the Imperial Conference, said -
It is clear that Australia led the other dominions in the defence discussions. Sir Archdale Parkhill’s speech, although much longer than the others, showed the Commonwealth’s real grip of the situation, and deeply impressed the delegates. This, however, represents only one phase of the defence delibera tiona, about which important discussions are taking place outside the conference between the dominion defence ministers and experts with Britain’s Chief of Staffs. The results of these conferences will not appear in the main conference minutes, nor will they be disclosed to the public.
Probably these are the decisions of most vital consequence to the Australian people. To show the urgency of some disclosures of what happened, I further quote the leading article from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st May last -
What is -certain amid much uncertainty is that modern expenditure upon armaments cannot continue indefinitely. Diplomatic manoeuvreing may be as much for position in the eventual conference as for premeditated war. But the danger meanwhile is obvious.
The whole of the enemies of the workers of this country are not necessarily outside of Australia. In this country there are certain enemies which the workers must be prepared to combat with all the means at their disposal. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has just told us about the horror and the misery caused by modern warfare. Anybody would imagine that in this country, which has never known the ravages of war, nobody is suffering or nobody is in want and misery. Honorable members opposite talk about defending the standard of living. What does that mean? If it is the politicians’ standard of living, it i3 pretty good; if it happens to be the standard of living enjoyed by the Minister for Trade and Customs, it is all right. Similarly, members of the Millions Club and the Melbourne Club, who arc supporters of the Government, enjoy a high standard of living. Then there is the standard of living of the members of the judiciary; there is nothing wrong with it. But the standard of living of the workers of this country is an entirely different thing. When members of the Government speak of the standard of living, do they realize that single men, many of whom were soldiers in the last war, have to exist on 63. a week? When in Sydney recently, I brought under the notice of the State government, the case of an Australian girl who was employed as a domestic by some wealthy people at Potts Point. She was paid 10s. a week and given one meal a day to look after two children every afternoon. I appealed to the Government of New South Wales, which is of the same political party as the Federal Government, to do something on her behalf, but was informed that, in its opinion, the girl was not entitled to food relief because she was in domestic employment. It cared nothing that out of her 10s. a week, she paid 9s. a week for a room. As the result of malnutrition, brought about by her endeavour to exist on one meal a day, plus one shilling a week, she is now an out-patient of St. Vincent’s Hospital, receiving treatment for tuberculosis. Yet, we are told that the workers should defend their country. If I were placed in control of the defence forces of this country, I should put in the front trench all the politicians who want war, and who talk of the necessity to defend democratic rights and yet amend the Crimes Act to deny workers the right of assembly and free speech, and introduce a system for the licensing of workers. 1 would put there also the members of the Melbourne Club and the Millions Club. I am in favour of an adequate home defence policy. Labour aims to establish social’ justice in this country. Then the workers can be trained and armed, and relied upon to defend this country against any enemy either from inside or outside its shores. When Australian soldiers went away to fight, the Minister for Trade and Customs told them that they were “ Boys of the bulldog breed “ ; but when they returned to Australia, and seemed likely to ask for the fulfilment of some of the promises made to them, it was thought that it would be dangerous to allow them to retain their guns, which were, therefore, taken away. The workers of this country, and indeed of all countries, must learn to realize that the only way to end imperialistic wars is to end imperialism. One of the greatest factors in the world to-day is the growth of militancy among workers in Japan and other countries who have been the subject of suppression and exploitation. It is not right that the workers of this country should be asked to go overseas to fight on the pretext that democracy is in danger. Democratic rights are in danger in this country, and have been in danger ever since anti-Labour governments have been in office. The Government should say what it is prepared to do to fight the starvation enemy in ‘our midst, and make this country worth defending. If I were an unemployed worker, who was expected to exist on the miserly allowance of 6s. a week, I should not feel particularly anxious to fight. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) should - know that the aim of the Labour party is the ending of imperialistic wars by ending imperialism. That is why the Labour party is fighting to end the domination of the
British Pal’liamen’t over the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Some day we hope to have this Parliament controlled by Labour men keenly desirous to do the work that Labour .men should do. That means, not the passing of legislation designed to protect profits, but the complete reconstruction of society so that we may have a happy and contented people. If it were determined to send men abroad to fight, in my opinion those who should be sent are those whose going would mean very little loss to this country. I should send those whom I regard as the drones of society - those who congregate in the fashionable clubs throughout Australia and live on the sweat of others. Let us examine the genuineness of the Government’s defence policy. Some time ago, what was described as a “ goodwill “ mission, but was in reality a picnic party, left Australia under the leadership of the present Chief Justice of the High Court (Sir John Latham) to visit Eastern countries. On his return to Australia that gentleman reported that his mission had been highly successful. The people believed him, and looked forward to -a period of peaceful relations with our neighbours in the Pacific. But not long afterwards the Government embarked upon a different policy. In the meantime it had had a secret meeting with delegates from the Manchester Chamber of Manufactures. It commenced a trade war with Japan and the United States of America. British imperialistic interests fear Japanese imperialism, and much of the activity in defence matters is due to that fear. Where profits are concerned; however, patriotism is a secondary consideration. Patriotism is only for the workers who offer their lives. One would imagine that supporters of the Government would be anxious to preserve Australia’s natural resources which might be required in the defence of this country. There is a shortage of iron ore throughout the world, yet the Government has allowed the deposits of iron ore at Yampi Sound to be exploited by a Japanese company.
– That has been done by the Labour Government of Western Australia’.
– I know that Sir James Connolly, a friend of the Minister who has just interjected, secured the leases for practically nothing, and sold them to Japanese interests for £85,000.
– That is false.
– That is an erroneous statement.
– Members of the Labour party have tried to get the Government to disclose the facts, but so far have been unsuccessful. To show how the patriots manipulate and evade the law in order to protect their profits, I quote the following from the Japanese Weekly Chronicle of the 10th September, 1936:-
An agreement has now been reached between the Nippon Mining Company, London, in regard to the exploitation of an iron mine on Yampi Sound Island, west coast of Australia, which is owned by the latter. Mr. T. V. Salt, managing director of the British firm, is now in Japan in this connexion. He expects to sign a formal contract with the Nippon mining management within a few days. Below is the basic agreement already reached . . .
Messrs. Brassert to establish a subsidiary concern in Australia through which to exploit the mining concession which they have acquired on Yampi Sound for £35,000.
The Nippon Mining Company to establish, as a joint undertaking with Messrs. Brassert, an investment company in Japan, through which to invest 0,000,000 yen in the above mining concern in the shape of its equipment, &e.
The above investment company to undertake the transportation and sales of the ore in Japan. It is explained that such a complicated procedure has been necessitated by internal laws in Australia. Yampi Sound ore has a purity of over 00 per cent. Construction work will require at least a year, and it is believed that actual mining will be commenced early in 1038. The output will be 500,000 tons a year at the beginning.
The Government advanced the plea that it had no power in the matter. It allowed valuable natural resources of this country to be exploited by potential enemies.
– It was done by the Labour Government of Western Australia.
– The interjection merely shows how vigorously some honorable members opposite will fight when their profits are involved. The Minister who is so anxious to defend these exploiters was not so ready to prevent the exploitation of native women in the mines in the Northern Territory, nor was he so anxious to preserve Australian living standards. Whenever . Habour members have found it necessary to draw attention to undue exploitation of workers, the Minister has been one of the first to defend the exploiters.’
– That, is absolutely wrong, and- the honorable member knows it, ‘
– When the Government and its supporters are delivering flamboyant speeches, and trying to inflame the minds of the workers by urging upon them the necessity to protect the Empire, I should like them to say whether they approve of women still being employed in mines in India. Has the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) made representations to the British imperialists to take measures to prevent this exploitation? Does he know that the wealthy British Empire- was built up by the exploitation of boy and woman labour in the British Isles? Yet he talks about the glories of the Empire !
I want the people of this country to return a Labour government, so that w.e may expose those protagonists of the British imperialists, many of whom have risen to high eminence by devious means. They use their positions, not to advance the interests of the people of Australia, who have been very good to them, but to betray their own people, and to pledge their loyalty to imperialists many thousands of miles away. They would sacrifice the interests of every Australian, citizen.
Another of the advocates of war is the Assistant Minister for Commerce (M.r. Thorby) who attended a military parade in Sydney recently, and the only decoration which he could flaunt on his breast was the Jubilee medal. Where was that Minister in the last war?
– He did not hesitate to enlist in August, 1914.
– I do not know why he was not accepted. I cannot say whether he was mentally or physically deficient, or whether he had sufficient influence in official quarters to see that he was not accepted ; but I am certain that if he wanted to do any fighting, he could have found a way to the front. A similar remark may be applied to other members on the ministerial side. What did the Minister for the Interior do in the last war? Perhaps he waved one of the small Union Jacks which were made in Japan, and out of which a great deal of profit was made. Probably he belonged to one of the send.off or welcome-home committees.
The insinuation has been made that some members of the Opposition are com.munists, but I am told that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was once a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, and believed in industrial organization, so that the workers might take from the capitalist class that of which they had been deprived. During the war years, there was no more valiant fighter against conscription than the present Prime Minister, and even against participation in war. He was opposed to recruiting Australians to be sent overseas to fight. But since then he has attended many banquets abroad, and mixed with the enemies of the workers. How then can he expect any ‘appeal made by him in 1937, in contradiction of what he preached in this country for years, to be taken at its face value? The workers will reject this Government which to-day is rattling the sabre. Let the workers remain in Australia. Let them tell the workers of other countries that they are not anxious to take up arms against them. If the imperialists involve the nations in another war the power of the capitalists will be weakened, and the oppressed people will be given, an opportunity to rise and rid themselves of their oppressors, as happened in Russia.
– ‘So Russia is the example which the honorable member holds up to us?
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) had better not say anything against Russia. When a British delegation visited Russia recently it was greeted with the singing of God Save the King. Russia is now a member of the League of Nations, and joined with the other members in applying sanctions against Italy. If the honorable member is not careful he will be taken to task by members of the Melbourne Club. I am anxious that no Australian should be recruited for fighting overseas. The workers of Australia must defend themselves against external enemies, and they must also rid themselves of internal enemies, of whom there are enough. If that is the fight in which I must take part-
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Rosevear) put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney have leave to continue his speech.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mccall) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. A preliminary and partial survey of the resources of iron ore in Australia has been made in conjunction with the States. This preliminary survey is incomplete and a general survey is to be made in order that the Government may have the fullest possible information, based upon reliable data. Any press comments as to the results of the preliminary survey were purely speculative and unauthorized.
son asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
e asked the Minister- for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the reasons which prompted the Government to promulgate the Unlawful Assemblies Ordinance in the Federal Capital Territory?
– I refer the honorable member to the answer to the preceding question by Mr. Mulcahy.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The problem of absorbing the workless miners on the Australian coal-fields is great, and; if the extraction of oil from coal by the hydrogenation, or any other process, can be demonstrated to be profitable, the Government will have no hesitation in providing assistance for the establishment of the industry.
The best technical advice available supports the view that the time has not yetbeen reached when encouragement should be given to the development of processes for the production of oil from coal in Australia.
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In a matter of such magnitude steps must he taken carefully, but the matter is still receiving the consideration of the Government.
Aviation: Acquisition of Airport Site at Fishermen’s Be nd
t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 24th August, 1937, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked the following question, upon notice: -
When will the Postmaster-General give effect to his undertaking of the 30th June to furnish a statement showing the ownership of B class broadcasting stations in the various States and bring up to date the return quoted by the Minister and published inHansard on the 3rd September, 1935, pages 2365-7?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
There are 90 broadcasting licences in force and of these 39 are held by . companies which have no interest in other stations; eight stations are owned by individual companies, which are interested in or control the activities of two stations in each case. The remainder are dealt with hereunder.
Advertiser, Adelaide (Advertiser Newspapers Limited). - This company controls the licence for 5AD Adelaide, and controls the companies holding the licences for 5MU Murray Bridge, 5PI Crystal Brook, and5BE Mount Gambier. The company also holds 112,732 shares (in a total of 385,327) in News Limited, which controls the licence of 2BH Broken Hill.
Age, Melbourne (David Syme and Company Limited). - Thiscompany holds 1,500 shares (in a total of 0,000) in 3AW ‘Melbourne. Members of the Syme family hold 3,250 shares (in a total of 4.975) in 3HA Hamilton, and Mr. D. F. Syme controls companies which, by agreement with the licensees, conduct the service of 3SH Swan Hill, and supply the programme for -3TR Sale.
Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. - This company holds licences for 2 AY Albury, 3BO Bendigo, 4TO Townsville, and 4CA Cairns. It also holds all the shares in the licensee companies for 2GF Grafton and 2GN Goulburn. By agreement with the licensee of 2CH Sydney, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited conducts the service of that station. The company also has “the licence for a station in Papua - 4PM Port Moresby - and has interests in other companiesas follows: - 7LA Launceston, 2,500 shares in a total of 5,000; 2SM Sydney, 800 shares in a total of G.500: 3HA Hamilton, 400shares in a. total of 4975; 4HK Warwick, 3,800 shares in a total of 5.000.
Argus, Melbourne. - The Argus Broadcasting Services Proprietary Limited holds the licences for 3SR Shepparton, 3UL Warragul and 3YB Warrnamhool. This company also holds 200 shares (in a total of 45,000) in 3UZ Melbourne.
Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation Proprietary Limited, Sydney, holds the licence for 2UW Sydney, and, through Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation (Queensland) Proprietary Limited, has interests in other stations as follows: - 4BC Brisbane, owns all shares; 4RO Rockhampton, owns all shares;
4.GR Toowoomba, 70S shares in a total of 1,500; 4MB Maryborough, 530 shares in a total of 1,000; 4SB Kingaroy, 1,000 ordinary shares in a total tit .2,265 preference and 2,045 ordinary share’s:
Courier-Mail, Brisbane (Queensland Newspapers Proprietary Limited). - This company controls the company lidding the licences for 4BK Brisbane and 4AK Oakey.
Denison Estates Limited. - This company has interests in stations as follows: - 2GB Sydney, 15,054 shares in a total of 24,230; 2CA Canberra, 2,497 shares in a total of 2,700; 2HR Singleton, 1,500 shares in a total of 4,500; 2WL Wollongong, 3.500 shares in a total of 7,008.
The 2GB company (Theosophical Broadcasting Station Limited) has interests in other stations, namely: - 3AW Melbourne, 900 shares in a total of 6,000 ; 5DN Adelaide, 1,000 preference and 3,748 ordinary shares in totals of 4.000 and 8,405 respectively.
In the case of 2UE Sydney, shares are held by B. E. Denison (1,000), B. 1 Denison (200).. Sun Newspapers (13,000) and the Stevenson group (13,000)- in a total of 30,000 shares.
Findlays, Tasmania. - Findlays Proprietary Limited hold 154 shares (in a total of 801) in 7110 Hobart, and 1,250 shares (in a total of 5,000) in 7 LA Launceston. A. P. Findlay holds 2,000 shares (in a total of 4.000) in 7BTJ Burnie, and 33 (in a total of 8011 in 7HO. P. A. Findlay. F. M. Findlay and S. H. Findlay arc also minority shareholders.
News .Limited, Adelaide, conducts the service of 2B’H Broken Hill,’ in conjuction with the Harrier Miner, and holds 114,843 ordinary shares (in a total of 108,000 preference and 553,330 ordinary shares) in Advertiser Newspapers Limited, which control 5AD, 5M.U, 5PI and 5SE.
West Australian Newspapers Limited, Perth, hold the licence for GDC Perth, and have equal shares with Musgroves Limited in the company holding the licence for (JML Perth and 0WB Katanning.
A complete statement, showing particulars of all stations, including the licensee- companies and the operating powers, is shown hereunder. In order to restrict the practice of certain companies obtaining control of several stations, a regulation was gazetted iii November, 1935, limiting the number of stations which could be controlled, directly or indirectly, by any person, company or organization. The maximum number of stations was one in a capital city, four in a State or eight in the Commonwealth. The degree of compliance with this regulation is ascertained before any new licence is* granted and annually when each licence is due for renewal. In no case have the requirements of . the regulation been exceeded.
Broadcasting Stations for North and Western Queensland.
– On the 24th August, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked a question without notice, pertaining to the wireless broadcasting services in the northern and western areas of Queensland.
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable “member with the following reply to his inquiries: -
The department has established broadcasting station 4QN Townsville as one of the stations for the north of Queensland, and preliminary work is in hand to provide others in accordance with the general plan of the national broadcasting system. For the far west and north-west of Queensland, it is economically impracticable at present to provide service by means of stations operating -in the regular band of wave frequencies. However, short-wave operation has proved practicable, and the present short-wave service from the national station 3LR is being augmented, so that service in. the west and north-west of Queensland will be improved.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370825_reps_14_154/>.