14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Second Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 18th September, 1935. on the Applications made in 1935-30 by the States of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, for Financial Assistance from the Commonwealth under Section 98 of the Constitution.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 84.
War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribu nal - Report for year ended 30th June, 1935.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The Assistant Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1and 2. Following the representations of the deputation concerned, the matter was taken up by the Commonwealth with the Western Australian Government. In the first place, inquiries were made to see if there would ho any surplus of the acreage or bushel provision which could he used to supplement the hardship grant. Unfortunately, it was found that there would be no such surplus available. It was then ascertained that there were certain small unexpended balances of previous relief payments to Western Australia, and the Commonwealth Government approved of these balances being made available for hardship cases. The Commonwealth Government regrets that it finds itself unable to approve special payments for any particular wheat district over and above the amounts provided by Parliament for reliefto wheat-growers as a whole.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister forthe Interior has supplied the following answers : -
I, Yes. 2 and 3. The protest made by the . southwest conference was referred to the Commissioner ofCommonwealth Railways whose report indicates that the conference was not fully informed as to the facts. During the year ended 30th June, 1935, only 52 bogie van loads of cattle were conveyed to Kalgoorlie over the trans- Australian railway, an average of about twenty head of cattle a week, which is a very small proportion of the total cattle requirements for killing purposes in an area carrying such a large population . as Kalgoorlie and district. The cost of forwarding a bogie truck of cattle from Port Augusta to Parkeston (where stockex the transAustralian line for the Kalgoorlie abattoirs is transferred to the State railways) is, after allowing a 10 per cent, rebate, £40 9s. 3d.In this must be added £5 a bogie truck levied by the State railways for haulage from Parkeston to Kalgoorlie abattoirs, making the total cost to the South Australian supplier £45 9s. 3d. a bogie. The charge for conveyance of a bogie truck of cattle from Bunbury to Kalgoorlie is £25, and from Harvey to Kalgoorlie £24 10s. 8d. ft will be seen, therefore, that- the freight charges are in favour of the Western’ Australian producer especially when the much shorterhaul of live-stock is considered. A letter was addressed to the honorable senator at Perth on the 5th September bythe Minister for the Interior giving full details of theCommonwealth Railways ‘Commissioner’s report on the matter.
Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs states that inquiries are being made and answers will be furnished to Senator Johnston with reference to the utilization of Denham, Shark Bay,Western Australia, as a port of entry for goods from overseas.
Geraldton to Shark Bay and Carnarvon
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has furnished the following statement on this matter : - 1, 2, and 3. The necessity for reducing the annual free grant of mark VII. ammunition to rifle clubs is regretted, but, owing to the heavy cost of replacing cartridges issued for this purpose and the pressing need for increased expenditure in other activities of the department under its plan of re-arming, &c, it was found that funds could no longer be spared to continue- the previous very liberal issues to the rifle club movement. Immediately after the termination of the Great War the department was holding large stocks of mark VI. ammunition, and for this reason agreed (in 1925) to increase the scale of free issues. These conditions were maintained up to about 1930, by which time some of the early stocks of mark VII. ammunition began to show signs of deterioration. To permit of an economic turnover and to avoid breaking up ammunition which could still be usefully employed for rifle club shooting, it was decided not to restrict issues to clubs, and thus the scale was permitted to operate up to 30th June, 1935, despite the change-over to mark VII. ammunition by rifle clubs in 1933. However, the time has now arrived when nearly all of the stock of mark VII. ammunition due for earlyuse has been expended, and measures have had to be taken to regulate issues to conform to the amount of money available to replace expenditure. Small arms ammunition is a very expensive item. At the present time it costs the department about £9 per 1,000 rounds. This rate covers the hare cost of the ammunition, and does not include departmental expenses for storage, handling and freight charges. Were these charges added, the rate would be about £10 per 1,000. Under the scale of issue previously in force the average expenditure by rifle clubs over the past three years was approximately 10,000,000 rounds per annum, at a cost of about £90,000. For this quantity of ammunition the department received by way of payment from rifle clubs an average of about £2,500 per year. Thus, the value of the department’s contribution of ammunition to rifle clubs was £87,500. It is pointed out that the reduction of issues of mark VII. ammunition is not nearly so drastic as would appear on the surface, and the following figures are quoted in support of this contention : -
Excluding ammunition required for rifle association and union prize meetings, which are catered for separately, the average number of rounds drawn by rifle club members per year is 225 out of 400 (200 rounds free and 200 at reduced rate) authorized. The new scale of 300 rounds (100 rounds free and 200 at reduced rate) per member is still 75 rounds per man in excess of the average amount previously drawn. Therefore, the only disadvantage the enthusiastic rifleman will suffer will be that he will be called upon to spend an additional 5s. per year to purchase the extra 100 rounds he previously received as a free issue. Assuming that 7.000.000 rounds of ammunition will be expended annually by rifle clubs under the new scale, it is expected that 4.000,000 of same will be issued free and the balance at £2 10s. per 1,000. Thus, for an outlay of £63,000 in ammunition the department will receive but £7,500, leaving a balance of £55,500 to be made up from departmental votes.
However, since making the above decision it has been represented that the rifle clubs might hoglad to utilize some of the department’s old mark VI. ammunition, which remains in stock as aresult of the switch-over to mark VII. ammunition in 1933. Instructions have therefore been issued that arrangements are to be made forthwith to offer this ammunition to rifle clubs as a free issue (for as long as it lasts) on the following scale: - Efficient members of clubs, 100 rounds per annum; new members of clubs, 50 rounds per annum. These issues are additional to the approved free allotments of 100 rounds and 50 rounds, respectively, of mark VII. ammunition which have already been approved for efficients and new members.. In view of the circumstances which have arisen and the desire of the Government to do its utmost for the rifle club movement, it is hoped that rifle club organizations and members generally will accept the restrictions which circumstances have made it obligatory to impose regarding the free issue of mark VII. ammunition.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That Senator Burford Sampson be appointed Chairman of Committees of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a hill for an act to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930-1934.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Parliamentary Papers Act 1908.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1932.
Motion (by Senator A. S. McLach- lan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce abill for an act to amend section one hundred and fifteen of the Trade Marks Act 1905-1934.
Bill brought up and reada first time.
Order of the day - Adjourned debate on the motion by Senator Sir George Pearce. “ That the paper be printed “ - read and discharged.
Debate resumed from the 23rd September (vide page 14), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the paper be printed.
. - From the very temperate statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) on this matter has emerged a discussion of firstrate importance to Australia, and particularly to this chamber. The honorable senator who now leads the Opposition in this branch of the legislature has raised the subject of Australia’s relationships with the outside world, and the question whether we should still adhere to the previous foreignpolicy which was accepted, not only by this dominion, but also by every other member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. At the moment we appear to have allowed the object for which the Mother Country is at present striving to be magnified into something which is not justified by the facts. I join with the honorable senator, as I should, in deploring any prospect of another war. I support him in all that he has said regarding the horrors, consequences and general disability to civilization that ensue from settling disputes by armed conflicts between nations; but I cannot subscribe to that doctrine and at the same time condemn and refuse cooperation with the only instrument mankind has yet devised for collective action to ensure the security of the peoples of the world. The policy that Great Britain and each of the dominions has adopted is well expressed, I think, in a speech made bythe Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Sir Samuel Hoare) in the House of Commons on the 11th July last, whenhe said -
Over and over again we have stated, and no one better than the Prime Minister, our fidelity to the League and its principles, and I reaffirm it to-day. This has been the settled policy of this Government, but it has also been the settled policy of every government since the war. It is the settled policy, not of one party, but of all parties in the State. We are all, therefore, in duty bound to do our utmost to prevent the development of any crisis that is likely to weaken or destroy the principles upon which the League was built, and upon which its influence for peace depends. This is the reason for our grave interest in the Abyssinian controversy. This is the reason why, even at the risk of criticism, we have been prepared to make constructive proposals for the avoidance of a war that, however it ends, must have serious repercussionsupon the whole League system. This is our sole reason for our efforts to find a basis of settlement. Here in this House, at any rate, I need not repeat in detail the complete contradiction that we have given to the wild statements as to our motives and our action that have been made in certain sections of the Italian press. We have no ulterior motive but the motive of a peaceful settlement, and the statements that we are thinking of our own colonial interests and that we are massing troops in the neighbouring British colonies are completely devoid of foundation. I trust that my contradiction will be given the fullest possible publicity in any Italian papers that made themselves responsible for these groundless charges.
That is a considered statement of the policy of the Mother Country in regard to foreign affairs. Speaking during the debate, Mr. Anthony Eden, in dealing with the same matter, observed -
Let me deal with one or two questions which have been asked about Abyssinia. The first charge brought against us is that we are interfering in a dispute with which we have no concern. This Government, and other governments which have preceded us, have repeatedly declared that they founded their foreign policy upon their membership of the League. If this is hot merely an empty declaration, it is impossible to maintain for a moment that this dispute is no concern of ours, for it is an essential feature of the Covenant that any dispute between two members of the League which threatens to disturb peace is a matter of concern to all governments. If, then, we found our foreign policy upon the League, this dispute is and must remain a matter of immediate and vital concern to us.
Yet yesterday the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate told us solemnly that the policy of his party is one of nonparticipation ! Non-participation in what?
– Nonparticipation in one of the noblest efforts made by any country to prevent this ghastly thing which he deplores ! Nonparticipation connotes that we must renounce the instrument that was created by a trembling and shivering civilization after the last war for its own protection. The alternative is to maintain those covenants which we solemnly signed–
– That means war.
– Either we must stand by the League, or resort to the only means which, prior to the constitution of the . League, maintained the peace of the world - the strong right arm.
From the inception of the League, this country, in common with the sister dominions and the Motherland, has adhered to the principles of that organization. We have given expression to our determination in that direction, and I myself, with trembling hand, in 1928 signed the Kellogg Pact as an instrument not in contradistinction to the policy of the League, but implementing it, and outlawing war. We have stood to that policy; we are standing by it to-day; and the Mother Country, in an endeavour to save a wondering civilization from those consequences to which the honorable senator so ‘ eloquently and feelingly referred yesterday, is “ doing its bit “ in the interests of civilization. Surely it does not lie with us, or any responsible body of people, to refuse to back to its utmost, in the interests of the whole world, irrespective of class or creed, the efforts of the Motherland, which has done more for peace than any other organization in the world to-day. We should not say that we shall not participate any further in those magnificent efforts which have been made and which. I trust will he successful, to preserve the peace of the world. Should this dispute, small as it may seem to the honorable senator opposite, result in hostilities between Italy and Abyssinia, it may lead to the destruction of old Europe.
– Let us preserve Australia, anyhow.
– The honorable senator takes the short view and says “ Preserve Australia “. The preservation of Australia, since the constitution of the League of Nations, has rested upon the collective security enjoyed under the covenant of the League, and there is no nation which requires that protection more than a country with less than 7,000,000 inhabitants. It is a tribute to the old Mother Country, with its overwhelming influence and strong arm, and its capacity to arm, and it is a tribute to the British people, that they have supported the League of Nations, which has been the shield and buckler of all the small nations of the world, and is today, forsooth, the shield and buckler of this isolated part of the Empire. The honorable senator has raised a question of the first magnitude. “What does his talk of protecting Australia by a policy of non-participation connote except that we have been wrong during the fifteen years of our adherence to the League of Nations and its covenant; wrong in participating in its deliberations; wrong in taking our seat on its Council; wrong in endeavouring to assist the other dominions and the Mother Country to preserve the peace of the world? Nonparticipation connotes that Australia should withdraw its membership of the League of Nations.
– There is nothing in my statement to that effect.
– The honorable senator urged non-participation by Australia. Non-participation in what? Does he assume that either the Mother Country or Australia is committed to war? “We are committed only to an adherence to the Covenant which the people of this country hold dear and which I know the people of Europe hold dear. The Labour party says “ nonparticipation “. Are we in Australia to beat a retreat from a Covenant which is the finest conception of mankind for the preservation of world peace? Are we by nonparticipation to refrain from assisting in that wonderful work which the Motherland is doing to-day in the interests of the human race?
– I rise to a point of order. Reference to the Hansard re- port of my speech will show that the Minister is grossly misrepresenting what I said yesterday. Knowing that publicity will be given to his remarks, he is prepared deliberately to misrepresent and belittle me.
– There is no point of order.
– It is not for the Minister to rule on the point of order. He has no right grossly to misrepresent what I said. I ask you, Mr. President, for a ruling pn the point of order raised.
– I am prepared to abide by the honorable senator’s own words as recorded in the Hansard report of his speech. My deductions are based on his concluding remarks -
The attitude of the Australian Labour party is clear and unequivocal. It wants no war on foreign fields for economic treasure. It wants Australia to be kept free of the entanglements leading to a repetition of the horrors of 1914-18. Therefore, the Australian Labour party, for which I speak to-day, says “ non-participation “.
Again I ask the honorable senator - nonparticipation in what?
– iNon-participation in war.
– Now that the honorable senator finds himself in a cul-de-sac he is looking for a way of escape. Nonparticipation means withdrawing from the League, and dissociating ourselves from the efforts of the Mother Country to secure peace. If the honorable senator suggests that the Mother Country is committed to war, I remind him that its spokesmen have carefully and fully explained its attitude in that connexion; they have said that the Mother Country is no longer prepared to accept the whole of the burden of safeguarding civilization, and that whatever action is taken for the prevention of war must be the collective action of all the members of the League of Nations. The honorable senator cannot escape so easily from the position in which he has placed himself. He should have known before he came into this chamber that neither the Commonwealth Government nor the British Government is committed to any act of war. He should have known - and I think that he did know, because he keeps closely in touch with affairs - that the assumption which appears to underlie his statement, namely, that we are in some way pledged to war, is utterly wrong. He endeavoured to make it appear that the Government was pledged to take drastic action. That is not so. The honorable senator went on to say that the Commonwealth Government was blindly following Great Britain, which was committed to war. He ought to know that the facts are that Great Britain has declared against unilateral action. Security is the responsibility of all the signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations. Knowing these things, the honorable senator is blowing hot and cold, when he talks of non-participation. And even if he did not mean exactly what he said when he spoke of non-participation, there can be only one logical consequence of such a policy; non-participation must involve retirement from the League of Nations. The policy which Australia has followed is the same as that adopted by Great Britain and the other dominions. That policy has been expressed, not by individual Ministers, but by the representatives of the respective governments at the League of Nations Assembly. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th September, the attitude of New Zealand towards the Italo-Abyssinian dispute, as set forth by Sir James Parr, was reported. Later the views of the other dominions were expressed by their representatives. In each case there was support of the attitude of the Mother Country in its efforts to preserve peace. Probably the person who would bo thought least likely to support that attitude is Mr. De Valera of the Irish Free State; but he was the most outspoken of them all. The report of his speech reads -
With bitter irony he spoke of the peace conference which would follow the war when a settlement would be reached because the parties were ruined and exhausted. He appealed for a relaxation of conservatism regarding colonial possessions before the slaughter began. He committed himself wholeheartedly to the policy which South Africa, Canada and New Zealand, and other parts of the Empire had adopted. He came down solidly against Mussolini with a pledge of the Free State to support collective action.
– What is the attitude of the Canadian Government?
– The honorable senator seems anxious to find in the utterance of some Minister the policy of the Canadian Government. I look for the policy of that Government in the speech delivered by its representative at Geneva, and I find that it proposes to pursue the same policy as that adopted by the Mother Country. Canada is prepared to accept its responsibility to civilization under the Covenant of the League of Nations. There is no talk of either participation or non-participation, but only wholehearted support of the Mother Country. The attitude adopted by the Opposition is an improper one for any party which believes that peace can flow only from collective action. I go further and say that it is almost a crime against civilization to interfere with, or even to denounce, what Great Britain has done. It is our duty to lend every aid to those who are searching for a way to maintain the peace of Africa, and with it the peace of Europe, and possibly also the peace of the whole world. The hypotheses upon which the honorable gentleman based some of his remarks were entirely wrong. The honorable senator is endeavouring to justify this policy of non-participation by the suggestion that what is happening is the result of some imperial outlook on the part of the nations concerned which, he implies, hope to get something out of Abyssinia. I invite the Senate to study the trade figures of that country. Its exports to Great Britain are limited, and its imports from Great Britain are still more limited. Japan figures largely in the trade of Abyssinia. Therefore, the statement that there is anything sinister in the attitude of Great Britain towards the ItaloAbyssinian dispute is truly futile. What does the honorable senator suggest is Britain’s sinister motive in this matter ?
Senator Collings mentioned that President De Valera also is opposed to participation by the Irish Free State in this dispute. Actually, Mr. De
Valera is standing with the rest of the Empire, because he believes in that magnificent conception, the League of Nations, the purpose of which is to preserve the peace of the world. The League is doing this, but the honorable senator would give it a kick along the road by declaring for a policy of nonparticipation! That is the only logical conclusion to be drawn from the honorable senator’s remarks.
– That is not the alternative.
– What alternative does the honorable senator suggest ?
– It is to be found in my statement. Let us keep out of the “ scrap “.
– There is nothing constructive in the statement of the honorable senator, though possibly it will give some comfort to those who desire to subvert the efforts to ensure peace in the world. It is a devilish doctrine to pronounce at. such a time as this - a doctrine which, if accepted, would threaten and perhaps destroy the foundations of the League of Nations.
Are we to treat these covenants so solemnly entered into as scraps of paper? Is it not our duty to make every effort to prevent a holocaust being inflicted on the world? I think better of the great party to which the honorable senator belongs than to believe that it would turn, from its support of solemn covenants of the League at such a moment as this. The League is the one hope of civilization.
The honorable senator apparently gets some comfort from the failure of the League in some of the other crises with which it has been faced. I put it to the Senate that the possibility of the failure of the League is one not lightly to be contemplated. The honorable senator has, on behalf of his party, struck a note of the first importance when he suggests that we should abandon the League.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable gentleman urged “ nonparticipation”. What else does it mean? Nonparticipation in what? Great Britain has said that it will not alone take the whole responsibility for ensuring peace.
It wants collective security. It expects the responsibility to be borne by all the signatories to the Covenant. How far is the honorable senator going to participate in these Covenants? Is he going to be bound by one article of the Covenant and repudiate others which impose upon us certain responsibilities? That is a shameful policy to preach to Australians who have given their adherence to the League, have subscribed to the Kellogg Pact, and have been directly represented in the League Council. The time may soon come when we shall have to make fateful decisions; but this is not the time to palter with matters of such great moment. When the peace of the world is threatened, we should have something better than a policy of nonparticipation. The Labour party some time ago stood for the League of Nations and supported it by money and action. To-day it says “non-participation”. Is this instrument, the finest yet conceived for the maintenance of world peace, to be destroyed? Are all these efforts to lift civilization on to a higher plane to be abandoned? Are the League’s efforts to avert the horrors of war, with which civilization has been faced down the centuries, to be nullified by a weakkneed policy such as that enunciated by the honorable senator? His speech may have been intended to catch the unwary, but I venture to think that the people learned in the years 1914 to 1918 that treaties are not mere “scraps of paper “, and that they now subscribe to the policy of collective security which has saved the world from any major conflagration in the last fifteen years. That policy is the one hope of civilization. The nations are bound by solemn covenant to support the League.
I should be sorry to think that the honorable senator expressed his own personal views on this issue, and I should be still more sorry if any party in this country endeavoured to make the present situation a plaything of politics. Such action would be an atrocity against civilization.
– That is unfair.
– -I was sorry to hear Senator Collings speak of aggrandizement and trade in connexion with this dispute. I am inclined to think that he was engaging in a little rhetoric in his first speech since he was entrusted with the leadership of his party in this chamber. The natural resources of Abyssinia are very small indeed. Cotton goods and yarns are its chief imports, and the trade is largely in Japanese hands. The principal exports are coffee, hides and skins, and beeswax, and the values of the exports in normal years are, respectively, £400,000, £200,000 and £300,000. Official figures for the years from 1930 to 1934 show that in no year have the exports from Abyssinia to Great Britain risen above £200,000, while British exports to that country do not exceed £50,000 a year. In the light of these figures, how can the honorable senator suggest that there is something sinister in Great Britain’s attitude in this dispute ?
– I have never said that.
– I agree that the honorable senator paid a tribute to those who are endeavouring to preserve peace. Yet a moment later he advocated non-participation.
– The best peace contribution we can make is to keep out of the dispute.
- Senator Collings said -
I strongly hold the view that Australia should not allow the statesmen of any other country to determine this country’s course of action.
His policy of non-participation would weaken the hands of those endeavouring to preserve peace. The underlying suggestion of Senator Collings’s speech is that there is something sinister about Britain’s efforts to preserve the peace of the world. It was unworthy of him to interlard his enunciation of the policy of his party with statements which had no foundation in fact. He talked about the Commonwealth Government having blundered into a position which might involve Australia in war.
– I did not say that.
– This is what the honorable senator said -
As uncontradicted statements appeared in the newspapers that Australia had been committed right up to the hilt there was a growing feeling that the Commonwealth Government had blundered into a decision that might involve Australia in war.
I have indicated the policy enunciated by Sir Samuel Hoare and Mr. Anthony Eden in the House of Commons. That policy is endorsed by all the British dominions. No mercenary attempt to gain wealth from Abyssinia is being made by Great Britain. It. is carrying out the spirit of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the foundations of which are expressed in language which I think should impress the honorable senator. This is the exordium to the contract -
The High Contracting Parties,
In order to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security - by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, just and honorable relations between nations, by the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among governments, and, by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another
Agree to this Covenant of the League of Nations.
To that we have subscribed. “We are signatories to the Covenant just as we are also to the Kellogg Pact, but when our loyalty to these principles, about which some of us prate a good deal, is tested, are we to say we shall be reluctant to carry out our obligations? Such an attitude is unthinkable, and does not represent truly the view of the Australian people.
– The honorable senator endeavours to misrepresent the attitude of this country. It is imputed that Great Britain has some sinister motive. I am concerned at the prospect that the Australian people may be humiliated when the representatives of other nations at Geneva read that the honorable senator has urged nonparticipation by this country in carrying out the obligations imposed upon signatories to the Covenant.
– I did not say that.
– In what do the honorable senator and his party refuse to participate?
– In war.
– Is the honorable senator willing that Australia should accept its obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations ? There is only one deduction to be drawn from the honorable senator’s attitude. It implies that we have been wrong in our foreign policy; that we should not have adhered in the first place to the League of Nations, and that we should now withdraw from it.
– The manner in which the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has dealt with this subject is grossly unfair to the party of which I have the honour to be a member. He began with a lugubrious note; he then tried to be grandiloquent, and imported a good deal of bathos into his remarks, but on the whole his criticism of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) left us very cold. In discussing this subject we should be cool, calm, and collected. There is no need for sentimental weakness. The Minister’s effort to endeavour to persuade us to adopt a different attitude has not been successful. The Labour party has considered this matter and studied it as honest Australians who desire peace just as much as do the Minister and those with whom he is associated. In his interpretation of the words “nonparticipation,” the Minister has tried to mislead this chamber. The Labour movement throughout the world has supported the League of Nations, and participated in its work ; but because we as a party fear that there is a possibility of Australia being involved in another world war, we are told that we are opposed to the League of Nations and out of sympathy with Great Britain and the other dominions. We have not had a clear and explicit statement of the Government’s attitude towards the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. Thousands of persons throughout Australia are anxious to know the effect upon Australia of the action of certain European countries to ensure peace. Questions have been asked, not merely by Labour men, but also by prominent individuals, newspapers, and organizations as to the direction in which the Government is leading us. They are asking how far the Government has committed Australia in connexion with the threatened embroglio. The Bulletin, which is not a Labour journal, but is representative of certain wealthy interests, is asking the same question. On every placard throughout Australia appears the same demand for this information.
– Did the honorable senator read what the Bulletin said about the British Labour party?
– The Bulletin has asked a question similar to that which we are asking. How far are we committed? When we ask this plain and simple question it should not be said that the Labour party is stooping to low tactics. The question is directed by plain people to a very plain Ministry, and we trust that when the subject has been fully debated both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives we shall drag from the Government a statement of the extent to which Australia will be involved if Great Britain and France go to the fullest extent against Italy. The Labour party is unanimously of the opinion that in view of what is happening in Europe there is a possibility of Australia again being involved in a worldwide war. According to the Minister, if Europe is involved, the logical and irresistible conclusion is that Australia will have to take up arms and her sons cross the seas to participate in the conflict.
– What would the honorable senator do? Would he stay here and wait for this prize to be taken?
– My friend the “ Cromwell of the Riverina “ will have an opportunity to speak later. I am a serious man dealing with a serious subject. There should be no misunderstanding concerning the Labour party’s attitude. We should try to meet this situation seriously because of its grave importance to the people of Australia, and the possibility of thousands of our young men having to leave these shores, perhaps to die on a foreign battlefield. Thousands of persons are fearful of the horrors towards which we may he drifting. If the Government, supported, as it would be, by all peace-loving people, were to say frankly that it would do its best to assist in the maintenance of peace and would not participate in a foreign war, we would know where we stood.
– The honorable senator’s party issued a statement before ascertaining where it stands.
– We are asking for a definite statement in regard to the implications of the Government’s policy. We are not asking for sentimental utterances. Let the truth be stated. Shall we mislead the people, or shall we tell them the actual position? Does the honorable senator believe that the truth should be hidden, or does he believe in stating definitely the obligations into which we have entered? If the people are told that, having once set their hand to the plough, they must continue to the end of the furrow they will know where they stand. If the Government continues to “back and fill “ there is trouble ahead for the Australian people. That is putting the position very fairly. The Government should say definitely to the people that having signed certain covenants, which are being observed by the few remaining members of the League, Australia may be involved in war. It is quite competent for honorable senators opposite to show where my colleagues and I are wrong. When the Postmaster-General charged us with having imputed sinister motives to Great Britain he raised a bogey which the members of the Labour party have never raised. Under the present economic system, imperialistic developments compel certain actions by certain communities. Although we do not support the “blood and bambinos” policy of Mussolini, we frankly admit that Italy is a nation whose population is increasing rapidly, and for which an outlet must be found. Italy must seek also fresh sources from which to obtain needed raw materials. Only yesterday an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in which it was stated that Italy is a very poor country, and it is essential for it to seek room for expansion overseas. Italy is endeavouring to improve its economic situation by intense activities in primary production. The development of Italy has naturally made it necessary for it to widen its borders, and that very fact must force it into conflict with other nations.
– How would the honorable senator like it if another country applied the same argument to Australia?
– For years my party has advocated a policy which, if put into operation, would have resulted in the speedy development of Australia, and the increase of its population, eliminating as far as possible any excuse that might be offered to-day for an attack upon this country. Therefore, we should adopt a policy by which we could keep our own people in profitable employment, and eventually find room for many others.
– Is that not a good argument why we should adhere to the League ?
– We say frankly that we support the League, and our only regret is that all the nations are not represented upon it. Germany and Japan have left it, and the United States of America has never been a member.
– Now we have Russia instead.
– Yes. The chief nations which are vitally interested in the African continent, and particularly Abyssinia, are France, Italy and Great Britain. In 1925, Great Britain entered into an agreement with Italy for the economic partition of Abyssinia. Italy was to have a certain mandate, and Great Britain was to be given certain assurances in regard to the waters of Lake Tsana, which feed the Blue Nile; but Abyssinia objected to the treaty and it was never ratified. If we study the whole of the negotiations between Abyssinia, France and Great Britain, we find that certain economic factors were under discussion, and France and Britain were trying to use their influence over Abyssinia for their own economic advantage. I agree that Britain would be foolish, from its own point of view, to allow another country have control of the source of the Blue Nile.
– Does the honorable senator advise collective action to protect Britain’s interests in the waters of the Blue Nile?
– My party says that we should do everything in our power to induce those who desire war to try to secure their ends by peaceful methods. We do not support Mussolini, nor do we support Abyssinia, to the extent of sacrificing the lives of Australian soldiers.
– The honorable senator is about as clear as a London fog.
– If the honorable senator cannot understand plain English
I am sorry for him. The Labour party is anxious to do all in its power to prevent war.
– What action would the honorable senator take to maintain peace
– I would not support a policy of war to maintain peace. I have heard it said that we must go to the utmost to impose peace on the peoples of the world. That was said in 1914 when it was claimed that collective action was necessary for the prosecution of a war in order to impose peace on the world. To-day we are in greater danger of war than we were prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914. Maintenance of the system of economic exploitation must of necessity result in war sooner or later. It cannot be denied that the present economic conditions must inevitably lead to war.
– Does the honorable senator believe in the Covenant of the League of Nations?
– We should make every effort in the direction of maintaining peace.
– By getting down into our “ funk holes “.
– From the interjections of honorable senators it is apparent that they are prepared to go to the limit, even to the extent of embroiling Australia in a foreign war.
– I shall support the League of Nations up to the hilt. We should keep our word.
– Notwithstanding that German y and Japan have left the League, and that the United States of America was never a member of it, if the honorable senator were the controller of the destinies of this country, would he pledge our people to fight to the bitter end against any nation that acted contrary to the Covenant of the League?
– We are pledged to collective action.
– I do not condemn my friends opposite. I shall give them credit for frankness if they plainly tell the people that no matter what may be involved Australia should stand solemnly pledged to the League, even to the extent of embroiling this country in a foreign war.
– They will do anything but tell us that.
– I notice that honorable senators opposite are silent. I hope that when they reply they will be just a3 frank as we are, and will not follow the example of the Minister who alleged that the Labour party is bitterly opposed to the League of Nations and to every effort to maintain peace. That charge is grossly unfair.
.- I hesitate to participate in this rather indefinite discussion. I should like first to examine the reaction of the general public of Australia and of Great Britain, as well as other countries, when the full text of the Government’s announcement of its policy has been made known. I entirely agree that it was desirable for the Government to issue a message to the people of this country with regard to the present dispute, for they wished to know the extent to which Australia had been committed by the Government. Any criticism which I may have to offer will apply not so much to the Government as to the document which is the subject of the motion before the Senate. It has some historical value, and it may be that the Government wants the people to consider it in that aspect. I do not say that it is wrongs - it may be that most of it is correct - but I looked in vain for a clear message to the people of Australia, and of Great Britain, as to what Australia is prepared to do. As a man of the world, I find the message of the Government anaemic almost to the extent of bloodlessness. It seems to bc a message from a Government carefully balanced on the tight rope of circumstances and hoping that there is a feather bed on both sides on which to land in the event of a fall. I agree that a statement was necessary; but I found no fire in the one which was issued. For that reason I was pleased to notice that the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) became somewhat excited, at least to the extent of raising his voice. He had cause to be excited. Having heard his speech, I can only conclude that he could not have been in the Cabinet room when the statement was drawn up. He put the case better than it is set out in the statement, because he put some fire into his remarks.
His speech roused in us a little of the* pride of Empire because of what Great Britain is doing - we hope successfully - to prevent another great conflict between the nations of the world. No one can say that Britain has not played its part nobly and well, even to the extent of willingness to make great sacrifices ; and it is our bounden duty, as sons of the Empire, to say that we have a part in its work and will stand behind the Mother Country both morally and otherwise, if necessary, to prevent the world from being involved in another holocaust such as that which began in 1914.
I am sorry that the Government did not go further in its statement. Its pronouncement seemed to be an attempt to soothe an agitated electorate ; or it may have been an agitated attempt on the part of the Government to soothe its own conscience. I say emphatically that there is less danger in an informed electorate than in a bewildered one, and that the people of Australia, if not entitled to know all the circumstances of the case, certainly expect to be told that the Government will or will not take certain steps if the peace of the world is endangered. I agree that it would be impossible for the British Empire to assume the responsibility of policing the whole world; but if that Empire, by moral suasion or otherwise, can prevent other nations from taking the extreme step of engaging in hostilities, it will be doing a good work.
I rose to criticize the Government; but, having heard the views of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I was forced to the conclusion that if any party is likely to drag this country into a war, it is the party opposite. The spokesman for the Opposition said that his party did not want Australia to participate in any war in foreign lands for economic treasure. Not one of us wants that. But will the honorable gentleman go so far as to say that if the safety of our own community and of our own economic treasure were threatened by foreign aggression, Australia should refuse to assist the aggressor? I remind the Opposition that it must decide between collective security and every nation being armed to the teeth. There is no other alternative. If the combined nations of the world cannot preserve peace, and if Australia says that it will no longer support the League of Nations, and will even desert the Empire to which it belongs, what could less than 7,000,000 people do should some bully seek to take this, the most desirable land on the face of the earth? What would be our protection then ? Would we prefer to rely on our own teeth, or to have also the teeth of the whole Empire and, indeed, of civilization? The Opposition must change its tune; it must show a little more virility. The people of Australia have not degenerated to the extent that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition would suggest. Australians played a man’s part in the World War, and they will do the same again, if necessary. Surely no one here would say that Australia should follow a policy of neutrality to the extent of allowing anyone to land on our shores and destroy our economic life, and, indeed, our nation, without an effort at resistance. We are of British blood ; and for that reason we will resent any attempt to interfere with the safety of our nation. If Australia were to withdraw from the League of Nations, it would have to arm to the teeth; there would be no alternative.
I hope that the Government will be a little more plain in any future pronouncement of this kind. The people of Australia were waiting for a message from the Government, but, in my opinion, they did not get it. I do not question the Government’s sincerity; but I do question its judgment in thinking that the statement it issued would satisfy the people of this country, or of Great Britain, or of those allied nations which are looking for a sign from Australia.
– Several of the remarks of Senator Brown who, I assume, expressed the view of the Australian Labour party, cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. I take it that the Australian Labour party wholeheartedly supports the League of Nations, and I would also like to assume - although such an assumption is open to doubt - that its members understand the Covenants into which Australia has entered. The British Labour party is at one with the Australian Labour party in support of the League of Nations as an instrument for the preservation of peace in a war-weary world.
The latest reports from the Old Country reveal an extraordinary difference between the views of the British Labour party and the Australian Labour party in regard to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute.
– Only a section of the British Labour party.
– Both Senator Collings and Senator Brown carefully refrained from stating that there is now complete unity between the members of the British Labour party on this issue. At a recent conference, Sir Walter Citrine, who is the real leader of the Labour party in Great Britain, said -
The only thing Mussolini understands is collective force. There is no alternative now but sanctions, involving all the possibility of war. Congress has a duty to the coloured peoples of the world, and the duty is to prevent a defenceless country being butchered by one of the greatest bullies in Europe. If Germany and Italy were allowed to break treaties with impunity, Hitlerised Germany could carry out its projected attack on Russia. Now is the time to defend Russia by defending Abyssinia.
It is remarkable that, even before the issues are clear, the Australian Labour party, which is supposed to be a supporter of the League of Nations, should urge a policy of non-participation. The Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) was justified in asking what the Opposition meant by non-participation. Does it mean that in the event of hostilities Australia would paddle its own canoe ? That would mean retracting every pledge given to the League of Nations to take a share of the responsibility for preserving the peace of the world.
I cannot agree with Senator Leckie that the statement of policy issued by the Government was lacking in clearness and definiteness.
– He said that it was anaemic, and he was right.
– How could it be otherwise since there is no issue yet before the country? The Government’s statement was to the following effect: -
The Commonwealth Government, while convinced that the upholding of the principles of collective security embodied in the League of Nations is essential to world peace, desires to point out that none of the provisions of the Covenant has been violated by either Italy or Abyssinia … It therefore seems unwise either to anticipate any breach, or to announce in advance the course of action to be followed by the Commonwealth Government in contingencies, the nature and circumstances of which cannot at present be foreseen.
If there has not been a breach of any of the Covenants of the League, where is there an issue sufficiently great to justify the Australian Labour party in saying that, in the event of sanctions being applied - and that would mean the acceptance of collective responsibility - Australia’s policy should be one of non-participation? The Government evidently believes that at this juncture there is no justification for assuming that either party to the dispute will violate any of its obligations. Because no Covenant of the League of Nations has yet been broken it is unwise either to anticipate any breach or to announce in advance the action which the Government proposes to take. If, unhappily, occasion arises - and we all sincerely trust that it will not - for a definite stand to be taken, it will then be time enough for the Australian Labour party to announce its policy. That time is not now. The views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition are only so much propaganda.
– I agree with the view expressed by Senator Hardy regarding the attitude adopted by the Government in relation to the ItaloAbyssinian dispute. At times like the present there is always the temptation to rush in and say things which ought not to be said, but the Government exercises its greatest discretion by limiting what it says to the existing circumstances and going not one step further.
As one who has, at various times, been faced with great responsibilities I commend the Government for its restraint in respect of this particular issue. It has made it abundantly clear that it stands by the undertakings of this country solemnly given under the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Whatever may be our views as to the efficacy of the League method for the maintenance of peace, no better method has yet been devised. Australia is a signatory of the League Covenant. It signed the Covenant with the approval of practically all citizens of Australia; they believed that this was the best way in which peace could be ensured. After the awful experience of the last war, representatives of the nations involved met in conference at Versailles, and adopted the Covenant of the League of Nations. In its last analysis, as the world has found out, the rule of law rests on force. Therefore, in all seriousness, I ask my honorable friends opposite if they believe that their contribution to this controversy is calculated to maintain peace. If every nation sitting at the council table of the League of Nations had adopted their attitude, what would be the result to-day ?
– War would be on.
Senator Sir WALTER MASSYGREENE. If Great Britain, France, and the other principal nations in conference at Geneva had adopted the policy of non-participation, and let it be known that the League was simply a debating society, what would have been the result? I am not speaking of Italy at the moment. Everybody knows that if the other nations had adopted the attitude of my friends opposite the wolves of war would be abroad this very moment. Nobody knows this better than honorable senators of the Opposition. The only way in which it is possible for the Covenant of the League of Nations to work efficiently is for the member nations to stand solemnly behind the pledges which they have given. Unless they do this the League of Nations must collapse. That may be the ultimate result; I cannot say. But if, ultimately, we see the entire collapse of the greatest instrument for the maintenance of collective peace which the mind of man has yet devised, Australia, in common with other nations, will have good, cause to regret it.
– While listening ,to the eloquent remarks of Senator MassyGreene one was almost persuaded that the attitude of the Australian Labour party to the grave issue which confronts the world ‘ was quite wrong. But the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has a good memory. Doubtless he will recall that three years ago, when I referred to the conflict between Bolivia and Paraguay, he ridiculed my suggestion that it was the outcome of conflicting commercial and trading interests, and said there was nothing in it, notwithstanding that I made it clear that my authority was a good Scottish Labour paper, Glasgow Forward, edited by Mr. Tom Johnston, a former member of the House of Commons. My point is that the League of Nations allowed that dispute to drag on for three years.
– The difference between the struggle for the Gran Chaco and the Italo-Abyssinian dispute is that, at the outset, neither Paraguay nor Bolivia was willing to submit the issue to the League of Nations for settlement.
– That also is the stand taken by Mussolini in the present dispute.
– But Abyssinia, a member nation, is prepared to submit to the League.
– The action of Japan in Manchuria may also be cited as another instance in which the League failed to exert its authority. That is my reply to Senator Massy-Greene. Although the honorable senator made a convincing speech in support of the League of Nations he conveniently forgot its disinclination to act with respect to other disputes that have occurred in recent years. I freely admit that the League of Nations is a splendid institution.
– Not a debating society?
– Hitherto it has been so regarded in some quarters, and because of its inability to settle disputes between nations, it has been called a failure. It certainly failed to prevent Japan from taking aggressive action in Manchuria, and failed also for a period of three years, to put an end to the war between Bolivia and Paraguay. I understand that a number of Australian mercenaries took part in the war between those two countries. A statement to this effect appeared in an Australian newspaper recently. Then there was an unofficial war in and around Shanghai, due to aggressive action by the Japanese military authorities, and again the League of Nations proved ineffective.
The reason for interference in the Italo-Abyssinian dispute is that two great nations are particularly interested, and the issue is nearer home. A struggle between Italy and Abyssinia may involve control of the Suez Canal, which is regarded as one of the world’s commercial arteries. The Minister mentioned this afternoon that Britain’s exports to Abyssinia amount to approximately £50,000 a year. I should have thought the trade was greater than that. But the Minister’s statement did not cover the whole situation. I understand that Abyssinia, which has an area of about 400,000 square miles, has valuable mineral and oil deposits. A few weeks ago we read of concessions secured by a syndicate which had been formed by a Mr. Rickett for the exploitation of the northern portion of Abyssinia. At first it was reported that British capital was involved, but later information showed that American financial interests, generally understood to be sponsored by the Standard Oil Company, were behind the venture. I mention these facts, because so little is really known of the undercurrents of international finance, and it is difficult to form reliable judgments concerning disputes between nations owing to the meagre information given to the public. Mr. Rickett, I understand, recently effected a. dramatic coup in Iraq, as the result of which Italian interests secured 52 per cent, of the shares in an important oil concern, from which the British directors were forced to retire. The struggle between Paraguay and Bolivia was due to the conflicting interests of the British and American financial concerns. The British capitalists, I understand, desired to prevent Bolivia from securing an outlet to the sea via the Paraguay River, which would have benefited rival oil interests controlled by American capital. That dispute, I repeat, was allowed to drag on for three years, and it involved the lives of many thousands of Bolivian and Paraguain soldiers.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I am unable to check the honorable senator, but I should like to know if the purpose of his remarks is to disparage the League of Nations as an instrument for the maintenance of peace.
– We listened to an excellent exposition of the advantages of the League from Senator Massy-Greene, and I think I am entitled to say something in reply.
– But is it the intention of the honorable senator to lower the prestige of the League of Nations in the eyes of the world?
– Certainly not. We on this side, in common with other honorable senators, would regret very much the failure of any organization designed for the common good.
– What the honorable senator is saying can have no other effect than to belittle the League, and I suggest that his discretion should dictate a different course.
– This is the place where frank speeches should be made on every momentous occasion. We have had a frank speech from the Postmaster-General (Senator McLachlan), who ridiculed, in no unmeasured terms, the policy of non-participation declared by my leader, and asked what “ non-participation “ meant. To make the position clearer I now move as an amendment -
That all the words after “ that “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ in the opinion of the Senate the Government should, immediately instruct Australia’s delegate at the League of Nations that he is definitely and unequivocally to oppose any action, implied or committed, likely to involve Australia in war.”
– I second the amendment.
– I agree with all that Senator Massy-Greene has said. We all are glad to have him with us again, and to have the pleasure of listening to what he has to say. I agree, also, with Senator Hardy, that the action of the Government in issuing a temperate, reasoned, and, if you like, tepid statement, was inevitable in the circumstances. I propose to follow that example. I do not propose to say anything of the antecedents of the dispute, or the attitude of the various nations with regard to the outstanding series of international difficulties, which, I am certain, all honorable senators deplore. There are two or three points to which I shall refer briefly. The first is the assumption contained in the statement read by the
Leader of the Oppositionin this chamber (Senator Collings) that it is within the competence of Australia to participate in or avoid a war just as it thinks fit. That is based upon a fundamental fallacy. The fact is, that if Great Britain is at war the Empire is at war, and Australia whether it likes it or not is also at war. That is the legal position. We are liable to attack by any belligerent with which Great Britain happens to be fighting. I do not, of course, make that statement on my own authority, but on the authority of Sir John Latham, who, when speaking in the House of Representatives in 1924 in connexion with the treaty with Turkey, said without qualification -
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) appears to consider that it is optional whether Australia shall be considered to be at war or at peace when Great Britain is at war. There is no option. Other nations regard all parts of the Empire as belonging to one international unit or entity. That is a matter, of legal fact. If the British Empire is at war, then, legally, Australia also is undoubtedly at war. Of course, it is now perfectly well established that it depends upon Australia herself entirely how far she shall participate in such a war, and whether she shall, or shall not, send an armed force to take part in belligerent operations.
I invite the attention of the members of the Labour party to the following: -
If Great Britain is at war, Australia is exposed to all the risks of war, and she cannot evade those risks by any unilateral action which she may take. The only way in which she can avoid being considered at war when Britain is at war is by severing her connexion with the Empire.
Although that position is apparently not understood by Senator Collings the effect of his statement is that the Australian Labour party suggests that we should seek to avoid war by severing our connexion with the Empire. Senator A. J. McLachlan pointed out that the logical consequence of the Labour party’s policy is that Australia must leave the League of Nations, but I remind Senator Collings that it also means leaving the Empire. That position, I suggest, is worthy of consideration by honorable senators generally. So far as I know there has been no change in that legal position. It is true that Australia has been given a seat in the Assembly of the League of Nations, and from that fact many people have gained the idea that Australia is a separate nation and can do exactly as it likes. But when the Washington Disarmament Conference was summoned, the Government of the United States of America did not issue separateinvitations to all portions of the British Empire, bur, as Senator Sir George Pearce knows, to the British Empire as a whole. It is not altogether a matter of our own view; we must have regard to what the view of other nations is likely to be. Assuming a war in which Britain was involved, we might say that we were not going to participate in it, but other countries would say that as they were at war with Britain they were also at war with Australia, and that we would have to take the consequence of belonging to the British Empire. If we were unprepared for war, so much the better for them and the worse for us. That is what, their attitude would be.
The second point is this: Surely no fair-minded man, looking back over the last fifteen years, can deny that during that time Great Britain has persistently advocated peace.
– And disarmament.
Senator DUNCANHUGHES.Britain has disarmed just as Australia has disarmed to the danger point. Has that not been simply and solely with a. desire to give a lead to the rest of the world so that disarmament might be promoted in the interests of international peace? Disarmament proposals have been supported. Lord Cecil, Mr. Arthur Henderson, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Sir Eric Drummond, all British, have been among the leaders in the promotion of peace. Surely no fair-minded man can suggest that Great Britain has not played its part in the cause of peace. Great Britain, which has to carry such a load in this respect, is much closer to the zone of operations than we are, but it does not follow that we have no interests in such problems. I have yet to learn that the Suez Canal or the Mediterranean are lacking in interest and importance to Australia, which is so largely dependent upon the sale overseas of its primary products. If we here are walking warily, and some of us are refraining from making provocative speeches in the hope that war may be avoided, surely that small country on the other side of the world bursting with population, in contrast with our own country, and almost within range of those countries which anay be hostile, will take only the most temperate and well-considered action. It is not right that we should say anything here that may make the difficulties of the British Government, or of our own Government, greater than they are to-day. I commend the Government for moving warily and for not saying anything which it might have cause to rue. We all desire that peace on a proper basis shall be preserved by the influence of the British Government and the Commonwealth Government acting in concert.
– The old tragedy is being reenacted in this chamber this afternoon. The same rhetoric, the same glycerine tears and the same indifference on the part of the old men to the welfare of the young, who, if war occurs will be exported to the shambles, is being displayed to-day as has been displayed on every occasion on which the world has been involved in war. If it were not for the fact that as an old man I have been through this experience on more than -one occasion I might even be induced to leave the track along which I have decided to travel - the track laid down by the party to which I belong and which is set out in the policy of the Australian Labour movement to which I am definitely pledged by my signature.
– The members of that party are not unanimous on this issue.
– Had I not had experience I might even be led astray by the specious arguments, and worse than that, by the direct untruths and insults hurled at me by the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) in his speech on this subject to-day.
– I understand that a certain amount of latitude is allowed in debate ; but I must ask that the language used by the honorable senator should not be applied to me.
– As the words used by the honorable senator are offensive to the Minister I ask that they be withdrawn.
– In deference to you, sir, and to the Minister who apparently is unable to take his gruel, I withdraw the words unconditionally. The Minister knows better than his speech indicates. When he sees his outburst in cold print to-morrow he will regret some of his remarks which had a direct reference to my previous statement. Let us study the arguments adduced this afternoon which prompted the Opposition to move an amendment to the motion. I assure the Minister and all those who have spoken in his support that we have one motive and one motive only and that is to avert Australia being involved in war.
– That is what we are all aiming at.
– The disparaging remarks made concerning me by the Minister this afternoon and his inflammatory statements concerning our objective were a direct attempt to misrepresent entirely the statement I made on behalf of my party. It is easy for the Minister to say that he knows of the horrors of war, and that he abhors war as much as I do. He also said that we should avert war if that is at all possible. There is only one way in which to avoid war and that is for every nation involved or likely to be embroiled to declare that it will not have war in any circumstances whatever. There cannot be a war if the peoples who may be involved resolve that there shall not be war. If finally a war of extermination between Italy and Abyssinia is inevitable all I can say is let us in Heaven’s name circumscribe it to those countries concerned and keep Australia out of it. I believe with the Premier of Queensland that the entire quarrel between Italy and Abyssinia is not worth the sacrifice of a single Australian life. I recognize in the statements of honorable senators opposite the same arguments as were used, particularly throughout the British Empire, when war was imminent in 1914. The people in Great Britain did not know that war was even contemplated until the announcement was made in the British House of Commons that it was inescapable. The people of Australia know nothing of what has been done in their name on the other side of the world. This Government has not told’ the Senate the facts about the negotiations which have been going on for months between the Government and its representative in London.
The Postmaster-General said this afternoon that the League of Nations was the only device available for the security of the world and the saving of civilization. It is certainly the best device which has been conceived up to date. I believe in the League of Nations. I supported it in this chamber last year when Senator Grant objected on the budget to the expense Australia has to carry as a consequence of being represented on the League. I know the wars the League has prevented and those it has failed to prevent, and I say again that it is obviously unable, situated as it is, at the moment, to impose its will upon belligerent nations. The greatest contribution we could make to the peace and security of the world, and to civilization itself, would be to refuse to take part in this war, in the hope that the other nations would follow our example.
– Which war?
– The war in which we are, as the Postmaster-General knows perfectly well, in imminent danger of being embroiled. Senator DuncanHughes has quoted Sir John Latham’s dictum that if Great Britain was at war Australia was also inescapably involved. The Government would have been better advised to tell the people of Australia that this was the position instead of issuing the statement which Senator Leckie pertinently described as anaemic. Why not place all the cards on the table and let the people of Australia know how far we are involved, and how far we are pledged ? The Government does not dare to do that because those who sit on the other side of the chamber, some of whom have spoken this afternoon, are direct representatives of the vested interests which, by their predatory action in every country, finally involve nations in war.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not know that I personally object to being described by the honorable senator as a representative of predatory interests, but I do not think it is a proper description to apply to honorable senators. The honorable senator who makes the accusation looks more predatory than I do. I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– I did not address my remark to Senator DuncanHughes.
– The honorable senator referred to all of us.
– I did not;’ I used the words “ some of whom have spoken this afternoon “. I resent Senator Duncan-Hughes rushing in and claiming the honour for himself. I did not intend the remark to apply to him and I willingly withdraw it.
The Postmaster-General contradicted my statement that all the dominions were not in agreement with the policy which he was espousing. He added that I preferred to quote from some obscure source rather than from the authoritative statements of representative men before the Assembly of the League of Nations. But we have never been told what has been said there. We know that the press of this country is the mouthpiece of predatory vested interests. I have not lived for 70 years and come into this chamber so childishly innocent that I cannot appreciate the facts of the situation. No doubt honorable senators on the other side know more than I concerning this matter, because they are intimately associated with the members of the Ministry. The Postmaster-General is aware that the Canadian Premier has definitely said, “We have paid for peace and security, and mean to have them.”
– So do we.
– I am reminded of the Irishman who believed in peace so much that he would go to war to get it. I believe in peace first, second and all the time.
– The honorable senator is the most belligerent pacifist I have ever met.
– I have heard that before. I know that supporters of the Government, in their individual capacity, are just as kindly as I am, and are whole-hearted in their desire that peace should prevail.
Senator Massy-Greene took me to task like a father rebuking a child, and said that there was always the temptation on occasions like this to rush in and say things which would be better left unsaid; but we cannot be too early in expressing our detestation of war. It is the old men who make wars, and old men, who are in the majority in the parliaments in this country and in the councils of other nations, rush in and say things that would be better left unsaid. They are prepared to do the same thing now. Since 1914-18 a :wv generation has’ arrived. It is not the returned soldiers who went through the last holocaust who will be wanted for the next war. I have met in this country soldiers who have told me that, they desire no more war. Returned soldiers associations from one end of Australia to the other have declared against war; but it is the new generation of men who will be required. Australia would make its greatest contribution to the peace of the world by refusing to participate in any foreign war. One honorable senator - Senator Leckie, I think - to-day declared that Australia cannot effectively defend itself. It did not defend itself in 1914.
– It made a wonderful contribution.
– That is so, but we were under the sheltering arm of Great Britain, and we shall be again. We are in a fortunate situation in Australia, being at least 12,000 miles from the scene of the threatened trouble. We can best help Great Britain by keeping out of the trouble, and making it unnecessary for it to protect us. We have great admiration for the way Great Britain has tried to have this ItaloAbyssinian dispute settled by arbitration. A full statement of the situation is needed. The ministerial statement does not tell us the position. If the statement said straight out, “ Britain in, all in,” Ave should understand the situation. The Postmaster-General this afternoon accused me of all the crimes in the calendar, but that is an old dodge. I do not object to it now, because I have become accustomed to it. I can. visualize not so much the massed armies as the individuals who will be sent from Australia if this war eventuates. Some of them will be members of my own family. I do not believe that the sordid brawl between Italy and Abyssinia is worth the sacrifice of one of those lives, and in saying that I do not mind if I am condemned, or charged with being guilty of rushing in where I ought not to venture. On behalf of the party which I represent in this chamber I shall, if necessary, do my utmost, from one end of Australia to the other, to prevent the sacrifice of one Australian life in the trouble which is now brewing. The amendment merely crystallizes the views of my party; without it, my statement yesterday would have been of little value. That statement was only a brief outline of our position, but it expressed the sentiment of the Australian Labour party. Senator Hardy interjected that the Australian Labour party was not united in its attitude towards this dispute. That is not correct.
– What about the secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland?
– The ‘ resolution carried unanimously by the Brisbane Trades and Labour Council, representing the organized industrial workers of Queensland, was moved by Mr. C. G. Fallon, State secretary of the Australian Workers Union, and that resolution differed only in phraseology from the statement made by me yesterday.
I ask honorable senators to believe that my remarks yesterday were not just an idle statement. They were made then because we believe it would be fatal to wait until a decision has been made. The amendment merely puts a constructive side to what I said yesterday, although I know the protest will be of no avail because the grey heads supporting the Government will go ahead irrespective of the soundness of the views expressed by the Opposition. We have stated our opinion honestly and fairly, and have put forward a constructive proposal which, if accepted, would considerably clarify the situation and keep Australia out of the sordid squabble which threatens to culminate in war on the other side of the world.
.- Had it not been for the shameful utterances of Senator Collings I should not
Lave taken part in the debate. The honorable senator gratuitously insulted members on this side of the chamber when he said that the aged men among us, despite our glycerine tears, are anxious to involve Australia in war. More aged men in the party controlling Australian affairs ro-day suffered through the Great War than did the aged men in the party to which the honorable senator belongs. The honorable senator should at least respect their feelings. Many of us suffered terribly as a result of the Great War, and the honorable senator, knowing that, should withdraw his shameful’ utterances.
– There is only one way to avoid a repetition of that suffering, and that is by Australia keeping out of the struggle.
– The amendment is most important. It proposes that Australia should instruct its representative at the League of Nations to avoid anything that might embroil Australia in a war.
– Both Italy and Great Britain say that they are not taking any steps that would lead to war.
– I have watched proceedings closely since the war clouds appeared on the horizon, and I am proud to belong to the British Empire - an empire which stands for the protection of small nations against bullying nations. If Australia withdrew its loyal support from Great Britain at this time, Australians would never be able again to hold up their heads. One honorable senator put the position very aptly when he said that Australia cannot afford to stand in isolation and desert the Old Country in its time of need. In discussing this matter, we should refrain from saying anything which might prejudice the magnificent efforts that Britain is making to ensure peace. Some of the statements made during this debate, instead of being of assistance to the Old Country, may be a handicap. Every parliament in the world is being watched to-day by other nations. I remember distinctly the unanimity prevailing among the representatives of 38 nations at the Berlin Conference in 1928 when a resolution in support of the Kellogg Pact was carried amid a scene of enthusiasm such as I have never witnessed before or since. As one of the signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations, Australia cannot afford to take any action which might suggest to the world that this country would be false to that pact and to the Covenant. I hope that this discussion will reveal to the world that the heart of Australia is in the right place, and that this country will do the right thing should the occasion arise.
– Having listened to the premature, unwise, misguided, and foolish statements made during this debate on behalf of the Opposition, I feel compelled to make a few observations.
Following upon the Great War, the best brains of the world endeavoured to conceive some method of outlawing war in the future. The League of Nations was the outcome. When Australia was invited to become a member of the League the proposal received the unanimous endorsement of all parties. Australia joined the League, and since then Parliament has voted a contribution annually towards its maintenance. At the moment there is no war in progress; but war is threatened. Listening to the Opposition, one would think that the world is already in the throes of a war. We all hope that no hostilities will result. I contend that the attitude of the Government is more likely to avert hostilities than is that of the Opposition. Day and night the League has been working to prevent war, and in- that effort Australia’s representative has been playing his part. Notwithstanding that Great Britain has even gone so far as to offer to cede territory to the aggressive nation in order that war might be averted the speeches of Opposition senators would convey the impression that Australia and Britain are conspiring to bring about armed conflict. The pronouncement of the Government merely intimated that it stood behind Great Britain up to the hilt ‘ in its efforts to ensure peace. What clearer pronouncement could any government give? If, unfortunately, hostilities do break out it will then be time for this Parliament, and for the people of Australia, to make clear whether or not they wish to follow a policy of nonparticipation.
The League of Nations is the greatest moral force in the world for peace. Its members are making magnificent offers in the interests of peace, and I consider that the Labour party’s statement definitely weakens their efforts. The Opposition advocates throwing in the towel - an action which would probably encourage the aggressive nation to go ahead. To-day’s newspaper reports inform us that Italy has now submitted counter proposals, ls not that a sign of the effectiveness of the League? But for the League, war would have broken out several weeks ago. I object to the Labour party following a course of action which might weaken the League, the only force in the world that may be able to avert a catastrophe. Senator J. V. MacDonald said that the League had failed to prevent trouble between China and Japan. On that occasion, perhaps, the League made a mistake, as it did in not intervening between Paraguay and Bolivia. But if the League did make mistakes then, another mistake now in respect of the Italo-Abyssinian dispute will not make the position any better. Two “wrongs” do not make a “right”.
The reference by the Leader of the Opposition to the “old men” who support the Government’s attitude in this matter was not, I think, quite fair. The honorable senator said that not one member of his family would be sacrificed if, unfortunately, this dispute should involve Australia in hostilities. Without knowing the family circumstances of Government supporters I am confident that they also have sons concerning whom they are just as anxious as the Leader of the Opposition may be about the possibility of members of his family becoming involved in this dispute. Nobody wants war. Some of our citizens have a very intimate knowledge of the horrors of war. Therefore we say that no effort should be spared by this Parliament to avert a repetition of the tragedy which overwhelmed the world between the years 1914 and 1918. Although the statement made by the Leader of the Senate does not, perhaps, give us quite so much information as we would like to have, I believe that the Government, acting in close co-operation with the British Government, is doing its best in very difficult circumstances, and I am quite prepared to leave the issue in its hands.
[5.43]. - The amendment submitted by Senator J. V. MacDonald states that, in the opinion of the Senate, the Government should immediately instruct the Australian delegate to the League of Nations definitely and unequivocally to oppose any action, implied or committed, likely to involve Australia in war. An examination of its terms discloses that the amendment is meaningless. I assume that Senator Collings and his supporters have read the Covenant of the League of- Nations, and therefore know what it contains. On this assumption I ask them this question : “ Does the Labour party believe that Australia should remain a member of the League of Nations?” I put this question to them because it is the only way in which we may test the amendment. As my friends opposite do not answer, I assume that, as members of the Labour party, they do believe that Australia should remain a member of the League of Nations. I have not anywhere seen criticism from them of League reports that have come before Parliament from timeto time, and I remind them also that they have taken part in the debates dealing with League of Nations affairs, and have supported the vote of about £70,000 yearly as Australia’s contribution towards the cost of the League. Obviously the Scullin Government believed in the League of Nations because it sent representatives to Geneva, and although Australia was then in the trough of the financial depression, it voted the money necessary to retain our membership of the League. In the light of these facts, I must assume that the Labour party, which now takes responsibility for this amendment, believes in the League of Nations and believes also that Australia should be a member of it. This being so I remind our Labour friends that when Australia became a member of the League of Nations it also subscribed to the Articles of the Covenant which were framed for the purpose of preventing war. Those articles, however, also visualize, and state in definite terms that, in certain contingencies, the League itself may have to employ force. Members of the Labour party cannot now say that they did not know of the obligations imposed on Australia by the League Covenant. To do that would be to confess ignorance of the articles of a Covenant which has been especially designed to maintain international peace.
– It would now seem that Labour hoped to get something out of the League and give nothing.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE That is exactly the position. Now a situation has arisen in which there is a possibility of a breach of international peace. It has been said that it takes two to make a quarrel. That may be true of individuals, but internationally one nation may force a quarrel on another, and, by aggressive action, threaten the peace of the world. The articles of the Covenant were framed to meet such a situation; they were designed to make it dangerous for any aggressive nation to break the peace of the world.
Bearing in mind the tragic events which occurred between 1914 and 1918, the articles of the League Covenant were so drawn that members of the League of Nations should, ipso facto, become the enemies of an aggressor nation. It may be all very well, when some other nation is attacked for us in Australia to say that it is no concern of ours. But suppose Australia were being attacked - what about the articles of the Covenant then? I can imagine with what eloquence and force Senator Collings and’ his supporters would then call upon other nations to honour the pledge contained in the Covenant, and protect Australia from the “ bully “ that was threatening our peace and security. But they cannot have it both ways.
If the articles of the Covenant are to be invoked for our protection, we, as a member nation of the League, must also honour them when they are being invoked for the protection of other nations. Therefore, I say that the amendment is meaningless. If honorable senators opposite really mean what is implied in the amendment they should move that Australia should resign as a member of the League - that is really their only honest course - and tell the world that we are leaving the League because we cannot any longer honour the obligations imposed by the Covenant. Retaining our membership of the League, while at the same time declaring that in no circumstances whatever shall our delegate give a vote that may mean war - not a war of aggression by the League or by those who are members of the League, but war forced upon the League by an aggressor nation - is, I suggest, a hopelessly untenable attitude.
In politics or in industrial affairs our friends of the Labour party do not usually turn the other cheek to the aggressor. Do they think that they can make the world believe that, in international affairs, they are lambs while in political and industrial affairs they are veritable lions? Apparently the Leader of the Opposition would have the world believe that he is a veritable lamb - one who would not raise even a bleat against an aggressive wolf. In this chamber, as all honorable senators know, his command of language in support of principles to which he adheres is always forceful and at times almost violent. While the honorable gentleman was speaking this afternoon I took a note of some of the adjectives which he employed when addressing honorable senators on this side. They reminded me of the list of adjectives which are to be found in one of the little publications issued for the guidance of honorable senators, and containing language which has been ruled to be unparliamentary. For example, the honorable senator accused honorable senators on this side of using “specious arguments “, of shedding “ glycerine tears “, of employing “ absurd rhetoric “. He even referred to some of us as “ old men who were willing to send young men to the shambles “. That was the kind of language employed by Senator Collings - this international “ lamb “ who would have people of other countries believe that he would not even bleat if ever the wolf of war came to his door! I suggest also that the honorable senator’s opening remarks were of a nature that, upon reflection, might well bring the blush of shame to his cheeks. The imputation which he made against the mother country was, I think, shameful. This is what the honorable gentleman said -
If it were not for the oil fields of Abyssinia and other Tich natural resources desired by great vested interests, there would not be manoeuvrings for war.
What are those vested interests? I think we should ask ourselves this question because obviously Senator Collings meant that certain vested interests which he had in mind were manoeuvring for war.
– The Standard Oil Company is one.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Was the honorable senator alluding to Italy, or to Great Britain, France, and the other nations that have indicated their intention to uphold the principles of the League of Nations?
– Did I say that?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Let me read a few passages from the honorable senator’s remarks so that the Senate may see which country he had in mind -
Only recently it was announced that Abyssinia had sold the rights to exploit the oil wealth of the country to American and British interests. The price to be paid was £10,000,000.
The honorable gentleman definitely mentioned British interests and American interests. And he knew when he was making that statement that the British Government had announced on the floor of the House of Commons that no British interests whatever were concerned in that concession. It had been made plain that purely American interests were involved. Although Senator Collings was well aware of the facts, he deliberately imputed wrong and improper motives to the Government of the Mother Country by specifically mentioning that British interests were identified with the oil concessions. He went on to say -
Under pressure, however, the concessionaires withdrew. It is immaterial to the masses of the people of Australia how those oil fields are eventually distributed. Therefore we should keep out of this sordid quarrel over mineral and other wealth.
It is Great Britain and Prance that are saying that the principles of the League must be maintained, and that there must be no war of aggression against Abyssinia or any other member of the League. Yet Senator Collings says that, because of this scramble for oil concessions, we must keep out of any possible war. There is a clear inference in his remarks that Britain is adopting its present attitude, not because of its regard for its obligations under the Covenant, but because of some unworthy and sordid motive associated with the exploitation of these concessions.
– The Minister should read what I said about Great Britain.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The honorable senator was sufficiently diplomatic to use some lip salve so that loyal Britishers in Australia would not be offended by references to the unworthy motives of the country from which they came. We on this side of the chamber believe that Great Britain is honestly endeavouring to maintain peace. On this occasion, as in the past, its attitude is in accord with the obligations it entered into on becoming a member of the League, and it has the support of France. The same obligation rests upon Australia. If we desire to avoid these obligations the honest way is to leave the League as did Germany and Japan; but, while we remain a member, we must play our part and support those countries which are upholding that for which it stands; that is, to use the organized force of the world against the aggressor who desires to disturb the peace.
– Whether the aggressor be Italy or Japan?
– For many years the Labour party has been floundering with its defence policy. The Labour party once had a definite defence policy. It said that, as Australia is a democracy in which every one has the right to assist in making the laws, it is the duty of every man to take the responsibility of defending those laws. The Labour party once stood for universal military service and an Australian navy, but the latter-day Labour party-
– Has blown its brains out.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, it has blown its brains out. It became ashamed of its policy, and ran away from it. Knowing that a majority of the Australian people favour a policy of defence, it has been endeavouring to bring together a mass of words to cover up its nakedness. When we come face to face with such a momentous question as that now before the League, we find this meaningless jumble of words brought forward by the Labour party. They contain a series of imputations concerning improper motives, and an attempt is made to make the people believe that there is a deep-laid conspiracy to drag- the Australian people into a world war. That is due to the fact that the Labour party has not a policy covering defence and international relations generally.
– The amendment embraces a definite policy.
– The policy of the Lang Labour party is worse.
-It is infinitely worse. This matter is too serious to be a mere shuttlecock of party politics. I invite honorable senators to read the ministerial statement on the subject from end to end. If they do, they will not find one word which can he construed to bring the subject into the arena of party politics. The speech of the honorable senator and those who supported him showed an attempt to make political capital out of this crisis, and I have been compelled to answer them in the only language they understand. There is a higher plane upon which this matter should be considered, and that is that the League of Nations, imperfect as it . is, is doing its best to ensure international peace. Honorable senators opposite have sneered at its failures - I regret that there have been failures - but there have been some successes.
– And notable ones, too.
– Yes; and there is this to be said, that in the last resort it is the only international organization which man has been able to devise which has for its object the maintenance of the peace of the world. If we discredit it, and by our action on this momentous occasion-
– Rat on it!
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, to use an Australianism which fits the position, “ rat on it,” the structure will tumble to the ground and we shall have to revert to the old system of alliances, intrigues, and secret diplomacy. I regret that there should be a political party in Australia, representing hundreds of thousands of persons, which has not the courage to face up to the situation as the members of the British trades unions have faced up to it, instead of coming forward with this meaningless jumble of words.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator J.V. MacDonald’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6. 8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 September 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19350924_senate_14_147/>.