16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon J. Cunningham) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and readprayers.
– Has the Minister for the Interior read the following report, which is published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to-day : -
Theodore Defines A.W.C. Position.
Brisbane, Wednesday. - Head-quarters staff of the Personnel Division of the Civil Construction Corps of the Allied Works Council on strike in Brisbane will not be re-employed, the Director-General of the Allied Works Council (Mr. E. G. Theodore) announced to-day.
The Civil Construction Corps men engaged on war projects who struck in sympathy with the head-quarters staff have been given until noon to-morrow to return to work, or they will be prosecuted.
If the Minister has read that report, will he inform the ‘Senate whether it is a fact that certain Labour members in the Commonwealth Parliament are trying to undermine and belittle the DirectorGeneral of Allied Works? Is it a fact that prominent American officials have congratulated the Government, or the Minister for the Interior, on the splendid job that has been done by Mr. Theodore? Is it a fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service refuses to stand by Mr. Theodore in his efforts to maintain discipline? Is it also a fact that, because of lack of support by the Government, Mr. Theodore has said that law and order have been subordinated to union control and mob rule?
– I have not read the press report referred to, but I am acquainted with all of the facts regarding this matter. It is impossible to answer the honorable senator’s lengthy list of questions, because the premises on which some of them are based are correct, and in other instances they are utterly incorrect.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that .in yesterday’s news broadcast of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a representative of the Government of New South Wales delivered a mild rebuke to the Minister regarding his broadcast address on the ramifications of the Allied Works Council? Is the Minister also aware that the New South Wales spokesman pointed out that many works, presumably in New South Wales, for which the Minister took credit, were already well under way before the formation of the Allied Works Council ?
– I am not aware of any of the matters to which the honorable senator has referred.
– In view of the unsatisfactory replies given by the Minister to questions dealing with a matter of great national importance - and I appreciate his difficulty in answering such questions without notice - will he make a statement on the subject before the Senate adjourns to-day, if I hand to him a copy of the newspaper from which I have quoted a report and a copy of the questions submitted by me ?
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I experience no difficulty whatever in answering questions without notice, so long as they are submitted in a way that enables an intelligent reply to be given. ‘Some of the honorable senator’s questions were based on facts, and some were not. I was unable, on the spur of the moment, to sort them out. As I have already said, I have not seen the press report, and I have no intention to make a statement on the subject before the Senate adjourns to-day.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is the Minister in ;i position to ma.ke a statement in regard to the transfer of the Sandy Bay Rifle Range to tHe Hobart City Council? How far have negotiations progressed ?
– The reply to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The matter of the disposal of the rifle range at Sandy Bay has been under consideration for n considerable time. The present negotiations are between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, not the Hobart City Council.
The negotiations are not complete, but it may bc stated that any arrangement arrived at in the immediate future would not be put into operation mit.il after the cessation of hostilities.
Debate resumed from the 17th February (vide page 792), on motion by Senator Collings -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
– I shall endeavour to state the points on which I agree, and those on which I disagree, with the Government regarding the proposals embodied in this measure. It is generally recognized by honorable senators that the bill is before us because the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) decided that, owing to the exigencies of war, and the military position of Australia, the government of the day requires greater powers under the Defence Act than it now possesses. I believe that that decision was reached by the Prime
Minister entirely because of the knowledge he had, and the advice he had received from the service chiefs as to the military situation, and because of the necessity for the Government to shoulder the responsibility with regard to the matter. Owing to the attitude of the right honorable gentleman over a long period, he would have been unlikely to have come to such a decision unless forcible proof had been available to him as to the necessity for this legislation. I think that we are entitled to assume that, as the Prime Minister has been for a long period of years opposed to compulsory military training and to sending compulsory drafts outside Australia and its territories, substantial and impressive evidence must have been placed before him to cause him to take that step. I believe also that it is generally recognized that the decision was made by the Prime Minister himself, and not after consultation with members of his Cabinet or of his party. We know the announcement of his decision was made after he had visited Western Australia. I refer to that visit in no critical sense, because I believe that every honorable senator has a real appreciation of the burdens which, under present conditions, any Prime Minister is called upon to shoulder. Consequently, I believe that it was right for the right honorable gentleman to obtain, if possible, some relief from his heavyresponsibilities. I suggest that the normal practice of a Prime Minister when he has arrived at a decision of such magnitude is to consult, first, his Cabinet and then his supporters in the Parliament. On this occasion, however, there had beer a complete change of what may be .termed the normal practice. As I understand it. the Prime Minister came to an important decision, and without consultation with his colleagues in the Cabinet or with other members of his party, he made a pronouncement of momentous importance which was published in the press. In order to show tha,t the members of his Cabinet did not arrive at anything like a similar decision, I have only to call attention to the fact that a fortnight or three weeks earlier the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who is almost as closely in touch with these matters as is the Prime Minister, said : “ There is neither neces- sity nor justification for conscription for overseas service.” That statement was made in Canberra on the 29th October, 1942, and I can only assume that it was the opinion of the Minister for the Army at that time. Consequently, I think that we are entitled to say that this momentous decision was arrived at by the Prime Minister, and was published before he consulted with his colleagues in the Cabinet or with other members of his party. The right honorable gentleman has made some definite statements as to the necessity for amending the Defence Act, but, as Senator Spicer and others have already shown that the definiteness of those statements is a clear indication that .the Prime Minister was convinced of the need for changes, I shall not traverse the same ground. There are two outstanding facts in the decision of the Prime Minister, and they are implied in the hill now before us. The first is that it is necessary to use our Militia Forces outside the territorial limits of Australia. That is a most important pronouncement by the leader of a Labour government in this country, because it is a complete reversal of the policy for which Labour has stood, and of the opinion of the Prime Minister himself, for a long period of years. Honorable senators are aware of the attitude adopted by the right honorable gentleman during the war of 1914-18 and in the years following the termination of .that struggle. Indeed, we have documentary evidence to prove that the opinion which he held in those years he continued to hold even after the commencement of the present war. I recall that fact because both the Leader of the Senate and the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) devoted most of their time, not to the merits of the bill, hut to the failure of previous governments to do certain things. Ministers are expected to support their own government, but it is not right, and i.t does not add to their lustre, to make a concentrated attack on alleged deficiencies -of previous governments when dealing with a bill of such importance.
– I paid tribute to the achievements of previous governments.
– Before I finish I shall mention some of the things that the Postmaster-General said. In support of what I have said as to the attitude of the Prime Minister over a period of years, I shall read what he said when he moved a motion of want of confidence in the Lyons Administration in November, 1938. On that occasion, the right honorable gentleman, in reply to a remark by the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) to the effect that the Fisher Labour Government favoured compulsory military training, said -
Well, we object to it. Compulsory military training is no longer a part of the programme of the Labour party. … I say that any increase of defence expenditure after the Munich Pact, so far as Australia is concerned, appears to me to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of propaganda.
The policy of the Labour party could not have been stated more definitely, and therefore we are entitled to believe that the factors which changed the opinions of the right honorable gentleman on this occasion must have been important.
– The change was due to the entry of Japan into the war.
– The Opposition realized at the time that the entry of Japan into the war made a profound difference and, accordingly, on the following day it offered to support the Government should it decide to do what it is now doing in part. As that has already been referred to, I shall not stress it further, but I assure the Leader of the Senate that we, on this side, recognized that conditions had changed, and therefore offered the complete support of the Opposition should the Government decide to do what it now proposes to do in part under this bill.
It may be well to refer to a few of the outstanding features of the measure before us. For the first time in the history of the Australian Labour party, that party has subscribed to the principle of sending militia men outside the territories of Australia. I hope that after the vote on this measure has been taken honorable senators now on the Government side of the chamber will not for ulterior purposes accuse honorable senators on this side of favouring conscription for overseas service, when they themselves have shown by their votes that they have accepted the same principle. I have no doubt that they will try to do so, but in the meantime their rotes on this bill will have been recorded. So far as we are able to judge, honorable senators opposite do not propose to commit themselves by more than their votes, because, apparently, not many of them intend to speak on the bill. However, that is a matter for their own determination; I have no complaints to make about that. But, I do stress the point that once their votes on this measure have been cast and recorded, they will be irrevocably committed to theprinciple of conscription for overseas service. The second thing which stands out in the decision of the Prime Minister is the military necessity for a merger of Australia’s two armies. Unfortunately, that merger is not even implied in the bill before us. Members now on the Government benches have been so long in Opposition that they have forgotten that it is unwise to commit themselves by saying things that, later, they would like to forget. Unfortunately for them, the Labour party came into office with such a wave of enthusiasm and sense of importance that, with few exceptions, members of that party have rushed to make statements in the press, as well as in the Parliament, which later they would like to be forgotten. In support of my statement that the decision of the Prime Minister was in favour of a merger of Australia’s two armies. I take from the Digest of Decisions and Announcements, No. 46, the following statement made by the Prime Minister, after he had dealt with the allied offensive and the use of the Militia in territories surrounding Australia : -
This is why one army under one command for the military operations in the South- West Pacific was now a military necessity.
Since the Prime Minister made that statement, he has never offered any reason which has caused him to alter that opinion. Indeed, nothing has happened in the meantime to justify his doing so. That was not a snap decision on the part of the Prime Minister; and he has never subscribed to the assumption that he has changed his views on this subject since he made the above statement. However, the bill now before us is not likely to give effect to that decision. I, and, I am sure, the people of this country, give to the Prime Minister every credit for having, in spite of the policy of the Labour party, taken the initiative in the matter in order to give effect to at least a portion of that decision. However, although he took the initial step, he did not have the courage or the support - and I give him the benefit of the doubt on that point - to implement his decision. Following the fanfare of publicity which his actions in the matter evoked, we have now placed before us a bill which is merely a shadow of the original proposals. For that reason, the bill has had a very poor entry into both chambers. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself, when speaking on the measure in the House of Representatives, presented the sorriest spectacle he has ever presented in public since he assumed his present office. He allegedly supported the bill; but if one interprets his statements literally, he was trying to justify the dropping of it altogether. He said -
I consider it a fallacy to suggest tha-t a small nation like Australia confronted with the problem of defending a large continent with a small population, should be expected, when faced with a. life and death struggle in its own region, to send forces to other theatres.
If words mean anything at all, the Prime Minister in making that statement meant “ that although he was introducing the bill he did not believe that it was necessary because it was not the duty of Australia, faced as this country is at the moment with the danger of invasion, to send troops to any other theatre. He said further that in 1937 the Labour party proposed a policy which would have enabled Australia to be better prepared to face the war than that propounded by the then Government. In making that statement he apparently forgot the cardinal point of Labour’s defence policy which he reiterated a year later in 1938, and with which I have already dealt. Whilst we accept entirely the military necessities for the bill - and, indeed, for a more comprehensive measure - we find that, although the measure is designed to give certain additional powers to the Government, the Prime Minister, in his second-reading speech, made his extraordinary statement concerning what he considered would be the use to be made of Citizen Military Forces in the Southwestern Pacific Zone. That statement, which I shall now cite, is an insult to the Military Forces -
I assume, however, that he (General MacArthur) will assign to the Australian Government and its services commands the responsibility for the defence of his main base which is Australia.
The Prime Minister is of opinion that our duty is to defend our own shores, and that we have no responsibility to send troops outside Australia. The people of this country will refuse to accept that assumption. The Prime Minister aggravated that insult to the Military Forces, by suggesting that General MacArthur will use American, and other allied forces, to reconquer territories, and will merely assign to Australian troops the job of protecting the territories that are recaptured. A greater slur has never been cast upon the members of our Military Forces, or the people of this country. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to say that our attitude towards this measure Will adversely affect public opinion of Australia in other countries, when the Prime Minister himself has made a statement of that kind. What will be the reaction in allied countries to such a statement by the Prime Minister? It must be most unfavorable. We owe a duty to the people of this country, who do not agree with that statement, to make it perfectly clear to the world that the Prime Minister is not expressing the views of either this Parliament, or the people.
– That is merely the honorable senator’s interpretation.
– If words mean anything, it is the interpretation which many people will place upon that statement.
– Australia’s reputation has never been higher than it is at present.
– I agree that the reputation of our Military Forces has never stood higher in world opinion than is. the case at present; but, unfortunately, those forces established that reputation solely by their own efforts, and were not assisted in any way by supporters of the Government either when they were in Opposition or since they assumed office. The Prime Minister and the Government have rightly eulogized the deeds of our fighting forces in every theatre of war in which they havebeen engaged ; but if the Government had had its way - and there is no gainsaying this fact because it is based on a motion moved by the Prime Minister himself in the House ofRepresentatives - it would have prevented any men, whether they were voluntarily or compulsorily enlisted, from leaving these shores. Had that motion been adopted the reputation of not only our Military Forces but also Australia itself would, indeed, stand very low to-day. The Government is now taking advantage of the glory won by our Military Forces, and is endeavouring to make the people believe that it has played a part in the winning of that glory.
I now come to the second-reading speech made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), which I can only describe as the most extraordinary contribution that has ever been made to a debate in this chamber. He damned the bill even to a greater degree than did the Prime Minister. Indeed, for the most part he ignored the bill. Whilst he briefly mentioned some of the military necessities which had been responsible for the measure, he made no reference whatever to the necessity for merging our two armies. At the same time, he argued that the bill covered all that was required in accordance with General MacArthur’s directive. Just how General MacArthur’s directive has any bearing on the bill I am unable to comprehend. Whatever General MacArthur’s directive may be, it has been determined by the higher allied military authorities in conformity with the general strategic plan of the United Nations. Although we do not know the details of the plan, we know that no allied leader has ever said that Australia’s sole responsibility is to assist General MacArthur in the South-Western Pacific Zone. Indeed, I think I am correct in saying that even the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Senate have never suggested that the Government has been advised or requested to bring the troops from the Middle East back to Australia in order to put them under the command of General MacArthur. After all, it should be made perfectly clear that, whilst we desire and will press as far as we possibly can for a very much wider interpretation of the bill than has so far been given to it, we affirm that the Commonwealth Government must always take the responsibility for theuse of the forces in Australia, the South-Western Pacific Zone, the Middle East, or any other theatre of war. It must also take the responsibility for the numbers of troops sent to any one or all of those areas. It is, consequently, futile to say, as has been said by the members of the Government in the House ofRepresentatives, and freely stated on platforms and in the public press, although I do not remember it having been said in this chamber, that it is the desire of the Opposition to send outside Australia every man capable of serving in the Military Forces. That has never been our intention, or our advocacy. The only course we have ever advocated is that, to the extent of our capacity, and in accordance with the military exigencies of the time, Australia is in duty bound to send as many troops of every arm of the service as are needed into the theatres of war where they are most required. That is our policyto-d ay, but we are definitely not going to assume, as the Prime Minister has done, that it is our duty to defend only the shores of Australia or its lines of communication.
– The Prime Minister never said that.
– I have read a verbatim report of the speech made by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, and I think we are entitled to interpret it in that way. As a member of a previous government, I take my share of responsibility for the disposition of the troops at that time. We sent troops to the Middle East, Greece and Crete, but, unfortunately, there arose such an uproar of protest from the members of the then Opposition, that people in the United States of America were asking, “Are Australians squealers?” That thought was current in that country.
– Fostered by the honorable senator’s party.
– That interjection is, of course, entirely inaccurate. The fact that we had taken the responsibility and given the aid at that time and place shows perfectly well where we, as a government, were on that subject.
– Does the honorable senator agree with the suggestion, made at the time, that the Australian Imperial Force should be sent to Burma instead of returning to Australia?
– That is the first suggestion of that nature which I have ever heard made by a Minister of the Crown in public. One of the weaknesses of the present Government is that its members are continually babbling in public about matters that should not be disclosed. Whatever I think about that matter, I am perfectly entitled to keep my opinion to myself. The question should never have been asked by the Postmaster-General, and should not be publicly discussed at this time.
– I am not responsible for it being made public.
– The Minister is responsible for it being made public in this chamber to-day. It is most improper that it should have been mentioned. The Leader of the Senate drew attention to what this Government had achieved since it took office, and made comparisons with what the previous Government had achieved.
– Or failed to achieve.
– I accept the correction, because the Minister did not even admit that the previous Government had any achievements at all. He tried, as Senator Large suggests, to draw distinctions between what the previous Government had failed to achieve, and what this Government had done of its own accord. I have never yet heard the Minister admit that when the present Government came into power it started off its war effort on foundations which were established by a previous government, and of which I as a member of that Government am not ashamed. Such distinctions as the Minister drew show quite clearly that, whilst this Government is continually giving lip service to the idea of co-operation, and asking the Opposition to join with it in its war effort, it is also continually, for political purposes, trying to exaggerate its own achievements and to minimize those of previous governments.
– Not all Ministers do that, but most of them do.
– I agree that there are pleasant exceptions, which we appreciate. The facts are that, owing to the defence policy followed in this country ever since the last war, Australia entered this war completely unprepared. Every previous government must take its proportion of responsibility for that condition of things. I was a member of the Government in power prior to the war, and take my full share of responsibility, as I have no doubt every other ex-Minister will, but it is not worth while to try to apportion that responsibility at this stage. It is, however, worth while, in view of the repeated accusations of failure on the part of previous governments, to say something about the reason for those alleged deficiencies. As regards our production, I draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that we started our war effort in Australia on an exceedingly small base. Our industrial base was very limited. Our munitions factories, as has been frequently stated here, employed only 13,000 men. We therefore had to endeavour to build up a munitions industry which would eventually bring Australia to a maximum war effort. At the very time that we started on our programme, every other country was faced with exactly the same position, and consequently the things that we required were in short supply. We left no stone unturned to get as many machine tools, and as much material and equipment, to this country as was humanly possible, but, in spite of all our efforts, the tempo of our progress was slow. We also undertook the manufacture of articles which had never previously been made here, and the possibility of such manufacture, had it been suggested prior to the war, would have been laughed to scorn. However, we progressively built up our munitions production. We have heard in this chamber, and in the House ofRepresentatives, a great deal about Australia’s munitions effort. Everything that has been said has been in the form of a half truth, and entirely misleading, and has had the effect, if I may so suggest, of lowering the morale of the people at the very time when we needed unanimity and a buoyancy in our morale. That was done to gain a political advantage. “What are the facts with regard to our munitions production? I mentioned that we started on a small base, and I shall quote figures to show the progressive increase which took place in our production during the latter part of the regime of the Menzies Government. I do not intend . to quote actual figures, even if some Ministers might be prepared to do so. Taking June of 1940 as a base, with an index figure of 100, the increase or decreases for the subsequent fifteen months were as follows : -
The small set-backs to be noted in October, 1940, January, 1941 and August, 1941, may have been caused by industrial disputes, or shortages of materia], but the net result is that in those fifteen months our munitions production increased by _about 700 per cent. Yet members of the Government continually quote figures which are no better in any respect than those, and take to themselves credit for increased production. The Leader of the Senate had a lot to say about the state of our armed forces and their equipment when this Government assumed office, but his statements were entirely misleading. At the outset I say quite frankly that, in my view, the Advisory War Council has never justified itself, but, whether it has justified itself or not, the fact remains that it was established at the request of the then Opposition, which had equal representation with the ‘Government on that council. During the term of office of previous Governments Opposition members of the council had access to all available information, and they knew well what the position was in regard to the matters which are now being discussed. They knew what our munitions production was, and the strength of our armed forces, but so far as I know, they made no protest. I admit that they were under an oath of secrecy which, unfortunately, they broke frequently. I do not suggest that that oath should .be broken again now, ‘by revealing what may be considered weaknesses in the defence of this country. They had another alternative open to them; they could have resigned from the council as a protest, but there was no protest and no resignation, and ever since the Labour Government assumed office honorable senators opposite have endeavoured to use, for political purposes, the facts of which they were acquainted as members of the Advisory War Council during the term of the previous Government. We hear them talk glibly now of the .310 rifles which were issued to the Volunteer Defence Corps, and of the shortage of .303 rifles, and anti-tank ammunition. In regard to the last mentioned, I wish to make one comment: We believed, as a government, that Australia’s responsibility was to assist the war effort to the limit of its capacity by sending the maximum quantity of equipment and munitions to the places where they were needed most, and where they would be used to the best effect. To suggest that at that time, when we had just commenced production of anti-tank ammunition in this country, we should have appealed to Great Britain to send supplies to Australia, where the prospect of using them was remote, and thus to deprive our soldiers and British soldiers in vital theatres of war of this very necessary ammunition, is a travesty of the responsibility of any government, and the Administration of which I was a member refused to adopt such an attitude. The same thing applies to certain other deficiencies which have been mentioned by honorable senators opposite. With the full agreement of the then Government, our troops had been sent to certain theatres of war, and as the result of enemy attacks in those theatres, they had lost much of their equipment. The
Government had to decide then whether it would send whatever equipment was available in this country to those troops or retain it here where, at that time, it appeared that it would not be required. Therefore, I make no apology for the state of our equipment, and the disposition of our man-power when this Government assumed office, and, indeed, I would hang my head in shame had any other position prevailed at that time. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) said that when the Labour Government assumed office we did not have one fighter aeroplane in this country, but he did not say anything about the aeroplanes that we did have; he did not tell us what bombers we had, and what trainers we had, or how we were playing our full part in the Empire Air Training Scheme.
– A very small part, too.
– We were playing our agreed part, and I remind the Minister for Aircraft Production that we were playing that part in opposition to the views of the party to which he belongs.
– Nonsense !
– The Labour party originally opposed the Empire Air Training Scheme.
SenatorFraser. - That is not correct.
– Would the Minister for Aircraft Production suggest that when Great Britain was suffering the greatest air “blitz” in history, and every fighter plane that could be obtained in any part of the world was required there urgently, we should have asked that fighter planes be sent to Australia, although it appeared unlikely that we should be called upon to use them within five, six or even twelve months? The very existence of Great Britain at that time depended upon its ability to withstand the “ blitz “ ; how could we have said, “Send us fighter planes “ ? I make no apology for the situation which prevailed in this country at that time, and as I have said I would hang my head in shame had the position been otherwise.
Honorable senators opposite have raked up the old story about petrol supplies. The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, very rightly, that the service require ments decided by the heads of the various services had been fully met at that time.
-That was easy; there were no aeroplanes in which to use the petrol.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) is deliberately repeating an inaccuracy which I have endeavoured to correct. What was the position in regard to petrol? Having been the Minister controlling petrol supplies, not immediately prior to the advent of this Government but a few months earlier, I had some knowledge of the petrol position and the reasons for it. I admit quite frankly that civil supplies had fallen, and having some conception of global strategy at that time, we discussed the matter with the British Government. Although we believed that we were entitled to whatever supplies could be spared, we did not consider that in view of the peril which confronted Great Britain it should allow one tanker to be diverted to Australia. We found that petrol supplies in Great Britain at that critical time were exceptionally low, and again I make no apology for saying that in these circumstances we did not ask Great Britain to release tankers to carry petrol to Australia for civil use. When honorable senators opposite tell a story such as that, they should have the courage to tell the whole story. We on this side of the chamber have nothing for which to apologize. We know that the people of this country will support our actions to the limit. This bill establishes a principle; for the first time in its history the Labour party is supporting conscription for overseas service.
– It is doing what the previous Governments had not the courage to do.
– I compliment the Government on its action, and I have no doubt that, at some future date, members of the Labour party will be applauded for it. I have no hesitation in applauding the Labour party now, but to say that this measure, prescribing as it does a most restricted area in which our Militia Forces may serve, is sufficient to enable us to meet all our military requirements and fulfil our other responsibilities is a travesty of the facts. I shall support the motion for the second reading of the measure, but I shall also support a certain amendment which will be moved at the committee stage. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to accept that amendment because it will not alter the principle contained in the measure; the Government will not be compelled to send men beyond the limits of Australia, but it will have power to do so should the exigencies of war demand that that should ,be done. Acceptance of the amendment would demonstrate to the Allied Nations that we are prepared to play our part to the full in what is so glibly termed, a global war.
– When introducing this measure the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) invited honorable senators not to treat it lightly, but he himself ignored that injunction by roundly slating the Opposition when in office for its alleged misdeeds in relation to the conduct of the war and the production of certain requirements. Oil was thrown upon the troubled watersby the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) who paid a tribute to past Governments for their endeavours to bring about a state of affairs in this country which would enable us to fulfil what the Leader of the Senate has been pleased to call our contract with the United Nations, but I shall deal with that question at a later stage. With regard to certain other matters which have been raised in the course of this debate and which I consider to be entirely irrelevant to this measure, I do not propose to add anything to what has been said so well by Senator McBride and other honorable senators. From a close observation that I have been compelled to make, in another capacity, of the establishment of factories for the production of aircraft, and all types of munitions required for the defence of this country, I realize that previous governments are entitled to that credit which, on more than one occasion, has been freely given to them by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), for laying the foundations of production. We know the difficulties with which those governments were faced in regard to the shortage of machine tools and other essential supplies. ‘I do not propose to say anything about that matter because the points raised by honorable senators opposite have been answered adequately already, but I shall address myself to a certain matter which was raised by the Leader of the Senate. That honorable gentleman said that this measure had been unfairly criticized on the ground that the restricted area of service would prevent Australian troops from rescuing our prisoners of war on the Malay Peninsula. The Leader of the Senate claimed that that was wringing the hearts of those unfortunate people who had friends or relatives in prison camps there, but in my opinion the hearts of these people will be wrung a great deal more -when they realize that the Government will not have power under this bill to send Australian soldiers forward to engage in that rescue work. As has been pointed out by previous speakers, those matters are the concern of the Government, but it has been fearful to accept responsibility. The Opposition does not ask the Government to send troops anywhere except where it is advised to send them or where its conscience dictates that they should be sent. The ‘Government must determine where the troops shall go after obtaining the advice of the High Command. What was asked in the joint letter forwarded to the Government by members of the Opposition in both branches of the legislature was that the Government should not be leg-roped, as at present, because of lack of power to send the Citizen Military Forces where required.
As Senator McBride remarked, this bill indicates a retreat from an ill-founded policy to which the Labour party subscribed for many years. It has been a fetish and almost a religion with that party that Australian troops should not be compelled to serve overseas, although the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force have so distinguished themselves overseas that they have brought credit to this country. According to the Government, as must be judged by this bill, members of the Citizen Military Forces must be used in the defence of Australia only after this country has been ravished by invasion. But for the prompt action taken eighteen months ago, Australia would have been in imminent peril of invasion. If the enemy were to obtain a footing in New Zealand, Australia would be in grave danger, yet New Zealand has been left outside the ambit of this bill. The gist of the measure is a request for a very limited power to send the Militia to an area beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth and its territories. The contents of the bill have not been dictated by the High Command which put into the mouth of the Prime Minister the statement that one army and one command were essential for the defence of this country. Honorable senators opposite had in mind a high command in the political arena. The Opposition desires power to be given to the government of the day to say, if it thinks fit, that there shall be one command and one army for the defence of Australia, but the area to which our troops may be sent shall not be limited on the north by the Equator, and New Zealand should not be excluded. We should not exclude Malaya and Singapore where our boys are sweating away their lives to-day.
Every honorable senator will join in the great tribute paid by the Leader of the Senate to General MacArthur. The Minister declared that a contract had been entered into to stand with the United Nations. In this global war there should be no limit to our contribution in men, money and material, but this bill is the very negation of such an effort. I welcome the change of heart displayed by the Government on the subject of compulsory military service. This has come about in the face of dire necessity. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for his courage in the matter, although he should not have approached the Australian Labour conference in the way he did, in order to obtain its approval of the action he proposed to take. The Leader of the Senate told us that the right honorable gentleman went to the conference in a private capacity. I do not see how he could shed his Prime Ministerial toga and appear as a humble citizen and suppliant at the throne of Labour, yet I was glad to hear Senator McBride acknowledge the courage shown by the right honorable gentleman. He had advocated, in the past, in terms for which I am sure he would blush to-day, resistance to the policy of the conscription for military service beyond the shores of the Commonwealth and its territories;but, with the full responsibility of a Prime Minister upon him, he had the courage to face the lions in their cage, and say to them: “We want this and we want that, if we are to do an honest job of work.” He went to the conference in order to get authority from his party, but the lions mauled him and he failed in the ultimate result.
– He got what he sought.
-No. A certain newspaper in New South Wales visualized from the start what would happen and told us the kind of bill which the Parliament would be invited to pass. The mountain was in labour and brought forth this miserable mouse! Our contract, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Senate, is to stand by the United Nations, but under this measure our troops are to be sent only as far as the Equator, and Australian prisoners of war are to be left in Malaya.
– We shall probably be bled white when we get there.
– Men are being bled white in New Guinea and Northern Africa to-day. There are men on the shores of Australia who have been bled white, and we all may have to be bled white. Has the Government the effrontery to tell us that we can stand by the United Nations if we limit our military operations as proposed by this measure ?
– Is not that the limit of General MacArthur’s zone?
– No. How the party opposite has been misled! I listened with interest to my colleague, Senator James McLachlan, who said that he had been taken to a certain private room in this building to see a map. I also was shown the area of General MacArthur’s command. When I was looking at the map, I heard a military man, who was opposed to any limitation at all, remark: “This is not too bad, after all.” I was pleased to think that, after 30 years of opposition by Labour to compulsory military service overseas, the Government was now prepared to agree to the use of theCitizen Military Forces in an effort to restore Singapore and help to get the Australian prisoners out of Malaya, as well as assist in overcoming the enemy in China. I said that we had better take this half -loaf rather than have no bread, but when the bill was introduced, we found, to our amazement, that it limited the operations of our Militia to an area bounded on the north by the Equator. We were shown General MacArthur’s command on the map, and I thought, in my innocence, that that area was to be embodied in the bill. No reasons have been given for the limitation. Is the Government afraid to accept responsibility; are its supporters afraid that it would abuse the additional authority ? Here is something which the Opposition offers with both hands - an extension of the area in which the Militia may serve in the whole of the Pacific, or an area even wider than that - and yet the Government will not accept it. I emphasize that the powers conferred by this bill will cease when the war is over, and that the principle of conscription for overseas service can then be fought in this Parliament. I say to followers of the Prime Minister : “ Why not give your leader a free hand during this critical period ? Why hamstring and leg-rope him? Why place upon this bill, and therefore upon the Government, limits which cannot be acceptable to the High Command or to any man with a military sense ? “ Limited as it is, and unsatisfactory as it must be to the people of Australia, the measure will, nevertheless, receive my support. I do not, however, regard it as a proper participation by Australia in a global war. On the contrary, it narrows the obligations which we have entered into with our allies, particularly as it does not include New Zealand. Honorable senators have probably seen in the Bulletin a cartoon showing New Zealand fighting for Australia and Australia unable to go to New Zealand’s aid. The measure is altogether too restricted; the Government is thinking only of Australia’s defence. Supposing that the authorities in the United States of America had adopted a similar attitude, and had sat down when Pearl Harbour and the Aleutian Islands were attacked; where would Australia have been then?
– Is not the defence of Australia also the defence of the United States of America?
– Except for a strong sentiment in the United States of America in favour of this country and its people, the American nation is not greatly concerned about Australia. I grant that the defence of Australia is, in a measure, helpful in the defence of the United States of America, particularly as Australia may be the springboard for attack against the enemy. But will the war be won merely by using Australia as a springboard? I visualize a wider strategy than that: I visualize the clearing of Malaya of Japanese, and an attack on Japan from China, and another country which I need not mention. Are we to endeavour to drive the Japanese from place to place in a series of islands? Our experience at Buna and elsewhere in New Guinea, where some of our best fighting troops took weeks to drive the Japanese out of small areas which had been strongly fortified by them, indicates that it would take years to drive the Japanese back island by island. Our enemy in the north has every facility for strengthening Singapore, the Netherlands East Indies and other places. Their defeat cannot be accomplished on an islandtoisland basis; we must strike right at the heart of the Japanese Empire. I admit that if the American authorities had not come to the help of Australia, they would have left their flank unprotected, but it is well that we should reflect on our position had not the United States of America and the Mother Country rallied to our assistance. What could this country, with a population of only 7,000,000 people, have done against the Japanese? I cannot understand the hostility of honorable senators opposite to placing in the hands of a government which has no leanings towards conscription, power to use our Militia Forces where it thinks best. The Leader of the Senate said that our action should be dictated by common sense. Is it common sense for a government to have to come to Parliament every time an alteration of boundaries is found necessary ? Does the
Minister want a continuation of the old struggle with the “ died-in-the-wool “ section of the Labour party, who will agree to no form of overseas service for the Citizen Military Forces? Must the Government continue to go cap in hand to some outside organization before it can send Militia troops beyond certain boundaries? Why does not the Government grasp with both hands what is now offered to it? I venture to say that the present Government, which has the support of a number of men who conscientiously disapprove of conscription, would ‘not deviate from a policy dictated by common sense. .Strategy is a matter for the High Command. The only statement as to what the strategy in the Pacific should be was made by Senator McBride when he stressed that one army under one command was essential for the defence of Australia. The bill before us is evidence of a limited outlook; it is unworthy of Australia. Moreover, it has aroused among people of all ranks of society, both within the Military Forces and outside them, a sense of indignation, because they feel that Australia, which hitherto has held a high place in the esteem of the world for the military prowess of its sons, is not doing itself justice by withholding from the Government power to enable the Militia to take part effectively in what we have been told is a global war. Like Senator McBride, I regard this bill as only a partial granting of the powers that the Government should have. Either the Government, for political reasons, is afraid to be endowed with greater powers, or it is not allowed to bring forward a measure which would enable Australia to send men wherever it believes they should be sent in fulfilment of the contract entered into with Australia’s allies. .
– I do not propose to traverse the secondreading speech delivered yesterday by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) because the speech was not, worth any honorable senator spending much time upon it. I confess that I was greatly disappointed with the speech. At the outsot, the Leader of the Senate said that he proposed to tell us the complete story; but, instead of doing that, he ran away from the bill, and for the most part indulged in a tirade of abuse of previous govern ments and condemnation of them for their sins of omission and commission. Having done that, he asked the Senate to regard the bill as probably the most serious proposal ever placed before this Parliament. Far from being a bill of that character, it is a mean and paltry piece of legislation. The Minister also said that the proposals contained in this measure represented the maximum effort of which Australia was capable. No geographical limits whatsoever are placed on the Australian Imperial Force; its members may serve anywhere in the world, but under this, bill, the Militia may not go farther east than the 159th degree of east longitude, or further west than the 100th meridian, whilst the Equator is to be the northern boundary of the area in which it may serve. The bill does not place any southern limit to the area, and therefore I can only assume that it extends to the .South Pole. We were told yesterday that Australia has four Australian Imperial Force divisions. I presume that those divisions include one armoured division. There is also another division which at present is languishing in captivity under the Japanese. We were not told the strength of the Militia, and probably there were good reasons for that. The limitation of the area in which the Militia may serve is utterly repugnant to all good Australians, particularly soldiers. No such limits should be imposed. Yesterday, we also heard a good deal about governments consisting of members of the parties now in opposition having been in power in the Commonwealth for the last quarter of a century. That statement was not correct, because it omitted the period between 1929 and 1931. At the commencement of that period, namely, November, 1929, a great disservice, an act of criminal folly, was done to this nation by the Scullin Administration when it suspended Part XII. of the Defence Act. which provided for compulsory military training. At that time we had about 47,000 citizen soldiers, trained or partly trained, .and 17,000 senior cadets. The whole organization was scrapped; and, as Senator Foll pointed out, the Royal Military College and the Royal
Naval College were abandoned, and the Australian Staff Corps starved. That action was a great disservice to this country; and succeeding governments lacked the courage to attempt to repair the damage that was thereby done to our Military Forces. Ever since I entered public life, I have consistently preached the doctrine of preparedness for war. Over and over again I have brought that matter up in this chamber. Kipling says quite rightly -
The sins that ye do, two by two,
Ye must pay for one by one.
The sins of omission as well as the sins of commission come within that category. We are now paying in this war for our past sins. We are paying for our slackness and our failure to prepare for the future. We are paying in blood and suffering; and, for similar sins, the members of the American Army are to-day paying in Tunisia, because partially trained troops, raised hurriedly after war has broken out, are severely handicapped. They have to pay. The glorious divisions of the present Australian Imperial Force that have been in battle have had to pay, and are still paying. Perhapsit is not of much use to go into the past history of our Military Forces; but I hope and pray that we have at last learned our lesson, and that when we have won the fruits of victory we shall declare on our statute-book that it is the duty of every citizen who is physically fit to be trained for the defence of his country so that, should the time come, he will not be obliged to start off under the shocking handicap of unpreparedness. When I left this chamber, as I thoughtfor the last time, on the 30th June, 1938, singing my swan song and bidding au revoir to my colleagues in the Senate, I touched upon this very subject. The truth of what I then said has since been home out. I cannot understand this aversion to compulsory military service. I now propose to quote some of the remarks which I made in my speech in this chamber on the 30th June, 1938.I do not do so because of any feeling of selfrighteousness, or because I think that I am wiser on this matter than others; but what I said with regard to voluntaryism was true then, and remains true to-day. That system in any form is unfair and unjust, and, as a rule, it is inefficient and very costly -
The voluntary system might have sufficed years ago, but it is not practicable to-day, not only for the reason that a sufficient number will not volunteer, but also because of the utter impossibility of training hundreds of thousands of raw recruits when the enemy is almost at our gates. Those who will not volunteer to undergo national military training, I submit, must be compelled to do so. Although we cannot compel any one to vote, we do compel our citizens, at least, to go to the polling booth, and we impose a fine upon those who fail to do so. I can see no objection, therefore, to compelling people to undergo military training, and, I suggest, Australia must exercise its inherent right to take measures as it deems necessary for the protection of the life of this country. A system of universal military training, that is, a citizen soldiery, is the only safe and equitable basis of national defence. It cannot be universal unless it is compulsory. The voluntary system is not only a failure, but invariably it is also a most dangerous expedient.
I still believe that. Great Britain learned its lesson during the last war.In the middle of that conflict, it scrapped its old system of voluntaryism and introduced straight-out compulsory service. Sir John Fortescue, the historian of the British Army in the last war, had this to say about the voluntary system in a book which he wrote after that conflict -
It is time that this chapter was closed for ever. It has never been denied that it is the duty of every able-bodied citizen to defend his country when it is in danger, and if it is his duty to defend it, it is his duty to learn how to defend it. And the performance of this duty must not he left to our consciences, which are singularly insensitive in such matters; it must bo enforced, for if there be one lesson to be gleaned from British military history, it is the hopeless and irremediable inefficiency of the voluntary system.
I agree with that view. In 1910 the Fisher Government adopted that doctrine in part. We were then on the right road ; and it is a great pity that we did not follow it to the end. Had we done so we should not be faced with a bill of this kind to-day. We should not now have two armies - a voluntary force, the members of which are prepared to serve wherever they are required, and a second force which is enlisted compulsorily, and whose services will be confined tothe area defined in this measure. It is fallacious to define zones of military operations in this way, because, in war, limits of spheres of operations will depend upon circumstances. The bill strictly dennes the area in which members of the Militia may serve; but, under the stress of circumstances any such area becomes elastic. During, the last war, different British armies were assigned to different areas on the Western Front, but those areas were continually changed according to the demands of strategy. One army, for instance, might have to operate 15 or 20 miles to the right, or vice versa. Therefore, the idea of laying down these areas is fallacious. It does not really mean anything in relation to actual warfare. With other members of Parliament, I was invited recently to go to a room in this building in order to see a map of the area to which it was proposed to confine service by members of the Militia. Behind locked doors we were shown that map; but it was not a map of the area denned in this measure. However, the following morning, a daily newspaper reproduced a map of the area defined in this measure, which is smaller than the area covered by the map which we, as members of Parliament, were shown. Perhaps, that is not of much importance, because I have not the slightest doubt that when the appropriate time arrives Singapore will be avenged, and the avengers will go farther north, and Australian troops, including members of the Militia, will be among them. It is all very well for us at this stage of the war to declare that the Militia may not serve in this or that area; but I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that when the time comes there will be no stopping. The only thing that will stop our forces will be enemy action. It is said that if the bill becomes law - and one honorable senator has described it as “ a poor little miserable mouse “ - and the present Government remains in power, the Militia will not be among those who go farther north. I doubt that very much, because I know many men in the Militia. Yesterday, the Leader of the Senate put up a very poor show. He ranted as though he were on a soap-box. That was not to be wondered at, because it is extremely difficult for the most agile brain to defend what is indefensible. The Prime Minister’s specious pleadings with regard to the limits within which the Militia can be sent will be dismissed in New Zealand,
Great Britain and the United States of America with the contempt they deserve. The soldiers of those countries are called up for compulsory service, but no boundaries are defined within which they may be sent, although it is obvious to us as well as our allies that not all their soldiers will be sent outside their own borders. That would be utter nonsense, but they have never prescribed limits beyond which their soldiers shall not go. It is certain that there are limits, but these are not proclaimed and published as ours have been in this wretched measure, which is doing us a great disservice. The bill is branded with ignominy, and is dangerous. It gives a wrong conception to people outside who do not really know us Australians. It creates an altogether wrong impression. Our country has a very fine record. Proportionately with almost any other country amongst the United Nations we have a record of which we can be very proud, particularly as regards the second Australian Imperial Force. If we had abided by the policy of compulsory military training on which we embarked away back in 1910, the force that met with such disaster in Malaya would have had a much better chance than it did. We are paying to-day for sins committed long ago by various governments in starving the Australian Staff Corps, and in fact the whole of our defence forces. A competent defence force cannot bc built up in a hurry when Avar is upon us. Just as in the sporting world a man cannot be put into the ring fit and ready to box for a championship in a few minutes, so, in the military world, weeks and weeks of efficient training are required. We are paying for the lack of that to-day. I hope that when this trouble is finished and done with, and we embark on the wonderful new world which is predicted for us, we shall embody in our legislation proper provision for the efficient defence of the country in the shape of a well-equipped navy, army and air force. We must not be led as we were in 1919, by war weariness and all the rest of it, to scrap the lot and let it go, and then have to pay as we are paying now. There is another point about the bill which I regret having to raise. There is to-day a breach between the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia, which this bill will widen. There is not the slightest doubt of that because the Government is putting it down in black and white that the Militia, our compulsorily enlisted men, can serve only . in a prescribed area. That is a stigma and slur on them. The bulk of these men who are fit for active service feel and resent it keenly. Having two armies is a makeshift thing. In the last war we were able on the western front to absorb troops sent to us from Australia which had done no musketry or other training at all, and make good soldiers of them in a very short time, because of the nucleus we had there in the survivors from Gallipoli and the battles of France - tough, seasoned men who had acquired warcraft and skill, and were able to pass it on to the others. To-day, with the exception of a very few units, our Militia is not so well trained as it might be, and the bulk of it has had no battle experience. The test of battle is the only test of whether troops are of any use or not. This bill is also most wickedly unjust to the members of the Australian Imperial Force who have up to now done nearly all the fighting and suffering. Are they going to be worked to the utter limit ? It looks like it. It began long ago.
– What were the troops in Rabaul?
– Rabaul was a drop in the bucket, a mere skirmish. The members of the Australian Imperial Force should be rested. They were continually in action in the Middle East. It was one thing after the other with them, and they could get no rest. It was stated in this Parliament by previous Ministers that none of the men who had been in the Libyan fighting and through Greece and Crete had taken part in the Syrian campaign. Ministers- of the day made that statement, probably in all good faith, but it was not true. The Prime Minister not long ago stated that two Australian Imperial Force brigades were delayed in Ceylon, and that it was not until they were available that the push was made over the Owen Stanley Range. The bulk of the fighting has been done by the infantry men of the 6th and 7th Divisions, and again we have been paying for our mistakes and omissions of years ago. We are paying for them in New Guinea. One would have thought that the senior officers of the Staff Corps would have given some thought and study to jungle fighting in such countries, seeing that Papua belongs to us and that we control the mandated territory. One would also have thought that they would have devised a mobile mountain gun to be used in such country, and a jungle uniform to blend with the surroundings so that the men could be camouflaged, but apparently they never thought of anything of that kind until actually engaged in such fighting. For many years past, we have starved and stinted and discouraged the soldier. In peace-time he has been regarded as an excrescence, an expensive luxury who did not produce anything. Still, he is an insurance. We gladly pay insurance premiums for protection against damage by fire or theft, and military training, with the building up of a striking force, is simply a form of insurance. This bill has taken a long time to be born. It started away back in November of last year, and eventually we found ourselves presented with this thing. It is simply a makeshift of political expediency and nothing else. Absolutely the worst feature of this miserable, wretched, pitiable little measure is its possible effect in other parts of the world. It is the weakest possible background for the Prime Minister’s appeals to our allies for help. It does not do us justice. It is a wrong and miserable thing, and its effects among our allies will be disastrous, because it provides that compulsorily enlisted soldiers of our own country, which we all know is vitally and directly threatened at this very moment, and will be for a considerable time to come until the menace is removed, shall go so far and no farther. Yet, the Labour party demands that our allies should send their own compulsorily enlisted men anywhere and everywhere in the world to defend us. Is that a fair deal? Is it just? Are we doing the fair thing? I suggest that we are not. We are looking inward instead of outward. To make such a demand upon our allies, and trot out this wretched little bill with its restrictions, is nothing less than brazen impudence and discloses an impenetrable hide. The most unfortunate feature of this bill is that it docs absolutely nothing to establish one Australian army. Last November the Prime Minister himself said that that was an absolute necessity. When I heard that from him I threw my hat up and said : “ Thank God, the thing that we ex-soldier men have been hoping and praying for is coming to pass.” I was with the Prime Minister 100 per cent., but the bill which eventually emerged, does nothing whatever to provide one Australian army. It stands utterly condemned on that account alone, so far as I am concerned. Some little time ago I read to this chamber extracts from letters received from two Australian Imperial Force soldiers. When one read between the lines, om could see the feeling that exists between the two lots of Australians, both in the King’s uniform, but serving under different conditions. The sooner that feeling is allayed the better, but this measure will only increase the friction and the breach.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– It is stupid to assume that the passing of this measure will mean that all men in uniform will be sent automatically out of this country to the territories included in the SouthWestern Pacific Zone. Actually, the passing of the bill would mean only that our Militia Forces will be liable to serve anywhere in that area should they be called upon to do so. The main virtue of compulsory military service, as compared with voluntary service, is that a single, compulsorily raised army has a vastly different outlook to a composite army such as that which exists in- Australia to-day. I point out that, no matter what bills are passed, the size and composition of any force that may be sent out of Australia is a matter for determination by the Government, acting upon the advice of its military advisers. That was clearly demonstrated by the bringing back to Australia of portion of our Australian Imperial Force abroad when Japan entered the war. The plain fact is that, with or without this totally inadequate measure, Australia is in precisely the same position as other members of the United Nations, including Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and
South Africa, some of whose forces are serving abroad, whilst others are stationed at home. But there is a stigma upon this country, because other allied nations have not fixed a limit upon the territories in which their conscripted force? may serve. Because of this proposal to confine the area in which our
Militia Forces may serve to that prescribed in this measure, Australia’s name is mud ; unjustly, I admit, but there is no escape. Our allies also impose limits which, although they are not proclaimed, are none the less real.
In conclusion, I emphasize that, without a shadow of doubt, in proportion to its resources Australia has played as great a part in this war as any other country of the allied nations. Why spoil it now with this wretched, paltry little bill?
– I have no intention of reiterating the events of the past ten or twelve weeks which led up to the introduction of this measure. The aim of the bill is to widen the area in which a portion of our Army - the Militia Forces - may be used. When I received a copy of the bill I was very disappointed to find that the area described as the South- Western Pacific Zone was not the area, a plan of which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) asked honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives to inspect in a room of this building about two days before the introduction of this measure in the House of Representatives. I was one of those asked by the Prime Minister to view the map showing the exact limits of the proposed Southwestern Pacific Zone, and I was surprised to find that the area set out in the bill was not that shown on the map; islands which formerly were wholly included have now been divided.
The bill is to be commended because it embodies the principle that our Militia Forces shall, if necessary, be available for service outside Australia and Australian territories. The adoption of that principle has been a matter of urgent importance ever since Japan entered the war. The advantages to be gained from this extension are obvious, and I hope that, having gone this far, the Government, in the near future, will be prepared to take the next step. The position with which we are confronted is serious, and cannot be faced lightly. Either we are determined to commit this country to a full war effort, or we are merely playing party politics. I ask the Government what advantages are to be gained by maintaining two separate armies in this country? Is such a state of affairs in the best interests of our war effort, and, if not, are the reasons for it purely political? I am sure that honorable senators opposite will admit that our war effort could be better served by a unified army, which would avoid the present duplication of administration. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) gave no real reason why there should not be a unified army, or why the area prescribed in this measure is so restricted. He endeavoured to throw dust in the eyes of the Opposition by relating what had been accomplished by the Government during the past twelve months, compared with what had been done by previous administrations. I do not doubt that this Government’s achievement has been satisfactory; but reference to that matter by the Leader of the Senate was merely an endeavour to evade explaining why the South-Western Pacific Zone specified .in the bill is not the one which honorable senators were led to believe would be fixed. Any one who has taken an interest in the matter knows that Australia’s war effort has been wonderful, and I give the Government full credit for what it has done during the past twelve months; but I should like to refer to just one item mentioned by the Leader of the Senate, namely, that there were no fighter planes in Australia when the Labour Administration assumed office. In the first place, I point out that at that time Japan had not entered the war; secondly, only a few weeks ago, the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) announced that the first Australian Beaufighter had been produced, tested, and handed over to the Royal Australian Air Force. The Minister claimed that that machine had been built in the record time of two years. That shows that work ou the production of Beaufighters in Australia had been proceeding for twelve months prior to the date at which the Labour Govern ment assumed office. That is only one matter. Yesterday we had to listen to a long recital of what the Government had done, but I consider that the time of this Senate is too valuable to be wasted on talk of that kind. The Minister did not refer to the large quantity of war material and equipment supplied by Australia to Great Britain and the Dominions in the early years of the war. I agree with the Leader of the Senate that we cannot defend Australia adequately without gaining additional territories. Before we can finally overthrow Japan, a great deal of new territory will have to be occupied, not only for use in offensive operations against the enemy, but also for the defence of this country. From a strategical point of view, the limited extension of the area in which our Militia Forces may serve will be of little advantage in the final defeat of the Japanese. In the first place, the limits of that area, will be made known to the Japanese by the passage of this measure. Actually, in effect, we are letting them know that at some future date - perhaps within a few weeks or months - we intend to move into certain areas, but that we shall not permit our Militia Forces to go any farther. The proclamation of that area will give to the enemy prior news as to the intentions of the army chiefs, and that will not contribute to the successful conclusion of hostilities.
– Does the honorable senator believe that General MacArthur prescribed that area?
– I have so much faith in him that I would leave the matter entirely in his hands. The map shown to me and other honorable senators within 48 hours of the introduction of the bill was not a map of the area indicated in the bill. Acceptance of .the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition would entirely overcome the need to give to the enemy information as to the future disposition of our troops. It would give to the Government the power to put its plans into operation without the press broadcasting to the world exactly what was in its mind. We have a moral obligation to the members of the Australian Imperial Force and to our Allies. The Australian Imperial Force is a volunteer force which can be sent to any part of the world where its services may be required. I do not say that that force should be sent to far distant theatres of war, because it is needed in the Pacific area, but a moral obligation rests on us to see that it is fully supported. The patriotism of its members, who voluntarily enlisted, should not be taken advantage of. Members of the Citizen Military Forces should serve on the same basis as the troops of our Allies, and should be available for service in any quarter where they may be required.
.- The bill is not worthy of lengthy discussion, but some of the implications that have emerged in this debate call for comment. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), in a speech which was full of inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and idle bombast, said that the opponents of the bill could be divided into three classes - conscriptionists who were honest, anticonscriptionists who were honest, and opponents of the Government who were not honest. I am a conscriptionist and an opponent of the Government, so, according to the Minister, I am half honest; but I maintain that a person can retain his honesty, despite his opposition to the Government. The greatest danger to the country at present is the continuance of the present Government in office.
– The people do not agree with the honorable senator.
– They have not had an opportunity to express an opinion on that matter. The honorable senator would not chance an appeal to the people, if he had an opportunity to make it. This Government happens to be in office because it received a shove by a deserter from the Opposition. The ‘Government does not bear the imprimatur of the people, and, if I am any judge, will not get it. The Opposition cannot deny that the majority of its members have now proclaimed themselves to be conscriptionists
– A different brand of conscriptionists.
– The fact remains that the Labour party has become con.scriptionist, and it is interesting to note the progress of events that have led up to the conversion. During the last war, the Labour party declared that one of its principal objections to any form of compulsion for military service was that its opponents desired to impose industrial conscription. Yet the first thing done by the present Labour Government was to introduce industrial conscription, and it has now submitted a bill to provide for conscription for military service beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth and its territories. This bill is an indication of the fact that the Labour party now believes that every body in the community should do his fair share, whether in fighting or working. We now know where we are.
I am not concerned at the fact that the map which honorable senators were shown did not indicate the area defined in the bill. The area is becoming smaller, and I hope that the Government and its supporters will not finally say that they have no intention to remain conscriptionists. The Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy can operate over the whole of the area shown on the map, and much farther, but members of the Citizen Military Forces can be sent only to a few jungle covered islands. They can experience all the horrors of the jungle, but as soon as they approach anything like a white man’s country they must halt. They may not go to a half civilized country like New Caledonia, or to countries like Fiji or the New Hebrides. They may not even go to New Zealand. The Australian Imperial Force can fight as far away as Batavia, but the Citizen Military Forces may go only as far as Sourabaya. The latter can fight in the jungles of Borneo, but must not cross over to Sarawak, where oil and a certain degree of civilization are to be found. The Citizen Military Forces must fight in mud in malaria-infested jungles, where the sun does not penetrate to the ground and where they can be sniped at from the tops of coco-nut palms, but the Australian Imperial Force may go into a white man’s country. Why should the Citizen Military Forces have to continue to fight only in the worst class of country? Should its members approach a place where some of the comforts of civilization exist - where there are a few oilier white people, and houses to live in during the torrential rain of the tropics - they must not go forward, but must stop in the jungle and find what shelter they can get from the fronds of the palms, or in tents. The Government and its supporters are conscriptionists ; they have said so, and by this bill they so proclaim themselves. Members of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy can be sent anywhere, but men of the Citizen Military Forces cannot go into any country which is even semi-civilized. Is it fair to condemn them to fight in such places %
Although the bill does extend slightly the area in which the Militia may serve, it does not give to Australia one army. I know enough of military matters to say that unless the two forces be merged into one army much of their value will disappear. I know the value of battletried troops, and their influence on untried troops when associated with them. Untried men soon become as good as their mentors when associated with troops who have had experience in battle, but when we say to the Citizen Military Forces that they must stay in one area, and not cross into another where the battle-tried men are situated, they will have a feeling that they are more or less alone. All the knowledge that I have gained on the subject is to the effect that the sending of men without battle experience into a fight without the support of battle-tried troops is plain murder. Every one knows, or should know, that the reason why greater progress is not being made in Tunisia is not that the men are less brave or less well equipped than other men, but that many of them have not had battle experience. I want to see the Citizen Military Forces given a “ fair go “ ; I want them to get experience. I do not want them to be confined to jungle country, where they must fight in the mud, whilst their fellows in the Australian Imperial Force can go forward until final victory is accomplished and they enter Tokyo. By confining the
Citizen Military Forces to a number of islands in jungle country they will be confronted by greater dangers than if fighting elsewhere. Is it fair to treat them thus; is it fair that the Australian Imperial Force will not be able to get the help of these men when help is needed? I hope that the Government will see that its action in .restricting the area in which the Militia may serve, and thereby constricting the training of the men, will confine their operations to areas which are hardly fit for white men to live in, let alone fight in. The Opposition offers additional powers to the Government, and I hope that, even at this late hour, the Government will realize that it must have authority to send Australian men to any place, at least in the Pacific, to which it believes they should be sent in order to overthrow the enemy and achieve final victory. Otherwise, what is the use of talking about making Australia safe? Australia will not be safe until the enemy has been beaten and peace terms are dictated at Tokyo. So long as enemy forces remain in Malaya, Borneo or Sumatra, Australia will not be safe. I hope that the Government will accept the responsibility of the further power that is offered, and will be game enough to shoulder that responsibility in the interests of Australia. If not, the Government will proclaim to the world that it is unfit to remain on the treasury bench.
– I rise to make my position clear in relation to this bill, notwithstanding that speeches made by various honorable senators on this side have effectively dealt with the proposals before us. The question of the extended use of the Militia Forces is exercising the minds of the people of Australia more than we in this chamber think. The people want one army, not two armies as we have to-day. In the Senate there are men like Senator Brand, Senator Collett, Senator Sampson and others, who, as the result of military experience, tell us that it is impossible to achieve the bast results with two separate armies. For some considerable time members of the Australian Imperial Force and of the Citizen Military Forces have been trained together in various parts of Australia. It would take months to separate them into Australian Imperial Force and Citizen Military Forces units, and therefore the only thing to do is to open the field in which the Citizen Military Forces may be employed, so that all Australian soldiers may be in one army which can be sent anywhere thought necessary for the defence of Australia. This is not a matter of conscription at all. The Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) laughs, but he knows that members of ihe Militia have been conscripted to fight in what high military officers, with considerable experience, have described as the worst jungle areas in the world. Many Militia men were sent to fight in jungle areas without training. I know men who were sent from Geelong to New Guinea without having had one week’s training. They were sent there during the term of office of the present Government. Apparently the Government is of the opinion that it is all right to send untrained Militia men to malaria-infested districts, but not anywhere else. That is absurd.
– We sent some men to the Middle East.
– The present Government did not send them there.
– A previous government sent them there without training, and without sufficient arms.
– I do not know whether the present Government, has sent reinforcements to the Middle East to assist men who fought magnificently, mid of whom Australia is proud. Australia must have only one army, and its operations must extend farther than is permitted under this bill. The only real extension of the area under this bill will be the inclusion of Timor. When Timor lias been captured, are our men to stay there? Surely the driving of the Japanese from that island will not end the war?
– The trouble is that we have too many generals.
– I agree that there are too many generals on the ministerial side of the Senate.
– It is wrong to say that under this bill men cannot be sent beyond Timor.
– This bill does not permit members of the Citizen Military Forces to fight in all portions of Borneo or of Java. That is not enough for me. The field must be widened if our forces are to be effective. The only thing to do is for the Government to accept the amendment which has been foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition. It is an emergency provision. Should it be thought necessary to send troops farther than is now proposed in this bill the Parliament would not have to be called together to sanction the extension and a delay of fourteen days would not become necessary. The amendment does not provide that the Militia must be sent beyond the boundaries set out in this bill, but only that they may be sent there in an emergency.
The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) made some extraordinary statements in his speech. He said, for instance, that the High Command in the South-West Pacific Area determined the area in which Australians could fight. Is that so?
– I agree that it is not so. The Government determined the area.
– The Government makes recommendations to the High Command.
– I have no doubt that the High Command would say that Australia should be in the same position as Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States of America in regard to the disposition of its troops.
Many men now in the Militia are unable to join the Australian Imperial Force. I know some personally who have attempted to do so, but have been refused, not in all instances for health reasons.
– What was the reason ?
– I know only that they were not permitted to join the Australian Imperial Force. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment which has been foreshadowed. It will not restrict the scope of the bill, and surely that should be acceptable to the Government. Something must ‘be done to satisfy the public outcry against having two armies which cannot be sent to places necessary for the defence of Australia.
asked what was right with it. I am glad to know that Senator Cameron has changed his views, and now supports the principle which he opposed for so long.
In the course of this debate, we on this side of the chamber were told by honorable senators opposite, after we pressed for an answer of the subject, that the area defined in the bill was prescribed by the Commander-in-Chief in the South-West Pacific Area, General
MacArthur. Why does not the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) produce tangible evidence in support of that statement, that General MacArthur and not the Government defined this area? In view of the fact that they refuse to produce such evidence, honorable senators opposite should be ashamed of themselves for making such a statement.
– The honorable senator is making a misstatement.
– That was said here, and repeated. One honorable senator opposite said definitely that General MacArthur had planned the area defined in the bill. Are we to understand that the Prime Minister recommended, a larger area, which the Commander-in-Chief reduced to the boundaries set out in the bill? Honorable senators opposite can tell that story to the marines. They will not dare to tell it to the people. I do not believe a word of it.
– It is not true ; and no honorable senator made such a statement.
– The Leader of the ‘Senate said it.
– I rise to a point or order. It is exceedingly offensive to me to be told that I said something which I would never dream of saying, because I know it to be untrue. I said that local strategy was decided by the High Command.
– The Leader of the Senate has not raised a point of order.
– My point of order is that I am accused of making a statement which I did not make.
– That is not a point of order. The Leader of the Senate is not in order in interrupting the speech of another honorable senator. He is entitled to make a personal explanation when the honorable senator concludes his speech,
– The fact is that the Leader of the Senate cannot “ take it “. He said that the area set out in the bill was prescribed by the Commander-in-Chief. I say that that is not so, and I challenge honorable senators opposite to refute my statement.
– The honorable senator can build up any sort of a story if he starts off with a lie.
– I have been a member of this chamber for much longer than the Leader of the Senate, and it is the first time I have been accused of lying. Such conduct ill becomes the Leader of the Senate. I do not propose to follow the example he is setting on this occasion.
– I am just correcting the honorable senator’s statement.
– I have just set out the position as it has been represented by supporters of the Government during this debate.
– The honorable senator will believe it himself in a minute.
– I shall do so because it is what honorable senators opposite have said; but I do not believe that that is the true story. They have told only half the story. I recall that when we were dealing with the National Security Bill, the Leader of the Senate, who was then Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, expressed the fear that under the guise of national security the Government of the day would conscript labour. Yet, since honorable senators opposite have assumed office, they themselves have conscripted labour. They have done something which we on this side as a government always refused to do, and which they themselves when in opposition declared that they would never do. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has described this conflict as global war. He has appealed to Great Britain and the United States of America for assistance, knowing all the time that the men who would be sent to help us would be conscripts. We have taken advantage of the protection given to us by conscript forces from the United States of America, who are now helping us to save this country, and all we hold dear. We say that we believe in global strategy, yet the Government brings down this miserable pretence as the fulfilment of an obligation given to
Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. Contrast our action with the actions of those two great leaders. The action of the Government, which is supposed to give a lead to the people, is that of a craven-hearted Government.
– That is a shocking advertisement for Australia.
– I am simply saying that in comparison with what our allies are doing for us we cannot be proud of the action of this Government in restricting the area in which we shall assist them. What did President Roosevelt say on this matter? In one of his recent broadcasts he said, “ Let us go forward and destroy the enemies of democracy wherever they may be “. He did not say that we should wait until the enemy arrived at our shores. And Mr. Churchill declared, “Let us walk together side by side wherever it may be, till we destroy the enemy”.. I have not said, nor do I think, that the people of this country are craven-hearted. I said in effect that if this bill represents the best that the Government can put forward in return for the assistance we are receiving from our allies, who are prepared to go anywhere and everywhere the enemy is to be found until he is defeated, while we limit the area in which we are prepared to help, we are not offering to do as much for our allies as they are doing for us. We should not forget that the United States of America, under its military conscription law, is sending to our help in this country not only white, but also coloured, soldiers. We cannot continue to discriminate between the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia. No one can say that the Australian Imperial Force is braver than the Militia. Does any one say that the blending of the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia would result in a deterioration of the standard of our Military Forces, or that a merger would lower the efficiency and morale of our fighting forces? I support the bill; but I may have more to say on it in the committee stage.
– It was not my intention to speak upon the bill, because I was anxious that it should become law at the earliest possible moment. However, some honorable senators have made certain statements which call for a reply from me. My attitude to the bill is well known. I am for the bill, the whole bill, and nothing- but the bill. I have said that repeatedly. I shall remain here until the hil] is passed, however long that may be.
– And so the honorable senator should.
– It is for me to say what I should do; and I shall not consult anybody else on the matter. I stand by the counsel of my own heart. That has been my practice throughout my life, and I shall be so guided to-day. Some honorable senators have spoken as though Australians had not lifted a hand to defend themselves, hut had left it to the Americans. Australians fought and bled and died overseas in defence of their country and the Motherland two years before America came into the war. I have heard it said during the debate that we ought to be ashamed to have Australian volunteers fighting beside American conscripts. Until recently, it was said that a volunteer was better than a conscript. Now that is reversed; and, apparently, conscripts are better than volunteers. An immense amount of harm has been done by the speeches which have been made in this chamber. Australia and its war effort have been traduced. If that does not adversely affect us while the war is on, it will certainly be used against us when peace terms, and all those economic arrangements which will be necessary after the war, are under consideration. We shall forfeit the prestige which the men who have fought and bled and died have gained for this country. That is my feeling. It may be said to their credit that some honorable senators did not realize the significance of what they were saying, and when they read their remarks in Hansard they will be sorry, but it will be too late to correct them then, as their utterances will have gone forth to the world. I do not wish to delay the passage of the bill, which I feel certain will be carried in the form in which it was introduced. What are our Allies doing? What are the other British Dominions doing? Canadian troops have not been raised by conscription, and, if the South African troops have been, a limitation in the shape of the continent of Africa has been set for the present as the area in which they shall fight. Australia is also a continent. I read a few days ago in the report of a speech made by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) that 6,000 miles of military roads had been constructed in Australia. I presume that their construction w.as authorized, and that the money to meet the cost was made available. The expenditure must be authorized by Parliament at some time or other, and I am sure that no hesitation whatever will be shown in meeting the cost. Presumably roads have been constructed on the best military advice available. That they have been made proves that our military advisers consider that even yet this country is liable to invasion. According to some speeches made to-day, our duty is absolutely to denude this country of its fighting forces. If that is not what honorable senators meant, they should have explained fully what they did mean. On the whole of the works found necessary in Australia for military purposes £65,000,000 has been expended in order that, if this country is ever invaded, we shall be able to send defending forces wherever they may be most needed. Australia has a population of 7,000,000 people, which is about the population of New York. I am certain that we have made a greater war effort than has New York, but I do not say one word in depreciation of what America has done. This is as much America’s war as it is ours. In defending Australia, American troops are defending North and South America. In men, munitions, and money, Australia in proportion to its population has done as well as any other members of the United Nations. When Great Britain practically stood alone against Axis aggression, we stood with her and were with her right from the first. Australia has made a war effort of which for all time we shall be proud.
All I regret is that some people, wittingly or unwittingly, have traduced the country of which they are citizens.
– There has been so much debate on this measure that but for the fact that I desire to explain to the Senate my actual position, I should not have risen to speak. The bill does not satisfy me at all. I am supporting its second reading because it is proposed to move in committee some amendments to bring it more into line w7ith my political thought and national outlook. Unless they are carried, it is my intention to vote against the third reading, because I believe that we might as well leave matters as they are as pass the bill in its present form. The convincing arguments have been addressed by members of the Opposition, and if the Government is at all amenable to reason, it must take notice of them and accept the amendments- which are to be moved. The bill deals only with the military section of our fighting forces. The men who have joined the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force are not restricted to service in Australia and its territories, but are sent to all parts of the world. Why pick out the military section? I do not like to think that it is necessary for any of our fighting men to leave this country; but I must weigh the arguments to ascertain which is the most valuable - the preservation of the freedom that we have enjoyed, or the sending of troops away from this country so that we can continue to enjoy that freedom. When a global war is referred to, does not that mean that we are all prepared to go in together, and share and share alike? Apparently, Australia is the only part of the whole British Empire that wants to confine the activities of some of its troops to a small and exclusive territory. Senator Crawford stated that we had done more than America, and that we came in to the war before America. Of course we did, because we are part of the British Empire. America to us is a foreign country, and to America Australia is also a foreign country; but Americans, -peaking the same tongue as we do, assisted materially with their lend-lease policy, and with their military, naval and air forces, towards any success that we have had up to date, and for this we ought .to be most grateful. The honorable senator also referred to Canada. It is ‘true that Canada has not enforced conscription, but conscription is the law in that dominion. A referendum was taken of the Canadian people, and conscription wascarried. There is, therefore, no difference between the proposals made from this side of the Senate and the decision of the Canadian people. I am prepared to trust the Government. I will give it all the power which is necessary for it to have under this bill, and leave it to its good sense to send the troops wherever the chiefs of the fighting services advise that it is necessary for them to go. I ask the Government to accept the compliment that we are paying it, because it is a compliment, and to show a little more confidence in itself ‘than its members have shown so far in this debate. I believe that the people of Australia demand that we shall render the very best service possible to those volunteers who have for three years upheld the dignity and the reputation of this country. I happen to know what it is to have a battalion which is supposed to be a thousand strong thinned down to about 400, who are expected to do the work of 1,000 men, and, as Senator Collett pointed out, to go back into the line when entitled to rest. As I stated once before in the Senate, war-wearied troops cannot be expected to do the work that fresh troops are able to do. There is something that we owe to these men, whom some honorable senators have put on a pedestal. They are certainly entitled to great credit for the great work that they have done in upholding the noble traditions of Australia; but we ought to help them, and we shall not help them with this legislation. After all, I know Australians as well as any other honorable senator does. I know that they do not want to be divided. They do not want a Citizen Military Force as well as an Australian Imperial Force. They want to be in the one array. Let us therefore harmonize those two forces and get the best we can out of them. I know that there are in the Australian Imperial Force to-day men who ought not to be in it, and that there are in the Citizen
Military Forces men who probably could not be sent abroad, but we can have them trained and sufficiently well equipped to be sent wherever the Government wishes to send them. The Government, I know, will not take any instructions from us, and we are not here to instruct it. We are here to correct its mistakes and tender advice to it.
– And to sabotage.
– No one is better qualified to sabotage our war effort than those in the Labour movement. I have not always been in the position I now occupy. I belonged to Labour organizations in my earlier days, and I know some of their tactics. They claim that there should be no such thing as victimization, but, if ever they get control there is plenty of it, and the Lord help those who stand in their way. To me this bill is a great disappointment. The determination of the area in which our troops shall serve should be the responsibility of the Government. If ever an argument were calculated to defeat a measure, it was that advanced by the Leader of the Senate in his second-reading speech. The honorable gentleman did not deal with the bill at all. The area prescribed as the South-Western Pacific Zone is not that which was delineated on the map that we were asked to examine.
– The honorable senator is getting his maps mixed.
– I am not, but probably if we were invited again to visit a certain room in this building, we would find that there was a new map. I repeat that the zone prescribed in this measure is far too restricted. I consider that the Prime Minister was wrong when he said that the people should not take too seriously the views that were being expressed in regard to the sending of our soldiers to release our prisoners of war in Japanese hands. We should do everything possible to effect the release of these men, particularly in view of the fact that we do not know what treatment they are receiving. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree with that. This is not a matter of party politics, but of giving service to the nation. This is supposed to be a democratic Government, and it should be prepared to accept full responsibility for the government of this country and the prosecution of the war. We on this side of the chamber are asking the Government to accept full responsibility for sending Australian troops wherever they may be required. Surely that is not an unfair request! I cannot understand any government introducing a measure of this kind imposing limits upon its own freedom of action.
I support the second reading of the measure, but I shall also support the amendments which have been foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition. If the amendments be rejected, then this measure will be of no use, because it will be only playing with a very serious subject that should be dealt with in a statesmanlike manner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 postponed.
New clause 4a.
– I move -
That after clause 4 the following new clause be inserted: - “4a. - (1.) If the Governor-General is of opinion that a grave emergency exists in the present war he may make a proclamation to that effect. (2.) On and from the date of issue of any such proclamation and until its revocation, the Governor-General may, notwithstanding anything contained in this or in any other act, make regulations requiring members of the Citizen Military Forces to serve in such area beyond the limits of the South-Western Pacific Zone as is specified in the regulations as being an area in which it is necessary or expedient for the efficient prosecution of the war for them to serve.”.
This matter has been debated fully, and I do not propose to add to what has already been said, except to appeal to the Government to accept this amendment. As I said in my second-reading speech, I considered that it was a mistake for the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to go cap in hand to the Australian Labour party conference, asking for authority to do something of great national importance. When we recall what happened on that occasion, we must feel ashamed, and I trust that, even at this late hour, the Government will accede to the Opposition’s request.
– I have only to say, with very great respect, that this matter has had full consideration, and that the Government is unable to accept the amendment.
– This amendment emphasizes the extraordinary attitude that has been adopted by the Government. As I understand it, the object of the amendment is to increase the Government’s powers in the event of imminent danger to this country. The amendment includes the word “ emergency “, andI take that to mean a state of immediate peril such as that which existed not very long ago, when many people were shivering in their shoes. The object of the amendment is to empower the Government to take swift action should the necessity arise, without having to seek parliamentary approval. In short, it puts the responsibility for the safety of this country into the hands of the Government, and I cannot see any reason why the Government does notwish to have that power. Usually, the complaint is that governments want too much power. The Government need only exercise the additional power conferred upon it by this amendment at its discretion, and upon the advice of its military advisers. The amendment is not inconsistent with the provisions of the bill. It leaves the administration in the hands of the Government, and Government supporters will still be free to express themselves should they be in disagreement with the Government. However, in case of emergency, I do not think that there would be any disagreement with the action taken by any government in the interests of the safety of this country.
.- I support the amendment, and, like Senator A. J. McLachlan, I cannot see why the Government should object to it. There is nothing mandatory about it. The Government would be free to exercise the additional power at its discretion. As the bill stands, should our men be serving in, say, Timor, no matter what emergency arose, they could not be sent farther without reference to Parliament, whereas the amendment, if carried, would empower the Government to take whatever action it considered necessary, without delay. The Government would not be forced to use the additional powers, but could do so at its discretion.
– I have here a document signed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in which he asks Australians to take six pledges, three of which pledges are as follows : -
We shall make our nation two complete fighting armies - the fighting forces to smash their way back through New Guinea, Java, Malaya, the Philippines and on to Japan, and the working forces that will back them to the limit in mine, factory and workshop.
We who fight shall fight as Australians never fought before. We who work shall labour as men and women have never laboured before.
We will forget privileges, comforts and rest. Nothing shall block the way to the attainment of victory.
The success of the recent £100,000,000 loan indicates that the people responded to the Prime Minister’s appeal, but I cannot see how we can possibly give effect to those pledges, unless this amendment be carried, and I appeal to honorable senators opposite to accept the responsibility which we seek to place in their hands.
– After very grave consideration I have decided to vote against this amendment, because, if carried, it would delay the passage of the bill.
– The bill could go through this afternoon.
– In its present form, yes. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has introduced into this chamber a private bill which, in effect, is similar to this amendment. I have already informed him that I am prepared to vote for that bill, but I must vote against this amendment because of the delay which its acceptance would entail.
Question put -
That the new clause (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . . . Nil
Clause 5 agreed to.
Postponed clause 3 -
In this Act “the South-Western Pacific Zone “ means the area bounded on the West by the one hundred and tenth meridian of East longitude, on the North by the Equator and on the East by the one hundred and fifty-ninth meridian of East longitude.
.- I move -
That the clause be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new clause: - “3. In this Act ‘ the South-Western Pacific Zone’ means the area bounded on the West by the ninetieth meridian of East longitude and on the East by the one hundred and eightieth meridian of East longitude, and shall include the Dominion of New Zealand.”
My object in submitting the amendment is that the bill shall be framed in such a way as at least to enable the Government to send the Citizen Military Forces to every one of the areas which were envisaged by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in December last as being areas into which the Government should be able to send those forces. If the amendment were agreed to, the Militia could be sent, among other places, to Malaya, could assist in the campaign in Burma, and could help our Chinese allies through the Burmaroad.
– What are the honorable senator’s real reasons for the amendment ?
– My main reason is that it provides, in substance, for what the Prime Minister proposed in November and December last.
– A good reason, too.
– I consider it a very good reason. The amendment would also enable Militia troops to be sent to every part of the area included in the map shown to me in this building for the purpose of indicating to me what was the area to be covered by the bill. If the committee will not agree to the granting of the wide powers proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), the least it can do is to ensure that our troops will be able to embark on the kind of undertaking envisaged by the Prime Minister in the statement read to the committee by Senator Latham.
.- With great respect, I have to inform the honorable senator that the Government is unable to accept his amendment.
– I support the amendment, because the bill does not meet the requirements of the people of Australia. This country needs one army, and the Government should have power to send members of the Citizen Military Forces to any area where their services may be required. The amendment would merely give to the Government power to do that, and I fail to understand why it is unprepared to accept it. I admit that the bill has some merit, because it establishes for the first time the principle of conscription for overseas service, but, if it were amended as proposed by Senator Spicer, it would be improved immensely.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be left out (Senator Spicer’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . . . Nil
– The numbers of “ Ayes “ and “ Noes “ being equal, the question is resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Postponed clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders sus pended; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Collings)proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I have been associated with politics for nearly a quarter of a century, and during the whole of that period I have been an advocate of conscription. I fought for conscription in 1916 and 1917, but this is the first time that I have had an opportunity to vote for it on the floor of Parliament. I shall do so now.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)
Majority . ….. 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Thursday next, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Collings) put -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 12th February, (vide page 641), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I did not expect that the debate on this bill would be resumed this afternoon; but, having heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) in introducing it, I am opposed to it. I suggest that the measure was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition as a matter of political strategy, in order to counteract the acceptance by the Senate of the bill which has just been passed. The passing of a measure such as this, which opens the way for certain important things to be done by regulation, shows the weakness of the Opposition’s case, in view of its declared opposition to government by regulation. I took no part in the debate on the bill with which the Senate has just dealt, as I regarded it as an urgent measure. Other Ministers and supporters of the Government adopted a similar attitude towards it. The bill now before us is not in the best interests of Australia’s war effort. Indeed, some of the arguments used in support of it are decidedly harmful to that effort. I say without fear of contradiction that I have not, either as a member of the Opposition or as a Minister, made a political speech in this chamber since the outbreak of the war. I have supported every war measure introduced by this Government and its predecessors, because the war overshadows every other subject. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a declaration which was unpopular with a big section of the movement which I represent, I did not wait to be asked where I stood in the matter; I was 100 per cent, behind him and the action which he took, which has just resulted in the passage of the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill 1943. Party political discussions are not conducive to the harmony of the nation. The conscription issue raised during the last war, when it was proposed that men should be forced to serve 13,000 miles away, and Australia was not in danger of invasion, was entirely different from that with which we have just dealt. I did not wait for the holding of any conference before I announced my support of the Prime Ministers’ proposal; and, like other honorable senators on this side, I make no apology for the attitude I took in respect of that matter. The position was desperate, and it is even more desperate to-day. Not one of us can afford to make cheap party political capital out of any discussion in this chamber. On previous occasions I have expressed my appreciation of the fact that previous governments did a tremendous job in laying the foundation of the defences of this country. I said that when I was a member of the Opposition, and I have repeated it since I became Minister for Trade and Customs. The department of which I am the head is not a service department, but I have had an opportunity to learn something about the work which was performed by service Ministers in the previous governments, and to appreciate the work which is now being done by their respective successors. A colossal job has been done both by previous governments and this Government. Much comment has been made concerning the Prime Minister’s action in consulting the Australian Labour party conference as to the course he proposed to follow in respect of service by the Militia outside Australia. After all, the Labour party represents a great number of people in this country. Was it not better that the Prime Minister should grease the rails rather than risk any derailment. That was his object in consulting the Australian Labour party conference, which has 100 per cent, support from the working people. That conference endorsed his proposal, the result of which has been the passing of the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill 1943. That measure meets the requirements of the situation for the present. If the contingencies which the Leader of the Opposition forecast when introducing this bill actually arise, the government then in office, regardless of its political colour, will undoubtedly be guided by its military experts as to what measures it should take. Should we be threatened with invasion, I do not think that the government of the day would feel itself bound by any regulations, and for that reason fail to take any action dictated by military requirements. If it did so, it would be recreant to its trust. The fact that we have just passed the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill 1943 is another reason why the Leader of the Opposition should not persist with this measure.We have had a long discussion on this subject. It has been the centre of unprecedented press publicity and controversy, which no one can say has been in the interests of Australia. I repeat that only one thing counts at this moment. We are at war; we must save this country and work in with our allies. They are doing a colossal job for us, and we are not doing a bad job for them. As the Minister in charge of lend-lease operations, I say that our allies are doing a wonderful job for us, and that we are doing our share in reciprocal lend-lease. We are now on the defensive. We hope soon to take the offensive which is our only hope of ridding ourselves of our present danger. Having passed the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill 1943, I suggest thatthe correct course for the Senate to follow in respect of the measure now before us, is to take a vote on it immediately.
– It has been nauseating to me to witness during the last few days the Opposition’s exhibition of what has been described as diabolical party politics. It implies a failure on the part of those honorable senators to appreciate the peril confronting this country. They must realize that no real purpose can be served by the passage of this measure. I do not wish to indulge in recriminations; but I take this opportunity to protest against the action of some honorable senators opposite in misrepresenting the Government’s attitude to the war. The time has arrived when all of us should take a more serious view of the war, and the responsibility it places upon the Government. I hope that the bill will be defeated.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)
Miajority . ….. 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I call the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) to what I regard as political racketeering and wasteful expenditure of public money by the Government at a time when it is appealing to the people to adopt a more austere way of living in order that the conduct of the war may not be prejudiced. According to a press report the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) proposes to expend £180,000 of the taxpayers’ money on the provision of half-a-dozen wool appraisement centres in country districts. In addition to that expenditure the Central Wool Committee will have to expend £1,000 of money which belongs to the wool-growers. To expend £180,000 on additional wool appraisement centres, the provision of which is absolutely opposed by the wool-growers, is a shocking waste of men, material and money.
– Not the woolgrowers, but the Pitt-street squatters.
– The honorable senator, who owes his election to this chamber to the initial letter of his surname, knows all about Bankstown but nothing about the wool industry. Later, I shall answer his interjection by reading a statement made on this subject by Mr. J. W. Allen, secretary of the Australian Wool Growers Council. I believe that this project will occupy 1,000 men for six months. Press reports state that one of the wool appraisement centres will be established at Moree and another at Werris Greek. Both those centres are in the constituency of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Another centre is to be established at Dubbo in the constituency of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who is the assistant to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. A fourth centre is to be established atRoma in the constituency of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker), and the fifth at Portland in the constituency of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod). I hope that it is not too late for the Government to alter its policy to establish unnecessary wool appraisement centres in constituencies represented by Labour supporters whose return at the next general elections it hopes to ensure by this extravagance.
– The country people want decentralization; but the honorable senator would centralize all Australia’s activities in the capital cities.
– The people who know most about the wool-growing industry, the wool-growers, say that this expenditure will be a waste of money. Mr. J. W. Allen, the secretary of the Australian Wool-growers Council, says -
Whatever may be the opposition the Government has encountered from wool firms, the accredited wool-growers’ organizations of Australia also oppose the Government’s proposals, and they do so in order to prevent the Govern ment from sabotaging the war effort. The Government’s scheme for new appraisement centres for wool is as blatant an exhibition of political nepotism as has been witnessed in this country. The careful selection of sites in Labour electorates can scarcely escape observation.
I enter a most emphatic protest against this proposal. When I was Minister for Commerce with Senator McBride as my assistant we thoroughly investigated the clamour for the establishment of wool appraisement centres in country districts. We were not opposed to decentralization, but we decided against the scheme because we realized that, as the wool has to be exported, the sea-board is the appropriate place for its appraisement. In the considered opinion of the Central Wool Committee on which the wool-growers are represented, it is inadvisable that a large sum of money should be expended on the provision of unnecessary wool appraisement centres.
– It is proposed that the Senate adjourn until next Thursday. We who come from Western Australia have no chance to return home during week-ends. The Government might try to arrange its business a little better so that we may be occupied while we are here. The Senate met on the 27th January, and on the 29th, after sitting only three days, adjourned until the 10th February. The Government should examine its legislative programme to see if it is not possible to initiate legislation in this chamber. That is not unusual. If the Government does that, I am willing to stop and work, and help it in every way possible. I do not like being away from home unnecessarily. We have other business besides representing our States. I know that we are not expected to do anything else, but we do not like to be idle. If I were in Western Australia I could do something useful, even if it were only private work.
– The adjournment which I proposed was arranged with the honorable senator’s leader because some members of his party want to get away.
. We have been promised a new order. The flower of the youth of the world, at least on the allied side, is fighting to get it, and some steps have been taken in that direction.We have had the Atlantic Charter drawn up by PresidentRoosevelt and Mr. Churchill, and signed by 25 nations. I have read it. It is full of beautiful thoughts and expressions of high national morality, and if carried out would certainly make things better and give us all a chance, but since the charter was printed and circulatedWallstreet has spoken, and announced that we must return to the gold standard. That will finish any attempt at a new order. It was the old gold standard that brought us to the state that we are in to-day. Honorable senators will remember the speech I made in this chamber six months before the war broke out, in which I pointed out the causes which had brought about the world crisis. Australia’s attempt to bring about the new order is typified by the appointment of Dr. Coombs as Director of Post-War Reconstruction. I read a eulogistic report of his career recently. It called him a brilliant young man who had passed through the London School of Economics and received his doctorship for his thesis on central banking. The London School of Economics is strictly orthodox, and I do not see how Dr. Coombs is going to get away from his orthodox training and meet the new situation with other than orthodox ideas. After the last war the Bank of England sent emissaries all over the Empire to establish central banks. It did not succeed in this country because we had the great Commonwealth Bank already established. If we are to have a new order, the business of this country will have to be carried on in a much better way. I said before that the worst managed business in Australia is the business of governing Australia and that the next worst feature is the jockeying that goes on for leadership in the various political parties. Notwithstanding the dreadful position with which the nation is faced, there has been no change in the atmosphere of either chamber of this legislature, or in the mentality of any member of it. I sat here yesterday for nearly eight hours and did not speak or interject, but while others were speaking many interjections were made. I cannot understand why honorable senators fail to realize the onerous nature of the work that has to be done here. We are making laws under which the people have to live, and yet the first concern of members seems to be to get away from this building as quickly as ever they can. There was quite a flurry this afternoon to catch the 4.15 p.m.. train. Part of any new order should be a new order of parliamentary procedure to deal with the business of Australia. If the Bank of England is still going to lead the financial world and Wall-street’s order to return to the gold standard is obeyed, we know who holds the gold of the world and the purchasing power of the world. The soldiers won the last war and the banks won the peace. The millionaires who made the money out of the last war brought about this one, but they did not realize that living in their cities they would be in greater danger than the soldiers in the trenches, but that day has come. The first concern of most men in business is to make as much money as they can as quickly as they can and to “ do “ every body else in the process. The great majority of people, including the average business man, have never taken any interest in the government of their country. They give all their energies to making money, but now that they have made it the money is going rapidly into the hands of the Government. I know big business men who do not bother now to try to make any more money. After fifteen years as a member of the League of Nations Union I had a pretty good idea of what total war meant. Immediately this war broke out, I said that all party politics should be dropped, we should have military and industrial conscription, and the Commonwealth Bank should be put in charge of the whole of our financial war effort. In that way all the physical and financial resources of the nation would be devoted to the task of winning the war. Military and industrial conscription have had to be introduced, and we shall have to do the third thing I spoke of before we can put forth our total effort to end this war. We must consider how we are going to get out of the mess that we are in. Our men are fighting on a dozen fronts, but no new order can come to pass unless there is a new orientation. All orthodox ideas will have to go overboard to meet the new conditions, but I regret that no change is yet visible in this chamber or in the House of Representatives so far as regards the attitude of honorable members. Hour after hour is wasted here in the most painful reiteration. If that is all we can do in the shape of practical parliamentary government, Australia is in for a very bad time, and I am afraid that the people will rise in their wrath, as has been predicted in England, and destroy the governments which have got them into this mess. The destinies of the people are at all times in the hands of their governments. Obviously, governments the world over are responsible for this international turmoil. The incompetency of governments which wrongly describe themselves as “ democratic “ brought the Dictators into existence. That was certainly the experience in Italy. Four governments had been in office in three years, and Ministers and former Ministers squabbled and fought incessantly while the country rapidly went “ to the dogs “. The Socialists took charge of Milan, and bloodshed occurred in the streets. The Communists gained control of Turin, and overran the Fiat factory. It was then that Mussolini, at the head of his Blackshirts, walked into the Senate in Rome and said, “ I spurn this democracy, and will have nothing more to do with it”. In my opinion, Mussolini was justified in acting as he did, because the so-called democratic governments had not studied the interests of the country. If Mussolini had not taken it into his head that he was a modern Julius Caesar destined to found a new Roman Empire, the people of Italy would have been better off under Fascism than under the so-called democratic system.
France had a similar experience. In five years, four governments had taken office, hut had been defeated. While the politicians struggled for power, France, like Italy, became decadent.Fifty Socialist deputies had been flung into gaol for having the temerity to express their opinions, and the millions of people who had elected them strongly resented this treatment. But the French Government failed to heed the approaching storm, and this dissatisfaction helped to hinder the war effort. Honorable sena tors must realize the unfortunate and dangerous position of our Democracy. Two years ago, I emphasized the necessity for forming a national government. Not until we had almost lost our country did people realize the value of my advice regarding the introduction of industrial and military conscription.
I have noticed that when I rise to speak, some honorable senators walk out of the chamber. On one occasion, I desired to make a few brief remarks after the Senate had been in recess for a fortnight. Upon reassembling, it sat from 3 p.m. until 4.15 p.m., when the sitting was suspended until the ringing of the bells. At 5. 15 p.m., honorable senators were summoned, but when I rose to speak, only ten of them were present. I directed attention to the state of the chamber. The ringing of the bells recalled other honorable senators, but when I left the chamber, I was given to understand that honorable senators did not come to Canberra to hear me speak. I have as much right tobe heard in this chamber as has any other honorable senator. I am one of the most experienced members of the Senate. For many years I deliberately refrained from entering active politics, because I had some idea of the working of State politics. When I began to advocate financial reform, honorable senators laughed at me, but their ridicule will not prevent me from advocating what I believe to be just. I am determined to continue my crusade. Since I entered the Senate five years ago, five State parliaments have carried motions expressing the opinion that the Commonwealth Bank should be used to finance the conduct of the war, with interestfree money. That encourages me to believe that I have made some progress in that time, and in the next couple of years I hope to see the acceptance of my plan. It is the only financial scheme that will save the nation.
I knew that this war had to come.
On one occasion, I read in this chamber a statement that was published in London in April, 1939, nearly six months before Germany invaded Poland. It warned Europe of the approaching storm, and I was so impressed that I invited honorable members of the House of Representatives to listen to me read it in the
Senate. That was the most important statement ever made in this chamber, but no newspaper regarded it as having sufficient news value to warrant giving it even the briefest mention.
Last July, I hurried from Brisbane to deliver an address upon post-war reconstruction ata meeting convened in the Melbourne Town Hall. The promoters provided hundreds of pounds for the purpose of educating the people in this subject. They considered that if post-war reconstruction were left to members of Parliament, who had got the country into its present mess, no beneficial results could be expected. Next morning, I eagerly scanned three Melbourne newspapers for reports of the meeting. The first newspaper, which boasts of having a guaranteed circulation of 238,000, completely ignored it. The Age devoted 6 inches of space to abuse and misrepresentation, and wound up by stating that the promoters of the meeting were a batch of escapists. The Argus, in a paragraph of l½ inches, damned it with faint praise. Even that was understandable. When the Argus was floated into a limited liability company with a capital of £1,000,000, the management was obliged to publish a financial statement in the newspaper in order to attract subscribers. The statement revealed that the Argus owed the banks £224,000. I ask, Who owns the Argus and directs its financial policy? Three thousand citizens of Melbourne met in their own town hall for the purpose of discussing problems of post-war reconstruction, but the press condemned the gathering. The way of those who wish to do something to improve the present dreadful state of affairs is hard indeed. I have constantly been misrepresented in the Australian press. I have spoken in every State on monetary reform, and no one can prove that my contentions are wrong, but no effort has been made to give effect to them.
I should like honorable senators to display more seriousness. When this chamber has not been in session I have attended meetings of the House of Representatives, and I am equally dissatisfied with what occurs there. I am an old man; and perhaps old men take the liberty of giving advice. My advice to honorable senators is to realize the seriousness of the position, and the functions that we were elected to discharge, and to devote more attention to the business of the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator,&c. - No. 6 of 1943 - Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia.
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Interim Report (1943) of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, dated 25th January, 1943, on the application made by the State of Tasmania for further Financial Assistance in 1942-43 from the Commonwealth under Section 96 of the Constitution.
Senate adjourned at 4.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 February 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430218_senate_16_173/>.