15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell)took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for
Defence state whether the press report is correct that it is proposed to increase the strength of the militia to 42,000 in the near future and to expand it still further at a later date? What number does the Government propose it shall ultimately reach ?
– It has been decided to increase thu strength of the militia to 42,000. No indication has been given of any further increase.
– Has the Treasurer seen the statement- made by the New South Wales Minister for Health, published in yesterday’s press, that he had not been paid the courtesy of consultation b,y the Commonwealth in regard to national health and pensions insurance, and that the details of the scheme had been settled without prior discussion with the States? What comment has the Treasurer to make on Mr. Fitzsimons’ further statement that fear is entertained ns to the operations of national health and pensions insurance, and that its effect on public institutions will be widely felt?
– I remind honorable members that Ministers should not he asked to comment on statements published in newspapers. The Minister may answer the question ifhe wishes.
– The answer to the first question is in the negative; therefore, the second and third questions do not arise.
– In view of the. many public inquiries concerning the application of national health and pensions insurance, will the Treasurer consider the preparation of a booklet giving answers and decisions of the National Insurance Commission in respect of questions put to it!
– The handbook on national health and pensions insurance has been brought up-to-date, and I hope that the second edition will be published in the course of the next ten days. At the moment, the commission is answering a very large number of queries which are published in the press and put to it by private individuals. It would be a very big task to do more than that. If the honorable gentleman, or any other honorable member, has any specific queries, the commission will be only too glad to furnish replies.
-Will the Treasurer be good enough to lay upon the table of the Library the papers in connexion with any appointments, either permanent or temporary, of men outside the service to positions under the national health and pensions insurance scheme?
– I understood the honorable gentleman’s earlier question on this subject referred to permanent appointments. I shall see what I can do to meet his request.
– Recently the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked if I would lay on the table of the House or the Library all the papers in connexion with the appointment of persons from outside the Public Service to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Commission. I have to inform the honorable gentleman that no permanent appointment has been made.
– Not necessarily permanent.
– There have been two temporary appointments.
Mr. FRANCIS, as chairman, brought up the report and recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the proposed erection of a hospital at Darwin, Northern Territory.
Ordered to be printed.
– I beg to intimate to honorable members that the House will meet for the despatch of business on Wednesday of next week and the follow ing week, lt is anticipated that in subsequent weeks the previous custom will be followed of meeting in alternate weeks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
– During his recent visit to Hobart, representations were made to the Assistant Minister for Commerce by waterside workers for the provision of better accommodation, and other health conveniences, and he promised to take action in the matter. What action has he taken since his return?
– The matter is receiving consideration and attention.
– In view of the published statement as to the cost to Great Britain of the emergency preparations in respect of the crisis last week, is the Minister for Defence in a position to state what was the cost to Australia of similar preparations?
– It is impossible to say exactly what was expended by the Commonwealth during the emergency period. Advantage was taken of the fact that certain sections of the Defence Forces were called up, to convert the period into one of training.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the statement of the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia, Mr. J. S. Wise, in connexion with the allocation to that State of portion of the federal grant for tobacco research ? Further, has his attention been drawn to the statement of the Assistant Minister for Commerce, namely, “All my information tends to show that Western Australia will probably ultimately become the biggest tobacco State in Australia “. If that be so, will the honorable gentleman reconsider the allocation of £15,000 on a more equitable basis - for example, on last year’s production ?
– This money has not yet been allocated. I have asked the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to recommend to me an allocation as between the various governments concerned.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether it is a fact that in the Australian Capital Territory the supply of houses falls short of the demand by 1,000? Does the honorable gentleman know that quite a number of married men, with their wives, are unable to secure accommodation, and that the view of the department is that it is not responsible for other than public servants?
– The reply to the first part of the question is, “ No “. As to the latter part, the Government does not accept unqualified responsibility for finding a home for every person who chooses to come to live in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Can the Minister for the Interior give me an estimate of the number of houses required in Canberra to satisfy applications now before the department? I should also like to know how many houses have been built in the last six months and what policy the department is following in regard to housing.
– A question seeking intimate detail regarding these subjects is on the notice-paper and will be replied to to-morrow.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in the light of the changed international situation, he will consider withdrawing the additional excise duty on tobacco made from Australia-grown leaf or, alternatively, rearranging the excise so as to give a greater margin of preference to Australia-grown leaf?
– In the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs and also of the Assistant Minister, I undertake to bring the honorable member’s question under their notice, and to provide an answer as early as possible.
Mr.JAMES. - In view of the fact that the negotiations in Sydney under the chairmanship of the State Minister for Labour and Industry have now proved to be abortive, and that suggestions made by the coal-owners that the dispute should be referred to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is not supported by the miners, I ask the Attorney-General whether he will consider reconstituting the coal tribunal provided for in the Industrial Peace Act for the settlement of troubles in the coal-mining industry, so that this dispute may be dealt with by it?
– The conference to which thehonorable member has referred was resumed this morning. I have not heard that it has failed. .
– I had a telephonic communication from Sydney to that effect this morning.
– In the meantime I have nothing to add to the statement made by the Prime Minister.
– Arising out of a statement made recently concerning the manufacture of aeroplanes at Fisherman’s Bend to the effect . that the Wirraway type of aeroplane has been subjected to adverse reports, and also that the Avro Anson plane is not considered satisfactory by our own air force officers,I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government has exhausted every avenue in an endeavour to obtain, first, a more modern type of aeroplane for Australian conditions, and, secondly, the right to build planes of the more modern type at Fisherman’s Bend?
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether it is a fact, as reported, that the Government is contemplating changing the method of alien immigration now in operation or of registering alien migrants?
– It was announced on behalf of the Government some months ago that consideration would he given to a system of registration for aliens. The subject is still under consideration, but a statement upon it may be expected in the not distant future.
– Can the Minister for the Interior give exact figures to show how many assisted immigrants have been absorbed in secondary industries in the last six months?
– I am not able to answer that question without notice.
– Has the Minister for Commerce given any consideration to the appointment of an Australian trade representative in Ceylon? If so, has any determination been reached?
– The subject of trade representation in both India and Ceylon is under consideration.
– Last week I asked the Minister for External Affairs a question concerning the site of the new capital of New Guinea. The right honorable gentleman replied that he was still making a diligent search for it. I wish to know how the search is being conducted, by whom it is being conducted, and when a decision may be expected, particularly in view of the report of the vulcanological expert to the effect that Rabaul is in a very unsafe position.
– I am afraid I cannot help the honorable member very much. The search is still proceeding. In order to calm the honorable member’s fears, which not unnaturally arise from the report of the vulcanological expert, I can inform him that arrangements are being made at present for the erection of an observatory at Rabaul which will give ample notice to residents of an impending eruption.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he can give the House the following information: Is it a fact that the Government of New Zealand charges no extra postage on air-mail letters above 1d. per½ oz. ? Is it also a fact that the charge for air-mail matter from
Australia to England and continental countries, and even to places within the Commonwealth, varies from 5d. to 2s. 6d. per½ oz.?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and furnish a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Commerce inform me whether, during the week-end, ho made the statement attributed to him in the press, to the effect that the establishment of industries on our sea coast -is inadvisable because they are so open to attack? If this is true I ask him whether, as Tasmania is regarded by the Defence Department as being more or less immune from attack, he will advise those proposing to establish industries in Australia, to consider the suitability of Tasmania for the purpose?
– The point I was making was that it would be better for Australia for decentralization of population, and also for defence, if its vital industries could be situated some distance from the sea front. This would not only assist to spread our population more evenly ever the country, but would also add to our safety, and reduce our expenditure on defence. The claims of Tasmania will always be considered.
– In view of the fact that the receipts from customs and excise for the first quarter of this financial year were substantially in excess of the estimate, can the Treasurer say whether the excess of revenue will be maintained for the rest of the year or whether it was clue in the first quarter to seasonal conditions?
– I see no reason up to the present to revise the estimates of receipts from customs and excise. In fact, it was anticipated that in the early months of this financial year the customs and excise revenue would probably be in excess of the estimate on a monthly basis. There are special reasons for it, and the revenue is coming in more or less according to plan.
– Isit a fact that in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea there exists what mightbe termed a system of slavery, under which natives are induced to leave their villages and take employment with plantation-owners and mine-owners under conditions laid down by the Administrator, which require that they be paid amounts of from 10s. to 20s. a month and “ keep “, which consists entirely of sweet potatoes? Is it also a fact th at the recruiting officers supply the natives to employers for £10 a head?
– I am not a ware of any of those things, but I have no’ doubt that some of them are true. I do not attempt to separate the sheep from the goats in this matter.I told the honorable member the other day that I was not aware of the details. All I can say is that the treatment of native lahour in New Guinea will compare favorably with the treatment of labour anywhere.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1938-39.
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to9)1938.
Income Tax Bill 1938.
– by leave - Honorable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his statement in this House on the 29th Septem-. ber expressed the hope that the Powers to be represented at the Munich Conference would succeed in finding a peaceful solution of the Sudeten question. As honorable members are aware, the Munich Agreement was signed on the 30th September, and I now lay on the table of the House the official text communicated to the Commonwealth Government. The whole world welcomed with relief the outcome of the negotiations at Munich, which removed the imminent threat, of a general war, and owes a deep debt of’ gratitude to those who made the success of the negotiations possible. The Prime Minister has already publicly expressed the appreciation of the people of Australia of the great services rendered by Mr. Chamberlain President Roosevelt and Signor Mussolini to the cause of peace. On the 28th September the situation had reached a critical stage and it was on this day that the Prime Minister sent the following telegram to President Roosevelt : - “ The whole world is grateful to you for your message to those directly concerned in the European negotiations. On behalf of the people of Australia, I urge that you should follow this up by offering your services as a mediator in the cause of peace. War will bring in its train evil results not only for Europe but for your own great country and ours. In the name of our common ideals I urge that you should cast the moral authority of your office and your nation into the scale of peace. We are convinced that if you could secure an extension of the time now set for the termination of negotiations war could still be averted.”
A reply in the following terms was received yesterday by the Prime Minister from the United States of America Secretary of State, Mr. Cordell Hull:- “ The President, has asked me to tell you how gratefulbe is for your telegram of 28th September which arrived at a time when we were all doing what we could to contribute towards a peaceful solution of the crisis which was then threatening thepeace of Europe. It is his hope, and he feels assured that it is your’ own, that, the principles governing peaceful and orderly international relations and their sound application should continue to have the unstinting support of all governments and peoples. The President wishes you to accept his most sincere thanks and the assurances of his highest personal regard and consideration.”
There are certain aspects of the Munich Agreement to which I feel I should allude, especially in view of the criticism made in certain quarters to the effect that Czechoslovakia was forced to make undue and unjustifiable sacrifices.
An analysis of the Munich Agreement and of the German memorandum of the 23rd September reveals that the Agreement, is, in its general effect, a reversion to the Anglo-French plan of the 19th September, which the Czechoslovak Government itself accepted prior to the Munich Conference. In addition, the Munich Agreement, apart from many other considerations which must commend it to us, is far more favorable to Czechoslovakia than is the German memorandum.
Under the Munich Agreement, Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy declared themselves responsible for the steps necessary to secure the cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory, and agreed that the conditions governing the evacuation would he laid down in detail by an International Commission, composed of representatives of Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Czechoslovakia. It will, I am sure, he agreed that the composition of the commission ensures that, its attitude will he purely objective and that both sides’ can expect fair treatment at its hands.
The German memorandum contemplated the occupation of certain Czechoslovak territory on the 1st October, but under the Munich Agreement the evacuation of territories to be occupied by the German military forces, and its occupation by those forces, are to be carried out in five clearly defined stages between the 1st October and the 1 Oth October.
It was agreed by the Powers represented at Munich that four defined sections of territory should be occupied between the 1st October and the 7th October and that the remaining territory of a predominantly German character would be ascertained at once by the International Commission and be occupied by German troops by the 10th October. It should be noted that the line up to which the German troops will enter into occupation is no longer the line laid down in the map referred to in the German memorandum, hut is a line to he fixed by an Inter.national Commission on which both Germany and Czechoslovakia are represented.
There is also -an important difference between the German memorandum and i he Munich Agreement in regard to the question of plebiscite areas. Under the German proposals, the a reap in Czechoslovakia not occupied by German troops, which were to he subjected to plebiscites. were laid down, while plebiscite areas in the territory occupied by German troops were left undefined. Under the Munich Agreement, all plebiscite areas will be defined by the International Commission. Further, the German memorandum provided for the occupation of the plebiscite areas by German and Czech forces, as the case might be, up to the time of the plebiscite and their evacuation by these forces during the plebiscite, whereas under the Munich Agreement the plebiscite areas are to he occupied by an international force. The object of this, of course, is to remove any possibility of moral intimidation, and to ensure as far as possible that the plebiscite will be a true expression of the principle of selfdetermination. The Munich Agreement states that the plebiscites to be held are to be based on the conditions of the Saar plebiscite, and this indicates that the voting is to be taken by small administrative areas, such as communes. The German proposals did not indicate the nature of the areas on which the vote would be based.
The Munich Agreement and. the German proposals both stipulate that the Czechoslovak Government should carry out the evacuation of the territories without damaging existing installations; but under the Munich Agreement, as distinct from the German memorandum, foodstuffs, goods, cattle and all raw materials may he removed. In any event, all conditions of the evacuation are to be laid clown in detail by the International Commission.
The Munich Agreement, unlike the German proposals, has provisions in regard to rights of option. It affords facilities for the transfer of population, and also gives Czechoslovakia a period of four weeks for the disc-barge of Sudeten German.? from the army and police, and for the release of Sudeten German political prisoners.
A -vital feature: of the Mim ica Agreement is that Great Britain and France have agreed jointly to guarantee the new boundaries of Czechoslovakia against unprovoked aggression. Germany and Italy have also undertaken to give a guarantee when the questions of the Polish and Hungarian minorities have been settled.
There was no suggestion of an international guarantee of this kind in the German proposals.
The final aspect of the Munich Agreement to which I wish to allude is the declaration by the four signatory Powers that if tuc problems of the Polish and Hungarian minorities in Czechoslovakia are not settled within three months by agreement between the respective governments, another Four Power meeting will be held to consider them. I shall allude to these problems later.
Parties to all international negotiations must be prepared to make concessions if a successful result is to be achieved, and it will, I am sure, be agreed that the arrangement arrived at at Munich represents, when all relevant factors are considered, a satisfactory compromise between widely conflicting points of view. I would add that the world is greatly indebted to Czechoslovakia for the remarkable spirit of restraint and dignity shown during a period of unprecedented crisis, and for the great sacrifice which it hae made in the cause of world peace.
The problems of the Polish and Hungarian minorities arose in an acute form when the German-Czechoslovak crisis was at its height. The Polish and Hungarian Governments made representations to the Czechoslovak Government urging that their respective minority problems should be considered, in the interests of international justice, on the same basis as the Sudeten question. The British Government intimated on several occasions, to both the Polish and Hungarian Governments, that it deplored any policy entailing the intimidation of Czechoslovakia, that there was no justification for a resort to force, and that the Polish and Hungarian claims were being fully borne in mind. On the 30th September, however, the Polish Government delivered an ultimatum to the Czechoslovak Government, to which a reply was demanded :by midday on the 1st October, containing the following demands: the evacuation of a certain defined area within 24 hours from midday on the 1st October; the cession of the remainder of the districts of Teschen and Freistat by the 11th October ; the public utilities and communications in evacuated areas to be left intact; the holding of a plebiscite in other areas’ to be agreed upon between the two governments with the possible participation of third parties; Polishspeaking persons born in the districts of Teschen and Freistat to be immediately discharged ‘from military service and all political prisoners of Polish origin to be released.
The Czechoslovak Government accepted the Polish demands on the 1st October, and, at the same time, suggested that Polish and Czechoslovak military experts should meet immediately to arrange details of the transfer. The evacuation of the areas specified in the Polish ultimatum is now proceeding.
The present position in regard to the Hungarian minority question is that the Czechoslovak Government has informed the Hungarian Government of its readiness to arrive at an amicable agreement in regard to this matter. The Czechoslovak Government suggested that the best method of dealing with the situation would be to set up a mixed commission of Hungarian and Czechoslovak experts to discuss the whole question. It is understood that the work of this commission will begin in the next few days.
There is one other event which took place at Munich on the 30th September to which I wish to- allude, that is, the signature of a joint declaration by Herr Hitler and by Mr. Chamberlain. The text of this declaration has already appeared in the press and will be familiar to honorable members. It is of paramount importance for two main reasons. In the first place, it lays down that Germany and Great Britain are resolved that the method of consultation shall be adopted to deal with any other question that may concern them; and secondly, it expresses the determination of both countries to continue their efforts to remove possible sources of difference and thus contribute to secure the peace of Europe.
It should, however, be noted that the signature of this declaration in no way means that Anglo-French collaboration will be weakened. Mr. Chamberlain, in a recent message to M. Daladier, made it clear that the declaration was signed because Great Britain and Germany were united in their desire for peace and for friendly consultation on all differences. Mr. Chamberlain added that the senti- ments expressed in the declaration were equally true of France and GreatBritain.
On the 2nd October, a communication was received by the British Government from the Czechoslovak Minister in London pointing out that Czechoslovakia now expected to have to make provision very promptly for assistance to a large total of citizens moving from the . ceded territory, and that the loss of the Sudeten area inevitably called for an outlay in the readjustment of the economic life of the nation accordingly. The Czechoslovak Government put forward a request for a guaranteed loan of £30,000,000. After considering the request, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom informed the Czechoslovak Government on the 3rd October that they were prepared immediately to arrange for an advance of £10,000,000, which would be at Czechoslovakia’s disposal for its urgent need.
As a next step, His Majesty’s Ambassador at Paris has been instructed to inform the French Government of this advance, and to add that the British Government wishes to keep in close consultation with the French Government on general problems of financial assistance to Czechoslovakia, and to take concerted action with the French Government as regards any further action that their examination may suggest to be appropriate.
In conclusion, it is to be hoped that the Munich Agreement, which resulted in the solution of the Sudeten question, will inaugurate a new era in international relations when differences which inevitably arise from time to time between nations will be settled by peaceful negotiations on the basis of reason and justice.
I move -
That the paper be printed.
Text of the Munich Agreement.
Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, taking into consideration the agreement which has been already reached in principle for the cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory, have agreed on the following terms and conditions governing the said cession and the measures consentient thereon and by this agreement they each hold themselves respon sible for the steps necessary to secure its fulfilment.
Munich, 29th September. 1938
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the French Government have entered into the above agreement on the basis that they stand by the offer contained in paragraph 6 of the Anglo-French proposals of 19th September relating to an international guarantee of the new boundaries of the Czech State against unprovoked aggression. When the question of the Polish and Hungarian minorities in Czechoslovakia has been settled Germany and Italy for their part will give a guarantee to Czechoslovakia.
Munich, 29th September, 1938
The Heads of the Governments of the four powers declared that the problems of the Polish and Hungarian minorities in Czechoslovakia, if not settled within three months, by agreement between the respective Governments, shall form the subject of another meeting of the Heads of the Governments of. the four powers here present.
Munich, 29th September, 1938
All questions which may arise out of the transfer of the territory shall be considered as coming within the terms of reference of the International Commission.
Munich, 29th September, 1938
The four Heads of the Governments here present agree that the International Commission provided for in the agreement signed by them to-day shall consist of the Secretary of State in the German Foreign Office, the British, French and Italian Ambassadors accredited in Berlin, and a representative to bc nominated by the Government of Czechoslovakia.
Munich, 29th September, 1938
.-] am astonished, as I am sure are other honorable members, that, however complete they may be as historical reviews of the events of the last week, the statement, just read, and that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) the other night, omit all reference to what action, if any, the Commonwealth Government has taken regarding its relations with other countries, and with the Imperial Government. With the single exception of the citation of the Prime Minister’s cablegram to President Roosevelt, nothing has been tabled here to-day, or included among the documents tabled last week, which would give the House or the country any information regarding the communications which this » Government issued to the Imperial Government, or to the Australian High Commissioner, in regard to what Australia was to do in the event of certain contingencies taking place. I want to- know now what steps the Government did, in fact, take. What did it do? Because, inevitably, this country would have been involved by the Government up to the extent of such commitments as it incurred.
We learn, but not from the statement, which has been made to-day, that important steps were taken in Australia ; that naval reserves were summoned ; that, elaborate and extensive developments were made in our defence forces, placing them on a different basis from that which had hitherto prevailed.
– That is not surprising.
M r. CURTIN.- Perhaps not, but it is amazing that this Parliament, which is r.he Parliament of a free people, should have been denied all information of what was taking place, and that action of such importance should have been taken by the Government behind the backs of Parliament and of the people.
– It would have been worse still if the Government had not taken that action.
-That may be. I do not say that the action ought not to have been taken; but, when the Commonwealth Government feels that a situation is so critical that extraordinary action is re- quired in regard to our defence forces, the first people to be told about it should be the members of the nation’s Parliament.
– And tell the world what on plans are?
– The Assistant Minister knows that the press was in possession of information regarding this matter, and had commented upon it. Apart from that, the action taken by the Government must necessarily concern Australia vitally. It must affect the budgetary position of the Government, and this Parliament must find the money to meet the cost. That is one reason why Parliament should have been consulted. I gather that what was about to happen in Europe was a struggle between democracy and the dictatorships. Nothing was said or done by honorable members on this side of the House to embarrass the Government in carrying out, as far as we knew it, the programme which would have for its purpose the avoidance of war.
– The German press quoted the remarks of . the honorable gentleman in this House last week.
– The German press also quoted the remarks of responsible Ministers of the British Government and of representative members of the British Parliament; the German people cheered Mr. Chamberlain. I throw back into the teeth of everybody in this country the suggestion that criticism of public policy in the interests of Australia is to he construed as disloyalty either to Australia or to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Too long in Australia has a sober, critical outlook on Aus tralian foreign policy or its defence methods been prevented by the stupidity which treats anything which al, all criticizes Government policy as evidence of treasonable intent. I put it to the people that if there was ever a. time in the history of the world when a matter such as this ought to be soberly considered, that time is now. 1 do not say that the Government has been false to Australia because it has not consulted Parliament in regard to its policy during the crisis, but I do say that Parliament ought to have had in this statement to-day, when no danger exists, at least a survey or a summary of steps taken by the Government during the last few weeks in respect of the defence and safety of this country.
– The honorable member’s position is that as he cannot criticize results, ho wants an “open go” at methods.
– Methods cannot be disregarded. I have stood definitely for peace by negotiation in international disputes. I have also felt that the interests of Australia can best be served by giving paramount consideration to the safety of our own people and the safety of our own soil. The defence of this nation is best served by a policy of national selfreliance rather than one which embroils us in the perennial disputes in Europe. I stand by that declaration, and, unlike honorable gentlemen opposite, I am quite prepared to take whatever is coming to me for it; the people of Australia have a perfect right to object to my view on the ground that they do not regard it as the best view.
– They said it was not the right view twelve months ago.
Honorable members interjecting,
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I ask honorable members to cease interjections which are quite disorderly. 1 appeal to honorable members on both sides of the House to conduct the debate in an orderly manner.
– Some honorable members, having no views in regard to this matter, merely endeavour to disorder our speeches so that they may fasten on a word or a phrase in order to excite suspicion not only in regard to those honorable members who sit behind me on this side of the House, but also in regard to myself. I want to know now, and the people of this country are entitled to know now, whether this Government would have committed Australia to war in the event of a struggle in Europe having resulted. If the Government has not committed Australia to support a war against Germany in the event of an agreement not having been reached, then there is absolutely no distinction of any sort or kind between the policy of honorable members who sit behind the Prime Minister and those who sit on this side of the House in this respect.
– There is a tremendous difference.
– Order !
– There is no difference whatever, for obviously if Australia were uot prepared to send soldiers abroad to take part in the determination of the European situation on a basis of force, then the Government must have adopted precisely the same attitude as that adopted by the Opposition in connexion with this matter. With a sense of responsibility and quite calmly I say that the Labour party in Australia is opposed in principle and in practice to Australians being recruited as soldiers in the battlefields of Europe. Honorable members on this side of the House recognize that because of our view it is possible that Australia would have to rely upon its own resources in the event of attack; but, although that is a risk which we must take, it is one which, in practice, appears to be no greater than the risk taken by certain powers in Europe who have relied either on the theory of collective security or on some other form of treaty which has been of no avail to them. I cite Abyssinia, China, Austria, and now, Czechoslovakia, as four instances within the last few years of countries which have committed themselves to plans of mutual support in the event of attack, but which have found that the major powers with which they had concluded treaties for mutual assistance were not prepared to fight in order to defend their integrity. I do not offer any criticism of the major powers for their decision in this respect, I am not in a position to do so.
– Do say something.
– It would be a piece oi impudence on my . part to criticize the national policy of other governments. To those sections of the people who to-day are damning the policy of the Labour movement in Australia, I say that Labour is uot organized to determine the political systems of other countries and that it believes that we should not be dragged into war thousands of miles away from here merely to uphold one form of government against another.
– Noteven to safeguard the heart of the Empire? The honorable gentleman has no answer to that?
Honorable members interjecting,
– I insist that the Leader of the Opposition be heard in silence. Interjections are distinctly disorderly.
– The answer to the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) is that the party on this side of the House, when in Government and in opposition, has been more responsible for enabling this country to be in a position to defend itself than have the parties opposite. Our conception of the services we can best render to the British Commonwealth of Nations is first, to give to Australia the industries without which any defence would be impossible. At least for three decades in the history of this Parliament, this party has fought against honorable gentlemen opposite with a view to enabling our industries to exist. When we have placed before the Parliament the steps requisite to enable those industries to be developed, honorable gentlemen opposite have always found fault with them, and have opposed them, whether they have been by way of bounty or by way of tariff duty. We have also been concerned for the material conditions of the Australian people, so that they might feel a sense of patriotism about Australia, and would regard it as a good place in which to live. We did that because we wanted this country to be able naturally to attract to its shores citizens of the best type from the other parts of the world, and particularly from: Great Britain, Ireland and Scotland, with a view to maintaining the British character of this nation. More recently, however, this country ha3 had migrants, not from Great Britain, hut from the very European countries against which the honorable gentleman says we should be prepared to stand up and even fight against. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. “We believe that the best service which Australia can render to the British Empire is to attend to its own business, to make certain that we manage Australia effectively, so that we shall have the necessary population and be able to rely upon ourselves in the event of an emergency.
What does this recent episode prove? I do not propose to cite the documentation that has emerged during the last three or four days, but I noticed in the Melbourne Herald of the 3rd October the declaration that “ Australia and New Zealand cannot greatly depend on assistance from the British fleet and must make radical and rapid changes for their own protection”. The Herald says - “ This assertion is made in the first of four volumes on The Next War, au important series of reviews of Empire defence by British experts “. Not be it noted, by German experts, not by disloyalists of the Empire, but by those who are thinking about the safety of the Empire, having regard to the new vulnerabilities which modern development has brought about. I merely cite this to say that the views to which I have referred were edited by The Times military correspondent, Captain »B. BE. Liddell Hart, and are being published by Geoffrey Bles. Coming nearer home, I noticed in the Melbourne Age of the 4th October the following statement: -
The recent crisis in Canberra has brought home to official circles the need for equipping Australia with an adequate scheme of defence. So close was - the realization of war and of the measures necessary to repel invaders that there had been no relaxation of the precautions which were adopted last week. The authoritative view is that Australia can no longer afford, to rely upon Britain, but that she must be prepared to defend herself in any possible emergency.
That is a statement which, as a journalist of some experience, I venture to say would not have been published without some inspiration behind its publication. I say to Australia and to this Parliament that that paragraph completely summarizes the whole outlook and policy of the Australian Labour party towards Australia’s defence. It explains why we have felt that we could not afford to dissipate our strength in the struggles of Europe; that the newconditions which, have developed prove conclusively that small powers have, at least for a period of time, to rely entirely upon their own resources, because the invader or the aggressor does not give very much notice of his intentions.
– Does the honorable gentleman favour universal military service in Australia?
– That is characteristic of every statement made upon defence in this Parliament by the honorable gentleman and those whom he supports. They interject the most vague and useless things merely in order to prevent a calm, considered statement of our case from being put, because they know that without distortion of our case they themselves have nothing except the workedOUt generalization: They believe in the British Empire. The Government itself does not apply compulsory military training. That is my answer. We believe in the British Commonwealth of Nations far more soundly than do honorable gentlemen opposite, who merely blather about the flag and the Empire.
I notice that Professor Giblin, who has just returned from a world tour, and who is a member of the Commonweath Bank Board - appointed by this Government, and apparently a very competent authority on quite a number of subjects - in an address yesterday at the Melbourne University, where political feeling ought not to be as high as it is in this Parliament, and where one would, expect that problems of national safety would be considered in a detached way, said -
Everything suggested that peace was impossible in Europe, because it could not be obtained except by confronting Germany, in her present mood, with a force stronger than her own. That did not exist, and, on present prospects, would not exist.
What did that statement mean? It meant, clearly, that the recent references to Czechoslovakia having made sacrifices related to conditions forced upon Czechoslovakia because certain powers felt that they were unable to do other than allow Czechoslovakia to make the sacrifices. If that bc true of Czechoslovakia, if it be true of those other countries, has not the whole propaganda of certain newspapers in’ Australia in recent weeks been “If Ave do not go to the aid of Czechoslovakia, Australia’s turn will come sooner or later”? If that be true - and there is a realistic outlook about it - we are faced with the fact that those countries which had pacts of mutual assistance were left helpless when the aggressor marched upon them. Therefore [ say that, us Australia’s duty is primarily to its own people, the first responsibility of either the Government or the Opposition in this Parliament is in respect of the safety of the citizens of this Commonwealth, and until we can be satisfied that we have done all that we fan to ensure that, and are able to guarantee it as far as it is possible humanly to guarantee anything, wc cannot afford to become a participant in the disputes of Europe, to be tied to treaties which, by a process of duplication and expansion, lead us into the position of having to go l.o war in respect of developments with which we have no concern, and for which we cannot be responsible. I hesitate to say this, because in n way it offers criticism of what may have occurred in Europe, but I. put it to the House: France had a treaty with the Czechoslovak republic, which was constituted after the Treaty of Versailles. Certain undertakings were given by the Czechoslovak republic - that it would cantonize its Government and give certain autonomy to the Sudeten Germans. It then made the treaty with France. It did not carry out the reforms it had undertaken to effectIt is quite true that France had a treaty with Russia, and also, it is true, that Great Britain had a treaty with France. Thus it is conceivable that the Czechs felt that they could delay the reformation conditions in respect, of the Sudeten Germans because, for other reasons, Russia and France would resist Germany, and Great Britain, because of its contract with France, would be brought in as a further impediment to the obtaining of the reforms by the Sudeten’ Germans. Thus the very treaties in themselves - this concatenation of alliances- -might have been the cause of a world war; instead of being vin– means for ensuring peace, they could
Mr. Curtin have been the very soil from which would emerge struggle and hostility, in which Australia would be involved. I have not the slightest doubt tha.t there will be wars in Europe again. I regret that, as every humane man must; but the history of Europe is one of struggle for the balance) of power. That struggle is largely economic; but it is easily inflamed by the hereditary racial antagonisms that have come down through the ages. Thus all the mischief-makers of Europe have a fertile field, which can easily blossom into struggle and terrible catastrophe. I put it to Australia that we are not big enough to act as a police force in Europe keeping order there; nor are we strong enough to use our soldiers in campaigns in Europe which are the outcome of an appeal to force, because we need our own soldiers in our own country to look, after ourselves on account of the contingencies that may flow to us from a world war. That is the essence and the substance of the position which honorable gentlemen take up who sit belli ml me. That is thu considered view of the Australian Labour party, formulated time and time again throughout the last two decades. We sincerely hope that peace by negotiation will continue to be the means adopted by all governments. We were the authors of that phrase. Honorable members have only to look up the newspapers which supported them at the time when that phrase first found expression in a practical form in connexion with Australia’s overseas relations, and they will see that we were attacked for believing in peace by negotiation’. We now say that there is n lesson for us to learn in this connexion; it is, that we need to do more in ensuring the impregnability of Australia against attack. I say deliberately that it is the duty and the obligation- of Australia to make itself as safe a.s it, can. I welcome the co-operation last week of the State Premiers and the Prime Minister, in seeing that the industrial and other mechanics of Australian defence are put upon a basis which will enable them to function efficiently and quickly if ever the occasion to use them should arise. I hope that further expansion in that connexion will proceed, and that there will be the closest co-operation between all governments in Australia in respect of the civil and industrial side of defence. This party stands for that.We believe that we should at least have a more effective, a more mobile method of transportation for our defence forces than we now have. We believe there is an immense work confronting all governments, so that the people of Australia will have a greater sense of security as the result of the lessons that have been taught.
I conclude by saying that a practical policy of economic progress in Australia - the development of our industries, the payment of decent wages, and the ensuring of good conditions sio as to attract here citizens of the best type from, other parts of the world - will in itself be an enormous contributor to our security. There ought to be fielded to that the requisite organization and the provision of works and equipment, so that we shall not be dependent upon overseas pur-‘ ehases for either munitions or materials. I say to Australia challengingly that we have to be more self-reliant than we have ever been in our own defence. In order that we may be more self-reliant than we have ever been, we can less afford to regard ourselves as participants in wars overseas.
– The Munich Agreement came to the whole world, but particularly to thenations of Europe, as comes a reprieve to men on the steps of the scaffold. Mankind was nearly engulfed in another war thatthreatened to be still more terrible than the last, and the escape which it, has had has left, all the world with, hearts beating with thankful ness toGod and to those human instruments through which war was- averted.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) would have as believe that in some way or other war has been averted and peace ensured by a policy of isolation and non-co-operation, and that no disti notion may be drawn between the policy of honorable members on this side of the chamber and that of honorable members opposite: but I can conceive of no wider gulf separating men than that, which divides the Government and the. Opposition on this subject. The honorable gentleman ignores the stem realities of life. The. lessons of the last week have, taughthim nothing. He spoke about organization ; and co-ordination of industries,It is by this co-ordination of industry that Australia is to be protected from aggression. The honorable gentleman does not believe that anything else is necessary. He does not believe in collective security. He said that the efforts made by the people of Europe to ensure security and protect themselves from aggression by alliances had failed. He would have us believe that the danger of war has arisen because the nations of Europe sought security through alliances, treaties and dependence upon the League of Nations, which in its turn depends upon the principle known as collective security. But collective security and alliances have not failed.
The acute situation of last week was reached because the nations of the world had declined to shoulder the co-operative responsibility which must inevitably rest upon peoples who desire peace. This co-operative responsibility is the price of peace. Collective security has served the world well. It has saved it from war. We see to-day conflict raging throughout rhe whole world between two irrecoucilab’c principles - might and right; between those who stand for right, who believe in the orderly settlement of disputes hy pacific men us, and the acceptance of decisions by legalized tribunals, and those who stand for might, who rely on force. If to-day there is peace in the world, it is because force has been shorn of some of its triumphs by the resolute attitude of the opponents of force. Those who stood for might have had to face the Coree arrayed behind those who stood for right.
The Leader of the Opposition says that his party originated the phrase, “ Peace by negotiation”. With all due respect to the honorable gentleman, that is a boast that he can hardly make good. That saying is as old as mankind itself. Many have, sought peace by negotiation, but rarely, if ever, has peace been secured, save by abject submission to the terms of the aggressor,unless behind those who sought peace by negotiation, there stood force adequate to compel recognition of their rights.
Instead of joining in the chorus of jubilation and thanksgiving that is sweeping through the world, the Leader of the Opposition lias treated us to a dissertation on the delinquency of the Government in not consulting Parliament. On what could it have consulted Parliament? Until the very moment when the decision was made that there should be no war there was nothing to consult Parliament about! While yet there was hope for peace this Parliament gave its blessing in full measure to those who were working for peace.
How did the honorable gentleman suggest that peace could be assured? His sole idea was by a policy of isolation. That is all he had to offer. Apparently he thought that, like the ostriches, we should plunge our heads in the sand. Instead, the Government preferred to turn to the only power in the world among the democratic nations which could secure peace, and, through its efforts, peace has come to us.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the adequate defence of Australia. We are doing all that we can to ensure this. But what is his policy? He has given it to us piecemeal, but shorn of its platitudes what does it amount to? Nothing more than’ isolation and noncooperation ! I remind the House that not very long ago he referred to our relations with Great Britain - our partnership in the Empire - as an entangling alliance. He referred to our membership of the League of Nations in similar terms. His foreign policy is isolation, noncooperation with Britain, with the League, with every nation standing for peace, for the settlement of international disputes by negotiation. That is his policy. The plain fact is that the principles which the honorable gentleman has enunciated, and upon which his foreign policy rests, are in direct and violent contradiction to the policy of the Labour party, to the principles upon which trade unionism, and civilization itself, rest. Those principles are co-operation and unity. What is the slogan of unionism ? It is “ solidarity “. Upon what rock has its splendid temple been built,? It is the rock of unity. The basic principle of the Labour movement is the readiness of every member of it to make sacrifices, no matter how great, in order that the common cause may be advanced. That principle underlies civilization itself.
The Leader of the Opposition speaks about peace, but we shall never secure peace by his policy of isolation and noncooperation. He asks, “ Are we to send Australian- soldiers overseas?”.
– Well, are we? What has the right honorable member to say about that?
– If the honorable gentleman can hold his tongue for a minute or two I shall tell him. What are we to do when weak nations of the world are oppressed? The honorable gentleman says that we must close our ears to the piteous cries of the oppressed, because otherwise we may be endangered. We must do nothing for the right. Other nations may be oppressed and in danger but we must not listen to their cry for help. The day may come when this small nation will cry aloud to the world for help, but what will the world say if we adopt and pursue the policy of selfish isolation outlined by the Leader of the Opposition?
The most despicable figure’ in biblical history is that of the Levite who, coming upon a man who had been beset by thieves, lay moaning and bleeding on the roadside, closed his ears, drew his robe about him and passed by on the other side; and by doing so has earned the withering scorn of posterity. It is upon this model that the honorable member has moulded his policy. The adoption of the policy outlined by the Leader of the Opposition would bring such scorn upon this nation. He talks about peace. How does he propose to avert war? He says that we must make our industries fit into the demands of war. No doubt we must, but that will not prevent war. Why are the nations re-arming? Why has the fear of war become acute? The honorable member ignores world conditions. There are to-day in this world nations which stand for force. If they are not met by force which is adequate and that can prevail then it will be the end of democracy and of Australia as we know it. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that Australia should stand alone. He has asked: “If war comes, what is Australia to do?” He has evidently read something about the need for adequate defence for this country, but what contribution have honorable members opposite made to our adequate defence? Their solitary contribution has been the suspension of compulsory military training.
– That was done ten years ago and the Government has been nearly seven years in office and could have restored it if it wished to.
– It is time it did so.
– The Leader of the Opposition does not believe in his own policy. He does not believe that we can avoid war by ignoring the realities of life and pursuing a. non-provocative policy. He knows what has happened in Abyssinia, in China and in Czechoslovakia. He would have us believe that Czechoslovakia was threatened with dismemberment because it treated the Sudeten Germans unjustly; that it brought war upon itself because it had allied itself with Prance and Russia. But that is not true. Czechoslovakia was dismembered because, however much in the right it was, it was weak. Against its right was arrayed force, and if force hae not succeeded to the uttermost, it was because it was faced by other force - the force of the British Navy, of mobilized France and of Russia.
The people of Australia, we have been told, must face facts. That is’ true. The line of cleavage between honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber and those on the other side of it is complete in this particular phase. We face the facts. We stand behind the British Empire because only in that way can Australian citizens be loyal to Australia. The Loader of the Opposition cannot appreciate what war would mean to Australia. He asks whether this Government would have committed Australia to war.
– Well, would it have done so?
– If war had occurred it would have required no committal. No act or gesture would have been needed on the part of this Government to commit this country. We should have been committed to war and no power in heaven or in hell could have saved us from it. One of the consequences of war would have been that our shores would have been open to aggression and our overseas trade would have been abruptly severed. Can the honorable member contemplate or visualize a scheme of defence tor Australia based on isolation that would have kept the highways of the seas open between here and our markets? If we were cut off from those markets we should be utterly undone. Does the honorable member suggest that Australia could keep open the highways of the sea? No power in this world available to us could keep those highways open except Great Britain. Yet the honorable member would have us turn our backs on Great Britain to pursue a policy of isolation. Isolation is a policy of national suicide.
– I do not agree with that.
– It is a policy that the honorable member for Hunter would not dare to advocate for trade unionism, which is based on co-operation and collective security. The honorable the Leader of the Opposition says the disputes of foreign nations are no concern of ours. Yet Labour recognizes no territorial boundaries. It is united the world over. Unless the honorable member is recreant to the principles of Labour he supports that unity. He dare not say that the rights of industrial Labour in any part of the world are no concern of the workers of Australia. Surely Britain is not a foreign country. Yet when the honorable gentleman is asked to stand by Britain in its fight against the rule of might, he talks about entangling alliances and advocates isolation. Under the protection of Britain, Australia has developed and enjoyed the most complete liberty. Under its protection Labour has ruled and become a great power in the land, yet the honorable member now talks about isolation and would have us dissociate ourselves from Britain in its efforts to avert war. The honorable member’s policy is not one that faces reality at all. It is a policy that walks in the shadows ; it is a policy of despair and suicide for Australia. I have done at least as much as any other man for the defence of Australia; I have advocated as least as ceaselessly as any other man that Australia should be armed to its teeth; but I have never for one moment been under the delusion that, without the assistance of Great Britain, Australia could stand.
So,I say to the honorable member that heseeks to cover the naked reality with a veil of words when he says that there is no difference between honorable members on this side of the House and honorable members on that side of the House. There is a gulf as wide as hell between us.
– Would the right honorable gentleman have sent men to a war that might have eventuated last week?
– The honorable gentleman will not face the fact that there are to-day nations which stand for force. There is such a thing as right. The honorable gentleman, I know very well, stands for right, but, unless right be strong, it cannot prevail, and the honorable member has himself told us that it is hopeless for us to contend against the force that stands for might to-day. We must have allies; we must have all the democratic powers that stand for righteousness massed, banding themselves together so that right will be strong. That is the policy of this Government. If I am asked what this Government has done in order to bring about or t.n assist in bringing about this happy consummation, my answer is that we have stood loyally and firmly behind Great Britain, believing that in that way and that way only could peace be preserved. We followed Britain when it gave to the world the lead in stripping itself of arms to the point of danger and beyond. And now that it is belatedly arming itself so that it may stand valiantly and effectively for the right, we have followed it again. When Great Britain disarmed, we disarmed, and when Great Britain arms, we arm, because we know that when it arms right is in danger and that there is only one way by which right can be saved.
– Would the right honorable gentleman have sent Australian troops to a war over Czechoslovakia?
– I doubt if any Australian troops would ever get to Czechoslovakia. I am talking of Australia’s readiness to line up with those democratic nations that stand for right.
– And where do they stand?
– They stand for the right and we stand four square with them. We shoulder our responsibilities. We believe in peace, and know that it cannot be maintained unless those who believe in peace are. strong and are prepared to shoulder those responsibilities. How can peace be preserved unless those who believe in peace resist those who believe in force? The rule of law rests on force. The community ensures the security of the individual by providing a force that, compels obedience to the laws the community makes; in no other way can nations be compelled to settle their disputes by peaceful means. The nations standing for peace must provide force adequate to compel aggressive nations to preserve world peace. That is the stand we take. . The dark clouds that lowered overseas a week ago have for a moment been swept away, but, actually, nothing is changed ; the danger is still there; in a little while the clouds will gather again. It is only by recognition of the fundamental fact that unless this country is prepared to shoulder its responsibilities in order to maintain the peace of the world, it can never feel itself or be in fact safe. It is because of that that we range ourselves with Great Britain and all those democratic countries which believe in peace and are prepared to strengthen themselves to ensure that peace. Treaties have failed. The League of Nations has failed, not because the, principles for which it stood are wrong, but because words cannot secure peace. The juggernaut of force has rolled over the Locarno Pact, the League Covenant, the Kellogg Pact, the GermanCzechoslovak Arbitration Treaty - the treaty agreed to between those parties which yesterday were at each other’s throat. All are crushed into the dust. They are words, nothing but words; and against them are powers whose creed is force; who, encouraged by the success that force has won, are pressing on toward their goal. Are we to range ourselves with or against them? Or shall we wait in helpless isolation until one by one the nations that stand for peace and who alone can save us from destruction are beaten into the dust and we are left alone crying to a world that will regard our piteous appeals for help with contemptuous indifference. In this fateful hour the Government stands with the British Empire because we believe that there is no other way in which we can be true and loyal citizens of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the debate tobe continued after the termination of the time allowed bv Standing Order No. 119.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman) 4.30].-I should like to quieten the anxieties of honorable members opposite. It may be supposed that I will seize this opportunity to say all that I think about, them. I shall not do so. We have just had from the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) an outburst of characteristic jingoism which brings us hack at least in thought and. memory to the tragic, fatal and futile years of 1914 to1 91 8. The speech we have just heard was a speech obviously prepared for quite another contingency. It was a speech made and prepared in anticipation of the declaration of war, and, unfortunately for the right honorable gentleman who has uttered it, it has had to be delivered in the calmer atmosphere of complete peace. The right honorable gentleman misrepresents my leader (Mr. Curtin) as having stated, as a positive fact that there is no practical difference between honorable members on that side of the House and honorable members on this side of the House on this questiou, and he says that there is a difference as wide and deep as he picturesquely described it. I agree that there is such a difference. But what the Leader of the Opposition really did say, as I understand his plain English, was in effect this - “ If we were able to discover what was in the minds of the Government - it has never been expressed or conveyed, to the people of this country - and it should turn out in fact that the Government did not have in mind anything more than the defence of this country by the arms of this country, it would be recognizing, as Labour recognizes, our primal responsibilities to Australia, and that therefore there is no difference between the policy of Labour and the policy of the Government”. That is what he said, but I would regard with horror and disgust a suggestion that there is, in fact,’ no difference between the members of the Labour party and the members of the Ministerial side on this vital question of the defence of Australia. Therighthonorablemember said one other thing; he said, pointing to my honorable colleague, the member for Hunter (Mr. James), “ The policy of unionism is international not isolationist; its interests extend the world over; it knows no geographical boundaries “. Would to God, if I may take the phrase of the warmongers of other days, it were true, that Labour in this matter is united the world over. If it were true, if it were not a fact that the Labour ranks are led by the press and by interested public personages to fatal division in their rank:;, there could be no war. And I say that there will be no security for the world until in truth and fact the workers of the world do unite to make war impossible.
I intimated a moment ago that I had no intention this afternoon to traverse the whole ambit of foreign policy. I have none. My principal object in rising at this stage, in interrupting the general business of Parliament to discuss foreign affairs, is first of all to congratulate my leader and . to endorse wholeheartedly his magnificent statement on behalf of the Labour party in this House, and to state to him, and to the world, that this party, without a single exception, stands behind him in support of the views that he has expressed. When war seemed imminent hope was developed in the minds of some people that this party would be divided. The wish was father to the thought. They have not forgotten their history. They knew that, in the last dreadful calamity of war, Labour was divided. They knew that those to whom Labour looked for leadership and inspiration then deserted it, and crossed the floor to become the paid leaders of the enemies of the Labour party. They knew- all that, and they hoped that history would repeat itself; that the solid phalanx of Labour would be riven in twain, some going this way, and some going that way. It is a great joy to know that we stand in alsolute solidarity to-day, none of us going that way in this matter of peace and war.
I have often asked the question across the chamber: Where is the enemy that is threatening or is said to threaten
Australia? The question has never been answered. There is no enemy threatening Australia. We have no entangling alliances with other coun tries; wc have no Australian capital invested by financiers in European countries; we are not involved abroad; we have no dividend-seekers here, as far as I know, among the armament makers of the world, who have been so active in times of peace in fomenting the spirit of war. No breath or suggestion of hostility to Australia found expression during this time of crisis. But we have a real danger in Australia, nevertheless, and that real danger is that we may be committed to war without our consent - nay, without our knowledge, in the jingoistic spirit of the Minister for External Affairs. There is a real danger that we may be committed to Avar without our knowledge and without discussion. What was the policy of the Government during this trying time? Its foreign policy, if it had one - and I doubt it - was never expressed. Other dominions, and Great Britain itself a sister dominion, freely expressed their views through their leaders. Great Britain expressed its opinion through its Prime Minister, and through the Leader of the Opposition. The matter was discussed in the public press, and the press of this country Avas no exception. The public men of all countries expressed their opinion, except here in Australia. The Australian Government, in what it conceived to be a grave crisis, had nothing to say but, “hush! hush! The situation is too delicate to be discussed in an Australian Parliament”. If it is not to be discussed in the Parliament of Australia where, I ask, should it be discussed ? Have Ave forgotten what is due to democracy? Have Ave forgotten that Ave set ourselves up as champions of democracy against the dictatorships? My leader pointed out that one of the issues, if not the sole one, in this crisis Avas the conflict between dictatorships and democracy. How comes it, then, that in this Parliament of Australia, a Parliament entirely responsible for Australia, and sharing that responsibility Avith no other Parliament in the world - alone was silent in this time of crisis? There is no answer to that, except that “ the situation Avas too delicate “ t’o permit us to discuss it.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have applauded the British Prime Minister for his untiring efforts in the cause of woma peace. I did not start to applaud his efforts only recently, and in connexion with the crisis in Czechoslovakia. I ventured in this place, and in other public places, to applaud his efforts long before things had reached that stage, and to point out that so long as he pursued a pacific policy - I am not in sympathy
Avith his imperialist policy - so long as he could Avard off a world Avar - not because it Avas our affair, But because it was his affair, and the affair of his country - he would have our sympathy and applause. But honorable gentlemen on the ministerial side of the House seem to be prepared to applaud equally any policy as long as it emanates from abroad ; so long as it does not emanate from the Leader of the Opposition. They were just as vigorous in their applause of that policy which Avas leading us straight to Avar, as they arc. in their applause of the policy which has led us to peace. Noaa’, inasmuch as peace has been achieved, at least temporarily, they are all pacifists, and the last thing they would like to admit would be the truth, namely, that whatever may be our views about the British Government, the policy of that government has represented a triumph for pacifism throughout the world. There are men in this Parliament - there are men in this Government - who woUld have thrown their hats in the air in delight if the news had flashed across the world that Mi-. Chamberlain had made a stand against Herr Hitler, and that the wardogs were to be called out. Those honorable gentlemen, can scarcely conceal their chagrin at the turn of events. They join in spirit Avith those who, in the press and on the platform in other parts of the world, are deriding and attacking the British Prime Minister for having secured the peace of Europe, saying that it Avas Avon at too great a price; that Ave made others pay for it; that Ave let the people of Czechoslovakia down. The only reason that we do not hear the same kind of thing from honorable members opposite to-day, the only reason that they have not become as vocal as did Mr. Duff-Cooper in the British House of Commons, is that they have never been game to declare their policy, and they are not game to leave a Ministry with whose policy they disagree. I say that it is a recreant policy for Australia to adopt. We are an independent nation. Britain itself has led the way in placing the seal of nationhood upon Australia’s Constitution, but this Government has not -dared to accept the gift. It has not even dared to adopt a measure which would have put that seal upon our nationhood. Britain, however, has recognized our complete independence, our nationhood and our responsibility, and I was proud and pleased this afternoon to hear the Leader of the Opposition declare that we . should accept that responsibility - the defence of Australia; and that it was inconceivable that any nation should accept the toga of nationhood, and yet let it be known throughout the world . that, though it is a nation, it is not prepared to accept the responsibility of defending itself. I am inclined to think that it may be our final humiliation to be told by Britain, by our good friends in a British Government of whatever political colour, that inasmuch as we have sought nationhood and accepted it, we must also accent the responsibilities it involves. That, I say, would be the final humiliation, and that may come sooner or later.
Peace by negotiation ! My leader said said that we were the inventors of that phrase. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that it was as old as the world. And he prays for peace ! He fought with great ability, with cunning and persistence, anything in the nature of peace by negotiation during the last war, and to the very limit of his powers he poured incendiary oil upon the flames of war to keep going for four long years, a futile struggle out of which we derived nothing but disillusionment and sorrow; a struggle in which we lost our priceless dead, and which provided us with thousands of maimed and injured who are a burden on our conscience in perpetuity. To that result, and in that manner, the right honorable gentleman was the greatest living contributor. I am sorry for his sake that he has had to make his speech in circumstances for which the speech was not prepared, but I cannot be sorry for Australia. As an onlooker, in no sense responsible for the Government of Great Britain with ite commitments on the continent of Europe, and in other continents, and its association with tremendous financial institutions which are interested in the promotion of war, but sharing as I do with others the responsibility of guarding the interests of Australia, I applaud the Leader of the British Government for his good work on behalf of the pacification of the world.. I never thought that I would so soon have the golden opportunity to stand in the Parliament of Australia arid declare to the Parliament and to the world, insofar as it is interested to listen, my admiration of the British Prime Minister’s tremendous triumph for pacifism as I understand it. Not pacifism as misconstrued by honorable members opposite, not that kind of pacifism which would not defend its own hearths and home3, recognizing no virtue in that which is clearly defence, but pacifism of real non-aggression, of real non-interference, the pacifism which would spit out from itself as something detestable the suggestion that in any conceivable situation Australian soldiers should be recruited for the purpose of giving up their lives in a minor state dispute in central Europe in respect of which they have no concern whatever. I have at the moment nothing to say about fascism, and the inevitable necessity sooner or later for arresting its onward march - that subject may be left for another occasion - but I make the observation that the difference between the declared fascism of the continent of Europe and the undeclared fascism of Australia is not so great as may appear to some. I am not prepared to admit that there is any essential difference worth describing or maintaining between the fascism of that kind of democracy expounded by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), and the greater and wider fascism which is being practised in Europe to-day. The difference between democracy in some of its forms, and fascism in some of its forms, is a very fine line not by any means easy to determine. If it had come to pass that this Government had pooled u3 into war, had made promises to send troops to the other side of the world in any contingency, I declare that it would have been an act of grave treason to this country, and it would have been the undoubted duty of the Opposition not merely to vote against a policy of enlisting soldiers for such purposes, but also against the voluntary enlistment of soldiers for service on foreign battlefields who, wearing the Australian uniform, would necessarily involve Australia in belligerent operations overseas. But such is the mental altitude of complete subordination on the part of this Government, that no matter who is in power in Great Britain - whether it be a Liberal Prime Minister, a Conservative prime Minister, aye, even a Labour Prime Minister, or one of those gentlemen who. although I do not want to be severe upon statesmen ofa friendly nation, are nonetheless incendiarist in the. sense in which the word is used, and are seeking to promote war - so long as the government for the moment enjoying a majority in Great Britain adopts a certain attitude the Commonwealth Government is prepared to pledge its support. As a matter of fact, it went very far in that direction; it permitted it to he published abroad, and allowed it to remain uncontradicted, that it was with the British Government and behind it in any action it should take. It allowed the press in this country to make provocative statements of that kind without contradiction, though if ever there was a case for the application of censorship in its strictest form it might well have been employed in that connexion. At the very moment when the Prime Minister was asking us not to speak in this House, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White.) was making provocative speeches outside that were offensive to the head of the German nation. I do not admit that they were taken notice of. but they . might have embarrassed this Government and the British Government. For the moment that is all I wish to say. I congratulate our friends in Great Britain who have successfully promoted this pea.ee. It was their responsibility. We, as a friendly sister nation, cannot do other than glory in the fact that their achievement has been so great; but wo who have a great and wide responsibility to Australia, say that the whole of our powers must be limited to securing the defence of this island continent, and not go beyond that.
.- On this subject the calm deliberation of every honorable member in this House is necessary. No good purpose can be served now by considering whether other activities or another policy pursued by Great Britain could have effected peace on a better basis. It is for me sufficient to know that the Prime Minister of Great Britain has accomplished something that required real statesmanship, and although I do not find myself completely in agreement with every view he has advanced, I, iu common with every young man in the British Empire, pay him tribute for what he lias achieved. One finds, however, that as the result of all that has taken place over the last two years, every individual should direct his mind to the problem which the Empire and Australia, now . have to face. In 1914 it was said that lights were going out all over Europe. To-day it appears to me that the banners of freedom and liberty are being pulled down all over Europe, and that the white light of justice pales before the flaine. of brute force. To-day the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) gave expression to an idea which appears to be inconsistent with the view advanced by the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The British Prime Minister has supported the principle of a fourpower pact. He has frequently advanced the theory that there is no reason why there should be a. bloc of democratic people against a bloc of fascist or totalitarian States. His “idea has been to blend the one with the other, so that by peaceful negotiation, the problems which face the world might be solved. But the Minister for External Affairs, as I understood him, said that unless democratic people stood steadfast against those opposed to democracy, then, finally, disaster would overtake this country. T find it difficult to reconcile one view with the other. I humbly suggest they are irreconcilable. If that he so, I want to know how does it come about that a member of the Australian Cabinet should express a view so totally opposed to that held by the Prime Minister’ of Great
Bri tain? I do not quarrel with any man, or any Minister in this Parliament, expressing a contrary view, but I want to know what is our foreign policy, and to what it commits us. I have said time and time again, and I repeat here, that it seems to me that since federation our foreign policy is but a pale reflection of whatever may be the foreign policy of Great Britain for the time being. I may be quite prepared to place Australia’s destinies in the hands of Mr. Chamberlain, but does it necessarily follow that we would be prepared to place our destinies in the hands of any man who happens to be. Prime Minister of Great Britain at any time, irrespective of his political beliefs or foreign policy. Over the ‘last two years, I know of certain pronouncements made by certain members of the House of Commons who were prepared to commit the Empire to war on a number of issues which, I venture to say, would not, recommend themselves to the rest of the Empire. Because of that danger, it appears to me that we are obliged to have a more definite part, in the formation of the foreign policy of the Empire. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) only recently gave expression to the need for greater and closer communications between the Mother Country and Australia, May I say, with respect, that with that view I entirely concur. I am at least a realist,I hope, and I know that if Great Britain is involved in a war, then so, of necessity, is Australia. I do not baulk the issue; I know it to bc an irresistible conclusion. But it appears to me that we in this country should play a greater part in the. formation of a foreign policy which is to be common to the Empire. The Empire speaks with one voice, it speaks for the whole of the people in the British Commonwealth of Nations, ‘but, in so speaking, it should at least reflect the deliberative views of every component part of that Common wealth of Nations.
Time and time again, I hear a policy advanced which appears to be no more than a pious hope, namely, the policy of peace with all the other nations of . the world. I suppose that no man in his senses requires anything else; each one of us and the masses of the people desire peace. But that is merely an objective. What
I seek to make plain is that an objective is one thing, but it is the means !by which that objective is to be reached which form the subject-matter of foreign policy. When I hear pronouncements made that we desire peace, that to me is merely a mouthing of a platitude, and gives no expression to what must be the subjectmatter of foreign policy - the ways and means by which the objective is to he obtained. In Europe to-day, we find the barriers of freedom and liberty being smashed down. I venture to say none of us can view that state of affairs without a profound feeling of despondency. I do not believe that the Four-Power Pact was the final result of reason which dawned on the Fuehrer of Germany, but rather that it was because of the imposing possibility of a world war to which he was not, in the last resort prepared to commit his nation, and furthermore he realized that in Germany itself there exists a large body of opinion, inarticulate but strongly opposed to war, which would, as one German general put it recently, if war broke out, form a home front. If, for a period of 20 or 30 years, wo could avert war, I earnestly believe it would be wiped from the face of the earth. The masses are ‘becoming better informed day by day. Ignorant people can easily be led into war for false causes, but a well-informed people not so easily. It is my firm conviction that in the masses of the people throughout the world who have to bear the burdens of war lies the final hope of continuous peace for this world.
In view of what has taken- place during the last two years, and particularly during the course of last week, these two conclusions appear tobe obvious: first, that the balance of power in Europe has shifted, and secondly, that the British Government is no longer the strong force in international affairs that it formerly was. I pay every tribute to Mr. Chamberlain for what he did. Maybe, had Great Britain ‘been stronger, another line of action may have recommended itself, but who is there among us or iu the world to-day placed, in a similar position of awful responsibility as was Mr. Chamberlain, who would have said he was prepared in certain circumstances to commit the Empire to war on the chance that if he threatened war, peace might result? I believe that he was obliged, by virtue of Great Britain’s own vulnerability, to make a peace with the leader of Germany in respect of Czechoslovakia which in other circumstances would have caused every decent man to hang his head in shame. It is because -I realize that the balance of power in Europe has shifted and that the British Empire is more vulnerable now than it has been for years, that the conviction is borne in upon me that we must play a greater part than we have played in making our Empire a stronger and more potent force for peace throughout the world. I do not believe in the isolation of Australia. I do believe in the strengthening of our resources. I believe - as I have said before in this House* on the discussion of the Defence estimates - that by virtue of England’s vulnerability at the present moment, in the event of a major conflict, even assuming that public opinion in England would permit it, the extent of the support afforded by Great Britain to us would be much less than we are led to believe it would be. I expressed that view with the rider that whenever one advances these ideas one is apt to be met with the charge of disloyalty. I sympathize entirely with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that if one advances ideas such as these one is frequently sought to be silenced by having a charge of disloyalty levelled at one. I believe, however, that it is the true patriot who sees the vital facts of the country realistically and, seeing them, has the courage to speak about them.
In respect of the balance of power in Europe, it is obvious to me that by reason of what took place last week the “ Mittel Europa “ of Germany is well on the way to becoming an accomplished fact. At any rate, Germany becomes stronger. While I sincerely hope and pray that the trust which the British Prime Minister has reposed in the spoken word of the leader of Germany may be justified, I find myself by no means confident that such trust can be so reposed, I. have in mind the actions of the last two years. I have in mind the basis of Nazi policy, which is that treaties are made only for the purpose of making war.
That, I think, is one of the axioms of Nazi policy. In view of what took place in Austria, and having regard to the spoken word of Hitler to Mussolini and to what eventuated when Italy was fully occupied with Great Britain, I find little room for confidence that Hitler’s word will be observed. I can only hope and pray that there has been a change in the man. I can only trust that the people of Germany will finally become articulate, because I am firmly convinced that they are not by any means 100 per cent, behind the policy enunciated by the Fuehrer of Germany.
We know that in the East, Japan has made tremendous inroads into China. Those who have been there realize that the white population regards it as inevitable that the time is not very far distant when England will be removed from the sphere of influence in the East. If that be so, it must have a very definite and vital effect upon our position in Australia. Again, one knows that Japan, through commercial infiltration, has exercised, and does exercise, a tremendous influence in Indo-China, Siam, and the Dutch East Indies. We are told that Singapore will protect us. Sometimes I wonder what would happen to Singapore if it were attacked from behind. I know, thai that fear is in the minds of many people who are there. I am glad, however, that Singapore is there, because it is my conviction that it is the only base from which Great Britain could materially assist us at all. I believe that we in Australia should collaborate with Great Britain for the purpose of making the. Singapore base a centre for the protection of the Empire, including Australia.
Looking to the Mediterranean, what do we find? As the result of the Italian campaign in Abyssinia and of the progressive militarization of Libya,- the Italian pincers are upon the Sudan and Egypt. Knowing of the fortification of the Balearic Islands, and of the war that is being waged in Spain, one realizes that that vital link of Empire - Gibraltar - is in danger of passing from us, and that there is a very definite challenge to Great Britain there at the present moment. Any one who be- lieves that the totalitarian States have engaged in and have given their resources to warfare in Spain solely for an ideal, burks the issue. I am satisfied that the help given by both Germany and Italy in Spain has been given pursuant to the militaristic and imperialistic designs of both of those countries. None of us can deny the right of a country to progress, to expand; but the time comes when that expansion imperils us. It is because I see now that although previously England controlled the Mediterranean there is a great danger of its becoming an Italian lake; it is because I realize that throughout the world there has been an entire change in the balance of British influence, that I am convinced of how much more important it is that there should be one consolidated Empire, each unit being prepared to carry its burden and its responsibility.
For too long in this country have we accepted the outlook of a colonist. In foreign affairs, we are still colonists. I, for one, proclaim that as a nation our obligation is to view matters first through the eyes of Australia ; but viewing them through the eyes of an Australian, I see also that the destiny of my country is wrapped up with the destiny of the British Empire. I do not regard the British Empire as being the insignia of Imperial dominion. Imperial dominion means nothing to me in that sense. But it is something to me that it is the finest example of what people of different tongues, different institutions, different races, can do in solving their disputes by peaceful negotiation and in standing as a bulwark for civilization and all that civilization represents. I have not had, and I hope that I never shall have, vh at I conceive to be the jingoistic attitude in respect of the Empire; but I have the utmost affection for it as a union of free peoples under one King, and an institution - the first of its kind in the history of the world - which has blended countries of different tongues, different outlooks, different grades of economic progress, into one solid whole. I believe that only in the British Empire, and only in the democracies of the world such as the United States of America, can there be any final protection of liberty and justice throughout the world.
When one comes to consider what is the attitude of this country in respect of foreign policy one is met with the argument, “ What is the use of foreign policy for this country since it could do nothing if it had one?” I agree that if we were entirely isolationists a foreign policy would be of little value, because we could not implement it, and no policy is of any value unless it can be implemented. When I speak of the foreign policy of Australia I speak of the attitude of mind of Australians in framing the common policy of the Empire. That postulates a knowledge of the problems and an appreciation of the difficulties of Europe, lt involves a very intense study of the minorities question in Europe, and an ability on the part of our legislators and leaders to make our views articulate in the halls of Westminster.
One cannot deny that the Versailles Treaty has left a legacy of despair and destruction throughout Europe. One cannot escape the conclusion that those who devoted their noblest efforts to the establishment of peace in Europe failed lamentably. One can only learn from that how futile war can and must be. But there can be no escape whatever from the conclusion that the blame in respect of the Czechoslovakian question was not entirely on one side. It is true that there was this new technique of aggression exercised by the totalitarian countries, of stirring up disaffection and then making that a causus for intervention in the affairs of another country. It is equally true, on the other hand, that the Czechs themselves had become somewhat arrogant in not carrying out what they undertook to do when the peace treaty was made, and in exercising dominion quite out of proportion to the importance of Czechoslovakia itself. I had occasion to read a translation of one of the important papers of Czechoslovakia published in April of this year. It showed the trend of opinion in Czechoslovakia, namely, that no matter what the policy of Czechoslovakia might be - whether it were right or wrong” - it was exercised in the complete conviction’ and belief that Great Britain,
France and Russia would finally stand by it. The translation is as follows: -
It isun reasonable to fear that our Allies would desertus,however evasively they speak; ou r Allies - France, Russia, and. let us say openly, Great Britain - will immediately march to a world war.In their own interest they will not desert us. They will not desert us whatever we do, even if we make mistakes and our policy is had.
When one considers that that was the responsible opinion of a large section of Czechoslovakia, one realizes that the blame is not entirely on one side, and that the minorities problem in Europe must be solved or there cair be no lasting peace.
I notice that in the declaration made between Mr. Chamberlain and Herr Hitler there is the provision that Germany will, in the event of the minorities question of Hungary and Poland being satisfactorily settled, guarantee the territorial borders of what is left of Czechoslovakia. It appears to me that that is wrapped up in a number of contingencies. 3iuce I fear that the. settlement of the Hungarian and Polish minorities question will inevitably lead to difficulty. I hope, indeed, that the problem will he solved by peaceful negotiation; but at least I am convinced that no foreign policy, no diplomatic representations will be of any value whatever throughout the world unless there be power to support it. . Because of that, I urge in respect of Australia particularly that we take our responsibilities on our own shoulders, as we should have done many years ago. It has ‘been laid down by the Imperial Conference again and again that the obligation rests on each section of the Empire to depend primarily upon itself for its own defence. Any realist who views the position in Europe at the present moment cannot fail to escape from the conclusion expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, and by me in this House some months ago, that in the event of a major conflict in Europe we in this country would have to depend primarily upon our own resources, ft appears to me, in the light of foreign affairs at the moment, that there is grave necessity to reframe our defence policy. I took the trouble before the commencement of this Parliament to review the expressions of policy of Ministers of
Defence made in this chamber since federation, and I found that each Minister proceeded upon the basis that all Australia needed to do was to protect itself against sporadic raids. Indeed, as late as last September that statement was made in this House by the then Minister for Defence. I have on occasions, and in this House, expressed my firm conviction that, as Australians, we need to frame our defence policy upon the possibility of. invasion and not merely on the basis of sporadic raids. Only in that way can we properly protect ourselves and give security to the people whom we represent.
I am glad, indeed, to have had the opportunity to speak upon this subject. I hope that the debate will proceed upon dispassionate lines without recriminations, which appear to me to be so out of place when major problems are being discussed. I trust also that out of the debate the foundation of a policy will arise which will mean security for both the Empire and Australia.
– Twenty-four years have elapsed since this country and Parliamentbegan discussing war problems. Not many members of this Parliament were members of the House at that distant date; but we have listened to two of them this afternoon - the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). Those of us who have been elected to Parliament in more recent years were particularly interested to hear and compare the views expressed by those two honorable gentlemen. I remember the period of the Great War as, of course, do all other honorable members of the House. I remember also many statements made at that time concerning the purposes and objectives of the war. We were told that it was “ a. war to end war “.
– We have also been told that the peace was “ a peace to end peace “.
– It was said that it was a war for democracy. We well remember the right honorable member for North Sydney saying again and again that if the war were brought to a successful issue Australia would be a land fit for heroes to live in. Those and other simitar sentiments still ring in my ears and in the ears of many other people in Australia. It is now fairly obvious to every one that the settlement of the last war sowed the seeds for future wars. Instead of the last war being a war to end wars, it was a war to prepare for future wars. The very circumstances which we faced last week arose out of the last war. The last war gave us Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and Stalin and others in Russia. It cannot be denied that the circumstances in which the world finds itself to-day are due to the Versailles Treaty. That treaty undoubtedly gave rise to the desire, particularly in Germany, for a form of government which would fight its implications.
Unfortunately we lack first-hand knowledge on many points on which we should like information. We must be mindful of the fact, however, that the people who live in Germany, Italy and, in fact, all other countries have the same feelings as the people who live in Australia. When they seek redress of grievances we ought to appreciate that they have some real grievances to redress. The very form of government under which they find themselves has no doubt been “ thrown up “ by the needs of the situation that engulfs them.
We were led to believe during the turmoil of the last war that such situations would never again arise, but, unfortunately, we have faced the spectacle in our own country in the last ten years of people living under the most deplorable conditions. Not only is Australia not a land fit for heroes to live in; but during the last ten years it has been a land hardly fit in many cases for slaves to live in.
– Surely the honorable member is not serious in that statement!
– No doubt the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), almost since he first put his foot on this country, has lived in clover.
– I think the honorable member for West Sydney will agree that he has grown most *of the clover himself.
– But he has been able to do so only because of the good work of the early pioneers who estab lished the great institutions of this country, and particularly this Parliament which provided the clover foi him to sit upon. The honoraide member for Gippsland has been fortunate enough for a number of years to hold ministerial office. It is, however, true that tens of thousands of people in Australia have had to live under conditions little better than slavery, as slavery was known in the older countries of the world. Honorable gentlemen opposite are inclined to forget these things. We have also to remember that during the last war 60,000 Australian men paid the supreme sacrefice. They gave their lives for their country, believing that by so doing they would make Avar impossible in the future. Notwithstanding all the promises made at that time, their widows and children have, unfortunately, had great difficulty to work out their economic salvation. Few people realize how hard it has been for many of the dependants of deceased ex-soldiers and even foi many ex-soldiers themselves to make ends meet. It is because of the consciousness of the reality of these circumstances that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) made the declaration to which Ave have listened this afternoon. We are determined that at all costs Australia shall be kept out of any similar struggle overseas that is likely to arise. My experience of the last ten years provides me with more than sufficient evidence of the wisdom and justice of this policy. We are not prepared, in the event of war occurring overseas in the future, to call upon our men on the one hand to sacrifice their lives, or on the other, to go to war knowing that they may be returned to this country in a maimed condition and unable to compete in the labour market or obtain a living for themselves and for their dependants. It may be said that pensions are provided in some cases, but Ave all know the number who are refused because the onus of proof that injuries or disabilities are due to war service rests upon the claimant for a pension, whereas the Government should be required to prove that disabilities are definitely due to other than war service.
Knowing what we do of the after math of the last war it Avas satisfying for us to be able to “ line up “ the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon, and to discover that if the situation had arisen that so many people feared last week would arise, he would have adopted a policy similar on all fours to the policy he pursued during the last war. He would have led the people of this country in the “way he led them before.
To come to another point: I have still to be entirely satisfied that the situation that we were led to believe last week was likely to arise would have actually arisen. Somehow or other it seems to me that the negotiations were lacking in reality. It appeared that some understanding had been reached at some stage or other between the leaders. But it is very dimcult to say who was bluffing most. We, in this Parliament, have not been informed of the opinions that were expressed by the Lyons Government to the British Foreign Office on the whole subject. We have had made available to us copies of certain communications which passed between the British Prime Minister and Hitler, Mussolini and Roosevelt; but we have not been informed of the text of the communications which passed between this Government and the British Prime Minister. On these matters the British House of Commons has been furnished with more information than we have received. I hope that before this debate proceeds very much further a member of the Government will be willing to give to the House the information that I desire on this subject.
I wish an answer to the following questions: - What did the Commonwealth Government offer to do? What were the actual communications that passed between, the Commonwealth Government and the British Government? What were the terms of the telephonic conversations between the Acting High Com- . missioner for the United Kingdom in Australia and the Commonwealth Government? Just how far did this Government propose to go? Did it offer to send troops to Czechoslovakia, or to some other place to be determined by some authority outside of Australia? Did it undertake to place the resources of this country at the complete disposal of the Imperial Government? Did it agree that the Imperial Government should determine what part Australia should play? Exactly what did happen?
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is also exercised in his mind on these subjects apparently, for he asked, in effect, “ ls it not time that we, in Australia, should have some definite foreign policy of our own?” To some extent, at least,. the honorable gentleman repeated the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. He suggested that the circumstances of the world to-day have led up to a position in which we must be more and more dependent upon our own resources and far less dependent upon a power 12,000 miles distant. We are entitled to know what the Government proposed to do in the crisis which has just passed. Did this Government really have a foreign policy, or was it simply a “ yes “ Government, on answering declarations from overseas in the affirmative? We are justified in asking these questions, particularly a’t this stage. Had we done so last week, we should have been told that the Government policy could not be disclosed, and we should also have been twitted with a desire to cause information to’ be revealed that might be used to our disadvantage. We would have been told to keep quiet, to make no observations at all. Honorable members decided to keep silent and it is not for me now to question the wisdom of doing so. But it is no longer valid for the Government to use the same excuse in order to parry requests for information, and I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), who, I expect, will have something to say, will tell the House what the Government’s foreign policy is ; just how far we were committed last week ; whether it was intended to send troops overseas, and what organization was planned in Australia itself. That sums up what the Leader of the Opposition seeks. My leader set out the Labour point of view in. a way which has my hearty approval. In the responsible position which he holds he has demanded from the Government information which should be given to all honorable members as to the exact nature of the Government’s foreign policy. What happened at the three meetings between the British Prime Minister and the German Chan- cellor provides a clear indication of how necessary it still is for us, as far as it is humanly possible, to keep out of overseas entanglements.
The present situation recalls to me the jubilation on the Government side which accompanied the decision by this Parliament to join with the other members of the League of Nations in the imposition of sanctions against Italy in its war against Abyssinia. All honorable gentlemen opposite, with the exception of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), were heartily in agreement as to the great results that would follow the imposition of sanctions. The right honorable member for North Sydney, however, declared, as we on this side declared, that sanctions meant war. Because of that declaration the righthonorable member was ousted for the time’ being from the Cabinet. What we and the right honorable member said, would have been true if there had been a real application of sanctions. There was a tremendous amount of leg-pulling at Geneva, because, whereas sanctions on oil were necessary to check the force that invaded Abyssinia, the powers of vested interests, which are greater than the powers of all of the governments of the world, prevented the imposition of such sanctions. Those interests care not how many millions may be slaughtered or maimed so long as effect is given to their will. Without let or hindrance the vast supplies of oil vital to Italy’s prosecution of the campaign in Abyssinia were available, with the result that sanctions were a fiasco. Nevertheless, our very act in imposing them might very well have drawn us into conflict with Italy. When we allowed an Australian cruiser to remain in the Mediterranean, almost the very centre of activities, we took a step which might have led us into a conflict in which thousands of Australian lives could have been lost. Accordingly, we want no ties that will perpetually involve us in Europe’s squabbles. Italy had its way in the war with Abyssinia, but as to whether it has derived any benefit is another matter; there is a good deal of argument that it has not. I insist, however, that it was not our conflict, although it might well have been if some Italian airman bad by an indiscreet or deliberate act killed ohe Australian sailor. I am not trying to be wise after the event. The Labour party made a declaration there and then that Australia should have no part in these European wars, and what was said by the party has been proved to be right.
When this country was committed to collective security at the last Imperial Conference, from which, like every other such conference, no information as to what actually took place could be obtained, the Labour party took the same stand as it had taken in connexion with sanctions, and declared that it was not prepared to agree to Australia entering into any pacts or agreements which it felt would lead this country to war, with the sacrifice of thousands of the best lives that Ave possess. We said that we did not
Avant to see Australia being made a policeman in Europe’s internal conflicts. Our attitude then, as it is now, Avas similar to that stated by the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mackenzie King, who said that he Avas not prepared to offer the life of one Canadian to be sacrificed on European soil in circumstances similar to those of 1914-18. If 191.4-18 had brought peace to the world and had done for it what it was claimed that it would do, then honorable gentlemen opposite could be justified in twitting us’ and saying, “ Even if that Avar was conducted at a huge cost of lives and money at least we have brought something approaching paradise to this earth”. We have, however, not paradise, but in many countries a living hell. Because of that, Labour took the stand that Ave refused to be tied to collective security.
The phrase, “Standing by the Empire “ ; used by the honorable member for Warringah, is worthy of further consideration. The decisions made at Downing-street are made by two or three men. Are these men to be regarded as the brains of the Empire? Are they men whom wo should willingly follow - follow without question? Who knows what changes will take place from day to day? The men in power to-day may not be in power to-morrow, and in the years that lie ahead who can say what types of men may be governing the United Kingdom? Because men, who are temporarily in power at Downing-street, make declarations and enter into pacts and agreements, the real reason for which we are never told, is there any reason why we should be bound hand and foot and tied hard and fast to the cry “We stand by the Empire “ ? I do not throw any doubt on the capacity possessed- by nien of high standing in the House of Commons to deal with national and international matters, but they arc human and are subject to influences that are, I am afraid, weighted far more on the side of vested interests than on the side of humanity. Because we know this we refuse to be drawn into conflicts that arise from agreements, pacts, or the like which, instead of solving trouble, accentuate it. What wonderful things were to be done, so we are told in the alliance of collective security for which Mr. Anthony Eden Avas responsible between Great Britain, Prance and Russia ! Of what value was the agreement between those powers when the Czechoslovak crisis arose? Under the weight of either superior force or other interests which we have not been able to discern, from Germany and Italy, that agreement was treated as nothing more than a scrap of paper, torn up and thrown aside. Now, the British Empire, instead of being associated with what it recently termed the democracies, has become associated with Germany and Italy and France in a four-power pact. I suppose together they will be sufficiently strong to carve the world into pieces and divide it amongst themselves. That is the situation into which we have been thrust and which is an added proof of the soundness of Labour’s policy of keeping out of this game of power politics which in the end leads to war. The Australian Labour party has never deviated since, more than 20 years ago, it was decided that this country should be kept out of struggles overseas. The right honorable member for North Sydney likened members of the Opposition to the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He said that Labour’s attitude was to cover its head, walk down the other side of the street and not see the sufferings of others. “ What a miserable thing to do ! “ he said, “ to leave them to suffer trouble and degradation. What a course for a party to follow that regards itself as able to stand up for the rights and to determine the wrongs of those who suffer!” The right honorable gentleman twitted us and heaped scorn upon us, but what has happened to Czechoslovakia? It has been entirely left to suffer the consequences of Germany’s actions. In spite of all that was said about the power of collective security with France and Russia, this has happened. Instead of twitting the Opposition, the right honorable gentleman might well be twitting the British Government. I am not here, however, to” twit Britain for what it did in this crisis. My support shall be given to anything that can be done to avoid war and sacrifice. The first instinct of all, man or nation, is self-preservation, and anything that has happened in the last few days to save mankind from slaughter I support. The right honorable member for North Sydney made reference to the workers of the world. In war, it is the workers who suffer and any action to prevent that suffering is whole-heartedly welcomed by me. Nevertheless, the way things are to-day no one knows but that those who are our enemies to-day will be our friends to-morrow.
I am not satisfied, however, that we wei-e so close to war as it has been alleged in this debate. Mr. Chamberlain and others knew more than we have been told. I am not satisfied that this gentleman made the visits he did to Europe without some knowledge of what was actually going to happen. I still want to know why he said to the crowd outside the British House of Commons the night he received the message to go to Munich: “I can tell you it will be all right this time “. Is that not an indication that before he ever left London for Munich he knew what was going to happen? After all, that is the way in which successful diplomatists usually work. They generally know what will be the outcome of their conferences before they embark upon them; that is, unless they are prepared to run the risk of sacrificing their prestige. On this occasion, the prestige of a British Prime Minister was at stake. Had he failed he would have gone out of politics, in all probability, and his name would have been forgotten in a very short time. For my part, I feel that, ever 3ince Chamberlain has been in power, he has tended towards an alliance with Germany. Chamberlain never wanted to fight alongside Russia, because lie apparently did not trust Russia. He never appeared to favour that collective security pact. Ever since he has been in power he, and those associated with him, have planned and worked for a German alliance, which he has now, to a degree, consummated. The pact with Italy was another step in the game direction, and now the agreement with. .Germany represents another step in what seems to have become the settled policy of Great Britain since Chamberlain took charge. We hope that the fruits of this agreement will be peace in our time. I am. not prepared to say that we ‘can expect peace for all time. While the present system remains, and while the masses continue to struggle for a bare existence, circumstances will arise which will make it possible for ambitious leaders to arouse the people to war on the ground that they are being denied economic advantages by some other country. I believe that if it were possible to hold an international conference of the workers of the world, and to get the representatives honestly to consider the real cause of the ills that beset them, we might achieve some result. The workers of other countries with which we might find ourselves in conflict are only trying to live, and get something out of life, even as we are. They are entitled to that. They are human beings with needs and aspirations like our own. If we could get them together and decide cn a common policy, and take the power away from those who have caused so much ruin and misery in the past, we should have set our feet on the path leading to lasting peace. However, we accept the present position in gratitude because it has saved the world from the sacrifice of human lives, which we value no matter to what country they belong. I hope that’, before this debate ends, we shall be given some definite information regarding the foreign policy of the Government, and will be placed in possession of the communications that passed between this Government and the governments of other countries. Thus, with all the knowledge available, we shall, no matter what the future, bc well prepared to meet it.
.- The international crisis from which we are just emerging has thrown one fact into prominence - we, in . Australia, and the nations of the world generally, are not concentrating sufficiently on disarmament. Our efforts, and those -of the other nations of the world, have been extraordinarily spasmodic. While we in Australia, in co-operation with the other parts of the Empire - a co-operation of which I strongly approve - have been making special efforts to defend ourselves, we have lost sight of the greater ideal of disarmament. We have made great efforts to win wars, but we have failed to make anything like the same effort to win peace. The extraordinary war strain which the world has undergone, the like of which we have never experienced before, should convince the nations that the time is long past when we should make a special effort towards disarmament and the achievement of world peace. Even the scanty information made available regarding the agreement entered into at Munich has been sufficient to cause a weakening of the cordial relations existing between the various democracies. France and Russia do not hold each other in the same regard as they did before the 1st October. France believes that Germany and Great Britain are getting closer together. Several of the smaller nations of Europe are quarrelling among themselves. In fact, we are back to the old position which existed before the Great War, only that the quarrelling parties are not in all cases the same.
In the darkest hours of the crisis, Mr. Lyons suggested to Mr. Chamberlain that President Roosevelt should approach Herr Hitler with a proposal for the calling together of a conference in an effort to avoid war. That effort met with such happy results that peace . was achieved, and I should like to know whether it is not possible for the Prime Minister again to take the initiative in an effort to call together the major nations of the world, even here in Australia, in a conference to promote disarmament. If we were able to assemble a world conference on disarmament here in Australia, away from the intrigue and enmities of Europe, we should be making one of the most important contributions towards the preservation of civilization that any nation could make. If it is thought that we are too remote here from the affairs of the world, it would still not be out of place for the Prime Minister to ask the President of the United States of America to call a conference in that country to discuss disarmament, and to find a peaceful settlement for the difficulties which beset the nations. We have learned of a four-power pact to settle the troubles of a small nation like Czechoslovakia. Why cannot the great nations get together, and come to an agreement on the subject of disarmament? Even the fear of the possibility of war cost Great Britain £40,000,000, and France £30,000,000 in a few days. If war had actually broken out, it is impossible to calculate the certain loss in lives and money. There was the Great War of 1914-18, and now we have just escaped one that would have been even worse. Surely those two experiences ought to convince the statesmen of the world that their first task is to concentrate on disarmament. Until that is brought about, however, Great Britain and Australia should not relax their efforts to ensure their own protection.
I desire to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Government on the sustained efforts that they made to ensure the peace of the world. Honorable members have asked what Australia did during the crisis. Australia was in constant communication with Great Britain, and the two countries helped each other by counsel and advice. I should like to point out, particularly in view of the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that it was the loyal and determined co-operation between the sister dominions and Great Britain, and the way in which the dominions stood solidly behind Great Britain in this time of crisis, that constituted one of the most powerful factors in averting a major war. While the greatest credit can be given to Mr. Chamberlain, and while his name will rightly go down in history as “ Chamberlain the Peacemaker,” I am convinced that it was not only Britain’s appeal through Mr. Chamberlain, but also the strength of the united British Empire which he represented, that was the deter- mining influence at Munich. That, and the united efforts of the democracies of the world, acting under the leadership of Mr. Chamberlain, ultimately brought Hitler to heel. Discussing the subject of the co-operation of the democracies, the editor of the Labor Daily recently made this pertinent observation -
No one who is sincerely interested in preventing war can possibly object to a policy of mutual protection among the democracies. It is the simplest for.ni of com mon sense. The isolationists realize that the war mongers will clean them up one by one as they had attempted to do with Abyssinia, Austria, Spain, China and Czechoslovakia. But each isolationist flatters himself that his particular country is low down on the list. If Hitler faces a world democratic front Tanging from Scandinavia to Australia and from Siberia in the cast to Canada in the west, it is as good as any certainty that he will not fight. On the other hand, if he does move, the democracies of the world, including the Australian democracy, cannot afford to let him get away with it.
That forecast has been fully justified. A policy of isolation would have meant national disaster. - I suggest that the paragraph I have read is a fitting rebuke to honorable members opposite for the attitude they have taken up, and to the Leader of the Opposition for the official statement he made in this House. Those statements coming from the Labor Daily which, in some instances at least, chooses to rebuke honorable members on the opposite side of the House; should certainly be taken notice of by the community generally. The Australian Labour party refused to co-operate with the British Government and refused to fight for the peace of the world. Hitler, however, was not influenced by the isolationist policy adopted by honorable members opposite, which present a striking contrast to the policy of the party in Great Britain which solidly stood behind Mr. Chamberlain in his efforts to secure the peace of the world. That alone influences my belief that the Australian Labour party does not act in the best interests of this country. It is distressing to find such a policy advocated at a time when the Mother Country is in great need of the support of the dominions. What would be our position if this country were attacked by a powerful aggressor? With our limited population of 7,000,000 people we could not success- fully withstand the attack of an organized force marshalled by any major power. The success and prosperity of our people depend on the satisfactory sale abroad of our surplus primary products, and Great Britain, which ranks foremost among our customers, taking 60 per cent, of our surplus primary products, polices the trade routes and keeps them open for the free flow of our products overseas, With our limited naval resources, it would bo impossible for Australia to undertake such a stupendous task. If an isolationist policy, such as that so strongly supported by honorable members- opposite, were given effect, how could we expect Great Britain to continue to guard our trade and commerce on the high seas and grant us preferences such as those which were obtained in recent years at Ottawa? Labour’s policy of isolation is a policy of national suicide. I trust that the rest of the world will not for a moment regard the views expressed by honorable members opposite in this House as reflecting the considered opinion of the people of Australia. In the past we have loyally stood behind Great Britain in all its troubles, and in return Great Britain has rendered to this country invaluable services. It is to be hoped that that state of affairs will long continue. It is unnecessary to remind honorable members that the future of Great Britain and the future of Australia are inevitably wrapped up in co-operation and mutual assistance. We all realize that Australia could not, for any length of time, continue to maintain its present position in the world without the active co-operation and assistance of the mother country. In my opinion if the whole of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations co-operated with the rest of the democracies of the world, international peace would be assured. On the contrary, if all the dominions adopted the false policy propounded by honorable members opposite the greatest war in the history of the world would be hastened.
.- The most outstanding revelation which emerges from the speeches of the honorable members supporting the Government is that a conflict of opinion existed amongst them during the recent crisis. We hear commendation of the part played by the British Prime Minister in the preservation of world peace. Personally, I assure honorable members that nobody was more pleased than I that war was averted. Holding that view, however, I am not foolish enough to imagine that a tory like Mr. Chamberlain had suddenly been transformed into a lover of peace, and that the whole purpose of his visit to Herr Hitler was to negotiate a settlement likely to (relieve the world of the possibility of facing another war. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) now informs us that the policy which Australia should pursue is one of active co-operation with the democracies of the world against fascist powers. As was very ably pointed out by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), that is exactly the reverse of what actually took place. Instead of Mr. Chamberlain and the British imperialists lining up the democracies of the world against the German Fascist leader, they entered into a four - power pact, and France, which formerly had guaranteed the integrity of Czechoslovakia in the event ‘of aggression, rendered support to a powerful aggressor by becoming an accessory in the dismemberment of the nation it had pledged itself to support. The Leader of the Country Party (Sir Earle Page) said that the Czechs were to be admired for the spirit of self-sacrifice “with which they accepted the proposals for the partition of their country; but, according to information which comes to hand, the Czechs are very far from being pleased with the terms of the settlement. France, the avowed ally of the Czechs,’ and Great Britain, which posed as a friend of the Czechs, entered negotiations with Germany for the settlement of the Czechoslovakian dispute ; conversations took place, not between Germany and Czechoslovakia, between whom the dispute arose, but between the four great powers, and Great Britain and France agreed to shut out from the conference a representative of the Czechs. In the circumstances, Czechoslovakia had no alternative but to accept the ultimatum. As I have said, I am pleased that war was averted, but I am not at all foolish enough to believe that the British imperialists, led by Mr.
Chamberlain, are solely . animated by a desire for peace. It is beyond doubt that, in the comparatively near future, Germany will make further demands, as the results of which the British interests will he involved. I have no doubt that British imperialists will then adopt an attitude very different from that adopted during the Czechoslovakian crisis. It will be interesting then to see how the British imperialists, who are fascists at heart and do not believe in democracy, will react.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I was pointing out that the British tories were not solely desirous of preserving peace for the sake of peace, but that on all occasions in their negotiations for the settlement of any dispute in any part of the world they have been actuated solely by considerations of what would best suit the purpose of the imperialists themselves. In my opinion the honorable member for Warringah was very close to the mark when he said that the reason why Great Britain had bowed the knee to Hitler’s might was because Great Britain was at present too weak to fight. That may to a great degree explain the weak attitude adopted by Great Britain in opposition to the might of Hitler on this occasion. But what we are mostly concerned with at the moment as members of the Commonwealth Parliament is as to what Great Britain proposes to do to improve its position so that at some time in the future it will be able to challenge the might of this rival imperialism ; because history has taught us that no matter how much members of Parliament may talk about the desire of preserving world peace and ofhaving a reign of permanent peace throughout the world, so long as there is capitalism in the different countries war is inevitable, and wherever the interests of the imperialists become endangered they will finally resort to war if they can secure what they desire by no other means. If we cast our minds back and examine what brought about the present trouble we must admit - honorable members on both sides of the chamber have stated in this debate - that a great deal of it originated when representatives of the victorious nations in the last war met and framed what became known as the Treaty of Versailles. I remember well that when the right honorable member for North Sydney returned to Australia in 1919 and was given a reception in Perth, he said “ We are now entering the green fields of permanent peace “. The right honorable member, in his contribution to this debate, made it quite clear that the thing furthest from his ideas of the possibilities of the future is that the world is to enjoy an era of permanent peace. On every occasion when the capitalists’ representatives in different countries want to rally tbe workers to take up arms to fight for some cause in which they are interested, they always adopt some popular catchcry. On the last occasion they said it was a war to defeat German militarism; we were to protect our democratic institutions. The honorable member for Warringah has said that one of the hopes which he holds is that in the very near future the German people will become articulate, by which he meant that they would have the opportunity to make their views known forcibly so that they might overthrow the dictatorship of Hitler. At the same time, while he is advising the workers to oppose fascism on the other side of the world, he utters no word of protest against the growing power of fascism in this country. This very Commonwealth Government, instead of making it possible for the Australian people to be articulate in order that they may be able to express and give effect to their opinions, only a few weeks ago promulgated a regulation which prevents members of the armed forces of this country - the very men who in an emergency would be asked to defend this country - from having a voice in any political matter that is discussed either in this Parliament or outside of it. Any one who cares to examine, the position will recognize that many of those who to-day talk of defending democracy do not believe in it themselves. Just after the last war there was a democratic government in Germany. It attempted to carry on under great difficulties, which had been imposed upon it by the victorious Allies. When the German representatives appealed to the victorious nations at Geneva to relent a little and to grant them some concessions so as to relieve them from internal difficulties, these men, whom honorable members opposite now laud as the champions of democracy and peace, turned a deaf ear to those representations. Had it not been for the Treaty of Versailles, and for the fact that the British Imperialists remained silent when Germany was violating that treaty, thereby acquiescing in what was being done, there would have been no German Nazi menace to-day. To-day British imperialists have to accept responsibility for the might of Hitler, because Great Britain was one of the first to violate the Treaty of Versailles when it entered into the Anglo-German naval agreement which was in conflict with the terms of the treaty. Britain only made a weak and unconvincing protest when Germany violated the treaty by re-occupying the’ Rhine provinces and re-arming. I am not arguing at the moment, as to the merits or demerits of the. action taken by Germany on those occasions; but Great Britain and the victorious Allies had the opportunity to prevent the growing might of Hitler. Instead they created a Frankenstein monster. Hitler was not prepared to stop where the British imperialists wanted him to stop. German imperialism will soon be challenging the right of British imperialism in many parts of the world. In the ease at present under discussion, Germany is ask.inst for the return of certain lands which in the first place, so far as I can understand, were not German territory at the outbreak of the war or at any part of its history, but were actually Austrian territory. The Germans say, “We want the Sudeten lands added to the German Reich because we want to protect our nationals “. Knowing the calibre of the Hitler Government, and the way in which it treated its workers and their organizations in their own country, I am not foolish enough to believe that the sole motive which actuated Hitler in entering Czechoslovakia was to give freedom, liberty and justice to the Sudeten Germans. He had his eye on the very valuable industries which have been developed in Czechoslovakia since the end of the last war, and on the valuable natural resources of that country. Great Britain was particularly anxious to avoid, if it possibly could, strengthening the hand of one of its rivals by allowing it to take possession of them. Yet honorable members say that this Munich agreement, which is known as the Tour Power Pact, was based on international justice! The people* and the Government of Czechoslovakia do not view it in that light. They have refused to join the throng in applauding the four representatives who met in secret conclave and, without Czechoslovakian representation, decided to cut up their territory ‘ according to the wishes of those four particular powers. Within three months, if the Polish and Hungarian demands are not satisfied, those four powers will again confer, and no doubt they will again decide further to divide Czechoslovakia. I have heard honorable members opposite, including the Prime Minister, talk about the necessity for Australia to enter into nonaggression pacts in the Pacific - agreements for collective security. They say to the Labour party, “ You are out of step with the organizations of Labour in other parts of the world, because you are opposed to collective security “. The Australian Labour party is not opposed to collective security. We say that today there is no collective security in the world, and that it is futile to ask anybody to believe in something which does not exist. There is only one way in which collective security can be operated, and . that is by the workers themselves, through their own organizations and governments wherever they exist, agreeing to co-operate for ‘the satisfaction of their common needs. I heard the right honorable member for North Sydney say that the Labour party to-day is opposed to all the teachings of unionism, and that we no longer advocate that unity is strength. He said that the workers’ organizations had always refused to recognize national boundaries, and that they are international. But who has ever heard that intelligent workers expect to get justice by collaborating with those who oppress them?
That is what we are being asked to do now. The workers under British imperialism are being asked to wage war against the workers under another imperialistic power; to take ‘part in a capitalistic war. Honorable members may talk about the oppressed Sudeten Germans as much as they like. There is no need to go thousands of miles to learn how the workers are treated under capitalism. The right of the Sudeten Germans to hold a plebiscite is supported by the British Government. Why not extend the same principle to India, in which year in and year out war is being waged, and there are thousands of British casualties, without any publicity being given to the matter in the press? The British Government is not prepared to extend the same right to the people of India. It will not say to them, “We are the champions of democracy; we will give you the right to elect your own government, to decide what particular laws will operate in your country “. There is talk of the defence of democracy by the anti-democratic forces in this country and in other allegedly democratic nations only when it is desired to fool the workers into taking up arms against the workers in some other land. I am not deluded by the catch-cries that are produced from time to time. We need only take the utterances to-day of honorable members opposite, who claim to be the champions of democracy. During the last war, when the right honorable member for North Sydney was a dictator in this country, what did he want to do? He attempted by every means at his disposal to impose conscription on the people of this country. He wanted to ship abroad every able-bodied man who was available; and so that the industries of the country might be carried on, he had boats in our harbours loaded with foreigners ready to come in to take the place of the Australian workmen who had been shipped abroad. He and men like him talk tonight about being champions of democracy. There is on the statute-book the Crimes Act, which denies the right of freedom of speech to Australian citizens. It can be invoked to prevent organizations and groups of workers from assembling under certain conditions. Under the wonderful form of democratic government which exists to-day, 7s. (3d. a week is regarded as sufficient for a man to live on, but when this alleged democracy is in need of defence no expense is spared - uniforms and unlimited supplies of ammunition are available, and the troops are well fed. Democracy having been saved., the workers are relieved of their uniforms and rifles, and whatever else they have been given, and are told that they can go back on the dole. If that is democracy, how much good has it been to many hundreds of thousands, of Australian citizens ? The Labour party has a policy for the adequate defence of this country; but do not run away with the idea that we believe that the workers are to be continually asked to lay down their lives in defence of a privileged few who live in idleness and luxury while the great majority of the people live in poverty and despair. Do not imagine for one moment that that is the reason why we advocate a policy of adequate defence. Some day we hope to have in this country a real democratic government, in which the people who really produce the wealth will govern while those drones who perform no useful service ‘ will have no voicein it.
I wish, to know what the workers stood to gain by participation in the war, if it. had occurred? They would have weakened their forces, and would have deprived their ranks of many Australian citizens who, if they had returned to this country after the war, would in many cases have been so seriously, undermined in health and strength as- to be practically valueless as fighters in the trade union movement. Their physical ailments would have been such as to make them almost negligible in the fight for better conditions.
The right honorable member foi North Sydney said that the Labour party had adopted a policy of isolation. I emphatically deny that that is so. We have adopted a policy of nonparticipation in capitalist wars. What we have said with respect to the necessity for Australia preserving its man power for the protection of this country against invasion does not sound nearly so ridiculous as the right honorable gentleman has made out when we remember that he himself observed quite recently -
Invasion and bombardment we have no power to repel, and we cun look for little help from Great Britain.
Evidently the right honorable member believed then that if war had occurred Australia would have had to defend itself. In such circumstances, it would have been foolish for any Australian government to send Australian men to any foreign battlefield. It might very badly need the nien for the protection of its own shores. Honorable members opposite have said a great deal about the Singapore Base and have even asserted that it was established, to protect Australia. It appears that some of them adopt without any hesitation the statements made from time to time by men overseas. The Singapore Base is quite a long distance from the largest city of Australia, Sydney, being 4,000 odd miles away. That is about 1,000 miles further than Quebee is from Great Britain. Yet I do not suppose that any honorable member would suggest that Quebec could be used as a defence for Great Britain. Singapore was established by Great Britain to protect British interests in the East. ‘ It is for that reason that Great Britain asked Australia to fortify Darwin. The honorable member for Warringah said truly that while Singapore may be easily defended against an attack from the East, it would be a much easier task to bring about its downfall by an attack from the west. Therefore, any British effort to relieve Singapore would need an auxiliary base at Darwin. Darwin would not be of any great value as a defence base for Australia. Surely all honorable members realize that Australia is not likely to be invaded by any other nation than Japan. In the present world situation, no European country could afford to .send a large force to Australia to invade our shores. Invasion could come only from Japan, and the Singapore Base and Darwin are right off the track that the Japanese would take, did they decire to attack Australia. What they would do, of course, once having decided to invade Australia, would be to seek to land a force on the fertile coastline of Queensland, where they would only need to blow up a single railway line to cut off all communica tion with the southern part of Australia. Having cut the railway line, they could take possession of that valuable country if they had a large enough force. In spite of these plain facts, some honorable gentlemen opposite continue to permit this Government to neglect to provide for the adquate defence of this country, and tell us that we have to defend Singapore and fortify Darwin if wc arc to defend Australia.
I have read the opinions of various expert.3 on these subjects and I find the opinions differ, as do the opinions of experts on most subjects. In fact, it is possible to obtain expert support for any argument that is advanced. Some say that we should defend our large centres of population and fortify our coastline where our large populations are. Others, probably imperialists, say that the best way to defend Australia is to co-operate with Great Britain. My reply is that Great Britain has” never desired co-operation . from Australia. It has always wanted domination of Australia.
We all know very well that in the last war the Australian Director of Naval Defence ‘complained that orders given by the Australian naval authorities were over-ridden by orders given by the British naval authorities with the result that Australian warships, constructed out of the taxes paid by the Australian people, were under British, and not Australian, direction. When the Australian naval authorities wanted to despatch H.M.A.S. Australia to assist the British naval squadron against Von Spee in the action which took place off the south coast of America, the orders were countermanded and the British naval authorities ordered the ship to convoy a New Zealand detachment going to Samoa. In the light of these facts, of what use is it to talk about Great Britain co-operating with Australia ?
What the Australian people have to realize is that the British investments in Australia are valued at more than £1,000,000,000, and that Britain is concerned, mainly with the protection of these investments. Whatever we may do here, there can be no doubt that Great Britain will do its utmost to protect the property of the British capitalists.
I say to the Australian people that the best way to defend this country is to conserve our manhood and build up defences to defend our shores. Yet when we make such statements, strangely enough, we are accused by honorable gentlemen opposite of being disloyalists. They say we are not true patriots. Let us apply the facts to honorable gentlemen opposite. Quite recently the Government floated a loan of £10,000,000 to provide money for the pur* chase of defence equipment. What did the so-called patriotic supporters of the Government do? Did those “money bags” support the loan? Apparently, the rate of interest offered was not sufficiently attractive to them, or some other terms did not suit them, for they did not subscribe the amount required. They were not at all concerned about the purpose for which the money was needed. The profiteers, and the capitalists of this country and others, are concerned only about profits. It meant nothing to them that this money was required for defence equipment. We have only to review the facts in connexion with the last war and to look at the enormous war debt with which the country has been saddled, to appreciate this fact. Only a very small proportion of the vast cost of the last war. was actually expended on equipment and supplies for the troops at the front. The greater proportion of it is represented by interest, and the moneylenders and capitalists are still taking a huge rake off in that respect to. the detriment of the country at large. These are the so-called patriots who support honorable members opposite- in this Parlia-‘ ment! ‘
I am particularly anxious that no Australian workers shall be led away with the idea that in this particular crisis the Australian Government played its paTt for the people of Australia. We are not yet clear to what extent the Government committed the people of this country had war been declared. We are not yet even aware that it was actually consulted on every phase of the crisis. It may be that the Government gave the British imperialists an open cheque. It may have said to them, in effect : “ No matter what you decide upon or what commitments you enter into abroad, you can depend upon Australia to its last man and last shilling.” The same kind of thing was said in the last war.
Every honorable member is aware that we have tried almost continuously in this Parliament to elicit from the AttorneyGeneral or some other responsible Minister a statement as to whether it was possible for this Government, or any other government, to impose upon the people of Australia conscription for overseas service without consulting them. A perusal of the parliamentary records will show that on every occasion when honorable gentlemen opposite have been “ stood up “ to this question they have evaded answering it. It is ‘ my candid opinion that the Australian people do not realize in what danger they actually were. The representatives of the people in this Parliament, were asked to remain quiet and nol: to do anything which was likely to interfere with the delicate negotiations taking place abroad. We were to have nothing to say about the conversation* between representatives of this Government and representatives of the British Government; but it is my firm opinion, despite what any honorable member opposite may say, that, had war actually occurred, the people of this country would have had no say whatever as to whether conscription for overseas service should or should not be applied. If the Government had believed it to be necessary to apply that policy, I believe that it would have proceeded to do so. It would have introduced another war precaution* measure similar to that which was in operation during the last war, and the liberty of the workers would have been heedlessly trampled upon. Yet we should have been told that the purpose of the war was to protect the liberty of people overseas! If the people of this country wish, in the interests of democracy, to fight fascism or any other force opposed to democracy, there is no need for them to go abroad for the purpose. Fascists and violent opponents of democracy are to be found in this country. What we have to do is to keep in Australia all our man-power for the protection of our own shores, and if we wish to do that, we should, at the very earliest opportunity, remove from the treasury bench the jingoistic Government that at present occupies it.
.- At one time in early English history a king named Ethelred adopted a policy which earned for him the soubriquet, “ The Unready “. That policy was summed up aptly by an English writer, whose name is probably anathema to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Rudyard Kipling has written -
It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation
To puff and look important and to say: “ Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you,
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”
And that is called paying the Danegeld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Danegeld
You never get rid of the Dane.
Let me make my own position clear. I did not road those lines in criticism of the action of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Neville Chamberlain. In so far as 1 can express an opinion without presumption, I consider that last week Mr. Chamberlain displayed statesmanship of the highest order that we’ have known in this century in any English-speaking leader. I sincerely believe that but for his efforts the issues we are debating tonight would have been very different from what they are. Nevertheless, it is possible to compare the position of Ethelred, in Tespect of the concessions to the Danes that were made in his day, which somehow never seemed to become final concessions, with the democracies of to-day in the concessions that they are making to the dictatorships of the world at present.
In the last few weeks we have, without doubt, received a distinct shock. When a shock is suffered, it is always useful to take stock of the position in which we find ourselves. The British Empire might well take such stock at the present time. If we look at the events of recent years we see that Germany has made remarkable developments. From being a country weakened, relatively unarmed, and surrounded with a ring of steel it has made itself the dominant force in Europe. A few years ago its own territory of the Ruhr was occupied by a. French force; now in the last twelve months, Germany, because of its armed might, has entered two new European countries. The most important development of all in this new era of international relations is to be seen in the progress of the German policy of drang roch osten - “the drive towards the east”. For many years before the last war, Germany had been endeavouring persistently to extend its influence over the Balkins European Turkey, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, in order to build a great highway from Hamburg on to the shore of the North Sea to the Persian Gulf and from thence a German waterway to India and the Far East.No opportunity was lost that would conduce to the success of that enterprise. That policy was frustrated by events of the last war, but the new German leader has now made no secret of his determination that Germany should expand economically in eastern and central Europe. This new development unquestionably does advance the realization of that objective a very important stage. I do not argue to-night that that is not a good thing. It is possibly as desirable as it was inevitable that German economic appeasement should develop in that direction. But we do have to ask ourselves an important question as to what effect this development will have in the near future upon the foreign policy of the Empire.
That question can he answered only by a determination of what is in the mind of the present leader of the German people, and here those students who have no recourse to other than the written word experience a great dilemma. They are anxious to believe that what has been said in recent times by Herr Hitler is the truth, and expresses his sincere wishes for the future of Europe. He has perhaps been unscrupulous in his methods, but he has been consistent in his objectives and consistent in his public statements of long range policy. As far back as 1933, speaking in the Reichstag, he said -
Our National Socialism is a principle which imposes general obligations on us in our conception of world affairs. Our boundless love for and loyalty to our own national traditions makesus understand thenational rights of others and makes us desire from the bottom of our hearts to live with them in peace and friendship. We therefore have no use for the idea of Germanisation. The mentality of the past century which made our rulers believe that they could make Germans out of Poles and Frenchmen is completely foreign to us; the more so as we are passionately opposed to any attempt on the part of others to alienate us from our German tradition.
Those are heartening words, and we hope that they may be believed. But we have the other side of the picture. . If we look at his own book, and I do not refer to the 300 page English translation, but to the German edition of 730 pages, we find his sentiments expressed in these terms -
Not until the Germans have realized that they must engage in an active and final conflict with France will it be possible to bring the fruitless struggle to a conclusion - on condition, however, that Germany sees in the extermination of France a means of providing her people with the . necessary room for expansion. . . . There are 80,000,000 Germans in Europe to-day. This policy will bc recognized as the correct one when in less than 100 years from now the continent of Europe is inhabited by 250,000,000 Germans.
One could go on quoting indefinitely. On the one hand we have the professed policy of the leader of the German people as set out in his own work, and on the other his recent public speeches. The average man could not hope to express a final opinion on that question. He has, however, important factors to guide him, and the most important one is that the present German leader has convinced the present British leader of the sincerity of his future intentions. That, therefore, brings us to the unavoidable conclusion that British policy depends now, and will depend in the future, upon the fixed belief of the Prime Minister of Britain that the German leader is sincere in his profession o’f peace. Peace in our time rests n the hands of the German leader. If we arrive at that conclusion, what, we must ask, is to be the policy first for England and then for the Empire as a whole? I suggest that one important consequence is that however much we may be prepared to trust in the profession of peace of the dictatorships we should not let ourselves get into the position of the unready King of England who had to pay and pay and give concession after concession in order to avoid trouble with his neighbours. “We have to reach the point at which we talk, not of disarmament, but the point at which we can talk terms of equality of might with the possible combinations of the continent of Europe which might be brought against us. If that opinion be the correct one it follows that there is more need to-day for a strong and united Empire than possibly at any other time in recent years. We have been asked by the Leader of the Opposition and by other speakers what is Australia’s foreign policy, and if we have a foreign policy. There should be no doubt whatsoever in the minds of honorable members by now that the foreign policy of this Government and of the country itself is a policy of close cooperation with Great Britain and other countries of the British Empire; closer cooperation perhaps with Great Britain than with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations because it is the centre of the Empire and the main market for our goods and is dominant in the field of foreign policy. That should be clearly understandable. That policy has been consistently practised by all governments of the same shade of opinion as the present in the history of federation. Yet, we are asked what is our foreign policy.
– What were the honorable gentlemen opposite told in the party room by Ministers about our commitments ?
– We were told nothing in detail as to what our commitments were in the crisis that just passed, but I had no doubt in that crisis or in any other crisis in recent years that if Great Britain were at war with any other country we in Australia would be automatically at war likewise whatever we might say-
– Or do.
– Yes, say or do in the matter. We have the frankest discussion with our leaders and they have the frankest discussion with the leaders of Great Britain and the other countries of the Empire. I have heard honorable gentlemen opposite express reluctance to participate in any struggle in which Great Britain may be embroiled. The last speaker mentioned something of the apparent motives for Britain’s own interests in its dominions. He mentioned investments. I can only speak personally, but my four grand-parents were bom in this country, and I have no investments that I know of in Great Britain. 1 have only one relative there, an aunt who is well able to take care of herself. But I do not . feel that I am expressing unnatural sentiments when I say that it is inconceivable to me that any person in this country could see Great Britain in a position of danger and hot want to do whatever he could to go to its assistance. That sentiment may not be shared by honorable gentlemen opposite but it is a sentiment that is commonly felt by other people throughout the Commonwealth.
The policy of the Australian Labour party in this matter contrasts with Labour opinion in other parts of the Empire. Are we to believe that the Australian Labour party is right as far as it professes to speak for the Australian people and labour generally, or are we to believe that the Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, who said that New Zealand felt itself automatically bound with Great Britain, is right? Are we not to believe that the New Zealand policy and the policy of Labour in the United Kingdom itself and in those Australian labour organizations that have forwarded to the Government resolutions of support for its policy of co-operation are right? Or are we to believe that all those people are wrong and that the Australian Labour party only is right? I suggest that what the historians of the future will have to determine is not, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, whether the Labour party has been guilty of disloyalty, but the question of its sanity, because, quite apart from any question of sentiment, we know from our own practical relations with other countries that we are dependent for our security and economic progress on the protection that we enjoy not only from Great Britain, but also from our association with other Empire countries. In this debate I have heard it said that we have no enemies to fear. Perhaps we have no enemies, but there are hundreds of eminently respectable people in the world, who suddenly find a pistol thrust at them with a demand to hand over their possessions or take the consequences. It is not only a question of whether we have enemies or are likely to provoke enemies. But should Great Britain be at war, and this country assist it, not necessarily by way of arms, but by providing it with our surplus production of wool, wheat, meat and butter, then though we have no enemies ourselves, I impress upon honorable gentlemen opposite that any nation at war with Great Britain would naturally seek to interfere with its supplies as one means of imposing pressure upon it. I suggest that the policy of this Government is the only sound policy for this country.
There are, however, certain consequences of that policy which must not be overlooked. A corollary to closest cooperation between Empire countries is closest consultation. Recent statements by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) and the Attorney General (Mr. Menzies) have created uneasiness and a feeling in some quarters that Australia is not always consulted until after the event instead of before it. If our policy must be one of closest co-operation that aspect of the matter should receive .very close attention, and we should have satisfaction. Perhaps the Government is satisfied, but those recent statements by Ministers have given rise to a certain amount of uneasiness. Once having decided upon a policy it as absurd and as dangerous for us to profess different policies as it is for members of a racing eight to. set different paces.
If Britain is to be strong enough to stand up to other countries against what it may consider to be unreasonable territorial demands we in this country should be strong to help it; and if honorable members opposite aTe sincere in their statements that there is greater need for self-reliance in this country, let them show good faith by advocating strong home defence, and by encouraging a strong and efficient militia force. I have been in this Parliament for three years, and I have never yet heard one speaker from the other side qf the House advocate the establishment of a strong militia force, whether on a voluntary or any other basis. If honorable members opposite are sincere let them say so, and not sneer and apply the term of fascist to every person who takes a healthy pride in his country, and the Empire of which it is a part.
In the immediate future we are faced with problems of great perplexity in regard to foreign relations, but in one respect the outlook is more hopeful than ever before. Not only in this country, but in every civilized country throughout the world as well, there is a strong determination among the masses to resist any attempt to engage in another world war. When we read that the German troops marching towards the Czechoslovakian frontier were not greeted by a single cheer ; when we compare the attitude of our own people, and those of Great Britain, during the last few weeks with that of the people in 1914, we cannot fail to realize that people to-day are alive to the dangers and horrors of war. I trust that this public opinion will be strong enough to assist the efforts of the British Prime Minister, and those associated with him, in their genuine efforts to preserve the peace of the world, not only in our time, but also for generations to come.
, one might be excused for believing that the masses alone would lose by a war, and that those on this side of the House who happened to be possessed f property have something to gain by war. All thinking people in Australia must realize the truth of what the British Prime Minister said some months ago, namely, that there are no winners in any war. It is a disappointment to me to find that, in the hour of crisis, the Labour party had so far retreated from the position it took up in 1914 that on the very eve of what we thought was the outbreak of hostilities, its Leader in this House saw fit to make a declaration which could do no good to the Empire, but which might conceivably have strengthened the will of those who are opposed to the Empire. I am not one of those who would accuse the Opposition of being disloyal to Australia, because, from my knowledge of them, and of the vast majority of those who vote Labour in this country, I know that they are just as loyal, and just as keenly interested in the welfare of Australia, as are honorable members on this side of the House. However, I question greatly the wisdom of the action they chose to take during this time of crisis in Australia’s history. Australia, though a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, is an independent nation which decides its own affairs. The British Parliament has no voice in the affairs of this country, and any law made in the Parliament of Great Britain is not effective here unless agreed to by the Parliament of Australia. We are definitely a separate nation, but, over and above that, we are part of a strong, collective group that has done something to ensure the peace of the world, and to prevent the outbreak of hostilities within the last few days. There is only one thing that will deter the march of an aggressor, and that is the presence of someone in his path to prevent him from achieving his desires. That is all that prevented the world from being plunged into a catastrophe a few days ago.
We must ask ourselves in which direction the best interests of Australia lie, and how they can best be served. Members of the Opposition say that Australia’s best interests are bound up with a policy of isolation. The honorable member for East Sydney used the phrase of our friend Hitler in a slightly altered form, and called it a policy of nonparticipation. He did not, however, explain the exact difference. AH we could have hoped for if war had broken out last week, and that policy had been applied, was that the enemy might have respected the idea of non-participation. However, every honorable member of whatever party, must know very well that Australia, whether willingly or not, would have been automatically brought into the conflict as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There could have been no neutrality for Australia.
This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said that, in his opinion, international disputes should be settled by negotiation. He said that the Labour party had invented the phrase “peace by negotiation.” I ask him what opportunity did Abyssinia or China have to secure peace by negotiation? Why, war has not yet been declared in China! What opportunity had the Spanish Government with which honorable members of the Opposition should be in sym- pa thy because it is supposed to be fighting the fascist movement, to negotiate with the German and Italian airmen who were bombing Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona ? There is only one effective way to negotiate, as was pointed out by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon. The negotiator must be backed up with sufficient power to enforce his terms. We cannot hope that the time will ever come when there will be no international disputes. Even here in Australia we have a dispute among members of the Labour party in New South Wales. The Leader of the Opposition in this House offered himself as a mediator, and though he was dealing with men who were brought up together, who had gone to the same schools, he had to confess his failure as a peace-maker, and the fight is still going on. I am not deriding the Labour party because of that internal dispute. We have the same kind of conflict in our our Country party in Victoria. That kind of thing goes on all over the world, and cannot be avoided.
The only thing that will ensure security for this country is its association with a group of powers strong enough to resist any one who might have designs upon our country. Abyssinia and China have felt the hand of the aggressor. Why has not Egypt been attacked? Why have not Malta, Hong Kong or India been attacked? They are richer prizes than the countries which have gone under, and they have escaped attack for one reason, and one reason only; they share in the collective security of the British Empire, and are protected by the British flag which flies over them. Members of the Opposition tell us that Australia has nothing to fear, but they are members of a party which has offered great provocation to other countries.
– What honorable member said that?
– The honorable member, himself, for one.
– I said nothing of tha kind. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to require the honorable member to withdraw. that statement, which is definitely offensive.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. 6. J. Bell).What statement?
– ‘The honorable member said that the members’ of my party had declared that Australia had nothing to fear. No such statement was made by me, or by any one of this party.
– There is n0 point of order in that, and nothing to withdraw.
– It is quite possible - for the policy of this or any other country to be a provocation to its neighbours. I believe in a measure of tariff protection, but protection is in itself a provocation to those countries which desire to trade with u3. We will not allow the goods of other countries to enter this country freely; in some instances, we absolutely forbid their entrance. The Labour party, being in the main high protectionist, does to that extent offer provocation to other countries. We also have a White Australia policy, and an immigration policy. We believe in those things, hut the time may come when we shall have to justify our belief. Honorable members opposite have hurled the epithet of jingoist at those on this side of the House who said that they believed in collective security. How did the term “jingoism” originate? It took its rise from the verse which was freely quoted at the time of the Boer War-
We don’t want to fight, but by jingo if we do, We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the mien, we’ve got the money too.
Members of the Opposition are, in effect, saying the same thing to-day. They say that they do not want to fight but, by jingo, let an enemy come to Australia and they will deal with him. One honorable member of the Opposition, in a most contradictory speech, criticized the Singapore Base as being of little use. He asked what would happen if we were at waa: and Japan attacked Australia. The Japanese forces, he said, would cut the north-south railway line, and the whole of the northern part of Australia would be open to them. In one breath, he said that we must defend ourselves, and in the next he said that it was impossible to do so without the help of the British Navy. There is no consistency in argument of that kind. Where is the consistency in that argument?
– The honorable member is a champion at telling untruths.
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order.
Ministerial Members. - Withdraw !
– I shall disregard the interjection. In my opinion the only way to prevent war is that which was adopted on this occasion, the use of collective security. War can be prevented by the collective action of a group of nations willing to go to any lengths in the defence of certain principles. What, for example, had Great Britain to gain by going to war over Czechoslovakia? Great Britain was not seeking mines or oil wells or intent on territorial expansion. It is ridiculous to suggest that anything of that sort was at stake. The only factor which drove Great Britain and France to take strong action was that had Czechoslovakia come under the heel of a preponderant force in central Europe, that force later may have forced democratic countries to accept almost any terms imposed upon them. Although Australia is one of the countries whose democracy was imperilled, on the very day before the crisis reached its acutest stage, the honorable member for East Sydney inundated the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), upon whom the burdens for defending this country weighed very heavily, with questions as to the method adopted by the Defence Department in connexion with the appointment of a certain minor official, seeking to ascertain whether or not he had acted in accordance with democratic principles in selecting the appointee. When, however, the opportunity was given the honorable member for East Sydney to stand up for the democratic principles about which he was so anxious he said that he believed in isolation, hoping that people in other countries of the world would also do so. We all hoped. so, but we did not believe that they would. The only way to prevent war is to follow the advice of Lloyd George who, when asked if anything could have prevented war in 1914, replied that the war broke out then because the aggressor did not know the danger, and that had the aggressor known with reasonable certainty what he would have to face there would have been no war.
– Nobody takes any notice of Lloyd George now.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) should be the first to stand up for democracy because Ballarat is the only place in Australian history in which men were prepared to stand up and fight for their democratic rights with bloodshed. I shall never forget the inscription on the memorial erected at the Eureka Stockade which reads : “For the miner’s who died in the cause of liberty, and the soldiers who died in the cause of duty”.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! I have several times asked honorable members to refrain from interjecting. At the outset of this debate I had to insist on this, and my insistence still remains.
– I have no desire to arouse the ire of the Opposition; I am merely exercising the right to criticize just as honorable members opposite do. Fortuna’tely we live in a country in which one can freely express one’s views; but that is a right, however, which some day we might have to fight to preserve.
Sinking all party feelings, I am anxious that honorable members opposite should co-operate with honorable members on this side of the chamber in regard to defence. It would be a welcome intimation to the people of Australia if honorable members opposite would say exactly what they mean in relation to this important subject. Some day, I have no doubt, the Opposition will once again secure the reins of Government-
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !
– Therefore the’ people of Australia are entitled to have something more from it than the mere generalization that it believes in the defence of Australia. We are entitled to know, as are the people generally, just what honorable members opposite mean by the defence of Australia. We are entitled to know if they believe in battleships, aeroplanes, compulsory training, and a standing army. It would be more pertinent to the debate if honorable members’ opposite, instead of indulging in generalities, made a careful statement of their policy in relation to defence. The people want something more than mere talk; we cannot talk an enemy out of this country.
I believe that the Leader of the Opposition did a great disservice to this country by his pronouncement of Labour’s policy during the crisis last week. The views of the isolationist party in Great Britain will be considerably strengthened by the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that Great Britain should not expect the dominions to be involved in any dispute arising out of British foreign policy. Mr. Ernest Bevin, a highly respected Labour leader, who has been attending the sittings of the Commonwealth Relations Conference in Australia and who is secretary of the London Transport and Workers’ Union, which has more than 700,000 members, is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to have said that no political agreement in Europe represented any serious contribution to stability. Speaking with regard to the necessity for stock-taking within the Empire, Mr. Bevin said -
The Empire has grown to the position it now occupies and I think that the position should be reviewed. I have read the speech made by Mr. Curtin in the House of Representatives and I fully appreciate and understand it. The first consideration must be Australia’s own defence.
He said further -
Australia, Canada and South Africa have the right to declare their neutrality in any crisis. I have no objection to that providing that power is reciprocal; in other words, that Great Britain might also declare her neutrality in the event of a dominion being attacked by a foreign power.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– The policy of isolation cuts both ways. The Leader of the Opposition says: “Hear, hear.” I say that his attitude has strengthened the hands of those isolationists in Great Britain who believe that the dominions should look after themselves, and that they are a liability to Great Britain. Mr. Bevin continued -
From what I have been told here, and from what I have seen, it appears the difficulty in Australia is a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding of world affairs. The Foreign Office apparently supplies plenty of information to Australia, but does it reach the people? I am not being critical when I say that in the early part of the present crisis the Opposition in Canberra was apparently acquainted with very few of the essential facts.
– Hear, hear! That is what we have said.
– Mr. Bevin proceeded -
When he was Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, in outlining Britain’s obligations, said that Britain was, in fact, committed to defend every part of the Empire without question. From what I have gathered the position is that the dominions can determine their own attitude in individual cases.
It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say : “ We believe in the defence of Australia, but we do not believe in a standing army, or in compulsory training.” The time has come when we must ask them how they propose to undertake the task of defending Australia.
– The Government which the honorable member supports has not restored compulsory training, and he himself has said that we have not a large enough army, and has offered criticism based on what he regards as the present inadequacy of our defence preparations.
– We can all congratulate ourselves that the crisis has passed for the time being, but we cannot accept the view of some honorable members that no danger need be feared for the future. One. has only to look back a few years to Locarno, where the powerful nations of the world met and agreed that there would be no more war, that if Russia were attacked Germany, Great Britain and France would go to its assistance, and likewise if Germany were attacked, Russia, Great Britain and France would go to its assistance. A mutual pact was agreed upon which, it was hoped, would avoid war; but it took only the overthrow of a particular party in Germany to change the whole situation, and it needs but a similar overthrow of another political party to effect another change. Having regard to this state of affairs, it is up to us to say that we believe that Australia should make every possible sacrifice to put its defences in order. No good purpose can he served by declaring ourselves in favour of a policy of isolation. The only thing that counts against force is superior force. We have only a small population of 7,000,000, yet we do not encourage immigration to-day. When the overseas delegation returned to Australia the Leader of the Opposition himself questioned the suggestion that other than British people should be invited to settle in this country, yet the honorable gentleman knew full well that we cannot induce people of British stock to come here, because they are satisfied in their own country. The time has arrived when our immigration policy should be reviewed in the light of our need for increased population for defence purposes. Immigration and defence preparedness go hand in hand; they cannot be separated. I believe that Australia will have to make sacrifices to induce people to come to this country to make up the lag caused by the falling birthrate.
– The discussion which began a few hours ago on the statement made by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) on the recent, or perhaps I should say present, crisis in Europe has ranged over a much wider field than was covered by the statement of the right honorable gentleman. Indeed, listening to it, one could not help realizing that there is still a good deal of passion in the world, and some of it rather unnecessary. I am not sure whether the events of the last few weeks have not been a rather dramatic demonstration of the fact that reason is frequently a better solvent of difficulties than passion. I imagine it is because we all appreciate that the conciliation led by Mr. Chamberlain has resulted in the triumph of reason in Europe that his work has enjoyed the rare distinction in any parliament of being praised by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. It is therefore rather curious that we should have succeeded in getting almost at loggerheads on a matter, the central features of which I believe have the support of both sides of this House, lt is quite true that certain statements have been made in the course of this debate which would, I believe, be immensely difficult to justify. “We have been treated by one or two gentlemen- who sit in the Opposition corner - if that be the right geographical description - to some very well-worn cliches about this country, about the manifold sins of the British Empire, and of course about the manifold sins of this Government and its predecessors in office. I take leave to doubt the reality of those statements. If 1 may mention a few truisms, this country is and proposes to continue to be a British country. That does not mean simply that it will be British in point ot race; it means that it will be British in point of permanent association, with everything that that involves. It is equally true that this country is and proposes to continue to be a free country. I know that my friend the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was at pains - he somewhat repeated himself. I fear - to say that this is a country in which the hand of fascism is to be seen. All that I can say is that any honesttogoodness fascist who sat in the gallery of this chamber to-night and listened to the debate would never believe that this is a fascist country. I think he would believe, without any difficulty, that this is a magnificently free country, in which people sav exactly what is in their mind’s. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was good enough to say that so far from being a prosperous countrv it is - if I may use his precise words - “ a living hell “.
– For some people.
– I thought I had never heard a more remarkable description of a country the peace, the freedom, and the happiness of which every Australian had been appreciating to the full during the last ten days of crisis.
– The right honorable gentleman might quote me correctly. I said that instead of the last war providing a paradise, on the contrary it had created a measure of living hell.
– I adopt the honorable gentleman’s account of his own statement ; after all he knows it best. He says that the last war did not create a paradise, but on the contrary created something in the nature of a living hell. If the honorable gentleman wants the people of Australia to agree with that sentiment. I am afraid that he will go a long time unsatisfied.
– In what way does the right honorable gentleman describe the lives of those who are on sustenance?
– I am sorry to say that, with the limited time at my disposal-
– The right honorable gentleman is not interested.
– Ten thousand coal-miners have not worked since 1929.
– I hope to be excused from discussing the condition of any individual unfortunates. I was referring, to this country in broad terms. I have no hesitation in saying in broad terms that this country is the mo3t prosperous that I have ever seen.
If I may leave these matters, which perhaps are not germane to this debate, i. should like to say something about the crux of the controversy, as it has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). As I understood him, lie agreed in the first place that what I may call the Chamberlain policy had been a sound policy, and he was thankful that it had been a successful one. I entirely agree with that, and I believe that the people broadly entirely agree with it. But he went on to say, challengingly, that this Government had no policy on foreign affairs, that it was silent as to any contribution it might have made to the discussion of these matters, and that, above all, it had made certain commitments gravely affecting the future of the Australian people and had said nothing about them.
It is always a good idea to go right to the point of the attack, and I propose to do so. Let me say something first about this matter of an Australian foreign policy. It is a very simple thing to say that any British dominion ought to have its own foreign policy. That is the kind of statement which, when made, will command certain applause, because having a foreign policy and explaining it to the world is a sign of great mental activity, of clearness, and of knowledge. But let iia go a little beyond that. Let us see what is meant by the statement that we ought to have and to expound a foreign policy. Does that mean that we as a dominion government ought to formulate our foreign policy independently of what may be the foreign policy of Great Britain or of any other British dominion, and that, having formulated it, we should then announce it to the world, oaring nothing, mark you, as to whether it happens to be in line with the policy of Great Britain or of other British countries? I say that to adopt such a line of conduct would be suicidal, not only for us, but also for the British Empire ae a whole. Can one imagine anything that other great powers would like better than to have six British countries announcing different views so that - if the metaphor is appropriate - any foreign country could engage in a process of cross-trumping as between the different British countries? I have always believed, and have said so quite recently in London itself, that the British Empire exercises its greatest influence in the world - and in spite of its critics I believe that it is consistently a peaceful influence - when it speaks with one concerted voice ; and the fact that it speaks with one concerted voice not only adds immensely to the strength and significance of that voice, but also requires - as I have pointed out - that there must be at the relevant time before decisions are taken the closest consultation and the fullest expression of mutual views between the different British governments. Therefore, if what we are asked to produce is a separate foreign policy of the kind I have been discussing, I say without any hesitation that I should regard such a thing as folly. But if it be said that we ought to have minds sufficiently informed and sufficiently strong, positive and constructive, to be able to say useful things at the right’ time to the Government of the United Kingdom, then I entirely agree. In that sense, of course, we are bound to have a foreign policy. But that meant that that policy in relation to any individual matter has to be expressed to the Government of the United Kingdom. It is in our negotiations with it - negotiations which are not going to be posted up on every sign-board for the world to read - that the Government of the United Kingdom wishes to know the assistance we can render.
– But after the incident is terminated this Parliament is entitled to know what was said.
– The honorable gentleman is anticipating me. One need not stand at this table and profess that we are always right; I do not believe that we are. It is perfectly true, I believe, that we in this Parliament - treating the Parliament as a whole - may in the past have had rather too little discussion of foreign affairs. Let me say at once that I think it would be an excellent thing if, with some degree of regularity, all of us had the opportunity to contribute our ideas to the total sum of ideas on foreign policy.
I come now to the particular case with which we are concerned. Before I say any more about it, I wonder if I may be permitted to interpolate that I have, as honorable members know, because they frequently put questions on the noticepaper about it, been three times in the last four years to London. Each time I have been in London and in contact with the High Commissioner for Australia, and sitting with him in consultations from time to time with the British Foreign Minister of the day, what has struck me most forcibly has been that if there is any dominion which has a mind of its own and expresses it quite freely and clearly, it is Australia. If one were to go to British Ministers to-day and say to them, “ Are not these Australian Ministers and the High Commissioner a lot of ‘ yes ‘ men “, they would laugh and think it was a curious brand of Australian humour; because the plain truth is that in any of these negotiations which we have attended we have rather been regarded as most difficult and not merely as people who say “ yes “.
– That is news to us.
– I knew that it was ; that is why I have mentioned the matter. The whole trouble is, that the honorable gentleman and some of his colleagues have been feeding themselves on their own cliches on these matters for years, until they have come to regard them as mental food, whereas they are nothing of the sort. Take the present case. This Czechoslovak business called, in my respectful submission, not for any rigidity of mind on the part of either the British Government or the Commonwealth Government, or for passion or prejudice, but for a very sensitive intelligence. It called for a real desire, on the part of the intervening British Prime Minister, for peace and a willingness to re-examine any position in order to secure it, and secure it honorably. I have an unqualified regard for the whole method of approach of the British Prime Minister in this case. Consequently, this was not one of those occasions on which any British Prime Minister was disposed to say to the Australian Government - nor, in fact, did he say - “Do you agree to A, B, C, D, and E?” What he did, when he found that Europe was tending to slide down into an unnecessary and a destructive war, was to put all notions of priority and prestige in his pocket, and say to Hitler, “ I am coming over to see you “. That was a very notable action on the part of the Prime Minister of the world’s greatest power. Honorable members will appreciate the changes that thereafter occurred from hour to hour, and almost from minute to minute, in a situation which for the first time was being affected by the direct contact of the leading and dominant personalities in four nations. That was a very remarkable achievement. It was a new thing in diplomacy for the heads of other governments to talk together in that way.
What did we do in Australia? In the early stage of the discussion when, as honorable members will recall, Lord Runciman had gone to Czechoslovakia and when they will also recall no proposal for the settlement of the Sudeten question had ‘ as yet emerged from Prague, the Australian Government- and it was not alone in the world in that respect - urged upon the British Government the view that, if a fair and. just settlement of the Sudeten problem was to be reached, it was highly desirable that the government at Prague should itself contribute to the settlement by making proposals. In point of fact, two or three days after that, proposals were, for the first time, made from Prague; not because we had made the suggestion - I do not wish to exaggerate our part in any way, . but I mention it simply to show that the way in which the mind of this Government was working was the way in which” the minds of other governments concerned with the problem were also working.
Subsequently the results of the Runciman mission became obscured by the personal intervention of Mr. Chamberlain himself. At that time we did what I believe any Ministry that could be chosen from this Parliament would have done. We kept in touch with the British Prime Minister. We said: “This is a great work you are doing. We know that you are aiming at peace. We know that you are going to keep the British Empire and Europe out of war if you humanly can. We are behind you in that resolve. We are completely behind what you are doing to avoid war.” I am quite sure that that is exactly what the LeadeT of the Opposition would have said, because I know that that represents his view just as much as it does the view of any of us.
It has been suggested, on no basis of which I am aware, that at that time the Australian Government had made some commitment.
– I denied that any commitment had been made at that time. I was quite sure that there had been none.
– Yet it has been suggested that at that stage some commitment had been made as to what would be done by Australia in the event of war.
– We know the newspaper reports were not accurate.
– The Leader of the Opposition appreciates that we cannot begin to contradict or qualify everything that is said in the newspapers. We all know the kind of kite flying the newspapers indulge in, but we wete far too busily employed to be unduly concerned about it. The simple fact is that at no time from the beginning to the end of these discussions did the British Government ever ask us to say whether we would send troops out of Australia. At no time did it ever ask any question at all about troops. At no time during the discussions, from the beginning to end of them, was any commitment made in relation to these matters by the Australian Government.
– Hear, hear !
– What was the Government’s policy?
– The honorable member for Batman must have been enjoying a light doze. I have been devoting myself, during the last ten or fifteen minutes, to a statement of the policy of the Government, not with., any idea of introducing more passion into this controversy, but rather to remove passion from it; because I venture to say that when “ the tumult and the shouting dies “ we shall discover that the matters upon which every honorable member is in agreement will be far more significant than the matters - some of which are purely imaginary - upon which there is disagreement.
I have devoted myself in this address to a purely dispassionate exposition of the facts of the case as I know them. But questions of a hypothetical character have been raised as to what would have happened in the event of war. I urge upon honorable members that they should not put or propose to answer hypothetical questions. That is very sound advice on matters which concern the relations of this country with other countries and also on matters which concern the conduct of this country in the international field. It is, in my opinion, the rankest folly either to put hypothetical questions or to make hypothetical statements in this connexion.
My doctrine in relation to the position of Australia has been stated over and over again. Although I know that the honorable member for Batman disagrees with it, I shall take the risk involved in his disagreement and repeat it. My doctrine is that so long as the British Empire is constituted as it is to-day/it is not possible for Australia to be neutral in a British war. Some people disagree with that view, yet it is my conviction and I express it without hesitation. But the extent to which Australia may participate in a war, the means by which she may participate, and the question whether Australian soldiers shall fight on Australian territory or on foreign soil, are matters for determination by Australia or, may I say, of the enemy. Sometimes the enemy may settle the argument for us without more ado. If he does not do so, this country, in the exercise of its undoubted powers of self-government, will be able to determine the extent of its own participation in these and such other ancillary matters as I have referred to. That is the position as I see it, and that statement is simply a reiteration of statements to the same effect that I have previously made from this table. I repeat that no single commitment df the slightest kind has been made during the last ten days in respect of the European crisis.
– Did the AttorneyGeneral say that the Australian Government wa3 more active in giving advice than any other government?
– I said that that was our well-deserved reputation.
– Did the right honorable gentleman say that Mr. Chamberlain was told that the Commonwealth Government was behind him?
– I really do not think 1’ should repeat what I have already said on that aspect of the subject. I have endeavoured to make my statement in the clearest and plainest way. I hope the honorable member for “West Sydney will do me the honour of reading the report of tuy speech in Hansard. If he does so, I have no doubt he will meet me in a corridor and tell me that he entirely agrees with it.
I wish to refer to one other matter. Although it has not arisen in the course of this debate, it has been mentioned in other places. It has been suggested by those who have criticized Mr. Chamberlain’s policy and actions that this case should be regarded as a case in which Germany, acting with complete brutality, put down the defences of the smaller country, Czechoslovakia, although Czechoslovakia’s case had all the merits. I am glad to say that it) is not for me to sit in judgment on the merits of this dispute; but I take leave to reiterate something that I have thought it proper to say on several occasions since I. returned to Australia. It is this: It is quite wrong to imagine that the dispute about the position of the Sudeten Germans was a dispute in which all the merits were one way. Indeed, it has always seemed to me a most tragic possibility that Europe and the world should drift into war over a dispute in which the merits were distributed. It was, therefore, very interesting to me to read certain passages that appeared in the report of Lord Runciman on this subject. I refer to them now because they will be of general interest and because they show that this dispute really required mediation by Great Britain, and really required fair and dispassionate judgment. I have the honour to know Lord Runci man very well. He is a man of eminently judicial character, and of immense experience in statecraft. He is a Liberal in politics and so is not of my particular party: He has been associated with several British governments and has been engaged in British public affairs for many years. His reputation is so high that he was sent to Europe to mediate in this dispute. With complete detachment and a quietness of utterance that must lend great weight to his words, he stated, inter alia, in the letter which he wrote to Mr. Chamberlain on the 21st September, 1938 (vide pages 314-315, Hansard, 2Sth September, 1938)-
Responsibility for the final break must, in my opinion, rest on Herr Henlein and Herr Prank and upon those of their supporters inside and outside the country who were Urging them to extreme and unconstitutional action. I have much sympathy, however, with the Sudeten case. It is a hard thing to be ruled by an alien race ; and I have been left with the impression that Czechoslovakia’s rule in the Sudeten area for the last 20 years, though not actively oppressive and certainly not “ terroristic “ has been marked by tactless lack of understanding, petty intolerance and discrimination to the point where the resentment of the German population was inevitably moving in the direction of revolt.
These are words that could not be disregarded, least of all by Mr. Chamberlain. Lord Runciman proceeded -
The Sudeten Germans felt, too, that in the past they had been given many promises by the Czechoslovak Government, but that little or no action had followed the promises. This experience had induced an attitude of unveiled mistrust of the leading Czech statesmen. I cannot say how far this mistrust is merited or unmerited; but it certainly exists with the result however conciliatory their statements they inspire no confidence in the minds of the Sudeten population. Moreover, in the last elections of 1935, the Sudeten German party polled more votes than, any other single party ; and they actually formed the second largest party in the State Parliament. They then commanded some 44 votes in the total Parliament of , 300. With subsequent accessions they are now the largest party. But they can always be outvoted ; and consequently some of them feel that constitutional action is useless for them. For local irritations were added to these major grievances. Czech officials and Czech police, speaking little or no German were appointed in large numbers to purely German districts. Czech agricultural colonists were encouraged to settle on land transferred under land reform in the middle of German populations; for the children of these Czech invaders schools were built on a large scale; there is a very general belief that Czech, firms were favoured as against German firms in the allocation of State contracts and that the State provided works and relief for Czechs more readily than for Germans. I believe these complaints to be in the main justified. Even as late as the time of my mission, I could find no readiness on the part of the Czechoslovak Government, to remedy them on anything like an adequate scale.
All these and other grievances were intensified by the reaction of the economic crisis on Sudeten industry which forms so important a part of life of the people. Not unnaturally the Government were blamed for the resulting impoverishment. For many reasons, therefore, including the above, the feeling amongst Sudeten Germans until about three or four years ago was one of hopelessness. But the rise of Nazi Germany gave them new hope. I regard their turn for help towards their kinsmen and their eventual desire to join the Reich as a natural development in the circumstances.
Those are the calm dispassionate words of a competent investigator, and the point is that those words were before Mr. Chamberlain on the 21st September, when he went into Germany to see Herr Hitler. Can it be wondered at that he felt that here was a case in which there were things to be said on both sides? Can it be wondered at that he thought this was a problem which cried aloud to be settled by peaceful means, and not by the rude and sometimes unjust arbitra ment of war? Can it be wondered in all these circumstances that, having thrown the prejudices of twenty years on one side, he went in secured in the cooperation of nations, and was largely instrumental in securing peace, not merely because he was Neville Chamberlain, not merely . because he was Prime Minister of a very great country, but because I believe he expressed in himself at all material times the devout longing of the common neople, the ordinary people, who have no theories and no academic ideas, that there should be peace in their lifetime. Because he made that great spirit and yearning for peace a vocal thing, he succeeded, . and because he succeeded in that capacity everybody in this House should do honour to him.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Maloney) adjourned.
Newspaper Representatives in Lobbies.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-I desire to refer to a complaint I made last week about members of the press importuning me in parts of this building. I have had a consultation with membersof the press and, having regard to the difficulties under which they worked last week and the conditions in which they work generally, since there are administrative offices in the precincts of the House and; knowing also that the geographic arrangements of the corridors and rooms makes it impossible for journalists to refrain from being in the lobbies, I want it to be understood that my remarks were not to comment on the activities of pressmen as such. Two or three members of the press, about whom I had justification to complain, I shall deal with myself in another way. But I should like the House to know that I understand the difficulties in which the press work generally, and I do not see how it is practicable for them to do their work if they are to be banished from the lobbies. I regret that I failed to distinguish between them as a whole and the two or three members of the press with whom I had reasonable grounds to be annoyed.
As I understood them, the honorable member’s remarks apply to what he considered was improper conduct towards himself, but the position of pressmen in the lobbies is, I think, well defined, and well understood. The rules with regard to the presence of members of the press within the lobbies have been made perfectly clear to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1938 - No. 43 - Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining).
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reservation of certain Crown lands at Playford.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Austraiian Capital Territory for year 1937-38.
House adjourned at 9.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister in charge of Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. New Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining) Ordinances were recently passed by the Legislative Councils for the Territories of Papua and New Guinea
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he give the names of persons in the Patents Branch who have received overtime payments during the last twelve months, and state the amount paid to each.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: - _ The names of the officers in the Patents and Trade Marks Branch who have received overtime payments during the twelve months muled the 27th September, 1038, and tha amount paid to each such officer are as follows: -
For some time I have been exercised in mind as to the state of the examination work in the Patent Office and the necessity for continuing the staff on overtime for a prolonged period. During the last two and a quarter years, the examination staff has been almost doubled in strength, no less than twenty-six positions having been created on the examination staff of the office, the establishment of which is now 00.
There are at present three vacancies, due to the dearth of suitable applicants for appointment. .
The work of examination of patent applications is of such a technical nature that even though a new appointee may be a graduate in Science or Engineering, a period of at least two years must elapse before he becomes a fully qualified examiner. Thus the staff is not one which can be supplemented by the bringing in of temporary examiners.
The effect of the recent appointments is beginning to be felt, and the output of the work now exceeds the intake considerably, about 300 more applications having been examined in the last twelve weeks than the number filed. _
It is fully expected that the position of the examination work will justify the cessation ofovertime work early next month.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Civil Aviation : Commonwealth Expenditure on Aerodromes.
Wilson asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Nil; (b) £19,731 (of this amount, approximately £9,200 has beenprovided by the Commonwealth Government under various unemployment relief grants ) .
In furnishing . the above information, it is desired to observe that, although details regarding aerodromes solely under the control of the Defence Department have not been requested, it should be borne in mind that the Commonwealth Government, in pursuance of the policy which it has followed for many years, has appropriated funds in the estimates of the Civil Aviation Branch for improvement ana maintenance of aerodromes at each of the State capital cities and at all country centres where landing ground facilities are necessary for departmental purposes.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 27th September, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Geological and Geophysical Survey.
y. - On the 21st September, the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked me a question, without notice, regarding the expenditure in connexion with the aerial, geological, and geophysical survey of Northern Australia.
I desire to state that the total expenditure to date in connexion with the survey is £159,731) - £81,081 of which has been provided by the Commonwealth, the balance being made available by the States of Queensland and Western Australia. The small amount required from Commonwealth sources in excess of the sum of £75,000, which was appropriated under the Northern Australia Survey Act 1934, has been made available from Treasurer’s Advance pending provision in the Supplementary ICstimates for 1937-38.
y. - On the 23rd September, 1938, the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked the Minister for the Interior the following question, upon notice -
Will he give details of the expenditure of £6,500 provided in the Estimates for the Commonwealth Literary Fund?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The amount referred to includes provision for pensions to persons coming within the following categories: -
authors who by reason of age or infirmity are unable tosupport themselves ;
families of literary men who have died poor;
Literary men doing good work,but unable on account of poverty to persist in that work.
The- expenditure under this head during last financial year was £1,405. The Government hoe in mind the broadening of the objects of the Commonwealth Literary Fund.
s. - On the 28th September, the honorable member for Boothby. (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information; -
Mr. A. J. Hannan, K.C., chairman.
Mrs. Sidney Poole.
Mrs. H. F. Shorney.
Miss Adelaide Meithke
Hon. Sir David Gordon, M.L.C,
Hon. E. W. Holden, M.L.C.
Hon. H. Homburg, M.L.C.
Charles Hawker, Esq., M.H.R.
Professor G. V. Portus.
Or. E. Harold Davies.
Dr. A. Grenfell Price.
Dr. F. S. Hone.
Dr. Charles Fenner.
Claude Jennings, Esq.
W. Wainwright, Esq.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381005_reps_15_157/>.